Monday, November 27, 2006

Tempus Fugit

It's the time of year when everything gets a little more busy. Along with travel, holiday get-togethers, decorating, and shopping, there's more ministry taking place, too.

In other words, I've got quite a lot to do over the next month or so. Expect light and scattered blogging for the time being.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

In 1620, a group of Pilgrims came to America, fleeing religious persecution. The first harsh winter at Plymouth devastated the unprepared Pilgrims, taking the lives of half the colony. But the native Indians helped the Pilgrims, and in the Fall of 1621 they had a large harvest that would sustain them through the winter. So they invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast to give thanks to God, celebrating the harvest and their ability to worship God without fear of persecution.

The Pilgrims repeated this harvest festival in the years that followed. The tradition of an annual thanksgiving spread throughout New England, and later to other colonies. But Thanksgiving didn’t became a nationally recognized holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln gave a national “Thanksgiving Proclamation” emphasizing the importance of recognizing God as the provider of all blessings.

Thanksgiving is recognizing with gratitude who God is and what He has done. It's looking to God as the source of everything in our lives. It is believing He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Even when "bad things" seem to be happening to us, God is still there -- and He loves us. When we understand that, we will give thanks to God from a heart full of gratitude. That’s worth doing anytime.

Here are some suggested prayers for giving thanks to God:

Lord, as I sit down to a full table once again, I give you thanks for all your goodness. Thank you for meeting my needs every day: for food and shelter and clothing, and for the many blessings you provide that I often take for granted.

Thank you for my body and my health. Thank you for family and friends who make my life complete. Thank you that even when we are miles apart, we are bound by the cords of your love. I thank you that I live in a country where I am free to worship you and to read the Bible without fear of persecution.

I thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, who is the “light of the world." He floods the darkness of the world with the light of your love. Thank you that He died for my sins and is alive today with you in Heaven. Thank you that he stands ready to hear my prayers and prepares a home in Heaven for all who trust in Him. Thank you that He came into this world, and comes into my life to be my savior, friend, and lord. Help me to turn to you in faith and follow where you lead.

Thank You for the Bible that is a light to my path, and for friends who encourage and help me. Thank you that I can face tomorrow with hope because of your faithful love.

O, Lord, how truly rich I am! Thank you for all your goodness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(prayers and reflections adapted from Good News tracts)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is this your view of Jesus?

A church, Vintage 21, developed a series of these videos as a study on Jesus. From their website:

We had a four week series on Jesus Christ, taking a deep look at what He said and did. It was difficult at times to get past our preconceived notions that had been developed by staunch, starched Sunday School classes of old. This is a satirical look at what some people think Jesus is like. Thank goodness He's not.
The real Jesus was not a scold, a moralist, a wimp, or a hippie. The real Jesus was approachable and welcoming. He was comfortable with tax collectors, prostitutes, and "sinners." His harshest words were for the self-righteous and the religious leaders who served only themselves.
Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:7-10)
Whatever you may think about Jesus, he was not some cosmic killjoy. He came to offer us the truest, most beautiful, lasting, fulfilling and deeply good life.

That's a Jesus worth knowing.

(h/t to Jonathan B. St. Clair of Christ Church in Berkeley. I highly recommend his creative and thoughtful blog.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Maximum Irrelevance

I was inordinately pleased with myself when I redesigned the links section and titled it "F.O.C. (Friends of Conblogeration)." I've been wondering if anyone has recognized that's it yet another obscure movie reference.

100 bonus points for anyone who can tell me in what movie "F.O.C." plays a key part in the plot. Another 100 points if you can tell me what F.O.C. stands for. On your honor, now -- no Google or IMDB help.

Man, I am so white and nerdy.

UPDATE: I know you won't enjoy Thanksgiving if you don't know the answer to the world's stupidest trivia question, so here goes:

"F.O.C." was from Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. The movie was Steve Martin's creative homage to film noir. It was an experimental film, like his Pennies From Heaven, but parodying the noir genre by incorporating scenes from a number of 30s and 40s noir classics.

Martin plays a private eye hired to investigate an amateur cheesemaker's mysterious disappearance. He discovers a complicated Nazi plot to destroy the world with a cheese so powerful it could disintegrate rocks, trees and buildings. The Nazis had tested the cheese on the small Pacific island of Carlota, but a passing cruise ship saw the island's destruction, so everyone on the ship had to eliminated. Those in on the plot were "Friends of Carlota," as Martin eventually deduced from a scrap of paper with "F.O.C." and a list of names.

Featuring Martin, Carl Reiner, Rachel Ward, and a dozen or more stars in some of their greatest roles, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is truly a hidden gem of creativity and humor. A good review of the movie can be found here.

Aren't you glad you know?

The best response to the OJ book

is written by Amba at Ambivablog.

I second her thoughts and the comments in the thread.

I am white and nerdy

Just because I loves me some Weird Al, here's his latest: "White and Nerdy."

Before you ask: No, I don't know what original song's he's parodying. That's the great part -- you can piece together enough of the original from Al's video that you don't have to have to have heard it.

Three thoughts:

First, I love Donny Osmond dancing in the background. He is the epitome of white and nerdy. You can read Rob Berry's funny Weird Al interview (where he talks about the video and Donny Osmond) at Retro Crush.

Second, it is extremely frightening how much of this I can relate to. Growing up, I wasted a lot of hours playing D&D and watching Monty Python and Star Trek. That I am as normal as I am (debatable, I know) is a testimony to God's grace and the love of a good woman.

Third, Al Yankovic comes across not only as one of the funniest and most talented people in show business today, but also one of the most down-to-earth. His song parodies are hilariously dead on, and his original music is just as good and creative. He seems like a nice guy who doesn't take himself too seriously -- he's written a parody that describes probably 80% of his fan base. He's been doing this for more than 25 years, and he seems to get better all the time. Good for him.

UPDATE: Ruth Anne wants a link to the original song Weird Al parodies here. Google-Wiki knows all! It's a parody of "Ridin' (Dirty)" by Chamillionaire (with Krayzie Bone). Huh. You learn something new every day.

Our long distance dedication goes out to Ruth Anne in North Carolina:

Did you notice in Al's video how the red road flares behind him were a Pac Man design?

UPDATE 2: Speaking of "whiter than sour cream," don't miss Ruth Anne's fabulous video post featuring Donnie and Marie and Sonny and Cher ("Four people in search of a last name"). You could light a medium-sized city with the Osmonds' spangle sweaters and pearly whites.

For ShirleyDee: "Do I Creep You Out?"

It took me three long minutes of investigation, but I discovered that Taylor Hicks apparently has a hit song, "Do I Make You Proud?" I've now deduced that this song is the inspiration of a new Weird Al parody. More on that later.

First, here is Taylor Hicks (he of the loyal and protective Soul Patrol) singing a slightly ... er, modified ... version on American Idol:

Now here's Weird Al's actual parody video:

And the explanation for this can be discerned by reading this post and the comments.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

"Bragging Rights"

From Charlie at Another Think:

It would be remarkable to be a Nobel laureate or a great stage actor or a renowned operatic tenor, but the plain truth of the matter is: I'm just average, one of the billions of ordinary people swelling the great center of the bell-curve.

Well, that's not quite true. I'm a way better singer than Taylor Hicks. Better looking, too. I could be the next American Idol, I'm sure, but I couldn't make myself grovel before Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul creeps me out. Randy Jackson's ok, but why does he call everyone "dawg?" Can't he remember their names for five minutes?

But, I digress.

According to the eye-witness account of John, the disciple, Jesus compared himself to God and the Jewish religious leaders popped a cork. Instead of taking it all back, Jesus threw gasoline on the fire — speaking anachronistically, of course. In the space of a mere 28 verses in chapter 5 of John, Jesus claimed:

* that God was his father;
* that he copied God in all that he did;
* that God had revealed himself to him;
* that his miraculous powers came from God, including the power of life;
* that God had given him the authority to judge sin, and to judge the dead;
* that he would be honored just as God is honored;
* that to dishonor him was to dishonor God;
* that he was perfectly just in all of his judgments;
* that John the Baptist had been testifying about him;
* that the Scriptures foretold his life and ministry.

That's a lot of bragging.

John could be lying, of course, or high on whatever they smoked in the first century. The problem is the other biblical writers credit Jesus with the same sort of statements ...

Is it any wonder the religious leaders thought he was dangerous? In their eyes, Jesus was a liar, a blasphemer, and a false teacher who was leading innocent people astray.

... As we used to say when I was a kid: It ain't bragging if you can do it. Was Jesus bragging? Was Jesus delusional? Was Jesus a liar?

Or was Jesus the Son of the eternal God?

Shortly before he made these claims, he healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. Immediately afterwards, he fed 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 dried fish. Then, for an encore, he walked on water.

Pretty amazing stuff. It ain't bragging if you can do it.
Read, as they say, the whole thing.

And as you do, think on this:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" Jesus asked. "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15).

It is the single most important question you will ever answer.

(hat tip to Mark Daniels at Better Living)

Santa Claus ... Behind the Music

In the van yesterday our toddler, totally out of the blue, started singing this at the top of her lungs:

"Santa Claus is coming to town,
And he's a meanie;
Because he brings mean things,
Like snakes and bad toys and bears ...
Mean bears!"

My wife was laughing so hard she had to pull over.

Where do kids come up with totally random stuff like this?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dems defy Pelosi and pick Hoyer for #2 spot

As expected, Nancy Pelosi's colleagues in the House unanimously chose her as the new Speaker, but by an almost 2-to-1 margin (149-86) they rejected John Murtha as her choice for Majority Leader.

Pelosi's first leadership loss was perceived as a victory for moderates, who picked Steny Hoyer of Maryland over the anti-war, ethically challenged, and seemingly confused Murtha.

Congratulations to Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. She has promised to address the issues of ethics and corruption in Congress and to work in a bipartisan manner.

Here's hoping they both take Pelosi's pledges seriously.

Why conservatives oppose gay marriage

Commenter Al Maviva 'splains it in a long but excellent comment chez Althouse:

Some who are sadly among the legal and academic leaders of the pro gay marriage movement are clear that their motivation is Marcusian in nature – they wish to overturn the existing social institutions and they feel gay marriage is a step in the right direction. Other gays want to join a valuable social institution. Those of us on the fence are simply reluctant to tamper with a good arrangement.

... Social institutions matter. It is consistent with conservative intellectual tradition going back to Burke to point out that social habits and social institutions are a bulwark of society. At a very high level, laws are nice, but a society where people are in the habit of doing the right thing based on their participation in various social institutions is a better place than a society where the government has to constantly police people to get them to do the right thing. Laws against littering are nice, but they won’t cause a tight knit neighborhood to self-organize to pick up downed trees after a storm. Welfare is a nice social safety net, but government coerced charity isn’t as high a good as the local volunteer food bank, which operates without the threat of government coercive power (in taxation) and which is more immediately responsive to local needs. Admittedly, this views society as more of a interconnected web of institutions than as a random collection of completely autonomous, unconnected beings; and if you don’t buy that premise then nothing I say could convince you that social institutions even exist, much less have merit.

Many conservatives or traditionalists view ordinary historical marriage as perhaps the most important social institution, one that exists on a formal (legal) level but also on an informal level. That it is legally recognized is generally thought proper, but conservatives would point out that marriage or something like it has existed at most places in known history whether or not the laws are functioning.

A recent example that makes us believe marriage is more than a legal arrangement, part of the social web, involves divorce and welfare. From my reading – formerly extensive though I haven’t studied the area in four or five years – a lot of kids come through divorce and broken homes just fine, but there is a higher percentage of children of divorce with bad outcomes than children of intact families; and among the children with bad outcomes, the children of divorce on the whole generally have markedly worse outcomes than children from families that don’t divorce but who also manage to have bad outcomes (felonies, drug addiction, welfare dependency, etc). This doesn’t mean that divorce is an unalloyed evil or the kids have to go bad as a result, rather that in making it easy to break up marriages means it is more likely that you will have more kids with really bad outcomes. Similarly, the problem with welfare as it was then working was pointed out by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the late 60’s. He led a study group at the LBJ-era Department of Labor looking at the Great Society programs and determined that treating out-of-wedlock births as a value-neutral activity, permitting it without attaching any entitlements penalty and in fact incentivizing it by providing higher payments to one-parent homes, would destabilize the family and especially wreak havoc on the Black family which was already under assault by centuries of slavery and decades of segregation. At the time he was run out of town for being such a racist fool; by the mid-90’s, he was hailed as a prophet for having the courage and foresight to speak the truth. The laws concerning marriage or who could receive welfare didn't change much in the 1960's, but the habits of people who would otherwise have been married changed due to relatively minor legal shifts, with disastrous results that we are still paying for today.

My point isn’t anti-gay marriage per se. My point is that we didn’t arrive at these traditions in an arbitrary manner, society arrived at them after a lot of trial and error, sorting out the bad ideas and holding onto what works. The end result of destabilizing marriage in the other contexts wasn’t just damage to people directly involved; ‘bad outcome’ means that your vandalized store front, your burgled house or your assaulted child was victimized by one of the unintended consequences of our social experimentation. I'm hesitant to sign onto another re-engineering of the marital relationship, given how bad our last couple great ideas have turned out.

... “Who could it possibly harm?” isn’t proof that nobody will be harmed, it’s a speculation that nobody will be harmed. If marriage is an integral part of the foundation of society, you need to ask: would you put some new building material in your home’s foundation without it being tested?... it's disingenuous to pretend you know that nobody will get hurt as a result. Yeah, society will recover no matter what we do. It always does eventually, it’s just a matter of time and how many damaged people you screw up before you realize the error. See the original incarnation of welfare and housing projects, and the eugenics movement if you have trouble understanding why I worry. A lot of ideas thought to be really progressive and smart at the time had disastrous results, some that we're even sort of ashamed of now.

Amen, brother. Amen.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Making fun of Christianity so you don't have to

There are so many good reasons to criticize TBN -- tacky settings and cheesy music, the constant and shameless shilling for money, the easy acceptance of heresy, the deception of calling youself Trinity Broadcasting Network when you promote "teachers" who deny the Trinity. We could go on and on.

Then there's this TBN puppet show.

Reggie is having an unsupervised birthday party with friends. Big John convinces Reggie to break into Dad's liquor cabinet so they can have some real fun.

As Tim at Third Chair Trombone explains:

Reggie's father comes home, finds him drunk and exclaims, "You got into my liquor cabinet?! You know that's only for cooking. We don't drink that!" Yes, it's like that.

The real reason to watch this piece, originally recorded off TBN some time in 2004, is that the actors voicing the puppets don't seem to be working from any real script. It's as if they're just...improvising their way towards some sort of inevitable conclusion. The finest example of this comes toward the end, when the father puppet lights up the screen with a tour de force performance.

Roll film.

This had to have been totally ad-libbed. Nobody could actually sit down and write this stuff.
"Big John needs some hard stuff. These drinks are like, soft."

"We'll get smashed and we'll go out in the yard and, like, roll around in the grass and just be wasted."

"We'll get all boozed up and then we'll ... like, just have a great time. Our brains will be on the whack!"

"What's going on here? I leave for ... thirty minutes, and the place goes a wreck!"

Slow to start, the action picks up when Dad gets home to deliver an odd and repetitive lecture. The closing scene with Reggie kneeling before the porcelain throne caps it off perfectly.

Remember kids -- Don't get drunk. Booze will put your brains on the whack.

It's a shame the message gets lost in horrible dialogue, poor puppetry, and crummy production. It hardly commends Jesus or Christianity to people.

I know -- I'm not setting any records for high-value production myself, but then again, I don't have a staff and a multi-million-dollar budget. And XWL describes me as, "Proving that God-fearing need not equal sanctimonious." So I've got that going for me.

Seriously -- It's not cool to get smashed and roll around in the grass. On that, Paul Crouch and I agree.

(h/t to Third Chair Trombone via Unforced Rhythms of Grace)

Throw the bums out!

We want new bums!

It's widely accepted that one of the leading factors in the Republican losses was disgust over a "culture of corruption." Democrats were eager to talk about Mark Foley and Jack Abramoff (but less interested in talking about William Jefferson). Presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised that the new Democratic leadership will be the most "ethical" ever.


The new Congress doesn't convene for a couple of months and there's already trouble in River City. That's trouble with a T, and that rhymes with C, which stands for corruption.

Pelosi supports John Murtha for House Majority Leader. Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, along with appearances with Code Pink and other extreme anti-war groups, lead us to question his fitness to lead. He's also 80 years old, and has appeared confused when speaking in public. But there's also the little issue of Abscam. In the Congressional bribery investigation, Murtha turned down money -- but was willing to keep the door open for future deals. Even the Washington Post thinks he's unfit to lead.

Then there's Alcee Hastings. We may not be best served by giving control of the House Intelligence Committee to

a former federal judge who was impeached by the Democratically controlled House in 1989 and convicted by the Democratically controlled Senate for "conspiring to extort a $150,000 bribe in a case before him, repeatedly lying about it under oath and manufacturing evidence at trial."
So far, it's business as usual. These aren't even new bums, but the same old, tired bums that drove voters to give control of Congress to the Republicans 12 years ago.

Special mention goes to Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Huckabee is leaving the Governor's mansion in Little Rock for a 7,000 square foot home. To help with the move, friends created "wedding registries" so they could legally stock the house with "wedding gifts" (which are conveniently exempted from donation rules). That kind of corruption takes not only chutzpah but planning. Anyone can grab a suitcase full of money; it's the little touches like this that show you really care about doing a good job.

Keep it up, Mike. There's a future for you in Washington yet.

(h/t: James Taranto at Best of the Web Today)

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus reports that John Murtha, in a cagey play for House Majority Leader, told a group of moderate Democrats that Nancy Pelosi's ethics bill was "total crap."

As Pelosi has been making ethics reform the centerpiece of her legislative agenda, that would normally be a drawback. But, Murtha added, "I'll vote for it and pass it because that's what Nancy wants." What a trooper!

Chris Matthews have Murtha the opportunity to "clarify" his statement. He tried his best to spin and reframe, but nobody was buying it. This telling remark did come out on Hardball, though:
I agree that we have to return a perception of honesty to the Congress.
Give 'em hell, John! Don't rest until Congress has the perception of honesty!

Deck chairs, Titanic, etc., etc.

(hat tip to Callimachus at Done With Mirrors)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Working for yourself

Sippican explains the joys and sorrows:

I've worked in about every kind of work setting. Mill building. Clean room. School. Office. Concrete block building. Ditch. Shed. Barroom. Boat. Hospital. Home. Above ground. Below. Hot. Cold. Dry. Damp. Boring. Terrifying.

The vagary that makes any setting go is the other people. And now there aren't any.

I've been responsible for hundreds of employees at one time, and just a few at others. Hundreds of employees is much easier. When you only have two, and one is named "Rob," and you find out that "rob" is a verb, not a noun, you've got a fifty percent failure rate. I had a guy sleeping at his workstation working for me once. He was just one in a hundred. No big deal.

But to work alone is to be you own annoyance. You're the laziest, stupidest person present. There is always a person to encourage sloth -- you; but there is never anyone to shame you into holding up your end. You've got both ends. And the end in the middle.

Yes, that's one thing I've discovered, as well. My experiences aren't as varied and have tended more to service and corporate settings, but I've done a few different things and managed numbers of people.

Most recently I was one of several pastors in a mega-church; now I'm the only full-time pastor in a smallish congregation. It's a different kettle of fish, that's for sure. I work for no one, yet I work for everyone. My time is my own, but it's not. And apart from the secretary, there's just me to hold my feet to the fire (and the fact that Sunday's coming).

I've discovered I work better with others around -- I need colleagues, peers, bosses -- a team. But this is where I am, so I trust God will help me do the work he's given me. And I can affirm that I am the laziest, stupidest pastor here. But I'm also the smartest and hardest working.

Greg is a fascinating guy and a gifted writer (Sippican Cottage Furniture is where you can buy his work). You owe it to yourself to read his work.

Separated at birth...

John Murtha and Pat Robertson?!?

Murtha's photo was a thumbnail grabbed from this MSN page yeterday. When I glanced at it, my first thought was, "What does Pat Robertson have to do with the House leadership fight?"

Tom Swift 2: OMG! OMG!!!

As Lileks writes,

This is the first illustration that shows Tom losing it. Bud, yes. Borderline hysterical, that one. There was probably one guy whose job consisted of hosing out Bud's space suits. But Tom usually kept his kit well packed; not here.

This artist specialized in major Swiftoid freakouts, as you'll see.
Lay on, MacDuff.

Bud is indeed freaking out. But let's not be too hard on the boy, shall we? If I were standing in a glass nipple with an angry, bug-eyed octopus inches away, I'd be a little perturbed myself. Not Tom. To his credit, he coolly goes about the business of yanking levers and turning wheels to save Bud's bacon yet again.

Now here's something disturbing:

Man, those are some huge vacuum tube eyes. Bud is losing it as usual, but I think his discomfort is understandable. First of all, it's Tom's robot. He's controlling it. Second, it looks like a "female" robot. Check out that mini-skirt. Third, it also looks rather friendly, if you know what I mean -- and more than a little excited. Bud's crunched the numbers and he doesn't like the way this is trending. Maybe he's got bad memories. "Tom, turn it off. Okay, this isn't funny anymore! TOM!!" Meanwhile, Tom's got a little smile playing on his face. Wait 'til he sees what happens when I throw this switch. Heh.

Well, this has wiped the smile off Tom's face:

I don't know what an "atomic earth blaster" does, and I get the feeling Tom doesn't either. I am pretty sure it's not something you want to shoot at an oil derrick, though. Atomic earth blaster + extremely flammable fossil fuels = horribly painful death. And their plane is on the other side of what appears to be a lake of lava. Man, did these guys know how to draw covers that would make boys want to read, or what?

Just remember -- no matter how bad your day is going, it's not this bad.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Cool Weirdness of Tom Swift

In a blatant rip-off of Lileks, I'd like to share a few classic Tom Swift covers of my own.

I didn't grow up reading Tom Swift. The first time I ever heard of him was a throw-away barb Hawkeye aimed at Frank ("Tom Swift and his electric paranoid"). But a family friend had a collection gathering dust and thought our boys would enjoy reading them. They did. What boy wouldn't?

This wasn't the only time they used the Humpty Dumpty suits. They've guided their satellite-dish-covered vessel (?) to the ocean floor, where they're investigating what looks to be an underwater aquarium. Let that one sink in for a moment. (Hah! "Sink in" -- they're on the ocean floor, get it?)

You want weird ships? I'll give you weird ships.

What the ...? A silver hookworm? With flyswatter fins and a ball tail? Oh, sure, the front window offers a great view -- of your impending death. I just don't get the thinking behind this: "Those other ships? Mere space shuttles. I want something as non-aerodynamic as possible. If we run into anything, I want to die quickly -- preferably impaled by shards of glass." And think about the floor angles on that sucker. If the guy on top is vertical, the lower guy has his face in the glass. If the lower guy is upright, the top seat is leaning back like a dentist's chair.

Then there's this:

You know, the one time it might actually be useful to have a window on the bottom of the ship is when you're descending a vertical shaft. Of course, I've never gone through "nuclear fire" before, but I'd think that a vessel with 1/4 of its surface area in glass might not be such a good idea. And since when has Tom had trouble building self-propelled ships? I'm not going down in that thing until you convince me that the freakin' support cables are nuclear-fire-proof.

Tomorrow: Tom and Bud freak out -- again!!

How to reduce late-term abortions

Neo-natal infanticide!

No, seriously. The RCOG in the UK wants to open a "discussion" about euthanizing the "sickest" newborns as a way of reducing abortion:

The college ethics committee tells the inquiry it feels euthanasia "has to be covered and debated for completion and consistency's sake ... if life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome."
I'm all for reducing abortion, but allaying parents' fears over children's deformities with the option of murder seems a little extreme. "Why not carry to term? You can always get rid of it later if things don't work out."

The college says the Nuffield's working group should "think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are means of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns".
Newspeak just continues to gain ground, doesn't it? "Management options" for sick newborns have not historically included death, but limited resources, quality of life, etc., etc. Hippocrates has definitely been taking it on the chin pretty hard for the last few decades.

Just so we're clear, the "sickest" category that the RCOG is concerned about includes babies with club feet. They helped abort more than 20 of those worthless cripples, after all -- not a huge number, but considering it's a deformity easily treated with corrective surgery, death seems like a rather extreme "treatment option."

You know, sometimes "slippery slope" isn't really a fallacy at all.

Leon Wolf has the full story at Red State. A tip of the hat goes to Simon at Stubborn Facts.

More Sack

Steve Sack is the editorial cartoonist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His work was featured here last week. I like his latest, too:

You may disagree with some of his work (as I do), but he's a good cartoonist. You can see his work online.

It's only a clump of cells...

... no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.

It's a good thing we have to destroy them within 14 days here in Missouri. We can't have that happening.

I know -- it doesn't really work that way. You need an actual womb to produce a newborn (though that's being worked on). The point is that proponents of ESCR want to deny the humanity of the embryos they will manufacture.

But the whole reason people want to create embryos for research is precisely because they're human embryos. We kind of need human stem cells to cure human diseases, after all. Mouse cells don't work too well.

And then there are the researchers in England who want to create human/animal hybrid embryos because -- surprise! -- it will take too many human eggs to create stem cell lines (that sounds familiar somehow). What could possibly go wrong?

(h/t to Joel at On the Other Foot)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Now that the election's over...

... we can release another important study which shows that adult stem cells work and embryonic stem cells are a dead end. Sigh.

What? You think this happened on purpose? Shame on you! Scientists would never hold the release of results to influence public opinion! And the media would never dream of playing along or shaping news to fit their preconceived template (adult stem cells = boring; embryonic stem cells = magical medical mojo!).


Researchers have seen impressive results in restoring vision to mice using differentiated (non-embryonic) stem cells. The news was reported in two different places. News Busters has the story.

From BBC News Health:

UK scientists treated animals which had eye damage similar to that seen in many human eye diseases. They were able to help them see again by transplanting immature retinal stem cells into their eyes. UK experts welcomed the study, published in the magazine Nature, saying it was "stunning" research.

... previous attempts to transplant stem cells, which can turn into any kind of cell in the body, in the hope that they will become photoreceptors have failed because the cells were not developed enough.
Don't miss that last part. It's kind of important. Researchers are saying that undifferentiated cells (embryonic stem cells) didn't work.

To get human retinal cells at the same stage of development, however, would involve taking stem cells from a foetus during the second trimester of pregnancy. But Dr Robert MacLaren, a specialist at Moorfields Eye Hospital who worked on the research, said they did not want to go down that route.
Well, thank the Lord for small favors. I'm glad the researchers realized that "Kill a fetus for the blind" is going to be a hard sell. Although ESCR is still a go! It's only a clump of cells smaller than a period, so what's the big deal?

He said the aim now would be to look at adult stem cells to see if they could be genetically altered to behave like the mouse retinal cells. There are some cells on the margin of adult retinas that have been identified as having stem cell-like properties, which the team says could be suitable.
Well, what do you know? Stem cell researchers again say that they think they can get adult (differentiated) cells to do what they hoped to get embryonic cells to do all along.

There's a little more detail in Nature:

... researchers ... extracted cells from the retinas of mice at various times when photoreceptors are normally being generated, as embryos and after they are born. They then injected these cells into adult mouse retinas and counted how many new photoreceptors were generated.

Cells produced in the few days after birth generated the most new photoreceptors after transplantation and connected to the retina correctly, they found.

... The finding challenges conventional biological thinking, because it shows that cells that have stopped dividing are better for transplantation than the stem cells that normally make new cells. (emphasis mine)
Don't miss that last line.

The only things these findings challenge are 1) the way stem cell research has been portrayed in the media, and 2) the "conventional" thinking of some who are so dead-set on ESCR that they can't be bothered to listen to what adult stem cell researchers have been saying.

The article ends with a telling quote from a researcher:
Researchers will now want to test whether newborn cells, rather than stem cells, are successful in other transplants, Reh says: "We've been doing it all wrong". Grafting new spinal neurons, for example, might help treat spinal-cord injuries.
Don't miss what Reh is saying. Over the moral objections of many people, scientists have wasted time and money on research which we already had good reason to believe wouldn't work. So now we're finally going to test whether we can transplant the kinds of cells which have already provided treatments and cures. Can you explain why you've doggedly pursued the research less likely to provide cures? And we heard that President Bush was keeping people trapped in wheelchairs because he wouldn't expend embryonic stem cell research. So I guess that wasn't true, either.

A second study will look at the use of the patient's bone marrow stem cells to treat heart attacks.
Early evidence has suggested bone marrow stem cells can be used to repair the damage to the heart muscle that is inflicted during a heart attack. And that could help prevent subsequent heart failure, which is more of a threat than the initial attack itself.
Terry Tripanny at NewsBusters writes, "The reporter wraps it up with the following golden quote that would have been pretty hard to find a month ago without an equivocating rebuttal."

"Because the stem cells are taken from the patient themselves there are minimal ethical issues surrounding this procedure. There is also less likelihood of rejection complications."

Yes. A month ago that kind of statement might have influenced voters already confused about deceptive advertisements and inflated claims for ESCR.

The article concludes with an important quote from Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation:

"This trial is unlikely, on its own, to determine the future treatment of heart attacks -- and patients shouldn't get the impression there is a panacea around the corner. The trial is likely to give us more information -- but there is a long way to go."
It's probably too early to say, "We told you so" but, well, this is exactly what opponents of ESCR were trying to tell people in the run up to the recent ballot initiatives. There are no miracle cures around the corner. So Jim Talent wasn't opposing the research that gives us a "chance for hope" after all.

I'm really not feeling vindictive. Mainly I'm angry and depressed that we're now stuck in Missouri with a constitutional amendment which gives preference to expensive, destructive and less-effective research. When people eventually realize they've been sold a very costly and crippled pig a poke, there will have to be justifications for the waste and deception: "Well, we at least had to try."

No, we didn't. People have been looking at similar results for years and saying that ESCR is a gigantic, ethically challenged, and hopeless boondoggle. Proponents ignored results that didn't point towards ESCR as a magic bullet, and the press was willing to play along. We've ramped up people's hopes and aroused sympathy to support research that destroys human life and doesn't even work.

Here's some news about adult stem cells that got lost in all the misleading ads and emotional manipulation: Researchers are finding they are more pluripotent that we initially thought, and they are finding more and more sources of them in our bodies (including fat cells). This latest research simply fits that existing pattern. What a surprise!

Wouldn't it have been nice for voters to have had this information a month or so ago?

(h/t: Anchoress)

@^&% Hippies!

From Reuters via Yahoo News:

Student leaders at a California college have touched off a furor by banning the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings, saying they see no reason to publicly swear loyalty to God and the U.S. government.
Well, I don't think anyone should have to swear loyalty to God ... although I'm not sure that a loyalty oath to God is actually, you know, in the Pledge. But I do think it's entirely reasonable to expect citizens to pledge their loyalty to the Republic which defends their freedoms.
The move by Orange Coast College student trustees, the latest clash over patriotism and religion in American schools, has infuriated some of their classmates -- prompting one young woman to loudly recite the pledge in front of the board on Wednesday night in defiance of the rule.
Good for her. Let's see how long it takes for her to be ejected, fined, or shut down by the campus PC police.
The move was led by three recently elected student trustees, who ran for office wearing revolutionary-style berets ...
Oh. My. Lord. I did not just read that.
"That ('under God') part is sort of offensive to me," student trustee Jason Ball, who proposed the ban, told Reuters. "I am an atheist and a socialist, and if you know your history, you know that 'under God' was inserted during the McCarthy era and was directly designed to destroy my ideology."
Why anyone would be opposed to ruthless, expansionist, murderous, atheistic Communism is beyond me. In any case, nobody is asking you to pledge allegiance to Joe McCarthy.
Ball said the ban largely came about because the trustees didn't want to publicly vow loyalty to the American government before their meetings. "Loyalty ought to be something the government earns through performance, not through reciting a pledge," he said.
How was your mom's 3Q performance? Did she earn a birthday card this year?

Look, I'm all for free speech. I just cannot stand hate speech that free rides on other people's money and sacrifice while spitting on them. You don't want to pledge loyalty to the US? Fine. Petition your school to give back all its federal funding. Or start your own private America-hating school, but do it on private property and with your own money.

Did I mention how much I despise the infantile, narcissistic hippie mindset?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day ... Remember

At eleven hours on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns finally fell silent in Europe. After four years of battle and 20 million casualties, the Great War was over.

Celebrated on November 11, Armistice Day originally commemorated the end of World War I and especially those who fought in that war. In the US, Veterans Day now honors all those who have served in the country's Armed Forces.

Regardless of what you think about our current Administration, the war in Iraq, or even war in general, we owe a debt of thanks and remembrance to those who secure our freedoms.

Our neighbors to the north today join in Remembrance Day observances. At 11:00 many will pause for two minutes of silence in honor of those who fought two world wars. Can you spare a pittance of time to remember those who went over?

I'm not ashamed to say it brings tears of greatitude to my eyes. It should. Remembrance is a debt the living pay to the dead. We owe them that much and more.

If you love your freedom, thank a vet today.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The mid-term results

Love the look on the elephant's face.

What was that about 1000 words?

(h/t: Neatorama)

Sexual identity politics

Ann Althouse posts on Bill Maher's despicable "outing" of Ken Mehlman, the RNC head. In apparently unrelated news, the numerous GOP Congressional defeats will apparently be the cause of Mehlman's expected resignation. Mark Foley was cynically used to fire up disgust over Republican leadership. And the revelations of Ted Haggard's immorality became an opportunity to beat up and lecture social conservatives for their hypocrisy.

The thing that stands out to me in all this is a regrettable and reductionist sexual identity politics.

People are quick to identify Haggard, for example, as "gay" because he engaged in behavior somewhere between "receiving massages" and an ongoing sexual relationship with a male prostitute. Even if Michael Jones is telling the truth and they had sex monthly for three years, that doesn't make Haggard "gay" in the sense most people throw around the term.

I seem to recall that research into sexual behavior has demonstrated that we express our sexuality in many different ways and over a continuum from purely heterosexual to purely homosexual. I'm not interested in a discussion on nature versus nurture or whether people are born "gay." I am interested in discussing why so many people want to assign a label to Haggard, Mehlman, Foley, and others.

Haggard, for example, is married and has five children. He and his wife presented a picture of marital bliss to their congregation. "Gay" is generally is taken to mean a man has an inborn desire for sex with males and not with females. Was Haggard simply acting? Can a man fool his wife so completely for so many years? Or is there something more complicated at work?

Haggard had some kind of sexual encounters with a gay man. Why can't he be a heterosexual who struggles with desire towards other men? That sounds like the way he's choosing to define himself. Why can't the pressure and expectations of moral leadership have caused a latent curiosity to surface and ultimately dominate him? Why can't he be bisexual?

It's hard to believe that everyone's rush to label Haggard and others as gay comes from a genuine concern for their emotional and relational health. I think homosexuals are quick to attach a "gay" label because it validates homosexuality and plays into the narrative that the worst thing to do is hide or deny your desires. Along with a delight in exposing perceived hypocrisy, that belief fuels the Left's endless fascination with (conservative) people's private lives.

Gays are quick to assert that it's wrong to fight homosexual desire. While not agreeing, I can see the point -- if one is truly and exclusively gay. Jim McGreevy says "his truth" is that he is a gay American. But that's for him to say, not Andrew Sullivan.

Ted Haggard struggled to master sexual desires that he didn't want to define or control him. Having dealt with those desires in unhealthy ways he now has accomplished exactly what he didn't want -- he's "gay."

I think the respectful thing to do is let Ted Haggard and others decide for themselves how they want to be defined, how they choose to live their lives, and who they think deserves to know. The simplistic answers of many commenters (Just admit you're gay!) do a disservice to all of us as complex, moral beings.

Applying labels dehumanizes and disrespects people. Using wounded people as pawns in sexual identity politics is wrong.

UPDATE: Marc Porlier at Good Will Hinton gives an excellent response to a Dan Savage op-ed and draws a contrast between two different ideas about identity:

Savage's view of identity gives us authentic selves. What could possibly mediate the belligerence between two or more authentic selves? In this view, there is no higher principle than authenticity, so if one authentic self is despicable to another authentic self, they have no means outside of self that can settle the matter. The only way to secure peace is through the collective, coercive might of like-minded selves. This ugly fact is easily despised when the like-mindedness is racial, but not so much when it is ideological. If identity is existential authenticity, there will never be an end to fighting and war.

On the other hand, Haggard's view of identity is in a higher person. He belongs to a community of people that collectively, in their mundane individuality, have all the traits of the authentic selves that exist outside of the community. It is on this basis, that there is (or should be) empathy. Christian identity does not allow for individual superiority. What we are, in and of ourselves, is absolutely no better than anyone else. We don't delight in the disgrace of others, but hope that others will find delight in grace.

Christians call this the Gospel, the "Good News"; the mainstream media won't regard it is as news at all.

Non-mongol Pan-germanism

The latest email masterpiece, this time from "Dollie." The company whose email address they highjacked is an Oracle consultant, and their flagship product is seed-management software.

"Is your master much at Pemberley in the course of the year?"

Elizabeth quietly answered "Undoubtedly;" and after an awkward pause, they returned to the rest...

Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea of uneasiness; "my style of writing is very different from yours."

As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was ordered; and after some endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be elizabeth, as she affectionately embraced her, whilst tears filled the eyes of both ...

Really, it was the title that caught my eye: Non-mongol Pan-germanism. I thought the Kaiser's expansionist policies had been consumed in the flames of the Great War. Dare I hope that Dollie has sounded the clarion call to awaken the fierce tribes of the North? Will my cousins again rise with "blut und eisen" to shake the world?

Let's hope not. More likely, they'll stay home in their modernist buildings, smoking and writing bad plays with government funding, while email spambots flood my inbox with lines taken from boring victorian novels.

All in all, things are better that way. But don't be surprised to see a pickelhaube at the next Berlin fashion show.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More reasons to like Scott Adams

If you aren't aware, he's the creator of the Dilbert cartoon.

He also has a rather interesting and thought-provoking blog. If you've read any Dilbert cartoons, you probably know what to expect. I laughed at this little Election Day bit:

I’m happy that lots of people vote. The system would break down otherwise, and short of me being the dictator, I can’t think of a better system than imaginary democracy masking the naked ambitions of greedy capitalists. It sounds bad when you say it, but frankly I don’t have a better idea. I’m just happy I have a chance to be one of those greedy capitalists myself.

Now go vote me some tax breaks.
When you put it that way, I guess I'm glad we all have the freedom to be greedy capitalists.

I certainly don't agree with Scott Adams on any number of things, but he is funny.

Check out

UPDATE: Thanks to Mark Daniels for his kind words and link. He points out Scott's latest, wherein the author, deprived of bagel and green tea, says what we'd probably all like to have said to a crazy, angry lady. I also enjoyed this installment featuring Scott's anxiety over tipping. I can relate.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One last post-election thought

Random post-election image that sprung to mind this afternoon:

The country, hung-over from years of Republican excess, has decided to treat the shakes and nausea with a little "hair of the dog."

Let's hope the cure isn't worse than the disease -- or just more of the same.

Buttons we'd like to see

Amba points out one of those make your own stuff websites with a fun twist -- make your own campaign buttons!

Amba asked for links to people's creations, but neither Blogger nor TypeKey allow images to be posted in comments. I had fun creating a few, and since I don't have any other place to post them here they are:

The one most politicians really wear:
Did I miss anything?

Too many people trying to claim this one would make it confusing:
'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God that which is God's'

Personally, I like the classic version (am I going to get flamed for this?).
Just remember to pronounce it 'Adonai'

The one most voters wear:
Is there any question?

One for the kids:

The one I'd like to have:

Feel free to create some, post on your own blog, and link here in the comments. I'll be glad to add updates.

Election aftermath

Mirroring national trends, Claire McCaskill and the Missouri stem cell amendment both won last last, by roughly the same thin advantage. Democrats regained the House and may have taken the Senate in an election largely seen as a referendum on President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Republicans had swept to power in 1994 over disgust with politics-as-usual, concerns about a President who campaigned as a moderate but came out of the gate as a liberal, and Republican's common-sense "Contract with America." It's hard not to see the Republican losses as a repudiation of their arrogance, corruption, mismanagement, tone-deafness to common people's concerns, and abandonment of traditional Republican values.

Nancy Pelosi has promised open, ethical, and fair leadership. It will be very interesting to see what the Democrats do with the reins of power, especially if they win the Senate. Bush will have to go back to the more bipartisan and cooperative style of governing he used in Texas. Don't be surprised to see Rumsfeld resign and Bush make some changes in Iraq policy to preempt the new Congress.

It was a mixed bag for conservative social causes. Seven states (including Wisconsin) passed defense-of-marriage amendments, but Arizona became the first state to defeat an anti-gay-marriage effort. By a 56-44 margin, South Dakota defeated a law that would have banned virtually all abortions. Oregon voted down parental notification and a 48-hour waiting period for abortion. Michigan, long the focus of judicial battles over affirmative action, passed an amendment banning the state from discrimination or preferences based on "race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin."

My biggest heartburn and grief, however, are over the passage of Amendment 2 here in Missouri. We have now enshrined in our state constitution a form of medical research which:
• creates and destroys human life;
• exploits and harms women;
• opens the state treasury with no legislative oversight; and
• takes away focus on stem cell research which is working

This is the one that realy hurts. And I don't think we'll see the real costs for years to come.

Meanwhile, stem cell researchers at Newcastle University in England are asking permission to create a human/animal hybrid embryos. A separate team at King's College plans to mix human cells with eggs from other mammals. What slippery slope? Science marches on!

UPDATE: Rumsfeld has resigned. That was fast.

UPDATE 2: In Montana, Jon Tester, the Democratic challenger, is declared the winner. The Senate now hinges on Virginia.

UPDATE 3: MSNBC is projecting that Democrats have almost exactly reversed the current 32-seat Republican majority and will lead the House 234-201. CNN says 11 races are still too close to call, but gives the Democrats 228 confirmed victories. That's already more than I had expected.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election night blogging

11:54 PM (CST)

Well, there's already plenty to talk about. Dems retake the House, although the margin remains to be seen.

Leading a pack of Democratic gubernatorial victories, Blagojevich was easily reelected in neighboring Illinois.

The Senate is still in play. I was disappointed to see Steele lose in Maryland. He ran a good and creative campaign. Democrats have picked up Senate seats in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and protected New Jersey in a close race. Virginia is still in play, and it looks like Corker has pulled out a close one in Tennessee, but the big news is Missouri.

The Talent/McCaskill race will go down to the wire, as will the stem cell amendment.

It's going to be a long night.

UPDATE -- 1:04 AM
Talent is down 870K to 909K with about 400 (about 10%) mostly urban, McCaskill-favoring precincts to go.

The Stem Cell amendment, which was being voted down all night, is now on top -- 896K to 882K, with about 500 precincts yet to report.


I can't say it any more plainly than that.

Whatever the outcome of the elections today, we are privileged to live in a land of personal and political freedom. Don't take it for granted.

She's a grand old flag


UPDATE: As Ruth Anne suggests in the comments, it's perhaps better not to vote than to vote ignorantly. Well, better late than never -- from the AP (published in the Jefferson City News Tribune, via Indiana Law Blog):

Judges on the state Supreme Court, the three-district Court of Appeals and five circuit courts in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas are appointed by the governor and stand for retention periodically.

Unlike elected judges, who are free to tout their qualifications directly to voters, those who face retention are barred from campaigning, making them question marks to most voters.

The Missouri Bar has worked for years to fill in the blanks about individual judges by surveying lawyers who have appeared in their courtrooms. Most judges receive overwhelming recommendations to keep their black robes.

But not all do. In fact, a few associate justices in our district are apparently doing a poor job.

If you live in Missouri, haven't yet voted, and would like to cast an informed vote for these justices, be sure to check out the Missouri Bar's evaluations.

Monday, November 06, 2006

No racism here

James Taranto draws the comparison in Best of the Web:

"Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois today urged hundreds of blacks not to vote along racial lines next week in Maryland's Senate race. Obama, the only black U.S. senator, came to the state to rally support for Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is white. Cardin's Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, is the first black candidate ever elected statewide and has been courting black Democrats."--Associated Press, Nov. 3

"The nation's only black senator, Barack Obama, D-Ill., asked voters at two black churches and at a Nashville rally to elect [Harold] Ford, a Democrat who is trying to become the first black senator from the South in more than 100 years. 'I know that all of you are going to work the next couple of days to make sure it happens, because I'm feeling lonely in Washington,' Obama said at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church. 'I need my dear friend to join me.' "--Associated Press, Nov. 5

Sigh. Doesn't this get old? Wednesday can't get here fast enough.

Just to review: Black Republican? "Don't vote based on race." Black Democrat? "I'm lonely! Send more blacks!"

For extra credit: Any guesses on the level of outrage if John McCain campaigned for Corker by saying he's lonely and we need more whites in Congress?

UPDATE: In the comments, Joel links to a Washington Times article about a local pastor stumping for Cardin in church.

At 9:30, Mr. Cardin, who is Jewish, sat in the front pew and listened to the Rev. Delman L. Coates preach an openly partisan speech to his congregation of about 1,500 at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, in Clinton.

Mr. Coates preached that voting for Mr. Steele would be like voting to free the thief Barabbas instead of Jesus...

Mr. Coates implied that black people who vote for Mr. Steele would be deceived just like the crowd that shouted to crucify Jesus. He said people who supported Barabbas could be called "Barablicans," and people who were for Jesus could be called "Jesuscrats."

"Can't you just see the commercials that were designed to endear Barabbas to the crowd?" he said. "I canjust see [Barablicans] well dressed, well groomed [and] holding a puppy."

The reference to one of Mr. Steele's TV ads, which have featured Mr. Steele holding a puppy, drew laughter from the congregation and prompted several worshipers to stand and applaud.

Yeesh. If you're going to use the pulpit to shill illegally, at least try to be creative, okay? "Jesuscrats"? Come on, I know you can do better than that.

UPDATE 2: If you're going to lampoon political parties, at least make it interesting. Here's an excellent example:

CHOCOLATE CITY—After months of ceaseless debate, including last week's record 76-hour filibuster slap-bass solo from Senate Rubber Band Minority Leader Bootsy Collins (D-OH), the National Funk Congress is no closer to resolving its deadlock over the controversial "get up/get down" issue, insiders reported Monday.

"Get up-uh, get on up! Get up-uh, get on up!" shouted Getuplican Party supporters on the steps of the Capitol as the debate, as well as a massive 14-piece instrumental jam, raged within. The pro-up-getting demonstrators' chants were nearly drowned out by those of a nearby group of jungle-boogie Downocrats, who called upon all citizens to "Get down, get down!"

... For all the confusion and divisiveness, there are signs of hope. A bipartisan coalition of funky drummers is gaining strength, urging Downocrats and Getuplicans to find common ground by "getting together, on the one." Also on the rise is a small grass-roots campaign calling upon party people not to get up or down, but simply to get it on.

Whether any of these fledgling reform movements will have a genuine impact on the entrenched groove machine is uncertain. One thing, however, is not: A growing number of citizens are fed up with the nation's current leadership for putting party politics before the need of the people to turn this mother out.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

A Christian Voter's Guide?

RedBlue Christian links to and summarizes Jim Wallis' attempt at a broad-based voter's guide.

With a typical mixture of hyperbole and insight, Wallis writes:

For years, we have watched the proliferation of voter’s guides from the Religious Right that did all but actually endorse only right-wing Republican candidates. Before the 2004 election, their narrow list of “non-negotiables” included abortion, stem-cell harvesting, homosexual marriage, human cloning, and euthanasia. All the wider issues that the scriptures speak to were simply ignored. Never have we seen such a partisan use, abuse, and manipulation of religion.

Wallis' initial criticism has some merit. I think one can argue that issues surrounding the sanctity of human life deserve priority, but I agree they are hardly all that God cares about. Wallis exaggerates, though, when he says that wider issues have simply been ignored. I have in my hands a Republican voter guide which talks about minimum wage, health care, disease research, minority small business help, and food stamps. And of course the last line is simply ridiculous hyberole (see update below).

But Wallis does a fairly good job of addresing more of the issues that that are prominent in the Bible. From Terry Hull's summary:

• Compassion and Economic Justice: Does the candidate support measures that provide for family economic success and security … that promote fair and decent wages, that show a serious commitment to lifting children out of poverty, and support policies on aid, debt, and trade that would bring extreme global poverty to an end?

• Peace and Restraint of Violence: Is the candidate committed to a serious plan for ending the war in Iraq … to remove American forces while seeking both security and peace for Iraq, to the elimination of nuclear weapons, to supporting security and freedom in the Middle East, and to strengthening international law to fight terrorism?

• Consistent Ethic of Life: … Abortion is always a moral tragedy, but how do we find real solutions for preventing unwanted pregnancies and supporting women caught in very difficult and desperate circumstances? Does the candidate support policies that will dramatically reduce the number of abortions, end capital punishment, and stop genocide, especially in Darfur?

Racial Justice: Racism is a sin and undermines the integrity of a society. Is the candidate committed to reversing and ending racial discrimination in all aspects of our society, especially in the criminal justice and education systems?

• Human Rights, Dignity, and Gender Justice: Each human being [is] created in God’s image. … How do we combat the growing epidemic of sexual trafficking and virtual slavery? Does the candidate support humane and holistic immigration policies and comprehensive immigration reform? Do they insist on policies that end torture, stop human trafficking, promote religious freedom, and protect women?

• Strengthen Families and Renew Culture: Does the candidate support policies that strengthen marriage and families, restore integrity to our civic and business practices, and act to prevent violence in our society — especially the alarming incidence of domestic violence against women and children.

• Good Stewardship of God’s Creation: The earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God’s good creation … Global warming is a religious issue. Does a candidate support protections to clean air and water, to reduce the dangerous emissions that cause global warming, to shift from our addiction to oil and fossil fuels to cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy sources?

There's a lot of good thought here. I agree with Wallis' concern over global poverty. The main problems, unfotrunately, are greed, corruption, and injustice in other countries. The U.S. is the largest donor of foreign aid. We have been pouring money into foreign kleptocracies for decades. What we need is change in how we give aid to make sure it gets to the people who need it. Micro-loans to spur entrepreneurship are a promising development.

My main disagreement is on the "consistent life ethic." Wallis wants to reduce abortion and outlaw the death penalty. I'd reverse those positions. Jesus is not personally opposed to the death penalty, but he is opposed to injustice and the wanton destruction of innocent life. How about if we vote for a "Consistent Justice Ethic" instead -- not taking innocent life.

I'll give Wallis the last word, however:

Next Tuesday, we will not establish the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not on the ballot. But you can vote to strengthen the common good. There are important things at stake in this election, including many lives in the ongoing war in Iraq. This is an important election for our country, and I urge all Christians to take time this weekend to think and pray about their choices, evaluate candidates on all these issues, then go to the polls on Tuesday and vote.

And after we vote, no matter who wins, we must be at the doorstep of politicians the next day to hold them accountable to the issues that arise from a broad biblical agenda.


Wallis: "Never have we seen such a partisan use, abuse, and manipulation of religion."
Harold Ford: God is on our side.

(h/t: Instapundit)

Something we can all agree on

No matter what happens tomorrow -- no matter who wins and who loses, or what initiatives pass or fail -- we can all look forward to an end to political advertisements.

I was woken up twice yesterday afternoon by prerecorded campaign calls. This morning there was an RV covered with "Yes on 2" posters driving around. A third of the yards in our neighborhood have at least one campaign sign on them.

Now if we can just can manage to have fair and uncontested voting, we can forget about elections and get back to real life.

For a while.

$17.02 worth of Arbaham Lincoln

From Pennywise (the money blog, not the clown):

Clay Bavor used 1,702 pennies of varying shades to make a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Sorting the pennies took about 7 hours, and composing the image took just under 6 hours.

Pretty cool!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Haggard dismissed, repentant

Ted Haggard has been dismissed as Pastor of New Life Church. In a letter read today during worship at New Life, Haggard admitted to sexual immorality and deception and apoligized for the pain he has caused his family and the church.

“The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry,” Mr. Haggard wrote. “I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen.”
New Life's interim pastor, Ross Parsley, summed it up well: “Pastor Ted is living in a greater measure of repentance and forgiveness today than he has been living in for years.”

May the healing begin for everyone involved.

UPDATE: Mollie at the excellent Get Religion notes a rather glaring inconsistency in the media's treatment of significant religion news. One commenter sent her an email with the following:

A pastor is married for years, has children, runs a successful church, advances in his denomination/sector of Christianity, and then “finds himself” and abandons wife and children for a live-in situation with another man. His reward? Consecration as a bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church of America and wide-ranging media praise....

Another pastor apparently is married for years, has children, builds and runs a a successful church, advances in his denomination/sector of Christianity, fights temptation and loses, stays with his family, and when the dam breaks, is crucified in the press as his reward.

As Mollie writes: "Whatever else you may think of these stories, there’s really no question that most reporters think only [one] involves moral failure."

It may have something to do with being "closeted" -- which apparently is the only sin a gay person can actually commit. I think it also has to do with the political and social views of the pastors involved, which denominations they serve, and how those correlate to the reporters' own perspectives and beliefs.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wait ... Haggard was doing what?

Michael Jones, a male prostitute in Denver, has accused Ted Haggard of buying drugs and sharing a three-year homosexual relationship with him.

Haggard has stepped down as President of the National Association of Evangelicals and has put himself on administrative leave as Senior Pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church of Colorado Springs. He has admitted that some of the allegations are true.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that Haggard reasserted this morning that he had never had sex with Jones, but did admit he had received a massage from him. Haggard also confessed to buying crystal meth, but claimed he never took it and instead threw it away.

Jones failed a polygraph test this morning when questioned about sex with Haggard. Experts have questioned the reliability of polygraphs, and Jones claims he was tired and stressed when he took the test. Jones stands by his allegations and admits that he is motivated by anger over Haggard's opposition to gay marriage.

My thoughts and feelings are little jumbled, but here are some off-the-cuff reactions:

It's a mess no matter how you look at it.

I'm angry at Haggard for bringing shame on the cause of Christ. I am angry at him for the pain he has brought to his family and congregation. While I am sick of political posturing, I can't really blame Jones for bringing out these accusations now. Haggard has no right to expect Jones to keep quiet if the allegations are even partially true. I don't really care about the impact this story has on the gay marriage initiatives in Colorado. If Haggard is telling the truth though, I'll be even more angry at Jones for blowing something out of proportion to score political points.

It's possible that Haggard is telling the truth, but it doesn't look that way. I'm glad he stepped down, even if in the eyes of many it makes him look more guilty. I pray that he will get whatever spiritual guidance he needs to deal with whatever he's done. And even if Mike Jones is happy with his life, I pray he will get help to move beyond being a male prostitute and drug dealer.

And most of all I'm glad that no matter what Haggard, Jones, I or anyone has done the grace of God in Jesus Christ is greater still. I have not done the things Haggard is accused of doing, so it would be easy to condemn him. But I am not sinless. It's obvious how this story is going to play out in the media. But I still pray that God would be pleased to use this ugly mess to highlight His glorious grace to undeserving sinners.

UPDATE: As usual, Mark Daniels has some excellent relfections:

I've often said that the Church is a hospital for hypocrites, a place of healing for recovering sinners. None of us measures up to our high ideals and we are all sinners.

... Sin is obviously alluring to all of us not because it's so repulsive, but because, at least momentarily, it's pleasurable.

... Pleasure is addicting and sin is an addiction to a pleasure that's unhealthy, either for us personally, or for our relationship with God, or our relationships with others.

...I hope that Haggard and all effected by these allegations -- true or false -- can find solace and new power for living in the hospital for hypocrites where repentant sinners are given fresh starts.

Good and hopeful words for all of us.

UPDATE 2: Now this really concerns me. In scanning news reports for updates, I came across this picture and caption from ABC news:

A portrait of Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church, locate north of Colorado Springs, Colo., hangs in the world prayer center on the church's campus, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006. Haggard, a national evangelical leader, has allegedly paid for sex with a Denver man up to 36 times over the past three years. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

One of the most disturbing trends in evangelicalism is the rise of the superstar author or pastor or singer. Around the gifted leader there can develop a dangerous cult of personality, almost indistinguishable from the adulation given to celebrities, sports heroes, and rock stars. You develop a sense of entitlement. It becomes easy to rationalize pride, greed, lust, and all kinds of behavior.

I may be reading too much into this, but I would never be comfortable in a church with a large portrait of the pastor on prominent display. I am struggling with physical revulsion even seeing it.

If Jesus Christ is not the one receiving all the praise and recognition -- if he is not the "hero" -- you can only expect problems.

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