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Saturday, June 22, 2002

Tough Questions on the Holy Land- A reader took me to task for thinking that the PLO needs to be replaced and for my too-easy pro-Israel stance. He then rattled off a list of tough questions.
Who, in your view, needs to make those plans?
At this point, Israel with an assist from the US with UN cover.
Who will "administer" the Palestinian areas?
I think that a Palestinian administration that is willing to co-exist with Israel and crack down on those who don’t without looking like Quislings (neat trick) would be my choice. Letting Jordan (who had the place for 20 years without setting up a state there) run things might be a more viable option, since finding that mythical Palestinian moderate administration would be a three-carom shot.
Who has the right and responsibility to decide who or what shall "replace" the PLO?
A joint decision of the UN (with a big hunk of US arm-twisting) and Israel.
You're tip-toeing around all the questions that all pro-Israel people always tip-toe around. By what right does Israel exist? By what right does she rule her territories (both the "occupied territories" and Israel proper)?
In a physical sense, by brute force (as he will go on to state) and having the best army man-for-man in the world. In a spiritual since, they are still God’s chosen people and continue to have a soft spot in God’s heart, thus their endeavors are blessed to a large extent.
By what right does she forbid the Palestinians to return to their homes in Israel? And why do her rights take moral precedence over those of the Palestinians?
The existence of Israel all-but requires it. Israel as we know it would cease to exist if all of the Arab residents of 1948 Israel and their descendents were allowed to return. Israel would likely become an Islamic state; the US and Europe would be flooded with millions of Jewish refugees. This take moral precedence since Jews can honorably seek a return to their homeland of two millennia ago; with the exception of the US, there are few places in the world that Jews are safe. Islamic Palestinian can feel at home in other Arab countries, while Christian Palestinians have found homes in the US. For example, the new head of the Presbyterian Church USA is a Palestinian. The reader goes on to say the following.
Israel, like most nations, is based on conquest. That is as true for modern Israel as it was for the Israel of the Old Covenant. The right of conquest gives her the right to rule the territories and peoples she has conquered. But it also gives her the responsibility before God to rule with justice. What she has done instead is to drive out the indigenous inhabitants of the lands she has conquered and forbade them to return to their homes, in order to make the specious, and in any case morally irrelevant, claim to be a "democracy".
I’d like to respond to this paragraph with a few questions of my own.
My Question #1- Should there be a primarily Jewish country in the Middle East with the general boundaries of present-day Israel?
Given the crap the Jews have had to deal with in the past and present, a separate state make sense from a humanitarian standpoint. From a Biblical standpoint, we know that it will happen sooner or later.
My Question #2-What should be done with the Arab evictees from 1948
To the extent that a convincing claim to the land can be claimed, full compensation for property taken should be made. I don’t have a good response to what to do with the people themselves. The Arab countries that have hosted these refugees have segregated them into camps under that implicit assumption that they will head back someday. Two generations of stateless kids have come through those camps. If we answered question one in the affirmative, we will need to keep Israel primarily Jewish, so most of the descendents of the evictees will have to live elsewhere. It would be nice to think that Islamic Arabs would allow a Jewish minority to thrive in a multiethnic Israel, but the modern Arab world doesn’t have too many good examples of well-treated religious minorities. Given this fact, I think that an Israeli Jews desire to have a place where he can practice his religion in peace morally trumps the Arab’s desire to go back to his grandfather’s home town.
My Question #3-What should be done with the West Bank and Gaza in the long-term?
Have a demilitarized but independent government behind a fortified border. Israel may want to annex a few areas of the West Bank, but the vast majority of the West Bank should be placed in Palestinian control.
My Question #4-What should be done with the West Bank and Gaza in the short-term? How do we get to this new state?
Now that’s the toughie.

Mugged by AgEcon Reality-No, I haven't read Hayek yet, but I'm starting to repent of my neolib ways on farm policy. Kansan Bobby Allison-Gallimore had a good post taking apart my logic on farm policy. Liberalism is largely based on fear of free markets not working well; I have a fear of seeing a starvation scenario. However, based on the rather plenty output of the American farmer, we have little fear of underproduction causing a famine. The humanitarian in me wants to make sure that we have enough food; it took until today for the economist in me to stop worrying and learn to love the agricultural free market. If we can trust the markets to make enough food to get us through a bad patch, then price supports aren’t needed. The other areas of farm policy can be distilled down to help to family farmers and environmental issues. Why do we get teary-eyed over small farmers losing their farms when things go bad and we don’t shed a tear when other mom-‘n-pop businesses go under? If my computer store got the support that farms get, I might be reading Tom’s Hardware Guide rather than reading term papers. I wouldn’t have thought it proper that I be given government money to keep my computer store open (although my net worth would be a bit higher), and I don’t think its proper to try to prop up the family farm. That may be harsh, but that’s how a free-market economy goes. Small farms aren’t as efficient as bigger ones. We may have a soft spot for Joe’s Hardware and the Downtown General Store, but we’re more than happy to go out to Wal-Mart to get our stuff for 15% less. Economies of size help create the modern economy; the lefties (and quite a few paleocons) who long for the small-scale economics of the past forget that they would have much smaller incomes and less technology to go with it I don’t know too much about agricultural environmental issues, but I have a general suspicion of most environmental laws as being a back door way to socialism and are typically not worth doing. Some areas might be worth pursuing, such as managing the crap coming out of big hog farms; a 20,0000-hog farm creates about as much feces as a 20,000-person city and may need to be looked at in that light. However, farmers are smarter than the tree-huggers give them credit for; they will do things that are in the long-term best interest of their farm if properly informed. The farm deregulation bill of 1996 was called the Freedom to Farm Bill, and many of the big-spending programs the bill cut have been put back in the past six years. I can remember hearing an NPR piece where the usual protesters were shouting “Stop the Freedom to Farm!” The free-marketer in me had the hairs go up on the back of my neck. The protestors may not have intended that to sound that way, but that came across as one of the most statist phrases I can remember. These people don’t want people to have the freedom to farm as they choose; they want to keep the big government regulations in place. It’s taken me some time for that piece to sink in. Farm policy was one area where I still had a neoliberal streak where I wasn’t willing to fully trust the market. That NPR piece of a year or so ago planted the seed, and Mr. Allison-Gallimore and others supplied the water and fertilizer. Thanks, Y’all.

Space, the Next Frontier-Now that I've got my solo furniture shopping done (more to come when Eileen gets down here), I've got some free time on my hands. I decided to raid the Warner Southern library for a few classics I've somehow missed, including de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (how did I manage to get a BS in PoliSci without reading it?) and Hayek'sThe Road to Serfdom (now that's easy, my macro profs were Keynesian). Before taking a nap and talking with one of my Michigan friends (first incoming call to the new digs), I wound up reading the first two chapters of de Tocqueville. In chapter two, de Tocqueville is talking about the settlement of New England and the Puritans; this line got me thinking
Persecuted by the Government of the mother-country, and disgusted by the habits of a society opposed to the rigor of their own principles, the Puritans went forth to seek some rude and unfrequented part of the world, where they could live according to their own opinions, and worship God in freedom.
I read that and started thinking about space colonization. We might assume that the colonization of space will be done by NASA or some sterile international organization, but that might not be the case. There are plenty of religious conservatives of various religions who might like the idea of a trans-terrestrial haven for their faith. Also, you could see small-l libertarians flocking to a freedom-loving colony that would be a less-restrictive place. Both religious conservatives and libertarians might like to start from scratch in a "rude and unfrequented" part of the solar system. There are plenty of people who would like to live in a less-structured environment, and a private sector-based colonization effort might be more effective. If the Moon, Mars or various other bodies in the solar system have natural resources that can be tapped, we could see a low-regulation (other than safety stuff for survival) business-oriented colony set up. With more and more scrutiny being put on government budgets, it might be up to the private sector to do the job. There are a number of possible low-gravity industrial applications and any number of mineral-prospecting possibilities outside of Earth. Such a business colony might be a dystopic company-store mining town, but is more likely to be a more honorable libertarian endeavor. I remember one space-based role-playing game (Space Opera, IIRC) that had a libertarian confederation where the motto was TANSFAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch); taxes were voluntary, but elections were one dollar donated, one vote (you literally got to buy votes). A free-market colony would likely be more of a meritocracy and would have little interest in regulations other than those needed to survive. Add religious issues into the mix and you could see a religious-based colony, allowing people to worship more freely than on Earth while making money at some extra-terrestrial endeavor. I'm not sure if evangelicals should do such a thing, since retreating into a commune isn't what I see God wanting us to do. We're supposed to be salt and light to the world, even that part of the world that's out of this world. However, many people will find a colony of fellow believers appealing, especially those faiths with a more monastic streak. We might not see the universe explored by the Federation but by the Federation of Free Traders.

Light blogging notice- I've moved up to my new apartment in Winter Haven (20 minute commute to office) from the nice mobile home (3 minute commute) I had been staying in, so I'll have less access to the computers. I'll be computer-shopping today for a laptop now (home computer is with Eileen, her computer died before leaving) that my move-in endevours have ended. Once I get my laptop, I can post from home. [Update 7:30PM Good news-lined up a laptop. Bad news-went with Gateway-10 day delivery-I thus will be office only through Thursday's return to Michigan]

Edifier du jour-John 9:1-7
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Back last month, I had gotten to church early on Wednesday night and was hanging out near the Power Point computer. The worship leader was typing in the lyrics to Holy Spirit, Come, and a typo had left it "Holy Spit, Come" for a embarrassingly long moment, giving us all a good laugh and an excuse for expectorating audio effects. The sound guy redeemed the moment by harkening to this verse. Jesus healed, but did so in a tacky fashion that the FDA would never license. Here was God incarnate getting his hands dirty, literally and figuratively. He's not afraid of messes, so we should be willing to ask for help for even the messy stuff. Jesus pointed out that his infirmity wasn't due to anyone's sin but a larger part of God's plan. While God is the Great Healer, for some reason He doesn't miraculously heal everyone and I can't chalk that up to a lack of faith. There wasn't a much more faithful guy than Paul, yet he had a thorn in his flesh that God wanted him to retain
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
We''re witnessing for God through His strength, not ours. Christians aren't supposed to morph into some sort of master race after conversion, all being tall, good looking and healing all wounds instantly. He takes us as we are and may want us to keep some of our weaknesses and infirmities to be able to witness through our flaws. I remember seeing a mid-century Hollywood movie on the early church (The Robe, IIRC) where one of the characters was a lame woman believer. The hero asked why a good God would allow her to stay lame when he had healed others. The woman replied that it was to better witness for God. If she had been healed, she would have a material reason to love Jesus. Instead, she had an inner healing that was an even stronger testimony to God's goodness than a physical healing.

Friday, June 21, 2002

The VCR's Death is Greatly Exaggerated-Ben Domenech pointed to this WaPo article. Don't worry, Ben. Just because Circuit City stopped selling movie videos doesn't mean the VCR is going the way of the dodo. The VCR remains more affordable than a DVD player, and until we get an affordable rewritable DVD, the VCR will remain the video medium of choice. Currently, the rewritable DVDs are $13 (it may be cheaper, but that was a quick look), while blank tapes are not much more that a dollar. Moreover, the burners are still in the $500 range, compared to $100 or so for a VCR. We're a half-decade away at least from seeing the DVD burner replacing the VCR. When DVDs are almost as cheap as VCRs and they can double as music CD players, then we'll see the VCR assume room temperature.

Abu Sayaff Boss in Davey Jones' Locker-Abu Sabaya was shot by Filipino naval troops then jumped overboard and has likely drowned; the body has yet to be IDed. It came a bit too late for Martin Burnham, but this will help wind down the militant Muslim movement. I saw this piece first from evangelical Filipino blogger Ganns Deen's Mere Madness site. He's linked to this Phillipines news site that is confirming the death.

Midday Musings- Moving is going well. My bed got in early. The funriture store said they'd deleiver between 10-12 and the people showed up at 9:40-sweet! I'm about to head off to fetch a sofa and love-seat that my department chair was getting rid of. The phone is up (they activiated an old computer second line, so they're fixing it to hook up the main jack). I'll be sleeping in the new digs this evening. Germany 1-USA 0. Watched the game while moving stuff; packed up in the first half, moved at halftime and unpacked in the second half. The US played gamely but were a bit overmatched. Germany-Brazil final, folks?

New Coke NIV?- A couple of Christian ministry shows have been beating the wardrums on the Today's New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible and the flawed inclusive language in the New Testament released earlier in the year. There are two issues when reading scripture, exegesis and hermeneutics. Exegesis is trying to figure out what the writer was trying to say to the readers of his day. Hermeneutics is trying to apply that message to today. If the original text had "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" you can make the jump that you should rebuke and forgive sisters as well without having the verse changed to say "If your brother or sister sins...." The TNIV is doing the hermeneutics for the reader and obscuring the exegesis, not allowing them to hear the original that didn't include "and sister." Most of the changes are benign, but here's one in Hebrews 12:7 that detracts from the concept of God the Father.
NIV-Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? TNIV-Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their parents?
In this case, the hermeneutics get in the way of seeing God as a father rather than as a parent. My hope for the TNIV is that it dies a quick death and becomes a collector's item. My fear is that the uproar from the TNIV will cause the classic NIV to be dumped, forcing people to switch over to the New American Standard (a slightly-clunkier but better word-for-word translation) or another alternative translation. Time spent on whether to dump the NIV is time that could be spent advancing the Kingdom of God. The Southern Baptists, epitomes of tact and PR, are thinking about dumping the NIV in protest. However, I'm thinking that the TNIV could go the way of New Coke. People will see that the classic version is better and people will return to it, with the failed new version going out of print in short order. Zondervan, owned by Harper-Collins (would this have happed if Zondervan had stayed independent?), will have to figure out whether to risk the NIV brand on this new endeavor or to cut their losses, for they could easily lose more classic NIV sales than they will gain from the TNIV. If they go forward with the full version, we could have a very nasty food fight on our hands.

Edifier du jour-John 8:54-59
Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
For those unitarians who want to deny Jesus' divinity, this is a hard passage to swallow. "I Am" is God's name, the word that usually gets translated "the LORD" with all caps in the Bible. A close phonetic take is Yahweh, the more common one is Jehovah. Jesus was declaring himself God in verse 58. For any good Jew that didn't accept Jesus as Messiah, he had just made a blasphemous statement and deserved to be stoned under Jewish law. However, there was one, and only one, man who could say that phrase and get away with it. That was Jesus, for he was, and more importantly, is God. Remember that given his statements of Messiahship, you can't chalk Him up as merely a good teacher, for a good teacher and role model wouldn't be telling such whoppers if He weren't the Messiah. He was either lying though his teeth, nuttier than a fruitcake or is God incarnate. He's either a liar, a lunatic or he's Lord of all. I'm going for door #3.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Evening Musings-I'm been busy moving into my new apartment-the bed I bought today is coming late tomorrow morning, then I change gears tomorrow afternoon and look to line up floor lamps and a hide-a-bed for the quest room. The phone line isn't in yet, but Verizon only promised sometime on the 20th, which could be 11:59PM. Prediction for tomorrow's soccer. England 2- Brazil 1 on penalty kicks. Germany 3-USA 2 on a golden goal. I'd love to see the US win, but the world isn't ready for the US in the finals.

Cig Taxes Heading Up in Michigan?- Most every state is facing declining revenues this year, and it's often the easy way out to have tax increases. Michigan's leaders are looking to up the cigarette tax by $0.50/pack to add an estimated $250 million/year. They failed to get a majority of the House membership to approve of the measure, winning 53-49 but needing 56 votes for a majority of the 110-seat state house. I'm not sure if they've accounted for people heading to Toledo or Angola (Ind) to stock up on cheap smokes. I remember seeing stories in the Detroit Free Press of Michigan revenuers checking out the stores just across the line in Indiana ($0.15/pack state tax in Indiana rather than the $0.75 currently in place in Michigan) for people buying low-tax smokes and bringing them back across. This will be good news for the party stores on the southern border and for non-smoking taxpayers, but it will be bad news for the smokers who won't be tipped into quitting due to this tax increase. I'm not all that opposed to cigarette taxes, given that I'm decidedly anti-smoking in theory (they do little if any good and ruin people's health) and in practice (my Grandma Kraenzlein died of lung cancer; watching her last year with the chemo and tube feeding wasn't pretty). When you tax something, you tend to get less of it. If you are taxing good things, like income, sales and property, you will tend to get less of them, which isn't good. It's better to tax bad things if you have to tax at all, so that you are creating a public service by decreasing the quantity demanded. I don't buy into the slick logic of anti-cigarette-tax people that we will become addicted to the cigarette tax revenue and will want to encourage smoking to keep bringing in the revenue. If smoking is reduced, the economic damages of smoking, both from health effects and productivity declines from smoking breaks, will be reduced as well, largely offsetting any revenue loss from the cigarette taxes. While we can't balance the deficit on the backs of smokers, it's one area that I'm not going to scream to the rooftops against a tax increase.

Mob Justice?-This case isn't a big deal, but the coverage on local TV got me ticked. A gal named Bernice Bowen was convicted of accessory after the fact to murder, helping her boyfriend evade police after killing three policemen. The anchor was asking the on-site reporter how many supporters Bowen had (not much) versus how many people were there supporting the slain cops' families. That shouldn't make any difference in how the law is ruled upon. Justice by mob rule isn't justice at all. I'm thinking of lynch mobs in our country's past and the lynch mob on the original Good Friday comes clearest to mind. If you have done the crime and the government can prove you have done it, then you should face the consequences, regardless of whether you're a superstar or the most hated person in town. A pack of hang-'em-high detractors or a "no justice, no peace" gaggle of defenders shouldn't be allowed to influence the case.

Farewell to Harwell-John J. Miller had a nice piece in The Corner on Ernie Harwell, the long-time voice of the Tigers, who'll be hanging up the microphone this year. I remember coming back from a brief stint living in Texas, one of the treats of the trip home was to get within range of WJR and being able to here Ernie's voice. They've moved the flagship for the Tiger network to another station this year, so the fans of his in the eastern half of the country can't hear him on the 50K watt clear-channel "Great Voice of the Great Lakes." He's been the announcer since the 60s (with the exception of 1992, when the Tigers were dumb enough to let him go, fans made sure he came back) and has been in the Baseball Hall of Fame since 1981. Ernie’s a Christian; he helped found Baseball Chapel, where players from both teams get together for a service before the game on Sunday. Miller didn't have the full version of the called third strike; it's "He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched that one go by." The other classic Ernieisms were "two for the price of one" for a double play and the patented foul-ball-in-the-stands "and a fan from [insert nearby town here] will take that one home with him." My ultimate favorite tribute to Ernie came in the late 70s, when he was doing the national radio play-by-play for the American League playoffs. The game was at Kansas City and his broadcast partner from another city (I don't remember who) said "a man from Overland Park will take that one home with him."

Edifier du jour-John 7:14-18
Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him."
This is a verse that will apply today, preachers that speak out of their own wisdom honor themselves but not God. Many pastors will want to create a unique brand by providing knowledge that no one else is talking about. While there may be preachers that have a special gift for interpretation of scripture and prophecy, we need to hold them accountable to be serving God and not themselves. I've been church shopping lately, and went to a weeknight service at a local church. While the people were nice, I was taken aback by the seat-back covers in the front row (and parts of the second) designating the seats for the pastor and his wife, ushers and "reserved." You couldn't sit in the front row of this church (it only had four rows IIRC, with about 30 in each row) without an invitation. I was sensing a spirit of control, that while the church may be "free in the spirit," it didn't seem to be free from a top-down mentality that doesn't bode well for a well-functioning body. It wasn't just the seat covers, but other physical signs in the church as well as a spiritual gut feel that told me that I wasn’t supposed to be here, that the control from the top was unhealthy here; I quietly left before the opening praise session had finished. Conversely, the church I visited last night felt very much like home. I'm going back for a prayer meeting tonight to find out more about this bunch.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

The Power of the Individual-Jeffrey Collins pointed out Walter Willams’ good piece on the free-market system and the advantages of the “invisible hand” of enlightened self-interest. It reminds us that a free-market system is the best creator of wealth the world has ever known. It allows a diversity of ideas to blossom, things that a Washington bureaucrat would never dream up. Many of those ideas will be bad, but they will likely be bad but small-scale mistakes. The ideas that prove themselves to be good on a small scale can be ramped up on a national or even international scale. This diversity of ideas will usually prove to be better than the “best and the brightest” making decisions from the capital, since the smartest guy isn’t always the most creative or insightful. It might be a bicycle maker from Ohio or two hippies in a California garage that come up with the big idea rather than the Ivy League grads at the think tanks and undersecretary posts. America has the advantage of having confidence in the little guy rather than the elite. Europeans accuse us of having a Cult of the Individual. Evangelical Christianity points out that we have a one-on-one relationship with God and that makes us feel like people who have individual value rather than mere serfs. The prominence of churchgoing Christians of numerous stripes in the US has helped make American politics more decentralized and less socialist than in Europe. We also have a greater respect for our fellow man. In a crisis, people go to help, rather than wait for the government to help. If the government doesn’t have a program to help someone, charity will step in to meet the need in most cases. An ad-hocracy of non-profit agencies, businesses and individuals as well as government entities will handle problems in ways that a socialist system doesn’t have a chance of pulling off. When the free-market’s diversity of ideas are combined with respect for and confidence in our fellow man, you get a vibrant economy that needs little government to meet the needs of the less-fortunate. If we can get past our fears of failure and fears of our fellow man failing us, we would be more willing to put our trust in our fellow man rather than in the government.

Icing on the Cake-Peter Sean Bradley over at Lex Communis appreciated the pulled goalie post and now wants icing explained. Icing happens when a player shoots the puck from his half of the ice untouched all the way past the other's team's goal line. If the puck goes past the goal line and comes back out in front before being touched, it's still eligible for icing. Two caveats- (1) A skater from the other team needs to be the first to touch it; if the goalie or someone from the icer's team touches it first, there is no violation. (2) If a team is short-handed, they can ice the puck to their heart's content. It may not be a big contribution to human understanding, but it's mine for the moment.

Evening Musings- How many of you see a roadsign like this
Lake Wales7
Sebring41
and think "Sebring must have a real good football team this year"? Looks like I may have found a good church in Winter Haven about a mile away from my new apartment; I just got back from their Wednesday night service. Problem is, I've gotten rather freindly with the Lake Wales contingent at the Lakeland Vinyard; they're throwing a co-ed "bachelor party" for me after church Sunday. One couple let me use their washer and dryer rather than head to the laundomat last weekend, so I'm not quite sure how to say "thanks for the hospitality, but I might want to go to this church closer to home."

Mark’s Ism-Part II-Insurance, Farm Policy and the FDIC (Introduction , Part I) I’m going to start my trip into the joytron-maximization business (I’ll talk about the morality of it later) by looking at some areas where government policies will lower wealth but increase overall well-being. There are a number of programs that will slow down the economy slightly but are protective in nature. Note that this first batch does not include any “progressive” redistribution of wealth. People will rationally take out insurance, as a loss of $XY is more painful than X losses of $Y for the majority of us with risk-adverse natures. While we know that insurance is a negative Net Present Value proposition from the policyholder’s perspective, we will prefer the stream of small losses (insurance premiums) than the possibility of a large loss, even if the odds are fully known and understood. I can think of two government programs that fit the description of such insurance plans, agricultural price supports and the FDIC. I’ll start with the FDIC, the bank regulation agency. Banks pay premiums into the FDIC in order to provide a fund that the FDIC will use to pay back creditors for their deposits in failed banks. The insurance premiums will cut the profit margins of banks, as will the regulations required of American banks (reserve and equity requirements, restrictions on investments, etc.). However, such restrictions are deemed proper to insure the average person that his bank account is safe and that they need not pull out cash in a banking crisis. It creates a system of slightly less profitable but (in theory, although the new Basil standards are an improvement) more secure banks than a less regulated system. There’s an old saw in investments that there is a trade-off between sleeping well and eating well, and this is an example where we set up regulations that will sacrifice profits for security. Agricultural price supports are another example of a trade of security over profits. Note that I’m going to leave out help for small farmers here, for that is a redistribution issue to be dealt with later. A high government-guaranteed price for a commodity will encourage greater production of a good. Thus, in years that might have been famine years without price supports, a larger crop will be produced, better insuring the needed quantity of our food supply. Critics will note that the US is a major food exporter and need not worry about underproduction. However, that overproduction is a good foreign-policy tool as well as internal famine insurance. If we have extra food to dispose of, we can have influence on food-short countries that would be more willing to be our friend if we have food to feed them with. At what point does protecting the food supply for us and our allies overseas turn into pork barrel spending for the farmers? That’s a question I’ll leave up to AgEcon experts, but the idea that some price supports might save us from a future famine is an appealing one to me. Once again, the floor is open to the Peanut Gallery for additional examples of risk-aversion policy that actually make sense, polite broadsides or other erudite comments.

Martian Hockey Boogie-I didn't catch this last week, but Louder Fenn's Martian buddy had this bewilderment
When the team in white -- the Red Wings they are called -- achieved their third goal, the goalie whose designation is "Irbe" was not at the goal. This seemed to be very natural to all observers but myself. I strained for some hint from the announcers that would explain this absence of Irbe. I heard no hints. It didn't seem to be a penalty. It was called an "empty net" as if it were a commonplace event. Why in the world was Irbe not tending his goal?
It's common for a team trailing late in the game to "pull the goalie", getting an extra offencive guy to create a 6-on-5 skating mismatch. At about the one minute mark, the trailing team will get its goalie to the bench for an extra "skater" once the puck is at the other end of the ice. If the puck stays down at the other end, the effect is that of a power-play, with the defence being undermanned. However, if the other team manages to get into the now-goalieless team's end, they are liable to get an easy "empty-net" goal, as Shanahan did at the end of the clinching game 5. Pulling the goalie is the hockey version of the Hail Mary lob in football, a risky ploy but one that makes sence in the last minute when a team is down one.

David Heddle has a thought-provoking post on his autistic son Luke. Christian schools are ill equipped to handle such special needs kids. He notes how Christian school enthusiasts will look down their nose at "government" schools, but will be content to pawn off the tough-cases to the "public" schools. I've got some additional thoughts that will have to keep until later.

Clueless Joe?-In yesterday's Rundown, Ben Domenech asks "Quick, quick! How many states could Joe [Lieberman] win below the Mason Dixon?" It depends on which Joe Lieberman shows up. To get the Democratic nomination, he'll most likely have to do a lot of brown-nosing of the liberal constituencies of the Democratic Party. If he continues to backpedaling on his more centrist stands, it will take away the Blue Dog appeal he had prior to the summer of 2000. If he ran as a raging moderate and somehow managed to win the nomination with a plurality with two or three more establishment liberals running, he would have a decent shot at Florida, West Virginia and Tennessee. People might wonder if a Jew could get the Bubba vote, but it's not the Bubba vote that's at play. Lieberman can address moral issues as a Jew without having the swing voter deal with Jesus and their lack of a relationship with Him. Where he helps the Democrats is in prying loose the morally-conservative non-evangelical, who don't like the libertine streak of the left wing of the party but are threatened by the brimstone I don't think Lieberman can pull off getting the nomination. Liberals won't trust him to represent them; if he kowtows to them enough to get the nomination, he's toast in the general election. If he can somehow revert to the pre-VP Joe and still get the nomination, Dubya will still be a solid favorite, but the President will need to bring his A game. To be technical, Lieberman would win Maryland and Delaware as well, but while physically south of the Mason-Dixon line, those two aren't "Southern" states in a political sense. [ 6/21 update-Deleware's Fritz Schranck points out that Delaware is east of the Mason-Dixon line]

Morning Musings-I'm not quite sure what to think about Israel's move back into the West Bank. I think the Fox subheader stating that this "throws [a] major wrench into Bush peace plan" is bogus, since Bush's plan was up on blocks in the side yard. I don't have a good link to this one, but the local news had the Catholic Bishop of Venice, FL, John Nevins, defending his transfer of a pedophile priest. The bishop claimed he didn't know any more about the priest's bad behavior than his giving boys' wedgies. His speech was so slow and sanctimonious that he was two octaves and a lisp away from sounding like the bishop in The Princess Bride. Hearing Mr. Propriety say the word "wedgie" was a hoot. I'm not a big generic baseball fan, so this is the down-time of the year, this patch from mid-June to early August, once basketball and hockey hang it up for the year and football has yet to kick in. If your baseball team is doing well, this time of year can be fun, but neither the Tigers or Indians are doing anything this year, and the D-Rays in my new home turf are stinking up the joint. You get the US and British Open golf and Wimbledon to tide you over, and the World Cup as a morning supplement this year, but otherwise, this is a desolate patch of sports year if your teams aren't doing well in baseball.

Edifier du jour-John 6:48-69
"I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
A few days ago, one of the Christian radio teachers mentioned that the Romans would spread rumors that the early Christians were cannibals, based on a twisting of the communion service's symbolic consumption of the blood and body of Christ. We are consuming Jesus, but not in a way that Hannibal Lecter would appreciate. It is Jesus as the Word that we consume; it's the idea of God's consuming love for us that we gobble up. Back in the first chapter, John noted that "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." If I recall past sermons, the Greek for Word was logos, which gives the implication of the Mind of God when made upper-case. To understand God's plan, we need to start understanding His mind, thus we need to understand his word and the Word. By mentally and spiritually absorbing what God has to offer (via prayer, church, Bible study and just basking in God's presence) we are taking in part of the Word. I'm thinking of a photosynthesis metaphor; we're growing by basking in the Light of the world. However, unlike plants, we have the ability to move in order to stay in the Light. We can change where we put down roots to make sure we are adding worldly nutrients such as good teaching and fellowship. We can set up Son lamps (prayer, Bible study, fellowship) to bring the Light into the dark places of our lives. Via an outgoing witness, we can take our Son lamps on the road to lighten up the lives of others. We are consuming Jesus, but not in the sense of chowing down a roast leg of the Lamb.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Social Democrats Aren't EUnuchs?-Newcomer Kyle Williams pointed to this news story. Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) are selling SPD-logoed condoms at the party's gift shop. In boxes of 100, no less. There are a number of places you could go with this story and few of them are printable. Can we chalk this up as the ultimate marker of European political amorality? To this point, at least.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors-We're starting to see the beginnings of a change in policy. As hard as it is to ignore twenty people killed by the latest autoboomer in Jerusalem, it's better to have a cool head and carefully think through the next steps, which appear to be heading towards building a military wall accros the northwest boundary between Israel proper and the West Bank. This won't be cheap, but it might be the most viable solution. Israel either needs to separate from the Arabs in the region or wipe them out, for peaceful coexistence seems to be a non-option for the time-being. Once the wall is built, then plans need to be made to administer the areas on the Arab side of the wall. The PLO is a corrupt entity and needs to be replaced. Kudos to Condi Rice for publicly saying so; if you've got the Condi '08 bumper-sticker concession, make up another batch. I haven't got a clue who Arafat's replacement should be, but the fact that he and his cronies need to be removed from power is not too hard to see.

Midday Musings- I'm done with grading papers to hand back for tonight's class, so I've got a bit of a breather to kick back and comment on stuff. I'll get to Israel in a bit, pleasure before business. Lots of interesting commentary off of my econ posts, the most evocative being on Paul Musgrave's site found via Joshua Claybourn's comments. Musgrave admitted to not reading my piece yet, but suggests that "the use of state power for redistribution of wealth is probably anti-Christian." I have two sides of my brain in conflict here; one's saying "Them's fightin' words!!" and the other says "Hmmmmm. Maybe he's right." I'll have to give some extra thought to my next installment, due sometime tomorrow. South Korea managed to beat Italy today, 2-1 in overtime, getting to meet Spain in the quarters. However, the game will be in Osaka, so the home-country advantage won't be as significant. Turkey beat Japan, setting up a Turkey-Senegal quarterfinal and guaranteeing a Cinderella in the semis. The South Korea-Spain winner gets the US-Germany winner in one semi bracket, while the Turkey-Senegal winner gets the winner of England-Brazil. I'm not sure anyone's talked about the home-hemisphere advantage before. When the Cup has been played in the Americas, a team from the Americas has won. With one exception (Brazil with a teenaged Pele wining the 1958 Cup in Sweden), when the Cup was played in Europe, a European team has won. How will that play out with a Asian World Cup? Charlie Batch has signed with the Steelers, going back to his hometown. That will give the Steelers a competent backup if Slash crashes.

Edifier du jour-John 5:16-23
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
This passage goes a long way to laying out Jesus' claims of divinity and starts to get a glimpse of life inside the Trinity. Jesus does nothing without consulting his Father. While trying to analyse the three-way thought patterns of God would be a crazy endevour for man, I can picture them in constant, effortless communication over all things. My thoughts don't do the topic justice, but the intensity of the idea of Jesus and the Father's thoughts being "networked" together is comforting.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Fruit of the Vines-NRO featured one of the more condescending pieces I've seen in a while, as Scott Galupo deigns to damn with faint praise the stereotype evangelical. Dr. Heddle gives the appropriate double-barreled response. National Review isn't an evangelical rag, of which Heddle is fond of noting. It's a conservative outfit with a strong Catholic streak, but is open to secular commentary such as Galupo's. However, evangelicals are usually treated with a proper amount of respect. Not today in Galupo's piece. If Galupo were a blogger, I'd think he was hitmongering with this bad boy. Let me pick off a target of opportunity Heddle left behind.
But what the sensational aspect of this controversy obscures is the fact that Southern Baptists have real, theological differences with Muslims, Jews, other Christians, and non-Christians generally. It's estimated that two billion people worldwide profess to be Christians — maybe half of whom, according to the strict Evangelical definition of personalized mental loyalty, are true believers. That means they believe the vast majority of humanity is destined for Hell. To say the least, this makes for rather awkward public relations. When this exclusive worldview rears its head, as it tends to do at the SBC's annual meetings, representatives of other faiths cry foul; the agnostic elite looks down its nose in bewilderment and disgust. And charges of "intolerance" and "hate" inevitably follow.
What the heck is "personalized mental loyalty?" Is that the elite definition of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior? I'd figure that we'd have closer to a quarter of the nominally Christian population, rather than the half Galupo states, having a saving faith in Jesus. Yes, this does make for bad PR. However, we're not in this for a popularity contest, we're here to advance the Kingdom in good times and in bad. In Galupo's eyes, our "exclusive worldview rears its head." Yeah, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me" isn't going to win points on Oprah, but this isn't the Unitarian Universalist convention.

Common Sence Revolution 1995-2002 R.I.P.
This wasn't the cheeriest news for free market fans as new Ontario premier Ernie Eves presents his first budget
Ontario's Conservative government will set a provincial spending record today, tabling a $65-billion budget that includes increased funding for education, the environment and health care. Much of it will be paid for by tax increases on alcohol, tobacco and new gambling revenue. Facing a shortfall of up to $5-billion, government officials warned that Janet Ecker, the Minister of Finance, might also have to postpone the implementation of a previously announced $2.2-billion corporate tax cut in order to balance the books.
Just a quick reminder of what the large-c Conservatives are typically like north of the border.

Lincoln Redux-For those of you who heard Tom DiLorenzo on Rush this afternoon (Walter Williams subbing), here's my critique from February of one of his Lincoln-bashing articles.

Morning Musings- I most likely won't add anything to the economics series until Wednesday. I blog in my free time and I won't have much of it until then, given my Tuesday night class, prepping for same, apartment-related errands and checking out a church group this evening. The US team has exceeded expectations with a 2-0 win over Mexico. An upset of Germany Friday morning would really make their trip. It could be an interesting game with two teams that like to counterpunch. Dr. Heddle took offence at my use of CMU to refer to Central Michigan rather than Carnegie Mellon. I don't know if he's a grad of that other CMU, but no offence was intended. Carnegie Mellon is much more prestigious than Central Michigan, being a leader in computer science, engineering and other hard sciences, IIRC. Unlike the World Wildlife Fund, I don't think Carnegie Mellon has a trademark on its acronym.

Edifier du Jour-John 4:1-42 This is the passage of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well; I'm going to skip posting it due to length. There are a number of messages that stem from this passage. (1) The Gospel isn't an exclusive, ethnic thing. It's universal- Jesus is willing to deal with Samaritans, the most disliked people by Jews of that day. (2) The Gospel isn't just a guy thing-Jesus deals with a woman as an equal. Where there are positions among humans that are sex-based, our relationship to God is as people. Paul, Mr. Sexist himself, states in Galatians 3:28 that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (3) The Gospel isn't just for the morally pure-The woman wasn't exactly lilly-white, having gone through four husband and was shackin' up with her current lover. Jesus dealt with her anyway. (4) The Gospel doesn't get lost in customs-In verses 19-20, the woman tries to starts an argument over where the proper place of worship is. Jesus points out that those customs are now moot. Jesus used a lowly woman to help witness to the Samaritans. However, He stayed with them to reinforce the message. Here's versus 39-42
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
We need to remember that each believer needs to have a direct relationship to God rather than one that is filtered through someone else.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Chirac Racks up a Win-The pro-Chirac UMP (Union for a Presidential Majority) faction has won the French elections going away, having a good shot of getting two-thirds of the seats. That may be too much power, so beware of Jacques getting a bit cocky.

Mohammed and Jerry Lee Lewis-A Baptist pastor has gotten himself in hot water for going after Mohammed. This SL Post-Dispatch piece has this quote from former Southern Baptist president Jerry Vines
Christianity was founded by the virgin-born son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives - and his last one was a 9-year-old girl. And I will tell you, Allah is not Jehovah, either. Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist that'll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people
Sentence one is Christian doctrine. Sentence three (Allah ain't Jehovah) is OK, but I'd rather say that while Muslims would like to think they are worshiping the same god, they have a fatally flawed understanding of God. Sentence four is a bit flawed in that we do have a handful of Christian terrorists that will kill (often abortion-related) in the name of the God of the Bible. Al Qaeda is a twisted form of Islam; Jim Jones, David Koresh and your abortionist-assassins are examples of twisted, ultimately fatal forms of Christianity. However, it's sentence three that's gotten him into trouble. He did have twelve wives, one of which was a girl of single-digit age. It's likely that one of Satan's field reps was dictating the Koran to Muhammad rather than God, so Muhammad was likely under demonic influence at minimum. I'd only quibble with the word pedophile. Is it pedophilia if the sex is lawful? I was thinking back to Jerry Lee Lewis, who married a 13-year-old cousin, IIRC. It was legal but ruined his career. Was the Killer a pedophile? I'd back off using the phrase in his case. If Mohammed’s child bride was prepubescent upon consummation, you could make a case, but lacking that information, I'd be inclined to leave that one out if I were giving the speech. If you go through the paragraph, Vines is over the top in his rhetoric but fairly dead-on in his assessment. It is as un-PC as it gets, but dead-on nonetheless. Thanks to Anne Wilson for the link.

Ousting Saddam?- That seems to be a big project, one that I'm not sure that our special ops people are quite up to pulling off in a neat way. A messy way, yes, but can we do it in such a way that gives us a tasteful result. Who do we install as an interim leader? How do we disarm the Republican Guards? Will this be a Iraqi revolt with some US firepower, such as Afghanistan, or is this a primarily US endevour? Let's drop back five yards and count our blessings. We're nine months out from 9/11 and we've had no attacks (unless we count anthrax) since on US soil and only a handful overseas that wasn't much more (if any) than in the pre-9/11 era. We have the beginings of a stable, western-friendly government in Afghanistan. Pakistan has tilted to the West and we've improved relations with India at the same time; now if those two can only keep their hands of the nukes. Russia is about this close to joining NATO, has signed an nuke-reduction plan with the US and has grudgingly accepted the scrapping of the ABM treaty. A rightward shift in politics is happening in Western Europe. I don't want Bush to blow the momentum and good foreign-policy management by going with a half-baked plan to get rid of Saddam. I smell Bay of Pigs II. Signs of a good, well-thought-out plan would relieve those fears. However, I don't want so big of a leak that it will telegraph what they are about to do. They'll need to leak enough to say "we've got the tool to do the job right, we've stuck a fork in and it's done-the plan's fully baked" yet not have too much detail.

Evening musings-Spent a busy PM at a departmental gathering, playing golf for the first time in 17 years (and being on the winning team in the four-team two-man scramble), playing basketball and Augusto pinochle and getting a nice lobstery red from a notch too much sun. Tiger's halfway to a slam, being the only guy in red at the end of the day, two ahead of Mickleson. Interesting how we all assumed that he'd hang on to win. This is eight pro majors for El Tigre, eleven majors if you count his three US Amateur wins. The Irish are bummed, they lost to Spain in a shoot-out. With all the disarmament, I guess ETA has gotten past the IRA in the shoot-out department.

Father's Day- As I'm in the process of leaving my dad's household, I'm in a particularly poignant mood on this Father's Day. It was 17 years ago that my dad was the instrument that God used to lead me to the Lord. I had graduated from CMU in 1982 and spent the next three years in a depressed funk, having essentially a three-year hole in my resume. As the spring of 1985 came, my dad came to the Lord, going from an aloof intellectual sorta-agnostic to a on-fire tongue-talking Pentecostal. This was not the same guy I grew up with. He wasn't a bad dad but a remote one; this loving, expressive guy was an upgrade from what he had been before. He was so eager to share what God was doing in his life and the lives of other people he was interacting with at the charismatic-friendly bible study he was in at his Methodist church, at his Full Gospel Businessman's group and the charismatic prayer group he was part of at the Catholic church downtown. Mom didn't quite know what to make of this guy, for it was not the same guy she had married; things were a bit strained between them that spring as she became used to this new guy under our roof. Dad would come home from teaching high school at 3:45. I was living with my folks at this time, having come back from a short sojourn to San Antonio to live with a college buddy down there. Mom didn't want to listen to him that much, so I was his captive audience, having no job and no friends at the time. Not quite captive, since I was alone during the day, I looked forward to the contact. I got to hear what God was doing in his life. I got to hear the gospel message that was downplayed (at best) at my Methodist church growing up; that God's perfect, we're definitely not, and that Jesus died to bridge that gap. But most importantly, I was seeing what the Holy Spirit could do, transforming his life and giving a burned-out guy going through a mid-life funk a new reason to live. By mid-August, I was sufficiently convicted that I was able to get on my knees (at least figuratively) and say "I'm not doing anything with my life, Lord. It's yours. Take it and do with it what you will." It wasn't the easiest path at first. A month in a Reformed Church mental hospital got me past a lot of my fears of criticism and rejection that fueled my depression. I went back to school the next fall, starting from scratch at a community college going for an associates in data processing to get employable. My grade point went from a 2.8 to a 3.8 with the added focus given by the Holy Spirit. I got active in InterVarsity on campus and had good Bible studies to go to in Midland. That associates in data processing turned to a BBA in Accounting and Finance and on up to a Ph.D. in Finance, as the Holy Spirit brought out the talent that had been underutilized for years. Through my second round of schooling, and the six years in Midland afterwards, my Dad was there with moral, spiritual and financial support. I wouldn't be here without the love and patience that the Holy Spirit has given him. Thank you, Dad.

Morning Musings- On a lighter note-I saw a pair of sandhill cranes for the first time yesterday. I was driving on to campus and saw a couple of "brown flamingos" (to my untrained eye) in the deserted campus quad, eating goodies in the grass and preening themselves. I had to hop onto a Florida bird web site to confirm that those brown flamingoes were sandhill cranes. Todo, I don't think we're in Michigan anymore. Senegal's now the certified Cinderella of this year's Copa de Mundo, getting past Sweeden 2-1. When someone other than Tiger wins the Masters, they are "the only person to have a chance at a triple crown this year." When Tiger wins the Masters, he "can win the triple crown," stated without the lottery-odds caveats. He's four up on El Niño, and you have to like Tiger's chances. IIRC, he's blown either one or two third round leads in his career-he is golf's ultimate closer.

Edifier du jour-John 3:16-21
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
While versus 16 is the now-cliche Gospel-in-a-sentence, I'm surprised I don't hear versus 17-21 more often. However, upon reflection, it's not surprising we don't use this passage much; it's natural not to talk about the painful act of exposing our sins to the light of truth. Like cockroaches scurrying for cover when someone turns on the light, sinners head for cover when a spotlight is turned on their misdeeds. It takes a great deal of prodding by the Holy Spirit to bring each believer to the point of going under that spotlight. However, it takes the blood of Jesus to make us able to feel somewhat comfortable in the light of truth. While our misdeeds are there for God to see, the blood is a Sonblock against the searing rays of the light of truth. The non-believer, when faced with the light of truth, get Sonburn, unable to survive exposure to the Light of the world in all His glory. That's a hard passage to swallow, even if it is after the verse that is in the end zone every Sunday.

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