Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What to do in light of the financial chaos

When tempted to worry, do the following:

1. Ask yourself: is there anything I can do?

Then do it.

2. If there's nothing you can do (you can't save the banks and you can't turn markets around), stop worrying.

Even better, pray.

3. Avoid negative thinking. Watching the furrowed brows on CNBC does you no good, and tempts you to worry. Stop doing it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

For the day when the panic button is being pushed all over the world

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

Matthew 6.25-34

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Names in New Testament times: David and Abraham and Moses

I find it intriguing that some Old Testament names are not found in the New Testament. Meaning, folks are not given those names.

There is no one contemporary to the New Testament who's named Abraham. Or David. Or Moses.

I wonder if there was a custom to avoid these names for children. (Perhaps in the same way that most Anglo Christians do not name a song "Jesus." We might go for "Joshua," which is the same. Our Mexican brethren on the other hand go for Jesus pretty frequently).

Going to the dogs: How Nature magazine featured Obama and McCain

"Has the American presidential campaign gone to the dogs?

One could be forgiven for thinking so after seeing the latest issue of Nature magazine."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Why $700 Billion? They Made It Up, Says Treasury Spokeswoman

From Forbes.com:

"In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Her that had been the wife of Uriah"

Matthew 1.6: "David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias."

I was intrigued here by St. Matthew's genealogy of Christ. Why does he describe Bathsheba in this way? Why does he avoid using her name?

Matthew Henry's commentary on this passage gives a good explanation of this text:

"There are four women, and but four, named in this genealogy; two of them were originally strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, Rachab [sic; "Rahab"] a Canaanitess, and a harlot besides, and Ruth the Moabitess; for in Jesus Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew; those that are strangers and foreigners are welcome in Christ, to the citizenship of the saints. The other two were adulteresses, Tamar and Bathsheba; which was a further mark of humiliation put upon our Lord Jesus, that not only he descended from such, but that his descent from them is particularly remarked in his genealogy, and no veil drawn over it. He took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8.3), and takes even great sinners, upon their repentance, into the nearest relationship to himself. Note, We ought not to upbraid people with the scandals of their ancestors; it is what they cannot help, and has been the lot of the best, even of our Master himself. David's begetting Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias is taken notice of (says Dr. Whitby) to show that that crime of David, being repented of, was so far from hindering the promise made to him, that it pleased God by this very woman to fulfill it."

Psalm 102: a paraphrase

I'm very fond of this tune. This is a good example of fine a capella singing of a Psalm paraphrase. Singing the Psalms is a skill which catholic Christians have lost, and I would like to see recovered. (Technically, of course, this is not Psalm singing: it's a paraphrase. By psalm singing, I mean the word-by-word singing or chanting of the straight text of the Psalm. This is to Psalm 102 what Luther's Mighty Fortress is to Psalm 46).

Ending poverty

There are a couple of initiatives out there, hoping to end poverty, in our generation.

Which is an admirable goal.

My question: how would such initiatives measure that their goal had succeeded?

Poverty is a moving target. Most of those we consider "poor" in the US have a home, air-conditioning, heat, TV, cars, and other luxuries that would have been the envy of 16th century royalty. How are we to measure poverty? What's the objective, hard definition?

(Homelessness is very often a function of mental illness. Not always, but the explosion of homelessness came about after the de-institutionalizing trend of the 1970s. When someone's without a home, there's usually some component of this issue lurking in the sidelines).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"The Most Disgusting Food. Ever."

I went to Mongolia for 3 weeks in 1995. It was a high point in a love for that central Asian country which began when I was 16. I was interested in evangelizing the Mongols at a time when there were no Mongol Christians. And no missionaries. And a place that was almost impossible to get into. Much less preach the gospel.

Now Mongolia's different. Communism fell in 1991, in that sweeping wave of freedom that shook the world to the core. Mongolia's officially a Buddhist republic now, but freedom of religion is not a fiction. And there's a church. A thriving, growing church. Ulaanbaatar -- the capital -- has a Roman cathedral. Things have changed.

What has not changed is Mongolian food. When I was there, I lost 10 pounds. Let's just say that the Mongols were into Atkins before it was a trend. They eat meat and dairy products, and not much else. And they can't quite figure out why us non-Mongols are so set on vegetables. They are of the opinion that vegetables taste "dirty," (their phrase). Here's a recent update on Mongol cuisine. Just don't go if you're a foodie.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning and the learned

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."

Eric Hoffer

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hints about how English was spoken in 1611

In The Murder of Helen Jewett, the author tells us how there was confusion over whether the victim's name was "Helen" or "Ellen."

The author speculates that the confusion was perhaps because both names were pronounced identically in New York in 1836 (the year of Jewett's murder in New York). (Or almost identically. Perhaps a very slight voicing of the "h" in "Helen," but not much).

And we have no way of knowing, as I alluded to yesterday, as there is no way of knowing exactly how folks spoke in 1836. In New York, or anywhere. We can know written language from that time. But we cannot know oral language. And the 2 are often dissimilar.

But we have hints. Such as in Psalm 3.3, where we find this phrase: "my glory, and the lifter up of mine head." Why my glory, but the lifter up of mine head?

In spoken language, we smooth off the hard sounds, and create a more musical sound. That's the hint we have in Psalm 3 (in the Authorized Version), as it was spoken in the early 17th century: "my glory" sounds fine. "Mine head" (as we pronounce, with a voiced "h") sounds a little harsh.

So when the AV came off the press, the initial "h" (as in "head" or "Helen" or whatever) was unvoiced, or perhaps given the slightest hint of sound, so Psalm 3.3 would have sounded like this: "my glory and the lifter up of mine 'ed."

Friday, September 19, 2008

What historians have trouble knowing

Many womens' studies history complain that history -- traditionally understood -- focuses on outward, state-based history, often meaning the history of war and that of governments. I think they're usually correct.

I'm fascinated by the smaller aspects of history, such as how people lived, what they ate, where they lived, and how they interacted with each other. (One of my continuing interests is private confession and absolution in the Bible. Private confession is by its very nature not well-documented, but I'm intrigued by hints at private confession in the Bible: such as I Samuel 1.9-18: "So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." Eli was seated, and I wonder what he was doing there. Waiting on folks who needed absolution, counsel, and succor). Such studies usually get short shrift in classrooms.

If we don't have documents (or something similar, such as archeological artifacts), we don't have history. Language -- the way we actually talk on a day-to-day basis -- is difficult to document, although recording devices over the last 50 years have made it easier. What we have trouble knowing is when certain speech habits and patterns changed. (In the novel The Doomsday Book, a historian travels from 2048 back to an English village in the 14th century. One of her purposes -- only historians used time travel then -- was to record if a certain glottal stop was still used in speech).

Spoken language is ephemeral, and not always closely related to written language. I suspect that historians a thousand years from now will study our language. I hope they understand that a lot of what is recorded -- say, political speeches -- are formal speech, and not what teenage girls said to each other at McDonald's.

"Does Biden Have a Catholic Problem?"

" ... a mounting backlash from Catholic bishops against Biden, Barack Obama's "Catholic" pro-abortion running mate. At that time I estimated eight bishops had come out to denounce Biden; the total is now 55. Beyond that, Biden is being trashed across every state of the Union by Catholic newspapers, TV and radio stations, and blogs. It is a tsunami of rejection."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Give 'em Hell, Sarah

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the things lurking beneath the surface in the debate about Gov. Palin is a class question: people who ask, sotto voce, "Well, surely someone like that shouldn't be vice-president?"

Steven F. Hayward, of The Weekly Standard
asks a similar question.

"Lurking just below the surface of the second-guessing about Sarah Palin's fitness to be president is the serious question of whether we still believe in the American people's capacity for self-government, what we mean when we affirm that all American citizens are equal, and whether we tacitly believe there are distinct classes of citizens and that American government at the highest levels is an elite occupation."

The origins of feudalism

Is America the last feudal state? I mean "feudal" in the sense of a medieval governing structure?

Better minds than mine have suggested this. (And long before I write this today). Ruminating on the idea leads to the grudging thought that there might be something to it.

In William Marnell's The Good Life of Western Man, he speaks of the beginnings of the theory of feudalism. To me, this description (from Coutume de Bayonene, about 1273) sounds a lot like the way Americans have classically viewed their relationship with their government. It's not definitive, but it rang a bell in my mind:

"The people come before the lords; it is the lesser folk, more numerous than the others, who, wishing to live in peace, create lords to restrain and defeat the strong and to maintain each man in his rights, so that each may live according to his condition, the poor with their poverty and the rich with their wealth. And to assure this in perpetuity, the populace has submitted itself to a lord, has given him what he holds, and has kept what the people hold for themselves. It is in witness of this that the lord should take the oath to his people before the people take it to their lord; and this oath taken by the people to their lord is only binding so long as the lord keeps his oath."

The lies of Hiroshima are the lies of today

"When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite."

An echo of the truce of God?

When I mentioned earlier today about the peace of God/truce of God, I thought about this event:

"On Christmas Eve of 1914 during the ‘War to End All Wars,’ the soldiers on both the German and English sides formed an unofficial cessation in hostilities to wish each other a Happy Christmas and celebrate the Holy Day."

Limited warfare

Military history bores me. I find it fascinating, for example, that most historians of the war between the states (1861-65) are amateurs. However, I'm just not interested in the actual work they do. Go figure.

But the medieval convention of the "peace of God" is interesting to me. However, I had never heard of the "truce of God," -- a related subject -- until reading this book: William H. Marnell's The Good Life of Western Man, which traces Western civilization's representative man through five stages, if you will: the citizen (in Athens), the saint (in early medieval Europe), the prince (later medieval and the Renaissance), the philosopher (the early 18th century) and the "individual," in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The peace of God and the truce of God were means of limiting something that sinful man finds difficult to stop: warfare. The peace basically limited warring to the dead of winter, and the heat of summer, times that limited war's interference with agriculture. The truce stopped warfare from vespers on Wednesday to sunrise on Monday.

It's easy to wonder why, if they could stop war during these fairly long periods, they couldn't stop it altogether. That's an easy idea, and too easy. Men were sinners then and we still are. But limiting warfare was the Church's means of putting brakes on that sin, and protecting non-combatants, such as women, children, the elderly, etc. Our medieval ancestors also had customs such as that an armed knight could not attack an unarmed knight. Total warfare, in which all are viewed as enemies, was something that came about began with the war of 1861, and continues until Sept. 18, 2008. Our capacity for self-admiration easily forgets that our forefathers 800 years ago had learned and put into practice the realization that there must be limits to our sinful impulses. We have forgotten that.

Pain and quitting

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."

Lance Armstrong
Cancer Survivor and Athlete

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thomas Cahill's 'How the Irish Saved Civilization': an Amazon review

"This book came out in 1995. And I've avoided it since then.

I was wrong.

I'd been told the book is superficial. It is: any book of this length that tries to cover a subject of the length and breadth here is sure to be superficial.

And perhaps superficial is too harsh. "A good overview" might be a better way of describing it.

But this is an engaging, entertaining read. I found myself drawn into a subject I knew little about, the history, people, culture and faith of Ireland and the Celts. For those wanting more background, Cahill provides a useful bibliography at the end. Those wishing for more than this overview can find years of study in the books recommended in the bibliography.

An overview gets us started. It's not where we should stop, but it provides a means of seeing the big picture, and understanding how to fit in the necessary minutiae of history. This book is that good beginning for understand how the Irish were the bookmeisters at the end of the Roman empire."

Abortion Survivor Calls Out Obama in New Ad

What do I do for God

God doesn't need our works. He doesn't need them to somehow placate Him (as we often imagine) and He doesn't need them to be somehow paid back for what He's done for us.

"What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD." (Psalm 116.12-13)

Ultimately, all we can render to God is worship: receive the Supper, the "cup of salvation," and call upon God. Everything else -- everything else -- flows from that.

How to find a mentor

I recommended a mentor yesterday, for those seeking to become pastors. Finding such a mentor is not always easy.

The decision is ultimately yours -- assuming your proposed mentor is in agreement. So you should trust your judgment, and listen to what your instincts are telling you.

Think about those whom you trust. Do they have suggestions or ideas? Think also about pastors who have made an impression on you and whose ministry you appreciate. Don't overlook the possibility that a potential mentor might be your own pastor, in your own church.

Join online discussion groups. Tread warily here, because some such groups are toxic snake pits, but you'll usually find that out pretty quickly. But listen to what guys are saying, and what they're not saying. If you appreciate and respect someone's comments, that might be a lead.

But decisions like this can never be made using only online information: you must visit such a one personally. Yes, it is worth the trip to determine if you might want to approach someone about mentoring you. You will find aspects and information about them meeting personally that would never come out online.

Most of all, pray about such a decision. Ask God to bring someone into your life that would work for you, and ask for wisdom as to this decision, and for wisdom for the whole process. God is the Lord of the harvest. It is His field in which you will work, and He cares about your plans.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Confessionals and the LCMS

I don't recommend that people who describe themselves as confessionals stay in the LCMS. The Missouri Synod is a toxic atmosphere, and it's not getting better.

This is especially true for seminarians and those contemplating seminary. We will never see confessional Lutherans in positions of influence again. Confessionals will be permitted in the Synod, but will remain marginalized, isolated individuals. The reality is that confessionals have not been in positions of influence in the Synod as a whole for decades.

So what should guys wanting to become pastors do? There's nothing per se wrong with much of what goes on in LCMS seminaries, especially if the student is astute and picks professors carefully. But LCMS seminary is an investment of at least 4 years of time and energy. I think that confessional Lutherans can do better.

What I'd recommend is finding a pastor who will mentor you. Which means you would move to where such a man is. Join his church. Teach Sunday school. Start small, which means you might be teaching first graders. That's OK. If you can't explain theology to first graders, you don't know it well. Help with the church. Assist the pastor. Go on sick calls. Volunteer.

All of which means you must have a skill to support yourself. Find a portable skill that works for you. Medical skills are good and in demand. There's been a shortage of nurses (RNs) for the past 80 years. You could do worse than earning a nursing degree, and nursing provides time flexibility which you could use when you are in a congregation. IT and computer skills are another area.

I say this because if you're confessional, and you're not LCMS, you'll be bi-vocational. Worse men than you have been bi-vocational. St. Paul, for example. You'll likely be in a small, tight-knit congregation. A small, tight-knit congregation that may -- if you're lucky -- consist of 15 to 20 souls.

Why small? Because most confessionals will not leave the synod. They like the respectability or they want to "turn the synod around" or it's just inertia. So don't imagine that you'll have a large congregation. Maybe you will. But probably you won't.

Being mentored by a faithful pastor will help give you the skills you'd need in a small church. And learning to do the "small" tasks will give you a feel for how to do the jack-of-all-trades quality you'll need in a small church.

Tomorrow: what to study.

The Ivy League

from Smugopedia:

"The Ivy League universities happen to be good schools, but academics has nothing to do with the Ivy League: the Ivy League was founded as a football league and still today remains merely an intercollegiate athletic league."


"It is rather smug how Harvard alumni, when asked where they went to school, respond with, "In Boston."

This is kind of spooky ....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike and theology

Another -- big -- hurricane has it. Our thoughts, prayers, and physical aid need to be with the folks in southern Texas. Living through a storm like this is simply impossible to describe. Picking up the pieces is more difficult than most of us can even imagine.

I've suggested here that America's weather extremes may contribute to some of the extremes we likewise face in theology. Hurricane Ike reminds us of that.

Probably the worst campaign ad I've seen so far this year

Elizabeth Dole is running for re-election for the senate from North Carolina. It's in election years when Dole re-discovers her North Carolina accent. But this -- against opponent Kay Hagan -- is terrible. Contrary to the ad, nobody calls Hagan "fibber Kay." Actually, no one under the age of 70 uses the term "fibber." Which is precisely the audience this is designed for: old people. I'm just surprised there's no statement on the ad that "no animals were harmed during the filming of this ad."

And saying Dole is one of the "10 most admired women in the world"? Please. It's embarrassing. But as Mark Twain noted, America has but one native criminal class, that's the US Congress. And as he further noted, man is the only animal who blushes, or needs to. But members of congress are not noted for blushing.

How to solve the housing crisis in 3 months

Politically impossible. But that's probably why it would work. Video from CNBC.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Getting practical about prayer

"Let's get very, very basic and very, very practical about prayer. The single most important piece of advice I know about prayer is also the simplest: Just do it! The major obstacle in most of our lives to just saying yes to prayer, the most popular and powerful excuse we give for not praying, or not praying more, or not praying regularly, is that we have no time. The only effective answer to that excuse, I find, is a kind of murder. You have to kill something, you have to say no to something else, in order to make time to pray."

Peter Kreeft


A fine Spanish-Gypsy version of this classic:

Rant: about "troops"

Sometimes it's the language nerd in me. I try not to complain about language. Words are fluid, complex, and they frequently shift meaning and usage.


My complaint today is an easy one. It's a question of plurals.

A "troop" is a body of soldiers. ("Body" in a corporate sense, not like the flesh and blood body).

"Troops" are several "bodies of soldiers."

But almost no one uses this correctly. We say (as did Gov. Palin in her acceptance speech) that someone is "one of those troops."

One may be a member of a troop. No individual can be "one of those troops."

(Where did the current usage come from? I don't know. I'm suspecting 2 things. First, saying someone is "one of those troops" avoids our saying "one of those soldiers," because "troop" is thought to have a softer, more genteel sound than soldier. Likewise, troop is used as a generic term for military individuals, so we avoid having to differentiate between soldiers, marines, seamen, whatever).

Is Biden coming off the ticket?

I wonder if we're being primed for removing Sen. Biden from the Democratic ticket.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where I was 7 years ago tonight

7 years ago tonight, I had an appointment for work.

It was on the outskirts of Liberty, North Carolina, a small town about 15 miles from my home.

I did my work. I headed back home, and filled my car up with gas.

Why do I remember these mundane details? Because the next day was 9/11. My mind works like that: when a big event happens, I remember a lot of peripheral details around it, too.

A thousand years from now, folks will study the events of 9/11. We lived through them.

I wish 9/11 could have been just another mundane day. I wish it could have been remembered in history for the minor details of the New York City mayoral race.

But it wasn't to be. Be thankful for dull news days. I wish 7 years ago tomorrow morning could have been dull. Remembering the events of that sad day bring sadness, even now.

If Sarah Palin were different

Would Sarah Palin be treated differently if:

-- she were a member of that exclusive club, the U.S. Senate, rather than a mere governor?

-- she were from New York, or New Jersey, or Florida?

-- she were a member of an "acceptable" minority religious group (such as Episcopalian, or United Methodist or Presbyterian) rather than a member of Wasilla Bible Church?

-- she were dumpy and dowdy?

-- she had a "respectable" 2 children?

-- those 2 children were, say, one a senior at Princeton, and one at Harvard Law?

-- her husband were an attorney?

-- her parents were, say, a former president, or a senator, rather than a school secretary and 4th grade teacher?

-- she enjoyed watching horse races, rather than hunting and fishing?

-- her husband were a yachtsman, rather than a snow racer?

-- we had no pictures of her firing a gun?

-- we had no pictures of her with a dead moose?

-- she were not a former Miss Alaska?

-- she didn't have big hair?

Don't kid yourselves, folks. Part of what's going on here is a class thing. Gov. Palin's not a member of the class that some think our presidents should be drawn from. (I think it's a compliment that she's not a member of that group).

She's getting some of the the same snide treatment Prime Minster Thatcher got. Thatcher was looked down on because she didn't come from the aristocracy that British Prime Ministers usually came from. Her father ran a grocery store. Thatcher herself was a chemist who worked her way up through the ranks. And the Tory establishment never forgave Thatcher's impertinence for thinking she could change Britain, and the world. She did. I hope Gov. Palin remembers that after Jan. 20th.

Paglia on Palin: "A beady-eyed McCain gets a boost from the charismatic Sarah Palin, a powerful new feminist -- yes, feminist! -- force"

"The gigantic, instantaneous coast-to-coast rage directed at Sarah Palin when she was identified as pro-life was, I submit, a psychological response by loyal liberals who on some level do not want to open themselves to deep questioning about abortion and its human consequences. I have written about the eerie silence that fell over campus audiences in the early 1990s when I raised this issue on my book tours. At such moments, everyone in the hall seemed to feel the uneasy conscience of feminism."

Job's sin and Adam's

When Adam sinned, he furthered his sin by a religious sin: he covered himself (Genesis 3.7) with fig leaves.

When he sinned, rather than come to God for forgiveness, he sought his own "religious" solution: a covering of his own making.

Our sin-bent response to sin is to avoid God, to stay away from church, to avoid prayer, when what we need is to confess, forsake, and cleave to God.

In seeking to understand what has happened to him, Job explicitly denies this religious sin. He doesn't claim to be sinless, but he didn't follow Adam's sin: "If [and the if is an if of denial] I covered my transgressions as Adam." (Job 31.33)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Obama Is Losing Support Among Moderate Evangelicals

"Earlier in the week, Mark DeMoss, a supporter of John McCain who had earlier predicted Sen. Obama could get as much as 40% of the evangelical vote, revised his estimates downward. Was it “game over?” I asked. “Yes, I think so,” he said."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The future of conservatism

"The best line I heard about Sarah Palin during the frenzied orgy of chauvinist condescension and gutter-crawling journalistic intrusion that greeted her nomination for vice-president a week ago came from a correspondent who knows a thing or two about Alaska.

“What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?”

“One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let's be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy.

“The other kills her own food.”

Judas and the treasury

The New Testament is clear: Psalm 109 tells us about Judas. St. Peter explicitly connects 109.8 with Judas in Acts 1.20

(As with all the Psalms, 109 is primarily about Christ. The point of the Old Testament isn't to tell us about our forefathers in the faith or about the law or whatever, though it does all of those: it's about Christ. cf. John 5.46: " For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.")

What I noticed yesterday was the connection between the comment in John 12.6 ("This he [Judas] said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein") and Psalm 109.16.

Why do people steal? Like all sins, theft is a spiritual problem: we don't trust that God will provide for us. And contrary to the Robin Hood myth, thieves seldom steal to give: they steal to hoard. And thieves are usually niggardly, mean individuals. Sin warps us. Thievery is no different.

Luther got it right in his explanation (in his Small Catechism) of the 7th commandment: "We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor's money or property, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business."

The point of the commandment against theft is both negative (don't steal) and positive (be of help to others). Judas not only stole from the treasury (and begrudged those who bypassed the treasury by anointing Christ) but he hurt the poor, and kept help from them.

In the midst of the storm

It's 7:21 on Saturday morning, and it seems that we have -- at least here in Piedmont North Carolina -- dodged the bullet as far as hurricane Hanna goes. There's a heavy rain with wind gusts, but I don't see any damage outside.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Why I love "whatever"

"Whatever," in current slang usage gives a perfect combination of indifference and derision. That's hard to achieve in a single word, but we can probably thank some teen somewhere in 1999 with giving it to us.

Normally, when we use the word ("Whatever you'd like would be fine," for instance) the word -- like most words in most languages -- has a musical quality. It goes from a medium tone ("what")to a higher one ("ev") to a lower ("er").

When used in the derisive sense ("You could do better in algebra." "Whatever.") the tone is different. The word sounds bored. It starts off high ("what") goes lower on the next syllable ("ev") and the tone remains the same on "er."

The teen years are an incubator for language. It's fun to watch. Even more fun to listen.

Britons may be more vulnerable to Aids due to Roman invasion

This is one of those fascinating stories about the nexus between disease, genetics, and history. Diseases and illness are factors in history (and Bible study) that most of us ignore. But they can change history: think about the studies of the links between the Mongol invasions of Western Europe, rats, and the plague.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sarah Palin's day

For those who didn't watch Gov. Palin's acceptance speech, it's here:

Some thoughts:

1. Palin came across as spunky and hard-hitting, while at the same time seeming thoughtful and like, well, a mom. Which was only reinforced by the presence of her husband, children, future son-in-law, and parents there.

2. She's funny. I don't know how much of the speech she wrote, but it came across as genuine. If she had an input into the humor ("What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? One wears lipstick") it's a decided change from the now-sepulchral feel of the Obama campaign, which is way too serious about itself and about their candidate. Grim is the word that describes the Democrats. Humor is good.

3. I'm reminded of Ronald Reagan in the humor area. Remember "there you go again"?

From Gov. Reagan to Gov. Palin? Maybe not as much of a stretch as might immediately be thought.

4. Palin tells a story. Both verbally and visually. How do the Democrats argue with the picture of Palin's infant son being held in turns by Cindy McCain and by the older Palin daughter? And with the older Palin girl licking her hands and wiping down the baby's hair? Palin even tells McCain's story well. Suddenly, Republicans have a story. And there's nothing more compelling in politics. McCain the prisoner of war. Palin the reformist governor, small-town mayor, mother of 5.

5. Palin talks plainly about her son who has Downs syndrome. Plainly, without pity, but bringing out the fact of Downs syndrome will only help pro-life issues.

6. The McCain campaign was dead in the water until last Friday. If the McCain-Palin ticket wins, the cause will be solely and only due to the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency.

7. Which means a Vice-President Palin is the clear and obvious choice for the next presidential candidate. And she has millions of Americans who would happily and enthusiastically support such a candidacy.

8. Thankfully, being African-American is no longer a real hindrance to the presidency. Neither being a woman. Both of those issues seem to have come and gone. Which probably hurts Obama's chances. He's being treated like any other candidate. As is Palin. Which is good.

9. I suspect there are those in the Democratic party establishment who would love to re-visit the vice-presidency. I think that the downhill slide in Sen. Obama's campaign began when he chose Sen. Biden as a running mate. This was a clear and plain signal that the much-discussed change of an Obama presidency was just so much talk, when he chose a consummate insider as his running mate, a man who has been a US senator since 1972, when he was 30 years old. Obama discussed candidates such as Gov. Bill Richardson, Gov. Katherine Sebelius, Gov. Tim Kane, and Sen. Jim Webb. Any of them would have been better than Biden, a dull, time-serving drone who brings nothing to the ticket, and signals stasis.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Peggy Noonan: "A Clear and Present Danger To the American Left"

"Because she jumbles up so many cultural categories, because she is a feminist not in the Yale Gender Studies sense but the How Do I Reload This Thang way, because she is a woman who in style, history, moxie and femininity is exactly like a normal American feminist and not an Abstract Theory feminist; because she wears makeup and heels and eats mooseburgers and is Alaska Tough, as Time magazine put it; because she is conservative, and pro-2nd Amendment and pro-life; and because conservatives can smell this sort of thing -- who is really one of them and who is not -- and will fight to the death for one of their beleaguered own; because of all of this she is a real and present danger to the American left, and to the Obama candidacy."

What defines an Israelite?

A grave error is that Old Testament (pre-incarnation of Christ) saints were saved because of their obedience to the law.

The reality is that all the saved -- Adam, Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and us -- are saved by trusting in the mercies of God.

A couple of weeks back, I suggested that the book of Esther is a book about evangelism, about how "many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them." (8.17b)

We sometimes imagine that the Old Testament people of God was a physical thing. In one sense it was. But in the most important sense, the people of God are God's people because of that trust in God's mercies. (Cf. Romans 9.6: "they are not all Israel, which are of Israel").

A verse which helps to make Romans 9 plainer is Psalm 73.1: "Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart."

The verse is a parallelism. "God is good to Israel," and Israel is defined as those with a clean heart. Not physical lineage -- as blessed as that is, especially delineated in Romans 3 -- but those -- whether born Jew or Gentile who have a clean heart.

And how do we get a clean heart? By working hard? By our own efforts? The answer's in Psalm 51.10: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."

God creates us in the first place, and then He creates a clean heart in us. God makes us "the Israel of God" (cf. Gal. 6.16) by creating a clean heart in us, and by removing our "heart of stone." (Ezekiel 36.26)

Holy hoop skirts: When did the clock tick back to 1958?

Phyllis Schlafly, who helped defeat the Equal Right Amendment - and also ran for Congress while raising six children - to tell the Times, "People who don't have children, or who have only one or two, are kind of overwhelmed at the notion of five children."

Story on Dutch Intelligence's Pull-Out of Iran. They Don't Want Their Agents Bombed.

From The Jerusalem Post:

"The Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, has called off an operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging Iran's weapons industry due to an assessment that a US attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is imminent, according to a report in the country's De Telegraaf newspaper on Friday.

The report claimed that the Dutch operation had been "extremely successful," and had been stopped because the US military was planning to hit targets that were "connected with the Dutch espionage action."

The impending air-strike on Iran was to be carried out by unmanned aircraft "within weeks," the report claimed, quoting "well placed" sources.

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the De Telegraaf report.

According to the report, information gleaned from the AIVD's operation in Iran has provided several of the targets that are to be attacked in the strike, including "parts for missiles and launching equipment."

"Information from the AIVD operation has been shared in recent years with the CIA," the report said.

On Saturday, Iran's Deputy Chief of Staff General Masoud Jazayeri warned that should the United States or Israel attack Iran, it would be the start of another World War.

On Friday, Ma'ariv reported that Israel had made a strategic decision to deny Iran military nuclear capability and would not hesitate "to take whatever means necessary" to prevent Teheran from achieving its nuclear goals.

According to the report, whether the United States and Western countries succeed in thwarting the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions diplomatically, through sanctions, or whether a US strike on Iran is eventually decided upon, Jerusalem has begun preparing for a separate, independent military strike."

Palin the impaled

"The greatest achievement of feminism won't be that a woman reached the vice presidency, but that a woman no longer needed feminists to get there. "

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Why Sarah has the X appeal

"The gun-toting Alaskan Governor’s appointment as John McCain’s running mate has been met with glee by many conservative Republicans."

Pat Buchanan on the risks -- and benefits of Palin's candidacy

"The risk John McCain took last Friday is comparable to the 72-year-old ex-fighter pilot knocking back two shots and flying his F-16 under the Golden Gate Bridge."

St. Job on the resurrection of the body

Job 19.25-27: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."

"Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans"

From our friends at The Onion.

Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Why Palin (and her running mate) could win

It's one of those very ordinary pictures. And yet it resonates with millions of Americans. An ordinary-looking woman who's in the grocery store with her infant child. An ordinary-looking woman who's running for vice-president.

Imagining Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or John McCain -- or their wives -- in such a picture is difficult to imagine. Which is why McCain's selection was such a brilliant one.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Churches burnt as anti-Christian violence hits eastern India

The myth of peaceful Hinduism shattered once again. Americans (Christians included) seldom think of India, but this sad story should give us reason to remember our brothers and sisters there.

Videos for president

An interesting phenom: African continent interest in the US presidential campaign. Such as this: a video in support of Obama by Ghanaian rapper Blakk Rasta:

What I did on Sunday

I was in Raleigh for the day. Amy and Matt and I went to church in the morning, and then to see The Dark Knight.

A good film. But way too violent for me. I spent probably half the film with my eyes closed. Visual violence is tough for me to deal with. But this is a good and compelling story. And there's an underlying sadness too, in knowing that Heath Ledger, who's the dark anti-hero of the film, is dead, way too young, way too early, a fine actor who left us before we could see how fully-orbed his talent was.

If you're not using Google books "library," ...

... you're missing out.

I used to spend lots (too much) time hanging out at used bookstores. Way too much.

There is a library in my area that used to have a section in the back. Books they wanted to get rid of. 50 cents for hardbacks and 25 for paperbacks.

Some good, some bad, some garbage. But an occasional treasure.

For me: treasure is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

Well, the bookstore changed owners. The new owners had the idea that they might want to make money with that back space. So they got rid of the 50 cents section.

I stopped going to that store. Partly because the treasures are already picked out. But part of it is that I can find vastly bigger treasures on Google.

Open a new window, and check this out, if you're not familiar with this.

Go to Google.

At the top of the page, click on "more."

A menu will drop down. Click "books." Then enter something you're interested in at the search window at the top. Anything you're interested in. This is an experiment.

With the next page, go to the blue line at the top, and click on "all books." A menu will drop down. Click "full view."

Voila. You now have access to readable books out of copyright that you can use. Find something you're interested in, and you can read the books at your leisure.

Now save the books that you're interested in. Click on a book you like. If you think you'd want to continue reading, add it to your library by going to the menu on the right, and clicking "add to my library."

I'm still not crazy about reading books on a computer screen. But some of these books are no longer in print, and it's really, really hard to find a copy. And if you find it, someone may want $150 (or whatever) for a copy. But you've got them here free.