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June 26, 2007

Pooch Art

Jeff:

Your story of the canine art--the dog trainer who trained her dogs to "paint" abstract art and then framed it and sold it to collectors--reminds me of a BreakPoint script Chuck aired years ago on a similar subject.

Chuck described an unknown artist who was showcased by the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. The judges were particularly enthusiastic about a watercolor entitled "Rhythm of Trees" which displayed "a certain quality of color balance, comoposition, and technical skill."

Who was the artist? A four-year-old child.

You ask if you are barking up the wrong tree for thinking there ought to be an objective standard for calling something art. As Chuck notes, "We must understand that art expresses a view of the world, a philosophy. Through the history of art we can trace the way people's philosophy has changed." When we consider modern art, beginning with Impressionism, we must understand that during this period, "art was taken over by subjectivist philosophies. Definitions of art shifted from the subject matter being portayed to the way light strikes the artist's eye; from great themes of human drama to daubs of paint on canvas; from the objective standards of beauty to the artist's psyche.

"Eventually," Chuck adds, "art lost sight of any objective standards of form and beauty. Art became defined as whatever an artist does"--which is why even art "experts" cannot tell the diffence between paintings with great artistic merit and the dabbling of a little girl.

Which makes me wonder what would happen if that Maryland dog trainer slapped a frame around her doggy "art" and entered it in a competition.

Leap of illogic, part 2

How is it possible to be labeled a Holocaust denier simply by comparing abortion to the loss of life in the Holocaust? (If you were making the comparison, wouldn't it follow that you believed that both the events you were comparing had indeed happened?)

It's not only possible, it's happened to a German pastor -- and he's been sent to jail for it.

(Look out for questionable advertising images at the site. H/T Relapsed Catholic and Mark Steyn at The Corner.)

RE: A Call to Christians

Faith,

I want to make sure I understand your point. I think you are rolling your eyes at those who tend to see a virtual second coming in any entertainment which has the slightest “Christian” angle, which I take you to see frequently as excuse-making for questionable desires. But I don’t think you’re going so far as to say that any entertainment which doesn’t reflect an outlook largely consistent with Christianity ought to be enjoyed, even in part. Are you? 

You say:

If we really believe with conviction that they are true -- that God exists, that the Gospel is true, that we will be responsible for our actions, and that God's goodness and purity will win out in the end -- then why on earth would we expect something less then the representation of them in their purest form?

But your link also says this:

We can enjoy the things of the world, but we are not to immerse ourselves in the world.

So I’m a bit confused as to exactly what you are advocating or decrying.

This of course is a classic debate. There’s tension between Philippians 4:8 and 1 Cor 10:26-30, and different Christian traditions have arrived at different understandings of how to apply “in but not of.”

June 25, 2007

Re: Evan Can Wait -- A Call to Christians

Travis,

Thank you so much for your post. I was afraid that Evan Almighty might have those types of camouflaged messages. But your post did more than alert me to a potentially "rotten tomato" -- it reminded me of a trend I've been noticing lately in the body of Christ.

It seems to me that the whole notion of trivializing God/morals has lately become more and more prevalent in our entertainment culture, and more and more acceptable to today's Christians. It's as though Christians have lost sight of their calling to "be in and not of the world," and are instead diving thoughtlessly into many of the same things as the world, especially in regards to entertainment. (For an excellent and simple example of how to be "in and not of," check out this.) What's worse, it's the Christians themselves who are mostly responsible for trivializing the God and morals that they claim to represent. How? Just look at the shallow and gullible way we run after anything with a positive ending and call it "acceptable," obligingly overlooking all the trash along the way. And what's more, we settle for simplistic watered-down versions of the glorious Truths that was claim we live our life for! Are they just not that important? If we really believe with conviction that they are true -- that God exists, that the Gospel is true, that we will be responsible for our actions, and that God's goodness and purity will win out in the end -- then why on earth would we expect something less then the representation of them in their purest form? I'll explain what I mean:

Last night I discussed with a Christian friend from college her love and enjoyment of the TV series Desperate Housewives. She praised the series (much to my horror) on account of its "good message" at the end of every episode. I will openly admit that I have never seen one of the episodes all the way through, mostly because I've not been able to get past the disgusting commercials, but no matter how great the ending, I still sorely disagree in allowing the ends to justify the means in regards to "acceptable" entertainment. See what I mean about being a watered-down version?

I am both shocked and saddened when I witness how far we've come as Christians in our toleration of mockery of the God of the universe and the morals He represents. Never mind the contradictory statement it gives to the world when we happily sit down and absorb the same trash under the pathetic expectation that it "has a redeeming ending" or a "few good points." No, I'm not surprised that the world has generated such entertainment, but I am surprised that we as Christians readily support those things which make a mockery out of what we claim we stand for. How embarrassing.

Thoughts?

A Prayer for Jordin

Jordin_sparks Here's a prayer we ought to be praying more often for our budding celebrities:

"Our church's concerted prayer effort for Jordin is that she's not swallowed up by the industry," said American Idol winner Jordin Sparks' pastor Brad Eberly. "That she stays centered, that she can continue to have clarity as to who she is and where she comes from. And that her self-approval and her value go way beyond her ability to sing."

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, where might Britney, Lindsay, or Paris be today if someone had been praying this prayer for them 10 years ago?

Nowhere to Turn for the Materialist

For the Darwinian faithful troubled by our “against-all-odds” cosmos, the “multiverse” has been a comforting sedative. According to the theory, the multiverse is a supercosmos made up of an infinite number of universes, ensuring that the intricate network of coincidences necessary for life will be actualized in one of them. As to where the multiverse came from…well, there are a few ideas about that.

One, called the “many-worlds theory”, depends on a controversial interpretation of quantum mechanics in which anendless stream of universes is created by every object in the cosmos at every moment in time. For rank-and-file physicists this theory is, at best, tedious.

In another theory, the multiverse originates from something called “chaotic inflation.” In 1981, by a set of mathematical gyrations, Stanford cosmologist André Linde demonstrated that if a quantum-sized “nugget” of space fluctuated suddenly and violently, it could become a “bubble” of intense energy ballooning into a whole universe. Then, if the initial “bubble” quickly disintegrated into a constellation of bubbles, much like the fizz created after opening a bottle of soda, it would spawn multiple universes. And, if inflation is a continuing process, then the increasing number of universes would guarantee the existence of ours. (Anyone counting the number of “ifs” here?).

For those unsatisfied with many-worlds and inflation, “black holes” have come to the rescue. Black holes are those cosmic cannibals gobbling up everything in their “field of vision” through their intense gravitational fields. Problem is, although there are many stellar objects that have been labeled as ”black hole candidates,” there are no confirmed black holes. What’s more, even the theoretical basis for the existence of black holes seems to be crumbling.

According to new calculations performed by physicist Lawrence Krauss and his colleagues, a black hole should evaporate before it is formed, much like a glutton with chronic dysentery. That’s bad news for the materialist discomforted by the implications of a Goldilocks cosmos where, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, everything appears to be meticulously tweaked for the very existence of the world in which we find ourselves.

SCOTUS: Faith-Based Initiatives OK

Just reported by the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court today handed President Bush's faith-based initiatives program a victory, ruling that federal taxpayers cannot challenge the constitutionality of the White House's efforts to help religious groups obtain government funding for their social programs.

...In an opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that "the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the federal government."

Given the size of the federal budget, "it is a complete fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm," Alito said. "And if every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the role of general complaint bureaus."

...In a dissenting opinion, Justice David H. Souter wrote that today's ruling "closes the door on these taxpayers because the Executive Branch, and not the Legislative Branch, caused their injury." He added, "I see no basis for this distinction in either logic or precedent. . . ."

Continue reading "SCOTUS: Faith-Based Initiatives OK" »

Re: 100 Best Films

Casablanca Diane, never confess in public that you haven't seen Citizen Kane. Everyone will start trying to tell you what Rosebud is. (All of you, behave yourselves. I mean it.)

Citizen Kane is unquestionably a great film, and you should take a look at it, but I wouldn't have put it first. The AFI's original list, ten years ago, had Kane first and Casablanca second. I would have switched that order, and, at the risk of being biased, I would place Singin' in the Rain in the top three. It always makes the top ten with the AFI anyway -- and usually with other organizations that compile best film lists as well -- so it's not too much of a stretch.

In a nutshell, Citizen Kane is a classic, well-told story of one man's corruption and fall; Casablanca is a classic, well-told story of sacrifice and redemption. So it's no wonder that they both strike such a deep chord with so many people. These are themes that resonate with every human being.

Some of us had an interesting little behind-the-scenes discussion about Kane's merits and flaws via e-mail a week or so ago, and I remember Roberto making some particularly good points. (Roberto, maybe you could sum some of those up here for us when you get a moment?) One thing he said that I'll expand on briefly is that if someone tells you, "Quick, quote two lines from Citizen Kane other than 'Rosebud!' without thinking," it's nearly impossible to do. Whereas Casablanca, as someone has said of Hamlet, is made up almost entirely of quotations. My best friend and I still say, "I'm shocked, SHOCKED!" to each other every chance we get. The many wonderful lines are just one of the elements that make that film so great.

100 Best Films

Citizenkane I'm always intrigued by "best" of anything lists: something about them just begs readers to argue for their own candidate for the #1 spot, regardless of the topic. But since I love movies, best film lists always garner an extra bit of my attention. I just read the American Film Institute's new list, with Citizen Kane at the top. Now, I must admit that I have never (gasp) seen Citizen Kane, so I'm curious why it inevitably tops such lists. For those of you who are big fans of the film, can you tell me why I should bother to see it?

Personally, my favorite film of all time is Schindler's List (#8 on the AFI list), and I would certainly place Ben-Hur much, much higher than #100! What film would you put in the #1 spot?

Evan Can Wait

Against better judgment, perhaps, I really liked Bruce Almighty. The movie was hilarious, and it was driven by a fairly simple message that we aren't God. Not the deepest theology, for sure, but one could uncover a few nuggets of truth.

The sequel, however, is a modestly amusing display of slapstick based on a convoluted mishmash of earth-centered ideals and incoherent spirituality. Despite being marketed heavily to Christian audiences and being tied ever so loosely (and absurdly) to biblical narrative, Evan Almighty fails to show any real deference to Scriptural principles or reality. Morgan Freeman plays a likeable enough character, but any resemblance to the actual God of creation is purely coincidental.

Continue reading "Evan Can Wait" »

Re: Why the sudden anti-God fervor? Well, this explains it.

So we've been talking about the sudden upsurge in the popularity of atheism. Word on the street is that books on atheism are the hottest new trend in publishing. Thanks to all of you who've posited your theories here on why the sudden anti-God fervor. The Huffington Post (via Thunderstruck) has filled in the gaps for us, however. In case you were wondering what's so great about atheism, tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek-Tony has got the answers:

On cue in 1885, right in the middle of the God-is-Dead decade, one of the most horrific genocides in history got underway. As usual with colonialism it had a vaguely Christian pretext, but this was soon dumped in a God-free holocaust of greed and violence in which some 10 million (possibly 13 million) Congolese were murdered by thoroughly modern, constitutional monarch King Leopold II of Belgium. The carnage went on for quarter of a century until Leo croaked, unfortunately of natural causes.

But hey! What's a mere 10-13 million corpses? Here comes World War 1 which -- thanks to the staggering advances of free-thinking scientists (in say high explosives, manned flight, internal combustion, chemical weapons) -- puts an end to 20 million more lives; plus setting future monsters 1, 2 and 3 solidly in motion. And it's only 1918.

Welcome to the 20th century -- golden age of atheism.

Continue reading "Re: Why the sudden anti-God fervor? Well, this explains it." »

Same Kind of Different As Me

Moore_hall An article in a recent Delta-Sky magazine profiled a book you might want to add to your summer reading list.

Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer and the Unlikely Woman who Bound Them Together is the story of Denver Moore (the modern-day slave) and Ron Hall (the art dealer). How the two men met is as remarkable as the story of the friendship the developed between them in spite of their very different life experiences.

In his early life, Denver Moore was a poor, illiterate sharecropper on a Louisiana cotton plantation. He ran away, eventually ending up in Fort Worth, Texas, homeless and alone.

Ron Hall had a comfortable life as an art dealer, a beautiful home in a Fort Worth suburb, and a loving wife and family. It was the typical American dream, until three events happened to his wife, Deborah, that changed everything.

A growing desire to help the homeless led Deborah to volunteer at the Fort Worth Union Gospel Mission and to convince a reluctant Ron to join her. Around the same time, she was diagnosed with cancer. And, in the midst of all of this, she had a dream of a man who would "change the city," just as in the book of Ecclesiastes.

One night Ron and Deborah were at the Gospel Mission when Denver Moore literally crashed into the room, engulfed in a fight. Much to Deborah's surprise, Denver was the man of her dreams, the man who would change the city. She urged Ron to talk to him, and through that initial encounter grew the most unlikely of friendships that has lasted through seasons of sorrow, pain, joy and everyday life.

Continue reading "Same Kind of Different As Me" »

Doggy Da Vincis

Paintingdogs Have you heard about the doggy Da Vinci story?

Here are the Cliff Notes. A dog trainer in Maryland came up with a clever way to make money. She trained her pooches to pick up a paint brush with their teeth and slap some paint on a canvas.  After the dogs have sufficiently made a mess on the canvas, the trainer puts a frame on it, calls it abstract art, and sells it.

Turns out it was a brilliant fundraising scheme. She managed to sell one of the "paintings" for $350. Go figure.

Aside from the fact that I am jealous that I did not think of such a great moneymaking idea, it raises an interesting and serious question about what constitutes art.

There ought to be an objective standard for calling something art, right? Or, do you think I am barking up the wrong tree?

(Photo courtesy of AZCentral.com)

Here you go, Allen

Does this help?

Although I have to say, had I ever seen my great-uncles or cousins doing that at the biannual family reunion, I probably would have tossed my biscotti.

Celebrating Soccer, Italian Style!

Soccer fans, I need some help. I didn’t play soccer growing up; I’ve never been at all interested in waking up at 3 am to watch the World Cup on TV; and the only game I ever attended was in Kiev in 1994, Ukraine versus Belarus. Taking in the play on the pitch was enjoyable enough, but I found the stadium security far more interesting, as about 30 burly Ukrainian police lined up, wooden clubs in hand, facing the unsurprisingly docile crowd. One unfortunate drunk made a bit of a fuss, and the clubs started flying, with the man immediately dragged off, feet limply trailing behind him. After that? No more fuss.

All of which is to say that I don’t know much about soccer. And perhaps my ignorance explains why I really … truly … have no idea what is going on in this photograph. (Don't look if you're squeamish.)

Monday movie roundup

  • I didn't get to Evan Almighty after all, owing to a last-minute change in family plans, but Steve Beard has a thorough and interesting review here, so you can have that one instead of mine.
  • Elsewhere, Asra Nomani, a colleague of Daniel Pearl, opines that the new film A Mighty Heart does a disservice to the man she knew:

    Recasting a story just so we can tell ourselves that we've found a hero is too easy. It's the quickest way to convince ourselves that what happened wasn't such a bad thing, that it had redeeming value, that we can close the book on it and move on with our lives. . . . For me, "A Mighty Heart" and all the hype surrounding it have only underscored how cheap and manufactured our quest for heroism has become.

    Did you see either of these new movies this weekend? What did you think?

  • Finally, I've been accused of undue harshness toward Knocked Up, but my critique of the film's reported raunchiness has nothing on the feminist outrage brought on by the film's central premise (a premise of which, don't forget, I'm all in favor). Here's Bonnie Erbe in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Seems like ancient history at this point, but as one who came of age as a 1970s Ivy Leaguer, no self-respecting career-oriented peer who conceived out of wedlock would have considered bringing that pregnancy to term. What, and sacrifice the promise of a 'good' marriage, rewarding career and children who would later be born to two involved, concerned, emotionally and financially secure parents? The tradeoff was not even worth discussing." (I'm still trying to figure out the quote marks around "good," not to mention the ones around "husband" later in the article. Someone help me out?) And Sue Hutchinson in the San Jose Mercury News (free registration required): ". . .  Alison's shallow mother recommends that she 'take care of it' so as not to interrupt her career. As if that were the only reason not to have a baby with a do-nothing dude who can barely dress himself and is a virtual stranger to boot."

    I'm just wondering: Would either of these authors consider taking a position against going to bed with a do-nothing dude who can barely dress himself and is a virtual stranger to boot? Or is the arrival of a baby on the scene the only problem?

    (H/T Thunderstruck)

June 22, 2007

Are you a Paul?

Remember that video Catherine posted of Paul Potts, the opera-singing phone salesman who managed to stun no less than Simon Cowell with the beauty of his voice? Some of you reported being moved to tears by it. MSNBC's Tony Maciulis reports that the video "is now one of the Internet’s most popular viral videos.  It has been viewed on YouTube alone more than 2.4 million times." And justly so. But Maciulis goes on to suggest that, although we may not all get our moment of standing onstage, wowing the crowd, and converting the critics, there just might be a little of Paul Potts inside each of us.

My grandmother didn’t graduate from high school and worked for nearly 30 years at a K-Mart.  She makes the world’s greatest stuffed grape leaves, to the point that New York City snob friends have remarked that they were “divine.”  The woman knows how to cook.

One of my closest friends, Lee, is about the best listener I have ever met.  She can talk you through any dilemma you may be facing, big or small, and you will end the evening laughing.

And Paul Potts can sing opera.  He can really sing opera.

Being a Paul isn't about fame and glory.

Continue reading "Are you a Paul?" »

Congratulations (better late than never)!

I've been meaning to blog about this for over a month now, but it kept getting shoved to the back burner, unfortunately. Well, here it finally is. Congratulations to Prison Fellowship and its publications and writers -- including one of our own bloggers -- for winning Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals and Awards of Excellence prizes in the following categories:

  • Editorial: Third Place: Jubilee Extra, "The Da Vinci Hoax" by Chuck Colson
  • Evangelistic Article: Fourth Place: Inside Journal, "The Great Equalizer" by Lennie Spitale
  • Newsletter: Award of Exellence: Jubilee Extra, Jeff Peck, editor; Dara Quinton, art director; Prison Fellowship Ministries, publisher
  • Personality Article: Fourth Place: Inside Journal, "Skateboarding Legend Flies High Again" by Zoe Sandvig

Well done!

Re: An Almighty Outreach

Gina, Daniel Pulliam at Get Religion didn't like the LA Times' coverage of Evan Almighty. In "Missing the 'Jesus Freak' Behind Evan Almighty," Pulliam wrote:

After Christianity Today published a lengthy Q&A with Evan Almighty director Tom Shadyac, there was no excuse for those writing about the movie studio’s attempt to appeal to religious audiences to exclude the fact that Shadyac is in fact a self-described “Jesus freak.”

(Wow, I hadn't heard or read "Jesus Freak" since the early Seventies.) Yet, that's what the Times managed to do.

Given that the Falls Church (Jeb Stuart High School) native's most successful films, Liar, Liar, Bruce Almighty, and now Evan Almighty have had explicitly moral and/or religious themes, you'd think a little curiosity about why might be in order.

Memento Mori Tourism, A Strange Trend

Memento_mori The slogan of the Middle Ages was "Memento mori," or remember death. The skull was a symbolic reminder that all of us will die and all of us will face our Creator. This rather morbid thought served to remind people to live their lives in light of eternity. In the Renaissance the slogan gave way to another, "Carpe diem," or seize the day, also a good reminder, but one that only makes sense in light of the first.

One of the top stories in Time Magazine right now is called "Vacationing at Auschwitz" and highlights a strange new trend they are calling "Dark Tourism." As the article says:

While many of us will head for the beaches, the mountains and the amusement parks this summer, some will be going to un-amusement parks. Lonely Planet, a leading publisher of travel guides, predicts in its Blue List — a summary of 2007 travel trends — that dark tourism will be one of the major growth areas in the industry. Some people want a holiday experience that others would deem anything but a holiday. "Travel to sites associated with death, disaster + depravity," is how Lonely Planet defines dark tourism. We're talking not only about the concentration camps, but also South Africa's apartheid museum and Robben Island prison; Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh trail; the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian; the old dockside slave dungeons of West Africa; the Tuol Sleng Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh; Rwanda's genocide memorials; even Katrina tours of New Orleans.

The author of the article expresses his mixed feelings. I have to say I have mixed feelings about this too. Remembering atrocities lest we repeat them is a good thing. Learning from history is a good thing. Allowing the reality of death to invade our present is a good thing, and no, no one put anything in my coffee, I really believe this. But capitalizing on other people's suffering is not. Macabre fascination just for the sake of it is not a good thing.

I encourage you to read the article and tell me what you think. I'm curious. Would you take a trip like this? Why or why not? Also, Gina and Kris, I have a question for you: do you think the Dickens Theme Park qualifies? After all, it certainly fits the category of un-amusement parks and un-fun vacation ideas. :-)

(Photo courtesy of Laura Waters -- Rwanda genocide memorial, 2006)

An ’almighty’ outreach?

Evan2 There must be some awfully short memories in the journalism business, because it seems like every few months I read an article about some new effort from Hollywood to reach out to the faith-based community -- which is, the writer always declares, the first such effort in years.

Nonetheless, the L. A. Times, which takes much the same tack in a piece on the new film Evan Almighty, makes some pretty good points:

When Hollywood finds religion, it usually runs away — declining to distribute "The Passion of the Christ" or playing down spiritual themes in "The Chronicles of Narnia." But on Friday, Universal Pictures will release "Evan Almighty," an overtly spiritual Noah's ark comedy squarely aimed at the nation's faithful.

In investing more than $200 million in the film's production and marketing, Universal is betting that blue-state filmmakers can once again tap into red-state values. . . .

In marketing the film to parts of the country that Hollywood often derides as "the flyover states," Universal has to convince audiences that "Evan Almighty" seeks to honor — rather than belittle — religious devotion. And since the preceding film in the series, "Bruce Almighty," featured Jim Carrey's often bawdy humor, the studio must also convince audiences that the PG-rated "Evan Almighty" is safe for families.

Go here to read the rest of the article and find out what positive messages churchgoers are seeing in the film. And if you see Evan Almighty, come back and let us know what you think. I have plans to go myself, so I'll report back later.

June 21, 2007

Weekly Must-Have Tune of the Week #3

Pirate I have to confess that I’d actually planned to point you to The Call’s “This Is Your Life,” from Red Moon, because if there is a perfect Christian Worldview life anthem, that is it. iTunes, however, does not appear to have the song listed, which is an egregious moral wrong that cannot possibly be righted.

Not without sending me a free iTunes gift card for at least $100 anyway.

So, on to this week’s Weekly Must-Have Tune of the Week.

Feeling pirate-y are you? Aye, I hope so, because "Captain Kidd," by Great Big Sea, is one to file under Pirate Songs With Unintended Christian Worldview Themes. That’s a big file of tunes to be sure, but this one should sit alone atop the heap.

Accentuate the positive

This is how you make people understand that a veto of embryonic stem-cell research is a move that's pro-life, pro-health, and pro-research.

Vetoing a stem cell bill for the second time, President Bush on Wednesday sought to placate those who disagree with him by signing an executive order urging scientists toward what he termed "ethically responsible" research in the field.

Read more.

(Via FRC)

What does this button do?

Redslash Test-driving a new car the other day, I was reminded again of the frustrations of moving from a word-based society to an image-based one. There were many, many buttons and knobs with pictures of them instead of words. What did they do? One of them had a picture of something with a big "X" painted over it, as if someone had made a mistake and crossed it out. I was in a reckless mood, so I pushed it. Mercifully, it was not the button for the ejector seat. Nor was it the release for the oil dump (to thwart any criminals who might be chasing me) or the switch that caused the missile launch.

I can already hear what you're saying: "We need images instead of words because so many drivers don't speak, or read, English. Plus, you watch too many James Bond films." My response is: Why is it not okay to insist that non-English speakers learn English, but okay to force ME to learn what all those X#%^& symbols mean? Can't car manufacturers give us a choice? Words or images? English or Swahili?

One reason all those teensy-weensy images bug me is that with words, you can simply read what every button does. But with images, you have to memorize what a couple of dozen different knobs and buttons do. Ditto my cell phone. Lots of images (such as--most maddeningly--the picture of an old-fashioned telephone receiver on not one, but TWO different buttons). Images on cars, images on road signs, images on restroom doors (okay, restroom door pictures aren't hard to figure out).

My kids have grown up with this stuff, and they don't get irritated with it, as I do. They just assume it's their job to spend half their lives figuring out what all these images mean. But as the Big Guy noted in a couple of BreakPoint commentaries, our increasing reliance on images over words can lead, not to just to massive frustration for the over-40 crowd, but to a bad place, spiritually speaking.

Continue reading "What does this button do? " »

What Does 333 Look Like to You?

Tammet What would it be like if, when you looked at the number 1,523,586, you saw more than just a seven-figure income or a headache on a math test? Instead, you saw a beautiful landscape of colors, shapes, and textures, something evocative, something that stirs your emotions and gives you satisfaction.

Meet Daniel Tammet, a 28-year-old autistic savant. Like most people with autism, Daniel has a difficult time developing interpersonal relationships. He has to practice reading body language. He has to work at understanding physical affection. But, as a savant, one of 50 in the world, he has an almost godlike ability to experience the numerical world. Ask him to calculate 117 to the fourth, and he'll have the answer in seconds. Tell him your birthdate, and he'll tell you the day of the week you were born on. Ask him what he thinks of 289, and he'll say it's an ugly number. But, ask him about 333, and he'll tell you he loves it because it's round and beautiful.

If you're still not impressed, how about this? On Pi Day (March 14) 2004, Daniel set the European record for memorizing and dictating Pi to 22,514 digits! Since then, Daniel was featured in the documentary "Brainman" (a spin-off of the film Rain Man which tells the story of the renowned savant Kim Peek) and recently published his memoir, Born on a Blue Day.

As I watched Daniel draw beautiful pictures representing his number visualizations during a 60 Minutes special, I began to wonder--what does this say about man as God's image bearers? Does Daniel's ability to perceive numbers almost supernaturally make him more godlike than those of us who need a calculator to find 117 to the fourth power?

Is our inability to see as Daniel sees a result of the Fall?

Gerson’s Inadvertent Backhanded Compliments

As a Protestant who grew up with constant visits from friendly nuns from the convent across the street, who has fond memories of visits to services at St. Agnes, who now has several Catholic converts in the family, and who -- well -- just generally thinks quite well of Catholicism, I find myself entirely amused by this bit from Michael Gerson:

The immigration debate is a reminder to the memory-impaired that President Bush ran and won in 2000 as "a different kind of Republican" -- meaning the kind that isn't libertarian or nativist. Bush was orthodox on tax cuts and moral values. But from the earliest days of the nomination contest, he set out policies -- a federal role in improving education, humane immigration reform, Medicare prescription drug coverage -- that borrowed more from Roman Catholic social thought than from Friedrich Hayek.

I mean, really, trying to pawn off two of the Administration's biggest blunders as being derived from "Roman Catholic social thought." I'd call it shameless, if it didn't strike me instead as hilarious. The reason we had to enact the ridiculous Bush-Kennedy "No Child Left Behind" Act, which stripped parents and local governments of much of their control over their schools, and the far worse Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement & Modernization Act, which unjustly burdens young generations with huge payments for unnecessarily expansive entitlements which they, themselves, will never enjoy (also see "Social Security"), is in response to "Roman Catholic social thought"??

Continue reading "Gerson’s Inadvertent Backhanded Compliments" »

Risk It!

Safety_town Helen Keller once said, "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." I love that quote. We are fragile beings, completely dependent on God. We could just as easily be killed crossing the street or in a toaster accident as we could doing some more commonly considered risky behavior.

In her new book, Time Peace, Ellen Vaughn tells the story of some missionaries who were in Vietnam in the late 1960s. About the danger, one of them wrote home to her children in college, "Don't you know we're immortal until our work is done?" I can't think of a safer place to be than in the middle of God's will. For nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. With that kind of security, we are freed up to risk it. Read more at my post over at Common Grounds today. By the way, if you aren't familiar with the Common Grounds blog, it is a fantastic group blog where each post focuses on the theme of learning and living the Christian story. The posts are real, down-to-earth, wrestling with what it means to know God in our daily lives.

The world is upside down

Vertigo So now I find out from Roberto and David that last night's AFI 100 Years . . . 100 Movies special was not a rerun, but a whole new updated list. Well, I feel stupid (but that's nothing new). I love watching AFI "100" specials, despite the fact that they infuriate me on a regular basis. This one looks more infuriating than most.

Okay, so Singin' in the Rain moved up from tenth to fifth -- my favorite movie of all time, so I'm good with that. And nice to see Vertigo jumping up the list as well -- I'm a little bemused to see #61 suddenly turn into #9, but whatever. Magnificent film, wholly deserves to be above The Wizard of Oz and The Graduate, no problems there.

But Casablanca moved down?

CASABLANCA MOVED DOWN??

And All about Eve? And Gone with the Wind? And It's a Wonderful Life?

And My Fair Lady and An American in Paris moved ALL THE WAY OFF?? And Titanic didn't?

You all can discuss this travesty among yourselves (old list here, new list here). I'll be over in the corner, sulking.

A Time to Remember and Wonder

Pensacola_naval_air_museum3 My husband, daughter, and I are currently on vacation along the Gulf coast, mostly scuba diving but also taking some time to play tourist. Yesterday, we stopped by the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. Though not as large as the Air Museum in Dayton, Ohio, it is nevertheless well designed and highly informative. We enjoyed seeing the evolution of Navy aviation throughout the 20th century.

For me, the most memorable part of the exhibit was a small section dedicated to the men who were POWs in Vietnam. My husband was an Air Force pilot who was stationed in SE Asia, so we knew a number of the AF POWs and their families. The display reminded me of a dark period in American history, when we were fighting an unpopular war, and when those in the military were generally distrusted, if not hated. Many civilians simply could not understand why anyone would become a soldier voluntarily, let alone willingly go to fight a war in order to help others become free. As a result, the POWs were largely forgotten or ignored -- until a few families launched a nationwide letter-writing campaign that forced the North Vietnamese government to allow the Red Cross to visit them, and to permit the men to write home. 

I will never forget the story of one wife we knew at Mountain Home AFB. In the aftermath of that letter-writing campaign, she went to the mailbox one afternoon to find a six-line letter from her husband -- the first word in five years that he was even alive! I will also never forget being at a dinner party one night with a returning POW who, when asked in jest what he thought of Jane Fonda, grew very quiet -- then told the story of how he was tortured for refusing to meet with her when she went to North Vietnam on her little "fact finding tour."

Such memories came flooding back yesterday, but also new thoughts arose as I looked at a museum dedicated to soldiers and the weapons of war that they have used across the years to keep us free. I wondered just how effective those weapons can be against the enemies we now battle in Iraq, Afghanistan, and (perhaps soon) Iran? And what will happen if we lose our fight against the Islamofascists in those places? What would the victors do with a place like the Naval Aviation Museum -- a place dedicated to an idea that they find detestable -- the idea of personal freedom? 

I will admit that there are times when I hear all the bad news about this current war, when I hear about how Muslims are murdering each other in even higher numbers than they are killing our troops, and I wonder whether it's not time to bring our troops home and let them "have at it." Getting rid of Saddam was a good thing; attempting to help the Iraqi people become free is a noble goal. Whether we can accomplish that goal -- no matter how fine our weapons and our troops -- is another issue altogether. Religious hatred runs deep in those lands -- not just Muslims against Jews and Christians, but against their fellow Muslims.  And defeating THAT evil is not something men and machines can do.    

June 20, 2007

Afraid of love?

Zoe, it seems like there's something about those Hitchens remarks that gets us thinking in musical terms. This was the song that came to mind for me.

Isn't it odd? The thought of "a supervising creator who took a personal interest in your life" can inspire either dread of a nightmarish "Big Brother" scenario, or the peace of knowing that one is eternally loved. I guess it's all in how you look at it.

Or maybe for some, just the thought of such love is enough to inspire dread? Graham Greene thought it might be, when he put these words in the mouth of the "whisky priest" in his great novel The Power and the Glory:

We wouldn't recognize that love. It might even look like hate. . . . It would be enough to scare us -- God's love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn't it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around.

That's an angle we don't often consider when we think about what makes atheists, or "anti-theists," tick. Perhaps we ought to.

Every parent’s nightmare

Anne has a column up at Townhall about a tragic accident here in the D.C. area that hit home for a lot of families.

It was not the kind of high school graduation story that parents want to read about.

On the front page of Saturday's Washington Post was the story of four bright, beautiful young girls who died in a horrific accident hours after two of them had graduated from West Potomac High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. Driving on the Capital Beltway, their car veered into the path of a tractor-trailer rig. Their white Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible was demolished. Alcohol was found in the car, but police have not yet revealed whether it had anything to do with the crash. The driver of the tractor-trailer, whom police say was not at fault, is devastated, as are the families of those four bright, beautiful girls, their classmates, and their friends.

This tragic story sent a chill down my spine because my own 18-year-old son, Travis, just graduated from a high school not far from the one the dead girls attended--and he, too, was in a car wreck shortly after graduation.

Read more.

Teaching Biblical Truths to Children

Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint radio commentary today entitled "The Offensive Truth: Relativism and Our Kids" is about the need to teach biblical worldview to children. His commentary concluded by saying, “We must redouble our efforts to instill our children a biblical worldview. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We cannot stand idly by while relativism undermines the faith of our children and robs them of the one sure hope they have and desperately need.”

Aside from BreakPoint’s Centurions Program and the ReWired Teen Christian Worldview Curriculum, one ministry I know that sets this example is PAGASA (which means hope), which teaches biblical worldview to thousands of children and teenagers in the Philippines through Bible clubs in local public schools and daycare centers ,as well as training local pastors and public school teachers in biblical worldview and Christian values education. To learn more and to support Pagasa, visit their website.

It's never to early to start teaching Christian worldview to children. As Tracy F. Munsil, Director of Research and Publications for the Center for Arizona Policy, puts it, “Establishing your children's worldview is like equipping them with a radar screen constructed with God's truth. You provide them with a grid of truth so that their alarm goes off as soon as any false idea passes across their screen. If there is no radar screen, there's no mechanism for distinguishing or discarding false ideas.”

Not only adults, but children too desperately need Christ, especially with the decay of our culture. Teaching them biblical worldview is a legacy that we can leave to them which will help them become spiritually healthy and mature and eventually impact the culture. Biblical worldview is the most practical thing in life we can teach them. The challenge is to approach this early teaching to children in a strategic way.

As a young parent of a toddler, I'll be happy to hear any ideas or suggestions from anyone on how to teach Biblical truth to my child.

What If You’re Wrong, Mr. Hitchens?

Hitchens I just finished watching a recent debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and Christian Marvin Olasky, editor of WORLD Magazine.

Hitchens clarifies that he prefers to be called an "anti-theist," not an "atheist." Atheists could possibly want to believe in God, but not believe because they don't think there's enough evidence. Anti-theists, on the other hand, not only don't believe in God, but don't want to. In Hitchens' words, here's why:

If there was a supervising creator who took a personal interest in your life, what you would have, from the moment of your conception would be a permanent, inescapable, unchangeable, unalterable, unchallengeable rule which would involve round the clock surveillance and supervision of every single waking and sleeping moment of your life . . . the most complete form of totalitarianism ever imagined . . . I think those that wish for it are wishing for slavery and servility, for the abdication of their own responsibility, for the dissolution of their own minds, for the abolition of their individuality. I am very glad to say that there is no evidence for it at all. We can relax.

Or can we? Olasky doesn't think so and neither does Christian singer Nicole Nordeman in her song "What If?"

Continue reading " What If You’re Wrong, Mr. Hitchens?" »

Landshark

President Bush's anticipated veto of embryonic stem cell legislation provides me with an opportunity  to  pass along something I discovered while reading The Third Reich: A New History by Michael Burleigh.

Commenting on what he called a "change in the concept of humanity" among his fellow Germans, Bonhoeffer noted that the "terrible exigencies of war" had "forced" Germans to "ascribe a different value to the life of the individual than was the case before."

According to Bonhoeffer, some Germans had become so inured to the idea of the sick being sacrificed for the sake of the healthy that they had come to "almost approve" of the idea. In other words, they had signed on to "the right of the healthy to stay alive."

"The danger," according to Bonhoeffer, was that the "self-sacrificing subordination of the strong to the needs of the helpless and ill, which lies at the heart of any true concern for the sick, will give ground to the demand of the healthy to live."

Powerful stuff. It's even more powerful when you know that the Bonhoeffer I'm quoting isn't Dietrich but his father Karl; that the war he refers to is World War I, not II; and that he said this in 1920, before no one but a literal handful of people had ever heard of Adolf Hitler, and only three months after the Nazi party had been founded and its treasury consisted of 15 Reichmarks kept in a cigar box.

Continue reading "Landshark " »

Leap of illogic

If this kind of thinking is all we have to fear from atheists, we don't have much to fear. (See here and here for background.) How on earth is it possible to make a leap from "believing in spirits" to "witchdoctor" in the course of two short sentences? If Mr. Stuttaford is forced to rule out the philosophical advice of everyone who ever believed in the supernatural, he's going to be a very intellectually lonely man.

June 19, 2007

Glimpsing ’The Face’

Theface Friends, I have a recommendation and a question for you. First, the recommendation. On Friday night, my church hosted an event in downtown DC at the Atlas Theater as part of our ongoing series of Urban Oasis events. The purpose of the events is "to foster dialogues that relate the local to the global, the intellect to the heart, and ideas to their consequences." We hope that these discussions are engaging, non-threatening events that people who do not profess faith will feel comfortable attending and that may spur all of us to explore matters of faith more deeply.

Last Friday, we viewed a fantastic documentary called "The Face," which first aired on PBS several years ago. It is narrated by Mel Gibson, Ricardo Montalban, Bill Moyers, Edward Herrmann, Patricia Neal and others and explores how Jesus has been depicted in art down through the centuries.  It is an amazing film.

To me, one of the most intriguing aspects of the film is how cultures have depicted Jesus differently. The early church was focused on images of Christ that depicted his glory and his resurrected life. It wasn't until the Middle Ages where the sufferings of Christ became such a dramatic focus of the artistic expressions of Jesus. In Ethiopia, where some of the earliest depictions of Jesus can be found (thank you Phillip!), likewise, images focused on the resurrected, triumphant Christ. In many other examples, the representations echoed the cultural values of the society. Constantian images reflected Jesus as an emperor; more modern representations reflect Jesus in the image of the painter himself, as a suffering artist.

As I reflected on the film, I was stunned again by the whole concept of incarnation. God took on human flesh, he condescended to take on matter and form, and this wasn't simply a momentary blip in the redemptive history radar screen. The Son of God will forever have a human form, though with a resurrected body. This means that the face of Jesus that artists have tried to depict (and which are most likely vastly different than Christ's own face)--this face has an ultimate reality. We will one day see this incarnate Jesus, all of us. The question is, will his face be that of a Savior or of our righteous judge? It depends on whether we are ones who have walked by faith, knowing only his voice, or whether we have been ones who have walked our own way.

Now the promised question.

Continue reading "Glimpsing ’The Face’" »

Re: Taking Nominations for Humble Heroes

FirefightersA while back, Zoe asked us to list some humble heroes. Today I have some suggestions. Nine, to be exact.

(Photo courtesy of the Charleston Post and Courier)

Anne’s Right

Dear Mr. Hipp,

I wholeheartedly agree with Anne. Unfortunately, universities like Duke are complicit in immoral behavior by allowing it to flourish on their campuses. The embarrassment you say Duke’s leadership speaks of is because the actions of the lacrosse players only highlight the activities of Duke’s other students. 

I should say universities across America are goading students toward immoral behavior because a lot of institutions are offering so-called academic courses on pornography, which include performing or filming sex acts like the one described by Judith Resiman in "Are Campus Pornography Courses Sexual Abuse?"

The injustice these guys suffered is real. It also highlights Duke’s faulty, or should I say missing, innocent-until-proven-guilty mechanism. The sorry excuse for an apology also demonstrates a continued discrimination toward these players. It also really highlights one thing: Institutions for higher learning show a particular loathing for white men.

Like Anne said, this was an abysmal apology, and it shows a real lack of contrition. I hope the players and their families have more mercy toward the professors by not suing them personally than the professors did to the players. What really brought disrepute to the university were the actions of its president and its professors.

Furthermore, I hope this particular witch hunt receives a big footnote in history. Even more damning for our nation, we have become a nation that adjudicates by press release.

If you are interested, here are three articles which clearly show evidence of reckless judgment exhibited by Duke’s president, Richard H. Brodhead: One, Two, Three

’That unexpected place’

Mark Earley finishes his three-part BreakPoint commentary series today with a look at how to equip Christian young people with the tools they need to practice a life of discipline and obedience to God.

Here’s one major factor that the Church has ignored, to our kids’ peril: the fact that they’ll likely be single much longer than we were. As Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation points out in her new book, Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the Twenty-First Century, “Our culture in general, and the Christian subculture in particular, fosters in young women a desire for marriage and the presumption that marriage will be a part of life sooner rather than later. But reality regularly departs from the script. Almost six out of ten women today are not married by age twenty-five. Three out of ten are not married by age thirty.”

We can no longer simply coach preteens and teenagers on abstinence techniques and think it’s enough. Young Christians today will reach adulthood, find themselves single for longer than they expected, and face a sudden dearth of teaching and encouragement from the Church that will help them adjust to what Marshall calls “that unexpected place.”

With little understanding or support from Christians, and next to none from the culture, it’s no wonder teens and young adults struggle—and often start rationalizing disobedience to God.

Read more.

If you want to be a good writer . . .

. . . Don't be a politician.

Sad, isn't it?

Interestingly, this is the second article I've seen (I think the other may have been in NR) that states that Barack Obama was a much stronger writer before he went into politics.

We’re sorry, sort of

This--from Duke University to the three lacrosse players it persecuted for a full year--is a classic non-apology apology:

We welcomed their exoneration and deeply regret the difficult year they and their families have had to endure. These young men and their families have been the subject of intense scrutiny that has taken a heavy toll.

Here's what they should have said: "We, the leaders of Duke University, deeply regret the fact that many of us irresponsibly rushed to judgment when a woman with a criminal record falsely accused three of our students of a violent assault. Our actions following this woman's false accusation caused great pain to the players and their parents. We are ashamed of the fact that we enthusiastically took part in a witch hunt that took a full year out of the lives of the players and their families, and which forced them to spend millions of dollars fighting false charges--charges we accepted based on no evidence whatsoever, and which we helped spread far and wide.

"We are sorry we forced their coach to resign. We were wrong to suspend the players and punish the entire Duke lacrosse team by cancelling the remainder of their season. We regret that so many Duke professors attacked the characters of these young men, largely because they were white and male and played an 'elite' sport. We are sorry that some of our professors insulted members of the lacrosse team by refusing to have them in their classes. These professors will be required to send written apologies to each member of the lacrosse team. Professors who viciously attacked the three accused players in print will also be forced to apologize. They will also be required to send letters to the newspapers in which they spread their scurrilous lies acknowledging that they were wrong.    

"Nothing will ever make up for what we put these students and their families through--certainly not the financial settlement we agreed to pay them. We are deeply sorry that our irresponsible behavior brought shame upon ourselves and upon our university. We have learned from our mistakes. Never again will we accept, at face value, an accusation of criminal behavior against one of our own."

THAT's what Duke's leaders should have said.

The Priest Said to the Imam . . .

There are plenty of things wrong -- countless even -- with an Episcopal priest declaring adherence to Islam. But this, from the Anglican site VirtueOnline, perhaps captures the essence:

[The Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes] Redding says what Islam does is take Jesus out of the way of her relationship with God, "but it doesn't drop Jesus. I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam, and he didn't drop me off at the door. He's there, too." Islam and Christianity are complementary, she suggests, and that the Muslim profession of faith that there is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God, does not contradict anything in Christianity. Nor do the professions made at a Christian baptism contradict anything in Islam. "For me to become a human being means to identify solely with the will of God. Islam gives me the tools to do that," she explained.

Whether the words are original or taken from Dr. Redding, the statement about moving Christ "out of the way" of a relationship with God abounds with irony. It is, after all, the most fundamental claim of Christianity that Christ is the only Way to know God.

While that point alone should be enough to render ludicrous the idea of an Episcopal Muslim, the concern is not just one priest's left-field theology, but whether the denomination will allow such thinking to seep in to acceptance. That would present the worst of all the ECUSA's recent doctrinal missteps, most of which have in some way diminished emphasis of the lordship of Christ.

June 18, 2007

The greatness of humility

Billy_and_ruth_graham The Washington Post offered an especially moving tribute to Ruth Bell Graham on Saturday. As Laura Sessions Stepp writes, "What might seem to many like oppression in fact set her free to shape a life that included, but by no means was limited to, a man she deeply loved."

It's a beautiful and meaningful line, but to get the full impact of it, you have to read the whole article. Now, if a suitor ever informed me that "Woman was created to be a wife and mother" -- fervently as I do believe that kids benefit from mom staying home when she can -- I'd go all Dorothy Sayers on him and point out that if he said the converse, that men are created to be husbands and fathers without being created to be anything else, it would make no sense. And that's true. But Ruth Graham not only went ahead with marriage to a man who made the above statement, but she also found a way to be a supportive wife, a good mother, and her own person all at the same time. I found my eyes widening a little as I read the list of all the things she talked her husband out of doing that could have got in the way of his message and his career, if not for her foresight and influence. I don't know very much about Mrs. Graham, but I think she must have had a deep and rare understanding of what it means to be a Christian servant, to humble oneself for the sake of others, in an age where practically everyone clamors for power and control and scorns as weak the ones -- especially women -- who deliberately remove themselves from that struggle.

As one who wrote some time ago against the idea of burying her and her husband where she really didn't want to be buried, I was particularly touched that in the end she gave in -- for the sake, presumably, of avoiding more family tension. Again, the fighting Italian in me, who probably would have resisted to the bitter end and beyond (seriously, I'd haunt anyone who buried me near a talking cow), stands in awe of this woman's grace and humility. For an added grace note, she and her husband had prison inmates build the coffin.

Finally, how fascinating that this piece was written by the woman who literally wrote the book on why teens and young adults today can't make relationships work. Some of the young women that Ms. Stepp profiled in that book should read this piece of hers; they could learn a lot.

(Photo courtesy of UNCTV)

More on why dads matter

From Mark Earley's BreakPoint commentary today:

Like the journalist Laura Sessions Stepp, whom I mentioned on Friday, [Dr. Meg] Meeker has seen a lot of girls stranded in the sexual wasteland. In her medical practice, Meeker has treated far too many of these young girls for sexually transmitted diseases, depression, eating disorders, and underage pregnancy.

And time and again, this doctor has found that the girls involved in damaging behaviors are the girls who don’t feel loved and valued by their fathers.

Read more.

Why the sudden anti-God fervor?

So I was reading this morning about new, slim portable gift-books for atheists. Just what I want to get all the people I care about, really. I'll just put a bow on it and write a card: "Good news, life has no meaning, there's no plan for your life, and you're evolved from ooze." Wonderful! But seriously folks, I'm curious, why do you think there's been a sudden upswing in popularity of books on atheism? I've got my theories, what are yours?

The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Has Ended

Today was David's last day in middle school. In approximately thirty minutes, his bus will pull up in front of our home and I will have to say goodbye to Andy, the driver, and Margariutte, his assistant. I hate goodbyes and I will hate this one more than most: their devotion to David for these past three years went well beyond doing their job.

David is leaving a place where people know and love him. At the Spring Revue, kids got on their chairs to cheer him on as he did his best rendition of Robert Goulet singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story 2.

Next fall, it's high school. His and our future is just as uncertain as it's ever been, the kind of uncertainty that would drive your typical American control freak crazy.

Forgive me for being trite but change is inescapable and control is usually an illusion -- you don't have to be a Buddhist to believe this. Christians believe (or at least, should) it, too. The (a?) difference is that for Christians the answer to the suffering caused by change isn't the cultivation of a detachment but trust and hope. Not trust and hope in the abstract but the kind of trust and hope born from the knowledge that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has acted, is acting and will continue to act to reconcile the world unto Himself and that one day the creation that has seen and continues to see so much suffering will be renewed.

For most of my adult life, every time I faced a major transition in my life, I marked the occasion by saying "the day thou gavest, Lord, has come to an end." It was my way of saying "goodbye" to the old and familiar and "hello" to the new and anxiety-provoking.

Some of you will recognize it as a variation on the title of this hymn. I knew it as the title of the music Rick Wakeman wrote for Anne Boleyn on this album. In either case, the point is the same: I don't know what tomorrow will bring, I only hope (and sometimes even trust) that the one who got me through today will be at my (and David's) side.

An Important Reminder for Christian Wonks (like me)

Time has a way of sifting and testing human achievements. Men design their social and political systems, and for centuries people regard their own order as the best that can be imagined. They go to war to defend it because they believe deeply that if that particular organization of the world collapsed there would be nothing left to make life worth living in their own time or in the future. Yet the river of time is littered with the ruins of social and political systems -- city-states, empires, dictatorships, monarchies -- and we wonder why those who lived under them should ever have defended them or valued them so highly.

...[H]uman systems rise and thrive and then fall because the processes of time have their own built-in "judgment." Institutions, which at first glance seem to be quite worthy, eventually crumble to ruins because the centuries themselves bring out the flaws.

What is "judged," of course, is not this man or that but the system itself. At bottom it is the inadequacy in human nature that comes under judgment, for in the course of time it is human nature that turns the good thing into an abuse.

From Bruce Shelley's Christian History in Plain Language, page 224.

A Tale of Sludge

Dickensworld I wish I had more time to flesh out my thoughts about the opening of Dickens World in Kent. You may recall that I mentioned the arrival of this new brand of amusement back in April, although I failed to provide commentary there as well. So instead of plaguing you with my opinions, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the park.

What’s this ’We’ Stuff, Kemosabe?

"Pressure mounts for Libby clemency" is the headline of a story in today's edition of the Politico. The lead says that

White House loyalists have begun arguing that clemency for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby -- either a pardon or a commuted sentence -- would be a way for an embattled President Bush to reassert himself, particularly among conservatives.

Now, I avoided the whole Valerie Plame story with a nearly-religious fervor. So, I have no opinion on the fate of Libby or anyone else connected with the story. So, why am I passing this tidbit on? Because of this:

A well-connected Republican whose views have reached Bush’s inner circle said that if Libby goes to prison, “It would be seen by the religious and policy conservatives as the president abandoning his loyalty virtue for the hedonistic pleasure of political expediency.”

"Religious conservatives"? Either this guy is talking out of a part of his body not normally associated with speech or some "religious conservatives" have forgotten why they became "religious conservatives" in the first place. I don't know which is worse: the perception that "religious conservatives" are just another captive interest group within the GOP or the reality that they are.

The end of a long, bad trip

That's what Dawn Eden, newly appointed director of the Cardinal Newman Society's Love and Responsibility program, calls the dismal outcome of the Summer of Love, that infamous period in the late '60s that celebrated free love, one's ability to enjoy sex wherever one found it instead of being weighted down by a pesky little thing like commitment or marriage. Eden writes:

Thanks to the Pill and a counterculture that defined rebellion as annoying one's parents, thousands of youths became guinea pigs in a kind of mass experiment propagated by prurient Beat Generation relics such as Helms, Allen Ginsberg (died at 70, hepatitis and liver cancer) and Ken Kesey (died at 66, liver cancer). They were told that they would overcome the superficial consumerism in which they had been raised, reaching a higher spiritual level by uniting their minds to drugs and their bodies to willing takers. Instead, they themselves became products to be consumed -- victimized by pushers, treated as sexual objects to be disposed of, or corrupted into predators.

It boggles the mind to think what the Summer of Love's sad victims could have accomplished if, rather than seeking to fulfill their own juvenile desires, they had aimed to create a true culture of love.

Read the rest of her op-ed piece in the L.A. Daily News here and the opposing viewpoint ("it's a bummer to see the commercialization of the hippie '60s spirit") here. Paired together, these essays could be good conversation starters for your small group or neighborhood book club, if you dare!