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« October 2007 | Main | December 2007 »

November 23, 2007

For the Love of Pete (Singer)

Peter Singer coos,
"'Tween the animals and you,
there is no taboo."

A Christian Mind?

We are succumbing
to thinking secularly
of things, let us pray

The Point Radio: Gifts that Give and Give and Give

Alright shoppers -- on your mark. Get set. Whoa!...


Click play above to listen.

Want to find out how to purchase these and other great products?

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Gifts that Give and Give and Give" »

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Writing This year, we at The Point offer this as an expression of our heartfelt thanks for our wonderful calling, and for those of you who've stuck with us through pontification and through writers' block. Special thanks to Catherine, who originally offered it to Dave the Swede as a thank-you gift for putting up with the HMWF (High-Maintenance Writerly Folk). Have a very happy and blessed day. This is the extent of our blogging for today, but drop by tomorrow -- we'll be having a little fun.

The Point Radio: A Glutton for Contentment

You've just pushed back from the Thanksgiving Day table, now what?...


Click play above to listen.

What are you thankful for? Share it with us today.

November 21, 2007

The Real Reason the Pilgrims Came to America

Just in case you thought it was for religious freedom.

Was Jesus’ Body an Illusion?

Rembrandt On of our Point readers made an ambiguous reference to Docetism in my last post, "In the Shadow of the Breath Mint." Since I think it was directed at me instead of the author of the minty quip, I thought I’d rise to the challenge and write an answer. I’d taken umbrage at the arsenal of demeaning garbage in Christ’s name including the latest, “Did Jesus have bad breath” mint tins. (Caution: There are others in this group eminently more qualified to write about theological matters such as Jesus’ human body and his atonement for our sins.)

For the uninitiated, Docetism is a heretical belief that Jesus’ body was an illusion—he was not fully human—hence he was spared natural bodily functions including pain. Docetism arose during the first century (New Testament times) and continued till sometime in the second century. There is a dire warning against the propagators of this heresy in 2 John 7, where the Word says, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the Flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” As theologian Harold O. J. Brown says, “Doecitism” is a part of Gnosticism, and Gnosticism “represent[s] an alternative religion.”  Using more colorful wording in A History of Christianity, historian Paul Johnson asserts that Gnosticism is “hydra-headed and always changing.”   

Johnson continues by saying that Docetists' “weird theory invalidated most of the gospels, devalued the resurrection and made nonsense of the eucharist.”

Thankfully, this damning error largely died out because Jesus’ body being fully human is vitally important to us. Jesus’ humanity means that He is the perfect mediator between God and us. He can also understand our human suffering because He, too, suffered like we do.

As theologian Dallas Willard says, “The human body is the focal point of human existence.” The human body, Willard adds, “is part of the imago Dei.”  Simply put, Jesus became incarnate and was made man. He’s the second Adam who suffered real human trials and agonies so that we might one day meet our Maker. 

Continue reading "Was Jesus’ Body an Illusion? " »

One That Got Away

When I was a police officer, one of my fellow officers wrecked a patrol car at 2 a.m., driving down a straight highway. One-car accident. Smacked into a shoulder barrier. No witnesses. The officer, a highly regarded veteran, claimed that a deer jumped in front of his car and he swerved to avoid it, causing him to drive into the wall.

Only problem was that this section of the Interstate has 20 foot-high sound barriers on either side, requiring any deer wishing to terrorize unsuspecting policemen to have Olympic-caliber pole-vaulting skills, in order to even gain access to the highway.

As a rookie, I kept any suspicions to myself. But a number of his peers found his story wholly unconvincing and placed Wanted posters around the station with photos and descriptions of deer. Even decorated vets get the business in police departments. In fact, I would be shocked if any professional environment rewards honest mistakes with as much stinging mockery as do police departments. The skin that police officers develop from the relentless ribbing is far thicker than Kevlar, that's for sure.

Anyway, watching this video brought all of that back like a flood.

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words... Or Maybe a Thousand Actions

Kudos to my Mom for alerting me to the International Pictures of the Year awards. (Note: Many pictures possess graphic content.) One particular picture in the general reporting category captured my complete attention. At first glance the picture seems to display the conditions of an old British slave ship -- one which would have appalled our hero William Wilberforce. But the caption paints a different story: the conditions of an overcrowded Malawi prison. Check it out.

It's conditions like these that fuel the work of such great organizations as Prison Fellowship International. Take a moment to check out their site and witness all the marvelous prison reform efforts taking place around the globe!

Man Post + Huckabee & ’National Review’

First, the Man Post. Mike Huckabee has the best campaign ad of all time. This should appeal to all American manly men. (My thanks to Roberto for the link.)

Second, last week, I asked about National Review's beef with Huckabee. Today, they answer that question with an editorial. There's a lot there to think about, to be sure.

(Evangelical Outpost has a rebuttal, though I confess I've not yet read it.)

Flew Defends Book

In Publishers Weekly, Antony Flew defends There is a God--the book that describes his intellectual journey from atheism to deism. As you may recall, the release of the book drew charges of senility against Flew who was purportedly manipulated by ghost-writing evangelicals--after all, what else could explain the move from light back to darkness?

Flew answers his critics,

My name is on the book and it represents exactly my opinions. I would not have a book issued in my name that I do not 100 percent agree with. I needed someone to do the actual writing because I'm 84 and that was Roy Varghese's role. The idea that someone manipulated me because I'm old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. This is my book and it represents my thinking.

The Point Radio: Reaching the Nations in our Backyard

Recently a New York city photographer took on a new project: take a picture of a child from all 192 countries of the world. The catch?...


Click play above to listen.

November 20, 2007

Daily roundup

Breakthrough

In a long-awaited scientific breakthrough, scientists have managed to reprogram human skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells -- "render[ing] ethically controversial therapeutic cloning obsolete."

(More articles are here and here.)

The Corner has a number of thoughtful and interesting posts up on this groundbreaking development and its implications. Particularly good, I think, is this from Jonah Goldberg:

I defer to the expertise of others that this is the big deal scientifically it appears to be. What I find fascinating about this — indeed, what I find fascinating about the role of technology generally (I've long wanted to write a big think piece on this) — is how necessity is not only the mother of invention, it's the father of immorality.

Because President Bush wisely placed limitations on one scientific path, scientists needed to come up with another route to the same goal. It now sounds like they found it. Huzzahs to everyone (Memo to the Communications Director: Bush should give a speech on this taking his share of the credit).

So now let's assume the best case scenario. Let's assume that creating embryos to destroy them is no longer "necessary" for the relevant science to proceed. As this truth sinks in, suddenly a lot more people are going to concede that there's something immoral or at least icky about creating embryos just to cannibalize their parts.

Pensioners ’R’ Us

This story about the geriatrification of Japan is eerily reminiscent of P.D. James's The Children of Men. Especially creepy is the fact that, in some neighborhoods, according to young mothers, it's easier to find clothing for dogs than for children.

Downgrading the AIDS epidemic

The good news is that the U.N. has reduced its estimate of annual AIDS infections by 40 percent. The bad news is that previous estimates were inflated because of politics, bad science, or both.

While reading the announcement, I couldn't help but draw parallels with certain climate change proponents and Intelligent Design critics whose tactics involve alarmism, exaggerated estimates and the politicization of science to protect their study grants and mandarin status.

Big and Small Lives

Walk_with_janeLast Friday afternoon I attended, in Prison Fellowship's lovely guest house, what my husband would call the ultimate "chick" event: A tea-and-book party in honor of Lori Smith, former PF employee and author of A Walk With Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith. Lori read aloud from her book and autographed copies for us as we sipped tea and nibbled on delicious scones, lime tarts, pumpkin cookies, and cucumber sandwiches.

Reading Lori's book over the weekend, I was struck by the following passage:

Ironically, though now unbelievably popular, Jane lived a small life. She wasn't so much hemmed in by her Hampshire countryside and family and steady group of friends as she was at home in her quiet routines, her thriving simplicity. I don't know when the suspicion began for me, but for a while I've had a growing fear that my own life is small, when I crave bigness. I would like to make a grand contribution to the world to justify my existence and help define me. What thrilled Jane makes me panic. I don't want to be small. I want to be incredibly, unbelievably signficant. (And yet could anyone accuse Jane of being insignificant?)

This passage resonated with me because I also live quietly in the countryside and spend much of the day writing. And sometimes I do feel hemmed in, longing to be elsewhere, doing more exciting things. It occurs to me, reading Lori's book, that we too often accept the world's view of what constitutes a life well lived: It's almost always more exciting (seemingly) than the one we are actually living. Jane Austen's life is a reminder that a good life, a "big" life, is one in which we fully use the gifts God gives us. I am fortunate in that--unlike Miss Austen--I am able to make a solid living doing what I love best.

Jane Austen was blessed with being surrounded by a large, affectionate family and friends she kept for decades. The fact that they lived with her, or nearby, probably kept her from becoming too lonely as she pursued her solitary career as a novelist. Two hundred years later, many of us cannot say the same--our families are far away, and friends do not pop in for a cup of tea during the day (they're working themselves, usually at a faraway office)--making writing from home a lonely pursuit. Because of this, I'm glad I live in the age of electronic communication. I may not rub shoulders with work colleagues very often, but I hear from many people, all over the world, who comment (for good or ill) on the things I write. My daily life would be lonely without them. And my own small life feels bigger when someone writes to tell me something I wrote helped them in some way.

Surfer Solves the Mystery of the Universe

...Well, maybe. As I have noted in "Unlocking the Mystery of the Universe" (part I, II, and III), for the better part of a century, investigators have been on the quest for the Holy Grail of science—a theory of everything (TOE) that unifies all the laws of physics into a single, meta-principle of the universe. Among other things, the TOE would account for the universal forces and elemental particles of nature, as well as the relationships between them.

While the Standard Model of physics has been highly successful in describing the properties for dozens of fundamental particles, as well as the electromagnetic force and two nuclear forces, it doesn’t include gravity, nor give a clue as to how the twin pillars of physics—General Relativity (governing the very large) and Quantum Mechanics (governing the very small)—can be reconciled with each other.

But that may soon change. Garrett Lisi, who has a Ph.D. in physics but works in construction, and serves as a hiking guide when he’s not surfing, has found what he believes is the key to the TOE. It involves an arcane mathematical artifact discovered in the 19th century, called “E8.” E8 is an intricate geometrical pattern that models the inter-relationships and symmetries for objects with up to 57 dimensions.

What Lisi had realised was that he could find a way to place the various elementary particles and forces on E8's 248 points. What remained was 20 gaps which he filled with notional particles, for example those that some physicists predict to be associated with gravity.

Physicists have long puzzled over why elementary particles appear to belong to families, but this arises naturally from the geometry of E8, he says. So far, all the interactions predicted by the complex geometrical relationships inside E8 match with observations in the real world.

Lisi's proposal has gotten some high-caliber attention. Prominent physicist, Lee Smolin calls it “one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years."

Continue reading "Surfer Solves the Mystery of the Universe" »

Burnt-Out

Torchwood According to the voice-over narration at the start of BBC America's Torchwood, the 21st century is when "everything changes."

Torchwood is a spin-off of the latest version of Doctor Who. The BBC bills it as "Dr. Who for adults" and "dark, clever, wild, [and] sexy." One (dark) out of four is not all that bad. Actually, there's a better word to describe the show: nihilistic.

Judging by what I've seen, which is every episode that's aired in the U.S. so far, what changes in the 21st century is that humanity is enervated, so lacking in elan vital or prana that it (or at least the sample in and around Cardiff, Wales) is in danger of drying up and blowing away.

This is especially true of our erstwhile saviors, the folks at Torchwood. Unlike the Doctor, who has been described as being 

like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He's ancient and forever. He burns at the center of time and can see the turn of the universe; and he's wonderful!

. . . the protagonists of Torchwood are anything-but-wonderful -- they're pitiable, not only by the standards of a Time Lord (who isn't?) but by human standards, as well. We're supposed to think that their jobs made them that way but, based on what we've seen, it's fair to conclude that they came to the job already screwed-up. They fornicate emptily in search of connections they're, for the most part, incapable of making. They have trouble honoring their commitments to each other and to their loved ones.

Continue reading "Burnt-Out " »

The Point Radio: Discovering a Better Hour

The Hollywood writers' strike could go on for months. What an opportunity!...


Click play above to listen.

Click here for more information about this contest.

November 19, 2007

Daily roundup, supersize edition

I didn't have time for a roundup on Friday -- some of us were giving a booksigning party for Lori -- so you get two days' worth of links today.

Dolly Creator Abandons Cloning

Dolly In what is sure to stun advocates of embryonic stem cell research (that is, cloning), Ian Wilmut, the researcher who gave us Dolly the sheep, has decided to abandon cloning research. Inspired by the work of Japanese scientists, Wilmut announced plans to pursue research on adult stem cells. Wilmut’s announcement comes within days of the celebrated success of Oregon researchers in producing embryonic stem cells lines from monkeys.

While Wilmut recognizes adult cell research as more “socially acceptable,” the rationale behind his decision is mainly practical, as this snippet from the Telegraph indicates:

Cloning is still too wasteful of precious human eggs, which are in great demand for fertility treatments, to consider for creating embryonic stem cells. "It is a nice success but a bit limited," commented Prof Wilmut. "Given the low efficiency, you wonder just how long nuclear transfer will have a useful life." Nor is it clear, he said, why the Oregon team was successful, which will hamper attempts to improve their methods. Instead, Prof Wilmut is backing direct reprogramming or "de-differentiation", the embryo free route pursued by Prof Yamanaka, which he finds "100 times more interesting."

"The odds are that by the time we make nuclear transfer work in humans, direct reprogramming will work too."

Wilmut's annoucement could well signal the re-direction of a technology that, hitherto, has threatened the destruction of the most vulnerable and voiceless segment of society, while exploiting women as "egg factories," without delivering on any of its many promises for cures and well-being.

I’ll have one order of crow, please

Don't you hate it when someone you've just raked over the coals for being out of touch with reality, turns around and comes up with something right on target? Not two weeks after I took Robin Givhan to task for this, she gives us this:

The Internet is clogged with derisive commentary about which celebrities are looking old or unappealing. But it is also filled with speculation about which celebrities have had work done -- and how terrible it is. Celebrities are trapped: mocked if they look bad, mocked for trying desperately to look good. . . .

There's no way to know what was going through [Donda] West's mind. But her death [from plastic surgery complications] makes one marvel at the way in which popular culture pushes, pushes, pushes people toward an ideal. And then tut-tuts when they take the bait.

Ain't it the truth.

Reluctant Converts

Christine Rosen writes of the potency of reluctant conversions at the Wall Street Journal Online:

C.S. Lewis, one of the most well-known Christian apologists of the 20th century, called himself a "reluctant convert," and in his autobiography, "Surprised by Joy," he described the process as akin to being caught or overtaken by an irresistible force. "Before God closed in on me," he wrote in a typical passage, "I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice." Even as he yields to conversion, which he likens to a snowman slowly melting, he admits that he "rather disliked the feeling."

Rosen writes of how men such as Francis Collins and our own Chuck Colson found Lewis' conversion powerful in the formation of their own conviction about Christ. Conversely, the emotion-driven stories of Christians for whom conversion was less challenging, and for whom it often provided convenient solutions to life problems, strike Rosen as mere pablum.

This is where therapeutic Christianity, however popular, has failed to extend the legacy of converts like Mr. Lewis. The secular public can be forgiven for failing to find in a woman's marital problems, for example, a life-changing reckoning with belief.

The most persuasive conversion narratives recount not merely emotional surrenders to faith but also intellectual grapplings with it. Although devout atheists would vehemently disagree, the conversions of men like Mr. Lewis, Dr. Collins and even, perhaps, Mr. Flew reveal that intelligent people -- trained in rigorous fields such as philosophy and the hard sciences -- can embrace faith and tell persuasive stories without extremes of emotional flagellation. The Road to Damascus is paved with theology not therapy.

I tend to agree. At the same time, I'm quite cognizant of my own tendency toward a superiority complex on matters of faith. Really, who's to say that God is less impressed with faith that comes easy? And if life is, at the end of the day, all about pleasing God, then perhaps we sometimes allow ourselves to look down on brothers and sisters when we ought to simply rejoice with them.

MacDonald Quotation

George MacDonald once wrote these beautiful words about God: 

God is so beautiful, and so patient, and so loving, and so generous that He is the heart and soul and rock of every love and every kindness and every gladness in the world. All the beauty in the world and in the hearts of men, all the painting, all the poetry, all the music, all the architecture comes out of His heart first. He is so loveable that no heart can know how loveable He is--can know only in part. When the best loves God best, he does not love Him nearly as He deserves, or as he will love Him in time.

(quoted in The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins)

Super-grande-mocha-cocoa- latte-frappucino if you say it loud enough you’ll know just what I mean-o

Coffee_drink Okay, folks, I'm beginning to spot a trend this season. It's all about personalization. I can personalize my cell phone with more and more features, from the color, to the ring that rings when I ring you, to what special features it has. I can now personalize my Nikes, so they say whatever it is that picking out a certain color and style of pleather would tell you about my unique personality. I can personalize my car with monograms or symbols or just special colors inside. I can personalize a bottle of wine, a bottle of water, and give it to you as a gift because...that would mean so much to you? What's this trend all about?

To me it says something about our fascination with individualizing our selves. Have we taken it to extremes? Or is it a backlash against the mass-production that is part of our retail world? Or is it evidence of people with a bit too much money and ego on their hands? You tell me. And seriously, what is a different color seat interior really going to tell you about me and why do I need to tell you that anyway if you're riding in my car? You could just talk to me, for crying out loud.

Okay, but before I leave you to yourselves with this question here's one theory:

Continue reading "Super-grande-mocha-cocoa- latte-frappucino if you say it loud enough you’ll know just what I mean-o" »

The Point Radio: Super-size Thanks

Is your conscience already kicking into overtime about all the good eats you’ll consume this Thursday? What does the Bible say about feasting?...


Click play above to listen.

Here is a special Thanksgiving prayer from the Puritans:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Super-size Thanks" »

November 16, 2007

Autumn in God’s Calendar

Autumn It's November 16 and fall has arrived, finally.

I woke up slightly later than the norm this morning, so I got to see a different section of the morning on my drive in to work. Maybe I've been blind to the past few weeks--the latter end of October which is supposed to contain the rich fall foliage northern Virginia typically boasts--but it seemed that fall woke up with me this morning.

Drive with me down Hunter Mill Road where the maples are exploding as if they were burning bushes. Picture the brilliant gray sky that provided the perfect backdrop. Glance around at the iridescent orange leaves fluttering across the narrow road.

Why this brilliance on the eve of Thanksgiving, when grays and browns are supposed to be the chorus of the morning? And why all of those morning drives a month ago wondering why my longing for change was suppressed by the mild yellows and feeble attempts at autumn?

The other day I noticed a poster on one of my co-workers' doors: "God's timing is perfect and His strategy is one of surprises."

Continue reading "Autumn in God’s Calendar" »

National Adoption Month

Thanks to Christy Lynn Wilson of DeMoss News Group for letting me know that November is National Adoption Month, and sending this press release about what Focus on the Family and other Christian groups are doing to help children in need of parents -- plus this description of a new book by Focus president Jim Daly about his experiences as an orphan.

Also of interest is Relative Choices: Adoption and the American Family, a blog set up by the New York Times to which ten bloggers with experience of adoption -- including adoptive parents, adopted children, and biological parents -- have been contributing this month.

Sadly, even at a time when the process is more open and more carefully screened than it's ever been, it seems adoption still carries a stigma of sorts, creating fear in the minds of many girls who would rather abort their children then give them up. One of the most important and effective ways of helping those children and their mothers is for us -- especially those like me who have adopted family members -- to talk about what a blessing adoption can be to all involved.

From Bibles to ’Intimacy Kits’

Gideons_bible Newsweek informs us (via the American Family Association and The Line) that that hipper hotel chains are replacing Gideon Bibles with bedside "intimacy kits" containing--well, you probably don't want to know. Hotel spokespersons (including one chain's "romance concierge") say they're simply meeting the needs of their clientele.

Hey, don't Christians travel anymore? If you do, and think you'll miss that Gideon Bible, make your case here.

Compacter Worldview

When Rachel Kesel's headset broke, she let it be broke. Not that she doesn't make enough to afford a new pair. It's that she has "compacter" in her blood.

A year and a half ago, Rachel and a few other environmentally-conscious friends made a Compact (like the Mayflower Compact) not to purchase anything (minus groceries and other essentials) for a year. She survived the non-consumer year, and now she's stuck on it.

Like most micro-trends, it started small; now it's blossomed to include a cyberspace following of more than 9,000 people committed to avoiding the mall.

There's certainly an emphasis in the biblical worldview on "not storing up treasures on earth," giving to the poor, and living modestly. But to what extent should we consider going further, perhaps even following the example of Rachel and her friends?

Part of Global Warming Myth Exposed

A press release from NASA this week revealed results of a study conducted by a team of NASA and university scientists that determined “not all the large changes seen in Arctic climate in recent years are a result of long-term trends associated with global warming.” The study is one good proof to those who are unclear whether there is a scientific consensus that decreasing ice levels in the Arctic is really caused by global warming. The NASA press release may provide good answers; the question is will the media pick it up and report it or will they remain under the iceberg on this scientific finding?

Whether you believe in global warming or not, the report reminded me of Chuck’s BreakPoint commentary on environmental stewardship last week. As believers in Christ, all we have to do today is start becoming good stewards of God’s creation, as has been laid down in the Scripture, whether scientists and media ever agree on the global warming myth.

The Point Radio: Practical Atheism

Dawkins, Hitchens, and other atheists are highly vocal these days. But there's a quieter, more insidious kind of atheism that should concern us even more....


Click play above to listen.

For more on practical atheism, see Craig Gay's book, The Way of the (Modern) World:Or Why It's Tempting to Live as If God Doesn’t Exist. Here is a brief excerpt:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Practical Atheism" »

November 15, 2007

Daily roundup

Finding truth and beauty in the strangest places

Dr. John Mark Reynolds, founder of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, is speaking tomorrow in Washington, D.C., for Faith and Law, on the topic "Fulfilling Our Deepest Longings: Extracting Truth and Beauty from the American Obsession with Lower Pleasures." The subject sounds intriguing, and Dr. Reynolds's talk at GodBlogCon was my favorite of all those at the convention -- but, alas, once again I can't make it downtown. If you can, though, I recommend it. Contact Faith and Law for details.

The Karma of Grace

My son David entered high school in September. Among the start-of-the-school-year business that I took care of was writing a check for two months' worth of school lunches. So I was surprised when, a few weeks later, David told me that he needed more lunch money. Surprised, but not so much that I didn't write a second check for two more months' worth of lunches.

A few weeks later -- you guessed it -- David asked for lunch money, again. This time, in addition to writing the check (no way I'm risking David's going hungry during lunch hour), I asked his teachers and department heads to look into what was going on.

The initial theory was that David was ordering stuff a la carte which caused him to spend more than I had expected. The more I thought about it, the less it made sense: I asked David what he had for lunch every day and his answers, which I had no reason to doubt, weren't a la carte items. On the contrary, they corresponded to the menu posted by the school board.

Well, the mystery has been solved: kids have been stealing from David (and me). David, who is trusting to the Nth degree, would tell the cafeteria workers his account number in a loudish voice, which was overheard by other kids. They, in turn, would go to town using his account number.

In other words, they stole from an autistic kid. No, make that they stole from him because he was autistic, counting on his disability to help them get away with it.

Continue reading "The Karma of Grace" »

Wallis’s Temper Tantrum

Peter Wehner notes at NRO that Jim Wallis, who invites us to consider a new politics of civility, turns positively vicious when it comes to members of the Bush administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Wallis calls them both liars (offering no evidence to back up his accusations, and ignoring substantial evidence that they did NOT lie about Iraq). Wallis desires them, along with President Bush (whom he calls clueless) to spend the rest of their lives in prison if found guilty of "lying about going to war."

Wehner ably exposes the flaws in Wallis's--I can't call it an argument, it's more of a tantrum--and notes that Wallis's attacks are irresponsible, deeply uninformed, politically tendentious, and blinded by his political biases.

Wallis claims he is not being partisan in his attacks. Then why, one wonders, does he not publicly attack Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton for the many, many lies they have told--stories and claims that are, beyond any reasonable dispute, falsehoods?

A Christian preacher has a very high obligation to make sure he has the facts whenever he speaks in public--especially when he attacks the veracity of fellow Christians. When he does not have evidence to back up his claims, he brings shame on the gospel, and makes it difficult for Christians on the left and right to work together as fellow laborers in the vineyard.

In Wallis, the evangelical left has a public spokesman who is an even greater embarassment than Pat Robertson has ever been to the Religious Right.

Are You Who You Want to Be?

Switchfoot On my way to work this morning, I was listening to the radio and Switchfoot's song "This is Your Life" came on. If you've not heard the song before, the refrain asks the question, "Are you who you want to be?" It is one of those great probing questions. Though some might say the song is too repetitive, to me the frequent repetition of the question along with the admonition, "Don't close your eyes," is an injunction to squarely look at who you are and evaluate it.

For me, the song makes me ponder what kind of character I possess. How do I treat people? When I walk into a room, do I bring with me a spirit that invites people deeper and further into the character of God in His love, His compassion, His wisdom, His passion? If not, there's today, today to take hold of. Not a bad way to start the day, if you ask me. You can listen here.

’Pied Piper of Atheism’

Piedpiperatheism_lg Can you stand a bit more on Philip Pullman and The Golden Compass? I hope so, as the first movie's going to be everywhere in a few weeks. I just read about a new book being released by Ignatius next month to coincide with the release of the film: Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy by Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel. This page contains a book description, an interview excerpt, and a link to the rest of the interview. From the information here, it looks pretty good ("Bill" should be "Will," but it's probably just a typo!). In particular, the authors' response to certain of Pullman's criticisms of Narnia is impressive.

(H/T Some Have Hats)

Big Wedding

Disney_wedding Rachel DiCarlo writes amusingly in The Weekly Standard about what one might label "Big Wedding"--the intrusion of the "$160-billion-a-year stable of retailers, planners, and specialty vendors" who transform weddings "into machines for making money." An astonishing 43 different businesses are involved in coordinating today's weddings, DiCarlo notes, including wedding planners who "disseminate the notion that the wedding day presents a once-in-lifetime opportunity for self-invention."

The point of a wedding is up for grabs, DiCarlo says. "Weddings can be a celebration of family, of self, of religion, or just an excuse for a huge party."

This whatever-you-want-it-to-be approach to matrimony is probably why so many brides fall into the evil grasp of Big Wedding: Take the traditional meaning out--that marriage is a holy, life-long, monogamous commitment between a man and a woman, ordained by God--and all that's left, really, is a big, expensive party.

But modern brides and grooms seem to sense that something is missing--which is why, as DiCarlo relates, some couples get married at Disney World in a Fairy Tale Wedding. The bride gets to be Cinderella riding to the castle in a glass pumpkin, and the groom is her handsome prince. "Cinderella," like most fairy tales, offers the promise of "happily ever after"--not a bad substitute, I guess, for "till death us do part."

Continue reading "Big Wedding" »

Something Perfect: Witchi-Tai-To

Pepper Before his death from lymphoid cancer in 1992, Jim Pepper had accomplished more in only 51 years than most people will accomplish in twice as many. As a Jim Pepper tribute site puts it, "throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Pepper recorded with a vast range of jazz greats . . ." 

Earlier this year, Pepper's "legendary silver Selmer saxophone, beaded baseball cap, leather horn cases, early LPs, and original sheet music were donated by the Pepper family to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian . . ."

Pepper's Kaw and Creek heritage not only led to a permanent place at the Smithsonian, it also produced his best-known composition: Witchi-Tai-To, which was based on healing chants he heard when he was a child.

Some people collect stamps; others collect Precious Moment figurines; I collect recorded versions of Witchi-Tai-To. It's been covered by everyone from Brewer & Shipley of "One Toke Over the Line" fame (or infamy) to, more recently, Jack Johnson.

But it's the versions in-between, by musicians like Pepper himself, Jan Garbarek, and especially, Oregon, that cause me to call Pepper's song "perfect." As Paul McCandless put it, the tune "couldn't be simpler; yet it always allows you to go different places with it." That, in a nutshell, is the definition of a perfect jazz tune.

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The Point Radio: The Price of Privilege

There’s a new generation of at-risk kids. They may be yours....


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Visit Crown Financial Ministries for tools to evaluate your spending.

November 14, 2007

Daily roundup

It’s Not Just About Turkey and Football

Coversquanto Parents of young children looking for a great Thanksgiving book for their kids can do no better than Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by our former BreakPoint colleague Eric Metaxas. This beautifully illustrated and historically accurate book describes Squanto's kidnapping by Spanish sailors, his life among Spanish monks, and his journey back to the New World just after the English Pilgrims' arrival. You can buy it here.

Booksigning report

Booksigning Lori's got a report and pictures from her booksigning, which was a great success, up at her Following Austen blog. Special thanks to her for her permission to post one of the pictures here. (Man, I wish I had handwriting that nice.) Don't miss the picture of her with Catherine and Kristine about halfway down!

Re: Pope Robertson?

I want to address a couple of comments on my post about Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani.

From Mary:

I will say that I do pay attention to endorsements by respected Christian leaders. I don't necessarily march with the lemmings, but I want to know what Christian leaders are thinking. I know of no unbiased news source. I have a large family, I have to work, I have responsibilities at church. I take a day to fast and pray for my children and grandchildren. I cook from scratch and try to care for our home. I try to work out, have a quiet time and keep up with current events. I do not have time to do exhaustive research on political candidates. I'm trying to live the straight life and it takes a lot ....

I kind of resent the original post.

From labrialumn:

I think that demonstrates how out of touch beltway types are. Even if they are posting to the Point. Pat Robertson doesn't have nearly the influence he once had out here in America. And he is definitely losing it with age. He really should retire, for his own sake. IMO, of course.

You know you've arrived when they start calling you a Beltway type. :-) The truth is, I'm usually the girl going around saying, "But surely most Christians don't really listen to what Pat Robertson says!" and everyone around me is usually telling me I'm flat-out wrong about that. So that was why I suggested that many social conservatives might take the endorsement the way Mr. Kudlow thought they would. If I'm wrong again, well, guess that'll teach me to listen to the conventional wisdom.

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A Pullman addendum

Last month, I wrote about the Golden Compass e-mail that's been circulating, "Snopes does a good job of covering the subject."

As a matter of fact, this was inaccurate, and I need to apologize for what I said. It's been brought to my attention that Snopes never debunks a line in the e-mail about how "a boy and girl . . . kill God." The statement is not true. Lyra and Will, the young hero and heroine, do not kill God. They happen to be present -- by accident -- when a being calling himself "God" is killed. There is no real God in Pullman's universe, only angels who try to set themselves up as gods.

But the children don't plan the killing, they don't cause it, and they don't even understand much about it. (They are indeed, as some versions of the e-mail suggest, cast as a second Adam and Eve, but what that means is never made quite clear, as the "temptation" Pullman sets up for them is simply the temptation to fall in love with each other as they enter adolescence. Pullman would have us believe that this is the kind of thing that would send the Christian church into a tizzy, but you don't even have to look closely at it for that argument to fall to pieces.)

Also, contrary to the unsourced quotation at the end of the Snopes article, Jesus is indeed mentioned in the books.

It's quite true that Pullman has said his books, as a whole, are about killing God, and we need to be aware of that. But at the same time, as I mentioned in a recent post, it isn't optional for us to get our facts straight about matters like this. It is absolutely imperative. We dishonor God when we spread untruths or partial truths in His name, and we lessen the chances that anyone will ever want to hear what we have to say.

If you don't have time to skim Pullman's books yourself, as I suggested earlier, a couple of good sources of information are Dark Matter by Tony Watkins (he likes the books better than I do, but he still points out the problems with their worldview) or the excellent essay "The Republic of Heaven" in Alan Jacobs's book Shaming the Devil. And if you get that e-mail again, you might consider responding with the link to this post. Since I helped promote the misleading information, the least I can do is help set the record straight.

Correcting Misrepresentations on ’Judgment Day’

If, like me, you viewed Judgment Day--the NOVA special on the Dover trial involving the teaching of intelligent design in public schools--last night, you might be interested in a piece addressing the various errors and misrepresentations in the film: "PBS Airs False Facts in Its 'Inherit the Wind' Version of the Kitzmiller Trial."

Withered Corn and Drooping Affections

Perdue Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is following in the steps of our Pilgrim fathers and mothers nearly 400 years ago: He is urging fellow Christians to pray for desperately needed rain. Gov. Perdue, who grew up on a family farm, led a prayer vigil yesterday on the steps of the State Capitol, along with pastors from a variety of denominations.

Governor Bob Riley of Alabama also called on people to pray for rain last summer, issuing a proclamation declaring June 30 through July 7 as "Days of Prayer for Rain" in Alabama.

The secular world has been having some fun with this, of course--they think the governors are idiots (profanity in comments section at link)--but joining together with neighbors for prayer was a familiar ritual for the Pilgrims. For instance, in April of 1623--three years after the first batch of Pilgrims landed--the transplanted Englishmen and women planted corn. A good crop was essential to their survival. But in the weeks following the planting, it became clear that a dry spell was turning into a drought.

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The Point Radio: An American Girl, Struggling with Divorce

How is your church helping children of divorce cope?...


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Here are some more resources on how your church can reach out to the children of divorce:

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