- List All


  • Web   The Point

Blogroll

+ Theology/Religion + Culture + Marriage & Family + Politics + Academia + Human Rights
Christianity Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Religion Blogs - Blog Top Sites
Link With Us - Web Directory



« June 2007 | Main | August 2007 »

July 25, 2007

Effortless Perfection

Faith_hill The cover of Redbook for July has a picture of Faith Hill and a teaser "Faith and Tim: What's normal about them; what's not." Well, the question is a bit ironic given the fact that one of the things that is not normal about Faith is her cover photo.

It's no suprise to me that cover-photos are photo-shopped. What is a bit more unusual is getting to see the original next to the shopped one. The site jezebel.com (site contains profanity) has them digitalized so you can see both. It's maddening how obsessed with perfection our culture is. Faith is a stunning woman without being photoshopped, but we are so obsessed with an ideal that even someone as outwardly attractive as she is has to have her photo doctored. The new standard that is being held up is one of "effortless perfection."

I have a different ideal I'm working toward. It is not one that disowns beauty as the Gnostics disowned the body. But it is one that focuses on the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore cares for itself, not for itself, but for others. I believe that true beauty only happens as one becomes more and more others-centered. A person who cares for her body because of the Supreme Other, God, not for vain self-flattery is on the road to true beauty. A person who cares for her inward spirit as a way to display the character of God and treat others as God would want them treated is on her way to true beauty. If there is an effortless perfection worth working toward, I believe it is one of self-forgetfulness. I've spotted it in few beautiful women both in fiction and real life. Read more and let me know the examples you've spotted...

Continue reading "Effortless Perfection" »

Anti-Choice College Applications

I just downloaded a college application for a master's degree in fine arts in writing and literature from a New England college -- and became annoyed on the very first page. Under "Name," applicants are told to circle "Mr.," "Ms," or "Dr." There was plenty of room to include "Miss" and "Mrs.," so clearly they were not excluded for that reason. They were excluded, presumably, because they are not considered acceptable options for women to choose.

I've run into this kind of anti-choice form before. When I recently filled out a credit card application, I was presented with the exact same options. I refused to use the title chosen for me ("Ms."), which I dislike exceedingly. That left "Mr." and "Dr." I chose "Dr." -- which, of course, is inaccurate. When I called the credit card company a few days ago over a billing problem, it was rather fun being referred to, respectfully, as "Dr. Morse."

Those of you who have followed my scribblings on "The Point" know I was up in arms last fall over my son's application to Johns Hopkins, which demanded that he identify his parents as "Parent One, Gender (Optional) and Parent Two, Gender (Optional)" -- an indication of the school's support of the political pretense that a child can have two (biological) parents of the same sex.

The refusal to allow women to identify themselves as "Miss" or "Mrs." is every bit as political; it forces  female applicants to accept somebody else's sexual politics. In this case, the college believes that it's inappropriate for women to identify themselves with their husbands (Mrs.) or reveal their marital status (Miss) in a way men don't have to. If we use these titles, it just proves we're living in a false reality; we need more enlightened people to help us make the right choices. By refusing to list "Mrs." or "Miss," this college is actually freeing me up from an oppresive patriarchy!

Problem is, I'm too old and irritable to put up with this kind of crap. I'm thinking of marking "Mr." on the college form, and if they question it, I'll tell them I'm transgendered. Or...I may just leave it blank. If they ask me about it, I'll invite them to call me "Her Imperial Majesty." Or I'll tell them my decision regarding a title is a deeply personal and private choice -- too private to share with them.

John Stott Retires

John Stott, a pastor described by Billy Graham as "the most respected clergyman in the world today," retired from public ministry this past Sunday. In his final address, he urged Christians to truly live like Christ. You can read a summary of his sermon at this link.

In light of the 23 Korean Christians who are now being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan (please remember to pray for them and their families), I think these words about being Christ-like in patient endurance are particularly relevant: "Patient endurance ... may well become increasingly relevant as persecution increases in many cultures."

Words I found especially convicting (in fact, painfully convicting) relate to why "our evangelistic efforts are often fraught with failure." Stott says, "One main reason is that we don't look like the Christ we are proclaiming." The article also quotes a former Muslim who said, "If all Christians were Christians -- that is, Christ-like -- there would be no more Islam today."

Dr. Stott will no longer be in the pulpit, but -- thankfully -- we can still sit at his feet and learn as we read his books or listen to his sermons online at places like The Veritas Forum.

July 24, 2007

Blog-a-Book: Purpose: How To Save a Life

Peacock2 Sally Fitzgerald, the compiler of O’Connor’s letters, notes that when she placed Flannery on the train to return to her Milledgeville, Georgia, home, she was “smiling perhaps a little wanly but wearing her beret at a jaunty angle.” Less then a week later, the Fitzgeralds received the news that Flannery was dying of lupus. The cocky hat of O’Connor’s ambitions and hopes now seemed to lie in the shadows of the valley into which her life had been plunged.

As I read the letters that surrounded this time, they resonated with me, fresh from the antiseptic stench of hospital halls myself, where my grandma is fighting the debilitating effects of a massive stroke. Fitzgerald notes, “As she emerged from the crisis…she began to communicate again herself -- chiefly on the subject of her novel, which had never been much out of her mind, even when the lupus attack was most severe.” I can practically see Enoch Emery, his flushed pimply face rising out of an ape suit, regarding Flannery from the foot of her hospital bed. But still, it was he and his "wise blood," as well as every other character and the novel itself, that formed a heavy rope of purpose that pulled Flannery through. Were it not for such gifts of purpose, how would we survive these times of pain? It is such gifts that wrap 75-year-old fingers and hands pierced with IV tubing around the frame of a metal hospital bed with a grip of iron. The gifts of a novel, a character, a grandchild’s hands on the forehead, a hymn hummed softly over a gray head, a hat at a jaunty angle, a desire to live.

While she lay recovering in Baldwin Memorial hospital, Flannery wrote to a friend, “I don’t believe in time no more much so it’s all one to me…” She had passed through a deep place in her life, a river that had not overcome her and a fire that had not burned her. In a darkened ICU ward, these words of Isaiah 43 were shafts of light. I read them softly but they glowed with their own power. “When you walk the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers they will not overcome you.” The sun tipped through the west-facing windows, setting my grandma’s hand holding mine awash in gold. In that second, I sensed the strong ropes that were pulling her back and in Whose hands they ultimately lay. She squeezed my hand, her breathing deep and joyful, and I knew she wasn’t pulling alone.

If this is our new guide, we’re lost

Drew_pinsky Have sexual conservatives and liberals (for lack of better terms) finally found some common ground?

Michael O'Brien thinks so, writing in National Review Online:

For several years now, IWF has brought [Dr. Drew] Pinsky to Capitol Hill for an annual “Sex and Dating Conference.” The event is marketed specifically towards the summer influx of Beltway interns, and what better way to draw the college-aged than “sex” and “Dr. Drew,” the MTV alumnus whom many of today’s interns grew up watching. Sure beats seeing Robert Byrd in the hallway again. But the loosening-conservatives-and-Dr.-Drew brew Dana Milbank thinks he saw wasn’t what was being served Monday.

Wasn't it?

O'Brien would have it that the Independent Women's Forum, generally a conservative organization, brought in Pinsky to help interns learn how to escape the hookup culture, and that Pinsky was the ideal candidate to do so. And if one were to read only the quotes that O'Brien provides (without clicking on the Washington Post link in his article), one might think he was correct -- if one weren't already aware that Pinsky's brand of laissez-faire feelings toward teen sex was, however unwittingly, one of the factors that contributed to that culture in the first place.

Fortunately, Jack Yoest over at Reasoned Audacity, along with some other bloggers, helps fill in the gaps for us:

Continue reading "If this is our new guide, we’re lost" »

Shooting the messenger

Protest ASSIST News Service reports on that German theologian who received a one-year jail sentence for drawing a comparison between abortion and the Holocaust. As you may remember, Johannes Lerle asserts that infanticide in the womb--which takes place 200,000 times a year in Germany--is comparable to the murder of Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Lerle has also served time for referring to abortionists as "professional killers."

Lerle's logic cannot be faulted: Killing the innocent is killing the innocent, whether those slated for death reside in death camps or death wombs. And a hit man is a hit man whether his target is a political enemy or a fetus turning sommersaults. What is really going on here, I suspect, has little to do with Lerle's supposed Holocaust denial and everything to do with outrage over someone having the gall to tell the truth about abortion and those who commit it.

In an upcoming BreakPoint commentary on another subject, Chuck describes the spiritual battles that drive the political and legal ones over such issues as abortion and homosexuality--two issues about which, increasingly, critics are told to keep their mouths shut or face punishment:

The Bible and natural law teachings tell us that God's law is written upon our hearts and are known to all. As Christian philosopher J. Budziszewski writes in his book, The Revenge of Conscience, those who rationalize their sins find it to be so much work that they require other people to support them in it. Society itself must be transformed so that it no longer stands in awful judgment.

Which is why those who arrange the violent deaths of their unborn babies, those hired to kill them, and those who encourage women to send their unwanted babies, not to adoptive parents but to an incinerator, cannot bear any criticism of what they've done. This is why the American abortion industry, with the help of pro-abortion justices on the Supreme Court, managed to cancel the First Amendment rights of citizens whose "crime" was to stand in front of abortion mills with signs showing what happened to babies during abortions--or to tell women being escorted into clinics (often by boyfriends eager to have the "baby problem" permanently solved) that they were about to kill a living child. Witnessing to the truth makes people feel guilty--as it should. 

Re: Dr. Plantinga on Multiculturalism

Martha,

Thanks for passing Dr. Plantinga's explanation along. I agree wholeheartedly with what he says, but I do so mostly from the perspective of reason with a sprinkling of conventional wisdom. If anyone has actual Scripture references, though, to back up the perspective of multiculturalism as a gift, it would be even more helpful.

Anyone?

What a 35-year-old virgin should look like

Glasses Note to self: Invest in a pair of glasses.

(I've got a little over three years to go, though, so I guess I won't have to do it right away.)

Harmony in Flux

Over at Reason's Hit & Run, the Agitator, Radley Balko, proclaims "Childhood Now A Sex Crime." What?

From The Oregonian

The two boys tore down the hall of Patton Middle School after lunch, swatting the bottoms of girls as they ran -- what some kids later said was a common form of greeting.

But bottom-slapping is against policy in McMinnville Public Schools. So a teacher's aide sent the gawky seventh-graders to the office, where the vice principal and a police officer stationed at the school soon interrogated them.

After hours of interviews with students the day of the February incident, the officer read the boys their Miranda rights and hauled them off in handcuffs to juvenile jail, where they spent the next five days.

That's right: their Miranda rights, as in "you have the right to remain silent . . ." This isn't the first time that the prosecutor, Claude Frollo, Bradley Berry, has prosecuted kids for the crime of being, well, kids.

Last year, in a previously undisclosed prosecution, he charged two other Patton Middle School boys with felony sex abuse for repeatedly slapping the bottom of a female student. Both pleaded guilty to harassment, which is a misdemeanor.

Continue reading "Harmony in Flux" »

On the altar

Isaac Thought for the day, from William Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armour:

You think Abraham was tried to purpose, when called to take his "son, his son Isaac, his only son whom he loved," Gen. 22:2, and offer him up with his own hands, and no other; yet what was that to this? Soul, take thy lust, thy only lust, which is the child of thy dearest love, thy Isaac, the sin which has caused the most joy and laughter, from which thou hast promised thyself the greatest return of pleasure or profit; as ever thou lookest to see my face with comfort, lay hands on it and offer it up: pour out the blood of it before me; run the sacrificing knife of mortification into the very heart of it; and this freely, joyfully, for it is no pleasing sacrifice that is offered with a countenance cast down —and all this now, before thou hast one embrace more from it.

The Authentic Man

What does it mean to be a man? How does a guy know when he’s crossed from boyhood to manhood? Is it when he leaves home or when he’s old enough to drink, vote or die for his country? Homer and Paul teach us some important lessons about "The True Measure of Manhood"—one that’s a kingdom apart from "Men in the Muddle" mired in the conventional expressions of the alpha male, metrosexual and ubersexual.

But I Just Got a 2-D HDTV!

I've been to Las Vegas twice and have never placed a bet. I have, however, spent a lot of time at the IMAX theater at the Luxor. I love the "3D" movies shown there. Well, the movies aren't that good but there's something about a sea monster in your lap that makes you feel alive. Know what I mean?

Well, it looks like that the "at home" version of that feeling is a lot closer than I thought it was. A story at TV Predictions tells us that

High-Definition TVs that offer 3-D images could be ready in the next year or so, according to an article in the London Guardian.

Philips and several other companies are working on new 3-D technologies that will make objects appear to be surrounding the viewer, the newspaper reports.

Viewers will not need special goggles to view the images, as they did with past 3-D TV and movie presentations.

How good is the "3D" effect? As one reporter told the Guardian,

"I'm sitting in Paris and some butterflies are fluttering towards me. Loads of them, perfectly clearly. I could allow one to land on my hand, or catch one of the rose petals being blown towards me - except I can't, because they're not real. They're images on a TV in high definition - and in perfect 3D. They look life-sized and real . . ."

Continue reading "But I Just Got a 2-D HDTV!" »

July 23, 2007

Representing the constituency

Three-quarters of African-American Protestants oppose same-sex marriage.

So naturally, we wind up with an African-American pastor asking John Edwards how he, Edwards, can possibly "use religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights," in tonight's Democratic debate. (Note: Profanity in the comment section.)

That's representing the constituency, all right.

Because I said so, that’s why!

It was bound to happen. Not content with declaring all living scientists on their side, Darwinists are now turning to the past and declaring that all dead scientists were really on their side too, if they'd only known it. Thus, a writer for The New Republic, James Kirchick, states that, were Isaac Newton among us today, it's quite likely he wouldn't have believed in biblical Christianity. Why? Because James Kirchick says that biblical Christianity is "silly," of course. What other reason do we need?

It must be awfully nice to be one of the new atheists. You never have to argue your case anymore. You just call your opponent stupid, and presto! You win. It reminds me somewhat of the way my sister and I used to fight when we were, oh, six and eight. We must have been unusually mature for our years.

Blog-a-Book: ’Cyrano,’ Act I, Scenes I and II

Cyrano2 "Hey! That'll be fifteen sous!"

That's how Cyrano starts out, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I'm not even sure what (a) sous is/are. But we are at a playhouse, and this opening demand is made to a member of the royal family who claims exemption to an admission fee. The nerve. The next patron through the door refuses payment as well: "Musketeer. We get in free."

For the rest of the opening two scenes, we are eavesdropping around the theater, while the viewers settle in for their show. It is a bit chaotic, but nearly every character introduced -- however briefly -- seems to have some elements in common: self-exaltation and a need for attention. It is almost as if they jumped from the page, grabbed Edmond Rostand's pen, and proclaimed, "Write about me, I am important!"

Perhaps, then, it is appropriate that our heroes do not appear until Scene II -- and Cyrano only by mention, and only by what has the feel of backhanded flattery.

Continue reading "Blog-a-Book: ’Cyrano,’ Act I, Scenes I and II" »

Blog-a-Book: The Beauty of God’s Tapestry

Tickingtimewoman Okay. To be honest, reading Jennifer Marshall’s book, Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the Twenty-First Century, has been one of the best things I’ve done this summer. It’s encouraging me in this time of singleness in my life, and giving me perspective on our generation and how we view marriage, life, and romance and dating in general.

It makes you think about your life and where you’re at with the Lord, and also what it means to be devoted to Him first and worldly romance second, or third or fourth or fifth if family, friends, and work happen to be more of a priority, depending on who you are and how your worldview shapes your life (kudos to Worldview Week and Centurions weekend for that sentence!).

I must admit, I’m a “people-watcher.” I love to just sit with a couple of my friends with a good book or my laptop and “discreetly” observe everyone around me. People are so interesting. Like the couple holding hands who walk by with two small children running around their ankles and hanging on them every two seconds. Or the family of six that sit down for a bite to eat at the restaurant near me, bringing a hard-to-suppress smile to my face as I watch their family dynamic in action. Or, my friends and I giggle at the random good-looking guy who walks by us.

Finally, I can’t help but wonder to myself if someday I’ll be like the cute old couple walking side by side down the sidewalk, holding hands and supporting each other as they go. Then, because it always comes back to this, I wonder if I’ll end up alone. That thought is hard. Marshall asks this question in her book. She asks several women from across the country to talk about how they feel about the thought of not being married in ten years or less. Some reflected sadness, discouragement, disappointment, depression and dread. Others hadn’t even considered the possibility.

Life takes unexpected turns. But God is there in the midst of them. These are twists of life that we never would have expected for ourselves. We never would have imagined we would be where we are today, and we have no idea what will happen tomorrow. That’s what’s beautiful about how God works. It’s a perfect tapestry, woven together strand by strand, one piece, one moment, one day at a time, each string as beautiful and unique as the one before it.

Continue reading "Blog-a-Book: The Beauty of God’s Tapestry" »

Blog a book: ’A Tale of Two Cities’

Two_cities Okay, so after much procrastinating, I’ve started reading A Tale of Two Cities. Last Friday, after my hard drive crashed and went to hard-drive heaven (will I be reunited with my data in the world to come?), I read chapter one. It was the shortest of first chapters, it was the longest of first chapters. So bottom line: the year is 1775 and our story is set in London and Paris.

After finishing chapter one, I said to myself, “I just can’t handle this today.” I put the book down and picked up Miroslav Volf’s The End of Memory, which I promptly finished on Saturday. I loved it (Volf…not Dickens). Volf’s book is an absolute must-read. But I will write more on that later.

On Tuesday morning, I slogged through chapter two. While I can’t say I enjoyed it, I can say that “blunderbuss” is quite a fun word and was used several times. I looked it up and found that it is derived from the Dutch “donderbus,” another word I’ll be adding to my vocabulary just for the fun of it. While it literally means a kind of gun, I think it sounds more like a nice hardy insult. As in, “What were you thinking, you donderbus!” At least that would have been my answer had we been playing Balderdash. Here are a few other phrases I picked up in chapter two: “So ho!”; “Yo there!”; “Answer straight,”; “D’ye mind me?”; “A blazing strange answer”; and “You’d be in a blazing bad way.” So other than those little jewels I can’t say I got much out of chapter two.

Continue reading ...

Continue reading "Blog a book: ’A Tale of Two Cities’" »

Jane Austen rejected

This is all over the news: a writer took Jane Austen's books, turned them into proposals (changing names and places) and sent them into agents and publishers, who all summarily rejected them. (You can download the original article, including the query letter, here.)

Actually, it's not as simple a story as that, as Mags at AustenBlog points out. The query letter (which is all-important when looking for an agent or publisher) he sent was horrible, and most publishers probably didn't get beyond that. And most probably don't have time for a joke like this.

It was an inventive scheme, but probably doomed to fail based on his presentation.

Turning against our bravest 1 percent

The blogosphere is in a ferment over three stories published in The New Republic by "Scott Thomas," purportedly an anonymous soldier writing from Iraq, about GI misbehavior in that country. According to those with any knowledge of the military and/or the operation in Iraq, the stories have holes that you could drive a Bradley Fighting Vehicle through -- even if, contra Thomas, it would be impossible to turn one of those vehicles to the right sharply and quickly enough to run over a nearby dog, or to cut said dog in half with one, or even to see a dog on your right if you happened to be in the driver's seat. (My father, a retired Army officer and Vietnam veteran, scoffed at the idea.) This is just one of the many sloppy -- and easy-to-check -- details that have led readers to smell a rat. The Washington Post and Worldwide Standard have good summaries of what's been going on.

TNR is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, as are the soldiers in Thomas's stories, and it's just possible that everything, or most things, may check out in the end. But so far, the magazine's response is not confidence-inspiring.

Coincidentally, this Sunday's Washington Post Magazine ran a piece this weekend about civilian perceptions of the military. This story, too, is less than encouraging to those who care about the "less than 1 percent of the U.S. population" who put their lives on the line for the rest of us.

The vast majority of civilians believe service members are intolerant, stingy, rigid and lacking in creativity. More than 20 percent report they'd be disappointed if their children joined the military. . . .

In the heat of an unpopular war, decades of social trends boiled over: the development of relativistic theologies, growing legal emphasis on the rights of the individual and the emergence of the teenage years as a time free from both parental restrictions and adult responsibilities. These trends empowered and united war opponents with a moral certainty that surpassed anything seen during previous conflicts, as described by Frank Schaeffer and Kathy Roth-Douquet in AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes From Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country. . . .

When Frank Schaeffer's son John enlisted, Schaeffer himself wasn't sure it was such a great idea. The other parents at John's exclusive prep school reacted with horror. Schaeffer recalls: "One of them, a professor at Brown, went to the headmaster and demanded a special meeting of the board and faculty to look into what went wrong with John Schaeffer. They were worried: Is this contagious?" At graduation, another parent commented about John, "What a waste."

Continue reading "Turning against our bravest 1 percent" »

It Takes a Proverb...

Mark Steyn suspects that politicians make up "progressive" sayings and disingenuously claim them to be "African proverbs":

Africa is an apparently bottomless source for tribal proverbs that all exemplify the progressive communitarian worldview. And who wouldn't want to live by this ancient folk wisdom? As the Tanzanian collective farm or Sierra Leone shanty town goes today, so Malibu and Ann Arbor go tomorrow.

Heh.

’Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’

Potter Well, it's over! The final Harry Potter book began flying off store shelves at 12:01 a.m. July 21st -- at record speed -- and millions of Potter fans around the world spent the next 24 hours lost in a great book. I won't offer any spoilers for those of you who haven't picked up your copy, or haven't quite finished reading it. I'll just say, you won't be disappointed. About 50 pages from the end, I looked at my son and daughter (whose noses were firmly pressed in their own copies) and said, "J.K. Rowling is brilliant!"  The way she pulls every detail together at the end is amazingly creative, heart-wrenching (as several favorite characters meet their end in the final battle between good and evil), and yet very, very satisfying. You will laugh and cry, but mostly, you'll be glad that you've been on this shared journey.   

As my son, daughter, and I waited for our copies at the local BAM, listening to the crowd count down the final seconds, my daughter said, "I wonder if I will ever see anything like this again in my lifetime." Only if J.K. Rowling has another epic story waiting in the wings ....

(Ed. note: For a discussion of some of the reasons for Pottermania, see today's BreakPoint commentary with Mark Earley.)

(Photo courtesy of the BBC and Agence France-Presse)

Really, Man Naturally Wants to Work?

Ross Douthat has a thoughtful critique of President Bush's self-described "Theology of Freedom":

But what Bush seems to believe is something more sweeping - that the fact "a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom" means that the universalization of "forms of government that are based upon liberty" are historically "inevitable." This may be true, but it is not Christianity, and it is not conservatism.

What I find particularly intriguing, however, is this comment from "Hector Dauphin-Gloire" who says much that is relatively agreeable before making this claim:

Marxism drew its strength from the fact that many of its core propositions (that man has a natural desire to work and to be fulfilled through labor, that man has a natural tendency to work together with others, that man has a natural tendency to share his goods with his fellow men and to work for the common good, that a society should direct itself to fulfilling the needs of all its citizens, etc.) were drawn from Christian social ethics, and would not have been disagreed with by the Church Fathers.

Really?? Do we really think that man intrinsically possesses a hard-working nature? And is that claim really drawn from Christian social ethics?

Maybe I need a newer, hipper Bible translation?

’Much ado about nothing’

At the Newsweek/Washington Post blog On Faith, Chuck Colson weighs in on the recent statement by the Pope about the position and role of the Catholic church:

The press coverage of Pope Benedict’s statements about the Catholic Church being the true church is much ado about nothing.

As co-chairman of the group called Evangelicals and Catholics Together—a 15-year dialogue involving theological issues that separate us—I was hardly surprised when the Pope restated what has been Vatican policy since the Reformation. . . .

All good ecumenical discussions proceed not in dumbing down our differences but in exploring them always in service of the truth. As a Baptist, I believe that the Baptist understanding of ecclesiology is biblically correct, that it is the true expression of the Church. The Pope, of course, makes the statement that his view is the true expression of the Church. But we will keep seeking common ground.

Read more.

Dr. Plantinga on Multiculturalism

Allen,

Dr. Plantinga sent me back a response elaborating on his multiculturalism statements. Here's what he has to say:

Multiculturalism as a gift is the sheer fact that God has created people of many tribes, languages, people groups, with their cultures. This is part of the blessed variety and splendor of creation, and judging from the Bible, will be part of the splendor of the new creation. God has created only humankind, but also human kinds, and it's our joy to love what God loves.

Multiculturalism as an ideology is often culturally and personally relativistic, suggesting that, for example, adultery may be wrong for some who think it's wrong, but not for others who tolerate it; or that brutalizing of women is OK in cultures that approve it; or, in general, that there isn't any culturally transcendent worldview, doctrine of humanity, or prescription for addressing the human predicament.

Classic Christianity rejects this under many rubrics, but especially under those of the sovereignty or God and the universal Lordship of Christ.

There's an address to some of this in my and Sue Rozeboom's book, Discerning the Spirits (Eerdmans, 2002).

An Islamic Funny Bone?

Mohammed don't play that, apparently.

July 22, 2007

And they call Bush stupid

How bright do you have to be to grasp that one kind of stem-cell research requires the destruction of a human embryo, and one doesn't?

July 20, 2007

RE: Learning from Africa

Catherine,

Thanks for the post on what we can learn from our African brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of my mission work in Africa has been done in countries which are 99% Muslim, but I have contact with several African Christians in Nigeria and Ghana. As the article you quote makes clear, we have much to learn from African Christians. I came to realize long ago that, aside from material aid and prayer, there is little that I can offer them. Spiritually, I need to sit at THEIR feet and learn. I found this true in Russia and Belarus as well.

Those who have truly had to make a "life or death" choice for Christ simply cannot fathom the lukewarmness of American Christianity. It's always a shock to come back to America after being with these "disadvantaged" Christians and to see how much we (especially, I...) squander both our material and spiritual blessings. It makes me cringe when I remember "to whom much is given, from him much is expected."   

Re: Father Brown

Lori -- I still have quite a few more Father Brown stories left to read, but so far my favorite is "The Actor and the Alibi." I like this line: "'. . . There was really some excuse, or at least some cause, for her mad Italian rage. There generally is for mad Italian rages: Latins are logical and have a reason for going mad.'" Can't imagine why, but I do.

Aside from that, however, the story is a very clever skewering of the intelligentsia, of people's perceptions of them, and of their own perceptions of themselves.

To the plaudits for Chesterton, I have to add this, from Dorothy L. Sayers's letter to Chesterton's wife upon the great man's death: "I think, in some ways, G. K.'s books have become more a part of my mental make-up than those of any writer you could name. . . . I owe him a debt of gratitude of a kind which it is foolish to try and express in words." Considering the breadth, depth, and general brilliance of Sayers's mental make-up, that is no small compliment.

Book Blogging: Chesterton’s Father Brown

Fatherbrown I'm running behind on our book blogging. I spent a good bit of last week at CBA (otherwise known as the International Christian Retail Show) and got behind on everything. Thankfully, I didn't see any Jesus action figures, though there were plenty of other um... interesting products.

This summer I'm reading Chesterton's Father Brown: The Essential Tales. (Allen -- you start with Orthodoxy, I'll start with mystery stories! ;-) )

The first Chesterton I read was a wonderful introduction he did to one of Austen's juvenile stories, Love and Freindship [sic]. I happened to find it at the Chawton House Library during a day of decidedly non-scholarly research, and thought to myself, Oh, right, I need to read more Chesterton.

I am four pages in, and I'm loving it already. (Of course, I had to pry myself away from re-reading the last Harry Potter before tonight's big release.) It's one of those books I got from the library but now want to own all for myself. 

The biographical notice at the front informed me that Chesterton dropped out of college to freelance fulltime, that he wrote just about anything and everything -- poetry, plays, biographies (including one of Dickens, which I may read -- perhaps I would find his life more compelling than his writing -- ha!), theology, and fiction. He was revered by Auden and C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot.

At any rate, I am hooked. Do you have a favorite Father Brown story? I welcome your recommendations. Or if you're looking for a great summer read -- buy this book and join the conversation!

Re: Weekly Must-Have Tune of the Week Misses the Week This Week

Allen, my liege, my role-model: I don't know the rules to the must-have tune of the week, but if people need listening suggestions, let me create synthesis between The Point and The Corner (you probably never thought I'd be the one to write such a thing, did you?).

I will be forever grateful to John J. Miller for turning me on to the wonderfulness that is Sigur Ros.

Whatever Sigur Ros is, the music is totally different from what's played on radio stations that still insist on labeling themselves "alternative." This band is the alternative to alternative. If I were Peter Jackson, I would have asked Sigur Ros to perform on one of the Lord of the Rings soundtracks — both because it would have been a fitting tip of the hat to J.R.R. Tolkien's fondness for the sagas and language of Iceland, but also because I don't know another group of contemporary musicians whose playing sounds so epic.

With Sigur Ros, which means (so I've read) "Victory Rose" in Icelandic and is the name of a band member's younger sister, the language barrier doesn't matter because

They sing songs without names in a language nobody can understand. And I'm not talking about Icelandic, which is a language that the 300,000 inhabitants of Iceland presumably know well. Instead, singer Jónsi Birgisson's falsetto voice warbles in a language of his own invention, "Hopelandic."

In any case, verbal communication is wildly overrated. (Ask any guy.) Instead, check out "Saeglopur" (Lost at sea) to understand what Miller means when he calls Sigur Ros "epic."

Re: Christian health care

Allen -- I appreciated L'abrialumn's comments on health care. As a self-employed person responsible for buying my own insurance (and unfortunately having to deal with Lyme disease), I can tell you the entire system is a complete mess. It's insanely expensive and difficult and in the end, the insurance companies are not there to help, but to make money.

One illness at the wrong time could take someone from financial security to bankruptcy. A lot of people think the uninsured are irresponsible, but that's because they don't understand how difficult and incredibly expensive the system is when you have to navigate it on your own.

I think one of the reasons it's been allowed to get into such a state is that insurance generally comes along with a job, and most people don't realize the horrible state of the system because it's taken care of for them. (I know I didn't understand how bad it was until I was on my own, and very sick.)

I don't want universal health care, but I think we need a business genius to step in and create something new and wonderful here. This is America. We're known for creating geniuses! And if Southwest can make an airline profitable, maybe there's hope for health care.

So are there any Christian business men/women/entrepreneurs out there who want to tackle this?

Gerson on Guliani

Let's call Michael Gerson "not so high" on Mayor Rudy:

Giuliani is not only pro-choice. He has supported embryonic stem cell research and public funding for abortion. He supports the death penalty. He supports "waterboarding" of terror suspects and seems convinced that the conduct of the war on terrorism has been too constrained. Individually, these issues are debatable. Taken together, they are the exact opposite of Catholic teaching, which calls for a "consistent ethic of life" rather than its consistent devaluation.

Weekly Must-Have Tune of the Week Misses the Week This Week

Schroeder The Weekly Must-Have Tune of the Week has officially whiffed on this week. I don't know what to tell you really. It's not that I haven't had ideas. In fact, I had a whole post ready to go for Vigilantes of Love's fantastic song "Double Cure." Actually, I was feeling rather good about having picked an explicitly Christian -- and moving, I might add -- song too. But iTunes doesn't have it available for download. Why those dirty, rotten, no-good...

After that letdown, I truly did lack for inspiration. My apologies.

Next week, a double-dose! I promise! At least I think I promise!

(Image copyright United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Re: Amy Tan’s ’The Opposite of Fate’

Kris -- Glad you're enjoying reading Tan. I found the stories of her mother's history and her friend's death incredibly compelling. You can feel her grief in the book, and sense the love between her and her mom in spite of all the craziness.

Re: Too white to be a good place to live

Anne -- I want to challenge you on this a bit. I have found in my own life that race isn't much of an issue. I don't care what color anyone's skin is. But, unfortunately, I am much more comfortable (and thus more welcoming, and more loving in some way) with people who share my socio-economic status -- my education level and middle-class financial background.

I believe this is not entirely healthy, and something that I need to work on. I think it's something our suburban culture encourages. We all live with the same kind of people, which means that we are insulated from other ways of life and other needs. Al Hsu addresses this a bit in his book, Suburban Christian

I think it might be healthier for me to live in a more diverse area. Or, if I stay in the suburbs, I need to find more ways to reach out and understand others. (Not saying that you don't reach out to others, of course! I just think our suburban environment can make this more challenging, because we have to work to see and understand need.)

Blog-a-Book: Washing Machines and Flannery O’Connor

Peacock2 I was reflecting with a quiver in my lip over the strangely restorative ravages of correction worked upon a prospective article, like a child sulking that its filthy blanket has been taken away to the washing machine. With more than a touch of melodrama, I mentally bemoaned the process as “bloody.” I sought solace in conjuring up widely flung metaphors about the severed limbs of newborn children and the free-flowing arteries of ideas.

In this somewhat wide-eyed wanderer state, I turned to Flannery, sure of meeting understanding in the slight-framed heroine of my writing ambitions. Instead I received, over her round glasses, with that slight Southern sauce on the edges of her words, the plaintive remark: “I have to write to understand what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don't know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again."

Subdued, I am forced to smile and choke down two truths: Editors were designed to brace up the soul, fortify the mind and create distaste for sloppy first tries, and secondly, whatever else my girl Flannery may be, she is not one to say what one wants to hear. I think both will take me far, the first with my life, and the second, with my progress through The Habit of Being, a collection of Miss O’Connor’s personal correspondence compiled by Sally Fitzgerald.

Lessons duly ingested, I think I’ll go set the machine to heavy-duty and put my blanket through another cycle.

Late Night, Quiet Pond

Rosskehn Like approximately 25-30 million other Americans, I get migraines, complete with aura. This morning's was a doozy. Now, there are drugs you can take and they help. But there's also music you can listen to, preferably with the lights off, that help me feel better.

This is my way of introducing you to the The Warblehead Union. As the name might suggest to some of you, the Union, which consists of Bill Ross and Michael Kehn, is based in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Don't let the idiotic "New Age" tag spook you: that's the label applied to music that doesn't fit in any particular category. Instead listen to "Late Night, Quiet Pond."  Unless you're addicted to senseless stimulation or allergic to any that sounds remotely "foreign," the recording will draw you in. And for me, "in," as in "away from here," is good. Especially when my head is throbbing and even when it isn't.

Re: Christian Court Watchers

Faith, the amazing thing isn't what's happening in Kentucky. It's that people do this and then wonder why people tell pollsters that, all things being equal, they'd rather not live next door to a "fundamentalist," thank you very much!

According to the report, one particular church's "slogan for a 2004 anti-drug march was 'get saved or get busted.'"

Right. Now what is that supposed to mean?

I have no idea. Even a cursory knowledge of drug addiction would tell you that these kind of threats don't work very well on addicts, especially on Meth addicts. Meth works by tricking the brain into producing more Dopamine. How much more? By some accounts, approximately six times more than the most pleasurable non-drug-related human activities -- i.e., eating and sex -- and more than twice as a much as cocaine. The high lasts much longer: up to twelve hours.

Given the neurochemistry of Meth addiction, threatening an addict with jail time is making them to make a risk-reward calculation when their brain looks like this.

I understand the anger: Meth has devastated small towns and rural communities across the country. But threatening addicts in the name of Jesus isn't a particularly promising approach.

Topics @ the Water Cooler: Christian Court-Watchers

Getting what we deserve. Now that's a fearful thought. Obviously, I'm not talking about kudos from our bosses when we turn in that shining project. I'm talking about punishment. Not a pretty picture.

Yet multiple churches in Kentucky are setting out to do just that: make sure violators of the law get what they deserve. A rather peculiar, and perhaps contradictory, mission for a church, don't you think?

It seems that the wide-spread drug problem in the state of Kentucky has several churches on a bandwagon for justice. Why they've specifically targeted drug offenses as the unforgivable sin, I have no idea. But members of local congregations -- called Court Watch volunteers -- are taking turns attending drug court dockets to take notes and press judges to "do the right thing."

Yet the message they're sending seems anything but positive. According to the report, one particular church's "slogan for a 2004 anti-drug march was 'get saved or get busted.'"

Right. Now what is that supposed to mean?

Continue reading "Topics @ the Water Cooler: Christian Court-Watchers" »

Too white to be a good place to live?

I just came across the August issue of Money magazine, which contains the annual report on "America's Best Places to Live." I noted with interest that the ranking methodology had been "tweaked," as the writers put it, to add "a ranking for ethnic and racial diversity," along with one for home prices and property taxes. "This means a few expensive locales that have been on past lists slid in the rankings, while some more affordable places moved up," the journalists wrote.

In other words, some perfectly nice towns didn't make the cut this year because too many residents make too much money, or because too many of them are white (95 percent or more).

Money appears to be following in the tracks of the nation's colleges, which also hand out brownie points based on a student's race and income level.   

Naturally, Money editors are free to include any criteria they wants when they determine what constitutes a great small town. But I wonder how many of their subscribers are rolling their eyes at these new, PC "tweaks." When people look for a great place to rear their families, I suspect they are far more interested in the availability of good jobs and schools and a low crime rate than they are ethnic makeup and the availability of low-income housing (at least, the kind of people who subscribe to financial journals).

Being married to the military means I've lived all over the country in all kinds of communities. Of course, we didn't have much choice regarding where we were going to live, but I discovered an important indicator of how much I would enjoy a new community and feel at home was: What percentage of my neighbors were church-goers? 

Continue reading "Too white to be a good place to live?" »

A Sweeter Frappuccino

Sometimes, to get work done without distraction, I need to pack up my laptop and move over to Starbucks. The other day, a mother and her very sweet boy (eight or nine years old) ordered drinks, sat at a table outside, drank their frappuccinos together, and then left in their minivan. When they were leaving the store to find seats outside, the boy stopped, and in a sincere, sing-song voice, said “Ladies first!” As they found a table outside, the boy, wearing a large, kind grin, took his seat with evident happiness about preparing to consume his frosty drink with his mother. Finally, as they walked across the parking lot, he held his mother’s hand enthusiastically, before releasing her hand and skipping the last four or five paces to the driver’s side door.

This struck me as a very sweet, kind, happy boy.

First, kudos to his mother. Hopefully, his father is equally kudos-worthy.

Second, a few of his behaviors convinced me that he is, in some way, mentally “disabled.” And so, again, while it strikes me as a tad gauche to excerpt one's own post...

Continue reading "A Sweeter Frappuccino" »

July 19, 2007

A Road Trip with C.S. Lewis

So, last week I joined the "i" world, finally. After hoarding up enough credit card points, I finally cashed them in and joined the ranks of nano owners. So, when a road trip to Ohio was staring me in the face on Friday morning, I knew just what I would do--I would download a book I had been intending to read for a few months now, The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.

You'll never guess what I found. I found a recording of the book in Lewis' own voice! I felt like I had officially arrived--not only did I now own an iPod, but I owned an iPod that contained the real live voice of one of my dead heroes!

I was not disappointed. Albeit a few fuzzy spots, Lewis came through clean and clear in his high-brow British lilt. But what came through cleaner and clearer were his thoughts on love--real love. As many of you know, the "four loves" are affection, brotherly love, romantic love, and agape love. By the time he got to the last one, I was ready--ready for an in-depth discussion of all the ways I am called to love the unlovable. Lewis rebuked my grand intentions.

Agape love, commonly defined as unconditional love, is simply "God love." Lewis explained that our initial response to God love is not, as we may imagine, to run directly toward it. Rather, we naturally run in the opposite direction. After all, don't we want to be loved because of who we are, not in spite of who we are?

Gradually, we come to the end of ourselves. The knowledge that God loves us whether we crawl into His arms or spit in His face woos us to Him, and we find ourselves longing for a little piece of this "God love" to humbly pass along to others.

Any suggestions for my next road trip? (I'm guessing Dickens and Shakespeare won't be able make "live" appearances on my nano.)

Busyness

Ughh... it's a busy day around here. I'm having to remember a few things to keep my sanity. Here are a couple of them:

"Everybody else is noisier than God." --Eugene Peterson

"Remember that is was God who decided on a twenty-four hour day, and he must have felt that it was enough. We can never do all that we expect ourselves to do, and we can rarely do all that others expect us to do, but we can always do all that God expects us to do." --Scott Sernau

"It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow's burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear. Never load yourself so... If you find yourselves so loaded, at least remember this: it is your own doing, not God's. He begs you to leave the future to him, and mind the present." --George MacDonald

Are ya with me? Hope these thoughts are an encouragement to someone else out there today in Pointland...

Blog-a-Book: Amy Tan’s ’The Opposite of Fate’

Quill_pen The second section of Tan's book, “Changing the Past,” is largely about Tan’s mother and grandmother, both of whom had very difficult lives. Tan tells of an interviewer who asked her mother whether it was difficult to watch The Joy Luck Club, based loosely on her life. “Oh, no. My real life worser than this, so movie already much, much better.” In fact, recounting the death of her baby son, whose father (“that bad man”) was emotionally and physically abusive, Tan’s mother tells her she thought only, “Good for you, little one, you escaped. Good for you.”

Tan and her brother lived in constant fear that their mother would make good on her frequent threats to commit suicide. They later learned that their mother watched her own mother, a young widow who was raped by and then became a concubine to a wealthy man, commit suicide. Tan then writes: “I recently learned that in China today, a third of all deaths among women in rural areas are suicides. Nationwide, more than two million Chinese women each year attempt suicide, and 300,000 succeed. And in contrast to any other country, more women than men in China kill themselves.” She adds, “China as a society is loath to make shameful events public, so the real number is probably staggeringly higher.”

Tan begins this section with a quote from The Bonesetter’s Daughter, which begins “To the missionaries, we were Girls of New Destiny.” And I can’t help but think of the underground church movement, the missionaries who quietly share their faith while working in China, and those who adopt children from China, and I think of the hope and new destiny they offer to people who were born into a society so oppressive that death often seems the best option.

Lightening the tone, at her mother’s death, Tan writes about the things she will miss: “Who would be frank enough to warn that my husband might exchange me for a younger woman unless I forced him to buy me jewels so expensive it would be impossible for him to leave both me and the gems behind?” Her warning must have worked since Tan and her husband Lou have been married since 1974.

Where’s Nancy Reagan when we need her?

This whole brouhaha over advertising and junk food seems a bit ridiculous to me. Until the junk food manufacturers make robotic snack foods that strategically jump into the mouths of unsuspecting toddlers as mom wheels the little tykes through the supermarket, there is a really easy solution: Just say no. My mom was awfully good at it. I don't have anything against advertising healthy food to kids, but the hype makes it sound like parents have no choice but to buy junk because of the ads on TV and SpongeBob's face on a box of Fatty Sugar Squares or whatever the latest vitamin-fortified nightmare is.

Parents, how do you deal with the pleas for junk (food or otherwise) that you hear from your little ones? Do you have any smart tips you can share with the rest of us?

On the lookout for marauding Swedes

Just messing with ya, Allen. :-) But thanks for the tip. Next time I see the Swede looking particularly innocuous and sincere, my Mac and I will run for our lives.

Re: Chesterton -- Thanks!

I'm not sure how to respond Gina. You know, the ever-mysterious Dave the Swede would tell you that chopped liver is a wonderful meal, so ... well, yes, you are the chopped liver of dinnertime fare.

And to express my thanks to you, too, for your Chesterton recommendation, I will leave you with a valuable tip: NEVER let Dave the Swede touch your computer. Seriously. He will ask in a most innocuous and sincere manner, but don't be taken in. I'm still smarting from his "accidental" deletion of my long global warming post draft...

Re: Chesterton -- Thanks!

Allen --

And what am I, chopped liver?

;-)

Chesterton -- Thanks!

Just wanted to thank Tom Gilson, Steve, The Hebdomadarian, labrialumn, and Kari for the wonderful help with figuring out what to read by Chesterton. Orthodoxy is clearly the first I must read, but I also look forward to getting into The Everlasting Man as well. Many thanks!

I have also enjoyed reading the Chesterton excerpts on The Hebdomadarian's Chesterton site. Others should treat themselves and have a read there.

Fred Thompson & Pro-Abortion Lobbying: Did He or Not?

For those keenly interested in this matter, Joe Carter's post on the matter at Evangelical Outpost is an important read:

Admittedly, I'm less troubled by the fact that Thompson once advocated for a pro-abortion group than I am with his failure to acknowledge his own former pro-choice sympathies. Perhaps he wants to avoid the fate of Mitt Romney who was accused of "flip-flopping" on the issue. If so, he need not worry. Unlike the former governor, Thompson developed a solid record of support for the pro-life cause during his time in the Senate. And while he still needs to state more forcefully and clearly that he is a defender of the sanctity of all human life at all stages of development, he has shown that his pro-life principles didn’t suddenly appear in time for the Iowa primary.

If this is a concern of yours, read his post in full.