Monday, March 26, 2007

Common Slaves

'William Wilberforce,' writes Eric Metaxas in Amazing Grace, 'was the happy victim of his own success. He was like someone who against all odds finds the cure for a horrible disease that's ravaging the world, and the cure is so overwhelmingly successful that it vanquishes the disease completely. No one suffers from it again -- and within a generation or two no one remembers it ever existed.'

What did Wilberforce 'cure'? Two centuries ago, on March 25, 1807, one very persistent British backbencher secured the passage by Parliament of an Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade throughout His Majesty's realms and territories. It's not that no one remembers the disease ever existed, but that we recall it as a kind of freak pandemic -- a SARS or bird flu that flares up and whirs round the world and is then eradicated. The American education system teaches it as such -- as a kind of wicked perversion the Atlantic settlers had conjured out of their own ambition. In reality, it was more like the common cold -- a fact of life....

'What Wilberforce vanquished was something even worse than slavery,' says Metaxas, 'something that was much more fundamental and can hardly be seen from where we stand today: he vanquished the very mindset that made slavery acceptable and allowed it to survive and thrive for millennia. He destroyed an entire way of seeing the world, one that had held sway from the beginning of history, and he replaced it with another way of seeing the world....

Isn't societal self-loathing just another justification for lethargy? After all, if the white man is inherently wicked, that pretty much absolves one from having to do anything. And so the same kind of lies we told ourselves about slaves we now tell ourselves about other faraway people, and for the same reason: because big changes are tough and who needs the hassle? The hardest thing in any society is 'the reformation of manners.'[emphasis mine]
The man who 'murdered' slavery by Mark Steyn, Macleans

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"I'm starting to not totally believe part of this"

[via RockTV. Thanks Eric from the Wittenburg Door Chat Closet.]

[via Prolegomena]

No shame if there’s no eyes.

—–Nobody to blame aside.

It’s just that I meant so much more.

—–It’s not as if I can’t adore.

{the full poem}

Why nature films don’t help the environment.
[via The Eagle & Child]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

They Go Up So Fast

What would it mean to make the leap -- in the twinkling of an eye -- from blastocyst to full-grown adult? What would it mean to be "full grown" without development, without experience, without choice, without memory, without the passing of time that we call "life"? In the hands of a thoughtful writer (i.e., not LaHaye or Jenkins) such questions could be the stuff of fascinating storytelling (it's not all that different from the fascination with artificial intelligence in sci-fi). {more...}
[via Slacktivist's Left Behind Archives]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Elect Gene?

March 19, 2007

Joe Bob Briggs
Door Science Correspondent

After several years of research, scientists at the Clinical Molecular Genetics Laboratory at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico have isolated three genes that are believed to prove a biological basis for becoming a practicing Southern Baptist.

"We were stunned," said Jose Aguilar de la Estacionamiento, Director of Basic Research at the university, at a morning press conference. "We were actually looking for the determinant gene for sphincter occlusion. It's one of those inadvertent discoveries that sometimes occur when you're doing basic science."

Aguilar said the results were so shocking that he withheld publication for two years while the DNA was taken from every member of the Iglesia Bautista Hugo Chavez mega-church in San Miguel Allende. He found a 99.7 percent correlation between the genetic makeup of the Baptists in that congregation and the presence of the three mutated genes that normally identify people with a tendency toward stiff necks, rigid sphincter muscles, and early-pattern baldness. Given the overwhelming evidence, Aguilar said, there was no choice but to announce his findings to the scientific community.

Instantly, there were ethical issues raised as Mexican Catholics besieged parish priests with questions about whether it was possible that their infants could grow up to be Baptists. {continue...}
[via The Wittenburg Door Insider, HT: The Raging Paradoxidation]

What Our Neighbour Really Needs

If we are trying to love our neighbour–to seek whatever is for his or her very best interest–and we trust God to help us and ask him to do so, we can have complete confidence that what our neighbour really needs will be provided.

This might seem less than magic: “Ah, I see. So I can’t just ask for whatever I like, but now I have to ask for what God wants me to ask. Big deal!”

Instead, however, it is better than magic. Stories of magic around the world abound with unintended consequences that result in disaster–from Midas’s touch to Aladdin and his lamp to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Prayer is a great improvement upon magic because we are asking an infinitely wise and totally good Being to do what is really best, either what we want or something better.

We can be confident–literally, “with faith”–that only good will surely happen according to these promises. And that faith thus impels us to faith-ful-ness. It motivates us to get busy on things that matter, rather than quaking with paralyzing fear (”Will anything good come of this?”) or drowsing in slothful complacency (”What’s the use?”). Ask and act: trust and obey. Pretty basic–and the key to everything else in the Christian life.

So don’t bother asking for the moon.
[via Prof. John Stackhouse's Weblog]

Rumors of Competition?

Procter & Gamble is NOT in league with the devil
[via Bible Belt Blogger]

Monday, March 19, 2007

Where there is conspiracy, there is no mystery.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I'm OK, You're OK?

When I think about this question of whether I'm happy or not, I simply note that I am not deeply depressed, therefore I am happy. Once you have experienced deep, harrowing depression, the presence of happiness becomes less important. The goal is mostly to feel okay....

Meaning, on the other hand...

This is what makes life worth living, I think, and I find a lot of meaning in life. Seeking after truth might initially make one unhappy with what one finds, but who needs to be happy if it costs you your soul?

Seeking after truth in time becomes kind of like putting together a puzzle, and at forty-one, it is satisfying to see some of the pieces fitting together in some pretty amazing ways!

I still haven't figured out how to reconcile the many blessings of my life with the extreme poverty of so many other's lives. This fact alone is enough to prevent me from being happy on even the brightest of days.
[via Been There...Still There]

Presumption of Innocence

This is something we've been talking about here quite a bit recently: the presumption of good faith.

That presumption, like the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" in our legal system, is terribly important for civil society and democracy. If we start, instead, with a presumption of bad faith, then we will be unable to discuss the things about which we disagree. If we can't talk, then we can only fight -- with bullets or ballots.

The presumption of good faith is sometimes referred to as the presumption of charity -- a reference to the cardinal virtue, love. But it's also an expression of a different virtue: justice. It is unjust, unfair to presume before-the-fact that those who disagree with you have evil intent. This, again, is why we have a similar principle -- innocent until proven guilty -- in our justice system. Justice demands a presumption of innocence.

But note that this presumption of innocence in our justice system does not mean that no one is ever convicted of a crime. The standard is innocent until proven guilty. Prosecutors do not violate the presumption of innocence when they produce evidence and testimony proving that a suspect is guilty of a crime. Such evidence can lead to a conviction, the conclusion, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the suspect is not innocent.

Convictions based on evidence do not violate the presumption of innocence....

Imagine there arises a health-craze for a new children's vitamin supplement containing large amounts of lead. Your friend has begun buying this supplement for his kids, and you have pleaded with him to stop. It's entirely possible, in this scenario, that you are both acting out of good faith, with the purest of motives. You both want what is best, and healthiest, for the children. Because you are friends, you are able to set aside bias and suspicion and the presumption of bad faith and you are able to discuss the evidence, the facts of the matter: lead is poisonous. In such a scenario, you would be able to persuade your friend not to poison the children with the lead supplements.

When talking to your next-door neighbor, however, you do not have this same basis of friendship and so your attempt at conversation quickly devolves into a shouting match in which each of you is presuming bad faith, bad motives. Your neighbor wants what is best for his children, so he insists that, as the ad says, they "Start the day the heavy, healthy way with new Pb for Kids!" He takes your disagreement with this practice to mean that you, for some twisted reason, don't want his kids to benefit from the best that medical science has to offer. This accusation leads you, unfortunately, to accuse him of wanting to poison his children, an approach that fails to persuade him. Eventually, you calm down and try to explain that lead is dangerous, but he's no longer listening. You may think lead is poisonous, but you also think he hates his children, and he knows you're wrong about that, so why should he listen to you?

The presumption of bad faith is a distraction from a consideration of the facts. And, because an invalid accusation of bad motive undermines your credibility, it prohibits the consideration of the facts.
[via slacktivist]

When God locks a door, He breaks a window.
[via Living Martyrs]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

And I'm Almost 35 Years Too!

Featuring: interviews of Moby(!), Bruce Cockburn(!!) and Simon Conway Morris.

Also includes such things as "Sitting on the Promises", Minutes of the February Meeting of the Choir Subcommittee of the Music Committee of the First Community Church, "My Favorite Things", Biblical Child Care Centers, The Wittenburg Door Review of Bishop John Shelby Spong's Jesus: The Meandering Scholar, Holy Dough Tithe Lottery, What's Your Church Class?, and of course, Worship Choruses Almost Anyone Can Sing.

The Last Word reflects on "35, but who's counting?"

Happy 35th, Wittenburg Door!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Blog For Sexism?

[via bringing up baby]

Woman, Woundedness, and Wonder

The Cut: Female Genital Mutilation
Blog Against Sexism - My Journey
[via onehandclapping]
Vagina Vagina Vagina Vagina Vagina.
[via grrrl meets world]
Jesus and Cross Gender Friendships
[via Faith Dance]
Coulter Christianity
[via Ponderings on a Faith Journey]
Web: Girls will be girls
[via The Wittenburg Blog]

Darn Floor - Big Bite by Da

1: You touch my hair and cheek sometimes
Feel in yourself this flesh and blood
My poor flesh and blood, my poor flesh and blood

I think I met an angel once
But I cannot really know for sure
Do I know you now? Do I know you now?

2: (Illuminate my muddled heart
Sweep the shadows from my mind)
So I might imagine what you are like
And understand the great design

Darn floor - big bite
You are earth, water and light
3: (Darn floor - big bite
Can I ever hope to get it right, can't get it right)

I believe I've had a vision or two
Could have been a dream
I guess it could have been a dream
Could have been a dream
I saw the wide world crack where you touched down
And bodies wash up on a mythical shore
Will you save me now? Will you save me now?
In not-quite earth, in not-quite heaven
I'll imitate love like lovers do
In not-quite art, in not-quite living
I'll pray that writing it down is part of loving you

4: (Darn floor - big bite
You are twilight, dark and bright
Darn floor - big bite
You are beautiful, terrible terrible sight!)
Repeat 1
Darn floor - big bite
You are love, fire and light
Repeat 3, 4
No I can't get it, no I can't get it right
Repeat 2

Words and Music by Terry Taylor, Tim Chandler, and Greg Flesch
©1987 Broken Songs (ASCAP)

Dig by Adam Again

I had big idea
I had a lazy eye
I broke the sacred seal
I told a lazy lie
I've had my conscience bent
I've had my patience tried
I've been up in the desert
And down by the riverside

Will the eagle try
If the sky's untrue?
Do the faithful sigh
Because they are so few?
Remember when I cried?
Remember when you knew?
Remember that look in your eyes?
I know I do

And count the stars to measure tme
The earth is hard, the treasure fine
To the sea I'll crawl on my knees

Feel it coming in
Feel it going out
Water covers sand
Blood covers doubt
So I begin again
Again, the healing bow
There was a time that I might have surrendered
But not now

Consult the cards to measure mine
The earth is hard, but the treasure fine
At the sea, I'll wait on my knees

Bitterness--- a Meditation
[via Ben Witherington]

Speaking of bitterness...
The Prayer of Jael
[via tallskinnykiwi, HT: From My Heart, Out of My Mind]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

Civil Communication

Bring up the subject of civility and you will inevitably wind up in a sideshow having little to do with the subject.

Civility does not mean never having to say you're sorry. It does not mean baby-proofing all conversation to ensure its inoffensiveness for the most delicate of sensibilities. Nor does it mean couching all claims as tepid statements of personal preference that cannot be refuted, or defended, or cared about one way or the other by much of anyone since they don't actually claim to say anything about the actual world.

Rudeness is, of course, rude. As such, it can distract from and therefore undermine whatever point you're trying to make. Impoliteness can be impolitic. But sometimes it is called for -- sometimes it is just the thing to jar your listeners into considering that which they were previously unable to consider. And sometimes it is funny (and therefore beautiful, and therefore true and good). All of which could be a fascinating subject for discussion, polite or impolite, but none of which is what civility is really all about.

Civility has to do with citizenship, which is to say it has to do with responsibility. To speak as civilized people, as citizens, requires that we be responsible -- to one another and to the truth (and the good, and the beautiful). It requires that we be responsible for our words, that we be willing to stand by them.

This is why I'm impatient with the whole "'I' statements" approach. It has its place, I suppose, in family therapy and the like, but it undermines responsibility. It aims to force us to phrase statements in a way that cannot provoke offense, but it winds up also forcing us to phrase statements in a way that makes their content irrelevant.
[via slacktivist]

Purim: Leonardo emerges from Talpiot tomb to redo 'Last Supper'
[via The Jerusalem Post]

Sunday, March 04, 2007

No Doubt, J.C.

No, seriously! I was just walking through this graveyard near Los Angeles, and I look up, and there it was: Clear as day, “Jesús” written right on a grave stone. And as if that’s not enough to let you know that I of all people have found the very grave of Jesus himself, look at the top: The grave stone has a cross right there on it! How much more obvious could this be? {read the rest}
[via Middlebrow, HT: Restorative Theology]

Too Good To Be True

Soul Survival: Liberating the Antichrist
[via MT2mb]

Specious Skepticism?

I’m not usually one to whine about skeptical attacks on Christian faith. We worship one whom we claim died and then was raised from the grave. That’s a pretty amazing claim and I do not blame folks for skepticism. What annoys me is the recent trend of the last few years to hype “alternative theories” that are at least as far-fetched as traditional Christianity. Further, these claims are rushed to print and (increasingly) film without any serious scholarly inquiry. If you watch these “documentaries,” you see the same fringe scholars recycled in almost every one of these projects...

And I am getting very cynical about why these kinds of programs always seem to air in Lent or at Eastertide.

Serious skepticism that does its homework should be expected, even welcomed, by Christians and we should expect skeptics to challenge us very thoroughly. But these tabloid-like stories of how “the church covered up the truth about Jesus,” are insulting to the intelligence–but they seem to find a ready audience every time.
[via Levellers, emphasis mine]

Thursday, March 01, 2007

[seen on a sign at the Lutheran Campus Centre at the U of S]

This Lent, Fast From Criticism

Try Understanding

"When Sensationalism and Faith Collide"
[via Ponderings on a Faith Journey]
Can we call Lost Tomb a hoax now?
[via Get Religion]

Maturity, Character, Patience

What we are seeing is both the upside and the downside of our new information age. What we are also seeing is the increased need for maturity, character and patience.

In a time when information can be instantaneously dispersed globally through mass and new media, dramatic "discoveries" receive an unprecedented level of attention. Because of such firestorms, it's then easy for us to overreact. Internally, we may feel anxious because firm evidence for why such claims should not disturb us may not be at our fingertips. And externally, even though we aren't yet prepared to do so, we may feel the need to compensate for our lack of information by raising the level of our voice and rhetoric.

But we should not do this.

A dramatic, detailed claim does not demand an instantaneous response, particularly one we aren't prepared to give. Such a response should be made only after we've expended at least the same level of effort that was made by controversialists before their dramatic announcements.

And we do not need to be alarmed.
[via emergesque]

Hero or Hypocrite?

So, is Gore a hero of the environmental battle or a hypocrite? I think the answer to both questions is probably yes. Funny how that happens isn't it? What is even more ironic is that if we were honest we would admit that Gore is just like the rest of us. All of us are walking contradictions at the end of the day. It is like we have this battle going on inside us between the part of us that wants to save the world and the part of us that wants to call in sick to work and sit on the couch in our underwear eating chips and watching Girls Gone Wild.
[via The Headbanger Theologian]

Stupid Sheep?

There once was a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One day one of those sheep went astray. This of course caused a big stir in the flock. The other 99 immediately sprang into action - or at least discussion.

The first question of the day involved what exactly does "astray" mean. Did this poor sheep lose its way. Was it too stupid to follow the other sheep back into the fold. Did it get lost by accident? Or did it deliberately and maliciously wander off? One, sheep, long with the flock, asked if this sheep had ever really been a sheep at all. If he wandered off, perhaps in reality he was a goat. Others immediately agreed that he had never really seemed like one of them in the first place. The suggestion was given that a message should be sent to the sheep that if he could stop being a goat, or at least start acting like a sheep then he could rejoin the flock. This of course caused various groups to splinter off in discussion as to what it really meant to be a sheep at all. {continued...}
[via onehandclapping]

The Gnostic conspiracy theory...
[via IdeaJoy]