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July 23, 2008

Daily roundup

Fuel Crisis Sparks Ingenuity, and More Confusion

Here's an innovative way to handle the fuel crisis:

The Department of Education has approved a four-day school week for students in the MACCRAY district in western Minnesota.

They are making the switch to save money on fuel. The district says it will save $65,000 out of a $7 million budget.

An extra hour will be added to the school day. Classes will run Tuesday through Friday.

I wonder if I could convince PFM to implement the same policy.

But, in all seriousness, it's a shame that Congress is wringing its hands over offshore drilling in Alaska. Representative Michele Bachmann offers some challenging thoughts about this on her blog.

Health Care: Regulation or Strangulation?

Before you jump on the bandwagon of those vying for government-issued health insurance, you need to read Sally Pipes' informative article, "Who Should Pay for Health Care?"

Why Ask What?

Over at Get Religion, my friend Terry Mattingly has some comments about a recent Newsweek story about Senator Obama's faith. Like just about everything TMatt writes, it's worth reading.

In comment #22, "Michael" writes,

Should we also expect the press to examine McCain’s embrace of the Southern Baptist Convention and its doctrinal and ideological stances? Or is it only Obama’s faith that is put under a microscope? Is the fact that McCain seems totally ill-at-ease talking about his Baptist faith a story worth equal examination?

. . . to which TMatt replies,

Additional coverage of McCain’s flock or sort-of flock is MORE THAN justified. We have kind of been crying out for that here from time to time.

Continue reading "Why Ask What? " »

Who’s the drummer...

...on this cut?

To find out, click here and under "God Encounters 2008," click on "members."

Move over Tommy Lee!

Something dark

07compass600 It's astonishing how much power we Christians have, isn't it? We put a stop to further installments of the His Dark Materials film trilogy all by ourselves! So says The Independent: "When The Golden Compass was released last year, New Line Cinema had high hopes for the trilogy as the new The Lord of the Rings, and the sequel was due to be released by the end of 2009. But then the Christian boycotts started and the film sunk in the US, making a meagre $70m (£35m), although it took a hefty $300m internationally." It was all us.

Or maybe not. Blogger "Dirty Harry" offers an insightful analysis of The Independent's take (mild vulgarity):

I’d love for it to be true if only to shut up the liars who constantly claim religious protests are good for a film. Okay, uh, when? The last religious protest I remember was for the Scorsese snoozer The Last Temptation of Christ, and that sucker put the tank in “tanked.”

Some protests are good for box office. Bigots swamped the airwaves and editorial pages to light into The Passion of the Christ and it ended up breaking records. Gays and lesbians took to the streets protesting Basic Instinct and it was the hit of the year, making Sharon Stone a star.

Is there some sort of correlation here? I’d like to think so, but maybe it goes no deeper than the very simple fact that The Golden Compass sucked. It opened pretty well and couldn’t maintain momentum because it sucked. . . . Even through the FX fakery and precocious kids there was something dark in the heart of that story — something it couldn’t quite shake.

Read more here.

(Image © New Line)

Pray, Pray, Pray

This story about Olympic athlete Eric Liddell's story being published in China (where he is considered THEIR Olympic champion, not Scotland's) made me think again of the tremendous preparations now going on, probably by thousands of now-unknown people, to use the occasion of the Olympic Games in Beijing to highlight China's human rights abuses and the persecution of Christians. I couldn't help a grim inward chuckle at the thought of the extremes Chinese leaders are going to, to control and shape the news coming out of China during the Games--after all, a zillion tourists will be there with cell phone cameras--but then it occurred to me that what Western Christians ought to be doing, right now, and every day up to the Games and during them, is to pray for the safety and wisdom of Christians who may be preparing to risk their lives and freedom to make a statement during the Games.

While it seems unlikely that Chinese leaders will risk a televised gun battle with dissidents, those who embarrass them will likely face severe punishment after the journalists and tourists pack up and go home. 

So--I am urging fellow Pointers and our readers to pray, pray, pray for our dear brethren in China. Pray for their safety and for their families--and also that they will have the courage to do what they believe God is commanding them to do when the eyes of the world are on them next month. 

The Point Radio: Invisible Flames

What you don’t see can hurt you....

Click play above to listen.

Colorado Boy Burned by Invisible Fire in Coal Dust at Park,” FOX News, 4 June 2008.

July 22, 2008

Daily roundup

He saved 2 million lives

Bono_and_helms From a former staffer of the late Jesse Helms:

His conservative principles were matched by his compassion. Originally, he didn't think there should be a big government role in combating AIDS. So Bono, who is an advocate for the cause, asked to see him. Bono convinced him, and they worked together--eventually securing some $200 million to fight AIDS in Africa. In a message to the Helms family this week, Bono said that thanks to Jesse Helms' efforts, 2 million lives were saved.

Read more. (HT Thunderstruck)

Man Post: Advertisers & ’Homophobia’

Mr_t In Ad Age, Bob Garfield goes after advertising agency BBDO for its supposedly "homophobic" spots. The Mr. T Snickers ad is evidently beyond the pale:

Now, from AMV BBDO, London, another Snickers spot, in which a butt-wiggling race walker is just too effeminate for Mr. T's liking. The snarling scourge of all things sissified chases after the guy in a pickup. "You a disgrace to the man race!" he bellows. "It's time to run like a real man!" -- whereupon the terrorized wimp is mowed down with a candy-spewing Gatling gun and admonished to "Get some nuts!"

The pun behind the campaign is obvious, adolescent and unfunny. The sentiment behind it is simply sick.

Thankfully, some sensible readers tell Garfield what's what. David Wojciechowski takes the snarky approach (which I, naturally, like):

Continue reading "Man Post: Advertisers & ’Homophobia’" »

The Last and Least in Africa

African_woman The next time I find myself grumbling about the rising price of gasoline (and everything else), I'm going to remember this article about what higher prices mean to women in Africa and I'm going to count my blessings instead. 

The article, written by Kevin Sullivan, is long and heartbreaking as he examines a day in the life of a typical African woman in Burkino Faso. Since I have made numerous trips to West Africa in the past few years, this woman's story conjures up the faces of many of the women I know who live in such dire conditions -- women who are slowly starving themselves because they can't afford enough food to feed their families, and because their culture demands that they feed their husbands and children first, even if that means they get little or nothing to eat. 

My missionary friends are all too familiar with similar situations, and they genuinely want to help. However, how to help is not always clear. For one thing, they are not rich enough to give money to everyone in need; for another, the danger of making "rice bowl" converts is ever present. They don't want people to become dependent on them, but on God. It becomes a balancing act, and the subject of much prayer for wisdom to know who to help and how much help to give.

A larger problem, however, is the direct result of Islam's polygamous culture. The men, as this article reveals, do little: they are slavishly served by their wives who -- quite frankly -- are easy to replace if they die. The idea that a man should "love his wife as Christ loved the Church" (sacrificially) is foreign to them. One missionary I know confronts men who are Muslim converts to Christianity about this attitude. When he's staying in the villages, he will get up early in the morning with the women to draw and carry the day's supply of water, start cook fires, prepare meals, etc. When the men object that it's not their way, Gene will tell them that they are now Christians who must reject aspects of their culture that are against God's Word. By word and deed, he shows them how to love their wives and children.

I hope that you will take the time to read this article, and that you will pray for the women in Africa. More than anything, pray that the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ will come and save them all.

(Image © The Washington Post)

’I suck it up. That’s our job.’

From patient initiative, to military bureaucracy, to civilians and "civil liberties," it doesn't seem anything could have been done for Joseph Dwyer. But hats off to Dionne Knapp and the rest of the "four Musketeers" for their heroic friendship on his behalf. My prayers and thoughts are with Joseph's wife and daughter. God bless them.

From CNN, more of the tragic downward spiral:

When Dionne Knapp learned of her friend's June 28 death, her first reaction was to be angry at Dwyer. How could he leave his wife and daughter like this? Didn't he know he had friends who cared about him, who wanted to help?

But as time passed, Knapp's anger turned toward the government.

A photograph taken in the first days of the war had made the medic from New York's Long Island a symbol of the United States' good intentions in the Middle East. When he returned home, he was hailed as a hero.

But for most of the past five years, the 31-year-old soldier had writhed in a private hell, shooting at imaginary enemies, sleeping in a closet bunker and trying desperately to huff away the "demons" in his head. When his personal problems became public, efforts were made to help him, but nothing seemed to work.

This broken, frightened man had once been the embodiment of American might and compassion. If the military couldn't save him, Knapp thought, what hope was there for the thousands suffering in anonymity. . . .

Continue reading "’I suck it up. That’s our job.’" »

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Gavin_bryars In 1971, the English composer Gavin Bryars was working "on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station."

In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet."

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism.

Continue reading "Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet" »

Of Faithfulness and Fireworks

Firework So I’m back and feel like I owe you all a few snapshots of all that’s happened in the weeks I’ve been away. On the Fourth of July, the day before our wedding, Mark and I along with many of our best friends and family waited out the rain in a muddy field adjacent to the Ford dealership in Spruce Pine, North Carolina hoping the fireworks…coinciding with our final “independence” day… wouldn’t get canceled. The rain clouds cleared just in time for a dazzling small-town display. I’m sure God had the best view though—seeing the faces of his children upturned in delight, “holding wonder like a cup” as poet Sara Teasdale would say. Fireworks remind me of how God works. Sometimes in the deepest darkness God surprises us with beauty and light and wonder too marvelous for words. He bursts onto the scene and overwhelms our senses and our expectations.

Continue reading "Of Faithfulness and Fireworks" »

The Point Radio: Diversity Check-Up

How diverse is your church?...

Click play above to listen.

Zoe Sandvig, “The Church That Bowls Together...,” The Point, 2 June 2008.

July 21, 2008

Something to shoot for

Despair.com offers an inspiring new way to measure success.

Just Pop Art? Or Religious Iconography?

Warhol_large "He created the biggest series of religious works of any American artist,” said Professor Jane Daggett Dillenberger of the Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley. “To my certain knowledge,” said one friend of this artist, “he was responsible for at least one conversion. He took considerable pride in financing his nephew’s studies for the priesthood. And he regularly helped out at a shelter serving meals to the homeless and hungry.” This artist attended church almost daily, kept a devotional by his bedside, and prayed everyday with his mother, a devout Byzantine Catholic.

So, who was this artist? Probably not the late Andy Warhol with whom you’re familiar.

This isn’t news, actually. In the late nineties Dr. Dillenger discovered Warhol’s more than one hundred renditions of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. And references to his faith have been mentioned under the radar. But when we think of Warhol today, we remember his “pop art”—like the Coke bottles and Campbell’s soup cans—not to mention his open homosexuality and his workshop that attracted celebrities and misfits in the 1960s.

Some have said his soup can paintings are just a comment on a consumer culture or that Warhol was saying there are no special standards of what art is.

And that may be, but art historian James Romaine offers another perspective. Though Dillenger referred to Warhol’s Last Supper pieces when she referred to his prolific religious works, those soup cans also fit into the category. “Warhol admitted,” Romaine writes, “that one reason he was attracted to the imagery of Campbell’s soup was that he had eaten Campbell’s soup nearly every day as a boy … growing up in a poor immigrant family. … Campbell’s soup probably offered a reassuring sense of belonging.” And he ate that soup under a reproduction of Last Supper on his kitchen wall.

Continue reading "Just Pop Art? Or Religious Iconography? " »

What a real sports hero looks like

Sal_fasano I never watch baseball, but nonetheless, my new hero is minor-league backup catcher Sal Fasano.

In the August 2008 issue of Reader's Digest, Jeff Pearlman tells Fasano's story ("Mr. Clean," p. 132, print version only):

Ever since Fasano was selected by Kansas City in the 37th round of the 1993 June amateur draft, friends and family members have watched in dismay as he's been bypassed and overlooked. The routine became mind-numbingly familiar: Fasano would put up great minor-league numbers, sniff a promotion -- and then hear that another player was getting the nod. "It frustrated Sal, but it really frustrated me," said [Sal's brother] Mike. "All I wanted was for him to get a legitimate shot."

Hence, the phone call:

Mike: "Sal, I think you really should consider taking stuff."

Sal: "I just don't know ..."

Mike: "Look around you. I know a lot of guys are doing it -- it's obvious. Why not make yourself better?"

Sal: "It doesn't seem right."

Mike: "Right? You can be either a mediocre player or a great player. You can make either $200,000 a year or $10 million a year."

For the ensuing couple of minutes, Sal Fasano thought about it. Really, really thought about it. . . .

Continue reading "What a real sports hero looks like" »

’We’ll pay for you to die’

Barbara_wagner From the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard (thanks to my dad for the tip):

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that could slow the cancer growth and extend her life, [Barbara] Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover the treatment, but that it would cover palliative, or comfort, care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide. . . .

Wagner said she was devastated when she found out that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover Tarceva, the drug that her oncologist ordered when her lung cancer came back.

“I think it’s messed up,” Wagner said, bursting into tears.

She was particularly upset because the letter of denial said that doctor-assisted suicide would be covered.

“To say to someone, we’ll pay for you to die, but not pay for you to live, it’s cruel,” she said. “I get angry. Who do they think they are?”

Dr. John Sattenspiel of LIPA, which administers the Oregon Health Plan, responded, "We had no intent to upset her but we do need to point out the options available to her under the Oregon Health Plan.”

Wagner finally got some good news when the drug company offered to give her the medicine for free. But her story is a sobering one. The next time someone tells you that assisted suicide is only for those who choose it, tell them about Barbara Wagner -- and ask how many other Barbara Wagners might be out there getting pressured to choose the same "option."

(Image © Paul Carter for the Register-Guard)

Simply Surreal

From the Christian Science Monitor:

More than 500 years after Spain's golden age of tolerance among Jews, Christians, and Muslims came to a definitive end, leaders of those faiths – as well as of Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism – are meeting at a royal palace on Madrid's outskirts in a bid to boost interreligious understanding.

In his opening remarks Wednesday at the three-day conference, host Saudi King Abdullah reminded his audience – nearly 300 religious, political, and cultural leaders from 50 different countries – of their shared purpose.

"If we want this historic encounter to succeed, we must look to the things that unite us: our profound faith in God, the noble principles and elevated ethics that represent the foundation of religions," he said.

He linked societal woes like terrorism, racism, crime, drug abuse, and the breakdown of the family to losing touch with religion: "All this is the consequence of the spiritual void that people suffer once they distance themselves from God."

Because the conference is being hosted by Saudi Arabia, a country where religious pluralism is not tolerated, enthusiasm for the interfaith venture is tempered with a fair dose of caution. With sessions dedicated to broad themes like "Dialogue and Its Importance within Human Society," few attendees expect concrete gains or proposals to emerge from the gathering.

Continue reading.

Not Just Another Action/Comic Book Movie

The_dark_knight Like millions of other Americans, I headed to the theater on Friday to see the latest installment of the Batman films, The Dark Knight. After all the hype, and especially after all the sentimental reactions to this being Heath Ledger's last role, I went into the experience just a bit skeptical: Could the movie be as good as the pre-release buzz indicated?

The answer is a resounding "Yes!" And this review from Todd Hertz over at Christianity Today explains why. Aside from the incredible performance by Ledger, the film asks some pretty big questions about how good people battle evil -- both the evil without and the evil within. And it doesn't arrive at pat or simplistic answers.

The Dark Knight is the first film I've seen this summer that I would see again. In fact, I'm sure that I'll need multiple viewings to appreciate all that's there. Hertz's one complaint -- that the movie may be a bit too ambitious -- is justified. On the other hand, a movie this dense also rewards those who see it again and again. Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale deserve two thumbs up for their take on the Batman myth, and Heath Ledger more than deserves the Oscar.

(Image © Warner Brothers)

The Point Radio: Rediscovering the Library

Shhh -- people are saving money....

Click play above to listen.

July 18, 2008

The Day the Durian Thawed

Durian_head_eating2 (Thanks to Martha for that title and the image -- inspired by an off-Point conversation. The frozen desserts that are out there . . . I tell ya . . . )

I really think that this is yet more evidence that God has a wicked sense of . . . wait . . . a heavenly(?) sense of humor and plays practical jokes.

Daily roundup

Nelson Mandela Turns 90

Mandela_nelson0718 A toast to you, Mr. Mandela!

And if you've never watched this fascinating tribute to his courageous work and sacrifice, I highly recommend adding it to your Netflix queue.

(Image © Themba Hadebe/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinglish, Anyone?

"How English is Evolving into a Language We May Not Even Understand" is a funny and fascinating read for those of us who care about language. However, I must admit that as an English teacher, the news about how English is being changed by its non-native speakers makes me shudder. Sentences like "If you are stolen, call the police at once" or "Please omnivorously put the waste in garbage can" or "deformed man lavatory" just make me want to break out the red pencil. After all, I've spent my career trying to get students to use "Standard Edited American English" -- which is still the norm for both the academic and business world IF you live and work in America. 

On the other hand, I know that any spoken language is an evolving language, and while I most likely won't live enough to see "Chinglish" (the Chinese version of English) become an accepted dialect, I know that it may very well happen in the future. In some ways, such is the beauty and strength of the English language: it has proven incredibly adaptable and flexible as it has spread throughout the world. As Salman Rushdie has said, "The English language ceased to be the sole possession of the English [or the Americans] some time ago." So, I may just have to get used to how my native tongue is being altered by those who speak it as a second language and, at least, keep my mental red pencil in check!

The Best of the West Reaches the Middle East

Beachdubai3 Of course, I'm being sarcastic. It's not a pretty sight in Provincetown, and it's not a pretty sight in Dubai.

(via UN Wire)

(Image © Travelblog)

The light endures

Candle_islet2 We've had a few discussions lately (see here and here) about the Christian concept of the afterlife, and how we often fall short in our attempts to describe it in a way that appeals to the rest of the world.

In that context, I think we can learn something from Michael Novak's short but beautiful tribute to three fellow Christians who recently entered that life:

In Washington this has been a time of candles going out —- three of the most prominent Catholic journalists/literary lights in the nation, Tim Russert, Tony Snow, and Trish [Buckley Bozell] (editor of more than 400 books). One characteristic of all them pointed out again and again: The joy that burst from them, their love for others. That's just about the surest Seal there is, that this is the real thing.

That light endures, even when the candles go out.

If one imagines heaven as the locale of the greatest conversations, most beautiful music, and truest poetry and drama, our friends are adding to its lustre even now.

(Image © Official Tourism Site of Shimane, Japan)

Open book thread

Open_book_2 So it seems Entertainment Weekly has come up with a list of the "100 Best Books of the Last 25 Years." (Yeah, I was a little surprised too.) I saw the magazine in stores recently and didn't pay much attention, but when I got the list delivered to my inbox last night via my Books-A-Million e-mail subscription, I got curious and decided to take a look.

It turns out that of the 100 Best Books of the Last 25 Years, I have read a grand total of six. Of those, I would say that four were good choices for such a list (A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Remains of the Day, Atonement, and Gilead). One would fall into the category of "I wouldn't have chosen it, but I can sort of see why they would" (The Golden Compass. As kiddie lit goes, it's not badly written, spiritual themes aside, and people always seem to be searching for the next great children's classic and eager to dole out that title whenever they get half a chance. It's not until The Amber Spyglass that the writing in that series really goes down the toilet, pardon the expression). And one goes under "They've got to be kidding" (The Da Vinci Code).

So where's Peace Like a River, I'd like to know? And there's no place for Jasper Fforde? If they were allowing adventure stories, how could they justify elevating dreck like The Da Vinci Code over some of the sharpest and wittiest adventure stories of our time? Also, I haven't read David McCullough's biography of John Adams yet -- been trying to get to it ever since it was published, actually -- but it's so loved and respected a book that it's hard to see why it wouldn't make such a list.

What do you think of the list, and what would you add or take away? Are you reading anything now that you think might be a candidate for classic status?

The Point Radio: A Good Deed, A Good Seed

Think God can't use your small, faithful contributions? Think again....

Click play above to listen.

Andree Seu, “Whisper Down the Lane,” World on the Web, 19 May 2008.

July 17, 2008

Daily roundup

Sharing the Goodness of God

In his latest newsletter, Dr. David Jeremiah offers these practical tips for how we can share the goodness of God:

1.  If you have some extra money this month, "prayerfully look for a friend or coworker who is struggling and anonymously leave them a gift in a place where you know that they will find it."
2.  If you have enough food this month, "share that blessing with another by buying an extra sandwich during lunch for the homeless man on the corner."
3.  If you have good health, "use your healthy body to physically serve others who cannot help themselves."
4.  If you have a large group of friends, "reach out to someone new at your church and help them feel welcome."
5.  If you have salvation through Jesus Christ, "share with an unsaved friend how your life has changed through your relationships with the Lord and the Word of God."
6.  If you have a spiritual gift (and we all do), "use it to serve others and give glory to the One who gave you the gift." 

What the Fashionable World Leader Will Be Wearing This Year

Photo_wristband2 President Bush has been asked to wear one of these "Free North Koreans" wristbands during his visit to China to attend the Olympic Games.

I hope he does wear one, but then, I'm a troublemaker...

(Image © North Korea Freedom Coalition)

Secular prayer?

Reading this review of Noelle Oxenhandler's new book, The Wishing Year -- which sounds rather like a follow-up to The Secret -- I was struck by just how much Oxenhandler's account of her wishing technique parallels accounts of the prayer lives of Christians.

There are the tales of just-in-time interventions: "She gets a house when her landlords -- out of the blue -- offer to sell her the one she's been renting from them, after which her mother -- out of the blue -- comes up with a secret stash of money that covers more than half the down payment."

There's an echo of Jesus' promise that we receive what we ask for in faith: "all three of her wishes were granted."

There are the answers we didn't really want, but that turn out to be good in their own way: "when she tells of a dying child who wishes so hard to live but nonetheless dies, becoming in death an inspiration to thousands, she offers the glib consolation that this little girl's personal wish had somehow been transformed into something better."

And there are the debates over whether it's okay to wish for trivial-seeming things: "Oxenhandler admits to being a 'wish snob,' that is, a believer in a hierarchy of wishes that makes wishing for spiritual healing (or peace on Earth or a happy death) quite acceptable and wishing to own a house (or have a flat stomach or plenty of money) shameful and crass. But she eventually grows more comfortable with the 'fundamentally blessed equality of all things,' striving with equal zealousness to find spiritual ease and a down payment." 

(Reviewer Judith Viorst adds later, "When I think of the millions of ungranted wishes being made by desperate people all over this world, I cannot believe in her book as much as she wishes I would.")

Continue reading "Secular prayer?" »

Just Doing Their Job

Ptsdheartdisease I can imagine that writing this column had to be a difficult task for Warren Zinn. And it must have been jarring when he received an e-mail recently that read, "the soldier you made famous—killed himself last Saturday—thought you should know."

Now, this photojournalist is wondering if his famous photo of Army medic Joseph Dwyer contributed to Dwyer's mental demise and eventual death when he came home. “You never truly leave the battlefield behind,” writes Zinn.

Joseph Dwyer was dead of a substance overdose at 31. I'd read news reports that he was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. He thought he was being hunted by Iraqi killers. He'd been in and out of treatment. He couldn't, his mother told the media, "get over the war."

But as I stared at his image on my wall, I couldn't dodge the question: Did this photo have anything to do with his death? News reports said he hated the celebrity that came with the picture. How much, I wondered, did that moment—just 1/250th of a second when three lives intersected on a river bank in Iraq—contribute to the burdens he'd brought home with him? If I'd never taken his picture, would he have ended up as he did? Would he still have been a casualty of war?

Continue reading "Just Doing Their Job" »

Food for thought

In asserting the emotions of God, love isn't going to require much proof. The only argument it gets within Christianity is whether it's actually an emotion. Plenty of preachers, teachers, and writers have emphasized that love is not a feeling, but that's because they're trying to emphasize (usually in a message about marriage or enemies -- or both) that love is constant and unfailing, even on your worst days when you've lost that lovin' feeling. But if you try to talk about love without using any emotional terminology, it sounds very sterile and, to be honest, unloving. Everyone knows that while love may not always be accompanied by warm, fuzzy feelings, it had better be deeply ingrained with compassionate and affectionate sentiments much of the time. Otherwise, who really cares if they have it?

It's important to emphasize the emotions of love, because a lot of Christians have the idea that "love is an action." In truth, it's much more than an action. A supervisor, servant, or caretaker can do what's best for someone without having any love whatsoever for that person. People can behave in the interest of others out of commitment to a promise or contract without any love behind their actions at all. Love involves action -- it has to translate into practical life if it's real -- but most genuine forms of love can't be reduced to that. Feelings have to be involved at some level.

When applied to God, the result of the "love is an action" belief is a relationship with a deity who will do what's best for us even though he wishes he didn't have to. He may love us, but he doesn't like us. With that definition of love, we can easily feel like the problem child that the Father has to put up with, though he doesn't really enjoy being with us very much. It's all duty and no pleasure.

-- Chris Tiegreen, Feeling like God, pp. 40-41

’Time for Some Campaignin’!’

Tired of all the divisiveness and grumbling and complaining in this year's election? Watch the latest from JibJab and be glad you're an American. Or something. (Warning: mild language.)

The Point Radio: Your Great Commission

What are you doing to share Christ with those around you?...

Click play above to listen.

July 16, 2008

Daily roundup

Bibles at the Olympics

Chinese_gospel_booklet World magazine reports that 50,000 Gospel booklets will make their way to China to accompany the Olympic Games, in, perhaps, a shocking display of religious freedom. That's not to say persecution isn't still rampant, but at least it's a turn in a good direction.

(Image © Bible Society)

Contrived Mystery?

In his new book, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, theologian David Wells comes down harder on the emerging church than Chuck did two years ago:

[The emerging church constituency] is made up of a loose coalition of churches that came together during the 1990s and now constitute the so-called emerging church....They are... all linked together in a "conversation" live on the Web. Anyone who lived through the earlier era when Protestant liberals were so dominant in the churches recognizes all too clearly what this conversation is about. It is one we have heard before.

Emergents, as I shall call them, are about deconstruction. This is an important point. They have not sought to be movement builders because that, in a way, would defy their essential posture of pulling away from everything else. They are skeptical of power and its structures.

What they are against is often clearer than what they are for. However, they are united in thinking  that classical evangelicalism, especially in its Reformed configuration, is part and parcel of modernity. By this they mean that it is rationalistic. And by that they mean it imagines that people can actually know truth with some certainty. That, they believe, is pretentious, fraudulent, and arrogant.

Emergents--at least those who read theology--seem to have stumbled on the postliberals, and this is what is now driving this new understanding of the function of Scripture. They have taken up this fad as if it were the most current, cutting-edge expression in contemporary thought, though in the academic world it has already disappeared.

Continue reading "Contrived Mystery?" »

Tough Love

I wish more leaders in the black community cared this much. Watch the video and tell us what you think about what this judge is doing.

Very funny

Okay . . . it is kind of funny. (But not funny enough to inspire any slacking off, fellow Pointers!)

Oh my. This is me.

Clothes Maybe it's because I worked retail in high school and college and can commiserate with sales clerks and think it's rude to leave a pile of clothes for some anonymous summer worker. Or that cleanliness is next to godliness. Or both.

(Image © Deseret News)

Addicted to Multitasking?

A recent article in The New Atlantis called "The Myth of Multitasking" offers some relief to those of us who are tired of trying to do two things at once. Now, we have evidence it's not good for us to try to split our attention. I think I'm going to put the opening quote by Lord Chesterfield near my computer: "There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time." 

The Point Radio: A Long Ride Home

When you're confronted with a pressing need, what do you do?....

Click play above to listen.

Lorenzo Benet, “Strangers on a Plane, Now They’re a Family,” People Magazine, 16 June 2008.

July 15, 2008

Daily roundup

Talk about Your Gas Tax!

From the U.K. Telegraph:

The price of meat, milk and other British farm products will have to rise to reflect the environmental cost of producing them, a government study has concluded.  

A Cabinet Office review of food policy suggests that farmers and consumers should pay extra for farm goods that generate large amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.  

The proposal, the latest in a string of "green" plans that threaten to increase the cost of living, drew accusations that ministers were imposing taxes and regulations in the name of environmental policy.  

The paper also attacks supermarkets' "buy-one-get-one-free" discounts, saying they contribute to households wasting more than four million tons of food a year.

Continue reading "Talk about Your Gas Tax!" »

Enjoying God’s Handiwork

Diane My husband, daughter, and I just returned from a week's vacation in Florida where we spent most of our time scuba diving in the ocean. Since we just took up diving a couple of years ago, we have been delighted with our newfound ability to enjoy firsthand a part of God's creation that we had previously known only through books and films. There's nothing quite like swimming through schools of fish that number in the thousands, watching them turn in unison, the sunlight shifting and shimmering off their bodies as they move. Somehow, even the 3-D IMAX movies can't capture the beauty of such a sight. 

My family is now hooked on the ocean. Where do you go to enjoy God's handiwork?

(Image © Diane Singer)