12.24.2008

The Indescribable Gift

Adoration of the Shepherds, Rembrandt van Rijn


Since my brother has apparently reached the point where he is too good to actually write on his own blog, I decided to borrow something he wrote last Christmas which I really liked:
I love the story of the woman in Mark 5 who had a hemorrhage of blood. She had gone to many physicians of her day and spent all of the money she had but the problem had only grown worse. In her desperation she turned to Jesus. She only touched His cloak (vs. 27), but this was enough to instantly heal her.

It seems, from reading the text, that Jesus did not purposefully heal the woman. Think about that! What the human experts of her day could not do no matter how hard they tried, Jesus did without even trying.

It is doubtful that Jesus was born in the month of December, much less on December 25th. In a sense then, the association of his birth with this season is unintentional on His part, much like His healing of this woman’s issue of blood was unintentional.

And yet, just as He brought healing to this desperate woman in Mark 5, so too He brings love and peace and goodwill to this season.

Because we associate this time of year with His birth, this is a time when family ties are strengthened and when gifts of love are given—an imitation of the presents brought by the magi given so long ago.

But the ultimate gift associated with the birth of Christ was not the gold, nor the myrrh, nor the frankincense. It was the child Himself.

I like the way the Amplified Version renders 2 Corinthians 9.15: “Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling—His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift!”
Our culture can get awfully mixed up about Christmas and sadly, as Christians, I think we sometimes don’t do much better. Be mindful of God’s indescribable Gift—even if today doesn’t really mark the anniversary of His coming.

Merry Christmas.

12.18.2008

Two Halfs Posts Make One Whole Post

I had two things I briefly wanted to mention which I didn’t want to dedicate a whole post to:
  • I sent in my last car payment back in November, and last week in the mail, I received the title from the bank that gave us the loan. I bought Jeeves (my car) about a year and a half ago, and under our five-year loan, was supposed to have him paid off in 2012. We’ve been paying aggressively on the loan ever since, and I’m glad that we managed to pay it off roughly 3 1/2 years ahead of time. Dave Ramsey would be proud (except that he would chastise us for buying a car in the first place that we couldn’t afford to buy with cash).
  • In other news, I almost switched The Doc File over to Wordpress this week, but ended up not doing it. I’m having a hard time finding a template that I really like, and while there are some things about Wordpress I like, it’s not as user-friendly as Blogger is and doesn’t allow for as much (free) customization. I don’t know, I still might end up switching, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it the other night. I know, I’m a coward.

12.15.2008

Pondering Snow…And Michael Crichton


Once again, it is winter.

For me, the winter weather pattern is the same every year: based on the predictions of local and national weather services, I get my hopes up over and over again that we’re going to have snow. And over and over again, my hopes come crashing down with the realization that no snow has accumulated and that meteorologists really have very little idea what they’re talking about.

Which reminds me of this great quote from Michael Crichton on the computer models used in the global warming doomsday forecasts:
Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?
He makes a good point.

12.12.2008

Maddux Calls It A Career


Greg Maddux announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on Monday.

I grew up watching Maddux and the other members of Atlanta’s Big Three, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, baffle hitters and win lots of games.

Maddux was my least favorite of the three (he arrived in Atlanta last and always seemed somewhat like a hired gun), but he was also the best, and he put up some historically shocking numbers in the mid 1990s.

Really, Maddux was also most representative of the great Atlanta teams of the 90s and early 2000s—an absolute terror over the long course of the season who suddenly became mortal when the playoffs rolled around (Maddux was just 11-11 in the postseason during his 11 seasons with the Braves).

Maddux retired with 355 career victories, 8th on the all-time list and one ahead of Roger Clemens, which I think is significant, and appropriate.

Significant because I think Maddux wanted to finish ahead of the Rocket, and appropriate because I think he deserved to.

For much of the two pitchers’ careers, the debate raged about which was the greatest pitcher of the era. Over recent years, the argument had tilted in favor of Clemens, who continued to be one of the best pitchers in the game while Maddux increasingly looked like a 40 year-old who used to be good (eerily similar to what happened with Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr.).

Of course, then all the allegations of Clemens’ steroid use came out, and Roger joined the ranks of Bonds, Mark McGwire and the rest of the baseball stars who have fallen from grace.

And his sudden distancing of himself statistically from Maddux late in their careers made a lot more sense.

Clemens (like Bonds) was a great player who possibly could have been the best of his era, but Maddux (like Griffey) came by his numbers cleanly and deserves the distinction instead.

And really, maybe that would be the most fitting legacy of all for the Steroid Era.

12.09.2008

Abortion, Part 4: Why Abortion Is A Deal Breaker


The original question that got this series kicked off (well over a month ago—I really am sorry it has taken me so long) was, “What makes abortion a deal breaker as opposed to the other moral issues?

I’m really just now getting around to answering that question, but in order to really do it justice, I thought it was necessary to first lay some groundwork about what I believe abortion really is, and about how I vote.

To succinctly sum up what we’ve discussed so far, I firmly believe that life begins at conception, and that abortion is, therefore, nothing less than the taking of an innocent human life. I realize that some people disagree with me on this, but in order to reach the conclusion that an unborn infant isn’t a human being, I think you have to reject Scripture, science and logic.

Having established (at least, in my mind) exactly what abortion is, the next question is how that should affect our voting behavior. Abortion is a moral issue, and when it comes to voting I think moral issues are the most important, but as we discussed in the last post, there are a bunch of moral issues.

Neither major party lines up perfectly with my views on the many different moral issues, which should leave me gridlocked, unable to decide how I should vote—unless one issue overrides all the others. And that brings us to this post.

So why does abortion trump other issues?

The Severity of Abortion

To start off, I’m going to ask you to attempt to do something which is actually quite difficult.

I said in an earlier post that abortion is an important issue because it is either the equivalent of brushing off skin cells, or it is the equivalent of shooting your next door neighbor. Since I believe that human life begins at conception, I think it is the latter.

And yet, here’s the scary part: while I can intellectually equate abortion with killing a next door neighbor, emotionally, even to me, it doesn’t seem as bad. Why is that?

It’s because of the culture we live in. Our values, our opinions, the way we look at things are all tremendously influenced by the culture that surrounds us. For a moment (and this is the difficult part), I want you to try to step outside of that culture.

Step outside of the word fetus. It’s a word which really just means baby. An unborn, human baby, with a beating heart, and a world of potential. It’s a word that our culture likes because it sounds so scientific, and because it helps us avoid the annoying problem of granting personal rights to the object in question.

Step outside of the word abortion. It’s a word which really just means murder1. It is the act of intentionally ending a human life. It’s another word that we like because it sounds so clean and clinical—it becomes just a medical procedure from which any question of morality is removed.

These words are euphemisms. Toss them aside.

Now think about the procedure. The methods differ significantly2, but really, the same thing happens each time—a mother goes to see a doctor for the purpose of ending the life of the child she is carrying inside her.

Two lives enter the doctor’s office, but only one leaves. A baby has been killed.

That’s what abortion is. No other issue exceeds the severity of abortion. It’s a matter of life and death.

The Magnitude of Abortion

You may argue that there are other “matters of life and death,” and you’d be right—but all of them pale in comparison to the damage to human life caused by abortion. I’ll apologize in advance for all the statistics, but sometimes numbers really do tell the tale.

First of all, consider that there are 17,000 murders each year in the United States3. That may seem like a large figure, until you compare it to the number of U.S. abortions each year—approximately 1,200,0004.

That’s the equivalent of the Holocaust every five years—and we’re legally doing it to our own children.

Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, over 48,000,000 infants have lost their lives via abortion in the United States. That’s roughly equal to the combined total populations of the states of California and Illinois, or the population of Texas two times over.

Those are staggering numbers. However, I don’t think you can fully grasp the magnitude of abortion (I know I didn’t) until you compare it with the other leading causes of child deaths worldwide (these are yearly totals):
  • Number of children who die of HIV/AIDS: 290,0005
  • Number of children who die of easily preventable diseases: 8,000,0006
  • Number of children who die of hunger and malnutrition: 6,000,0007
  • Number of children who die as a result of war: 2,000,0008
  • Number of children who die of abuse or neglect (widely considered under-reported): 53,0009
  • Number of abortions: 45,000,00010
It isn’t even close—abortion kills far more children each year than all the other main causes combined.

There may be other issues that are literally a matter of life and death, but none of them even approaches the scale that abortion is on. No other issue matches the magnitude of abortion. It is the great evil of our time.

A Historical Perspective: Slavery

My basic premise—the notion that one particular issue can be more important than all others—is derided by a lot of people as being inherently flawed. However, when you look through the lens of history at the issue of slavery, I think it’s clear that the premise is perfectly sound—sometimes an evil can be so widespread and prevalent that it dims other issues by comparison.

It took a Civil War, but eventually, we got the slavery issue right, and looking back with our 21st century eyes, it’s hard for us to imagine that people could have ever justified it in the first place.

Yet interestingly, the issues of slavery and abortion bear striking similarities.

Consider that in both cases, the suffering of the victims was allowed on the basis that they were considered to be sub-human. This thinking was furthered by the use of words like slave and fetus.

In both cases, the victims were treated as the property of others, without rights of their own.

In both cases, an evil practice was justified because of its economic benefit. Slavery was the backbone of Southern economy, considered by many to be a necessary evil. Similarly, proponents of abortion often describe it as a necessary evil, sometimes the “only option” for impoverished mothers.

And in both cases, good but misguided people made the mistake of refusing to condemn the unacceptable behavior of others. Slavery continued for as long as it did because too many people who would never consider owning a slave themselves refused to take that “right” away from others. Think about the typical Pro-Choice bumper stickers and protest signs you see and translate them to the slavery issue: “Opposed to slavery? Don’t buy one!” It seems ludicrous to us today, but until we as a culture can realize that with abortion—as with slavery—humans are being denied basic human rights, such flawed thinking will continue.

One last similarity between the two issues that I’ll mention is that the road to abolition was a long and tough one, with many setbacks. Sometimes I grow very discouraged about the state of abortion in America. I think that laws and opinions will never be changed, and that most politicians (even Pro-Life politicians) don’t really care about changing them.

But on my better, more optimistic days, I believe that some day, long after abortion has been outlawed, we’ll look back as a culture and shake our heads in shame at what we once allowed (as we now look back at slavery).

Conclusion

This is the reality of our world: currently, U.S. law allows mothers to legally kill their own children via abortion. It happens 1.2 million times each year, or once every 26 seconds. Worldwide, abortions kill more children each year than all the other leading causes combined.

The original question was, Why is abortion a deal breaker?” In all humility and sincerity, my response is, “How could it not be?




1 In a few instances, I guess you could argue that abortion isn’t exactly murder. For example, if the life of the mother was endangered, then maybe it would be self-defense. Or in the case of a woman who had been raped, maybe her emotional state would lessen the charges. But these are exceptions which just help to prove the general rule that abortion is murder.
2 Sometimes drugs are taken which kill the infant, other times the tiny growing child is sucked out of the mother via syringe, sometimes harmful chemicals are injected into the amniotic fluid, and sometimes the baby’s head is crushed and then manually removed. See more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion#Abortion_methods
3 http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm
4 http://www.nrlc.org/ABORTION/facts/abortionstats.html
5 http://www.unicef.org/aids/
6 Easily preventable diseases includes things like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis A & B, yellow fever, mumps, malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections, etc. (Source: The Lancet).
7 http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2005/1000151/index.html
8 http://www.unicef.org
9 http://www.unicef.org/sowc06/
10 http://www.wpro.who.int/sites/rph/data/abortion.htm

Thanks to Jonathan Reinhardt for help with many of the statistics and their sources.

12.04.2008

Mere Christianity

So I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I just finished reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis for the first time.

I was disappointed with parts of it, and completely blown away by other parts of it. It certainly is a very quotable book, and I thought that rather than offer any sort of in-depth review, I would instead share a good quote from time to time.

One of my favorite quotes in the book actually comes from the preface, where Lewis explains that his purpose in writing the book isn’t to get people to join a particular church, but rather to accept the basic tenets of Christianity. To make his point, he describes Christianity as a hall with several rooms, and says that his goal is to get people to enter the hall, and to figure out which room to enter on their own.

On choosing which “room” to enter into, he says:
“And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which one pleases you best by its paint and paneling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this?’ When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
I like that a lot.

11.29.2008

Christmas Spirit

Sometimes I think that we’ve really lost perspective on this whole “Christmas season” thing.

11.25.2008

Youth Ministry and The Catcher In The Rye

A while back, I finished reading The Catcher In The Rye.

Once the most censored and challenged books in America, The Catcher In The Rye is a common staple in high school English classes, and by today’s standards, is really fairly tame (which I guess is sad, but I digress).

I think the book is pretty good, but not brilliant, and if it hadn’t been so widely censored and criticized, I doubt it would be nearly as popular and well thought of as it is. Nevertheless, I do like the passage in the book that generates the title.

One of the main themes of the book is the loss of innocence, and the main character, Holden Caulfield, is distressed by the idea of children growing up and becoming “phony.”

In one scene, he imagines himself saving them from that:
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
As a youth minister, I can sympathize with his feelings. Part of being a youth minister is encouraging kids to stay away from stuff that’s not good for them, physically and spiritually.

But unfortunately, as Holden realizes, you can’t catch kids before they fall off the cliff. They’re going to be exposed to things you were wish they weren’t and they’re going to fail and make poor decisions.

The key then is to prepare them to be the kind of people who make good decisions more often than not, and to try to “catch” them until then.

That’s good youth ministry, I think.

11.21.2008

Abortion, Part 3: How I Vote


This is the third part in a series on abortion, and specifically on why I feel abortion is the single most important issue when it comes to voting. My views on abortion are based on certain philosophies and premises, which you can catch in Part 1 and Part 2.

In this post, I’m going to shift gears a bit and try to explain how I vote in general. It’s been a difficult post to write in a lot of ways, but it’s been good for me to flesh out my thoughts.

Abstaining From Politics

As a quick note, I should mention that there are some who believe that Christians should abstain from politics and voting altogether. After all, our true allegiance is to Christ, not some earthly office or entity, and Christianity is about being salt and light, not about getting others to do what God wants via legislation.

While I respect that view, I also believe that the thinking behind it is flawed—I’m confident that God wants us to use every avenue we have to influence others for good and inject the values of His Kingdom into the world, including our political voice.

Political Parties

On my Facebook profile, my political views are listed as “Inconsistent”. I described them as such not because I consider them to be inconsistent with each other, but because I consider them to be inconsistent with either of the two major parties that dominate our political landscape today.

Generally, I have conservative views on economic issues. As a product of (among other things) Harding University’s Belden Center for Private Enterprise, I believe that capitalism, low taxation, and limited government regulation of business are generally good things.

That being said, those views (some of which are pretty strong) don’t really impact my vote that much because at the end of the day, no matter which party is in control, as Americans, we are among the wealthiest people in the world. If our economic recession lasts longer than expected and cuts deeper than expected, as Americans, we will still be among the wealthiest people in the world.

Instead, the side of politics that matters more to me are the “social” issues, or maybe a better term (which I’ll use for the rest of this post) would be “moral” issues. From a Christian perspective, it’s fundamental that morality is more important than money—how good you are is more important than how rich you are.

And that’s my major problem with the Republican Party—while they may agree with me on many moral issues, when push comes to shove, they just don’t consider those issues to be as important as money. And worse, I think some Republican candidates don’t care about them at all, but just pay lip service to them in order entice me to vote for them.

Of course, on the other hand, you have the Democrats, who I disagree with on a lot of moral issues and disagree with on economic policies.

So here I am, inconsistent with both major political parties, determining my vote based on the issues that I think are most important—the moral ones.

Moral Issues

Christians (and others) who support pro-choice candidates are quick to point out that there are a lot of moral issues besides just abortion—and they’re right. There’s a bunch of them, and I could probably do weeks’ worth of posts covering them all, but instead, I’ll just briefly mention a few in order to illustrate that my views are somewhat scattered across the political spectrum (I won’t mention abortion, since that’s the subject of the next post).

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, the teachings of Jesus on the “Least of These” influence my thinking on a lot of these issues:
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25.41-46.)

Environment

God created this world for us to use, and also for us to take care of. This idea of stewardship represents a balance that I think a lot of people miss.

Having said that, I think the case for Global Warming (or, “Global Climate Change” now that statistics show that we’re not warming as originally predicted) is unconvincing, and has become overly politicized, as evidenced by the fact that the significant number of scientists who have refuted global warming have been silenced and ridiculed.

Gay Marriage

God defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and as Christians, I think we should do what we can to support that definition. To me, that certainly includes opposing gay marriage, but at the same time acknowledging that, with the divorce rates we have, American heterosexual couples are doing a good enough job of destroying marriage without help from anyone else. Let’s protect marriage, but let’s also admit that homosexuals aren’t the only ones who are bringing damage upon it.

Immigration

The Bible is pretty clear as to how we are to treat the foreigner—with hospitality. Because of this, I have very little patience with the general position of the Right on immigration.

I realize that we have a lot of illegal immigrants in this country, but I’m also virtually certain that the vast majority of them would choose to become legal if it were easier for them to do so. That’s what I call the iTunes Effect: when the iTunes store gave people an affordable, legal alternative to stealing music, many, many people immediately took advantage of it. I may be naive, but I think immigration would work in much the same way.

Furthermore the U.S. has always been a country of immigrants. It’s how we got our beginning, and it’s what gives us our identity. The Statue of Liberty actually says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free…” but all too many people seem to want to add an “unless they’re from Mexico” clause to the end. I think that’s ridiculous. And sad. And not biblical.

Poverty

I feel convinced in my own mind that ideally, it should be the job of the Church, not government, to take care of the poor, but considering that Christendom as a whole hasn’t done a very good job of that, government helping out might not be a bad idea.

I question whether or not the typical policies of the Democratic Party really help out the poor that much, but at least, in theory, their heart is in the right place. And to those with more conservative views who think that taxation basically amounts to stealing (a view I’m sensitive to), I think it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t say, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s—unless he asks for more than you want to give him.”

At the same time, I see a lot of inconsistency regarding political views on poverty. If poverty was such a big deal to the Left, you would think they would also oppose things like state lotteries (which statistics have shown feed off of the poor) and alternative fuel sources such as ethanol, which take food (corn) and turn it into fuel when thousands of people around the world starve every day. It makes me wonder if poverty is the Left’s lip service issue just as abortion is the Right’s.

War

I know that this is a major issue with some people, so I may not do it justice in my brief comments, but I’ll try.

I’m not a pacifist. I think war is a terrible thing, and should be avoided when possible, but I also think it can be justified. I think that’s a Biblical view, although I respect the opinions of those who disagree.

Regarding our current war, I know it’s very unpopular, but if we’re honest, I think we’d acknowledge two things. First, back when war was declared, the vast majority of politicians (although our President-Elect is a notable exception) and the vast majority of American citizens were in favor of it. I think too many people are trying to deny responsibility for that. Secondly, having made the decision to go to war, it’s incredibly irresponsible to just pack up and leave in the middle when all indications are that things will get worse if you do. That might be the case now, and it certainly was the case back when the Left first started demanding a pullout.

Having said that, if all the Iraq War accomplished or all it was about was removing a dictator from power who had committed genocide on his own people, then I think it was justified. Similarly, if Hitler had decided not to invade every country in Europe but had still gassed every Jew he could get his hands on, I think war would have been justified in that situation as well.

Conclusion

Once again, my point in bringing up all these issues is not so much to convince anyone on any particular subject, but rather to illustrate what I believe is a consistency among my views on different moral subjects, but an inconsistency between the moral views I hold and the views generally held by either major political party.

So what does that leave me with? Since there are clearly a lot of moral issues, and my views on these issues don’t all line up neatly with a specific party, how can I ever choose to vote for one candidate or another?

Well, if all issues were created equal (you can see where I’m going with this), I wouldn’t be able to—I’d be locked in a stalemate of conscience. But that’s not the case. Sometimes, the magnitude of a particular issue can make it so important that it should take preeminence over all others.

Slavery was such an issue, and abortion is another.

11.12.2008

Preacher Roe (1915-2008)

I discovered yesterday that Preacher Roe had passed away on Sunday at the age of 92.

Roe was a left-handed pitcher who played in the Major Leagues in the 1940s and 50s, making five All-Star teams, leading the league in strikeouts once, and had a personal best record of 22-3 in 1951 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

For his career, Roe accumulated 127 wins against 84 losses, a good record that likely would have been more impressive had he not missed time for service in World War II.

But the reason I know about Preacher Roe and the reason I thought all of this would be interesting to the majority of my readership is that Preacher Roe is the only Harding student to play in the Major Leagues. When I was at Harding, his old Dodgers jersey was on display in the Ganus Athletic Center, and I bet it’s still there.

Roe seems to have been an interesting character.

Born Elwin Charles Roe, he got his lifelong nickname at the age of 3 when his uncle returned from the first World War and asked his little nephew what his name was. Roe responded that his name was “Preacher” (apparently because he liked the local preacher who would take him on horse and buggy rides), and the nickname stuck.

He suffered a major setback early in his career when he was still with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the 1945 off-season, while coaching a high school basketball game (baseball players didn’t make as much then as they do now), he suffered a skull fracture after getting into a fight with the referee. He struggled through the next few seasons.

He turned his career around in Brooklyn, however, where he began throwing the (illegal) spitball as his signature pitch, and played alongside Jackie Robinson.

In an interview later in life, Roe expressed his pride in getting to play with Robinson: “I just felt if Jackie hit a home run while I was pitching, it counted just as much for me as if Pee Wee Reese hit it or some of the other guys that were white...I’d say, ‘You never have seen a good ballplayer until you’ve seen him.’ He was that good.”

If you look closely at the picture below, the setting might be familiar to some of you…it was taken at Camp Tahkodah.

11.11.2008

A Quick Note

So I’ve been somewhat surprised by the amount of comments I got after the last abortion post.

I felt like it led to some good discussion, and I thought everyone kept it civil, so I appreciate that. I guess the only downside was that it caused me to spend more time focusing on that particular post than I had originally planned, and prevented me from moving on in the series.

Unfortunately, that brings me to this week, which will be a busy one for me. I have to preach on Sunday, and whenever I have to preach, that basically dominates all of my activities for the week. On top of that, I have a devotional to prepare for on Saturday night, and we have a new secretary at the church who I will be helping to train this week.

All of those excuses to say, I’m not entirely sure when the next abortion piece will be. I’ll work on it as I have time, but I’d rather delay posting that post an unfinished product on what I consider to be such an important issue.

So I apologize for that in advance, but don’t give up on me. It’s coming.

11.05.2008

The New President


I’m getting pretty tired of political posts—hopefully after I get the series on abortion finished up we can talk about more pleasant things for a while.

But first, even though I’m not a supporter of Barack Obama, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about last night’s historic election.

It’s pretty amazing that just 40 years removed from segregation and lynchings, the American people have chosen an African-American as the next President of the United States, and the fact that he’s not my ideal candidate for the first black President does nothing to change that.

I disagree with many of Obama’s positions, but I don’t think that his election is the end of the world. I tend to think that many of the fears that people have concerning an Obama presidency won’t come to pass. I certainly hope that’s the case.

The ideas of change and hope have been a big part of Obama’s campaign. For my part, I hope that it is more than just political rhetoric, and that he works to bring about the unity and lasting peace that he talked about so much.

11.04.2008

Abortion, Part 2: What Is It?


It is my firm belief that human life begins at conception. I’ll explain why I believe that in this post, but it’s on that premise that I oppose the practice of abortion.

After all, if that premise is not true, then the abortion debate is much ado about nothing. But if it is true, then abortion is nothing less than government-sanctioned, premeditated murder. To put it bluntly, abortion is either the equivalent of brushing off skin cells, or it is the equivalent of shooting your next door neighbor.

There’s a big difference there, so figuring out exactly when human life begins is important.

The Scriptural Argument

As I mentioned in the introductory post to this series, I’m a Christian, and that influences my views on abortion. I think Scripture clearly teaches that life begins at conception, and frankly, that alone would be enough for me (though I think there are other arguments as well).

There are a lot of verses that I could reference and a lot of points that could be made, but I’ll narrow it down to just a couple.

First, the same Greek word, BREPHOS, is used in the New Testament to describe an adolescent child (2 Timothy 3.15), a newborn child (Luke 2.2), and an unborn child (Luke 1.44). New Testament writers didn’t seem to make a distinction between children before and after birth.

Like the Greek of the New Testament, the Hebrew of the Old Testament makes no distinction between an “infant” and a “fetus.” The Hebrew word, GEHEVER, is used over 60 times in the Old Testament, usually to refer to an adult male (Psalm 34.8, Job 3.23, Psalm 125.7). But in Job 3.3, this same word is used to refer to an unborn child at the moment of his conception.

I think an even stronger argument concerning the beginning of life comes from the incarnation of Jesus. Concerning the incarnation, the Bible teaches that the Son of God emptied Himself, became flesh, and dwelt among us (Philippians 2.5-8, John 1.1-14).

The question then arises, “at what point did the Son of God become flesh, and begin His life as a human?” There’s only one answer that makes sense: Jesus didn’t begin His humanity on the night He was born in Bethlehem; the Messiah of the Jews and Savior of the World became flesh at the point that the Holy Spirit caused Mary to become pregnant! (Luke 1.35)

The Scientific Argument

Science is certainly not my area of expertise, and I won’t pretend otherwise. Certainly there are scientists and doctors who would argue that life doesn’t begin at conception, but many of them argue that it does.

And consider: the day before an infant is born and the day after an infant is born, the infant is almost identical in terms of development. The significant difference is in terms of environment (out in the world as opposed to inside the womb).

A few years ago, I had to write a paper on Embryonic Stem Cell Research for an Ethics class, and I came across this article which suggests that we can more clearly determine when life begins by comparing it to when life ends. I would suggest that you take the time to read the article, but the author, who is a professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, points out that:
“Death occurs when the body ceases to act in a coordinated manner to support the continued healthy function of all bodily organs. Cellular life may continue for some time following the loss of integrated bodily function, but once the ability to act in a coordinated manner has been lost, “life” cannot be restored to a corpse-no matter how “alive” the cells composing the body may yet be.”
Applying that same definition of life, it’s clear when life begins:
“From the earliest stages of development, human embryos clearly function as organisms. Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures with all the properties that define any organism as distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances, and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances.”

The Common Sense Argument

If life doesn’t begin at conception, then when does it begin? Other “starting lines” seem arbitrary:

Is life determined by viability? An infant isn’t a person until it can survive outside the womb? That’s problematic, because with advances in medicine, that date continues to change. For that matter, if humanity is determined by how well someone can survive, a lot of toddlers, people in nursing homes and paraplegics are in trouble—are they less human than the rest of us?

Does life begin at birth? That seems like more of a concrete dividing line, but if that’s the case, why are there restrictions on late-term abortions? And why does Barack Obama not support the lives of infants who survive abortion attempts and emerge from the womb living (For the record, I’ve pointed out before that at least Obama is consistent on this issue—if it’s okay to abort an infant right before birth, it should also be okay to let the infant die immediately afterwards.)?

It seems that our gut tells us that humanity begins prior to birth. Consider the following example. When a couple who is pro-choice and has no problem with the practice of abortion decides to start a family and conceives, their view of the unborn changes dramatically. No longer is a fetus just a bundle of cells; instead, it is an unborn infant. It is considered to be a member of the family and the parents plan for it accordingly. They get excited when it moves and are concerned about its health. They don’t wait for the moment of birth to bestow personhood upon it!

So what do we make of this inconsistency? Is life determined by the feelings of the parents? Is an unborn infant a human only if the parents consider it to be so, only if it is wanted? This is the most ludicrous position of all, but it’s the position where many end up.

Conclusion

There’s much more to be said, but the point of this post was to put forth reasons why I believe human life begins at conception, and why, therefore, the issue is an important one. There are more arguments that could be made, but I think I’ve said plenty.

At this point, I’m still laying the foundation for later posts and not really anticipating a lot of disagreement from most of my readers, but if you do take issue with something I’ve said, let me know.

11.03.2008

Abortion, Part 1: Introduction And Disclaimer

In the comment section of a previous post, I was asked, “What makes abortion a deal breaker as opposed to the other moral issues?”

It’s a good question, and a fair one, because abortion is a deal breaker for me—it’s certainly not the only issue I care about, but I do care about it more than any other issue.

As I began to answer the question, I realized that I really couldn’t do it justice in one post—it’s just too important—so this will be part one of a multi-part series on abortion. I originally hoped to have all this posted prior to Election Day, but there’s just no way I’ll be able to. That’s okay though—unfortunately, abortion is an issue that will continue to be with us after November 4.

I don’t expect to get many comments on these posts, because I rarely do when I write about the more serious side of life. But that’s okay—these will likely be some of the more important posts that I ever write.

First, a disclaimer, of sorts:

I’m a Christian, and that’s why I feel the way I do about abortion—I’m trying to live out what Jesus said was important. If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian, I hope you’ll keep reading, but I want you to be aware of the perspective that I’m coming from.

But if you are a Christian, I’m writing this especially for you.

I’m aware of a surprisingly large number of Christians (some of whom I respect a great deal) who will vote or have voted for Obama in 2008, seemingly without regard for the fact that he is the most abortion-friendly candidate we have ever seen from a major party (I’ve linked to this article before, but if you haven’t read it yet, you owe it to yourself).

I hope you’ll weigh and consider the next few posts, and of course, your feedback (negative too) is always welcomed.

10.30.2008

Say It Ain’t So Jo(aquin)!

With the aging of Harrison Ford, my favorite actors over the last few years have been Matt Damon, Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix.

It’s been a tough year for my favorite actors. Tragically, Ledger died of an accidental overdose back in January, and now comes the news that Phoenix is retiring from acting.

At 34, Joaquin isn’t moving into a retirement home just yet. Apparently, he’s taking a break from the movie business to pursue a career in music.

Back when he play Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, I was blown away by Phoenix’s voice, and I have no qualms with him recording some albums, but here’s my basic thought: if people like Jessica Simpson who don’t seem to have talent in acting or music can do both at the same time, can’t Joaquin at least give it a shot?

10.27.2008

Does Pro-Life Make A Difference?


I know quite a few people who are opposed to abortion, but whose voting decisions aren’t actually affected by those beliefs.

After all, electing pro-life politicians doesn’t actually have any effect on abortion in America, right? Well, actually, according to this article, it does:

“Most of these authors attempt to make one of two points: either a) that there is little that elected officials can do to curb abortion through legislation, or b) that the pro-life movement has not reaped any real benefits from supporting candidates who oppose abortion. Voters should, therefore, they argue, place greater emphasis on other issues. However, an examination of the history of the pro-life movement and a careful analysis of abortion trends demonstrate that these arguments are deeply flawed. In fact, the success of pro-life political candidates has resulted in substantial reductions in the abortion rate.”
The article then goes on to describe all the ways in which pro-life politicians and anti-abortion legislation have decreased the number of abortions in the United States.

So what does that have to do with the impending election? Well, one of the candidates opposes abortion, while the other, according to another article, is “the most extreme pro-abortion candidate to have ever run on a major party ticket.”

If you’re opposed to abortion, it should be something to think about. I understand that there are other moral issues as well that we have to deal with, but I always come back to Jesus’ words about “the least of these” in Matthew 25.

Who better qualifies as “the least of these” than an unborn child?

10.22.2008

Moderation


In Ecclesiastes 7.16-18, Solomon writes:

“Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”
Those verses come in the context of a longer passage on wisdom, and Solomon suggests that avoiding extremes is a wise thing to do.

Generally speaking, I consider myself to be a moderate sort of guy.

Politically, there are a few issues that I am very, very conservative on, but for the most part, I’m not dead-set on a lot of things and can see both sides of a lot of issues.

Religiously, in the broad spectrum of Christianity, I would certainly be considered conservative, but in my specific religious fellowship, I’m pretty much in the middle (in the past, I would’ve thought I was pretty conservative, but over the last few years, I’ve come into contact with more and more people who have verified my middle-of-the-road-ness).

I say all that to say this: the problem with moderation is that when you’re in the middle, you have to deal with the people on both extremes.

It can be a frustrating endeavor.

10.21.2008

A 3,000 Mile Journey

One of the (many?) strange things about me is that I always have numbers flying around inside of my head.

When I walk somewhere, I often count the number of steps that I take. When I see numbers on road signs, I often add or subtract them without thinking about it. When I go running, I often translate my pace into MPH. Yeah, I already admitted that it was strange.

The other day, on the way home from work, I discovered that I had picked up a hitchhiker—a little spider was on my hood, clinging on for dear life.

The distance from the church building to my apartment is about 8 miles, and it got me to thinking—in spider terms, how far of a trip were we making?

After estimating the size of the spider and comparing it to my own size, and making several tedious conversions from inches to feet to miles, I determined that for the spider, the trip to my apartment was roughly the equivalent of a 3,000 mile journey for me (it’s a ballpark figure—I did the calculations in my head while driving and listening to thumping techno music).

I was just reflecting on how traumatic it would be for me to be unwittingly deposited somewhere 3,000 miles away, when I looked down to discover that the spider was no longer on my car—sometime during my calculations he had apparently lost his grip and been blown away (speaking of traumatic).

Yeah, this is what life is like inside of my head.

10.15.2008

Let’s Make A Deal

So as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not exactly thrilled about either of our major presidential candidates.

Unfortunately, the political system in the United States is strictly limited to two parties, and anyone not belonging to one of those two parties, no matter how qualified or popular they may be, has no legitimate chance of being elected.

Then I came across VotePact.org, which I thought was pretty neat.

The basic premise of Vote Pact is that a significant portion of Americans don’t really identify closely with either of the two major parties (and specifically with those parties’ candidates in this particular election), but they vote for them anyway because they fear that voting for a third party candidate just helps the party that they dislike the most.

Vote Pact’s solution:

Disenchanted Republicans should pair up with disenchanted Democrats and both vote for third party or independent candidates they more genuinely want. This way they siphon off votes by twos from each of the establishment parties. This liberates the voters to vote their actual preference from among those on the ballot, rather than to just pick the “least bad” of the two majors. They could each vote for different candidates, or they could vote for the same candidate. If the later, it could offer an enterprising candidate a path to actual electoral success.
On the website, there’s a chart to show how, statistically, this is somewhat feasible.

Of course, it’s not like all the people who don’t really like Obama or McCain are a politically uniform group, so it’s highly unlikely that they could ever unite behind a third party candidate.

But boy, I think it’d be cool if they did.

10.14.2008

Observation #3

If Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10.38), He probably wants more from me than just holding the right positions on doctrinal issues.

10.10.2008

The Compassion Of Christ


There are a lot of passages from the gospels that I could use to expound upon the title of this post, but recently, I was struck by a passage from the book of Matthew.

Matthew 14 starts off with the narration of the death of John the Baptist. John has been imprisoned for speaking out against the unlawful marriage of King Herod, and now, at the request of Herod’s daughter, is beheaded.

John’s disciples take and bury his body, and then go and tell Jesus what has happened.

The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about the specific interactions between John the Baptist and Jesus, but we know that their ministries and lives were closely connected.

In addition to the fact that they were relatives, we know that John baptized Jesus, and that Jesus later had very complimentary things to say about him, proclaiming in Matthew 11.11, “among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!”

It shouldn’t surprise us then, that “…when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself.” (Matthew 14.13)

Jesus was God’s Son, but He was human as well, and sometimes we forget that He felt the same feelings that we do. When He heard that John had been killed, Jesus must have been terribly upset—after all, John was likely a close friend of His and was possibly the one person on earth who somewhat understood Who Jesus was and why He had come. He was upset, and He wanted to be alone.

But by now, Jesus was popular, and the people wouldn’t let Him be alone. When they figured out where He went, they followed on foot. Jesus leaves His boat and comes ashore, and then comes Matthew 14.14, which, in the context we’ve just described, is amazing to me:
“When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”
Apparently, at the sight of the people, Jesus immediately forgets His own sorrows and sees only the troubles of those around Him. He feels compassion for the multitudes, and subordinates His own needs to the needs of the people. He heals their sick, and goes on to satisfy their hunger by miraculously multiplying five loaves and two fish.

What an example Jesus provides for us! We should never be so engulfed by personal tragedies, political considerations and economic uncertainties that we lessen our ability to feel compassion for the plight of others around us.

Oh that Christians were characterized by the compassion of Christ!

10.07.2008

The Etch-A-Sketchist

This guy is amazing—I can barely write my name with an Etch-A-Sketch.

Here are a couple of my favorites.

10.03.2008

Whom To Vote For?

So, I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but there’s a pretty big election coming up in the next month or so.

I’ve talked before about how I’m not a Barack Obama fan. I disagree strongly with his views on abortion, which is a deal-breaker for me, but I have other problems with him as well.

Unfortunately, as a person, I think he’s probably a better guy than John McCain. I come closer to agreeing with McCain on a lot of issues, and, as I’ve written before, in some ways, McCain is a very admirable guy.

But on the whole, he seems to be a big jerk. He’s infamous for his terrible temper, he slept around all over the place on his first wife, and it’s really hard for me to respect a guy who would say things like this to his current wife (and in public!).

So it looks like I’m in need of a different candidate*, and it’s for that purpose that I’m writing this blog post—to accept nominations for a write-in candidate.

The first nomination I received a while back from my brother, and it’s a pretty good one: Optimus Prime.

I think Optimus has a lot of characteristics that would make him an ideal President. Consider:

  • He would bring an entire new meaning to “Commander-in-Chief.” I’m not even sure we’d need an army anymore.
  • International Negotiations: This goes along with the first point I guess, but seriously, can you imagine Ahmadinejad or Hugo Chavez doing anything other than treating Prime with the utmost respect?
  • Over and over he has staunchly supported and affirmed the value of all human life.
  • He’s the wisest and most noble of all Autobots.
But on the flip side:
  • As someone who transforms into an 18-wheeler, Optimus is an inherent and fundamental part of our oil crisis in a way that no other candidate could be.
  • And the big one: he’s not a native born citizen of the United States. Not at all.
So I guess the nominations are still open…

*I actually hope that McCain wins the election, but I’m just not sure that I could bring myself to vote for him. I’m pretty sure that in my state, it won’t matter though, which is why I’m taking such a light-hearted approach to this.

10.02.2008

The Master Of Ballantrae

Sunday night, I finished Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Master of Ballantrae.

I’m a fan of Stevenson—I’ve written before how much I appreciate his work, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of my all-time favorite works of fiction—but I was a little disappointed in this one.

The Master of Ballantrae is a tale of two brothers of noble Scottish birth, and is alsosomewhat of a retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau, with the rivalry and conflict between the two brothers being the central plot of the story.

Parts of the book read very slowly, but there is a lot to keep the reader interested as well: the setting jumps all over the place, with events unfolding in Scotland, the High Seas, India, and finally colonial America, and as with other Stevenson stories, multiple narrators are used, which helps to give different perspectives on events.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the character of the older brother, The Master of Ballantrae himself, who is the antagonist of the story.

Stevenson thoroughly investigated the nature of evil in the character of Mr. Hyde, but in The Master of Ballantrae, the idea is a little more complex. Speaking of his villain, Stevenson said,“The Master is all I know of the devil,” and indeed, the Master’s intelligence, powers of manipulation and seductive charm resemble greatly the malevolent force described in the Bible, and distinguish him from a Mr. Hyde type of evil.

Unfortunately, for me, all of these good aspects of the book were wasted to some degree by an incredibly disappointing climax.

If you’re a big Robert Louis Stevenson fan, The Master of Ballantrae might be worth reading, but otherwise, skip it—he has much better stuff to offer.

10.01.2008

Back At Home

So I know that things have been pretty lame around The Doc File for the last couple of weeks. Sorry about that—I’ve been out of town quite a bit.

Last weekend I was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to play at an ultimate tournament with a bunch of college friends. We played well, and I had a lot of fun, but I did pull a hamstring in the second game (out of seven) which has been somewhat of an annoyance since.

This past Sunday afternoon, I headed down to the alma mater for the Harding Lectureship, and just returned last night. It was a fun and uplifting time, but unfortunately, I returned sick.

It will be nice to stay home for a few weeks.

9.26.2008

Pandora.com

Am I the last person in Western Civilization to find out about Pandora.com?

In case the answer to that question is “no,” Pandora is an internet radio service that allows you to create your own “stations” which play music that you like.

You start by picking a song or artist that you like, and then Pandora chooses similar music. As each song plays, you can either give it a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”, determining if that specific song and others like it will appear again on your station.

The service is completely free; you just have to register with a username and password in order to save your stations.

I haven’t used it enough to figure out just how good it is at predicting songs that I like, but so far, I’m impressed.

9.17.2008

“Experience” And The U.S. Presidency


There’s been a lot of talk during this election about “experience” and about who’s “qualified” for the job of President and who isn’t.

For a long time, the claims of inexperience were largely directed at Barack Obama, but with McCain’s pick of the relatively unknown Sarah Palin as his VP candidate, both sides are now letting the accusations of inexperience fly.

A couple of thoughts on why I think all of this is overblown:

First, it seems clear that neither party really cares too much about having experience in the White House.

After campaigning for so long about how Obama is unqualified for the job because of his lack of experience, it seems a little inconsistent that McCain, an old man who’s had significant health problems, would choose a running mate who is similarly inexperienced when there’s a real chance that she could end up as President.

On the other side, what’s up with the Democrats complaining about the inexperience of Palin (the number two on the Republican ticket), when their would-be President Obama has no experience to speak of either?

Oh, the irony.

Secondly, while I’ll certainly agree that some candidates are more qualified and have more experience than others, and while some presidents have certainly turned out to be up to the job, is anyone really qualified to have the job of the most powerful person on the planet?

I’m thinking the only person in history with that degree of qualification would be Jesus, and He really wasn’t interested in political power…

9.16.2008

Observation #2

On infomercials, when companies boast about the “space age technology” of a given product, aren’t they really only claiming that they have a technology that was possibly developed as many as 50 years ago?

9.15.2008

Frisbee Poster

For some time, I’ve been eager to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, and over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been tinkering around with it in my spare time.

Several days ago I made the poster below to advertise a mixer that the Harding Ultimate Frisbee team was having.

I think I’ve probably only tapped into about 3% of Illustrator’s potential at this point, but so far, I’ve been pleased.

Click on the picture to see a larger version.

9.10.2008

The Kinship Of Speeders

Yesterday on the way to work a minivan coming the other way flashed his headlights at me repeatedly.

After I checked to make sure that I didn’t have my brights on, I surmised that the minivan driver must have been warning me about a police car lurking up ahead. Sure enough, as I turned the corner I saw one waiting in a side street looking to catch speeders.

The phenomenon of drivers feeling compelled to warn others about the presence of cops has always been intriguing to me. On some level, I know that it’s not necessarily a good thing to help other people avoid being caught by the law, but at the same time, I like the feeling of camaraderie that I experience every time someone flashes their headlights at me in warning.

In that spirit of camaraderie, I present the following picture from FAIL Blog, which I thought was hilarious:

9.05.2008

Arthur Ashe On Suffering


Late in his life, during his battle with AIDS (he had contracted HIV during a blood transfusion), one of Ashe’s fans asked him, “Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?”

Ashe replied:

“The world over, 50,000,000 children start playing tennis, 5,000,000 learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5,000 reach the Grand Slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to the semifinals, 2 to the finals. When I was holding a cup, I never asked God ‘Why me?’ And today in pain I should not be asking God, ‘Why me?’”

9.03.2008

Dumb Things People Say 2: “What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger”

It’s about time that I wrote another entry for this series.

Today’s Dumb Thing, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” is somewhat special in that it has a specific origin. It was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who first made this robust claim, which I guess shouldn’t be too surprising, since he made some other claims which haven’t exactly panned out either (consider that whole “God is dead” idea for example).

Nevertheless, in the years since Nietzsche (whose name is incredibly difficult to spell) first penned the words countless people have seized upon them as an expression of truth and source of inspiration to get them and their loved ones through difficult times.

Of course, the words weren’t meant in a physical sense, and that’s a good thing—a person who had been crippled by polio could hardly claim to be physically stronger from the experience—but I don’t think it really holds up emotionally as well.

Oh, I think it’s certainly true that we all from time to time get through difficult episodes which ultimately make us stronger and better people, but it’s also true that people suffer through certain traumatic events that leave them scarred for life—they never recover the “strength” they once had.

I’m not much of a philosopher, but basically, I think people have a “Hardship Ceiling,” or a certain point beyond which they cannot deal with more, and from which they cannot recover.

If you have never experienced a wound that you couldn’t just shrug off and classify as “strength-enhancing,” be thankful. Just don’t assume that such wounds don’t exist.

9.02.2008

Richard Ben Cramer on Joe DiMaggio: The Mirror Of A Nation


A while back, I wrote a post about Joe DiMaggio.

Then, while reading an article written about him after his death, I found a quote that I really liked:

“In Joe, the nation found a mirror for its best self. In the hard-knuckled ’30s, he was the Sicilian immigrant’s son who came from nothing, made it big. As the war drew nearer, he was our can-do poster boy, getting hits every day through the summer of ’41. In the war, he sacrificed his best years but came back as a winner—bigger than ever. In postwar wealth and ease, he was our Broadway Joe, squiring Miss Americas at the Stork Club…until he wooed and won, in Marilyn Monroe, the most beautiful girl America could dream up. And even when he lost that girl for good, in 1962, he was us, at the start of our decade of assassination and bereavement. He was, at every turn, our idea of the American hero—one man we could look at, who made us feel good. For it was always about how we felt…with Joe. That’s how it worked. No wonder we strove, for six decades—the nation, its presidents, its citizens, almost everyone—to give Joe the hero’s life. It was always about us.”

8.29.2008

War Hero


Two political posts in a row? Yuck. I’ll keep this one short.

Everyone knows that John McCain was a war hero and a POW in Vietnam. What I wasn’t aware of were some of the impressive circumstances of his time in captivity. From Wikipedia:

“In mid–1968, McCain’s father was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater, and McCain was offered early release. The North Vietnamese made that offer because they wanted to appear merciful for propaganda purposes, and also wanted to show other POWs that elites like McCain were willing to be treated preferentially. McCain turned down the offer of repatriation; he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well.”
If only being a war hero were all it took to make someone a viable presidential candidate, I think we’d have a winner.

8.25.2008

Obama Like Jackie Robinson?


Apparently, making ridiculous statements runs in the Jesse Jackson family.

Today, Jackson’s son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) compared Barack Obama to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson.

I suppose some legitimate comparisons could be made (Robinson being the first black player in the Major Leagues in the 20th century, Obama potentially being the first black U.S. president), but the comparison that Jackson Jr. actually made doesn’t seem to apply:

“Barack Obama has the capacity to hit, but he is in the situation where he can’t hit back, which Jackie Robinson could not do…He had to be able to run the bases, even though the crowd was jeering the first African-American on the field.”
As I wrote some time ago, the description of Robinson is accurate (he agreed not to fight back when verbally attacked for the first three years of his career), but I don’t know why that makes him like Obama—I certainly haven’t noticed Barack refraining from “hitting back” at any point throughout the campaign.

8.21.2008

The Jungle on Jesus

Towards the end of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a Socialist ex-preacher rails on the way a capitalist society has twisted the character of Jesus:

And why should Jesus have nothing to do with his church—why should his words and his life be of no authority among those who profess to adore him? Here is a man who was the world’s first revolutionist, the true founder of the Socialist movement; a man whose whole being was one flame of hatred for wealth, and all that wealth stands for—for the pride of wealth, and the luxury of wealth, and the tyranny of wealth; who was himself a beggar and a tramp, a man of the people, an associate of saloon-keepers and women of the town; who again and again, in the most explicit language, denounced wealth and the holding of wealth: ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth!’—‘Sell that ye have and give alms!’—‘Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven!’—‘Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation!’—‘Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven!’ Who denounced in unmeasured terms the exploiters of his own time: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!’—‘Woe unto you also, you lawyers!’—‘Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ Who drove out the business men and brokers from the temple with a whip! Who was crucified—think of it—for an incendiary and a disturber of the social order! And this man they have made into the high-priest of property and smug respectability, a divine sanction of all the horrors and abominations of modern commercial civilization! Jewelled images are made of him, sensual priests burn incense to him, and modern pirates of industry bring their dollars, wrung from the toil of helpless women and children, and build temples to him, and sit in cushioned seats and listed to his teachings expounded by doctors of dusty divinity…” (emphasis mine)
Capitalism isn’t the great problem of the world as Sinclair might suggest, and socialism isn’t the great solution, but I think he’s hit upon a lot of truth here.

How Christians (myself included) get so mixed up about wealth is beyond me.

8.19.2008

“You Did Well That It Was In Your Heart”


After the death of King Saul, there is a struggle between David and Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, for the throne of Israel. With God’s support, David eventually wins out, things settle down, and everything seems to be okay.

But David isn’t happy. He isn’t happy because he realizes that while he lives in a nice, comfortable house made of cedar, the Ark of God is kept in a tent!

This doesn’t seem right to David, so he determines that he wants to build a temple for the Ark to be housed in. That sounds like a good idea, but God rejects his offer in 1 Chronicles 22.8-10:
“But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me. Behold a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’”
Later, Solomon talks about his father’s desire to build a temple for God in 1 Kings 8.17-19:
“Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will be born to you, he will build the house for My name.’”
Because he had been a man of war, David was told that he would not be the one to build a temple for the Lord—but God still appreciated that David had the desire to do so.

“It’s the thought that counts” is a common saying that we tend to throw around when we receive a gift we don’t like. It’s somewhat of an ironic saying, since often the reason we receive bad gifts is specifically because very little thought was put into it, but I think it’s still a true statement, and it’s basically what God tells David in this story.

While our actions certainly matter, the thoughts behind our actions matter as well. We can’t always control how things turn out, but we can control our intentions.

When we decide to try to do something good, even if it doesn’t work out the way we plan, it’s still important that we try.

If you try to help a friend with a problem, but your assistance is refused

If you try to influence others for good, but your example is ignored

If you share your faith with someone, but it falls on deaf ears…

Whatever the circumstance, it’s still important that you try.

“You did well that it was in your heart…”

8.15.2008

Nadia Comăneci

After my last post, you might think I’m becoming a gymnastics junkie. I’m not, but I thought this deserved a post of its own.

While watching gymnastics in past Olympics, I’ve always heard about the amazing Nadia Comăneci, who won the all-around gold in 1976 while scoring something like seven perfect tens.

In this day of YouTube, I thought I’d be able to find some video of her, and I wasn’t disappointed. Watch this clip of her two perfect ten routines on the uneven bars:



The routines are somewhat different from what you see today, and seem to be quite a bit shorter, but I see why they still talk about her—I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so graceful in my entire life.

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