Saturday, August 30, 2003

Evening Musings-Signs of the coming Apocalypse-an animated Humphrey the Humping Dog at a gift shop, down the street from a store with "Chaos, Confusion and Mayhem, my job here is done." plaque. Thankfully, I did not see Humphrey in action. Other than that, our Saturday excursion to Mount Dora went well. Got to see some of the college football today and a few upstarts did well. Over a late lunch, I got to see Vandy give Ole Miss all it wanted before losing; how much pressure must Eli Manning be under? Later, I watch the second quarter of Alabama-South Florida. Late in the second quarter, USF was up 17-7 in Birmingham. I went to take a nap at halftime with the score 17-17. Well, USF was like that dog tied to the bumper in National Lampoon's Vacation; they did OK for the first quarter-mile. By the time I had woken up,the Tide had rolled, 40-17. Nebraska won their opener, beating Oklahoma State 17-7. When's the last time Nebraska started the season unranked? When's the last time the Huskers were home dogs to someone ranked 24th? Two of my three I-A alma maters won. MSU snuck past Western Michigan (not a good sign), Kent State snuck past Akron, but CMU got their head handed to them in the Big House.

The Original Hurricane Fabian-My mind went into history mode when I heard that there was a Tropical Storm (now Hurricane) Fabian forming in the Atlantic that might hit Florida next weekend. My mind went quickly past the 50s singer Fabian and went back to the turn of the century Fabians of England. The quick mental memory bank said "Influencial socialists, H.G. Wells was one of them." The link confirmed my memory.
The British counterpart of the German Marxian revisionists and heavily influenced by the English Historical school, the upper-middle-class intellectual group - the "Fabian Society" - emerged in 1884 as a strand of latter-day utopian socialism. They became known to the public firstly through Sidney Webb's Facts for Socialists (1884) and then through the famous Fabian Essays in Socialism (1889) written by the Webbs, Shaw, and others. The "Fabians" were named after Fabius, the famous Roman general which opposed Hannibal as they were "biding their time" until they would "strike hard". Exactly when this strike would occur was a perennial question. Eschewing the revolutionary tactics of more orthodox Marxians, the middle-class Fabians were more directly involved with politics and practical gains - through contacts not only in the "International Labor Party", trade unions and cooperative movements but also throughout the entire British political apparatus (Liberals and Tories included). At the core of the Fabian Society were the Webbs - Sidney J. Webb and his wife, Beatrice Potter Webb (married 1892). Together, they wrote numerous studies of industrial Britain, alternative economic arrangements (esp. cooperatives) and pamphlets for political reform. At the core of their system was the Ricardian theory of rent which they applied to capital as well as land (and labor as well - their opposition to high labor incomes was also an issue). Their conclusion was that it was the state's responsibility to acquire this rent (a position strikingly familiar to Henry George - whom Shaw credited explicitly). Their later admiration of Soviet Russia stemmed partly from Stalin's "efficiency" at acquiring this rent.
That's one of the reasons we have a takings clause in the constitutions, to keep the government from acquiring rent without compensation.
As one contemporary noted, "they combined an ounce of theory with a ton of practice". The practice, for the Fabians, was to influence public opinion in this direction. This was to be accomplished, they argued, not through mass organization but rather by the selective education of the powerful "few" who would lead the reforms in government (hopefully themselves), thus they only belatedly extended their appeal beyond the narrow intelligentsia class from which they arose. It was the Webbs who founded the London School of Economics (L.S.E.) in 1895.
Sound familiar. Teach the teachers and you'll have the population in a generation.
Through the relentless outpouring of Fabian Essays and the charismatic appeal of the Webbs - coupled with the prowess of literary figures such as George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells - ensured that they would be indeed influential among British intellectuals and government officials. Alfred Marshall, for one, readily admitted his sympathies for the Fabian cause (although he abhorred their anti-theoretical stance). Philip Wicksteed - who tangled with Shaw over the labor theory of value and marginal utility theory - in contrast, was considerably more critical. It was this narrowness of appeal that led some Fabians, such as G.D.H. Cole and novelist H.G. Wells to break with the Fabians.... Further splits in the Fabian camp emerged when the Webbs and Shaw decided to throw their weight behind the British Imperial enterprise - supporting the Boer War and other colonial misadventures - as they felt their reforms (when they came about) would thus have a wider application. An overarching British Empire, they believed, would be a more efficient conductor of reform than a multitude of smaller countries. The Webb's support of monopolies was also well-known - particularly, in their famous 1897 claim that "higgling in the market" (i.e. competition) was inimical because competitive prices always bore down on the workers. Thus, monopolies are more desirable as they would have more room to treat their workers better.
Note the preference for empire. EU, anyone? Their dislike of competition reminds me of the Bill Bradley line that "Democrats generally prefer the bureaucrat they know to the consumer they can't control." If that Bill Bradley ran in 2000, he'd be president now. Hurricane Fabian is packing 115MPH winds at last report, but won't do the damage that his namesake did in the early part of the last century. They helped drag British economics, and the economics of much of the Anglosphere, a number of notches to the left.

A Theology of Economics-Part 2.1-The Power of Greed-Quite a bit of feedback on the issues. Bene Diction points out some coffee slavery in Brazil (talk about the lesser angels of our nature!) and was a bit queasy about my Part II. Bene quoted Richard Hall's post in reply , adding
I cannot weigh in on this debate for I have no degree and little knowledge. But, if I have a cup of coffee today, I can pause and thank God the Brazilian government sees fit to value human life on it's plantations, and I can pray for those so desperately poor, they go into forced labour.
Don't worry about the lack of schooling, Bene; Econ's mostly applied common sense, something you have a goodly supply of. I don't have any formal training in theology beyond Bible studies and Sunday school classes, but I'm not afraid to go toe-to-toe with a pastor like Richard on theology. Richard (politely) begs to differ on my look at greed as well.
Greed and self-interest are not the only motivators, and they needn't be the most powerful. Contentment, service to others, personal satisfaction are just some of the things which may motivate us. But if those things are not encouraged and valued, it is not surprising that greed gets the upper hand. And I don't think that there is any denying that it has got the upper hand in our culture.
No, greed need not be that powerful, but it often is. If our culture's education system, including the church, is doing its job, those other virtues will be more predominant. However, even when those other virtues are in the driver's seat, greed grabs the wheel on a regular basis. Let me meditate on those three areas that Richard mentions Contentment-That's a truly Biblical concept. Envy is slapped down in the Ten Commandments and contentment is preached by both Jesus and Paul. One of the blessings of a modern market economy is that we have a cornucopia of goodies to choose from; in an earlier age, the average person had far less stuff and thus less to be envious about. Today, we have more goodies that we have budget to buy. We (at least in the US where commercial TV dominates) are inundated with advertisements for new products; while watching a football game this afternoon, I saw an ad for a electronic cooling necklace thing which would have come in handy walking around kitchy Mount Dora in 90-degree heat today. Had I not seen the ad, I wouldn't have thought of it as an option. Even if you keep away from commercial TV or radio, it's hard to be content when there are so many options. I'm not a big shopper; I did get three CDs at the local Christian store, but that was via a gift certificate from my birthday three weeks ago. Envy creates the desire to get more stuff and drives people to make money. Being a subsistence farmer doesn't cut it any more. However, I don't think we want to go back to subsistence farming, even if it meant less materialism. Our market economy leads to longer, healthier lives. We're having a more abundant life, and that is something Jesus would approve of. Some are having more abundant life than others, but life is better across the board than a century or two ago. Service to others-Altruism is nice if you can get it. If we can get people desiring to help others without compensation, things would run a lot more smoothly. However, that runs counter to human nature and it requires the help of the Holy Spirit to get a selfless person. Here's where moral education kicks in. If we can get people to be other-centered, we'd have less problems. Easier said than done. Personal satisfaction-People can take pride in a job well done and in helping others. However, pride doesn't pay the bills. Even if we get people who are more other-centered and more content, they will still only be less greedy, not saints. My view of economics and the proper size of government falls on two conflicting Biblical concepts; we're supposed to help the poor and that people are greedy sinners. The first lends itself to larger government and high taxes to pay for it. However, at some point, the high taxes discourage people from working hard and investing and we become less well-off (total collective happiness or commonweal) by having more government. At lower levels, bigger government aids the commonweal; the order from police and military, roads, schools and other basic infrastructure adds to the collective well-being. Poverty-fighting programs can, if properly done, add to the commonweal as well. However, if you raise the level of government enough, the taxes needed to finance that level of government discourages people from working hard, and the commonweal will suffer as a result. If we have a population of near-saints, that point where we jump the shark on the commonweal function will be bigger than where we have a greedier populous. However, there will be some point, even in a noble population, where growing the government becomes counter-productive. Political economy (the old name for economics) is the art of figuring out where that point is. Greed can be minimized, especially if the Holy Spirit is in charge. However, assuming that everyone is altruistic and would happily support big tax bills is a major economic blunder. I don't like being a pessimist about human nature, but I don't think that we're naturally good outside of God. Our economics should reflect that. Our theology should strive to bring people to Christ and to minimize that sin nature, but our economics should recognize that man is sinful and that that greedy nature needs a healthy outlet. In order to make as conformable a life as possible for the poor and the rest of us, we need to find that sweet spot that maxes out the commonweal. I'm likely to have a smaller-government vision than Richard does, and that isn't from a lack of interest of helping the poor, it flows from a desire to make the country (and the world) better off as a whole. If that is our goal, we can begin to talk through how to best go about doing that.

An Alabama Tax Reform Overview Before we go into the pros and cons from a economic or biblical perspective, let's see what they're voting on. Here's a summary document of the plan. The package would: (1) Nearly double cigarette taxes from 16.5 to 31 cents a pack. That's actually a bit regressive, since poor people tend to smoke more. However, if you tax something, you get less of it, and if you have to get tax revenue from somewhere, this is a good one, since less smoking is a good thing. (2) Shift property tax burden to the wealthy and to the agribusiness and timber industry- The plan cuts the state property tax rate from 0.65% to 0.35%, but it increases that taxable amount of property. Currently, houses, farm and timberland have only 10% of their property's value subject to tax, business property is taxed at 20% and utility property is taxed at 30%. This would be a four-fold increase in taxes paid for people with 10% property. However, the plan gives the little guy three breaks. Homeowners are not taxed on the first $50,000 in property value under the new plan, as opposed to $4,000 now. If you have a home worth more than $60,000, you'll be paying more in property taxes. Farmers get a 200 acre or $150,000 exemption. A key provision limits the current use tax break to 2000 acres. Currently, undeveloped property that would be more valuable as subdivision, mall or industrial property is taxed at the undeveloped rate. This would be helpful for smaller landowners, but the big timber companies will have far more than 2000 acres of land that falls into this category. (3) Increase a number of special sales taxes. Vehicle sales tax goes up 0.5%. Repair services and motor oil get taxed 4%. Vehicle rentals go up 1.5% That might not sound like much, but these increased sales taxes are slated to bring in $210 million, and seem to effect everybody. (4) Raise the exemptions and individual deductions on the state income tax. Today, a family of four would have the first $5200 exempted; the new plan would up it to ~$16,250. That's one of the big progressive arguments for the plan. (5) Get rid of exemptions for deductibility of federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes and property taxes. For many middle-income families, that will wipe out the gains from the exemptions and deductions. (6) Raise the top state income tax bracket from 5 to 6%.-Families making more than $150,000 will pay that higher rate. Who does this help? Small farmers and owners of small homes. People with incomes under $40,000 or so. The do-it-yourself industry, since repair services are now 4% more expensive. Who does this hurt? Business in general, especially large corporations. The timber industry takes it in the teeth. It hurts renters. Rent will go up by about a quarter-percent with the higher property taxes. It hurts car buyers; cars will a half-percent more expensive. It hurts the person with an older house, since repair bills just went up 4%. It will hurt the environment, for some of the timber land close to town may well be sold off and developed if Big Timber has to pay subdivision property tax rates on timberland. That will be one unintended consequence of that 2000-acre rule. It will hurt consumers in general, as the extra property tax on business property, repair tax and car tax will make things more expensive to do. Even if you don't buy cars, repairs or business property, the people who sell you stuff do, and that cost will be passed on in large part to the consumer. A half-percent boost to the cost of living in Alabama would be a fair guess. Inflation is a hidden tax, hurting everyone. So will the general drain on business that the higher taxes will cause. You may well see a form of localized stagflation kick in, as the higher taxes raise costs and thus raise prices to the general public and also cause firms thinking about setting up shop in Alabama think otherwise, especially if the company has a lot of high-paying jobs that will be taxed extra in the new progressive Alabama. There are parts of the plan that make sense. The increase in exemptions is good, as is some re-arrangement of the property tax burden. However, it looks like Riley and friends are sneaking in a ill-advised tax increase as sound Biblical finance.

Edifier du Jour-James 2:14-20
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
I came to this verse from the Alabama tax debate and this Bible study/pro-tax propaganda from an Alabama Methodist group; they used verse 1-17. I had used verses 1-8 as an April Edifier. In numerous passages, it is mentioned that we are to be judged by our fruits as to whether we have a legitimate saving faith; people without a faith in Jesus as their Lord may talk a good game, but have no transformation of their lives to show for it. As Rich Mullins put it, “I think you need some works to show For your alleged faith.” Without it, our faith, it as worthless as a screen door on a submarine. That fruit can show in the various Fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Those graces don’t need to be tied to a particular ministry, but many of those graces will have tangible manifestations, like helping the poor. Martin Luther didn’t like James much, for this emphasis on works made the Sola Fide doctrine very shaky. However, some people seem to want to change that to solo fide and create a private faith that doesn’t minister to others. Some of those people really don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. I found it interesting that the Alabama Methodists ended their pericope at verse 17, for verse 19 might hit too close to home for the left wing of their flock who might claim to follow God. Saying that there is one God is necessary but not sufficient, it is the Holy Spirit that enables those works once the believer has found a saving faith in Jesus, and that faith requires more than just a simple statement that is but one God. This isn't a cheap grace message. Believers will do hard things in that new-found (or not-so-new-found for us veterans) faith. Helping people in need is one of those manifestations. We'll fight over the mix of helping people in spiritual need and helping people in physical need, with the Methodists leaning more towards the latter, but those works are manifestations of a saving grace and not the cause of salvation.

Friday, August 29, 2003

The Outsourcing Problem-One of the things that we went over in my International Finance class is the idea that if you can digitize a product, it doesn't matter where you produce it, since you can zap it around the world in seconds. We've seen Papa Blog frequently riffing on that, but the most recent bloggage that caught my eye was from Illinigirl. She links to a Buisness Week article on the topic. This is an big issue in computer programming, where a good crop of Indian programmers have made Bangalore the Subcontenantal Silicon Valley. If a Bangalore guy can do as good a job at half the price of a Sunnyvale guy, it makes economic sense to farm it out to India. The Business Week piece mentions accounting work being farmed out to Filipino bean-counters; if you can put the data onto a Excel file, it doesn't matter where the guy working with it is. Even telemarketing and tech support can be farmed out as well; if the gal on the phone can speak solid English and can help you fix the problem, it doesn't matter that she's halfway around the world. However, this outsourcing can work both ways. If Americans have expertise in a field, firms from other countries can farm out the work here. Our software firms can sell worldwide and our financial services, insurance and media firms can do business around the world while still staying put here. Two things that can mitigate against outsourcing. The first is that the person has to have expertise in it's American application. Things like law might be harder to outsource, since foreign lawyers would have to be trained in American law to be helpful. Tax accounting might be another area that will be hard to farm out. Secondly, if a job requires physical contact or person-to-person contact, international outsourcing might not work. Unless remote imaging gets real good, doctors or physical therapists will stay US-bound. Well-trained foreign doctors might move here, but that will at least have them spending money here. That factor is a good reason to keep the H1B visas at a high level. If we have a choice of having Bangalore come to us or the jobs going to Bangalore, bring the Indian code-jockeys here. That way, the programmer's salary is being spent in the US, and any companies and bright idea that come from the immigrants are done in the US and not elsewhere. Quite a bit of our high-tech economy was built by immigrants; for instance, Intel's Andy Grove is a Hungarian immigrant, and the founder of Hotmail, Sabeer Bhatia, is Indian. Outsourcing is a side-effect of a digital economy. It might mean lower salaries for some, but higher salaries for others. Creative destruction, anyone?

Aftenoon Musings- Tony Blair's spinmeister, Alastair Campbell, got that sudden urge to spend more time with his family. Funny how politicians find that urge when they're on the hot seat. Congressman Bill Janklow might be spending quality time with his new boyfriend Spike instead of his family; he's up on manslaughter charges for his killing a guy after running a stop sign at 70 MPH. Full disclosure: I ran a stop sign at ~10 MPH while looking for a parking place 20 years ago, but I didn't kill anyone, either. [Update 9/1- Reader John Cliver properly rebuked me for that Spike crack-
Congressman Janklow is not one with whom many share good feelings, and, with his blatant disregard for traffic laws and the safety of others, he deserves to be punihsed. But he does not deserve prison rape. No one does. It certainly was nothing Jesus would have wished on his enemies. That was beneath you, and it was not Christian.
You are correct. Janklow doesn't deserve to be raped. Some time behind bars, possibily, but I don't want to wish rape upon anyone. That wasn't my better angels of my nature talking. I sometimes get too sarcastic for my own good. Keep letting me know when I step over the line.]

Midday Musings-Mr. Austin, I appreciate your suggestion for Israeli diplomatic gestures. It takes me back three decades to junior-high, where we use that exact gesture-and-phrase. Not edifying, but fun nonetheless. It looks like the Shiite is hitting the fan in Iraq; a bombing at the most prominent mosque in the Shiite mecca of Najaf killed 75. The head of that mosque, Ayatollah al-Hakim, is a respected cleric that is cooperating with the US. The jihadists don't like him, do they? This overstates things: "Arkansas GOP Left Without Senate Candidate." All the usual GOP suspects are blanching at taking on Sen. Lincoln, but some good state senator or mayor will step to the fore. Interesting zoo going on in Italy, where their second-division soccer teams are boycotting the start of the season; a series of lawsuits and fubars has expended Series B from 20 to 24, and 19 of the clubs are boycotting the start of the season. It makes our Sport Tort Center look tame. Another sports rape case, this involving Marlins catcher Ramon Castro. Athletes, do not take women back to your hotel room.

A Theology of Economics-Part II-Greed is-[Part one on Alabama's tax reform proposal is here] Richard Hall has been batting about the issue of capitalism the last week. In this post, he asks the question "...can anyone find anything in the teaching of Jesus that suggests I should be a 'maximiser of self-interest'? " Yes and no. Should you be selfish? No. Are you selfish? To the extent that you are still a fallen creature susceptible to sin, yes. One of the problems with a lot of secular leftist ideology is that they feel that mankind is perfectible with the right teaching; only through God can people be perfected, and then only party so in this world. There might be some in the Peanut Gallery who'd challenge me on the possible level of sanctification, but most of you will agree that even the saintly among us prefer more to less. People are naturally sinful and greedy. The presence of the Holy Spirit will minimize that nature, but our society as a whole is still greedy. While we are given the call to help the poor, we also need to reconcile ourselves to the idea that Joe Average is greedy. How then do we set up an economic system with fallen creatures? Capitalism does encourage greed, and often lying, as this one Rev. Hall post points out. However, a more socialist system also brings out some unsavory angels of our nature. If everyone makes the same amount, hard work holds little earthy reward, so laziness is encouraged. If politicians make decisions, and politicians and bureaucrats allocate goods, political power is prized. Effort will go into deciding how things get allocated rather than how to make more things. Creativity and diversity of ideas get sidetracked if there is no reward for new ideas. It isn't that "Greed is good", but that Greed is. People are selfish and we need to acknowledge that. Let's take a look at that Gordon Gekko speech from Wall Street in greater length
The point is, ladies and gentleman, greed is good. Greed works, greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms, greed for life, money, love, knowledge has marked the upward surge in mankind – and greed, mark my words – will save not only Teldar Paper but the other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
It isn't right, but greed does work. Greed gives people a reason to do something better, to make new products and to take risks on a new idea. Greed also gives people a reason to cheat, to make unsafe products if safety's too expensive, to pollute if cleaning it up is more expensive and to fire people if they aren't helping to maximize profits. However, a market-based system allows people to allocate resources well, since if there is an unmet market and there's money to be made, people will meet that demand. It may not be pretty. It may create the "creative destruction" of old business dying out to make room for newer, more efficient ones, but greed does work. A socialist system may be fairer, but it will tend to impoverish the population in comparison with a more market-oriented system. The goal of a more towards a market-oriented system is to reward people for good ideas, hard work and for investing in good ideas. Even though less is guaranteed, more is delivered to the community as a whole. A certain amount of redistribution of wealth is called for. However, at some point, the benefit from the government spending on the needy is overwhelmed by the effect on discouraging hard work and investment by lowering the take-home pay and after-tax profits of workers and investors. If more government spending makes us less affluent but happier due to more help for the needy, it is good. If it makes us both less affluent and less happy as a society, we have jumped the shark on the Byron Curve.

A Theology of Economics?-Jason Steffans looks at a Tapped piece on the Alabama tax reform proposal. Republcan governor Bob Riley has championed an increase in property taxes and added state income taxes on the wealth and an increase in the amount of income that people can earn before paying income taxes. The tax package is the brainchild of a tax lawyer named Susan Hamill, who found a so-so Methodist faith strengthened during a sabatical at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School. Hamill started seriously studying the Bible and grafted a help-the-poor message of the Bible to a left-leaning political outlook. There has always been a economically-liberal branch of evangelical thought, especially pronounced in areas where populism is at play. I don't have a good scriptural recipe for what a proper tax code is; for that, I have to look to see the damage done by taxes versus the good done by the spending. The zero-bracket on Alabama's state income tax could use raising and a hard look at property taxes might be an order. However, when I looked at Hamill's paper, "[h]er desired hermeneutics (that progressive taxation is good and low taxes on agricultural and timber land are bad) seem to be overstate the exegesis of a basic call to look after the poor." People on the economic left can take Biblical passages that ask the believer to look after the poor and apply it to any number of "progressive" economic issues. Would Jesus be in favor of a national-health-care system? Hard to tell from scripture. It's also hard to tell if Jesus would be a hard-core supply-sider, either. That's one of the reasons that I get nervous when Christian Coalition types start making God out to be anti-taxation. I can't point to chapter and verse and show where the Hamill-Riley proposal is unscriptural. What I can do is ask what the increased taxes will do to the Alabama economy and what the increased spending that will flow from it will do to actually mitigate the poverty problems Hamill seeks to help. I do think we spend a bit too much on government and that many things could be better done with less government interference, but that assessment is done by weighing the pros of the spending/security of regulation against the cons of the taxes needed to pay for it/burdens of the regulation. My theology of economics is to set up a system where we, as a people, can enjoy as abundant a life as we can within a broad moral framework. I'd probably vote no, but I don't think that Gov. Riley has lost his soul backing this one. He's the liberals favorate Republican at the moment, but I'm not about to excommunicate him for it.

Front-Page Haiku
The Terminator Proposition 13 props; Jarvis endorsement.
Things are looking good for Ahnold. The mainstream press are starting to pay attention to Bustamante's former membership and endorsement of the millitantly racist MEChA Mexican-American student group, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (Jarvis being the Prop 13 guy) backed Ahnold. The one LA Times poll that had Bustamante up 13 seems to have been an fluke at best. I don't think news of an old Oui article from the 70s will do him in. He seems to have been a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed lout three decades ago; key words being three decades ago. Hey, if it's good enough for Bill Clinton.... Seriously, the people who are going to voting against him on his less-than-choir-boy past would likely to have done so anyways. If someone can show that he's been gang-banging recently, then he's toast.

Towards a Good Muslim Europe?-This is a interesting Michael Vlahos Tech Central piece thinking about the growing Islamization of Europe. He spends time talking about the tolerance and multi-religious nature of the old Ottoman Empire, which included Greece and Serbia. However, if there is to be any syncratic movement like the early Ottoman era, it will most likely come from Islam. Firstly, there isn't much Christianity left in Europe. The vast majority of Europeans are nominally Christian, showing up in church for baptisms, weddings and funerals, or as the wag sayeth, hatching, matching and dispatching. Those who are active believers aren't going to be interest in squaring the circle from a religion that has Jesus as God incarnate, Lord and Savior to one where He is merely a prophet. Where the mergers will happen is in the successful communities. If Europe goes fairly well over the next few decades, the children of Islamic immigrants will have worked their way into the French and Germany economies and cultures. This will take some of the edge off of the militancy of Islam and will start to become housebroken. A more mainline Islam may wind up being preached, one that focuses more on the inner jihad of a faith walk. In that Good Muslim Europe scenario, one can see nominal Christian native Europeans marrying Muslim beaus and getting some nominal converts to Islam, much like a nominal Christian gal might lean over to Judaism when married to a Jewish guy. Also, as the native Christian churches continue their drying-up process, families who want their kids to have a moral education might not mind if their son goes to the mosque with his nice young friend Ahmed, if there isn't much of a Christian alternative left. This is one reason why places like France and Germany need to be mission fields for evangelicals. If the home-grown Catholic and Lutheran churches aren't up to the task (like the inability to get rid of an atheist priest in Denmark), we'll need to bring in some help. In the Good Muslim Europe scenario, you might see the Islamic equivilent of Reform and Conservative Judaism, where the theology is muted (bordering on non-existent in Reform) and synagogue life is Americanized. Such a mild-mannered Islam could become the majority religion if Christianity is a non-factor. Intermarriage will add to the numbers, as might converts from the Christian left. Once you take Jesus off the throne, demoting him to a secondary profit and adding the unitarian structure and grandeur of Islam will make sense to some. However, that's the Good Muslim Europe scenario. There's also the Bad Europe dystopic scenario. In the Bad Europe, the economy stagnates under over-regulation and over-taxation in a bloated EU. The Islamic immigrants are stuck in their blue-collar ghettos with a lot of unemployment and a lot of time to hang out in madrassas and mosques preaching the al Qaeda-style jihad. Native kids, equally unemployed and with too much time on their hands, will lean more towards nativist skin-head type rhetoric, while the negative feedback from the native hard-cases will drive the Muslims towards a more militant Islam. The result may well be a Lebanon-style civil war. Neither scenario is appealing. Even the Good Europe scenario sees Christianity withering on the vine, becoming a minority religion on its own home turf. To avoid the humanitarian dystopia, we need to see a economically-successful Europe. To avoid the spiritual dystopia of a Muslim Europe, we need to revitalize the European Church. The next Pope may well prove decisive in that fight. If they have a devout Southerner willing to go to the mat for a dying European church, the downward skid of the Catholic church might be slowed. However, more will be needed to avoid seeing Good Muslim Europe, including a lot of evangelism from the rest of the world. Europe sent out missionaries to evangelize the world in centuries past. Now the world has to return the favor.

..and Sometimes, the Mid-Major Bear Gets You-Northern Illinois 20-Maryland 13, OT. How to warm a double-MAC alum's heart in the morning. Sorry, all you Twerp fans. [Update 7:05AM-How did NIU get Maryland to play in DeKalb?]

Day Tripper Trader- I'd like to make a quick squeal about this BBC piece which seems to want to scare off people from investing in the stock market. This quote seems to be about as honest as their David Kelly pieces.
Alpesh Patel, a private investor and stock market pundit who has been trading full time since walking away from a career as a barrister seven years ago, is keen to dispel the notion that there's easy money to be made by dabbling in shares. Mr Patel reckons that up to 80% of private investors lose money, while the remaining 20% achieve their gains only by immersing themselves completely in the lore of the market, and trading actively.
That would be true of day-trading type of activity, where investors make short term, hour-by-hour trades, trying to time a stock's next move. Long-term investors will tend to make money in the long haul. The type of active trading that the BBC piece implies will tend to lose money, for any profits you may get from price changes are quickly eaten by commissions. When you're trading stuff that often, you're relying on more luck than skill. If you make the assumption that stocks are usually fairly priced, it will take exceptional insight or knowledge to successfully second-guess the market. Since most people don't have that level of skill (including finance professionals), short-term profits rely on luck. I hear that old Sinatra song in the background, Luck be a Lady. Luck ain't no lady tonight, Frank, that lady is a tramp, she ain't staying by your side. How you invest successfully is for the long-haul. You can have above-average insight, but don't count on it. Buy good stocks and watch them grow over the months and years; stocks will tend to make money over the long haul. Quick stock trading only makes money for the stock brokers, raking in your commissions.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 27:4-6
4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple. 5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. 6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
We were reading this just before we had a breakthrough with Eileen's depression last night. I was feeling under severe spiritual attack, with my mind envoking Popeye-"that's alls I can stands, I can stands no more." This psalm reminded me that God is still a hiding place no matter how bad things get. It's worth looking at verse four. The one thing David's after is to dwell in the house of the Lord. He's not asking for wealth or power or glory or health; those things are secondary to being with God and the peace and joy that flows from it.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Praise Report-There hasn't been much blogging the last week, partly due to my efforts of doing a better job of being a professor and preparing more and blogging less during the day. However, my mind has been worried about my wife, who's been fighting off a bad bout of depression this week. I can report that it now past-tense. A spirit of fear had been the cause of the depression, one that had been lingering in the Byron household since we've moved in a year ago. We prayed that son-of-a-[expletive deleted] out of the place this evening. That spirit that made the evenings painful and Saturday's excruciating has been bid bye-bye. We're sensing a closeness of spirit that we haven't had since before we were married. God 1-Devil 0 for the evening. God always wins when you give him enough time.

Edifier du Jour-Proverbs 3:21-26
21 My son, let them not vanish from your sight; Keep sound wisdom and discretion, 22 So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck. 23 Then you will walk in your way securely And your foot will not stumble. 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Do not be afraid of sudden fear Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; 26 For the LORD will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught.
One of the prayer warriors at church gave us verse 24 (by quote and not chapter and verse; on-line concordances are nice) last night. Eileen's been struggling with intense dreams and waking up more drained than when she went to bed. We need to both claim this passage and draw closer to God's wisdom from which that promise flows from. This brings to mind Psalm 119:105 (by way of Amy Grant)-"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. " However, this part of Proverbs goes a notch further and gives us a warm fuzzy as we go to bed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Talking to a Fiskee-I had a very interesting experience this afternoon. A year ago, I had ripped into a piece on Christians and Islam by the Lakeland Ledger's religion editor, Cary McMullen; I just got off the phone with him. Turns out he's doing a piece on religious bloggers and is coming out to do an interview with me later in the week. He seems to be a pleasant enough fellow over the phone and remembers Amy Welborn from her Lakeland days. You don't expect to actually converse in real life with the author of a column. I hope I wasn't that cheeky a year ago, but "steaming pile" looks a bit awkward in 20/20 hindsight. Oh, but it was a-steaming, even though the author seems to be a nice guy. .

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 7:21-23
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
This is a scary passage that can make you question your salvation. Does Jesus know me? Isn't he supposed to be omniscient? How can He not know me? A factoid from my junior-high Spanish might help. Spanish has two verbs for "to know," saber y conocer
The situation with regards to the correct use of saber and conocer can be summarized as follows: saber to know a fact, to know something thoroughly, to know how to do something conocer to be acquainted with a person, place, or thing
Lots of people can say that they are acquanited with Jesus. A little bit of exposure at church might let you know something about the historical figure of Jesus. However, that person only knows Jesus like he knows Julius Caesar. To move from conocer to saber requires a personal relationship, or at least a lot of intense study. Your Christmas-and-Easter churchgoer isn't going to sabe Jesus. Nor will Jesus sabe him. Jesus may conoce the C&E guy, but he won't really sabe him like the brother that he needs to be to inherit the Kingdom. Jesus is an is, not a was. You can know Him as more than just a historical figure, and pretty much have to if you want to avoid eternity's smoking section. You can't really sabe Julius Caesar, but you can sabe Jesus. ¿Tu sabes Jesus? [Update 7:10AM-The verse reads even rougher in Spanish The "I never knew you" part reads "Nunca os conocí." Jesus isn't even acquainted with them.]

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Evening Musings-The Gray Lady blows a headline-"Dean Readies Ad Blitz More Than Year Ahead of Election." Try five months. We'll be seeing both Iowa and New Hampshire before Valentine's day. Has it been fourteen years since Michael Chang came out of nowhere to win the French Open? You don't have too many born-again tennis players, so Chang was a refreshing class act; having both he and Sampras gone will leave a hole, even though Chang hadn't been a major factor for a while now. He's hanging up the racket after today's loss at the US Open. Interesting piece on Wesley Clark, his backer did some polling showing that people like his resume better than Bush or any of the Democratic candidates in a blind taste test. However, we don't elect resumes, we elect people, and Clark may be a bit too prickly to be a good candidate.

Bush Gardens?-Good news (at least for Winter Haven) out of Talahassee-the cabinet has signed off on helping out Cypress Gardens. The deal looks like this; the state will buy an enviromental easement on the botanical gardens part of the park, keeping it from being developed, then selling the park to a private buyer to run the park. Given the large amount of development going on in eastern Winter Haven and northern Lake Wales (which are quickly bumping into one another), that property would be a hot commodity if allowed to be developed. The free-marketeer is uneasy about the deal, but I've got just enough crunchy-con in me to think it's a good deal. At least it will mean the place will pay some taxes, which should reduce mine. Some people have proposed that Polk County run the place; don't make me lose my dinner, please.

The Check-Out Lane-Our Ag-Econ guy, Baggy-Slims, riffs on my quickie on ag subsidies from yesterday. Nice thoughts from Mr. Steffans on the Ten Commandments issues, including a link to a very good Derb piece on the subject. Derb's actually on the side of the angels on this one. I'm all for having this one out in court, but I don't think civil disobedience is the route to go here. Interesting thread going between Josh Claybourn and Richard Hall on capitalism and Christianity. Hall points out the vices that the profit motive encourages and puts in a plug for co-op businesses. Both the Ten Commandments piece and the Claybourn-Hall dialog will have a longer posts from me once I get out of "give us this day our daily PowerPoint" mode.

Edifier du Jour-Philippians 2:3-11
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The header to Philippians 2 in the NASB is "Be Like Christ." How come we don't have kids singing "I wanna be, wanna be, wanna be like Christ!"? Christ doesn't dunk in traffic or stick out His tongue as He posterizes the opposing two-guard. Sports prowess is sexy; humility isn't. However, even His Airness is no longer able to do the acrobatics that he did in his 20s and 30s. Such physical abilities are merely temporal, and can't be taken into the next life. Same with good looks, political power and ready money. A servant's heart can come with you. So let's be like Christ. Watch him pick the Pharisees' theological pockets. Watch His floor game as He washes the disciples' feet. Watch Him doing a Cross-over move at Golgotha, posterizing the Devil once and for all. Be like Christ.

Monday, August 25, 2003

¡Yo Queirro Jefe de Béisbol!-Ben mentions this Taco Bell campaign
"Buy a Beef Crunchy Taco, and we'll count that as a vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Buy a Chicken Soft Taco, and we'll count that as a vote for Governor Gray Davis." I have to think that the intangibles here are great. Arnold is crunchy, Gray is soft. Ha!
Other possibilities-Taco Salad for Ueberroth-lots of green but not much substance. Those cinnamon tortilla chips for Arianna Huffington-light and flaky. Steak Burrito for McClintock-Real red meat for the real conservative. Bean Burrito for Bustamante-It's cheap, it's vegetarian and it creates a lot of internal hot air.

Midday Musings-A little breather after my hour with the Romper Room my Macroeconomics class, all 38 of them, the third largest class at Warner. However, it seems that I'm getting more across this semester-the first quiz and homework assignment should tell if my feelings are correct. We were covering price ceilings and floors today, and I wondered why agricultural price supports manage to pass as easily as they do. On the consumer end, it results in higher prices. On the paycheck end, it results in higher taxes from the government having to buy up the excess stuff. However, the farm lobby outshouts the taxpayer and consumer1 interests. _____ Eileen and I spent an interesting evening last night at a Pentecostal church that our neighbors attend. I had to keep from laughing for the amount of characture I was seeing. One of the assistant pastors looked like Huey Long and the other looked like a born-again Paul Horning (if you know your football history, you'll understand why I need the adjective). All three of the pastors speaking had drawls so thick you'd need a steak knife to cut them and all of the were preaching in the "Somebody say AY-MEN! Halla-JU-YAH!" type of exhortive preaching that all three came out of Central Casting for Holy Roller Preacher. The church was also straight out of Central Casting. All the gals in dresses. Almost all the guys over 40 (and quite a few of the younger ones) in suit and tie. No modern praise and worship; the praise was uptempo but not part of the modern praise circuit, more old-school Pentecostal praise played with guitar, keyboard, drums, piano and (or course) industrial-strength revival organ. 180 Proof Pentecostal without a chaser.The only thing that kept it from being totally stereotypical was that it was about 30% black without being an actively "interracial" church; Eileen's freind Frieda, who invited us, is black. However, once you adapt to the stereotype, the Holy Spirit still works the same way and the Gospel is still preached. Pentecostal doesn't mean progressive; these folks were serious old-school and seem only progressive in that they seemed to have gotten past racial problems. __________ Rudy might wind up riding to Ahnold's rescue. The latest pull has Bustamante up 35-22, with McClintock pulling 12 and Ueberroth 7. Expect that to tighten in the next month, as the backers of the last two decide to vote for Ahnold rather than cast a protest vote, especially if Simon actively endorses Schwarzenegger. ______ Expect New Yawkers to be a bit grumpy; the Jets have lost Chad Pennington for most of the season and the US Open is being overshaddowed by Pete Sampras' retirement. The Jets have a good backup in Vinny T, but men's tennis is losing a class act and the man who's won the most majors in history (yeah, he never won the French, but 14 majors is still darn good); advantage Jets. ______ 1-In the true sense of the word, rather than the regulate-and-sue-business-into-the-ground Naderites who have co-oped the word consumer. Are their any lobby groups that are honestly out after Joe Consumer's (rather than Joe Trial Lawyer's or Terri Transi's) best interest?

Crude Justice?-Chris Johnson reported on the death of pedophile priest John Geoghan, the scripture he quotes speaks of God's judgment. This report on Geoghan's murder wasn't pretty. He was strangled and beaten by a fellow inmate with an anti-homosexual streak. I'm not usually an AI fan, but this guy hits it on the head
"Everybody in prison knows that prisoners who have attacked children are hated," said Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast regional director of Amnesty International. "Mr. Geoghan was sentenced to a long jail term. He was not sentenced to be beaten or murdered by another inmate."
That's true. Pedophiles are just about the lowest forms of life in jails. An elderly homosexual one would be just about rock bottom. Add to the fact that it is an ex-priest makes him about as low as you can get. They should have been a bit more aware of this and given him a bit more surveillance. However, the Mosaic Law would have had Geoghan executed for what he did. I'm not in favor of bringing that back today, but his prison death is a form of crude justice. The factoid on pedophiles I mentioned in the last paragraph is fairly common knowledge, and Geoghan likely knew that before he preyed on kids when he was supposed to be praying for them. He's getting what Paul would have called the due penalty of his error.

Jehovah Rapha Versus the MD-I haven't seen any bloggage on this one, but I'm sure some Bright's going to make a quip on this piece on an autistic kid dying in a Milwaukee prayer meeting; they were trying to exorcise the kid, thinking the autism was demonic-related. I'm not sure if we would have heard about this if the kid had died at school or at a Little League game, for this is a piece that makes the more secular three-quarters of the spectrum feel more enlightened than the holy rollers in Milwaukee. David Heddle, being the dad of an autistic son, could give a better description of autism than I, but it results from the brain having some short circuits, creating compulsive behaviors that are often disruptive to social function. If I recall correctly, there isn't a medical cure for autism, just coping mechanisms that try to minimize the disruptive behaviors. In less-enlightened times, such behavior would have been more likely to be attributed to demonic possession. This passage in Matthew 17 comes to mind
14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 "I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him." 17 And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
Today, the boy would have probably been deemed autistic. Such a cure is what the Milwaukee folks had in mind. In the past, when medicine was primitive and psychiatry was non-existent, a lot of illnesses was chalked up to demonic activity. Without any good ways to treat illnesses, prayer was the best answer, as a lot of what passed for medical care was often counter-productive. Today, we understand bacteria, viruses, cancer and other physiological and psychological problems that the people of centuries past either chalked up to "natural causes" or possession. However, the Devil didn't go out of business when penicillin and psychotherapy was invented. We often have the opposite problem of our ancestors; where they didn't have a handle on the physical causes of things, today's naturalists haven't got a handle on the spiritual realm. Some diseases will have a demonic component to them, while many mental illnesses aren't treatable by what's available in the pharmacy or by talk therapy. Some of the problems only come out via fasting and prayer. God has the power to heal, whether the problem be a physical disease or a emotional problem. He also has the power to get rid of demons, if that is the source of the problem. In many devout churches, right after hearing about Jehovah Jirah, God the Provider, you'll often hear of Jehovah Rapha, God the Healer. You have a handful of hard-cases out there who don't believe in doctors, but most people who believe in God's healing power recognize that God can heal through natural processes such as medication and surgery. However, they also recognize that God can do some disintermediation and heal the person directly. Something went wrong Friday night in Milwaukee. The kid may have had a seizure that his teacher or care-giver wouldn't have been able to deal with, either. However, that doesn't mean that that Faith Temple may haven't been right in seeking deliverance for the kid. They may have confused a seizure for being slain in the spirit and though some spiritual warfare was going on in the kid. With autism being hard to treat, these folks may have given up on the medical profession for this kid and solely relied on God. Let's not make apparent fubars like this keep us from thoughtfully making God part of the healing mix. Let's also not make this take the spotlight off of Ol' Sloughfoot and his mischief-making in the world; he doesn't cause every illness, but he'd go a hand in more of them than we think.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 8:1-9
1 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. 3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 4 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! 6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
This is an interesting Psalm, so interesting that Hebrews 2 quotes it. However, in Hebrews, here's how it comes out
5 For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one has testified somewhere, saying, "WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? 7 "YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; 8 YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
For some reason, running that quote through the Greek Old Testament of the day downgraded us from just below God to just below angles. That undersells where we're at. <political rant>Open note to the ELF types, if you happen upon this: we're not making up speciesism out of our cockiness; God built that in. We can be cocky in misusing the gift of natural resources God has given us, but we have been given stewardship. The cosmos is ours to use.</political rant> The mantra of Pastor Dave's sermon yesterday on Hebrews 2/Psalm 8 was "I am of extreme significance" to God. Not Dave himself, but the believer. God took us naked apes and gave us a soul and a place of fellowship with Him. We aren't just some insignifcant carbon-based life form on some planet in a unimportant galaxy, we're people He sent His son to die for, and we're people that He wants to share His life and creation with. Not ugly bags of mostly water, uh-uh.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Hospitality and the Church-I always get a chuckle out of churches that have a "Vistors Welcome" sign on their billboard; the Lutheran church on Cypress Gardens Road near our apartment has one. Do you ever see a "If we get any more people, we'll have to go to two sevices, so GO AWAY!!" sign? However, once we get those people into the seats, do we make sure that they are welcomed and made part of the community. The topic came to my mind Friday night when I saw this T-shirt on a guy to my left at Woody's BBQ. Not that I'm supporting the consumption of hard liquor, but the secular world seems to have a better handle on fellowship and hospitality than the church does. At most churches, the slogan would be "Tresspassers will be offered a visitors packet and a name-tag." People are looking for some place to have a sence of community, like the old Cheers theme "Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came." If they don't get it from a church, they'll get it from a watering hole like the Parrothead at Woody's. Do we make sure the person understands what's going on, is led to Sunday School classes for them and their kids, is made to feel at home by someone chatting with them, and is contacted during the week to see what they thought and how the church can do for them. Actually doing something to make a visitor feel at home means more than a "Visitors Welcome" sign in the front.

Afternoon Musings-Good news for Ahnold (however you spell it); Bill Simon has thrown in the towel. He hasn't endorsed anyone, but may not have to. There is an outside shot that McClintock could pick up enough conservative support to make him a viable alternative, but I think Schwarzenegger's anti-tax, budget-trimming speech of last week seems to make that a pipe dream. It would take a serious faux pas from Ahnold at this point for him not to win with Simon out. Look likes the Israelis have done another pest control operation in Gaza. A car has been blasted, killing four, the second such take-out in Gaza in a week. Which Hamas biggie was among the four is still unknown. We're back in industrial-size-can-of-whuppin' mode in the Holy Land. The Aussies may have created a martyr; the Aussie Pat Buchanan, Pauline Hanson, was convicted of fudging documents to get her One Nation party on the ballot. Since the three-year sentence was handed down, the party has shot up in the polls. The current Liberal (right-of-center) party government of PM Howard picked up quite a few One Nation voters when they got tougher on immigration; this might not be the best way to keep them. Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of MLK's I Have a Dream speech. Da Commish provides the text; the heirs of what Ben called "MLK Inc." proceed to butcher the memory. John Lewis' raises the blood pressure a notch with this
"I was here 40 years ago, 23 years old, a few pounds lighter, with all of my hair," he said, as he asked young and old alike to do more. "Too many of us are too complacent, too satisfied. We need to make a little noise."
Noise is what you've been making for far too long, Congressman Lewis. Progress is what is needed, and not in the amoral, big-government mode that the marchers would consider "progressive."

Sacramento Spelling Bee-What is the proper phonetic spelling of the next governor of California? "Boo-STAH-mon-tay?" Not quite. The cover of Time spells it Ahhnold. I've been spelling it Ahnold, with one h, and others have been spelling it Ahnuld.

Edifier du Jour-1 John 4:15-18
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Eileen wasn't doing well yesterday; she's been struggling with a lack of fellowship/friendship/prayer partners (other than me, but she needs more) as well as fears about going back into teaching and fears of losing her grandma, who hasn't been doing well as of late. Saturday, being a day off, gave her time to dwell upon those fears, and by dinnertime, we were really needing some prayer reinforcement. We normally don't head over to Lakeland for the Saturday evening prayer meeting, but I knew that I needed help praying her through this. We wound up having one of the most potent prayer meetings I've ever seen. It went for over three hours with a dozen or so of the core of the church. Two of those three hours were in impromptu praise, some on CD chosen by Pastor Dave and Doug, the assistant worship leader, some lead by the Doug on guitar. People wound up doing a lot of individual praying during that stretch, or other forms of impromptu worship that 'twern't decent and in order. During one ad-libbed chorus of Doug, I was in prayer, rather depressed about my inability to help Eileen, on the floor, face-up, about where the pulpit lectern would be on Sunday morning. The spot lights on the ceiling somehow reminded me of the lights in a operating theater and was praying for heart surgery, but not they type the Cleveland Clinic specializes in. Shortly thereafter, with my spirit improved, I had felt led to accompany Doug on the bongos during his improv praise. Mind you, I've never played the bongos (or any other sort of drums) in my life beyond a few random smashes we've all likely done passing a drum set as a youth. However, after a little trial and error (not much error, though), I was laying down a darn-good rhythm pattern to Doug's tune. God kept moving once the music stopped. Eileen and I got prayed over, and her continence improved dramatically. If she came in at a 8.7 on the depressometer, she left a 2.3; not perfectly cured, but back to a controllable level of melancholy. The verse above was quoted. The love we had last night wasn't quite perfect, but it was about as close as you can get, and it drove out a large chunk of fear in her and in me. I was prayed over as well. A number of those things struck home (1) Becoming less of a boy and more of a man. Despite being 42, I still feel like a pre-teen much of the time. The word Bar Mitzvah came to Pastor Dave; time for me to claim my place as a adult warrior for God. (2) Taking the head knowledge that I have and start to transfer it to my heart and start acting on it. (3) One of the elders during my prayer-soaking had the song The Impossible Dream going through his head in regards to me. Like Don Quixote, we're seen as fools on a fool's errand, often doing things that the word thinks can't be done. I need to keep being that fool for Christ. (4) People keep saying that I have a "good heart." It's a tender one, easily wounded, but one that is striving after God in my own selfish, self-centered way. Both Eileen and I came out of last nights meeting changed, hopefully in ways that will stick in the weeks and months to come. Pray that it be so.

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