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Saturday, June 21, 2003

Edifier du Jour-Colossians 4:5-6(NASB)
5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
That's something that I struggle to do, to be wise and graceful in my speech. My comic side can sometimes get in the way of looking wise, as I did Thursday night. When citing the result of 1.1-1, I broke into "point nine-oh, nine-oh, nine-oh shezbat," doing an improptu Mork shtick; thankfully, the non-traditional class was old enough to get it. When discussing the accuracy of cash flow projections in capital budgeting, the acronym SWAG, for Scientific Wild-A--ed Guess, was cited by a student, and I struggled to bowlderize the acronym, once breaking down and using the origional. That might not be becoming of a college professor at a Chrisitan college. However, the prayers before class, the prayers for sick students and discussing the conflicts between moral and fiduciary duties as a Christian businessperson start to add some salt to the mix. My humor tends to allow for the serious part of my message, whether it be getting time-value-of-money concepts or moral precepts, to get through. As I look at dealing with people I encounter, I seem to get better reactions and acceptance of what I'm presenting when I'm a bit humorous and down-to-earth rather than stuffy and "professional." That might be what Paul's getting act in the end of verse 6, knowing how you should respond to each person. Changing your approach to presenting the Gospel based on the situation at hand is proper. However, there are limits as to how you can be "all things to all people" and finding that line in a fallen culture is tricky.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Bubbles or Steam?-I'm not sure what economy Krugman's watching, but it's not from this universe
The big rise in the stock market is definitely telling us something. Bulls think it says the economy is about to take off. But I think it's a sign that America is still blowing bubbles — that a three-year bear market and the biggest corporate scandals in history haven't cured investors of irrational exuberance yet. Or, to put it another way: it's hard to find any real news to justify the market's leap. Instead, investors seem to be buying stocks because they are rising — which is pretty much the definition of a bubble.
Well, let's try an end to the war with Iraq, a lack of terrorism in the US, a drop in old prices from this winter, inflation so low it's verging on becoming deflation and a, ahem, tax cut, and you've got a lot of reasons for investors to be bullish. They may not be reasons for "progressives" to be bullish, for this news may not translate down to Joe Shoprat as well as it does to the average stockholder, but it doesn't mean investors are stupid. They can see higher corporate profits coming from a growing economy. What Krugman sees as bubbles, I see as steam coming from an economy finding its footing. It's an economy that may not have all the goverment spending or income equality that Krugman may like , but it is one that will be growing and working more in the best interest of the American public than a more European big-government plan.

Edifier du Jour-Colossians 3:5-11(NASB)
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
How well are we letting God renew our minds? It's hard to get away from the laundry list from verse 5, especially if you watch any TV or do any radio channel surfing. I remember one blogger mentioning that even clean TV shows have raunchy ads for other less-clean shows and that there is little TV left that doesn't lend itself to the gutter. Renewal requires transcending our culture and meeting one-on-one with God. Our go-go culture doesn't allow for the idea of stillness and taking time to be alone with God. I remember some movie dialog (Terms of Endearment, IIRC) where one troubled character discounts immediate gratification therapy for taking too long. God works on His pace, which may take some getting used to. That renewal doesn't require becoming a monk, however. Even slaves had the offer open.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

21st Century Pampleteers-My mind was free associating at a pizza place just now; CNN was showing footage of Max Factor heir Andrew Luster being brought back from Mexico to face rape charges. Two thoughts went through my mind. The first was the irony of a guy named Luster being picked up on rape charges. The second was the idea of a O'Reilly Network and it's proposed motto-Max Factor. Mr. Bill has not faired well in the Blogosphere the past two days after he ripped into Internet publishing earlier this week
Nearly everyday, there's something written on the Internet about me that's flat out untrue. And I'm not alone. Nearly every famous person in the country's under siege. Today's example comes from Web sites that picked up a false report from The San Francisco Chronicle that said a San Francisco radio station dropped The Radio Factor. If anyone had bothered to make even one phone call, they would have learned that Westwood One made a deal with another San Francisco radio station, weeks ago to move The Radio Factor. Thus the word "dropped" is obviously inaccurate and dishonest. We'll see if The Chronicle runs a correction, but you can bet you won't be seeing many corrections on the net.
He didn't mention blogs in particular, but most blogs are good at correcting mistakes, where posting corrections on the offending post is the norm. "Fact-check Your A--" is the catchphrase here. However, most bloggers aren't professional journalists and don't have the time or resourses to call up a San Francisco radio station and grill them on the reasons for dropping/losing O'Reilly's radio show. To borrow from your network's slogan, Bill, we report on what we see on the Web; you decide.
Talking Points noted with interest the hue and cry that went up from some quarters about the FCC changing the rules and allowing big corporations to own even more media properties. But big corporations are big targets. If they misbehave, they can be sued for big bucks. These small time hit and run operators on the net, however, can traffic in perversity and falsehoods all day long with impunity. It's almost impossible to rein them in.
I haven't heard of anyone being sued for slander for what they've blogged, but it will happen someday. For now, let freedom ring. At least in the realms of the Blogosphere I've seen, people who make false statements will be castigated for it. If he contacted the places that posted the SFC piece, most of them would have been happy to post a correction. Rand Simberg had an interesting post the other day in favor of press control, sending up both O'Reilly and Arming America in one targeted shot. He failed to point out the "false myth" of the Revolutionary War equivilent of the blog-the pampleteer. True, not everyone had access to a printing press, but those that did were able to quickly get their opinions heard around town and sometimes around the country. From what I have read of late 18th century pampleteering, the verbiage would get about as heated as a modern-day blog and then some. People like the origional Tom Paine were critical in drumming up support for independence from Britain. His purple prose might not have flown at a more genteel paper, but he got his point across . via pamphlets. Fast forward a quarter-millenia, and we have virtually cost-free publishing. In general, blogging can be describe to the uninnitiated as on-line journaling. When that journaling starts to push the political envelope and starts to persuade opinions on the issues of the day, it verges on on-line pampleteering. The low-cost scope of it allows the little guy to get his voice heard, bringing senators and newpaper editors to account in ways that wasn't feasable two years ago. Collectively, the Blogosphere is the ultimate No Spin Zone. We may not have our own TV show to look self-important on, but we here, we're blogging, get used to it. [update 5:05PM-Simburg has a less snarky piece that echos what I said above and then some]

Comment Problems-My comment boxes seem to have not responded well to the new Blogger; they don't show if anyone's commented as of yet. I'm trying to get YACCS to cooperate by putting in new code from them. We shall see. Update 4:20PM- The precincts are being heard from again.

Morning Musings-The ex-Michigander in me hurt a bit to see what's happened up in Benton Harbor this week. However, this seems to be a common occurance around the country, where appearant police injustice to blacks sparks a riot. In this case, a black guy died in a chase, likely trying to resist arrest for driving with a suspended licence, when he crashed his motorcycle. That was enough to set a poor black town into Rodney King mode. Benton Harbor is odd that it's a small (12,000) black semi-rural town in a state whose black population is centered in large metropolitan areas like Detroit, Flint and Lansing; with few exceptions (rural Baldwin south of Traverse City comes to mind), Michigan doesn't have many small black towns. Do you think the mullahs are a bit nervous in Iran? Duyba is laying done the non-prolieration law with them as well as backing the protestors. That box of bones of Jesus brother James proved to be a hoax, according to Israeli officials. The box was ancient but the inscription was modern. Chucky to sell OJ? Well, the Bucs are a hot Florida commodity. I'm still waiting for the South African government to bolster its gold sales by a new line of Freddie Krugerands.

A Quick Survey of Triclavianism-Señor Gil had this interesting link yesterday
June 4, 2003 -- We have moved again. While closely rereading the Statement of Faith of our previous webhost, Cross Spot, we made the sad discovery that they are not firm enough in their opposition to the erroneous doctrine of triclavianism. As such, we feel that it is best that we part our ways, but we will keep them in our prayers. We are currently investigating different web hosting options. Until we finalize our plans, we will be temporarily keeping the OBJECTIVE: Ministries site here, at the address http://objective.jesussave.us/.
First, I wound up taking a look at what the heck triclavianism means. This site stated it as the "belief that only three nails were used at Christ's crucifixion." The Bible itself is mute on the issue. First-century archeological evidence points to three nails being the norm for crucifixion at the time (New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale, 1982, page 253-254) although early church art used four nails, switching to three nails around the 13th century. Thus, this doesn't seem to be something someone would lose any sleep over in a web host, let alone question someone's drive to stamp out what would seem to be a factual position. A closer look at the web site in question shows it being a parody site, along with the Landover Baptist parody that it rails against. The Objective Ministries site lays the parody on two notches lighter than Landover, who has support groups for ex-Negros or the woman's group Bringing Integrity To Christian Homemakers with its catchy acronym. Methinks that the server change had more to do with increasing prices than triclavianism, although the Objective Ministries people are free to try and correct my assessment.

Edifier du Jour-Colossians 2:13-17(NASB)
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. 16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Verse 14 reminds me of the words "It is finished" that Jesus said on the cross. In that day, "It is finished" was written on a debt instrament to note that it was paid in full. On the cross, he wiped out of sin debt once and for all. All the charges that Satan can bring against us were tacked up to the cross with Jesus. It's interesting that Paul has Jesus disarming the powers-that-be. They still had their spears and swords, but they couldn't hold back His kingdom.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The ACC, the Big East and Mo' Money, Mo' Money, Mo' Money-Sports fans up and down the East Coast have been weighing in on the proposed expansion of the ACC. At this point, the expansion seems to be on hold, for Duke and North Carolina aren't sold on the idea and want time to think through the ramifications and Virginia is leaning against after strong-arming from state officials, for the proposed merger is more harmful to Virginia Tech than it is helpful to UVA. Three no votes block a merger. Ben has a good rundown and supplied the first WaPo link. A quick review-Miami, Syracuse and Boston College are to be snagged away from the Big East in the proposed twelve-team ACC. This will allow the ACC to have a football title game and the big TV payoff that it entails, bolster it's so-so football program with one of the most potent programs in the country in Miami and extend its TV reach by covering New York and New England. The downside of this is that it will mean the end of the football Big East as we know it. With the absence of Miami and Syracuse, the quality of the remainder of the Big East, even if teams like Louisville and Marshall are added, will be a distinct step below the other five power conference in football. The result will be lost television revenues and a probable loss of an automatic spot in the Bowl Championship Series. Politicians are looking at this on economic lines. Virginia politicians don't like it, for being the big fish in a weak Big East football roster will harm cash flows into Virginia Tech more than the added cash flows from an enhanced ACC will help Virginia. Might a solution to this mess be to swap Boston College for Virginia Tech? You'll be giving up special ties to the New England market, but will counteract Virginia's no vote. It will make for a more compact ACC; teams won't have to worry about whether they can get out of Boston after a basketball (or volleyball or swimming) game in January. Syracuse isn't much better, being in lake-effect territory, but BC adds another trip to the snow belt. Also, BC isn't the best fit in the ACC, for it would be the lone Catholic school in a conference of state and secular-leaning (Miami, Syracuse and Duke fit here, I'm not quite sure of Wake Forest's institutional devoutness) private schools. BC's secular enough to fit in, if I recall correctly, as it is fairly liberal as Catholic colleges go, but Virginia Tech would be a more natural fit. Thirdly, BC isn't that strong athletically. It would be a second-division club in both football and basketball, weakening the product. Television geography (the New England TV market) is what's driving the addition of BC. A Miami, Syracuse and Virginia Tech expansion would make sports and financial sense, as it would add three schools that are perennial bowl teams in football. Syracuse is a basketball power while Miami and VT would get up to basketball speed quickly when recruiting players to play in a beefed-up ACC. The ACC might be wise to leave some money on the table and bring VT in instead of Boston College. VT president Charles Steger has stated that he'd not accept an invitation, but if the powers that be in Virginia could show that it's in the state's best interest, he could change his mind just as Virginia was pushed against the current merger package. What does all this have to do about educating college students? Not too much, but that's another post.

God, Man and the EU-Many pundits have commented on the fight on how to acknowledge Europe's Christian roots in the new EU constitution; the powers that be are trying to ignore it as best they can, leaving a millennia-long gap between ancient Greece and Rome and the Enlightenment. Joshua Claybourn points to this John F. Cullinan piece on the topic. Josh sums things up nicely, albeit with some faulty chronology, here
From Greece and Rome to the Enlightenment something seems to have been skipped over - an important part of Europe's history and a fundamental player in what it is today. That little piece of nearly two centuries I'm talking about is, of course, Christianity
Eileen and I were batting this around before dinner yesterday: What do a Scotsman, a Spaniard, an Italian and a Pole have in common other than a common Christian heritage? Not much. Eileen mentioned a love of family, but that is true of many other non-European cultures. Even if churchgoing is low, the Christian-flavored culture is still what is the common denominator in Europe. Cullinan cites Christopher Dawson in saying that "cult (or worship) is the basis of culture — not the other way round." Europe will struggle to keep a society together on purely secular grounds; the militantly secular French Revolution wasn't stable, nor have the militantly secular communist states been stable systems. You have the secular touchstones of the Greco-Roman roots and of the Enlightenment, but Christianity put a humane face to the harsh humanism of Greco-Roman philosophy. The Enlightenment took a universe created by a rational God and set out to understand it and to bring freedom and individual worth to a feudal culture. The meat of the Christian culture that it was made in flavors the Enlightenment stock of post-Christian Europe. However, the feel and flavor of Christianity is becoming overwhelmed by postmodern secularism and Islam, which both lacks the rationality and personal worth that makes the strength of the Enlightenment. Battered by irrational selfishness on the secular left and by irrational collectivism on the Islamic right, a functioning Enlightenment center will likely not stand, either devolving into communism, anarchy or mullocracy. The US Constitution doesn't mention God or Christianity, either. However, in a more religious era, such commentary wasn't needed. The Declaration of Independence, while not constitutionally binding, credited a Creator with granting us the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; this was the Deist-leaning Jefferson, a liberal of his day, that gave us that prose. There appear to be no Jeffersons in the EU convention, for Jefferson would be an outlier in that bunch, both in his desire for personal autonomy and in bringing God into the mix, making him a somewhat conservative libertarian in a godless statist bunch. The anti-clerical spirit that drove the French Revolution is what lives on in the EU, not the pro-church bunch that founded the US. Without God in the picture, the State is the source of all power and arbiter of what is good and bad. Morality flows not from scripture informed by centuries of experience and prayer but from what the government says is right. With God in the picture, there is a source of power that transcends the State; the State operates only by God's blessing as expressed by the people. God works with individuals, not the State, on the ultimate questions of faith and salvation. Libertarians might want to think about taking God out of the political mix, for the replacement in that cultural vacuum will likely be the state and not the individual, for God is the one going to bat for the individual.

Edifier du Jour-Colossians 1:13-20(NASB)
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Most of this passage is a riff on John 1. Some have tried to hammer at verse 15's "firstborn of all creation" and try to make Jesus a created being rather than part of God; if you want to try that, go back to John 1:1's "... and the Word was God." Paul uses the firstborn line to help set up verse 18's "firstborn of the dead." Jesus has first place in everything and is in charge of everything. He's the alpha and omega male. People who want to put themselves in charge will get a rude awakening; the job's already taken and the occupant has a lifetime contract. Verse 19 is interesting, for it both reminds me of a fellow blogger and begs the question of what "all the fullness" means. I try to get my mind around the Trinity by picturing Jesus (as well as the Father and the Holy Spirit) as an infinite subset of God, but there are ways that they are not subsets, but one. The subsets have parts that they don't share in common, for Jesus didn't know the day of his return in Matthew 24:36, only the Father knows. However, there are parts they do share in common; thus, Jesus has the fullness of God in Him. He's not just some subroutine in the celestial mainframe, He is God. I've had a problem fully accepting the statement "Jesus is God" for that seems to kick the Holy Spirit and the Father out of the Godhead. In my desire to understand the Trinity, I have tried to demote Jesus to being just a third of God. By obsessing on one factoid that God the Father has password-protected, I've been lessening Jesus. "Fully human and fully divine" was the construct used to get around the Gnostics; my mind wasn't quite giving Jesus as full a divineness as He deserves. For some reason, my mind flitted over to the tag line of a sport-drink ad campaign-"Is it in you?" If it is that fullness, that essence of being God, my mind then turns to the construct "Is it in Jesus?" Ya, you betcha. I can't define what it is, but He's got it. That makes Him fully God even as there are some parts of God that aren't He.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

A Pan-Evangelical Zeitgeist?-Part I-An Outside Diagnosis-Via Connexions, I found this interesting post from Spivey at Something Understood
I've noticed that there are lots of Christian bloggers out there in the world, and cliques and rings to bring them together into community. I've read quite a few now, some with great design, some with great content, some with both. I've noticed that the bulk of these sites are from fairly young people, 16-24 years old, and from that particular profile... does it have a name? Non-denominational, Biblically literalist, listening to lots of CCM, attending huge Christian rallies, singing what one 60 year old Episcopalian friend calls "lots of 'I' hymns", fairly anti-sacramental, anti-catholic, anti-mainstream, and anti-homosexual. Anyone know about whom I'm talking? Of course, I'm drawing huge generalizations, and I should make it clear that I'm interested in finding out what makes this movement tick. Tick it certainly does, with these enormous megachurches filling up for "Praise Services". Their numbers are growing rapidly, and frankly they, of all Christiandom, they seem to have the edge on design, marketing, and tie-ins to pop culture.
There's a post-modern feel to this bunch, but it's not really pomo that he's talking about. Even though I'm two decades older than his core demographic, I feel like I resemble his remark. What I think he's running into is what I'll label a pan-evangelical zeitgeist. Sorry for pulling out the highbrow German, but "spirit of the age" seems better than "movement." Many, if not most, modern evangelicals see themselves as Christians first and members of a church and/or denomination second. There are certain doctrines that are non-negotiable to most evangelicals that I'll try to express in my own voice (1) God is a perfect, transcendent being, beyond space and time (2) Within God, there are three infinite subsets, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a.k.a. the Trinity. (3) Jesus was/is the human incarnation of God, the Son become flesh, both fully human and fully God, a sinless perfect sacrifice. (4) Jesus died to take on the sins of the world, then rose again ~36 hours later (5) Those who believe in God that Jesus died for their sins and accept His as their Lord and Savior will have eternal life with God, while those that don't will not. (6) The Bible is God's accurate and true message to us and should taken at face value. Note that this list doesn't touch church polity, the Gifts of the Spirit, how and when to baptize, eschatology and whether someone can lose their salvation. Those six make up the evangelical non-negotiables that all evangelicals will agree to with a little tweaking of my phrasing. I almost added a seventh on Jesus' return, but there is an evangelical preterist camp that might beg to disagree. Fellowship with people who agree with those six points is fairly easy; fellowship with people who don't becomes problematic. Over my Christian life, I have typically been a part of some pan-evangelical group, be it a Bible study in Midland in the late 80s, InterVarsity chapters at Delta College, Saginaw Valley State, Michigan State and Kent State or the Evangelical Free-based (but with half non E-Freers) singles Bible study in Midland through which I met Eileen. While worshiping at a Vineyard church, I teach at a Church of God-Anderson college without having my charismatic or Reformed-ish theology questioned by the higher-ups. On the individual level, most evangelicals aren't overly dogmatic about some of the secondary theological debates. For instance, a Calvinist Baptist can make common cause with an Arminian-Wesleyan Nazarene guy and leave free will out of the loop for a bit. Likewise, they can work with a conservative Presbyterian or Methodist without squawking over infant baptism or denominational polity. They can even work with Pentecostals and charismatics; while a Baptist pastor may shy away from the Gifts of the Spirit, the rank-and-file parishioners are more open to the issue. There are numerous pan-evangelical parachurch organizations that help along the pan-evangelical meme. At the college level, you have pan-evangelical groups like Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Pan-evangelical adult groups like Promise Keepers or Women of Virtue help incubate the meme as well, as does various day-of-prayer, pro-life and crisis-pregnancy groups. Many communities will have pan-evangelical poverty-fighting groups, like the Caregiving Network in my hometown of Midland, started by AoG people but supported by an array of local churches. I'd like to look at Spivey's list of adjectives. Non-denominational-That might not be fully true, for most of the churches I've attended were parts of denominations. There is a big caveat in that most evangelical churches are set up in a very congregation framework where the ties to the larger Body of Christ is more important than belonging to a particular denominations There is a tendency towards a pan-evangelical mind-set that is ecumenical to the extent that we agree on basic evangelical doctrine rather than the liberal version of ecumenical where sound theology goes out the window in the name of unity. Details of church governance, eschatological details and the timing and number of sacraments can be left aside for common praise, Bible study and fellowship in a pan-evangelical setting. Biblically literalist-This movement takes the Bible at face value. There is some room for alegory, but not too much. Listening to lots of CCM-That's common among younger Christians; such concerts draw people from accrost the evangelical spectrum and even a few Catholics and mainliners, promoting futher pan-evangelicalness. Attending huge Christian rallies-Another manifestation of the pan-evangelical zeitgeist. Big Christian music festivals bring youth groups from a variety of Christian churches. Weekend youth rallies like Acquire the Fire will find comparable pan-evangelical mixes. For the adults, groups like Promise Keepers and Women of Virtue draw pan-evangelical crowds and local Christian radio stations can often serve as an ad-hoc pan-evangelical nexus. Singing lots of 'I' hymns-One of the things that struck me about the graduation service at a Presbyterian seminary earlier this month was the We-ness of the hymns compared to what I'm used to in Baptist or charismatic circles. Evangelicals stress a personal faith and thus create a more personal hymnody (if you can call the ad-hoc collection of praise songs a hymnody). Fairly anti-sacramental-Most evangelical churches have two sacraments (or ordinances): baptism and communion. Also, since there is less of a line between the pastorate and laity, there is less emphasis on the minister's role in those sacraments. Other things that are in older denomination's sacrament list, such as marriage and funerals, don't show up on most evangelical's list, even if there are services performed for both. Anti-catholic-This group is catholic with a small-c; the pan-evangelical spirit looks at a capital-C church that covers all believers and a small-C church where they go on Sunday mornings and other times. Small-c catholic means universal, the Church. Large-C Catholic refers to Roman Catholics, who's core theology has some traditions that are extra-biblical at best (no Chick-ian food fights today, please); evangelicals will tend to look down their noses at the extra-biblical theology while extending open arms to individual Catholics who have found their way to a born-again faith in Christ despite (our Catholic buddies would say thanks to) their traditional Catholic baggage. Anti-mainstream-This could be taken two ways, referring to mainstream culture and its sex and materialism and moral relativism, or to drier, more liturgical, less personal mainline churches. Anti-homosexual.- Our pan-evangelicals are anti-extramarital sex in general, but homosexuality gets a couple extra rounds fired at it. They seem to have the edge on design, marketing, and tie-ins to pop culture-Being non-traditional, they can think outside the box with more ease than more historic denominations. Some of that marketing and pop culture links can make the churches a sub-culture rather that a counter-culture. Some of the worst of the breed are T-shirts that give a Christian tweak to retailers logos, such as the Solid Rock Cafe, A Bread Crumb and Fish, God's Gym or (in 80s Coke script) Jesus-the Real Thing. However, using marketing techniques to bring people to church can be helpful to reach the unchurched. Also, using modern musical styles and casual dress gives a sense of belonging to someone who may not be comfortable in their "Sunday best" or with the traditional hymnal. Paul worked on being "all things to all people;" the modern church, especially those in this pan-evangelical milieu, seem to be reaching the under-thirty crowd better than either mainline or traditional Baptist or Pentecostal churches.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 3:5-12(NASB)
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just. 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."
I remember a passage of The Screwtape Letters where Screwtape suggest that the "patient" dwell upon the concept of "the body of Christ" and then force him look around him on Sunday and equate that to the motley assortment of parrisioners at his church. A good way to take the majesty out of the Church. We're all flawed vessels, both as individuals and as a collective, trying to point the way to a perfect God, and we do a poor job of it. However, we're what God has chosen to use to be His representatives. Our response to our imperfections is two fold: it should give us humility that we aren't perfect and a desire to become more perfect, heading towards God. One phrase my dad used to use was "If you can't be anything else in life, you can always be a bad example." Often, we serve that function, allowing God to show through our imperfections how good he is. However, we sometimes also show God's love through our good actions, showing love despite our imperfections. We're imperfect, but striving to get better and striving to know God more.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Afternoon Musings-Fun typos-My Managerial Finance quiz on bonds had, at one point, a question on a callable bong. A voice-responsive robot hookah from Cal Tech? No, just a bond that a firm that refinance early. Things aren't looking good in the short-term in Israel; somehow, I'm hearing Sharon channeling Bugs: "You do realize that this means war." It may be for the best in the long term, for either the Israelis or the Palestinians will have to do a knock-down-drag-out with Hamas and the other irredentist groups before there is a long-term peace. The more I see of Jim Tressel, the more I like; he may well do the impossible and make an Ohio State fan out of me (except when they play Michigan or MSU). Check out the new contract that OSU gave him
The contract also contains bonuses tied to the academic performance of the team, but at Tressel's request, the only athletic bonus is an additional $200,000 if the Buckeyes play in the BCS championship game.
Likeably old-school. This is scary- one of the guys that charged onto the White Sox field last year was part of a cleaning crew for the US Open this week with credentials that got him close to the action. William Ligue claims to be "a changed man," but that wasn't one of the USGA's security people's finest hour.

Is There a Religious Centrist Vote?-John Adams, bouncing off Amy Sullivan's Washington Monthly piece, didn't seem to think so
Sullivan recommends that the party of the Left go after "religious moderates," the kind of down-home folks that "are uncomfortable with Bush's ties to the religious right, whose agenda--from banning abortion to converting Muslims--is deeply disconcerting to them." Sullivan says this group of moderates is made up of "Muslims, most Catholics, and a growing number of suburban evangelicals, all of whom are devout, but many of whom are uncomfortable with Bush's ties to the religious right." Somehow the idea that Muslims and most Catholics have a problem with banning abortion strikes me as wrong. Reading Sullivan's article, however, I can't help but notice that most people she cites as "religious moderates" would be considered religious liberals or even apostate to people who take their religion seriously. The Democrats already seem to have a handle on such folks.
For the moment, it might be helpful to look at the level of devoutness rather than the orthodoxy of their faith. There are seven blocks of "religious moderate" voters that are in play. (1) Blue-collar white evangelicals (2) Blue-collar Catholics (3) Suburban mainliners (4) Black evangelicals (5) Devout Hispanic Catholics (6) Devout Jews (7) Muslims These blocks are "people of faith" that have demographic feet in both parties; their faith makes them open to a "family-values" pitch from the GOP, while their socioeconomics makes them open to Democratic pitches. Democrats win these voters not on their faith but on the countervailing demographics. Blue-collar white evangelicals-Democrats will have to win this bunch on class warfare; Dick Gephardt would be one that would sell well here. In the last election, the Second Amendment was a wedge issue here; both guns and Democratic amorality overwhelmed the left-populist leanings of this group. A pro-gun Democrat has a shot here, but one that is overly secular might scare them off, as would an anti-war candidate in this patriotic milieu. This isn't going to be a happy hunting ground for Democrats this go-round. Blue-collar Catholics-Here, the Church's poverty-fighting persona offsets the moral lean to the right. This is Reagan Democrat territory; a pitch to patriotism post 9/11 gives Bush an edge here despite the Pope's addiction to diplomacy. Here, liberal economic populism is the wedge for the Democrats while abortion and same-sex marriage/benefits would be the counter-wedges for the Republicans. Unless the economy stays lousy for the next year, there isn't much room for traction here. Suburban mainliners -A subset of the Soccer Mom vote, this group is old school on moral issues but not as absolutist as Catholics and evangelicals; they have more in common with the GOP than they think, but move away from the side that seems the most radical. That coupled with their higher incomes make them lean Republican but an distaste for the stridency of the theocons and an interest in helping the poor and the environment make them a volitile swing vote. Bush will have an edge in delivering security after 9/11 and can play upon liberal excesses in support of partial-birth abortion and same-sex marriage, while Democrats can paint a charaterization of Bush as a down-the-line conservative in bed with the polluters and televangalists. With this group, the battle will be one who looks less extreme than his foe, and the Democrats seem to have an edge Black evangelicals-This is a fight to watch for the next decades, as a post-civil-rights black church develops. Churches that preach personal empowerment are future GOP strongholds, while churches that preach collective empowerment are once-and-future donkey domains. A growing charismatic movement within the black church as well as a growing number of multi-ethnic churches should move black evangelicals towards mainstream evangelical culture and mainstream conservative values. The two wedges that keep blacks Democratic is civil rights and poverty fighting. As bigotry and the apparent usefulness of big government decline, those wedge issues won't be as useful. The black church has been a driving force in the past, but many newer churches are moving away from the theology of collective liberation of the black left towards an personal empowerment theology. Mixing faith and politics is normal here, but very often, that faith is as much in the NAACP and the Democratic party as it is of God. This is one area where Democratic candidates of faith can do well, but only at the local levels, where a morally conservative but economically liberal black candidate can do well. Here, churchgoing moral conservatives will outnumber the abortion and gay-rights advocates that have veto power in state and national primaries, and quite a few morally conservative black politicians get to Congress. On the national level, if Republicans can get beyond their reputation as the redneck party, they will begin to pick up a better percentage of the black vote, especially among black evangelicals. The retirements of Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helps and defection of Pat Buchanan will help, even if the Trent Lott fiasco reminds us of those crimson-collared gentlemen. However, this a long-term shift that will take decades to affect. Devout Hispanic Catholics-You can add a growing Hispanic Pentecostal community to this as well. Culturally, this is a morally conservative and family-oriented group. Economics, bilingual education, and immigration-related issues come to play here. Bilingual ed isn't always a Democratic issue, for many parents who want their kids to assimilate will want them up to speed in English ASAP rather than be stuck indefinitely in a bilingual program. The ghost of Pete Wilson crops up here. GOP candidates that are too tough on immigration can be seen as anti-Hispanic, for Hispanic citizens often have to go through more red tape than Anglos to prove that they're legit; an increase in illegal-alien-catching stuff can make their life more problematic. President Bush shouldn't have that problem, but Republicans downballot can have this card played against them. Remember that this isn't a monolithic group; Cubans are different from Mexican who are different from Puerto Ricans or Dominicans. Each subset has its own demographics; the Mexicans of Polk County will act differently that the Cubans of Dade County. While Cubans will have an anti-Communist conservative lean, other Hispanics will lean Democratic on economics and immigration issues. However, that lean can be counteracted; their immigrant aspirations to the American Dream run up against Democratic high taxes and regulation and the family-oriented community milieu is open to a family-values pitch. This is one group that is in play, and as long as the Wilson phantoms can be kept at bay, Republicans should continue to improve their standing. Devout Jews-Unfortunately, there aren't too many of them; American Judaism is more theologically left-leaning than the gentiles are. As the Democrats lean towards a more-pro-Palestinian stance, both from a desire to placate black Muslim leaders and from a leftist view of Israel as an oppressor, theologically conservative Jewish voters are starting to lean to the right. Also, as evangelicals become one of the loudest backers of Israel, the GOP has become the pro-Israel party, countervailing the idea of Republicans being anti-Semitic. Pitchfork Pat's defection to the Reform Party has helped here. Today, it's the Democratic left that's more likely to let loose with anti-Jewish rhetoric than the Republican right. Thirdly, as the GOP becomes more welcoming to Jews, the secular nature of the Democratic party is driving observant Jews to the right. The Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament and are Jewish values, too. The wedge issues that have been used to keep Jews in the Democratic column are the New Deal motif of the Democrats as the multi-ethnic party and the GOP as the WASP and anti-Semitic party and a Jewish collective sense morphing into a backing of a strong welfare state. The first issue is all-but-moot, as noted above, and the second is waning; it was Jewish intellectuals who were the archetypal neocons getting mugged by reality. Secular Jews are a Democratic block; even if they might lean to the right on economics, a secular fear of evangelicals will keep them in the Democratic camp. However, observant Jews will increasingly be in play. Muslims-If the Democrats play their cards right, they can make some inroads here. In past elections, the Islamic vote has leaned Republican on moral issues. Anti-terrorism measures, especially the detaining of Muslim illegal aliens and extra scrutiny of Muslim-Americans, can be used by Democrats to paint the Bush administration and the GOP as anti-Muslim crusaders (in the early second-millennia sense). However, this is going to be a tricky card to play for a Democrat, for being too pro-civil libertarian will get spun back as being soft on terrorism. Done deftly, it could pick up some swing votes in the Islamic community without costing swing votes elsewhere, but it could backfire badly. Conclusions-Democrat will be hard pressed to appeal to people of faith on religious themes. One can use religious rhetoric to defend liberal economics by playing to calls to help the poor in both the Bible and Koran; liberal Christians can also play to pacifist-leaning New Testament passages to justify an anti-war stance. However, using that rhetoric opens the candidate up to questions about what the scriptures have to say about homosexuality, adultery, pre-marital sex and the status of the unborn. Rather than look two-faced, most liberal politicians will steer clear of religious rhetoric, especially if they don't have much of a faith in the first place. Democrats who are somewhat faithful to their place of worship have to placate the secular left, especially the ones in favor of a permissive stance on sexual issues, both on extramarital sex in general and homosexual sex in particular. Such candidates face the dillema of either downplaying their faith or ticking off a key constituency. Many Democratic legislators will start their careers with a conservative stance on such issues, only to drift to the left as they seek power in the party. Baptist politicians such as Al Gore, Dick Gephardt and Sam Nunn (or Orthodox Jews like Joe Lieberman) became more liberal on abortion and other sexual issues over the years in order to fit into the party. There are morally conservative Democrats out there; they just don't stand much of a chance to be a player on the national stage or be a party leader. Given the secular nature of the Democratic party and the clout of groups in favor of a more amoral stance on sexual issues, a candidate that has a conservative moral outlook has little chance of getting a presidential nomination or a legislative leadership position. The best Democrats can hope for with religious swing groups is to appeal to the non-religious issues that will draw them away from the GOP.

Monday Moanin'-Felt like using that title; for those of you who have the Detroit Free Press in your history, you might remember Bob Talbert who had a daily column. His Monday Moanin' column was sorta a proto-blog, giving about a couple dozen short takes on things on his mind. Had he lived past '99, I wouldn't have been surprised to see him blogging or something close to it today. What is wrong with this paragraph about Egyptian diplomacy?
Negotiators who met representatives of 13 groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza City found the militants still committed to armed resistance after a week of attacks in which 60 people died.
Answer: the number 13. You couldn't get them to recite the basic Islamic declaration of faith in unison, let alone get all of them to agree to a ceasefire; such groups declare a ceasefire when they're reloading. Give the Admiral his props. He went out with a title, after the Spurs won last night, 88-77. Give even more props to Tim Duncan, who had a great stat game, with a 21-point, 20 rebound, 10 assist game; he was two blocks away from a whomper-jaw-inducing quadruple-double. You have to like these two guys, who are the anti-Iversons of the NBA, good guys who get the job done on the floor with no trash-talking and no police records. Both Robinson and Duncan are class acts that deserve more respect than they get due to their low-key personas. They couldn't have written a much better script for Jim Furyk yesterday; he gets to win the US Open with his coach-dad and baby girl at the course on Father's Day, even overcoming a topless women fan who came out onto the 11th green. This isn't going to help the Catholic Church. I hadn't heard of this commission that former OK Gov. Frank Keating was heading up, but his priestly-sexual-abuse commission wasn't getting cooperation from some places, including LA's Cardinal Mahony. Keating compares the church to the Mob in its secrecy and Mahony gets Keating canned. It reminds me of an old Cold-War era joke
"Sergei got 21 years in the Gulag for calling the general an idiot? Wasn't that harsh?" "No. He only got a year for insulting a superior officer; he got 20 for revealing a state secret."
What Keating said was both insulting and true and was thus that more painful for the slow-moving bishops to take. Keating may well have been right to go after the omerta that seems to be a good hunk of the problem, as fellow priests come across as looking to protect their own at the expense of the church and the Church. I'm not a Catholic, but such stonewalling doesn't do the Body of Christ much good.

Edifier du Jour-Obadiah 1:15-18(NASB)
15 "For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. 16 "Because just as you drank on My holy mountain, All the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow And become as if they had never existed. 17 "But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, And it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions. 18 "Then the house of Jacob will be a fire And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau will be as stubble. And they will set them on fire and consume them, So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau," For the LORD has spoken
I decided to start my own Bible-reading system to get me to go over, listing the books I haven't spend much time on in the past, then doing a random-number generation thing to pick a book; Obadiah hopped up first on the list. The book, like a lot of the minor prophets, falls into the "Paybacks are a [she-dog]" or "You'll get yours someday" categories. I'm not totally comfortable with some of the glee that the writer gets out of the future demise of his enemies, but it is one way of coping with current injustice. If we know that the bad guys will get punished eventually, in the life to come if not in this one, it takes some of the sting out of the injustices we face. I remember talking to one family from church about how they kept their son out of kindergarten to give the kid's tender heart an extra year to grow; he had an innate sense of fairness which was about to be rudely challenged by the real world. He was the one to play the peacemaker, the one to take on the bully even if it meant that both of them would be suspended for fighting; as a young man today, he still doesn't suffer fools gladly. Unless you're Dubya running herd over the US military, you can't fight some of the bigger bullies of the world yourself. For those jobs that are above your pay grade, you rely on God to handle the bullies. They will get theirs. However, a better way to handle the thugs of the world is not to ask for their destruction but their conversion, that God would do a work in them to make them stop being a thug. It's hard as all get out to pray for your enemies and the mark of a mature believer. That's not to say that you want the thug to succeed in his thuggery, but that you are looking after his long-term best interest.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Edifier du Jour-1 Peter 3:7-9(NASB)
7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. 8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
This was the verse Pastor Phil bounced off of in his Father's Day sermon; looking at fatherhood as both being a good father but a good husband as well. The underlying theme was the need to fight for your kids, for the Devil wants them and we need to be warriors to fight that off. Not brutes that try to run the household by their own will, or wimps that duck the tough fights that need to be fought, but warriors willing to fight to expand God's kingdom within their household. That warrior isn't some spiritual Rambo, but a gentle warrior, being a blessing to his family. Verse nine strikes home, for it's hard to turn the other cheek when slighted or insulted by your wife and kids. Being a good father and husband requires being a servent-leader, looking after his family's needs before his own. Easier said than done.

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