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« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

October 31, 2007

Daily roundup

Searching for Meaning in Higher Education

In a bygone time, knowledge was assumed to consist of those things that could be discerned about the natural and supra-natural worlds. In this unified view of truth, the university was the place where people went to train for a vocation while learning about the great metaphysical questions of life. In fact, the word "university" is etymologically derived from "unity" and "truth." However, once the scientific worldview created the fact-value split in knowledge, higher education became a metaphyscial wasteland where generations of students were left to navigate the confusing waters of meaning and purpose without a compass or captain.

Concerns over this condition, and strategies for correcting it, are being voiced from some interesting corners these days. Read about it in my new BreakPoint piece, "Collegians in Confusion."

Powder vs. Crack

An op-ed piece in the Washington Times today by former Representative J.C Watts and Justice Fellowship’s Pat Nolan introduced me to the concept of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, particularly in trafficking powder and crack cocaine. The editorial said that our justice system needs a more objective approach in prosecuting people who traffic cocaine and needs to address the current 100-1 disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine.

If I’m a cocaine dealer, possessing 5 grams of crack might get me the same sentence as a terrorist arms dealers and it will take 100 times that weight in powder form to get someone the same sentence. Unfortunately, this disparity fails to target high-level drug dealers, and often sends low-level drug offenders to jail and unexpectedly produces racial discrimination. The majority of prisoners under this mandatory minimum law are African American and most are small-time street dealers, couriers and lookouts and not the drug kingpins that long prison sentences should be reserved for. It also misses biblical principles of justice and punishment as told in Exodus 21:24 and Matthew 5:38 that states that punishment should match the crime.

I am not condoning illegal drugs; however, the justice system needs to hit the right target in the war against them.

Ready for some lighter Halloween fare?

If skull-and-bones dinnerware and flying shampoo have you hiding under your desk and jumping at sudden noises, head on over to Poe's Pit-Pendulum Panavision Plosive-packed Price-Picture, courtesy of the ever-alliterative and ever-enjoyable Lileks.

Children and Car Seats

This may seem an odd topic for a blog, but it's an idea that won't get out of my head. On Sunday, I read a tragic story about a mother who, last summer, inadvertently left her sleeping child in a car seat when she went into the office. At the end of the day, the mother discovered what she had done, but it was too late:  the child had died from the heat. 

Our first reaction is, "How could she have forgotten?" But, if we're honest, that question is quickly replaced by, "I could have done the same thing!" If you don't think it could happen to you, then think about those times when you went into your office, only to have to go back to your car for something you left -- a folder, a book, your glasses, etc. None of us is immune to forgetfulness.

So why am I writing this post? Because I thought of a simple act that might prevent another tragedy like this. Get into the habit of placing something you absolutely must have with you for the day (your purse, your briefcase) on the floor in front of the child's car seat. Then, even if you did forget to drop your child off at day care, even if you are distracted as you talk on the phone while walking into your office, you will have to stop and retrieve that item ... and you'll see your child.   

If you don't have your child with you everyday, do this anyway so it becomes a habit. I routinely put my purse on the floor behind the driver's seat, so it's an automatic reflex whether my grandson is strapped into the seat behind me or not. 

My heart breaks for this mother, and the two dozen or so others just like her each year, who will have to live with the consequences of her memory lapse for the rest of her life. So if this odd little post saves even one family from such heartache, it will be worth it. If you find this a useful tip. please pass it on to all the young mothers and fathers you know. Thank you. 

I Do Believe in Spooks? I Do? I Do?

Ghost According to the Associated Press, 34 percent of those they polled "believe in ghosts." The same percentage believe in UFOs; 48 percent believe in ESP; and 19 percent "accept the existence of spells or witchcraft."

Me? I'm allergic to superstition and I value reason and rationality very highly. At the same time, I'm not sure that I'm ready to completely reject what one of David's favorite childhood videos called "ghosties and spookables" and other stuff that goes bump in the night.

I'm sometimes amused at the way that some Christians mimic the folks over at Skeptical Inquirer when it comes to other people's beliefs. Don't get me wrong: I can roll my eyes with the best of them but, as Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. says, we should strive for the golden mean between being an obscurantist and being a dope. Sometimes, "I don't know" is the best answer.

And if anyone knows where that golden mean lies, it's Father Groeschel. In his book The Miracle Detective, former Rolling Stone writer Randall Sullivan writes that Father Groeschel has investigated "inexplicable phenomena" as much as any priest in the Catholic Church, which means that he probably knows more about the subject than any man alive. He's witnessed the kind of stuff that many of us won't watch at the movies: he's had shampoo throw itself at him; seen walls were the dents point out, not in; been in houses where the faucets and lights turn themselves on and off, cassette players spew out tapes and etageres slide across the room on their own. When the Catholic Church asks, "Who you gonna call?" the answer is often "Father Groeschel."

Continue reading "I Do Believe in Spooks? I Do? I Do?" »

I love God--vote for me

Flag_cross One of my friends used to lament, "Is it just me?", looking for sympathy and commiseration over the stupidity of others; and I liked to shoot back, "It might be you."

So maybe it's just me, but I feel manipulated this campaign season. It seems you can't go anywhere lately without tripping over some candidate's rush to extol their faith in God, their reliance on Him in times of trouble. As if all us simple Christians need to hear is that you're showing up for the revival service and we'll think you're the right man or woman for the job.

There was Rudy Giuliani telling a recent gathering organized by the Family Research Council that his "belief in God and reliance on his guidance is at the core of who" he is. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is trying hard to convince evangelicals that Mormonism is just like Protestant Christianity. Now Barack Obama's campaign is hosting a Gospel concert series in South Carolina, which I'm sure will be lovely but doesn't tell us much about his qualifications to be President of the United States.

Obviously, I think faith is a great thing (or I wouldn't be blogging here) and it is rather nice to know that the person running our country is answering to a higher authority. What I'm weary of, though, is this whole dog-and-pony show that faith has become in the political arena: Trot out the "I pray to God" trick and all the Christian rubes will mark your name on the ballot.

Continue reading "I love God--vote for me" »

Rent-a-Weasel

Ever wonder how they come up with all that junk science floating around everywhere? Wonder no longer.

Congratulations!

Our own Catherine Claire has given us permission to announce her engagement to Mark Larson. Mark is a senior accountant for the International Center for Journalists, currently finishing up classes for his seminary degree. He and Catherine share a passion for sharing the love of Christ with others. They also share (heaven help us!) the same sense of humor.

Despite the fact that Mark has lured Catherine to the Dark Side -- i.e., made a Red Sox fan out of her -- we're thrilled for them both and wish them all the best!

Wastelands to Ourselves

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Which of us can't relate to St. Paul's frustration? Human perversity makes a mockery out of our attempts at self-improvement and our noble intentions. It's bad enough that we do evil -- the fact that we often don't understand why is maddening.

Human perversity is the subject of my latest noodling over at Boundless. If you ever wondered how cheating at football, so-so fruit, the civil rights movement and St. Augustine of Hippo come together, here's one possible answer.

Diversify: More Reasons Not to Like Halloween

Skull_and_bones For years many Christians have objected to Halloween for its pagan undertones, its fascination with evil and the grotesque. But it seems in recent years we've got even more mundane reasons to object to the day which has mistakenly come to be called a "holiday." Here are two more reasons I stumbled on yesterday.

1) There's only one holiday aside from Christmas when Americans spend more money decorating. That's right, Halloween. And it's the sixth most profitable holiday in this country from a marketing perspecitive (after Christmas, Valentine's, Mother's Day, Easter, and Father's Day). Let's face it. If you look at the history of Halloween in this country, its roots are more firmly rooted in consumerism than in paganism, with Dennison Manufacturing Company publishing its first Hallowe'en catalog as early as 1909. Today I can buy skull and bones dinnerware--as if anyone needed separate dinnerware for entertaining around Halloween--or Martha Stewart's special Halloween edition with her cover photo as both a "glampire" and a "goddess." Come on, people. Don't we have better things to do?

2) And then there's the other disturbing trend of costumes for young girls becoming more and more sleazy. CNN had a special segment on this just yesterday. Here are just a few of the costume choices teen girls have to choose from: major flirt, corset fairy teen, playboy cupid, pirate cutie, gothic naughtie nurse, and more. (By the way, I hate how everyone in this video segment is shifting blame. How can a designer and a Halloween Express spokesperson sit there and justify there company's decision by blaming it on media or the parents? I'm sorry but the buck stops with the manufacturers and designers. That just majorly irks me.) Rod Dreher also had an article about this here, but word of caution: there's a bit of language some readers might find offensive.

To me, the bottom line here is when a day has its roots in evil and glorifies evil, we should not be surprised to find evil flourishing all around it, whether it's something that seems as harmless as the wasteful tendency to mindlessly spend money, or the degrading of little girls. Give evil an inch, it will always take a mile.

The Point Radio: When the Mission Field Comes Knocking

Tonight, 7-year-olds dressed as Sponge Bob, the Tooth Fairy, and the Wicked Witch will flock to your doorstep....


Click play above to listen.

How are you redeeming the day? Share your ideas in the comments.

October 30, 2007

Daily roundup

RE: The Conscience of the Information Age

Catherine, thanks for putting the spotlight on this issue. Your post reminded me of an article I saw in the Washington Post a few weeks back, which portrayed the human trafficking problem as overblown. Clearly, that's not the case, as the NY Times piece you linked to illustrated. The secret nature of this dirty business makes it easy to ignore, which is why we need people like those at International Justice Mission to keep reminding us that it exists.

Forgive and Let Live or Forgive and Let Die?

Cheshire_2 Tragic events in a Connecticut town have fueled the ongoing controversy over the death penalty and even launched some advocates into uncharted waters. The United Methodist Church of Cheshire, CT has always been a politically active group of believers, but recently when three members of the congregation were brutally killed, the long-time capital-punishment advocates were shocked into silent deliberations.

The killings have not just stunned the congregation, they have spurred quiet debate about how it should respond to the crime and whether it should publicly oppose the punishment that may follow. It has also caused a few to reassess how they feel about the punishment.

One member's opinion:

“I think we’ve all rethought it because it’s pretty easy to believe something when it’s far away and then when something happens and it’s a real situation you have to examine what you believe,” said Dr. Brown.

First of all, as citizens of a democratic society, it's important that we don't abuse our power-of-opinion by cultivating uninformed convictions, but I think we likewise should be leery of allowing emotions to inform our views. One prosecutor quoted in the article (who is uninvolved with the case) hit the nail on the head:

“Our job is to enforce the law no matter who the victim is or what the victim’s religious beliefs are. If you started imposing the death penalty based on what the victim’s family felt, it would truly become arbitrary and capricious.”

Continue reading "Forgive and Let Live or Forgive and Let Die?" »

The Conscience of the Information Age

Yesterday in Mark Earley's Point Radio piece, No Longer Blind, he mentioned something that many of us have forgotten. During the time of the slave trade, many people in England were actually quite ignorant of the conditions of the slave trade and of the slavery that Africans had to endure. When William Wilberforce began campaigning against the slave-trade, his first order of business was educating people.

Today, in the midst of the information age, we don't have the same excuses. But we do have the tendency to let all the information we're continually inundated with numb us to what we should be paying attention to. As Christians, it's our job to act as the conscience of the Information Age. Bringing to people's attention the real moral issues that we should not ignore.

In that spirit, I want to recommend to you a piece from this weekend's New York Times detailing the new slave trade. Take the time to read this piece and pass it along to your friends and co-workers. Then take the time to pray for the women who are caught up in this sex trade. Pray for groups like IJM that are working overseas to close in on trading rings and shut them down. And pray also and ask God if there is anything he would have you do to help combat this evil.

I'm curious if any of our readers know of ministries that reach out to prostitutes or know of ways that local churches might get involved in helping women get out of this life. As the columnist points out, we are ignorant if we assume that all the women involved are there by choice.

Re: Creepy experiments

Anne, I wonder if Russell Kirk might have been interested in this review of the novel Ghost by Alan Lightman (a nonbeliever). It certainly fits in nicely with some of the recent scientific and religious debates around here.

There's not really any doubt about Lightman's loyalties in this debate. His description of an annual meeting of "truth seekers" is a brilliant piece of satire, complete with crazy field reports and kooky evidence decorated with scientific lingo. Beneath the comedy, though, one senses Lightman's sympathy with that deep human desire for transcendence. "There has to be another world," one of the attendants tells David, "because there has to be something after we die. Death can't be the end." Lightman is wise enough to hear that sentiment echoing down through the millennia, and he has no intention of dismissing it simply because it can't be confirmed with a microscope.

But what's more surprising is Lightman's willingness to expose the dogmatism of his colleagues. In one particularly damning scene, the university scientists display their unwillingness to consider radical interpretations no matter what the evidence. Like the charlatans they oppose, they're willing to repress and distort anything that doesn't confirm their conclusions. Courted by believers on both sides, poor David remains helplessly suspended between irreconcilable concepts of reality. [Emphasis in original]

Housekeeping

Quick question, readers -- I'm hearing that there may be a problem with our display. Could you please take a moment and answer this in the comment section: Are you seeing the Point Radio graphic, the opinion poll, "Recent Posts," and "Recent Comments" in the right-hand column here on the homepage, or are you seeing them elsewhere on the page?

Thanks!

I Am Ignoring You (or at least people like you)

In the process of apologizing for light posting at his blog, Ross Douthat tells a story about not understanding a friend's excitement about some new technology:

Today a friend walked into my office, all abuzz over some new online service or gizmo - let's call it "Z." He tried to describe to me what it does, failed, and said: "Oh, it's like a much slicker version of Y." I responded, "What's Y?" He said - "Oh, well, it's the newer, more popular version of X." I said: "What's X?" Which suggests that I'm well on my way to crossing the Teachout threshold.

The "Teachout threshold" takes its name from this blog post by arts critic Terry Teachout where he writes:

I suppose we all reach a moment in our lives when we lose interest in the new, and I suspect that moment comes sooner for technology than for art. For now I seem to be staying fairly open to new things--my experience as a blogger suggests as much--but I have yet to send my first text message, nor does my somewhat superannuated cellphone contain a digital camera. On the increasingly rare occasions when I feel the need to take a picture of something, I buy a disposable film camera, the postmodern equivalent of a Brownie, at the corner drugstore.

I know what he means. Much to my surprise, I recently realized that I had crossed the Teachout threshold a while back. I say "much to my surprise" because I've been an avid early adopter of A/V technology for a long time. But I still don't own a cell phone, can make neither heads nor tails of things like Facebook, and blog because, frankly, people expect me to -- it's not something I would do otherwise.

Continue reading "I Am Ignoring You (or at least people like you)" »

A modern-day hero returns (and so does Peter Graves)

Karon Great news for my fellow Jan Karon readers: Home to Holly Springs hits bookstores today. Karon has stressed that this is not a continuation of her Mitford series, but the start of a new series. But the important thing is that the new series is still about the wise and warm-hearted Father Tim Kavanagh, whom I would marry if I could just resolve that little problem about his being a fictional character. And win his affections away from Cynthia. Which would never happen. Ah, well. At least I can buy the book.

As if that weren't good enough, also being released today is The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 12, with three episodes I've never seen plus the immortal Parts: The Clonus Horror, starring Peter Graves and umpteen Biography jokes. This is my day and no mistake. I should play the lottery. (Kidding!) 

Creepy Experiments in the Moral Imagination

Off_the_sand_road Anyone looking for ghostly reading for Halloween should try one of Russell Kirk's three collections of ghost stories. My favorite is volume one, Off the Sand Road; creepiest story: "The Princess of All Lands." I read this book on Halloween night a few years ago while staying alone at a hotel. After reading a few stories, I wished I had some company.

What did this Catholic thinker, the father of modern conservativism, intend to do with these tales of supernatural suspense? In an afterword to Off the Sand Road, Kirk writes:

Alarming though (I hope) readers may find these tales, I did not write them to impose meaningless terror upon the innocent...What I have attempted, rather, are experiments in the moral imagination...Gerald Heard seaid to me once that the good ghost story must have for its kernel some clear premise about the character of human existence--some theological premise, if you will...The better uncanny stories are underlain by a healthy concept of the character of evil. Defying nature, the necromancer conjures up what ought not to rise again this side of Judgment Day. But these dark powers do not rule the universe: by bell, book, and candle, symbolically at least, we can push them down under....

All important literature has some ethical end; and the tale of the preternatural--as written by George Macdonald, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and other masters--can be an instrument for the recovery of moral order.   

More on this theme on the BreakPoint site on All Hallows Eve.

Double Jeopardy: For Police Officers Only

Newsweek's article about the Mexican F13 gang's racially-motivated killings in L.A. is a compelling, if chilling, read.  But here's where I get annoyed:

For all the evidence of race-based targeting of victims, federal prosecutors haven't filed civil rights charges against F13 members, though Hernandez says the idea remains under investigation in the ongoing case. (Hernandez explains that the charges are difficult to prove and wouldn't increase prison time for those convicted of the other charges, anyway.) But law enforcement officials say the F13 members—and the Crips—frequently targeted victims based on race. "The way it came out was that any young black man could be the target of [F13] and any young Hispanic man was the target of the [black gang]," says Rosales. "All they see is race."

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca tells NEWSWEEK that early wiretaps in the case recorded phone calls in which a senior F13 member ordered a young gang "soldier" to kill a particular East Coast Crip. But when "the soldier called back to say he couldn't find the [Crip], the gang leader told him to shoot any black," Baca says. "I disagree that it wasn't a hate crime."

On the other hand, if there's even a sniff of possible racial motivation in how police officers apply force against a suspect, it seems the feds are quick to run to grand juries to secure civil rights violation indictments. Why the discrepancy?

Oh, that's right, I forgot: Ramos and Compean. What was I thinking? When it comes to dealing with law enforcers, true justice often seems to be a distant consideration for the U.S. Attorney's office.

The Point Radio: Vacancy for Christ

The early Christians had a powerful secret weapon for church growth -- one that we modern Christians have largely forgotten....


Click play above to listen.

Here are 10 great ideas for practicing hospitality:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Vacancy for Christ" »

October 29, 2007

Daily roundup

Centurions

The drive from Roanoke to Reston was particularly beautiful last month. Not only was the Shenandoah Valley spectacular, as always, but the traffic on 81 was, thankfully, lighter than usual. As I trekked northward, I thought back over my Centurions experience.

I was part of the first Centurion class in 2004. I smiled to myself as I remembered my first weekend residency in the spring of 2004. We stayed in this large, maze-like training complex in Northern Virginia. It was part hotel and part conference center. Our class quickly bonded as we shared the experience of continually getting lost like mice in a maze. The conversations around the tables were rich and energizing. I remember meeting Regis, Diane, Maurice, Donald, Joe and many other kindred spirits It was obvious that these people were serious about living out their faith and teaching others how to think Christianly and apply Biblical truth to all of life.

The year long Centurions training is rigorous and involves distance learning and networking. The reading assignments are challenging. Several weekend residencies are included. Those who complete the requirements are commissioned as Centurions and sent out. The network of Centurions grows each year. Centurions stay connected and join regional cohorts after becoming commissioned. The cohort is a geographically based network that enables Centurions to serve one another through encouragement, prayer and resource and idea sharing.

Continue reading "Centurions" »

This is a success?

From the NYT:

A few weeks ago this newspaper reported on an experimental Pentagon “human terrain” program to embed anthropologists in combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. It featured two military anthropologists: Tracy (last name withheld), a cultural translator viewed by American paratroopers as “a crucial new weapon” in counterinsurgency; and Montgomery McFate, who has taken her Yale doctorate into active duty in a media blitz to convince skeptical colleagues that the occupying forces should know more about the local cultural scene. . . .

The military voices . . . had their winning moments, sounding like old-fashioned relativists, whose basic mission in life was to counter ethnocentrism and disarm those possessed by a strident sense of group superiority. Ms. McFate stressed her success at getting American soldiers to stop making moral judgments about a local Afghan cultural practice in which older men go off with younger boys on “love Thursdays” and do some “hanky-panky.” “Stop imposing your values on others,” was the message for the American soldiers. She was way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I found it heartwarming.

(Via The Plank, which also appears to chalk it up as a success.)

Mixing Hospitality, Conversation and Truth

Dinner Thomas Aquinas once said that civilization was constituted on conversation.

Down through history, thought leaders have used the meal table and conversation to advance ideas and discuss the weighty issues of the day. Examples include Ben Franklin and the Junto society in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson and the Governor's Palace group in colonial Williamsburg, William Wilberforce and the Clapham Circle, and John Newton and the Eclectic society at the Castle-and-Falcon Pub. Of course, we dare not forget the Inklings. This group, which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, used to meet at the Eagle and Child Pub on Tuesday nights for food, drink and conversation.

In this age of sound bites, commercialism and hourly Britney Spears updates, our culture is starved for meaningful conversation.

A small group of Christians have sought to recapture the notion of "conversational mealing." The concept is simple. Create an event that encourages critical thinking, conversation and interaction. Invite an eclectic group to gather around a hosted table for a structured discussion about the ideas of the day. Build community, practice hospitality and advance the cultural conversation about truth and why it matters.

Curious? Follow this link and explore.

Re: Take a Hanky

Gina, I agree. Definitely worth your $10, or $8 (depending on when you go).

My take on Bella is that it contained all the elements necessary for a classic romantic comedy (a.k.a. chick flick of the year). However, it was all that and none of it at the same time. Sure, there was chasing through the New York subway system. There was the Meet-the-Parents-style dinner, playful younger brother and matronly Mexican mother included. And, there was a long walk along the beach.

It could have been happily ever after. And it was, but not because the guy gets the girl. Rather, the guy gets--well, I'll let you figure it out.

[POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD]

Continue reading "Re: Take a Hanky" »

’The Full Metal Deer Apocalypse’

At the risk of drawing the ire of the "Even if one of the biggest political magazines blew their fact-checking, tried to coerce their reporter, and sat on damaging evidence, it's SUCH a non-story (and it's all the Army's fault anyway)!" crowd, I offer this link to Mark Steyn's take on the Beauchamp affair. He says pretty much the same thing Peggy Noonan said last week, but he says it in his own inimitable, must-not-be-missed, Steynish way.

(Note: Bad language at the first link, mature themes at the second.)

Maybe We Should Ask

Wrapribb I was researching a piece about pornography for White Ribbon Against Pornography Week (Oct. 28 through Nov. 4) when I came across this little tidbit from Morality in Media:

There was a time when the country could rely on vigorous enforcement of federal and state obscenity laws. That changed in 1993, when the Clinton/Reno Justice Department dropped the adult obscenity ball and opened the gates for the flood tide of filth that has engulfed the country to this day. Before 1993, prosecutions . . . left the pornographers reeling...The porn business trade paper Adult Video News endorsed Clinton for reelection in 1996, citing his "hands-nearly-off porn policy." Clinton won and, in March 1998, AVN crowed, 'ITS A GREAT TIME TO BE AN ADULT RETAILER...

Some of you may be thinking, "There goes Anne, all set to attack poor old Hillary again." Well, I'm not! I'm just saying, maybe we should ask what presidential candidates plan to do about pornography.

And if you’re in the mood for another God debate . . .

Debate4 The King's College website has the video up of the latest one, from this past weekend, with Dinesh D'Souza and Christopher Hitchens. (Image courtesy of their site.)

John Lennox and Richard Dawkins

For those interested in the debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins on God's existence, you can download a free lecture by Dr. Lennox at this site. In his lecture, recorded in 2005, Lennox discusses Dawkins' atheism. The lecture and Q&A session run about two hours, but they're well worth your time. Enjoy!

Huckabee Public Service Announcement

For those of you who read John Fund's high-larious attack piece on Mike Huckabee and made it past the opening sentence...

Republicans have won five of the last seven presidential elections by running candidates who broadly fit the Ronald Reagan model

...without a spontaneous guffaw, and -- worse -- found his shots at Huck convincing, you'd do yourself a favor to read this comprehensive rebuttal. I'm not claiming Huckabee to be Ronald Reagan incarnate, nor do I believe that you can have effective social conservatism without also having true fiscal conservatism. But Lucas Roebuck's rebuttal is an important read for people who prefer to vote based upon facts rather than inaccuracies and innuendo.

The Point Radio: No Longer Blind

Three million African slaves died on the horrendous voyage known as the “middle passage.” Most people at the time didn’t even know it. Are Christians today just as blind to key issues?...


Click play above to listen.

Learn more about how to be a conscientious Christian:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: No Longer Blind" »

I KNEW there was something good about the writers&rsquo strike

Angels_and_demons It's messing with the Da Vinci Code sequel (or prequel, or whatever it is).

Hymn 43

Oh father high in heaven -- smile down upon your son
Who's busy with his money games -- his women and his gun.
Oh Jesus save me!

Before Christopher Hitchens, before Richard Dawkins, there was Jethro Tull and their leader singer flautist Ian Anderson. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the band's taking the name of the inventor of the seed drill. (You gotta love the British: an equivalent American band not only would have been worse musicians -- they would have probably named themselves after something a lot less important: for instance, their feelings.)

My middle-aged self finds Hitchens' and Dawkins' arguments unconvincing. (A friend of mine told me that at his recent Georgetown debate, Hitchens' "big gun" was an attack on the idea of substitutionary atonement which, in his estimation, discredited the Christian idea of God as barbaric and unjust. Apparently, no one in the audience seemed to be aware, or at least didn't tell him that this is but one of many Christian interpretations of what St. Paul meant when he wrote that God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself -- Christianity no more rises and falls on the truth of this idea than democracy rises and falls on the results of an election in West Bromwich. Next question?)

My younger self, however, was disturbed by what Tull had to say about my religion, in particular, the album Aqualung. (Christians weren't the only religious folk Anderson and company managed to offend: some Hindus believed that Anderson's characteristic pose mocked Krishna.)

Continue reading "Hymn 43" »

October 26, 2007

Daily roundup

At Last: Common Sense Breaks Out

The Portland Press Herald announced today that somebody in Maine finally figured out that having sex with an 11-year-old is, ahem, a crime, even if the child consents to it. Which means that instead of handing out contraceptives to children, Portland's school health centers should be reporting all suspected illegal sexual activity to the State Department of Health and Human Services. Those who think it's great that pre-adolescents are having sex are still resisting the law, however. And they wonder why so many parents homeschool....

Speaking of films on life issues

Kathryn Lopez reviews a new documentary here. Look for it Saturday night on Fox News Channel.

Take a hanky

Bella2 . . . if you go to see Bella. Martha, Zoe, Travis, two other PFM colleagues, and I took a field trip to the movie theater this afternoon (yeah, this job has its moments). In the dark I couldn't see if I was the only one sitting there blubbering; I won't ask for confessions, and it's possible I may be the wussiest one in the bunch.

There were various critiques of the soundtrack (excellent) and the timeline (sometimes a little confusing) and so forth afterwards, such as you usually get with a crowd of overanalyzers like us, but my overwhelming impression was that it was a beautiful story, beautifully told, and deserving of those honors and awards from all the film festivals. (And if you still need a reason to go, Travis pointed out that an actress from Heroes had a small role.)

Oh, and the tagline at the movie's website is singularly appropriate.

Crunching on Dr. Watson’s Convictions

Rod Dreher lays out his thoughts about Dr. James Watson's comments on race and IQ in a long post at his Crunchy Con blog. It's good stuff. He concludes thusly:

In his fascinating study "Forbidden Knowledge," the late Roger Shattuck examines various kinds of knowledge considered taboo, including scientific knowledge. He concludes that the separation between pure science and applied science is impossible to maintain, given human nature. The best we can hope for, he says, is that scientists would adhere to a code of morality that would cause them to refuse to do the kind of research that could lead to moral catastrophe. As the Bible tells us, the pursuit of forbidden knowledge is the original sin, the original catastrophe from which all others follow. There is deep wisdom in that. We have not found a way yet to prevent man from seeking out all knowledge, nor for applying it.

Why doesn't this enormously important issue figure into American politics beyond the level of "bad Christians hate science"? Is it the childish American infatuation with optimism, and belief in our own essential goodness? It's not just a question for the left, either; what happens to the right's embrace of meritocracy when the overclass acquires control of the means of guided genetic reproduction, and games the system such that the working and the middle classes can't hope to compete?

We should be talking about this a lot more than we do.

Meet Irena Sendler

Irena_sendler Many may be unfamiliar with Irena Sendler, but this 97-year-old Polish woman lived an extraordinary life by saving more than 3,000 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto to safe hiding places and to the homes of non-Jewish adoptive parents. Her amazing life and remarkable deed remained unnoticed for many years until in 2000, when four young students of Uniontown High School in rural Kansas discovered her story. In 2003 Irena received Poland's highest civilian decoration, the Order of the White Eagle, and was awarded the Commanders Cross by the Israeli Institute.

Sadly, Irena got bumped by Al Gore for winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (please help me move on! :).

An Inside Job

I saw my first "9/11 was an inside job" bumper sticker the other day. I must admit that my first thought was, "How nice of that man behind the wheel to let me know how foolish he is so I can keep a safe distance"! Then, today, I finally found something I can admire Bill Clinton for: he let an "inside job" heckler know that he was incensed at the charge. You can hear the clip here

Better take a barf bag if you trick-or-treat

Skeleton

"There has always been a love of the gruesome in American culture," said Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, author of several Halloween books, "and it's found its way to Halloween."

You can say that again. As the Washington Post points out, we've gone from "jack-o'-lanterns and Casper the Friendly Ghost" to the vomiting animated ghoul and the Tortured Torso Prop. Perhaps it's not surprising in an era when the Saw movies are monster (sorry) successes -- but it's still disturbing for many of us.

What do you think? Is this revolting development something that's connected to the inherent nature of Halloween, or just an unfortunate trend that, hopefully, will pass like other trends?

(Image courtesy of the Washington Post)

You oughta be in pictures

Have you ever challenged a professor, or had a professor challenge you, on the issue of evolution? If so, the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed may be able to use you in their movie! Visit their site for details.

Call me a Playa Hater . . .

. . . but I derived much pleasure from Matt Welch's skewering of our idiotic celebrity culture and the media [rhymes with bores, that's right: smores] who drive it.

There's a hoary old joke about newspaper political correctness in the form of a semi-plausible headline: "World Ends Tomorrow!" Women, minorities hardest hit!" Although the genre it skewers definitely exists (for a classically Californian example from this year, click here), I wonder after four days of fire coverage whether it hasn't been positively dwarfed by its inverse. Instead of bemoaning a catastrophe's effect on society's least powerful (who, almost by definition, are "hardest hit" by most everything), the hated Mainstream Media (MSM) is coughing up headlines like this:

Fires Disrupt Hollywood Lives, Work
Fire affects TV shows, celebrities
Hollywood Under Fire: Richard Gere's Plane Fills With Smoke, Sean Penn's Property Burns

In case you're beside yourself with worry over the impact of the fires on New Jersey-born Scientologists who wear hairpieces, Fox News, which broke the tragic news about Gere's plane and Penn's propoerty, is here to set your mind at ease:

"I'm so glad we don't have a home in the area," John Travolta told Fox News. "But we have so many friends and family who do. So many people in our industry have been affected by this, and my heart just goes out to all of them. People very close to me have already been evacuated, and it is scary."

Continue reading "Call me a Playa Hater . . . " »

The Point Radio: No Free Lunch

It’s really true. There is no free lunch. Just like there are no free mortgages....


Click play above to listen.

Here are more ways to be a good financial steward:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: No Free Lunch" »

October 25, 2007

Daily roundup

Winning Hearts and Minds

Over at Townhall, Dinesh D'Souza has compiled some rather candid (and disturbing) statements from members of the anti-religion camp. Included is the, by now, well-known prattle of Dennett, Dawkins, et al. about the danger of religion, the child abuse of religious indoctrination, and the mental illness of religious faith. Given this, the responsible thing to do is to eradicate religion from society. But how?

The answer is simple: through indoctrination in the schools. In his book Breaking the Spell, Dennett urges that schools teach religion as a purely natural phenomenon. By this he means that religion should be taught as if it were untrue. Dennett argues that religion is like sports or cancer, "a human phenomenon composed of events, organisms, objects, structures, patterns." By studying religion on the premise that there is no supernatural truth underlying it, Dennett argues that young people will come to accept religion as a social creation pointing to nothing higher than human hopes and aspirations.

Using his own line of reasoning, someone ought to tell Mr. Dennett that his belief in Darwinism is “purely a natural phenomenon” and, thus, “should be taught as if it were untrue.”

Sam Harris insists that atheism “be taught as a mere extension of science and logic. ‘Atheism is not a philosophy. It is not even a view of the world. It is simply an admission of the obvious....Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.’"

They are a noisy bunch indeed! As to reasonable, well…how many just-so fables can a person embrace before becoming a “useful idiot” of ideology?

Continue reading "Winning Hearts and Minds" »

A Pullman collection

Movie_goldencompass Speak of the devil. I just blogged about The Golden Compass again yesterday, and now the e-mail mentioned here seems to be making the rounds of Christians; at least two of our staffers have received it in one day from friends or family members. Aside from not yet appearing to have a source for their last quotation, Snopes does a good job of covering the subject.

It's great to know the word about Philip Pullman's beliefs and intentions is getting out. To continue to help in that effort, here is a collection of materials we've published on Pullman, his trilogy, and the upcoming movies.

Look for more in the coming weeks.