Saturday, March 01, 2003

Afternoon Musings-A lazy March afternoon, Florida style. We had a work day at church this morning, where I helped make keep-or-"find-a-good-home" decisions in the church library resource room, moved chairs and covered tables for a church dinner, peeled labels off of old sermon tapes for recycling and schmooze with fellow congregates, most of whom were in the leadership circle of the church. The old 80-20 rule rides again-80% of a churches work gets done by 20% of the people; we didn't see too many people there that weren't those basic pillars of the church. After that, a long nap for both Eileen and I; she's still snoozing. Den Beste has another one of his masterpieces on the reconstruction of Iraq, using post WWII Japan as a model. He wants Rudy to be military governor of Iraq, with the FDNY hat part of the day one uniform. However, in his laying out of the new political/legal system, he states that "There will be no trace whatever of Sharia in the legal code." I'm not sure we want that entirely. There might be some aspects that would fit into a Anglospherian framework; maybe I'm just flipping the statement to say that there should be "no trace whatever of the Bible in the legal code" when our legal system is pocked through with Old Testament ethics. Having some of the more noble (and more compatible with Ten Commandments virtues)parts of Islamic teaching apply might make it seem less foreign without compromising Anglospherian values. On a parallel track, Ruffini has a nice breakdown of Bush's AEI speech that's worth a read. The Wolfowitz Gang won the policy war after all.
After Bush laid it all out, what “hidden agenda” can the proponents of liberation be said to favor? What’s the worst thing that could be said about us? That we’re too zealous in defending democracy? Please, M. Chirac, don’t throw us in the briar patch! In our liberation of places as far flung as Paris, Prague, Tokyo, Kuwait City, and Mazar-i-Sharif, this nation rediscovered its true purpose. The days we did so remain our finest. Bush just confirmed that we will be seeing another such fine day ahead, and very soon.
Good sermon, Brother Patrick! Now, lets turn in our hymnals to hymn 136.
Soon and very soon, we are going to oust the king. Soon and very soon, we are going to oust the king. Soon and very soon, we are going to oust the king. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We are going to oust the king.
Interesting piece here on Paul Martin, the likely (unless the small-c conservatives get their act together) next PM of Canada. He owns a big shipping company, Canada Steamship Lines, and conflict of interest issues are mentioned in the piece. As long as they watch CSL's relationship with the governments like a hawk, he shouldn't have to divest. I can see making people sell off big chucks of stock in companies they don't own outright, but causing someone to sell off a business they've owned and managed themselves seems a bit too harsh. The one upside is that as a business owner, Martin knows what government can do to businesses. I remember when George McGovern ran a business after leaving politics; he became a bit less socialist when he was on the receiving end of all that taxing and regulating. Canada could do a lot worse than have a businessman at the helm, even if he's a Liberal.

Edifier du Jour-Hebrew 3:1-4(NASB)
1: Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2: He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. 3: For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4: For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
As we look out over the majesty of the universe, remember there's something greater than the universe. The cosmos ain't all there is, folks. A God outside of the physical system did the creating.

Friday, February 28, 2003

Evening Musings-I'm not quite sure what to make of the latest news out of Iraq. They're cooperating, sorta, on the missiles, but Blix makes the great understatement that "The results in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far." For some reason, I'm thinking about the slowness of Germany to get around to attacking France and the Low Countries in WWII; after the blitzkrieg of Poland, you had a sitzkrieg. However, it was quick and lethal once it got rolling. Just in time for the weekend talkies, the Ninth Circuit upheld the Pledge ruling. It isn't going to stand up on appeal; classic Ninth Circuit idiotarianism. This is an interesting one from the Cereal State (home of flakes, fruits and nuts)-a good hunk of of the San Francisco PD leadership, including the chief of police and two deputies, were indicted on obstruction of justice charges. Their might be a female interim chief, as one of the deputy chiefs not indicted, Heather Fong, is on the short list for the spot.

This Week In Blog History-A "What Philosopher are you" quiz was going around the Blogosphere, even reaching The Corner; the orthodox Christian (ooh, a pre-MT Kevin) section was coming up Augustine. Hence, the origin of the Augustinian Posse or Ben's "Augustinian Wonder Boys." The World Wildlife Fund won a legal smackdown against that other WWF over the rights to the acronym. Nolan Richardson got shown the door at Arkansas. Muslim-Hindu violence broke out in Gujarat. ABC was toying with bringing over Letterman and ditching Nightline, putting the chattering classes into a dither.

Midday Musings-Ben's busy breaking down the NFL free-agent market. The lowlight is Emmit Smith being cut by the Cowboys. The hightlight is that Tampa Bay's on the short list for his services; he underperformed on my fantasy team, but he might be a good fit for the Bucs. Kordell Stewart will be an interesting commodity. He's too good to be a backup but too erratic to be a great starter; maybe he might mature like Randall Cunningham did and morph from an athlete to an athletic QB. The paleoeuropeans will have a snit over this one; the Freedom Party's back in government in Austria. The paleoconservative party got its head handed to it in last fall's elections, going down to 10% of the vote, but the mainstream conservtive People's Party preferred a center-right coalition to a grand coalition with the Social Democrats. No, Heider's not the Antichrist, Left Behind's baddie's last name's Carpathia, not Carinthia. There's a Candadian plan to hold off a UN decision of Iraq for an extra two weeks? Be still my heart. If they were getting Mexico and Chile to agree to NAFTA expansion, it would be news, but this isn't going anywhere. I had mentioned earlier in the week that one of my Lakeland churchmates was an extra in Gods and Generals-the Ledger did a nice write-up on Jonathan today.

A Promise of Destabilization-Lileks not only knocked one out of the park, this one's achieved escape velocity. It starts out at normal Lileks high quality as he goes over Saddam and Gunga Dan, but hits the afterburners when he talks about Bush's AEI speech-
It would be just another speech, just another collection of euphonious platitudes - if it weren’t for the sword we’ve slowly unsheathed over the last six months. No one in the region could mistake the implications of that address. You have to be tone-deaf not to see how many different melodies are contained in those simple statements. It's not something that threatens to destablize the region. It's a promise. Whether we can do it, or should, is of course the issue reasonable people can debate. But let's not waste time rolling our eyes at another example of Yanuqui simplisme. Rote obescience to "complexity" is what got us in this mess. We mistook the governments of the countries for the countries themeselves. We focused on mapping the contours of the Gordian Knot, not on teasing out the strands that made up the rope. So now someone suggests we cut the knot, as we've been advised to do for decades - and everyone's horrified that we've raised our hand to strike. Why? Perhaps because it's Bush who's made the decision to act.
We're going to see some serious change in the Middle East; hang on tight and enjoy the ride.

National Greatness Coalition?-Sharon got sworn in yesterday with a four party coalition. I just spent some time looking at the platforms of the three partners in the coalition, the National Union, National Religious Party and Shinui. What seems to be a common responce from the parties is hard-nosed stance towards the Palestinians. Shinui is the odd duck in the mix. It's been described as a secular party, but the platform sounds more neolibertarian, they're free-marketeers but want less intermingling of church and state; Glenn Renyoldstein, anyone? On the Palestinian issue, the site I ran into on the platforms had this discription of Shinui's stand
Shinui supports the peace process and believes that painful concessions on both sides must be made to arrive at peace. However, any peace agreement must ensure Israel's security, the normalization of relations with the Palestinians and with neighboring countries and peace with the Arab world.
This sound more like shalom in its full meaning rather than just the cessation of violence. Shinui isn't opposed to a Palestinian state, but the other partners are more hard-line. The National Union party wants to see the West Bank and Gaza annexed and peacefully ethnically cleansed, just the thing to warm Yasser's heart. The National Religious Party doesn't want any settlements handed back. That would add up to a rather hard line against the Palestinians, but one that could set up an enforced partition of the West Bank as a fait accomplis. He can lose one (but not both) of the conservative parties and still hang onto a majority The parties could agree on economics (both National Union and Shinui are free-marketeers and NRP would go along as long as the food's kosher) and possibly agree on some scaling back of seminary exemptions from IDF service. Shas, and its love of financial faith-based pork, isn't in the coalition, which might allow a more free-market goverment to thrive. Bibi's the new finance minister with a coalition that could make some free-market noise. It looks like just about as good of a center-right coalition as Sharon could get.

Edifier du Jour-Leviticus 25:23-27(NASB)
23: 'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24: 'Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. 25: 'If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26: 'Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27: then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28: 'But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.
I'm still trying to figure out how and whether the jubilee concept can be applied to modern economics, but the key point is that we're not permanent residences here, we're all aliens (and the priests are men in black) with our citizenship with God. As we look at geopolitics, we should remember that we're God's first and our nation's a distant second; not that I'm in a dis-the-US mood, but that the US is good only as much as it draws close to God. The closest thing I can relate to the jubilee is the underlying concept of avoiding a landless underclass in Israel. The nearest equivalent to the physical capital of land in this country is education; getting everyone a good education so that they have intellectual capital to get a good job can help avoid a permanent underclass in this country. That's not to say that we're not going to have poor people, but we need a way for people to advance out of poverty.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Afternoon Musings-Mr. Rogers is dead. It wasn't that long ago that he hung up the cardigan. I was a bit too old for him by the time I remember seeing him on TV, but he was one of Eileen's favorites as a kid. I remember her talking about how he made for a good distinction between reality and make-believe, as they took the trolley over to the make-believe land. Funny Google Hits-"sunni islam vs shea islam." Not quite. "basques and werewolves"-Mr. Gil, have any help on that? "critiques on The Screwtape Letters"-no, but I've posted on it a few times. They've picked a 1776-foot-tall model for the WTC replacement. The plan has five towers; I remember one of the suggestions that came up post-9/11 that you have them five towers in a line, with the big one in the middle, figuratively giving Osama the middle-digit sal-oot. Bob Graham's got his paperwork in to run for President. With no one getting out of the teens, he's got an opportunity.

New and Old McCarthyism-Jonah got way out on a limb in giving Two Cheers for "McCarthyism;" I'm going to wiggle the branch some.
Regardless, wherever you come down on McCarthyism, Communism, and the rest is a matter of opinion. What is a matter of fact — unmitigated, irrefutable, undeniable fact — is that there were hundreds of Communists working for Moscow, directly or indirectly, in the United States during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. The Rosenbergs were guilty and got what they deserved. Alger Hiss too. Victor Perlo, Judith Coplon, Morton Sobell, William Perl, Alfred Sarant, Joel Barr, and Harry Gold were all either pawns or lackeys of a foreign and evil foe. We know the Hollywood Ten were all Communists, but what else they were we can't know for sure, because they believed taking the Fifth was more important than protecting the country (and if you think it's unfair to cavalierly call people who devotedly followed the Moscow line for all their adult lives "Communists," I sure hope you don't ever call, say, President Bush a "fascist" on the basis of no evidence at all). The American Communist Party (CP-USA) was in fact a Soviet franchise. In other words, you are free to describe McCarthyism as a witchhunt if and only if you are willing to concede that actual witches existed in our midst. The evidence — from declassified Venona transcripts, Soviet archives, memoirs, etc. — is still mounting, but what we have so far is plenty in itself. In 1996, Nicholas Von Hoffman wrote an essay for the Washington Post that caused no small amount of hysteria on the American Left, which has been milking its myths and denial for decades. McCarthyism was the product of the "paranoid style" in American politics. There were no witches — only zealots and brown-shirted bullies. The playwright Lillian Hellman declared: "The McCarthy group — a loose term for all the boys, lobbyists, congressmen, State Department bureaucrats, CIA operators — chose the anti-Red scare with perhaps more cynicism than Hitler picked anti-Semitism."
There were quite a few Soviet operatives that were around, but there were also people who were merely significantly to the left and ran in parallel circles with the Moscow-backing folks. I'm not sure how left-tinged my view of the era was, but there were quite a few people who hung out in socialist or communist circles in the 30s. Back then, with the Depression in full gear and the atrocities of Stalin and the downside of centrally-planned economies not fully known, many reasonable people saw socialism as a good alternative to the status quo; the socialists were even on the side of the angels on many issues, such as equality for women and minorities. Fast forward two decades; the USSR is now an enemy, Stalin's dark side is better seen and many Communists of the 30s are active agents against the US. A serious look at who is actively helping the USSR ensues and many spies and moles are found. The Verona transcripts that Jonah mentions points to a few that got away and confirms many others that the left has denied for years. However, many people that merely had an democratic socialist viewpoint got called into question; being significantly left of center got quite a few people fired or kept them from getting hired. "McCarthyism" was more the casting of a bit too broad a net, causing people who were loyal but leftist to get fired along with the real Communists. McCarthy himself only had a bit of McCarthyism, with the Army hearings being the big overreach. It was the school teacher or actor who hung out in broadly socialist circles (that may well have had Communists in the mix) and got fired as a result that were the victims of McCarthyism, not the Hollywood Ten. Do we have McCarthyism on the war on terror? I don't think so. The left will pull out the phrase too easily. We aren't arresting the Martin Sheens of the world for being idiotarian leftists. Protestors do get arrested for obstructing traffic or other civil disobedence but we don't have people in jail merely for opposing government policy. The closest thing to McCarthyism is the close look that Islamic immigrants, especially those from terrorist-oriented countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, are getting from the FBI and INS; they're getting the rules applied with vigor that we're not doing with Mexican or Chinese immigrants who overstayed their visas. If the enemy in McCarthyism is communism and communist-looking people (Socialist and other people of the left) got splattered by the brush, what is the enemy of our new war? It isn't idiotarianism, it's militant Islam. We need to keep the mosques and the people in them under a closer scrutiny than other religions; it's not nice to have to say that, but you don't get too many suicide bombers coming out of Lutheran churches. The trick in the future will be to root out the jihadist cells while still allowing Islam to exist as a religion. The left, as long as they steer clear of jihad-preaching mosques, don't have anything to fear from being collateral damage in this new cold war. Making Sami al-Arian a victim of modern McCarthyism doesn't wash. If the charges are correct, he's been the financier and leader of a terrorist organization. He's not being busted for being anti-Israeli, he's being busted for financing the killing of Israelis. That makes him more akin to the Rosenbergs than the Hollywood Ten. While we give a special look to Islamic organizations in the US, we have to figure out how to let the non-jihadists have their faith without discrimination. Profiling, yes, they might wind up having police and FBI types poking their nose around their mosque more than they will poke around the Baptist church up the street. However, encouraging people to be fired just because they're of the wrong faith would be modern McCarthyism.

Fiscal Policy in Three Graphs-I'm assuming most of my readers have heard of the Laffer Curve, but it's a good place to start a fiscal policy discussion. [My apologies in advance for the crudeness of the graphs] The basic premise is that if you raise taxes past a certain point, tax revenue will decline. The logical extreme is where you have an 100% tax rate; no one would work and thus there's no tax revenue. If you back off on the tax rate, people will be interested in working and you'll actually raise some revenue. Thus, there should be a point where we maximize tax revenue. If I could apply my elasticity teachings, there'll be a point where the tax rate increase is smaller than the percentage change in taxable income. Above that point, our tax revenue graph is elastic (revenue drops as you raise the "price"), and the government should cut taxes. However, maximizing revenue might not be what we're after. Let's look at wealth as a function of the tax rate. We'll need a certain amount of government to maximize wealth; a solid military, a judiciary and a police force and some basic infrastructure. How much infrastructure is a good question. Also, a certain amount of welfare might be in the wealth-maximizing mix as riot insurance to keep the poor from getting restless. However, we'll hit some point where government programs aren't helping to create wealth. That tax rate will be well to the left of the Laffer Curve's peak. However, is wealth what we're trying to maximize? We might be better suited to maximizing the commonweal, maximizing our collective utility. Let's bring in a third graph of aggregate utility as a function of the tax rate. Below is a copy of my graph-it doesn't seem to be as clear in Blogger as it does in the original file.

This utility curve hits its maximum somewhere between the wealth curve and the Laffer curve. As government spending (and the taxes needed to support it) grows past that point of maximizing wealth, we're now in the business of wealth transference, giving aid to the poor while taxing the more affluent. For a time, that transfer of wealth will reduce wealth (since taxpayers now have the cost of leisure go down and will not work as much) but increase utility, since the poor person's getting more joytrons out of the spending that rich guy is losing. However, there comes a point where that wealth transference becomes counter-productive. That point will come when the lost marginal utility from the taxes, both from the lost utility from the taxpayers and the slowing down of the economy from lack of hard work and investment from taxpayers, overwhelms the marginal utility of the government spending. At that point, aggregate utility jumps the shark and heads downhill. The question before the Peanut Gallery is whether we're on the right slope of the Utility Curve and a tax cut would aid aggregate utility. I would say yes. This is the first of a number of macroecon posts that might be the starting point of a book. [update 5:45PM-thanks to a comment from Nathan Mates, I've converted the BMP file to a JPG file ; it should load smoother. I'm a newbie at graphics]

Edifier du Jour-Leviticus 22:17-20
17: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18: "Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel and say to them, 'Any man of the house of Israel or of the aliens in Israel who presents his offering, whether it is any of their votive or any of their freewill offerings, which they present to the LORD for a burnt offering-- 19: for you to be accepted--it must be a male without defect from the cattle, the sheep, or the goats. 20: 'Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you.
This has a lot to say of what the Messiah would look like. As the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, the Messiah would have to be perfect; not just perfect in appearance but perfect in action, for a man who looked mah-velous but yet was a sinner wouldn't do. Also, the Messiah would have to be male. A female messiah wouldn't meet the specs. Given the fallen nature of man, God needed to send part of Himself. Here's a candidate for one of those pithy church signs "Jesus: God cared enough to send His very best." You might even say that Jesus is God's most prominent hallmark.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

He's Not Undead, Just Short-Lived-The Talking Dog notes that Buffy (or at least Sarah Michelle Gellar) will be leaving at the end of the year, and that she left one Baghdad Bloodsucker unslain. My father-in-law will be wearing black in mourning (for Buffy, not Saddam).

On-The-Way-Home Musings-The faculty union might be idiotarian, but USF president Judy Genshaft isn't-she just gave Sami Al-Arian the heave-ho. Let's add one more member to the idiotarian hall of fame
Al-Arian already has filed a grievance against his paid suspension and is expected to contest the firing. In addition, the American Association of University Presidents has threatened to censure USF for violating academic freedom. They say Al-Arian's tenure should not be breached until he is convicted of a crime.
But then again, (I'm not including WSC's President Hall) isn't being an idiotarian a prereq to being a college president on most campuses these days. This might help sink Buddy Dyer-he was plugging for a "living wage" ordinance in his inaugural as Orlando mayor today; the ink wasn't dry on yesterday's election before they swore him in. His radio ads made him sound like a Republican tax-cutter, but he didn't run ads for a living wage on conservative talk radio. such programs will help to ruin the city's economic climate. If city contractors have to pay a super-minimum wage to everybody on their staff, it will mean that only high-wage (translation-unionized) businesses will get city contracts and raise the cost of city government and anyone else doing business with the contractors. I'm not sure that the premise of the abortion-protest case is that great- since the protestors didn't get any property out of the protest, RICO doesn't apply. There are many case where extortion occurs where there isn't any money coming from the victim, like a mob hit on someone who refused to pay protection money or slashed tires on a truck of a mob-company's competitor. Also, there might be some honest benefit from a protest; crisis pregnancy centers could get extra traffic and extra funding from having councilors at an clinic blockade, which might make them RICO targets even if they didn't do anything illegal. I don't have a link for it yet, but there was a NPR report on a NIH(?) panel which took a look at abortion's link to breast cancer. Some earlier studies have shown a link, but the ones reviewed today seem to point against a link. The details might prove interesting.

The Economics of Music-Ben's post on the Grammies and a pair of microeconomic classes got me thinking of the economics of the music industry and why album prices are so high. Here's the part of Ben's piece that got the brain working
But the point is, films are not released in an artificial market. If an indie-level film (Blair Witch) or even a foreign film (Crouching Tiger) gets good word of mouth, it can pick up distribution and spread around the country, and get nominated for Oscars, and make tons of cash. There is nothing preventing that film from getting picked up by theater chains, or short of that, getting bought by HBO. Success is not a certainty, even for expensive and heavily promoted films. And success is a possibility for crowd-pleasing low-budget flicks. It's called the free market. The Music Industry, on the other hand, is not a free market at all. It's a back-scratching socialist economy. The radio stations play only select groups of songs, bought from labels, both of which simultaneously owned by companies that also happen to own concert venues and ticketselling groups. People don't hear the musical equivalent of indie films or low-budget flicks, because they can't. They can't drive into the city to see a different show. And music has a much more difficult time of gaining word-of-mouth momentum outside of local limits. It's called the socialist economy.
Well, more like a combination of monopolistic competition and oligopoly. The market for individual albums look a bit like monopolistic competition, where you have a number of different products that are unique but with close substitutes. The pricing power in monopolistic competition depends on how inelastic the demand for the product is, and I think that the demand for a particular album is fairly inelastic (demand goes down less than prices go up). If you're going in for Norah Jones' album, you're likely to buy it whether it's priced at $12.99 or $16.99. The availability of substitutes effects inelasticity, and the more unique an album is, the more inelastic the demand for it will be; putting Sade on special for $9.99 won't reduce the demand for Norah Jones much. When demand's inelastic, companies make money by raising prices; as long as the demand goes down by a smaller percentage than the price went up by, they're better off raising prices. With a fairly unique product with less-than-perfect substitutes, it's in a record company's best interest to keep prices high. This is compounded by the problem of oligopoly pricing; expect something on Nash Equilibrium this weekend as I prep for covering it in my Managerial Econ class. When you have a small number of dominant suppliers, it's not in their collective interest to get into a price war. Even absent organized price-fixing, an oligopoly will tend to see higher prices, as no one wants to start a price war that will eventually cut into everyone's profits. The dominance of the big labels in placement on radio stations make sure to turn most commercial radio stations into infomercials for the big label's artists, thus artificially boosting supply for their product. Even Christian music has a similar effect, with a few major labels leading the market. The way to break through that clutter is to have programmers at stations that are willing to listen to independent labels; it's easier to listen to the latest releases that the big boys drop in your lap than to wade through some quirky stuff, especially when the big label PR machine will crank up demand for their stuff. Truly great radio stations have DJs and programmers who do their homework, but it's a lot easier to choose from what the major labels drop on your lap. This might be especially true for the more corporate stations, who make a national playlist and have people play one song from list A, then one song from list B, then one song from list C.... The Internet might be a way around some of the corporatization of radio; small, quirky stations can simulcast on the Web and gain national and international listeners. When we get to a point of inexpensive wireless Internet, we might start to see such stations end-run the paint-by-numbers DJs and start to give small-label artists a better hearing.

Midday Musings-Fast over-grabbed lunch at the cafeteria, contentedly grazing on pork, stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes. Protestors of various stripes won one today with the Supremes, as they struck down 8-1 a RICO award against Operation Rescue for its agressive protesting of abortion clinics. Even President Bartlet was backing OR on this one. Stevens was the dissenter. I'm not supposed to wish people ill, but part of me's wishing for Stevens to get just enfeebled enough to want to retire. "Precipitous and illegitimate" is what the French PM's calling a war with Iraq. Just like "unilateral" translates to "without the French", "illegitimate" translates to "without French approval." This one's cute
A military intervention today, when all the chances for a peaceful solution have not been explored, would divide the international community
Let's see. We haven't offered Condi Rice as Saddam's love slave.We haven't tried having the inspectors playing a game of Biochemical Three-Card Monte with Uday to settle it. No, we haven't explored all the chances. A little Florida inside baseball-last year's losing Democratic AG candidate Buddy Dyer just got elected mayor of Orlando yesterday. This will set him up nicely for a 2006 governor run, giving him executive experience to go along with his state senate days. Doesn't he look a bit like a certain former president?

Fasting and Prayer-Hour 48-The "Axis of Weasels" and the War Backers-I'm putting that in quotes, for I want to be able to pray for the countries that are opposed to the war and the citizens around the world who are opposing the war. This war poses the possibility of fracturing a lot of international structures and fracturing a lot of people's paradigms. I'm trying hard not to sneer at the mindsets that see the UN and the aribiter of what is moral in the realm of geopolitics, but the US' support for something doesn't make it moral, nor does French, British, Chinese and Russian support make it moral. If you get all five of those countries supporting an item, it will in all likelihood pass the UN Security Council. However, the P5 isn't God. If all five support it, it doesn't make it God's will. Conversely, if the French and Russians don't support something, it doesn't neccisarily make it immoral. Many on the left have given the UN a moral standing that it lacks. I'll pray that people can focus better on God as the source of wisdom and morality and not some secular organization. We also need to realize that everything the US does isn't automatically moral, either. Many of our allies are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons and need to be kept on a short leash. We need to hold our leaders accountable for how the coming war is fought and to hold to the rhetoric of rebuilding Iraq physically, politically and culturally when this is all over. We fell far short after the Gulf War of pushing for democracy in Kuwait and for helping the Iraqi Kurds and southern Shia. We'll need to pray that Dubya doesn't play as much realpolitik as his dad did.

Prayer and Fasting-Hour 47-The Troops-It's very easy for me to discount the standard request to pray for "our men and women in uniform" in the past, but this area has a lot of people involved in the war, with National Guard troops being activated and Tampa's McDill AFB being the HQ for Central Command, who's in charge of Southwest Asian operations. One of our guys from church was called up and the church is having to be there for his wife, whose effectively become a single mom while he's off in the Gulf. However, we also need to pray for the Iraqi troops as well; as individuals, they don't deserve the pounding that they'll be getting. Pray that their commanders don't adopt a Klingon/Sioux "it is a good day to die" mentality when they're clearly beaten and that they don't lose too many people if and when the conflict breaks out. We need to pray for prudence in the Iraqi commanders to know when to surrender and for the high-level commanders to not participate in any scorched-earth policies that their bosses might want to do on their way down. We also need to pray for prudence from the allied commanders in minimizing Iraqi casualties and avoiding another Highway of Death scenario unless such carnage is militarily called for. We also need to pray for prudence in whether a war is needed or whether inspections with shark-like teeth could do the job. I don't think the latter is feasible, but let's pray for it anyway, our God's a big God who’s pulled bigger rabbits out of His hat in the past.

Blair, the Church and Realignment- There's been some interesting conversation on Tony Blair becoming Catholic when he leaves office; his wife's Catholic and his kids are being raised Catholic. Given the state of the Anglican Church in England, [update 2-27 11:45AM as well as that of the Methodist church that he belongs to] that might be an improvement in his spiritual walk. Modern Britain is secular enough to have a non-Protestant at the helm, so I don't see a need for him to wait until he leaves office. At first, there doesn't seem to be much political fallout for him personally; I'm not sure if you'd have too many hard-core Anglicans who would vote Tory or Social Democrat in protest and you'd see some more conservative voters applauding him for taking his faith seriously. On the other hand, it might be seen as a dis of the Anglican Church at the time where it is on the verge of schism. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is a political ally on economics issue, even if he’s obnoxiously anti-Iraq war. One of the dynamics of modern British politics is the realignment of Labour and the Social Democrats; historically, the Social Democrats (and their Liberal forbearers) were the centrist party with Labour to the left; now, Labour has become the centrist party and the Social Democrats are becoming the party of the left. Dissing Williams and turning him into a SD might be the tipping point of this realignment. Many old school Marxists in Labour are looking for something more leftist than Blair. The Social Democrats are reluctant to move from their secular bourgeois past to become the party of the left. Things aren’t far from making that transition and ticking off the liberal Anglican bishops by turning Catholic might just set if off.

Morning Musings-Had a nice veteran professor moment; this is the second time I've taught Personal Finance, so I was able to recycle and slightly modify my Powerpoint presentation on job-hunting from last semester, leaving me some time to blog before class. Yesterday was a long day, as I had to drive up to Dade City (a half-hour NW of Lakeland) to a funeral home; a student's husband had died. It was sobering for me to think what I'd be like if Eileen died; I'd be much more of a basket-case than Judy was yesterday. The family appreciated me being there and even apprecated some black humor about her not being in class last night. The fact that she'd even have to question being at the funeral home suprised me, reminding me of some bad jokes, like the guy on the golf course who doffs his cap as a funeral procession drives by the 10th fairway-
"You know the deceased?" "We would have been married 30 years come June."
One financial factoid she did appreciate is to not do anything stupid with life insurance or other lump sums that come from someone's passing; stick the money in a savings account for a few months so that some slick financial salesman doesn't play "target the grieving widdow" and put you into some unit trust or limited partnership that sucks bilge water. Interesting factoid on Norah Jones, Josh's "girlfriend." Her dad is Ravi Shankar, the noted sitarist. It's a name that Gen X and Gen Y folks might miss, but he was a trendy commodity in the late 60s, where he popularized the sitar in that Asiaphilic era. Josh can stash this in the "Norwegian Wood" catagory, for George Harrison worked with Shankar after playing the sitar on that song. Weird free association from last night-I was walking across the quad during a break in my Managerial Econ class and saw some frogs on the sidewalk that I don't remember seeing in the daytime. "They only come out at night" went through my mind, which prompted Edgar Winter's Frankenstein to get cued up in my mental jukebox.

Edifier du Jour-Leviticus 19:1-4
1: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2: "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 3: 'Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God. 4: 'Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.
What the heck is holy? "[D]edicated to religious use; belonging to or coming from God; consecrated; sacred" is what my office dictionary has as item 1. That second clause, "belonging to or coming from God" seems to be the kicker. To be holy is to belong to God. A common metaphor is to have the believer (or the church collectively) as the bride of Christ. God doesn't want us flirting with other gods, even if they aren't real, for it takes us away from the fellowship He wants to have with us. When Eileen wants my company, she gets a bit jealous of the computer if I'm off in blogland; she has a right to be a bit jealous, for she's supposed to come after God but before other things. God gets jealous if we're turning our backs on Him. We also need to be God's conduit, exhibiting the things that flow from God. We need to do more than just avoid idols, but to show God's love and justice on the planet. God's given us the Holy Spirit to empower us as we are his ambassadors. Conduit? With the Holy Spirit, we con-do-it. [Apply a thick Cajun accent to achieve the proper effect]

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Prayer and Fasting-Hour 30-The Neighbors-The countries around Iraq need our prayers as well. Kuwait comes first in line; they're within striking distance of Iraqi missiles and might be subject to a vengence attack. Israel is within Scud range, if they have any up their sleeve; Saddam might decide to take out a few Jews on his way off of the planet. While the thrust of the attack would come from their, the Saudi's might get some incoming as well. The people that might get it in the neck are the Kurds in northern Iraq; the Turks want to "help out" by moving troops in there to forstall a independent Kurdistan that would give their own Kurds a way to think about independence. I'm praying that the result in Iraq that would include a small-s secular democracy would be an influence in the rest of the Islamic world.

Prayer and Fasting-Hour 25-The Iraqi People-They're the ones in the middle of all this. They're the ones who have been hurt by the sanctions over the years; you can debate whether Saddam or the US and our friends are to blame. Joe Sixpack (or the developing world equivalent) is the guy who gets it in the neck with sanctions, as the junta and their good buddies always get theirs before the masses do. They deserve better than their current leadership. I'm praying for that leadership to improve and that it be done as painlessly as possible. I'm also praying for aid workers to come along side once the war is over to help clean things up and begin to rebuild the country, not just physically but politically, legally and spiritually. I'm been sensing for over a week that a revival (a evangelical one) is due to break out once the war is done, so I'm also praying for a cadre of missionaries and Christian professionals to go over and both help rebuild the country and bring a decent people to Christ.

Fasting and Prayer-Hour 24-I'm Not Alone-Other than a small spoonful of spaghetti sauce (testing the seasoning and temperature before serving Eileen), I've not eaten since 11:30AM yesterday. I am taking liquids; orange juice at dinnertime and breakfast-time and a glass of hot chocolate (it's in the low 70s, but it was in the cafeteria capaccino machine and it looked good) just now. Interestingly, our pastor at the Lakeland Vineyard, Dave Baker, sent out an e-mail this morning calling for a churchwide fasting and prayer; to the best of my knowledge, he's not one of my blog readers:
At 3:55 this morning (Tuesday) I felt God stirring me to issue this call. I know that we have a time of prayer and fasting coming up March 20-22, but we can't wait until then. Let me give you four reasons why. First, we are a country on the verge of war and we and our leaders need to hear from God. Second, we need to pray against every possible attack of the enemy whether domestic or international. We don't do this from a position of fear, but rather in the wisdom of God. Third, God has raised us up for such a time as this and we need to be ready and sensitive to the moving of His Spirit. Fourth, we have several activities scheduled in March that call for your participation and need your prayer covering. God wants and desires to touch lives through the LV Cool event, the joint prayer and worship, the Men's Retreat, and the Word, Spirit and Power Conference. I believe God is issuing an urgent call for us to join Him in what He's doing. As we respond it will be wonderful, but challenging because we're so use to doing things our way, on our time table and from our comfort zone. That's all about to change and we need to be ready.
I might of started this fast in guilt over past lackings in my prayer life, but it looks like I'm not the only one who's on his knees.

High Church Episcopal-I had said a week ago that "high church" takes on a whole new meaning in California. I was just joking, but this San Francisco church that MCJ reports on fits the joke all too well.

Fasting and Prayer-Hour 19-Saddam and Friends-There are two Biblical models that I can think of for the leader of the enimy. The first is the king of Nineveh in Jonah 3.
4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." 5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. 6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. 7 He issued a proclamation and it said, "In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 "But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9 "Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish." 10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
The cute thing about this passage is that Nineveh was in what is now Iraq. However, you also have the Pharaoh’s hardened heart in Exodus, where the plagues progressed to the killing on the firstborn before God allowed him to be hit with the clue stick. I'd prefer Nineveh to the Egypt scenario, but I'm not counting on seeing Saddam in sackcloth and ashes. If the current regime isn't wise enough to back down now, we can pray for wisdom that the behave themselves well when war comes. The nightmare scenarios are plenty; torching oil fields, using what WMD they do have on Israel or Kuwait, self-inflicted destruction of Iraqi infrastructure, guerrilla warfare. That's where my prayer is focused, that the Iraqis not do something self-destructive to their own people as they are being brought down.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 6:16-21(NASB)
16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The only people that know I'm fasting are the readers of this blog and Eileen; hard not to have her figure that out when there's only one plate on spaghetti on the table. The blog, at least as I seem to use it, is part diary and part op-ed page. However, to the extent that this is public, I'm running afoul of verse 16. I'm not neglecting my appearance nor putting on a gloomy face, but I wonder if my motives were pure in starting this; part of me was saying "Bene, you don't think the chickenhawks are devout? I'll show you devout." However, there was a larger part of me that realizes that my prayer life needed a boost and that fasting hasn't been part of my routine. None of my colleagues at Warner know about this unless they've been reading my blog and if I'm to keep it biblical, it's going to stay that way. The reward in fasting is drawing closer to God, not showing off.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Prayer and Fasting-Hour 5-The US Leadership-Wisdom, discernment and humility are the things that are the thing that a good leader needs to have at any time, and especially when they are pondering sending people off to war. Their intelligence people will likely be sending them information on what kind of resistance the Iraqis will put up in a fight and what kind of scorched-earth algorithms the Baathist leadership (it's more than just Saddam) will likely put up. They'll need to take that information, information on the likely development of WMD in the present and in the future and the degradation of life that living under a dictatorship will bring. Miscalculation may cost thousands, if not millions, of lives either way; they will need to pray for wisdom and discernment as to whether they are making the right decisions. Humility is needed as well. Before they "play God" with geopolitics, our leaders need to recognize their humanity and how small they are in the bigger scheme of things. Yet such humility need not lead to impotence; I remember reading Truman's feelings of humility upon taking over the Presidency, yet he swallowed hard and authorized Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think Dubya is a humble man at the core; beneath the West Texas bluster and the Yale arrogance, there's a guy who recognizes that he's far smaller than God. I'm not as sure about his assistants, but I have a hunch that he'll be on his knees before all this is done. Martin Roth makes an interesting point on the sins of America's past
But the message of Jesus involves much more. Humility, for example. And repentance. My friends, not to mention myself and – I suspect – many, many others around the world would be encouraged were we to see America humbly repent: for its past arming of Saddam Hussein; for its profligate use of oil; for paying billions of dollars to Israel as that country expanded its settlements; for unyielding support of despots in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The last one is the hardest to defend; we need to look at the other thugs in the region as well as Saddam, with the Saudis being first on the list. I don't think God is displeased in general with our support of Israel, but we need to remember than while Israel might be God's chosen people, the Palestinians are people, too. Back in the 80s, we were loosely allied with Iraq, even though the USSR was their primary sugar daddy, as the garden-variety dictatorship of Saddam seemed less threatening than the ayatollahs. I'm not sure how to respond to the "profligate use of oil;" moves to other sources of energy wouldn't be cost efficient and regulating what energy use is profligate would create more harm than it would alleviate. We do need to see what we've done wrong in our foreign policy; however, spending too much time in sackcloth and ashes can cause us to overlook what we've done right. We managed to win the Cold War, extend democracy and free markets to Eastern Europe and help nudge China towards a market economy. We need to understand our mistakes, and to the extent that we personally back them (I'll plead guilty on Iraq in the 80s and on many of the Arab thugs before I saw what evil their rules did) repent of them themselves. However, once that time of reflection and repentance is over, we can consider ourselves forgiven (at least by God, if not the international community) and see what the best course of action is now. If we fail to forgive ourselves, we can fall into a moral equivalency trap and not face down evil when it rears its head.

Time For Reflection-I'm in a bit of a refective mood this morning. I found out this morning that the husband of one of my MBA students died of a heart attack over the weekend. I don't know the student that well, but I can imagine what it would be like to lose Eileen, or (more likely) what Eileen would go through if she lost me. It puts discussion of cubic supply functions on the back burner. I'm driving up to Dade City north of Lakeland ( a good hour-and-a-half one way) for one of the funeral home visitations tomorrow afternoon, then getting back to Lake Wales for class. It's not something I'm looking forward to, for the prepping I was going to do tomorrow afternoon will have to be done tonight, but that's something that I felt led to do, to be there for a student of mine who could use an extra friend. I'm a professor, and that should mean more than just a instructor, but someone who professes a faith in Jesus and shows compassion to the poor and the widdows (well, at least one widdow). On a more political note, I got scolded by Bene Diction for my post on Catholic diplomacy; “Can Christians of all stripes, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, refrain from discussing war with bravado— and approach this topic with reluctance, weeping, and with prayer and fasting?” Am I reluctant for us to go to war? Yes, but not enough to want to stop it. There's a difference between careful discernement and indicision. If you've intelegently and prayfully thought through the issues, you can confidently come to a conclusion. If that confidence that we're heading in the right direction comes across as bravado, it was not indended as such. Bravado often implies a false sense of confidence that ain't me. Am I weeping for this war? Yes. There will be lives lost in the conflict to come. However, there is likely to be even more lives lost if we don't act shortly, both literally and spiritually. I think this coming war will open up the Arab world to the Gospel, something that will be a collateral benefit to the conflict. Am I praying and fasting for the war? I am now. I just ate lunch and will go on a 48-hour fast, praying at each would-be meal time (and more) for God's will to be done in Iraq; a peaceful regime change if possible, a quick and clean and low-casualty war if not.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 2:1-18(NASB)
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. 5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine." 14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; 18 EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy.
Sometime what Christians do seems foolish to outsiders. Staying sexually pure when the world scrotchs their crotch any way they please. Being honest when no one's looking. You can also put acting with the guidance of the Holy Spirit on that list; the people of the day thought the disciples were plastered. No, they were just given the power to speak in other languages that day. They may well have been "drunk in the Holy Spirit" if the spirit's presence was overwhelming, but not on wine. God likes to color outside the lines from time to time, for the lines are often ones we draw ourselves.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

The Mommy Church-I might start a food fight over this, but this piece from Jesus Gil got me thinking.
You know there´s been a lot of comments lately about how Pope John Paul II is sticking his nose in where it´s not needed with respect to Iraq. Just a small comment on my part. I´m proud of Pope John Paul II and I´m proud that I belong to a Church that believes in peace. It amazes me that people somehow expect that it should be different. To that I say, wouldn´t it be a bit strange if it were otherwise? Wouldn´t it be bizarre if the Vatican said "let´s roll, let´s attack?" Instead, the message is, let´s first seek a peaceful way out of this. I find it odd, that this sort of message is mistaken by so many who think that the Church is saying no to war no matter what cost. That´s not what the Church is saying, instead it´s saying, and shouldn´t it always be the way of the Church and other religions, let´s seek to avoid war?
Yes, but there comes a point that war is better than the status quo, especially if you're dealing with evil people who don't respond to Christian virtues. There comes a time where the best diplomatic tool is a 2-by-4 applied upside the head, and we're near or at that point with Iraq. John Paul II is a credit to Christianity as a whole; he's fought the good fight against communism and liberalism and stuck to his guns on sexual issues where it wasn't popular. Even his economics is solid; a bit to the left of most evangelicals, but he's pointing out that the Church has the real answers, not the government nor the market. However, he and other Catholics officials seem to be overly diplomatic on geopolitical issues. A possible cause came to mine when I read Señor Gil's exerpt from a papal speech.
John Paul II asked all Catholics worldwide to pray the rosary, a "privileged instrument for building peace." With this appeal, the Pope concluded his Message for World Mission Sunday 2003, which will be observed Oct. 19. The message was published today. "War and injustice have their origins in the 'divided' heart," he writes. "Anyone who assimilates the mystery of Christ -- and this is clearly the goal of the rosary -- learns the secret of peace and makes it his life's project." "If the rosary keeps pace with the speed of our lives, it can become a privileged instrument for building peace in the hearts of persons, in families, and among peoples," the Pope adds. "With Mary, we can obtain everything from her Son Jesus," the message says. "Supported by Mary, we will not hesitate to devote ourselves generously to taking the proclamation of the Good News to the ends of the earth."
Could part of the Catholic emphasis on diplomacy come from the nurturing nature that comes from the focus on Mary? If you look at the two key differences between Catholic and evangelical politics is a Catholic emphasis on aiding the poor and their diplomatic streak; both can be explained by the more maternal praxis that devotion to Mary helps to give to Catholicism. Women tend to be less militaristic and more compassionate towards the poor; those traits seem to be more prominent in the Catholic church than most evangelical churches. In liberals, you can make the case that moral equalivience is the root cause of their pacifism, that the differences in righteousness between countries are so small that war isn't justified. You can't easily make that case with this Vatican. The Catholic church might be just well in touch with the feminine side. If we could just get Saddam to pray the Rosary, we might avoid a war. It was Schwarzkopf 's Hail Mary (more like Student Body Left; it wasn't a last-gasp play) that won the first Gulf War. I don't think the original Hail Mary is going to avoid this war, unfortunately.

Trade the Duct Tapes for Duck Hooks-I need to be fair to Tom Friedman; let's give him his props when he jacks one into the seats. Here's the denouement of a piece on being too afraid of terrorism
Because the question is not whether there will be more attacks. There will be. The question is whether we can survive them and still maintain an open society. What good is it to have Osama trapped in a basement somewhere if, by just whispering a few threats on Al Jazeera TV, he can trap us in self-sealed rooms? No good at all, which is why the only survival purchase I've made since Code Orange is a new set of Ben Hogan Apex irons, and why my all-American survival kit would include: a movie guide, a concert schedule, Rollerblades, a bicycle — plus a reminder to attend your local PTA meetings, Little League games, neighborhood block parties and your book club and to get plenty of tickets for your favorite sports team. Leave the cave-dwelling to Osama.
What ever happen to "If we stop doing [fill in the activity], the terrorist have won"? Preach it, brother Tom.

Evening Musings-We're going from Stonewall Jackson to just stonewalling in this post. It turns out that one of the young adults in our church was an extra in Gods and Generals; they used a truckload of Civil War reenactors in the movie, and one of the sons of a couple in our afternoon personal finance class at church was one of them. The stonewalling part is Iraq; they've been requested to destroy their Al Samoud 2 missiles and are ignoring the request for the moment. Could the Iraqis be giving the fence-sitters the ammo needed to call for an invasion? I was thumbing through the TV listings (this site has them on-line) and saw American Movie Classics having Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on now. I remembered AMC playing oldies from the 40s and 50s and occasionally 60s; this must be a "New Clasic" as TNT is wont to call anything they show. I'm going to hold my fire on this one-the LA school disctrict is banning validictorian distinctions on grounds of unhealthy competition. That's a hanging curve that any number of blogs will put into the cheap seats.

Acting out Acts or Just Acting Up-This piece from John Adams got me thinking about my forays into charismaticdom over the years
- Do some of the aspects of the Pentecostal movement and its progeny strike anyone else as odd? I believe in speaking in tongues, and I can understand being slain in the Spirit. But I went to a camp last summer where everyone was "getting drunk" in the Spirit and laughing uncontrollably at anything and everything, and it kind of weirded me out. I don't flatter myself as being an authority on anything Biblical or spiritual, but I couldn't quite reconcile the calm and collected Jesus of the Gospels or the spontaneously beautiful acts of the Spirit in Acts to a few of the things I saw at camp—a few of which, fanned on and encouraged by the pastors on staff, bordered on ridiculous. Maybe, like one of said pastors insinuated in a conversation with yours truly, I think too much, but wouldn't God be able to move regardless? Your thoughts would be much appreciated.
Don't feel too bad, John, it weirds out other people as well. Not everyone is a laughing drunk; I'm a quiet drunk, both with alcohol (in my younger, pre-saved, days) and with the Holy Spirit, and I'm likely to be one of the stone faces if a bout of laughing in the spirit come around. If people are getting drunk in the Spirit, I'm the designated driver. My dad hangs out with a bunch of "hyper-charismatics" (as my Midland Vineyard pastor would call them) that are prone to such behavior; one visiting preacher in their circle, a guy named John Scotland, is chronically drunk in the spirit, delivering edifying but very ad-libbed sermons while so plastered. Not everyone's hit by the Holy Spirit in the same way. I tend to want to sit down or even lie down and just bask in the Spirit; others will get a praise flag (don't laugh- it works) and dance around the altar. John, you might just be another quiet one. There are times where we can "think too much" and let our intellect (of which you've been blessed with a great one, if your writing's any indication) get in the way of experiencing God. I know it's hard to get my mind to be still and just enjoy the moment. It might not fit your idea of what happened in Acts, but those manifestations of the Spirit are merely people's reaction to the overwhelming presence of God when allowed to do so. In stuffier churches, you'd stifle those urges or be asked to leave, but in more accomodating churches or settings, such actions are allowable. There also might be a bit of spiritual groupthink, where people will act zany to go along. However, the emotions seem a legitimate responce to God's presence, even if they violate our standard rules of church decorum (this is over the top even for some charismatics; the Toronto Airport Church was a Vineyard church for a time before the Vineyard thought they were too out there). However, one of the problems with some of the "Spirit-filled" crowd is that they don't think enough. If they are too focused in the experiential, they can be prone to sloppy theology and open to "prophets" that can lead them off on weird theological tangents. You have an anti-intellectual streak in a lot of Pentecostal circles that might be aided by some post-modern hostility to logic that could lead people into a more experiential theology. A bit of well-honed intellect, coupled with a good knowledge of scripture, can keep a person from sliding down that path. A phrase that Vineyard founder John Wimber liked to use was the "radical middle," taking the best of the Bible-centric Baptist/Reformed tradition with the best of the spirit-led Pentecostal tradition. I'm new to the Vineyard bunch (I've only been going to a Vineyard church for a little under two years) but I like that attitude. That's why I've called myself a Bapticostal for years; I was uncomfortable with the lack of intellect in the AoG and the lack of freedom for the Holy Spirit in most Baptist churches. Don't give up your intellect, John. Don't get pressured into going along with the group if you're not being moved to ROFL in the Spirit. You might try to loosen up a little, but don't fake it and don't feel bad if you're not having the same manifestations.

Edifier du Jour-Leviticus 10:1-11(NASB)
1: Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2: And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3: Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. 4: Moses called also to Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel, and said to them, "Come forward, carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to the outside of the camp." 5: So they came forward and carried them still in their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had said. 6: Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, "Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about. 7: "You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the LORD'S anointing oil is upon you." So they did according to the word of Moses. 8: The LORD then spoke to Aaron, saying, 9: "Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die--it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations-- 10: and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, 11: and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses."
I have a hard time being moved by Leviticus with all its offering rules, except by noting what Jesus' sacrifice to end all sacrifices saved us from. However, this is different. The first thing that intrigues me is the "strange fire." The two were offering stuff God didn't ask for and were killed as a process. What are the strange fires of worship of today, things God will dislike for their impurity? Are they the funkier forms of contemporary worship that wind up showing contempt for God? Are they over-the-top emotional charismatic stuff, like what John Adams is worried about here? Are they novel permutations, like the blessing-for-animals services? Are they the various heresies on the left that try to take away God's omnipotence and Jesus' saving power? God told the people to and not to mourn for them, effectively dissing the two dead guys. He also left us an interesting command; when they were to go into the Tent of Meeting, they were to go in sober, so they could know not to blend the sacred with the worldly. We've got problems discerning the difference today, and need to remember to entry God's presence as soberly as we can. That doesn't mean we can be transformed when we get there; I've seen quite a few people "drunk in the Holy Spirit" where their reserve gets stripped away and become child-like in there transparency. However, we need to be sober; not either physically nor emotionally intoxicated by the world when we draw close to Him. Prayer and worship are good detoxers, as we try to take away those things that separate us from God.

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