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« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

November 20, 2008

The Point Radio: Your Holiday A-List

Who is on your holiday A-list?...

Click play above to listen.

Christine Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Eerdmans, 1999).

November 19, 2008

Daily roundup

Celebrity worship, medieval style

Saint_mark I'm reading a gem of a book called No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice by Judith Martin (yes, that Judith Martin), who displays both an unbridled enthusiasm and a surprisingly wicked wit about the city she adores. The other night I was particularly amused by this passage:

The medieval tourist was a pilgrim. Typical European destinations were shrines built around the possession of some small relic of a saint, perhaps a finger or a knuckle, and a major international destination was Santiago de Compostela, Spain, which features the translated body of not just a saint, but of an apostle, James.

Okay, but Venice went on saint-gathering missions that netted not just the odd bone, including the skull of Saint John the Baptist, a rib of Saint Stephen, an arm of Saint George, a part of Saint Luke's arm, a finger of Mary Magdalene, an arm each of Saint Andrew the Apostle and Saint Barnabas the Apostle and -- take that, Spain! -- the arm of Saint James, but also entire dressed bodies of saints, many of them superstars. Not only did Venetians bring home an evangelist, Mark, to be their patron saint, scoring a decisive political-ecclesiastical advantage in the lagoon, but they boast possession of the full bodies of Saint Zachary, father of John the Baptist; Saint Rocco, the plague saint who exhibits his running sores; Saint Lucy, whose Neapolitan praises are so tirelessly and tiresomely sung by gondoliers on the Grand Canal that if she hadn't already been a saint, she would be one now; Saint Stephen the Proto-Martyr, who finally rests in peace at San Giorgio Maggiore; Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, who, off-season, is also the patron saint of sailors and prisoners; and Theodore, who was bumped from his position as Venice's patron saint when Mark came to town and outranked him. It has so many full bodies of less famous saints that they are sometimes several to a church. . . .

Continue reading "Celebrity worship, medieval style" »

From the horse’s mouth

Dogma_sign Why it's difficult for atheism to work as a "cohesive movement":

"A pastor can say to his flock, 'All rise,' and everyone rises. But try that in an atheist meeting," said Marvin Straus, co-founder of an atheist group in Boulder, Colo. "A third of the people will rise. A third will tell you to go to h--l. And a third will start arguing....That's why it's hard to say where we're going as a movement."

--Stephanie Simon, "Atheists Reach Out -- Just Don't Call It Proselytizing," Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2008

(Image © Jeff Dean for the Wall Street Journal)

The Disease of Modernity

This week, the radio program RadioLab featured "Choice" as its session theme. Did you know that it's extremely hard to make a reasoned choice while simultaneously recounting a 7-digit number? I didn't either.

Amongst these fascinating bits of information about the way our brains process decisions, though, a segment near the beginning of the show caught my attention most. Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz, commenting on our culture, said:

We have freedom of choice in respect to everything, and you see it in every area of life...Now, there are no defaults - every imaginable lifestyle is available...Since there are a million opportunities for you, you can make your own rules.

Professor Schwartz's description seems to represent American culture well. As we reject objective moral standards, we assert the freedom to live according to our own whims, selecting whatever suits our fancy from the smorgasbord of options in front of us.

Continue reading "The Disease of Modernity" »

Your Personal Psalm 23

Several years ago, I invited members of a Bible study I was conducting to compose their own version of Psalm 23. I recently ran across one that I wrote, and thought I would share it with you. It's a wonderful exercise in praise and thanksgiving, so I hope each of you will take up the challenge to write your own.

The Lord is The Rewarder of my faith.

I shall not lack the good gifts He gives to His children. (Matt 7:11)

He answers my prayers because I abide in Him and His words abide in me.  (John 15:7)

He leads me to the end of my own resources and encourages me to lean on Him. (Ps 55:22)

He hears my broken-hearted cries, and He answers above and beyond all I can think or imagine.
(Ps 34:18, 147:3; Is 61:1; Eph 3:20)

Though I live in a world that mocks and scorns both my Lord and my faith, (John 15:18-21)
I will fix my eyes on Jesus, feeling His beauty refresh and embolden me. (Heb 12:2)

I will hear Him and obey Him. (Deut 6:3-9)

I will trust Him even when I don't understand. (Prov 3:5)

I will wait upon Him, longing for the day He appears so I will finally be like Him.  (Isa 40:31; 1 John 3:2)

Surely, my soul will be at ease though my circumstances be like stone.  (Matt 11:28-29)

For You reward those who earnestly seek You by touching us with Yourself. (2 Sam 22:21)

The Point Radio: World's Heaviest Man Finds Love

What would you do for love?...

Click play above to listen.

After Losing 500 Pounds, Man Getting Married,” MSNBC, 2 October 2008.

Jim Moore, “World’s Fattest Man Manuel Uribe Has Lost Over 500 Pounds and Counting on a Low-Carb Diet,” DC Examiner, 16 September 2008.

November 18, 2008

Daily roundup

’Boston Legal’s’ Take on Abortion

Boston_legal I don't watch Boston Legal, but I understand from this article that they recently did a show about abortion that offered a more balanced view than one usually sees on TV. Did anyone catch this episode? Any comments if you did?

(Image © ABC)

Let’s Pay Attention To National Security Issues

Thanks to Rick Santorum, now a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, for his alert to an insightful piece (written before the election, but still relevant and important) in the Wall Street Journal by Frederick Kagan about what happened to America the last time it didn't pay attention to world affairs and national security.

Our incoming president needs to pay close attention to worldwide enemy movements from the start. As Kagan warns, "It is important to note here the distinction between an enemy and a threat. Threats are problems to be concerned about in the future; enemies are organizations trying to kill Americans right now. Al Qaeda and Iranian agents are both killing Americans on a regular basis and have proclaimed their determination to kill more. They are enemies, not threats, and they will confront the next president from day one."

If you think our enemies are going to somehow vanish because of a new administration, think again. 

’Bible thumpers’ takes on a whole new meaning

A group called Justice House of Prayer San Francisco was attacked by gay activists while doing sidewalk witnessing. From a report (with video) sent to Karen Hall:

. . . They started getting violent and started shoving us. We just gathered in as tight as we could together and worshiped singing Amazing Grace. At one point a man tried to steal one of our Bibles. Chrisdene noticed, so she walked up to him and said "Hey, that's not yours, can you please give it back?". He responded by hitting her on the head with the Bible, shoving her to the ground, and kicking her. I called the cops, and when they got there, they pulled her out of the circle and asked her if she wanted to press charges. She said "No, tell him I forgive him." Afterwards, she didn't rejoin us in the circle, but she made friends with one of the people in the crowd, and really connected heart to heart.

Read more and watch the video here. There are adult themes and bad language.

Stuff Christians will REALLY like

Maineagle Congratulations to Jon Acuff on the news that Zondervan will be publishing the book version of his beloved website Stuff Christians Like! It'll be a long wait till 2010, but I know it will be worth it.

And I know all my fellow fans will join me in hoping for a cover illustration of a worship eagle.

Are Pro-Lifers Lying?

According to GOOD Magazine, crisis pregnancy centers have a PR problem:

They have a well-documented reputation of persuading young women to continue pregnancies they say they don’t want, showing them gruesome videos about abortion, and providing medical misinformation. One center even went so far as to pretend to offer a woman an abortion only to then delay the procedure until it was no longer a legal option.

God forbid a "gruesome video!" And about reality too. Now, that's really a tragedy!

The article goes on:

A recent report by Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, shook the abortion debate, confirming what reproductive-rights advocates have been saying for decades: that 87 percent of the centers investigated provided false and misleading medical information about abortion and contraception. This runs the gamut from claims that birth control leads to breast cancer to citing “evidence” that abortion causes women to later commit suicide.

First of all, although it's not conclusive (as far as I know), there is plenty of evidence that there is a connection between birth control and cancer and abortion and suicide. I don't think we can brush these aside as myths from the Middle Ages.

However, deceiving someone by pretending to offer an abortion, and delaying it, is indisputably wrong. Two wrongs never make a right. Valuing the life of the unborn at the expense of honesty to the mother is NOT the solution. If this example is true, we've got a serious problem on our hands, folks.

If not, then we've still got a PR problem.

Bart Simpson 2012

Bartsimpsonposters Bill Cosby responds to the "Huxtable Effect" that's been widely talked about and on which I commented last week. With his typical wit he quips, "I'm just waiting to see what Bart Simpson's people are going to do at the next election." If you ask me, that sounds like a premise for a Simpsons Movie 2, just waiting to happen.

Joking aside, I can't imagine anyone seriously arguing that what we see in pop or mainstream culture doesn't affect our views of norms. What would the abolition movement have been without Uncle Tom's Cabin? For that matter, what would this election have been like without The Audacity of Hope? Books, TV, music, theater, art -- they are all influencing what we see as right and good and normal. I would never dare to say they are the only influence, but to say they exert no influence whatsoever, well, I just don't buy it.

Could The Simpsons have an effect on the next election? I'd say it already had an effect on this election. Look at how much of a role satire played in elections this season, from SNL to the Daily Show. So while I don't expect a Bart/Lisa 2012 campaign, I certainly won't dismiss the power of television to affect politics.

(Image © Fox)

The Point Radio: Look Who's Coming to Dinner

A slice of turkey, a heaping helping of mashed potatoes, and a side of stress?...

Click play above to listen.

Elizabeth Scott, “Managing the Seemingly Inevitable Holiday Season Stress,” About.com, 18 July 2008.

November 17, 2008

Daily roundup

Less than human

Nazivideo If there's one thing I've learned from years in the pro-life movement, it's that pro-choicers really don't like comparisons between abortion and slavery, or abortion and the Holocaust, or abortion and other great historical injustices and tragedies. However, those same years have hammered into me that there's a valid basis for such comparisons.

Jennifer at Conversion Diary explains why in two deeply sobering posts, here and here, inspired by some photos she found of staff members at Auschwitz kicking back and having fun in their off hours. Even though I disagree with her on one point -- I don't think it's totally unfair to compare the suffering of the child in the womb with the suffering of Holocaust victims, given the amount of physical pain involved in so many abortions -- on the whole, I think her analysis is nothing short of brilliant. And frightening.

A sample:

Sometimes I . . . wonder what advice I would pass along to my own descendants to make sure this never happens again; to help future generations guard against being blinded should they find themselves in the midst of a culture where something terrible is taking place.

But the question is: How would you know?

What litmus test could you offer that would apply to all places and all times as a way for a person to look around themselves with completely clear eyes, piercing through even the thickest fog of self-delusion and widespread cultural acceptance, and see that they are surrounded by grave evil? Is there any simple way for a person to immediately undergo an earth-rocking paradigm shift in which they look up and realize that the world around them is not what they thought it was?

One thing that stands out in all these examples is that the victims of the widespread evil were categorized as something less than human. In fact, though the exact level and degree of evil that took place may vary, one thing that unites all of these practices as worthy of a place in the Human Depravity Hall of Fame is not only that innocent people were killed or enslaved, but that their humanity was taken away by the societies around them. The Nazis classified their victims as sub-human, less worthy of life than the better members of the race; wives were burned with their husbands because they were seen as nothing more than property; in the 90's in Rwanda the media fueled the genocide by assuring citizens over and over again that Tutsis were not fully human, referring to them as insects rather than people; the Romans accepted it as a matter of fact that baby girls inherently had fewer rights to live than baby boys; and in early America enslaved men, women and children were accepted by both government and society at large to be barely above livestock in their dignity and worth.

This is exactly what we see going on with abortion today. And this is why arguments like the one that E. J. Dionne, Jr., makes here are no good. When the very lives and humanity of a group of human beings are at stake, whether anyone is tired of the cultural wars, and ready just to bury the hatchet and move on, is of exceedingly little consequence.

Continue reading "Less than human" »

Elton John in a Composed Moment

Eltoncarpetx When I saw this article featuring Sir Elton John opining on California's Proposition 8, I fully expected to hear another earful from Britain's talented pianist/singer. But what a pleasant surprise! No, Sir Elton hasn't recanted from his point of view on homosexuality, but he has shown something rare: a homosexual activist's understanding of why the word "marriage" is important to non-gays.

If other gay activists would take the Rocket Man's lead, maybe we could have more peaceful discussions, if not agreement, on this issue. Let's hope so.

(Image © Andy Kropa for the AP)

Gardasil a Must--or Maybe Not

VaccineHopefully cooler heads will prevail in the quest to make Gardasil vaccination of girls mandatory. Find out what some of them are saying.

(Image © Sonia M. Mey for PAHO/WHO)

Puppy Love?

It seems Natalie Portman and Rashida Jones's pre-election public service announcement was prophetic. America's votes have been tallied and apparently this is all we really care about. (Warning: Some videos at site contain material not suitable for children.)

MSNBC totally agrees. The post-election aftermath has gone to the dogs.

What do you think of the dog-craze? Is it more of a sign of post-election stress disorder--we seriously need some stress relief? Or is it just a sign that American interest in politics--when it's all said and done--really is about this deep?

Thought for the day

The arts are all about human heart, mind and soul (intuition) and therefore an excellent vehicle with which to love God since these are the very parts of our human make-up that Jesus calls us to love God with. The arts can love God without requiring the artist to know God, since the image of God has been implanted in everyone.

John Fischer, "Bits and pieces of worldview"

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Metro For those who are regular commuters on the D.C. rails, you've probably become familiar with Mr. "Welcome aboard to the Washington D.C. Metro. Please use all 18 doors. I repeat: there are 6 cars, 18 doors. Please use all of them. And no, this is NOT a recording." This guy has an uncanny gift for vocal delivery and humor, and it brightens your day and stands out from the normal unintelligible drawl of sleepy Metro drivers.

Some of us roll our eyes at his seeming newness and gaiety. (Many discuss his announcements because they are so peculiar. In fact, I recently overheard one lady say, "He's new. It will wear off." I would add, he has been driving Metro rails for several weeks/months now and his energy has yet to lag.) But that day, I was struck with gratefulness for his delivery. Yes, maybe he's showing off his mad vocal skills. But honestly, I'm glad to see he's making use of the gifts God has given him.

This reminds me of another such small icon back home in Hawaii. She was a Costco sample lady in Waipio, Oahu, back in 2002, and she used to sing songs and yell, "Yee--haw!" to get us to try her food products -- bread was her specialty. It worked. People came in droves. They called her the the "Yee-haw lady." It caught on so fast, that many in the store use to echo her. You'd hear her distinctive "yeeeeee hawww!" and others, several aisles down, would yell back, "yeeee hawww." She eventually won a spot in the local newspaper for her routine.

You could roll your eyes and think she was an obnoxious lady. Or you could say, good for her. She was using her God-given gifts of joy and encouragement, brightening everyone's day. 

So wherever you are planted, live it up. CEO or janitor, White House aide or Metro worker, pick up those God-given gifts and use 'em. Don't waste them. Bloom where you're planted and see where it will lead.

The Point Radio: The No-Travel Blues

Is the tough economy trimming your holiday plans?...

Click play above to listen.

Linda Stern, “The Summer of Our Discontent: Are High Gas Prices Killing the Family Vacation?Newsweek, 15 May 2008.

November 14, 2008

Daily roundup

Absolutely Unbearable

I am going to go seriously insane if Jim Wallis and company don't stop this nonsense.

The unbearably worshipful tone lefty evangelicals take when speaking of, or to, the new savior is bad enough without the naïveté of (apparently seriously) believing that "The One" is going to personally reverse all the effects of the Fall. How will he do this? By raising our taxes!

Bono writes (to Obama):

You know that less than 1 percent of government income as a contribution from the world’s richest economy to the world’s poorest is not a fair tithe — even in times like these — which is why you have promised to double foreign assistance.

Earth to Bono: The U.S. government doesn't HAVE income; it taxes Americans who DO have income, because they have jobs. And where is it written that God expects governments to tithe? He tells PEOPLE to tithe!

Here is a subject I'd genuinely like to get some feedback from Point readers about: Why do so many liberal Christians think it's the government's job to take care of the poor? As I wrote to another "God's Politics" writer yesterday, please give me one, just one, Scripture verse that says it's the government's job to help the poor. Just one. Jesus made it so clear that it's the job of the church to do this (see the story of Stephen in Acts, for instance). Never once did Jesus or His followers say, when encountering the poor, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, let the government help them." 

Continue reading "Absolutely Unbearable " »

Want to End Wars? Then Stop Calling Each Other Names

Donahue Or at least that’s what anti-war activist and former talk show host Phil Donahue claims. For those of you that don’t remember Phil, he is the father of tabloid talk shows. His show aired nationally from 1970 to 1996 and was a very revolutionary, in-your-face type of show. Oprah Winfrey says, "If there hadn’t been a Phil, there wouldn’t have been a me."

Phil has never seen a war he hasn’t hated, be it the Vietnam War, Gulf War, our invasion of Afghanistan, or the current Iraq war. Recently he was on Bill O’Reilly’s show promoting his new anti-war film Body of War. Bill and Phil went at it when Phil looked Bill in the eye and said, "If we want to stop all of the mayhem, one of the things we need to do is stop calling each other names."

There it is, plain and simple . . . . Stop calling each other names and war is history. Makes you wonder what names Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, etc. were called that drove them to war and the elimination of millions of people.

In the October 18 issue of WORLD Magazine (subscription required), Marvin Olasky writes about an author from the early 20th century, Norman Angell, who also believed war was doomed based on simplistic thinking. Norman wrote in his very popular book The Great Illusion that warfare "belongs to a stage of development out of which we have passed." He wrote this before 1910. He believed that nations should rely on trade and industry to grow, because "military and political power give a nation no commercial advantage." He honestly believed that humans were evolving into peaceful creatures and that war made no sense.

Phil and Norman have one thing in common: the apparent belief that man is basically good, a humanistic viewpoint. War doesn’t happen because of evil in the world, it simply happens because people don’t think of what they are doing or saying and do stupid things.

Continue reading "Want to End Wars? Then Stop Calling Each Other Names " »

Teach your children well

Vogt I may be stretching it a bit here. But it seems to me all too likely that kids who bully and insult a classmate for wearing a "McCain Girl" T-shirt -- kids who were backed up by at least one teacher -- are the kind of people who grow up to help spread the "Republicans are stoooopid!" meme throughout the culture. (First link via Hot Air.)

(I'm not objecting to anyone's pointing out that McCain did best with less educated voters. That's just a fact. What I'm objecting to is the refusal to look beyond the T-shirts and slogans -- which political groupies of all stripes tend to use -- and examine conservative policy positions to see if there are just might be an intelligent philosophy behind them. Not to mention the use of terms like "white trash" and "idiocy" to describe a group of voters that Democrats once relied on, now that they're not quite as reliably Democratic anymore.)

I'm not yet a parent, and therefore can't speak from experience, but I have to say I think James Lileks has the right idea about teaching children respect and tolerance:

. . . Natalie had to write an apology letter for laughing in class. She was driven to the edge of . . . hilarity by a classmate’s decision to embellish his art project – a turkey – with the head of Obama. He got in trouble, too. I explained to her that this was disrespectful to the teacher and the President-Elect, and she understood. I have this ridiculous hope that if we always speak of her teacher and the President with respect in the house, that’ll build some sort of innate respect for the institutions that survive and transcend the transitory occupants. It was always President Bush in our house, and it will always be President Obama.

I wish there were more parents like him, on both sides. Our cultural climate might be very different.

(Image © Nuccio DiNuzzo for the Chicago Tribune)

Blogger roundup

Here's some excellent new reading material from two of our bloggers:

How Jesus Played the Game

Crucifixion The next time I'm tempted to wring my hands and start fretting about some situation beyond my control, I'll remember the words Dorothy Sayers once penned about our Lord in her book Creed or Chaos?:

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is, limited, suffering and subject to sorrows and death, He had the honesty and courage to take His own medicine. 

Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death.

When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace, and thought it well worthwhile.

Aren't we thankful that we have a great High Priest who understands what we go through, and who constantly makes intercession for us? (Hebrews 4:14-16)

The Centurions Program: A World-Class Program for Worldview Understanding

Like it or not, we are living in a world filled with unknowns. Our economy, our newly elected President, our war on terror, our declining morals, and other life-changing issues leave people very insecure about the future and looking for direction.

Our churches are no exception. Christians are trying to make sense of ever-changing values and are surrounded by unfamiliar standards. Mainstream media, including TV, news and films, are filled with answers, but these conflict and leave us without the firm foundation our country once had. Without a thorough understanding of differing worldviews, we have no compass to lead us through this minefield safely.

Personally, after being impressed with Chuck’s work in Prison Fellowship, I was drawn to reading most of his books and have developed a great respect for this man and his biblically based teaching. My own interest in worldview began and has continued to grow after reading Chuck’s How Now Shall We Live? But most of my understanding of worldview seemed to be disjointed until I became aware of the Centurion program. At that time I realized that God was moving me to apply for this program in 2007. I was very blessed to be accepted. Since I joined, God has continued to immerse me in worldview topics, helping me bring into focus these principles in my own life, with my family and friends, and in my church teaching.

The Centurion program is intense, demanding, and thought-provoking, and an immense opportunity to learn from many of the leading worldview thinkers of today -- thinkers such as Chuck Colson, T. M. Moore, Mark Earley, Dr. Del Tackett, Glenn Sunshine, Ken Boa, Jay Richards, and others. This program not only provides theory but the application of that theory in everyday life. It includes daily devotionals, reading and writing assignments, movie reviews, poetry assignments, monthly teleconference calls with worldview thinkers, and three residencies in D.C. where you not only learn but also discuss worldview topics with these thinkers and fellow Centurions. Also, there is an online forum that provides daily interaction and discussion with fellow Centurions and staff.

Continue reading "The Centurions Program: A World-Class Program for Worldview Understanding " »

Open book thread

Open_book_2 USA Today has published a list of the 150 bestselling books of the past fifteen years. There are many predictable entries (anyone shocked to see Harry Potter in first place? Me neither), and a few surprising ones. There's lots of self-help, lots of sci-fi/fantasy, and a few classics here and there. I see the names of some Christian authors, including a few who are widely known as Christians, a few whom not everyone knows are Christians, and a couple whose presence on the list is more a cause for concern than for celebration.

I'm wondering, what would this list look like if there were more Christian authors on it? What would Christians need to do to have a larger presence on this list fifteen years from now? Would that necessarily mean more "Christian books," or more mainstream books by Christian authors? And what would it mean for the spiritual health, and the moral imagination, of our society?

While you're taking a look at the current list, see if you can come up with some possible answers to these questions.

The Point Radio: Live Like You Were Dying

I'm sorry to tell you this, but it's terminal....

Click play above to listen.

Dalton Ross, “Exclusive: Jeff Probst creates new show for CBS,” Hollywood Insider, 20 October 2008.

November 13, 2008

Daily roundup

The Making of a Director: Robert Davi and ’The Dukes’

Dukes During the Q&A following a screening of his new movie, lead actor and first-time film director Robert Davi told the audience that the characters in The Dukes are living lives of quiet desperation. His movie, which opens tomorrow in limited release, is a comedy about a group of frustrated middle-aged Doo Wop singers. The movie is filled with well know actors such as Davi (as Danny) and Chazz Palminteri (Danny’s cousin George). Other characters include friends Murph (Elya Baskin) and Armond (played by the late Frank D’Amico).

In keeping with the music recording theme, the opening scene is shot with a circular motion panning around the main characters, who are sitting at a round table. Danny says, “We’re not looking for jobs, we’re looking for money.” With that statement, the audience realizes that however furtively, the idea of sin has crept into the room.

The main characters, Danny and George, are working at their Aunt Vee’s (Miriam Margolyes) failing Italian restaurant. They desperately want to open their own restaurant, which will allow them a venue in which to stage a renaissance of their Doo Wop band.

(Spoiler alert)

Continue reading "The Making of a Director: Robert Davi and ’The Dukes’" »

What are we missing?

The results of the poll on political activism are in, thanks to Travis, and I'm intrigued to see that apparently there are those who will support a candidate without voting for him! We do seem to have a high percentage of respondents who vote, though, which is good to see.

65 votes total

9.2% -- 6 votes
Making calls

7.7% -- 5 votes
Going door to door

32.3% -- 21 votes
Displaying signs/stickers

93.8% -- 61 votes

33.8% -- 22 votes

Our new poll, at right, is designed to give us Pointers a little feedback about how we could do a better job. We have 33 topic categories, from Apologetics & Theology to Youth Issues, but as I've been noticing lately, some of those topics get far more coverage than others. We'd like to know which topics you'd like to see get more attention, so I've chosen five of the least used categories, and you may vote for up to two of them. If you have a choice that's not in the poll, or if you would like to explain your choices, you can use the comment section here. (It's better to comment on this post than to comment under the poll -- due to some elusive glitch in the system, I'm hardly ever able to view the poll comments.) Thanks for your participation!

The long arm of the law

Gavel In my 33 years I'd managed to evade it thus far, but it finally showed up in yesterday's mail: the summons for jury duty. I called and managed to get it postponed till the end of December, which will coincide (mostly) with my vacation, so you won't have to worry about -- or anticipate, as the case may be -- my suddenly vanishing from the scene.

Just for the heck of it, I was Googling "jury duty" and came across this list of helpful tips, which includes the following:

If you do not wish to be seated on a jury panel, come to the courtroom laden with as many preconceived notions and unwavering opinions as possible. . . . Make sure that you go into jury duty acting as though you know everything before even hearing the case—the more stubborn you can appear, the better.

I am so off the hook.

But this got me wondering, does anyone here have any interesting stories to share about doing (or weaseling out of) their civic duty?

We’ve Got a Problem: Chastity and the Moral Imagination

Painting "Evangelical teenagers don't display just average sexual activity patterns, but rather above-average ones," cautions sociologist Mark Regnerus. 

The question becomes, why are Evangelical churches failing so badly in inculcating chaste behavior amongst their young parishioners? After all, it's not as if most of those teens haven't heard the truth. What's missing, states Mike Metzger, is that churches are failing to cultivate the imagination. 

He writes, "These faith communities pound the pulpit for Truth with a capital T. But truth only engages our reason, and reason only shows how things are logical. Beauty engages our imagination, and imagination makes things plausible."

I'll leave you with a link to two more articles: one from CBS News with some more grave statistics on teen sexuality (suggestive video clips at link), and an article about truth, goodness, and beauty by gifted writer Gregory Wolfe who emphasizes this point: "Only beauty can incarnate truth in concrete, believable, human flesh."

A Useable Instrument

I'm currently teaching 2 Samuel in my adult Bible study class. As I prepared for this week's lesson, I ran across this poem that challenges Christians to roll up our sleeves and get to work for the advancement of the Kingdom of God:

You asked for my hands
that you might use them for Your purpose.
I gave them for a moment,
then withdrew them, for the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth
to speak out against injustice;
I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.

You asked for my eyes
to see the pain of poverty;
I closed them, for I did not want to see.

You asked for my life
that you might work through me.
I gave you a small part, that I might not get "too involved."

Lord, forgive me for my calculated efforts to serve you
only when it is convenient for me to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so and
only with those who make it easy to do so.

Father, forgive me,
renew me,
send me out
as a useable instrument
that I might take seriously
the meaning of your cross.

-- Joe Seremane, quoted in The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Samuel by Bill T. Arnold.

Why Faith Matters

I picked up David Wolpe's book Why Faith Matters last week, and I've been thoroughly enjoying this rabbi's take on issues of faith. For those of you bothered by the onslaught of books by atheists, this book is a good antidote. He addresses head-on such questions as "Where Does Religion Come From?"; "Does Religion Cause Violence?"; and "Does Science Disprove Religion?"

My favorite chapter, however, is the one called "Reading the Bible" because of statements like this:

Approached with cynicism or skepticism, sections of the Bible can seem cruel or incomprehensible. Approached as a sincere attempt to puzzle out God's will in this world, filled with missteps and startling truths, the Bible can prove -- as it does in my life and the lives of countless millions -- to be a book that shines a light on our souls.

For those who love to take certain passages of Scripture out of context, Wolpe has this to say: "The Bible both reflects the culture in which it is read and helps shape that culture. One sentence is no more reflective of the whole Bible than one gesture is of an entire personality." 

Or, finally, this reminder of why we need to be serious students of the Word of God:  "Those who read the Bible inattentively do not understand that the Bible equips its readers with the means to understand it. To read through it once is not to know it. Immersion allows a new kind of understanding." 

I hope you'll pick up this little gem of a book. Or, if you have already read it, tell us what you think. 

When baptism is not a good thing

Artbaptizedeadtwoap Anyone who has done genealogical research has seen it: the little notation that one's dead ancestors have been baptized by proxy into the Mormon church.

Mormons believe that being baptized on behalf of their dead ancestors will ensure that they spend eternity together. They don't stop with their own ancestors, though. They will stand in the baptismal for your great-great-grandma Hepzibah who spent every day of her life at the Baptist church--never mind that she was not Mormon, had no connection to the Mormon church, or even lived before Joseph Smith took his first breath.

If you are a devout believer of another faith--say, Christianity, for example--it is fairly irksome to see one's similarly devout ancestors being advertised as having been baptized by proxy into another faith. For one thing, in a hundred years, that could be your own name!

For Jews whose ancestors died in the Holocaust, this practice is repugnant enough that they have been fighting the Mormon church's practice of baptism by proxy. Speaking on behalf of individuals whose families perished in the Holocaust, Ernest Michel said, "We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion. We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough."

Unmoved, a representative for the Mormon church described the practice as something that "should not be a source of friction to anyone. It's merely a freewill offering."

Well, thanks, but no thanks. And, actually, it's hardly an offering if there is no one to accept it.

(Image © AP Photos)

The Point Radio: Mayor from Muskogee

How high are you setting the bar?...

Click play above to listen.

Oklahoma Freshman Named Town’s Mayor,” Associated Press, 14 May 2008.

November 12, 2008

Daily roundup

How Can I Keep from Singing?

Musical_notesmall I love the words to that old hymn "How Can I Keep From Singing?" In my mind it evokes the picture of Paul and Silas in the prison cell raising their voices in praise amidst persecution.

I find that often the words of a praise song or hymn nestle into my heart. They permeate my thoughts and form the backdrop of my day. Since Sunday when we sang it in church, I've been humming Our Great God. I'm not sure who originally wrote the lyrics, but the version I like best is sung jointly by Mac Powell of Third Day and Fernando Ortega.

The lyrics lift my mind into that place where angels sing ceaseless praise to our God:

Eternal God, unchanging
Mysterious and unknown
Your boundless love, unfailing
In grace and mercy shown

Bright seraphim in ceaseless flight around Your glorious throne
They raise their voices day and night in praise to You alone

Hallelujah, Glory be to our great God

Continue reading "How Can I Keep from Singing?" »

Some parties need to be private

We've had our fun with some of the more over-the-top Obama celebrations and raptures. But this is just insane.

(Note: adult themes)

Why Believe in God?

The spokesman for the American Humanist Association, the group that's running that "Why believe?" ad, says that their purpose isn't to argue that God doesn't exist or to change minds about a deity, although "we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people's minds."

This ad campaign does fit with their definition of humanism: "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."

If you don't believe in God, how do you ever define the word good? Is it based on "majority rules"? Maybe you have a worldwide vote every four years and everyone picks the definition they like and the one with the most votes wins. Even worse, each person defines their version of what's good and lives by that.

So while definition is the first problem with this worldview, the second problem is worse. Even if you could define good, why would anyone care? I mean if there is no transcendent God to punish evil, why not do whatever you want and say the heck with everyone else? After all, who is this guy "Goodness" and why would I do anything for his sake?

All I can say is if you are living your life as if there is no God, you'd better be right.

Aren’t you glad . . .

. . . that we've defeated racism in this country?

(Note: Profanity and vulgarity; a few suggestive ads on page)

Who needs God for a happy holiday?

Bus_ad An upcoming D.C. bus ad campaign is going to try to put some holiday cheer back into a typically lonely time for non-theist types by blasting the D.C. metro area with this slogan: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."

Like I said earlier, they can try.

(Image © American Humanist Association)

Debbie Downer Dawkins

Chroniclesofnarnia_300x298 More thoughts on that upcoming children's book by Richard Dawkins: Nothing like secular atheism to take the fun out of everything. Dawkins thinks fairy tales might be insidious:

Looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious effect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research.

C.S. Lewis, in his agnostic years, could relate, although it depressed him, as he explains in Surprised by Joy:

The two hemispheres of my mind were in the sharpest contrast. On the one side a many-islanded sea of poetry and myth; on the other a glib and shallow "rationalism." Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.

Until he realized that rather than opposing faith, imagination enlivened it. Most especially in the story that is most often taken for myth:

I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion...was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this....Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not “a religion,” nor “a philosophy.” It is the summing up and actuality of them all.

Atheism may try to take the fun out of everything, but anyone who's read Narnia knows that there's more truth there than in any evolutionary theory, particularly the theory that frogs can turn into princes.

(Image © The Company Theatre)

Fun with words

Just in case you were wondering, the top ten most irritating expressions have now been identified by Oxford University researchers. The list appears to me to have a decidedly British slant to it; although I may be missing something, I can't say I know many people on this side of the pond who have a problem with "I personally," "Absolutely," or "It's a nightmare." As long as we're on the subject, though, I personally (heh) could live without "double down."

However, it seems that not all Brits have a lighthearted attitude toward words, judging by this report out of Salisbury. One's brain would have to be pretty much destroyed by the virus of political correctness to decree the use of the term "colour visually impaired" -- especially when those who are actually visually impaired prefer the term "blind." As for "singing from the same hymn sheet," so few people actually sing hymns anymore, why on earth would it matter?

A pastor’s perspective

Writing on the 9Marks blog, Mike McKinley, pastor of Guilford Baptist Church (my church home when I lived in Virginia) offers a different perspective than I've read anywhere else on the recent election:

I am always a little amazed at how the hopes of many Christians rise and fall with presidential politics. At our church's prayer meeting last night, you would have thought that all was lost and the end was nigh (and these are well taught people, obviously!). Did the book of Revelation suddenly drop out of the back of my Bible? Will King Jesus not reign forever with the people his Father has given him? Does the Lord no longer establish the king and hold his heart in his hand? If so, what's with national Jeremiad week?

First of all, it's not at all clear to me that the new president won't be an excellent president (though I could not vote for him because of the abortion issue). Second of all, I think in light of the Christian Coalition years, we've all learned to pay lip service to the idea that Jesus isn't a Republican. But hardly anyone actually believes that or acts like it when a Democrat wins.

...I am convinced that what happened last Sunday morning at your church and mine is actually more important than what happened on Tuesday. I can understand why it doesn't seem like that to the world, but I wonder why more Christians don't act like it's true.