Saturday, March 08, 2003

Superstition-Interesting e-mail that Josh Claybourn posted on the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm not a big fan of the Pledge, for it makes the reciter pledge lordship to a piece of cloth, but I do think it's constitutional. Other incidents of generic theism, such as the "In God We Trust" on our currency, have passed constitutional muster. Here's the key part of the e-mail.
The Pledge forces a minority -- atheists -- to profess belief in a religious position that they do not adhere to. Now let's turn the tables. Suppose atheists are in the majority, and Christians are a small persecuted minority. Would it be Constitutionally permissible to force schoolchildren to recite a pledge that says
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, free of superstitious belief in supernatural beings, with liberty and justice for all.
If your answer is "yes", then you are at least intellectually honest.
First of all, as commenters to Josh's post point out, students can opt out, although that puts them in the position of being the odd ducks. However, Believe it or not, I wouldn't mind a country "free of superstitious belief in supernatural beings." Let's pull out the dictionary definition of superstitious.
of, relating to, or swayed by superstition
That then begs to see the definition of superstition (cue up Stevie Wonder)
1 a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition 2 : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
Ask yourself these questions. Is your faith based on ignorance? Nope. I think unbelief is based more on ignorance, for it ignores a supernatural realm that has solid, albeit anecdotal, evidence for it. Is your faith based on fear of the unknown? Motivated by, possibly, but not based on. Is your faith based on trust in magic or chance? Don't think so. In fact, the atheist's evolutionary theory's the one that's based on dumb luck. Is your faith based on a false conception of causation? To a naturalist, it would be, but they preclude evidence to prove their theory wrong. Is your faith an irrational abject attitude of mind toward God? I don't think that would apply to most bloggers here. Most of us have a rational, well-thought-out, set of reasons for following God. OK, here's the atheist's Hail Mary, Is your faith a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary? Here, cram that evidence for evolution down your throat. However, that evidence doesn't discount the equal evidence of a guy who claimed to be God incarnate raising from the dead; it wasn't refuted at the time and He continues to change lives today. At minimum, the meme of Jesus can change lives for the better today. Believing in that meme doesn't seem irrational, thus faith in God and his Son doesn't meet the Merriam-Webster definition of superstitious .

Edifier du Jour-Revelation 3:17-19(NASB)
17 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
Laodicea might have been more famous for being lukewarm, but this passage that followed shows that they're spiritual losers. Take a good look again at verse 19; why does God discipline us? Because he loves us, but why does a parental love include discipline? To learn and minimize our mistakes. We are the gold in verse 18, but it is the learning that comes from testing and trials that does the refining. Jesus' blood provides the clothes, covering our shame from God. The Holy Spirit provides the contact lenses to be able to see in the spiritual realm. You can't pick up that refined gold at your local jeweler. You can't buy those spiritual garments at the mall and your local optometrist doesn't stock those spiritual contact lenses. Our wealth as members of the Blogosphere doesn't even buy a cup of coffee in the spiritual realm; we have to get those items the same way the shantytowner in Sao Paulo does: by developing a personal, ongoing, daily relationship with God. Our wealth doesn't help us buy those; it might allow us some free time to reflect on God's word, but it can also give us playthings that take us away from our prayer closet. To borrow from a Liverpudlian philosopher, I don't care that much for money, money can't buy me that spiritual hardware.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Afternoon Musings-Looks like Saddam will get a knick-knack St. Patty-whack; the Coalition of the Willing's giving them until the 17th to clean up their act. Eileen was hoping for the 15th, telling them to beware the Ides of March. The American Street of Winter Haven (the ol' boys at City Barber Shop) is ready to go, favorably commenting yesterday as I got my ears lowered on a Charlie Daniels editorial on Iraq. I had been seeing reports that Osama was reportedly cornered on the Pakistani side of the Afghanistan border. This report has two of his sons captured on the Afghan side. Ben's got a good piece on warfare not being gender-based with a nice piece on Elizabeth I. He also brings back memories linking to this ESPN piece on the 20th anniversary of the USFL. I can remember June of 1983, when the Michigan Panthers, with one of the USFL biggest gets, Anthony Carter, a sack machine name John Corker and an unknown kid from a directional school in Louisiana named Bobby Hebert (I would groan when radio announcers couldn't pronounce A-bear), hosting Oakland in the playoff opener at the Silverdome. The Panthers put playoff tickets on sale for $5, prompting my college roommate, my girlfriend and I to road trip down from Mount Pleasant for the game. There were plenty of other people who you've head of playing. Doug Flutie and Hershel Walker were playing for New Jersey Trumps Generals, Steve Young played for the LA Express (the joke at the time was to merge them with the Washington Federals and create the Federal Express who'd move anywhere overnight) and a young Rick Neuheisel quarterbacked the San Antonio Gunslingers.

Edifier du Jour-Joshua 8:1-8(NASB)
1 Now the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2 "You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it." 3 So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4 He commanded them, saying, "See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5 "Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6 "They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, 'They are fleeing before us as at the first.' So we will flee before them. 7 "And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 "Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the LORD. See, I have commanded you."
This isn't a part of God that is easy for a lot of people to swallow, especially for the left side of the aisle. God has a kick-butt and take names side that's in full view in the Old Testament. It shows up on occasion in the New Testament, like with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, but it takes its full ethnic-cleansing form in the OT. God's not anti-war if the war is done for the right reasons. However, the warriors had best be on God's good side; if you skip back a chapter in Joshua, you'll see a cocky Israel lose badly to the Aiites due to internal sin. I'm not even going to think of what spiritual contraband He'd find in the US. However, God's not opposed to a just war, and his standards in the OT weren't as tight as today's. That being said, we're not getting too many "thus sayeth the LORD" statements on modern wars, thus our wisdom isn't near what Israel had in the OT. We need to be thinking hard and praying even harder before going to war and not falling into our standard camps of political debate.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Midday Musings-Fellow faculty member gave this bon mot when discussing a apple-polishing student-"What's the difference between a**-kissing and brown-nosing? Depth perception." People are ready to launch at Danny Davis' impeachment motion. That's common of idiotarians of either party, where they're so opposed to the president of the other party that their policies are criminal. When Dennis The Menace is calling you over the top, you've shown where you are on the food chain. Such political impeachment calls transend party. I remember Bob Barr calling for impeaching Clinton back when Monica was just a character on Friends. Or, if you want to show your age, you might remember the Impeach Earl Warren stickers from the 60s. Fox gets the Senate rules wrong here on the Estrada cloture vote
The vote was 55-44, less than the three-fifths, or 60, votes needed to end debate on Estrada and set him up for an up-or-down vote.
No, it's 60 votes, period. If there were only 98 senators voting, they'd still need 60 votes, not 59.
Four Democrats voted to end debate on Estrada: Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, John Breaux of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Zell Miller of Georgia.
I would have expected a lot more than four, but we might be seeing the Democrats going through an idiotarian reactive phase where they simply oppose anything the Republicans do. I'm still waiting for the 24/7 old-school filibuster that would pry a few less-idiotarian Democrats loose. If it ties up the Senate for a few months and keeps a key issue from being voted on, a few Democrats might come on board to at least vote for cloture. Kos gets one right here; the usual suspects (Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan) get trashed for their "severe violations of religious freedoms." while the Saudi entity gets off scot-free. Geopolitics (not oil in and of itself, as Kos suggests) trumps freedom on that one; I'd rather be a Christian (espicially an actively witnessing one) in Iraq than in the Saudi entity. Saddam might be nasty, but Christian bashing isn't his forte.

Catholic Evangelicals?- I might start a food fight with this one. In a recent article, Cal Thomas posited this definition of evangelical
...one who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and who has repented of sin and accepted Jesus as his or her savior. The evangelical believes he has the privilege and obligation to share the "good news" that Jesus came to save sinners with others so they might go to heaven rather than hell.
Carl Olson over at Envoy has this rejoinder
It's not a bad definition, but it seems a bit broad and self-serving. After all, a good many Catholics and Orthodox could accept that definition (as long as being baptized is understood as an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior). But there are many "evangelical Christians" who certainly wouldn't accept Catholics as such. In addition, this definition fits Fundamentalists, but there are some serious differences between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism — even though some of those differences can be difficult to define with clarity.
One of the problems is that of the assumptions of the two camps. Catholics, Orthodox and most mainline Protestants practice child baptism and then "confirm" the youths' faith once they get old enough to make a decision. However, that faith is assumed in many churches. Some churches do take a strong effort to see to it that the youth truly does know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In many others the confirmation process assembly-lines all the kids of the standard age through the process, and a personal faith isn't much of an issue; my Methodist church growing up was one of them. For evangelicals (which for the moment I'll include Fundamentalists in), baptism comes at the time one is ready to declare themselves a follower of Jesus; elementary-school aged children are eligible only if they can independently express a personal faith in Jesus as Lord. From that perspective, infant baptism isn't enough to give someone Evangelical creds. Thus, Evangelicals will answer the question whether a Catholic or mainliner is a believer is to ask them (and sometimes the questions get awkwardly phrased) if they have a personal faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Some mainliners, like Eileen, evolved into that faith and can't pinpoint a day where they accepted Jesus, but have such a faith. Just because you go to a church doesn't make you a believer. Baptism, as far as I understand it, is something believers do, not something that makes you a believer. Asking that tacky question "have you personally accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior" makes for awkward times, but quite a few Catholics meet that standard.
A while back I attempted such a definition in response to e-mails from Catholics upset that I had the nerve to criticize the Left Behind books. I wrote: I define Fundamentalists as conservative Protestants who believe Catholics are not Christian, while Evangelicals are conservative Protestants who, while having reservations about certain points of doctrine, do believe Catholics are Christian. If those definitions seem too simple or glib, please consider my logic. There is a growing and ever-increasing conflict within conservative American Protestantism, and it has to do with three things: the Catholic Church, Catholicism, and Catholics. The dividing line is simple: Is the Catholic Church Christian? Is Catholicism Christian? Are Catholics Christian? Fundamentalists say no; Evangelicals say yes.
I think the key difference between the two camps is the greater stress on doctrine and separatism within fundamentalists. Evangelicals are more willing to agree to disagree on doctrinal points beyond basics of salvation. Is the Catholic Church Christian? Rephrased-"Is the Catholic Church far enough away from Biblical doctrine to be considered non-Christian?" A fundamentalist, with tighter definitions and a doctrine of separatism, would say no, while an Evangelical would tend to hedge their bets. Evangelicals would tend to look on a parish-by-parish, priest-by-priest basis, seeing whether the Gospel is actually preached and a personal relationship with God focused on. On the whole, I'd say yes, but that is one my blog brethren can disagree on. Is Catholicism Christian? Rephrased-"Is Catholicism far enough away from Biblical doctrine to be considered non-Christian?" Again, the fundamentalist would tend to say no based on a tighter theology, why the Evangelical would say it's a flawed form of Christianity. I'd argue that we can access God on our own and don't need a priest as a mediator, that the lack of eternal security of the believer makes them works oriented and that the emphasis of saints and Mary get in the way of worshiping God. That being said, quite a few people make their way to Christ in that setting; the things that I say get in the way of finding Jesus might help others find the way. Are Catholics Christian?-Both camps would say "Not as a group." Hold your fire, I could ask "Are Baptists Christians?" and say the same thing. If a Catholic or a Baptist knows Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, they are. In evangelical circles, "Christian" takes on the definition of "one who knows Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior," so that nominal believers don't get granted the unmodified title. It leads to awkward phrasing, like "He was a Catholic before he became a Christian." However, once we understand where each is coming from, the dialog might go smoother.

Fog in Atlantic, Continent Cut Off-This is an interesting WaPo headline; "U.S. in a Tough Position As Isolation Increases." Glenn Kessler's beginning paragraph shows an interesting bias frame of reference
The Bush administration this week has become increasingly isolated in the world over its determination to topple the Iraqi government, leaving it in a diplomatically difficult position in advance of a critical U.N. Security Council meeting Friday.
My question would be-"Whom is being isolated, the US or the Paleoeuropeans?" My headline plays off of an old British headline, "Fog in Channel; Continent Cut Off." The British editor had the assumption that the continentals were the losers. The standard liberal line here is that the US is cut off from the international community over Iraq, assuming that the US is the loser, not getting the benefit of the broad international view. When you translate "international community" from liberalese to English, it comes to "France, Germany and Russia." The majority of the civilized world, even the majority of Europe, is backing the US. It's the paleoeuropeans who are being isolated from their peers. However, to admit that France is in the minority would be to have the hyper-diplomatic stance seen to be the wrong one, for liberals love to point out when the US stands alone on economics and morality outside of more enlightened norms. Once more with feeling-the French and Russians are in the minority. Oh, but conservative minorities are isolated; a liberal minority are taking a principaled stand.

Edifier du Jour-Numbers 6:22-27
22: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23: "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 24: The LORD bless you, and keep you; 25: The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26: The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.' 27: "So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them."
Verses 24-26 was the standard benediction at a Baptist church I went to in the late 80s, and I struggle a bit to hear it again for the first time. I think the kicker for me as I reread this is God being gracious to us. We might talk about receiving grace in the form of our salvation, but being gracious is more than a one-time act of forgiveness of sins, it's an ongoing stream of unmerited favor. God keeps giving, "spoiling" us like a grandmother.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The Neurology of Religion-Josh has an interesting piece on neurotheology
You'd think that somewhere along psychology's history someone would have theorized about the brain being responsible for spiritual experiences. Surprisingly it wasn't until 1998 that a major book was published on the subject. That year Dr. James Austin published "Zen and the Brain," and since then more and more people have studied "neurotheology," or the study of neurobiology affecting religion and spirituality. Psychologist David Wulff of Wheaton College in Massachusetts says that because spiritual experiences are consistent across cultures, it "suggests a common core that is likely a reflection of structure and process in the human brain." Other scientists and psychologists have since done extensive studies to try to "prove" that spiritual experiences are rooted in physical changes in the brain. Taken a step further, they would argue there is no Holy Spirit, and no personal revelations. Rather, these psychologists (and most in academia) would argue those experiences are merely the result of natural biological brain functions.
Could the religious experiences be causing the change? If you are looking to deal with religious experiences as a brain malfunction, or at least an anomalous function of the brain, you are looking at the anomaly causing the experiences. Many psychotic individuals have vivid imaginary interactions with "God" and other supernatural beings, modern neurologists, including this piece that Josh seems to have cited above, have tried to chalk up the visions of mystics of the past such as St. Teresa of Avila as symptoms of epilepsy. However, what if there is a spiritual part of the brain that would enlarge when interacting with a spiritual dimension? I'm going to take a weird tangent into string theory, a hot area of modern physics. I'm no theoretical physicist, but the idea that captures my imagination is that there are more than the four dimensions (time being the fourth) we're accustomed to thinking about. Let's assume for the moment that there is a dimension that supernatural activity exists in and that there is a part of the brain that is receptive to spiritrons, a mythical quantum particle of supernatural energy. People who are spiritually active might see that spiritual lobe enlarge or grow more complex by activity, just as other parts of the brain grow more complex with use.
But even under those pretenses, there is still the question of whether our brain wiring creates the idea of God, or whether God created our brain wiring. Losing ourselves in prayer may feel good or uplifting, but Christianity (and any religion) doesn't rest solely on spiritual experiences. Religion encompasses a whole range of acts and insights without requiring a "spiritual experience."
If we follow this spiritron theory, it might start out with God creating a way for man to sense Him. If not exercised, that part of the brain might remain undeveloped. Yes, you don't need a grand "spiritual experience" to have an active faith, but that doesn't mean that the more subtle experiences would be triggering that part of us that is interacting with the supernatural realms.
Christians throughout history have noted that spiritual experiences could give people pride or self-indulgence. It's just as important to "love you neighbor." In fact, Catholic candidates for sainthood are measured more by charity than by their mystical experiences.
The mystics tend to be loose cannons, having an apparently better connection to God than their superiors. Modern Protestant mystics, often flying the banner of "prophets," remain loose cannons, saying things that might not be welcomed in many churches.
But I digress. I have yet to see conclusive evidence that spiritual experiences are based solely on changes in our brain. The most scientists can do is correlate certain experiences with certain brain activity. It seems to me as though suggesting the brain is our only source of our experiences is reductionist. Nevertheless, it could be "discovered" someday. Either way, it doesn't discount the probability that God created the wiring that way, to lead us to Him.
It's hard to test to see whether changes in the brain are merely psychological or Spirit-induced; you're not going to get God to cooperate in a double-blind test-"OK, Holy Spirit, you take the next two subjects off." Even if there isn't that spiritual dimension, God could still be directly interacting with our brain in order to rearrange our thoughts. We could have been built in with a craving for spiritrons.

Afternoon Musings-Jeb wants to play double-or-nothing on the class-size and high-speed-rail amendments, asking the state legislature to put repeal proposals on the ballot. It does smack a bit of "Y'all didn't vote correctly the first time; let's try it again." Of course, the legislature, especially the Democrats, isn't eager to go along. The recent game of chicken over the Sea of Japan got Mr. Marshall's attention here. Josh has been unfairly critical of the hard-line that the Bush administration is taking, but he seems to be dead-on in pointing out the increasing level of brinkmanship of the KorComms. We could see a North Korean MIG sleeping with the fishes in days if this keeps up, even if the US keeps a level head. The big Canadian business organizations were singing from the Mark Steyn songbook, pointing out that American bashing isn't good for business. Why would that be so? I love to have my intelligence question, let alone the marital status of my parents at conception. Today's the golden anniversary of Stalin's death; this poll shows that we don't have a monopoly on idiotarians; they seem to be a majority in Russia.
A survey by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion released this week showed that 53% of 1,600 people polled said Stalin had played a "mainly positive role" in the country's history. A total of 33% thought his role negative, and 14% didn't know.
How about mass Bible-style placement of The Gulag Archipelago over there? The less-charitable part of me wants to say, "The Axis of Weasels can have them."

Security as a Normal Good-This is an interesting Steven Landsburg Slate piece (found via Randy McRoberts) on how the implicit value of life has gone up over the years, as measured by the willingness of people to invest in various safety equipment.
So, how do we find out how much a life is really worth? One of the best ways is to measure how much extra you have to pay someone to take a dangerous job. If lion tamers and elephant tamers have comparable skills and comparable working conditions, but lion tamers earn $20,000 a year more than elephant tamers, it's probably because that's what it takes to compensate someone for the risk of being eaten by a lion. And if that risk amounts to, say, an extra half-percent probability of dying on the job, then you figure that the value of a life must be $20,000 per half-percent, or $40,000 per percentage point, or $4 million. So, once you carry out that experiment, how much does a typical life turn out to be worth? Professors Dora Costa of MIT and Matthew Kahn of Tufts point out that it depends on exactly when you asked the question. As incomes have risen, so has the value of life. The increase is more than proportional: A 10 percent rise in income is generally associated with about a 15 percent rise in the value of a life. Between 1940 and 1980, according to Costa and Kahn, the value of a life increased from about $1 million 1990 dollars to between $4 million and $5 million 1990 dollars.
For most cultures, safety is a luxury. Pollution-prevention is a form of safety, for pollution can shorten lives overall. I'm thinking back to the coal miners in the first half of the 20th century who died of black lung, including my great-grandfather. They knew that mining was dangerous to their health, but the job paid well; with life expectancy a lot lower, the benefit of protecting yourself against an illness that wouldn't kick in until their 30s or 40s was a lot less than today, for there was a good chance that they wouldn't get to see 40 even without black lung. Also, with incomes much lower than today, guarding against black lung via gas masks or watering down tunnels wouldn’t give as big a bang for the buck than other necessities of life of the era. The richer we get and the better our health care system gets, the greater value we place on safety. We can afford to pay for better safety and have longer lives to live, making those lives more valuable even without the higher income.

Duck Miscegenation-Via Señor Gil, we get this piece from Spain
This has to be the bizarre news item of the day. It appears that a few U.K. ruddy ducks are flying down to Spain, and well playing around. And that's where the problems begin. It seems these ruddy ducks have been mating with Spain's endangered white-headed duck. Incidentally, the talk now is of culling the entire population of 6,000 strong ruddy ducks living in the U.K. - and which according to the following article could cost £5 million and take up to six years. Oh, the ruddy ducks were originally from the U.S.
...Conservative AM Glyn Davies said it was another example of Britain getting a bad deal in Europe. He said the Spanish government should pay the costs, reported to be around £5m. "Apparently 30 to 80 of these ruddy ducks go to Spain, they are sort of sex tourists," he said. "It is dominating all sexual activity and the white-headed duck is now under threat.
Let's see, the Spanish are looking to protect the white race from breeding with ruddy, sex-crazed northerners. They use to have laws against that in the South; where's Strom when you need him?

For the "Don't Get Cocky, Kid" File-Kevin Holtsberry's got a good piece on warblogging
Some bloggers seem to see themselves as adjuncts to the CIA, State Department, or the National Security Council the way they pour over news accounts and grandly weave their strategies and marshall their arguments. I think that this is all a bit silly. As if one can simply read a half-dozen papers and watch CNN and suddenly you know what is really going on.
I remember the old Will Rogers line- "All I know is what I read in the papers." However, that didn't stop him from humorously pontificating on the issues of the day. People still use zingers of his like "I don't belong to any orginized political party, I'm a Democrat." All most bloggers know is what they "read in the papers," modified to include TV, radio and the Web. That's not to say that we're all as witty as Rogers (some make a good run at it), but we're all pontificating with limited information. We don't have access to CIA breifings or other inside information, but collectively the Blogosphere has a knowledge base that is very respectable. We've got space experts, national security experts, lawyers up the wazoo, economic wizzes and people with knowledge of most countries of the world, not to mention some killer generalists like Kevin that can put it all together in a coherent form.
In the end I think the argument must happen at a higher level, conceptual, level. Should Saddam continue to defy the international community or not? The choice is between continued containment and UN debate or military action. The arguments are not that hard to lay out. The general public is really not equipped to know or understand the vast array of competing facts and contingencies on the ground in Iraq. At a certain point you must trust your elected officials to do what they think is best for the country. You can voice your opinion and seek to influence the debate but at some point action is going to be required and government officials with the knowledge and experience necessary are going to control those actions. The public will then have ample opportunity to judge whether those actions were responsible and in the nation's interest.
Amen. It's not my job to micromanage Tommy Franks; that's Den Beste's job. Our job as citizens is to debate the macro issues, occasionaly making forays into intermediate levels. This is a republic, not a pure democracy; we elect good and competent people and let them run things.

Degrees of Seperation-Lileks has this insight
So I talked to Nana, who related one of those small-world anecdotes that stunned me so hard I didn't really react and show my astonishment. She's been reading the blog of a fellow in Iraq; she struck up an email conversation with someone who posted in the comments section, an Aussie. As happens, they swapped professions, location, hobbies, etc., and Nana said she babysat for the child of a writer in Minneapolis. Somehow (Insert missing frames here) two and two and two were added, and it came out that the fellow had been reading the Bleat since 1997. To summarize: through the comments section of a blog written by a man in Baghdad, an Australian who has been reading about my daughter met the Minnesotan who takes care of her twice a week. My wife saw the play "Six Degrees of Separation" this weekend, and the very title of the play tells you it predates the Internet era. Six? That's twice as many as you need.
Blogs wind up giving you connections around the country and around the world that you don't have otherwise. A while back, I was talking with a friend from church about someone that would be a great candidate for a pardon; the person was seemingly overcharged, has served their sentence and have been a model citizen since, the MO of a lot of pardons you see granted that aren't for political activists. However, you need to get such stuff on the Governor's desk directly, for general mail of that type makes it into the circular file. Given my blogging connections, I thought that either Ben or Patrick would be candidates to help route something onto Jeb's desk. In Ben's case, it could go from him to Secretary Thompson to Jeb (who Thompson knows via his governor days) in three steps, four if Ben doesn't have direct access to Thompson and needs his boss to pass it on. Likewise, I'm sure that Mr. Ruffini knows someone in Republican circles that could put something on Jeb's desk. Whether they'd actually do such a thing (I'm not asking) is another matter, but the idea that it could be done in three steps is suprising. That's three degrees of separation from a big-state governor, or from the President for that matter, since both of those guys are one guy away from Dubya. Let's cue up the Disney tape-"It's a small world, after all."

Edifier du Jour-Hebrews 12:1-2(NASB)
1: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2: fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
My mind drifted to the phrase "eyes on the prize." It came to memory from a PBS Civil Rights series of the name a while back, given the black church's influence and leadership of that movement, I wouldn't be surprised if they grabbed the idea from here or 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. However, we're looking at the prize of eternal life, not redemption from discrimination. How do we fix our eyes on Jesus when we can't see Him? The race we're running has an extra spiritual dimension, and it's that direction we need to focus on. It's more the "eyes of our heart" that need to be attuned to God. Prayer, reading God's word and community with other believers are what help do laser surgery on those spiritual eyes, bringing God into focus when he was blurry before. The writer warns us against encumbering ourselves; we shouldn't allow ourselves to be governed by what we own. Travelling light, at least as far as physical possessions dominate our thought, gives us less weight on our backs as we run that race.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Making God In Our Image-Josh started out this food fight with this post
Agape Press is running a story on a Harris poll that found "a growing acceptance of other religious beliefs -- even among those who call themselves 'Christian.'" The poll demonstrates a number of areas in which this is true, but one that sticks out in my mind is the shrinking belief in hell, and the growing belief in many different paths to heaven. This can be attributed to a number of things, and most are too obvious for me to point out here. Suffice it to say that people are much more comfortable with conforming God to their own wishes and designs than conforming their minds and hearts to His. This, I believe, is at the heart of the matter.
Richard Hall returns fire at his site
About two thirds say they believe in hell, though 84% believe in the survival of the soul after death. These statistics are taken to imply a creeping erosion of true Christian belief - "people are much more comfortable with conforming God to their own wishes and designs than conforming their minds and hearts to His" - and I'm not convinced that it's any such thing. First, as I've commented on Josh's site, I don't think the two statements "I believe in God" and "I believe in hell" are equivalent in Christian terms. "Belief in God" (for a Christian) is far more than a propositional statement about God's existence. It has to, because the Christian God is not distant from the world, aloof and indifferent. For a Christian, belief in God implies a commitment to worship and service. If that worship and service are absent, the statement has no meaning, it is merely a cover for what has been called elsewhere "practical atheism".
What that means is that about 20% of the population are either universalists or believe in reincarnation, assuming that all the Hell-believers assume the soul lives on after death. If there is no Hell and people live on after death, there is some place that they go, and unless you're into reincarnation that means that all dogs go to Heaven. Given the liberal nature of many denominations, that 20% universalist figure seems about right. Hall continues to question Josh's premises
Secondly, is it really true that hell and the survival of the soul after death are core Christian beliefs? They were not included in the Apostles' or Nicene Creeds. Scriptural teaching about the nature of judgement is hardly straightforward, and during the centuries of the church its teaching has been complex and nuanced. It could be argued (and I think I might!) that "survival of the soul" is anything but a Christian idea; we believe in resurrection, not survival and these are very different ideas. With Josh, I'm convinced that there are many who prefer to conform God to our minds rather than being conformed to his. I'm very unconvinced that Conservatives are any less susceptible to this than others.
Let's trot out the Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The word soul doesn't come into play here, but the last sentence strongly hints at the soul moving on to Heaven, else what would we enjoy that life of the world to come? We might be playing semantics on whether our soul dies and then is resurrected or merely survives death. Either way, the believer's soul makes it to Heaven. Hell doesn't come directly, either, but the section about judging the living and the dead points to something other than a universalist view. Let's look at the Apostle's Creed; I'll use the more traditional English version
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
Here, they have Jesus descending into hell; granted, the newer translations will use "the dead" rather than "hell." We could get into a nice fight over what Sheol or Hades means, but to say that Hell is absent from early Christian theology is a big stretch. They also talk about an everlasting life that sounds an awful lot like heaven. Given that scripture talks about us having new bodies in heaven, it's the soul that's the constant in the equation. It seems that while conservatives can be guilty of creating God in their image, they're less prone to that problem than liberals are. The GOP God might be more warlike and capitalistic that the Liberal God, but it fits better with the above creeds.

Birth of the Adverblog-Dr. Pepper has a blog to promote a new milk-based beverage called Raging Cow; Papa Blog has this Tech Central write-up on it. It's a fully-function Movable Type blog with commentary from the Cow on life outside the farm. Is it corny? Yes. Is it a bit forced? Yes. Is it funny? If you've got an appreaciation of things like "the revolution will be homogenized," yes The trick will be whether it will sell moo juice. At first blush, this looked like viral marketing, where they try to get influential people in a group to be seen with the product. For boozes, they'll pay the trendy people in the bar to be seen drinking the product and get others to join the trend. However, if the Raging Cow people play their cowds right, they could turn the site into a corny humor site and get people to indirectly promote the moo juice. Blogs are a lot less expencive that other forms of advertising and if they get free PR from bloggers linking to the groaners therein, it will be a bit like people talking about ads at the water cooler the next day, only with people bringing a video of the ad with them. If the Raging Cow adverblog works well, other companies might copy it. However, it would require the right combination of wit and content to get people to visit.

Community or Inbreeding?-My name's Mark, not John- that's why I'm not likely to be a regular frequenter of the Culture Pimp. He showed up on the Bear's Ecosystem as a linker; not as a complement but as part of a "warblog incest meter." It's interesting to see the effect of the Bear's addition of key liberal blogs to his system, I dropped from about 133 or so to 190 when the liberal blogs were added to the mix; with the liberal Four Horseman, Alterman, Atrios, Tapped and Josh Marshall, cracking the top ten. What our manager of the oldest profession sees as incest might be just as well seen as community. People read things that interest them; I do go to liberal blogs that bring intelligent insight to issues and challenge some of my views. There are some issues that are not as clear cut, and people from the other side of the aisle can have. However, people that have a commonality of interests will tend to flock together. There's a conservative political analysis circle that I'm a part of and an orthodox Christian circle that I'm a part of. However, I do extend out of that conservative ghetto to some libertarian and liberal sites that will challenge my views; if they do it in an honest and intelligent manner, they'll get repeat business. Listening to the opposition is often frustrating, but it also hones your debating skills by seeing what the opposing is saying. They might point out a lame part of your argument or bring up an objection that's outside of your sphere of knowledge. One of the advantages of blogs is the ability to have people with different vantage points hack away at ideas; as long as we go about things in a civilized and honest manner, we can benefit from the debate. However, each side will have its flamethrowers that shed more heat than light or specialize on certain topics. If your not interested in the latest Islamic atrocity, Poco Futbols Verde isn't going to be your cup of tea. If you're not interested in the latest intellectually and exegetically challenged statement from liberal Protestants, MCJ's not going to be high on your list. However, each specialty can round to a good general diet of information. We could do well to add a few liberal veggies to our diet, and the liberals could use a little conservative red meat to add some iron to their diet

Morning Musings-Lileks fisks with extreme prejudice a idiotarian peacenik flyer he got in Gnat's preschool class. "I intend to send Gnat to public school, but I’m already weary - if this is the sort of stuff that creeps into preschool, I wonder what’s coming down the road." This is becoming interesting out in San Francisco, where there are mass resignations from the upper parts of the police department. An assistant chief's son got into a late-night drunken brawl with two other SFPDers against some civilians, and a good hunk of the SFPD brass has been indicted in a cover-up of the incident, including the police chief. I'd blogged on this earlier, getting hits for info on the acting chief, Heather Fong, one of the assistant chiefs not implicated in the cover-up. Chief Earl Sanders is taking medical leave; this would give anyone a whopper of a headache. It is brewing into a fight between Mayor Willie Brown, who's backing the police, and DA Terence Hallinan, who's made comparisons to Watergate in an NPR piece yesterday. Brown and Hallinan don't like each other much these days, with Hallinan possible angling to challenge Brown for mayor next go-round. I wouldn't shed any tears if this helped to do in the former Ayatollah of the House. There was a bombing in an airport waiting room in the southern Philippines, killing at least 19. OK, Gaans, I'll not jump to assume that the bombers were Muslim, but I'll be willing to take even-money odds that they were. Draft Ralph Nader? "There are voters who demand a real alternative to President Bush's America." Might I offer Canada or Sweden? We'll help getting you a visa.

Edifier du Jour-Hebrews 11:13-16
13: All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14: For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15: And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16: But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
For some reason, I'm thinking of a scene for Men in Black III, where the team finds an alien passing himself off as a music minister, playing a gospel number "... this is not my home, I'm just passing through..." as they come in. The believers among us are aliens, being controlled by a alien force bent on taking over the world. We're not at home here, yet we can get accustomed to this place that is our adoptive home. If we lose focus, it's easy to go native. However, if we turn our eyes back upon God, we'll recognize what we're got to look forward to, a place that makes Bill Gates' pleasure dome pale in comparison. Even if we don't get that big of digs in Heaven, we'll get to hang out with God and all the other believers, which makes whatever the physical accommodations are pale in comparison to the company we'll keep. This isn't our home, we're just passing through. We're not supposed to feel that comfortable in it. If you fell like a misfit or an odd duck, just remember that the Ugly Duckling was a swan in the wrong nest.

"Great! A Blogging Gecko."-The NZ Bear's Ecosystem's back, and I made the list as one of the "Slithering Reptiles." Among my more-evolved colleagues, Ben has sprouted wings and Kevin and Orrin are in the rat race. The Junkyard Blog's and MCJ are 'possum blogs (while the real Possumblog's a fish) and Josh and Patrick are Large Mammals. Down the food chain, Bene Diction and Mr. Collins are the life of the party, they're real fungi. As for as Dr. Heddle and Mr. Peterson and Mr. Steffans, it's Adios, amoebas.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Evening Musings-Busy day, as I have my Managerial Econ class tomorrow to prep for and a double session Saturday; the great news is that I'm done with my MBA classes as of Saturday and will have a simple three-class, nine-hour load for the last two months of the term. Just in case you need to solve a quadratic equation, here's an on-line calculator; I hopped on the web when I have forgotten that long lost buddy from Advanced Algebra: X=(-b ±(b2-4ac)0.5)/(2a) where the equation is in the form 0=c+bX+aX2 The busyness was added to for a trip over to Lakeland to help pass out flyers for a church outreach free food picnic Saturday at a park in central Lakeland. Eileen's going to be able to help out; I'll be teaching. I haven't done any thing like this since I campaigned for Don Riegel's first Senate campaign in 1976 (sins of my youth, I was only 14). One lady whose door we knocked on spoke muy poco English."Fiesta. Sabado. Dobbins Park." was as good as I could do on short notice; I took Spanish about the same time I was campaigning for Riegel. Google Fun="Arminian cooking" You invite everyone to the meal, but only those who RSVP will get to eat?

Back By Popular Demand-This Week in Blog History-Bill Simon's win in the California primary was the big news of the week; conservatives were giving each-other high-fives and envisioning a conservative win over the Gray Gentleman. The Bush administration slapped on steel tariffs, bringing all good free-traders to full throat. James Dobson and Moody Broadcasting execs had a exchange of urinary products over how political the National Religious Broadcasters was becoming. Zimbabwe had its election, and the beginging of Grand Theft Nation was being seen. The Reagans had their 50th anniversary. Funny headline from Australia-"PM wants a strong Virgin"-Virgin Blue Airways, that is. I ruined a Googlewhack of Rantburg's for "Autostupid" by citing this piece. I had some decent musings on libertarian foreign policy, Wiccan chaplains and Canadian disintegration.

March 3rd Memoir- While other people are doing a peace prayer at 3:33 PM on 3/3, I’m thinking back to a Saturday night two years ago when my life got changed forever. I had moved back to my hometown of Midland, MI in July 1996 after finishing up my Ph.D. When academic job-hunting was looking bleak, my father got the idea of starting a computer store; I came home to run it. Two and a half later, we had run out of sanity and working capital, having maxed out my credit cards trying to keep the thing afloat; had I had more courage and wisdom, I would have pulled the plug on it sooner. The winter of 1999 was one of the bleakest points in my life, as I recovered from putting my all into a failure. I had developed people skills and a higher level of tolerance of stress. I was teaching a finance course at Saginaw Valley State University and doing odd accounting temp jobs and was feeling like a failure, living with my parents at age 37 and too depressed and self-centered to feel worthy of a decent job or a decent woman. Things started to slowly turn around. As my SVSU adjunct job ended in April 1999, I picked up an accounting job at Hurley Medical Center in Flint. It was supposed to be a two-month assignment; once they saw my computer skills, it wound up lasting three years. Slowly, I was picking up confidence in my ability to contribute as an adult. I was struggling to find fellowship in my hometown as well; my friends from the 80s had gone different paths, and I couldn’t quite fit in the various single groups at the churches in town. The singles group at Calvary Baptist was a bit too young (and the church a but too capital-F fundamentalist stuffy) while the singles group at Christian Celebration Center was mostly divorced, blue-collar people (not wanting to be a snob, but I wasn’t a great fit there). Finally, in the spring of 2000, I found a good singles Bible study that Midland Evangelical Free Church sponsored. It was a bit older (mid 20s to late 30s) mostly made up of college-grads. I found a good outlet on Friday nights and found quite a few intelligent evangelical folks from various churches (only about have of the group’s member went to E-Free) that were similar odd-ducks. At 38, I felt like the possibility of marriage had largely passed me by, but the other people in the group gave me hope that I’d might find someone. That fall, we got a newcomer named Ed, who like me, had moved back to Midland after working elsewhere. He was a fellowship junkie, going to the singles Sunday school class at Calvary Baptist, bopped across town to take in the late service at New Life Vineyard and their Tuesday night young-adult “Friends Group” and the E-Free Friday Night bunch. Ed had been putting in a plug for his Vineyard group for a while. On a Saturday afternoon, Ed and I were shooting pool in the basement of another E-Freer’s house and got invited out that evening to a bonfire outing. When we got to the house that hosted the bonfire, I found myself chatting with a cute Presbyterian seminary grad named Eileen. We spend the evening talking comparative theology and our spiritual paths (How’d a nice Presbyterian girl get hooked up with a Pentecostal bunch like this?), becoming fast friends, finding an intellectual, spiritual and emotional soul mate. She gave the quirkiest come-on line as we parted company that evening-“call me up and talk theology sometime.” I, having a bad crush on her from hour one, did just that the following Tuesday, inviting her to the E-Free Friday night study. I wound up going to the Vineyard Tuesday night group a week later, seeing a largely college-aged bunch that was desperately seeking God. Their Spirit-filled but non-Pentecostal theology fit my Bapticostal theology to a T. I came back the next night for their Wednesday night service, and the adults were just as nice and God-seeking. The next Sunday, I went to the Sunday school class at Sunrise Baptist where I was attending and then snuck out for the late service at New Life Vineyard, going out to lunch with Eileen and a high-school friend of hers. By the end of March, I was a Vineyard regular and had fallen for Eileen to a point where I asked to court her, seeing wife material in her. She agreed to continue our friendship with an eye towards marriage. Having someone love me who didn’t have to is the greatest confidence builder I’ve ever had. God loves me, and Jesus died for me, but that offer’s open to all. My parents and sister love me, but they’re family. Having someone who doesn’t have to love you do so was the greatest gift I’ve ever received, short of Jesus’ death for me on the cross. That love has given me the confidence to start blogging, putting my thoughts up for the world to see. It’s given me the confidence to be a college professor. It’s given me the confidence to be a husband; we’re coming up on eight months of marriage. I’m a far better man than I was two years ago, thanks to the transforming power God channeled through Eileen.

Edifier du Jour-Hebrews 9:11-17
11: But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12: and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13: For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15: For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16: For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17: For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
I would have been better to have read this before going through communion yesterday, for this is a good reminder of what Jesus did for us. He's not just the high priest who blots out our sins, he was the sacrifice as well. So often, communion becomes chewing down a tasteless wafer and slorping down a small glass of grape juice. That crackery thing is designed to remind us that Jesus took our sins to the cross with Him, feeling our sin as the nails pinned him to the wood; we often lean towards the Gnostic and forget that Jesus actually had a body that bled and felt pain. That liquefied fruit of the vine we drink isn't just some brand-name juice, but the blood that washes away our sin. Elsewhere in Hebrews, the writer riffs on Jesus being high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. He isn't going to stop being high priest and his sacrificial blood won't run out.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Mark's Ism-A Fresh Look at Economics-I'm starting up a try at writing something resembling a macroeconomics textbook. Expect a few sections a week to come across the page-I'm planning to have a web page where all the sections come together. The comment section is there to fine-tune this bad-boy. Section 1.1- What are we looking to do? Most textbooks will look at macroeconomics in a descriptive matter, looking at how the economy operates on a grand scale, rather than look at what we want it to be. It might be helpful to look first at what we're trying to do. Without sounding too grandiose and idealistic, aren't we trying to make the world a better place? If we're acting in an altruistic manner, we'll like to see an economic system that maximizes the collective well-being of the society. Commonweal is the word occasionally used to describe that concept of collective well-being. Such a system will run into two conflicting facts in finding that economic sweet spot. The first is that in an altruistic system, we're supposed to help the needy. We have declining marginal utility of wealth; the 100,000th dollar isn't as valuable as the 10,000th dollar. This would indicate that a poorer person will get a bigger bang for the buck than a richer person and some transference of wealth would be good. Liberals will heartily agree with this assessment. Conservatives of a religious bent will recognize the scriptural mandate to help the poor. It's an open question whether taxation and government programs is the best way to do wealth transference, but a certain amount of wealth transference from the affluent to the less-affluent seems proper. However, that runs smack-dab into problem number two: human nature. We're greedy critters. If you take a Biblical world-view, it's called a sin nature, but you don't have to be a Bible-thumper to see that we prefer more to less. We might have declining marginal utility, but we still have positive marginal utility for each dollar. The more we're taxed, the less interested we are in working and investing. We're less interested in working, for our take-home pay has declined and the opportunity cost of leisure has gone down, resulting in less work. Higher taxes result in less investment; it reduces the after-tax returns on investments and makes spending the money now more attractive. The less interested we are in working and investing, the less stuff gets made, slowing the economy. Not only do taxes lower the taxpayer's utility, it will lower the utility of the whole economy that was counting on that taxpayer's work and investments. At some point, the utility gained by additional government programs is outweighed by the loss of utility by both the economy and the taxpayer, at which point the added program would reduce the commonweal. The trick would be to find that point, that level of government spending that maximizes the commonweal, that maximizes the collective joytron count. Coming Soon-Part 1.2- Quantum Economics and the Joytron.

Edifier du Jour-Exekiel 37:21-27(NASB)
21 "Say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. 23 "They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God. 24 "My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. 25 "They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. 26 "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. 27 "My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28 "And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever."'"
This Damian Penny piece on some Anglican priests who are dissing Israel on the grounds that the Church superseded Israel once the Jews rejected Jesus. That piece got me wondering where the standard-issue premillennial view of Israel as a key end-times player comes from. This passage in Ezekiel seems to come the closest. The questions that were running through my mind last night were many. On what grounds do we justify backing Israel today if they've lost that status as God's people? If the majority of Jews in the first century gave Jesus the middle-digit salute, does that render null and void all the stuff God promised Israel? That makes God and Indian-giver, having a loose understanding of forever when he promised Abraham to be with his desendents. There's a powerful tug to give a selected reading of scripture making the modern church the new carriers of the Chosen People title, making those nasty Anglospherians even more cocky in their desire to spread the Anglo-American meme around the world. However, most of the write-ups I've seen of such Anglo-Isralism seem to put their heurmanutics way ahead of their exegesis. This verse seems to point to the people of Israel, not believers in God in general. It also seems to be a prophecy that hasn't happen yet; a preterist might point to the Ezra-Nehemiah era as its fulfillment, but that doesn't quite capture the grandeur of this passage. You can make a case (and many Jews do) that the current government in Israel isn't the one that God's talking about, but the idea that God will bring Israel back to the homeland someday seems to be a straight exegesis of this passage. If that's the case, than the foes of Israel aren't cast in that great of a light if you read on in Ezekiel. That might give us spiritual pause in backing the foes of Israel. We have humanitarian (helping out a crapped-on people) and geopolitical (the one democracy in the area) reasons to be helpful to the Jewish people; this adds the spiritual dimension. I'm not all that sound on my eschatology other than having a generic Premillennial belief; the other escatologies seem to have more holes. This is one passage that points away from a preterist or a post-millennial world-view. I'm still fleshing out a better understanding of those prophetic parts of scripture, and this seems to help.

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