Monday, February 28, 2005

With or without you

The folks at Free Stanley are campaigning to have the Stanley Cup awarded this year even without the NHL. It would be great if they succeeded, but I doubt the NHL would enable anything that shows the sport continuing without them. The Cup was initially to be given to the nest amateur hockey team in Canada, but the NHL has had control of it for many decades now. Regardless of their success, the NHL needs to see players and fans prepared to carry on with the sport with or without them. I hope this makes the league squirm also.

Demagogues in the church, update

Christianity Today:

"American Evangelicalism seems to defy unity, let alone hierarchy," Time's cover story said. "Yet its members share basic commitments." And apparently its leaders share something else: with few exceptions, all of those on these media lists are themselves somehow involved in the media. The lists highlight Warren's bestselling Purpose-Driven Life above his 22,000-member Saddleback Church. The popularity of Colson's Breakpoint radio program and books make his Prison Fellowship Ministries more noteworthy than the thousands of other large parachurch ministries.

...In a sense, then, these lists are all terribly skewed. The most influential evangelical, after all, is the unsung Christian who quietly and faithfully demonstrates Jesus' love to his neighbors and coworkers. Joe Disciple can have an influence that a million radio broadcasts and books can't.

But the kind of gospel that Joe Disciple follows, how he communicates his faith, what emphases he puts in his life are increasingly determined by a media diet of both sacred and secular victuals.

In a sense, Robertson and Falwell get quoted in papers and booked on talk shows because they get quoted and booked on talk shows: Rolodexes don't get cleaned out very often. But they also get booked because they're quick with the quote: they help to feed an omnivorous media machine hungry for thoughts (or lack thereof) condensable into a dozen words that will make one side or another angry.


While I do not pay enough attention to Robertson and Falwell to say whether I'd consider them demagogues, the article does suggest that their notoriety (I don't say prominence) has more to do with their access to, and ability to use, the media than it does the example of their personal lives or their depth of insight into scripture. I have no idea how deep their theology goes, but they have mastered the sound bite and this makes them evangelical spokesmen.

I was having a conversation with a pastor some years ago, who remarked to me that Christians would be a much better witness in their communities if their giving was through (not necessarily to) their local churches instead of to parachurch ministries which have no biblical mandate; that much more progress would be made in terms of helping the poor and supporting foreign missions. While I wouldn't say that parachurch ministries have no place at all, and some are involved in activities related to the Great Commission, I do think that he was right in broad, general terms. Western (or at least American) evangelicalism is way too celebrity-based, and it is the mass media that enables this to take place. There are demagogues who keep trying to stir Christians up against non-Christians or against each other; but there are also authors, musicians and others who make good livings keeping Christians entertained. Maybe I've just been lazy, but I don't recall coming across the part in the Bible about entertainment being a focus in the Christian life.

Scenes that didn't make the cut

Jeff the Baptist links to some great satirical animated GIFs from the Lord of the Rings. (Warning: the last of the four contains profanity.) I liked the first one best.

Back to the future

Alister McGrath has an excellent article on the future of atheism at Christianity Today: The converse can be true. The rise of militant Islam in Afghanistan was the direct outcome of the Soviet invasion of that nation in 1979 and its clumsy attempts to support an atheistic regime. As Karen Armstrong points out in her The Battle for God (2000), the best way to encourage the rise of religious fundamentalism is to impose a secular agenda on people who want to get on with their religious lives.

The whole article ought to be read because it makes several interesting observations, but this part caught my notice because I had just read this from Mark Steyn (hat tip: Power Line):

The president, in other words, understands that for Europe, unlike America, the war on terror is an internal affair, a matter of defusing large unassimilated radicalized Muslim immigrant populations before they provoke the inevitable resurgence of opportunist political movements feeding off old hatreds.

...Europe's problems -- its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed -- are all of Europe's making. By some projections, the EU's population will be 40 percent Muslim by 2025. Already, more people each week attend Friday prayers at British mosques than Sunday service at Christian churches -- and in a country where Anglican bishops have permanent seats in the national legislature.

Some of us think an Islamic Europe will be easier for America to deal with than the present Europe of cynical, wily, duplicitous pseudo-allies. But getting there is certain to be messy, and violent.


The two situations are not the same, but are analogous at some points. Europeans have had secularism and anti-nationalism shoved down their throats for a generation now, even while fundamentalists Muslims become a greater and greater percentage of their population. It has so far been so successful that the Dutch are moving toward surrender of their national identity so as not to offend Muslims from North Africa. Steyn sees a future Europe as coming under Muslim control after a messy struggle, but it is also possible that before the Muslims there become strong enough to pull it off, native Europeans might rebel against their imposed secularist dhimmitude and revert to ultra-nationalism and/or the European Christianity of the past. It is perhaps significant in this regard that Roman Catholicism remains strong and holds out a competing, integrated worldview while the nationalist churches of the Reformation have mostly sunk in a quagmire of liberal theology and irrelevance.

Europe might again be a nominally Christian, nominally united collection of nation-states with a sense of continuity with their history and heritage. Conservative Catholicism and radical Islam are also possibilities. In the United States and -even more so- Canada, similar backlashes are also possible, and could take one of several possible shapes.

In any case, neither atheism/secularism nor cowering in the face of Islamist aggression are options that resonate with a lot of people, and I can't help but think that people will not long tolerate public policy being held hostage to either one.

Secularism is not the future; it is the past. Traditional religion and love of one's country should be given a real place at the policy-making table again, rather than being excluded against the sentiments of most people. If not, the backlash will be all the worse when it comes and will be more likely to be extremist.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Newsflash: Hollywood is not mainstream

Fox News: Thirteen percent of the public thinks moviemakers share their values, while a sizeable majority — 70 percent — disagrees.

What a shock. OK, next question: How can Hollywood maintain its self-identification as "aware", "diverse" and "relevant" when such a large percentage of people don't identify with them? Or is that the greatest fiction of all?

Professional demagogues in the church

Upon reflection I think that my reference to "professional demagogues in the church" might have been confusing. I was not speaking of those in ministry in local churches, which is in accordance with the biblical model of church leadership, but certain authors, speakers and parachurch ministries. In fact, I will name a couple of names, since in accordance with Matthew a8:15-17 I and others have appealed to these organizations to reconsider their means and ends.

One is Answers in Genesis, a prominent creationist organization, which I believe has become theologically unbalanced, sectarian and unChristlike in behavior.

Another is Focus on the Family, which I fear promotes a Pharisaic mentality among evangelicals, and mistakenly thinks that spreading Chrisitanity is primarily a matter of political action and legal coercion.

That is not to say that everything these two organizations say and do are wrong, but both of them depend on financial donations to do their work, and motivate followers through pointing to a certain group of people (e.g. evolutionists, "compromising" Christians or homosexuals) as enemies to be defeated, contrary to Ephesians 6:12, rather than treating these people as fellow human beings created in God's image.

To put a different light on it, I prevent my younger two kids from listening to much Christian radio, because I don't want them hearing about homosexuality several times every day.

Why they leave, update

AP Wire (via WorldNetDaily): Though the phone survey depicted broad affinity with religion, the face-to-face interviews found that many teens' religious knowledge was "'meager, nebulous and often fallacious" and engagement with the substance of their traditions remarkably shallow. Most seemed hard put to express coherently their beliefs and what difference they make.

Many were so detached from the traditions of their faith, says the report, that they're virtually following a different creed in which an undemanding God exists mostly to solve problems and make people feel good. Truth in any absolute, theological sense, takes a back seat.

"God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist" who's on call as needed, Smith writes. He says the trend reflects tendencies among teens' Baby Boomer parents. The report speculates that poor educational and youth programs, and competition for teens' time from school, sports, friends and entertainment also are part of the picture.


Last week I shared some thoughts on the phenomenon of teenagers leaving church as soon as they had the freedom to do so. Now this survey provides some insight, but I guess you have to buy the book to get the breakdown even among broad outlines. One detail that was given was that

Mormon youths - whose church runs daily high school religion classes - were the most engaged in practicing their faith, followed in order by evangelical Protestants, black Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews.

It would have been nice if they had controlled for choice in teens' involement in their respective religion (for example, the seminary classes for Mormon teens are not exactly optional), but still, broadly speaking, this seems to mirror parents' priorities as well. For instance, I have encountered mainline Protestants who seem quite proud of being too sophisticated to take historic, orthodox Christianity seriously, leaving me wondering what they do take seriously. To the extent I was able to deduce anything, it seems to be this:

"God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist" who's on call as needed, Smith writes. He says the trend reflects tendencies among teens' Baby Boomer parents.

This dovetails with my own hypothesis that a lot of kids find role models in their parents, not so much in respect to the content of belief that parents profess belief in, as what parents really believe and consider important as reflected in the choices they make day-to-day in their lives.

Of course, I am not suggesting that it's unimportant for evangelical teens to learn the content of their faith and and the basis and significance of what what they believe; only that head knowledge by itself is insufficient. One of the things that gets lost in our English Bible translations is that there are different Greek words that are translated as the English word "mind". One of these words denotes the intellect, but another word denotes the will, and the issue of the will seems to me extremely underrated in contemporary, Western concepts of thought. The difference between knowing someting abstractly and acting upon it was illustrated by the apostle James:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? James 2:19-20

To put it another way, we evangelicals can sometimes inadvertently assume that postmodern relativism is something that others engage in: that truth, especially "religious truth" is separated from "real life" and not common to, or independent of, all of humanity. But if we think that religious education in the form of family devotionals, Sunday School, good expository preaching from the pulpit, or even Christian schools or homeschooling, are sufficient to ensure that our kids truly embrace the gospel themselves, then I think we are misguided. Having recently lived in "Mormondom" for several years I can attest to this. Mormon doctrine seems to make its adherents holier, but only on Sunday. The Monday-through-Saturday difference that it makes in their lives seems to be only a cultural one: not drinking coffee or alcohol (while anyone is watching), use of alternate cuss words, choice of friends, etc. If we as evangelicals are "holy" only on Sunday -and being holy is different than being sanctimonious-- then we are in our own way being relativists.

In contrast, if teens do indeed often tend to follow the pattern of their parents, we need to avoid "Sunday truth" and the temptation to let the difference in our lives be a cultural one (Christian radio, Christian books, Christian schools, sanitized movies etc.) and instead embrace what Francis Schaeffer referred to as "true truth": that which is expresses in our daily decision making.

Other ways that we can either counter the idea that "religious truth" is separated from "real life" include taking on the hard questions about life, reasons for belief down to and including the level of epistemology, and resisting the urge to make culture and politics the primary avenues for expressing our faith. This in turn involves saying no to the professional demagogues in the church, whose level of influence is out of all proportion and contrary to the biblical model of leadership in the church. Again, this is not to say we shouldn't vote pro-life or we should spend our money on mindless garbage that passes as art, but these sorts of things should only be part of a much bigger picture than they often are.

Now, I fear that on the whole the multimillion-dollar Christian publishing and entertainment industry is more a hindrance than a help in these regards, but that's another subject.

He who pays the piper

WorldNetDaily: CBS veteran rips network: "We have literally dumbed down our public," he continued. "We have trained them to accept the coverage they're getting. We so rarely explain what's going on, there's no context. So, people of course, aren't interested. They have no idea what's going on."

So this is what happens when a veteran CBS journalist retires and becomes free to speak. Funny, it doesn't sound much like the huffing and puffing and contrasting of reliable mainstream media with an ill-informed and unreliable blogosphere. Could it be the paycheck that makes the difference?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Caught... in the act of being a Christian

Christianity Today Weblog: "Being against gay marriage and 'special rights,' but insisting, 'I'm not going to kick gays, because I'm a sinner' sounds straight down the middle of the evangelical world to Weblog."

Sounds right to me too. Of course, this candid statement by President Bush won't go over well with either extreme: those who consider homosexual behavior some special category of sin to be denounced above all others (like say, divorce, self-rightousness or gossip), or those who insist on a false dilemma of either supporting gay marriage or being nasty, hate-filled bigots.

What we have here is Bush being "exposed" as a decent, thinking Christian. I must admit, that when Dubya first ran for president I figured he was just another politician pandering to evangelicals by pretending to be a believer. Four years on, while I don't always agree with Bush on everything I have become convinved that he is a sincere Christian.

(The title of this post was adapted from an album titled Caught... In the Act of Loving Him, recorded by Christian rock group Servant, some 20+ years ago now.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

The ossified avante-garde

Belmont Club: "Paradoxically, dogmatism is rooted in relativism more than in the belief that real truth is discoverable. For as long as the truth is believed to be 'out there'; it will be sought. When its existence is doubted none will venture into the dark. Under those conditions, we get exactly what Peretz describes: an illogical attachment to old formulations of the 1960s, which can be uttered only because they are hallowed."

While "dogmatism is rooted in relativism" is not true historically (since relativism is relatively recent), as far as the present day is concerned I think that Wretchard is largely correct. I can't recall the last time that a leftist (I wouldn't call them "liberal") made a cogent defense of leftist beliefs. Leftist thinking seems to be promulgated largely though control of education and the mass media (journalism and entertainment), by virtue of the fact that it is often the only side that is represented, or represented fairly. Its validity is considered to be so self-evidently correct that only a fool would question it, with the result that now whole generations have bought into it uncritically so as not to be fools. This is demonstrated whenever a challange to leftist dogma is met with derision and name-calling, unaccompanied with a logical refutation. That is changing now, of course. I think that this is at the root of the blind rage evident on the left these days. Monopolizing the conversation was the only viable way to promote leftist ideas, and since they can't do that anymore they feel leftist ideology is threatened, and with good cause.

There is also conflict at another level. Historic Christianity is rooted in propositional statements about who we are, who God is, and how we relate to God. The objective truth of propositional statements is incompatible with relativism, and so leftism has become anti-Christian. There is hostility towards a competing worldview, of course, but I think that there is also a level of jealousy, of being cheated. Christianity offers the promise of truth that is knowable, which relativism despairs of finding. So the left has no hope of discovering truth-claims to counter Christianity, because they don't believe that they are out there to be discovered. So they are forced to counter truth-claims, not with other truth-claims, but with... nothing. Thus they place themselves at a disadvantage in a conflict with those whom many leftists judge to be their intellectual inferiors. It must be galling.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Blogosphere far from peaking

Turkish Press: "Some 27 percent of Internet users read blogs, according to the survey, which reports that some eight million US adults say they have created blogs.

Yet despite its influence, 62 percent of Internet users do not know what a blog is, according to the Pew survey."


So 38% of Internet users know about blogs. 27/38 or 71% of those who know about blogs read them.

Imagine the clout that the blogosphere will have when 100% of Internet users become aware of it. No wonder why some folks in the MSM are apoplectic. This isn't your grandfather's information source.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Conservative?

NewsMax: "Karl Rove, President Bush's top political strategist, on Thursday pronounced conservatism the 'dominant political creed in America' and coached fellow conservatives on how to support his boss."

How far have the markers been moved in the last generation? Under Bush's tenure, the Dept. of Education saw a 50% funding increase. Farm subsidies saw large increases. Deficits are shooting through the roof. That's conservatism?

People on the left talk as if the Bush administration is a small step from fascism, Nazism, the KKK, etc. Ignore the rhetoric for a minute and look at what has actually been going on in terms of fiscal and social policy. The government is still spending like a drunken sailor and for all the cries of McCarthyism and legislating morality, social decay continues apace and Christians seem to be the only people who can get in trouble for speaking their minds.

Seems to me that the Bush administration (and the Republican Congress) is center-left if anything. Sure, judged by the standard of socialism, which is what most of the Democrats now espouse (Nancy Pelosi was a card-carrying member of the World Workers' Party until just days before she became the House minority leader), just about anything would seem "right-wing" by comparison. But despite the shrill shrieking of the left, big government chugs happily along.

Google News: fair & balanced in what way?

I was going to post this comment at Little Green Footballs in response to this discussion of Google News, but registration for new posters wasn't working. So I'll post it here...

I too have seen a pronounced lack of balance in the news links offered up by Google News. We can speculate about intentions on Google's part, but regardless there seems to me to be a clear tendentiousness in the stories shown. Consider the last election: a 51-49 split. Sounds like the country is pretty evenly divided pro/con the Bush administration, right? What we see on Google News does not reflect this at all, and when they select Wonkette as a news source but not LGF it doesn't seem a mystery as to why.

Now to be fair, if Google casts a wide net and includes the world press, then the balance of reporting would be skewed against the current US govenment. If so, then Google has decided to treat state-run media outlets of dictatorships as equivalent to a free press. That is saying something, shows a definite viewpoint, and I don't blame them for not saying it out loud.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Defining some terms

Once upon a time, we all used to know what "is" is. Since then though, we have realized that this is too simplistic. Educated and intelligent people know that words sometimes have little to do with their prosaic dictionary definitions. So in the interest of keeping everyone on the same page as much as possible, I offer explanations of what the following popular buzzwords really mean.



Diversity: Blind and unquestioning acceptance of specific political, economic and social viewpoints, usually socialist and humanist in orientation

Awareness: see definition of 'Diversity' above

Justice: see definition of 'Diversity' above

Equality: treating everyone with the same indifference; aka justice

Free expression: "Take this, you stupid Jesus freak!!!"

Separation of Church and State: "Shut up, you stupid Jesus freak!!!"

Environment: The ecosystem of humans, preferably without the humans

Organic: For your own good, your salad was grown in cow dung and has a few bugs in it.

Kyoto Accord: an international agreement to punish wealth (see 'justice', above)

Educational achievement: I cant reed or rite good, butt I have a hi self a steam.

Total Quality Management: We don't actually do our work, we analyze it.

Competitive: government subsidized

Government reform: making lawyers competitive (see above)

Choice: (on abortion) a good thing

Choice: (in education) a bad thing

Choice: (in entertainment) making the arts competitive (see above). See also free expression (above)

Vital government program: money spent here

Pork barrel spending: money spent elsewhere

Homophobia: "Approve of my lifestyle or I'll call you irrational."

Self-esteem: self-centeredness

Assertiveness: "Give me what I want now, because I have a high self-esteem (see above)."

Strategic partner: A nation whose actions are deplorable but whom we need to be friendly with because they could hurt us

Consensus building: it's not your place to think, but to just go along



Of course, those of us in the church have our own lingo too. An explanation of a few expressions:

I'll pray about it: I don't want to make a commitment right now.

Fellowship: food and/or entertainment and/or hanging out

CCM: music, non-competitive (see above)

Sharing in love: gossip

Dying to self: OK, we won't get the Premium Sound System in our new SUV

Accountable: Now that I've found someone who agrees with all my viewpoints, we hold each other responsible to them.

Christian psychology: human behavior models based on studies of Christian rats

New move of the Spirit: I have no idea at all why we're doing this, but it feels good.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Those we don't speak of

WorldNetDaily: City can bar 'family values' message: "Supervisors Robert Bobb, then city manager, and Joyce Hicks, then deputy director of the Community and Economic Development Agency, ordered removal of the flier, stating it contained 'statements of a homophobic nature' and promoted 'sexual-orientation-based harassment,' even though it made no mention of homosexuality."

In The Village, people in a nineteenth-century rural community lived in an uneasy truce with terrifying creatures who inhabited the surrounding forest. The creatures were so fearsome that the villagers dared not even call them by a name, but only referred to them as "those we don't speak of", and uttered the phrase nervously, as if even this would cause the creatures to appear. There are now city officials and judges in some places who believe that Christians should have the same sort of relationship to the homosexual community: not only may we not question what they do, but we can now get into trouble even if we don't articulate who we're talking about!

Thankfully, though, not all judges agree. The Philadelphia Four have been acquitted of the "crime" of speaking publicly within earshot of aggressive homosexual demonstrators. The judge who acquitted them said: " "We are one of the very few countries that protect unpopular speech."

Well, you do in Philly anyway. Oakland doesn't seem to have gotten the memo.

Their own private hell

“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. --Matthew 13:41-42

Some people aren't waiting until Judgement Day to begin gnashing their teeth. Over at the Evangelical Outpost, non-Christian participants have come unglued. Not much in the way of calm or rational debate; a number of them have descended into blind rage, spewing slander and the worst names they can think of at the Christians there, and at none more than Joe Carter himself. If he posts something that someone disagrees with, he's dishonest. If someone doesn't agree with gay marriage, they are "bloodthirsty" and advocating "theocracy", no different than the Iranian mullahs. No agreeing to disagree; either you're with them or you're an enemy to be defeated.

Intelligent people, or so they seem (and some of them keep implying). All they are contributing is schoolyard name-calling, albeit with a mature vocabulary. Whatever happened to classic liberalism, with its belief in respecting those you disagree with? And I can't help but wonder: do these people consider themselves tolerant?

If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. John 15:19-21

You read it here first

Heh heh. This stuff writes itself.

Three days ago, while satirizing Howard Dean's attempt to win over evangelicals with clever (?) rhetoric, I depicted the Dems saying:

"What we really need is for DNC confabs to be held behind closed doors, otherwise those rubes might not buy it."

Well, it isn't exactly a "Democratic confab", but as if on cue:

"Howard Dean, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, requested a media blackout of a debate with top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, then quickly changed his mind Wednesday after news agencies complained." --Newsday (via Drudge)

It probably wouldn't help for the new DNC chairman to remind the public what a dove he is, as he tries to reclaim a moderate image for the party fronted by Kennedy, Pelosi and Kerry.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Moral absolutes? (for Creeping Jenny)

In this comment, Creeping Jenny said,

"Good question about [source of absolutes in] morality. I think human beings have some kind of innate morality-understanding faculty, a bit like our innate language-speaking faculty. Something's striking me as wrong is decent (though pretty imperfect) evidence that it's wrong. I can check up on whether my moral faculty is misleading me by making sure I've got all the facts right, examining whether I have egoistic reasons for prejudicing my judgment one way or another, using logic to check whether my moral beliefs are consistent, and speaking to people who are wiser than me.

As to why anybody has moral perception in the first place, I do not yet have a good answer."


If this conversation continues, it could well need space of its own, hence the new post.

CJ,

Thanks for your response also.

Language is something that appears to be hard-wired into our brains. Although there is much about brain physiology that isn't understood yet, there is a specific region of our brains that processes language. If morality worked the same way, I would think there would be a corresponding region of our brains that dealth with that. Nobody has discovered one that I'm aware of.

Also, what happens when someone is as rational as you, as well-intended as you, but has a radically different perception of what is right? We can think of the 9-11 terrorists, or the Iranian mullahs, or the Nazis. I'm fascinated by the account of Albert Speer, the well-educated, well-intended young man who because Hitler's architect then Minister of Armaments because, in his words, "Adolf Hitler can save Germany." At least that's according to the movie on his autobio, Inside the Third Reich. I make it a point to watch this movie every year or two, to revisit the question of how such an educated, "enlightened" democracy could descend so quickly to the point of genocide. To make things even more complicated, there were even members of the "Christian" clergy who supported the Nazis (although some opposed too.)

So it's not at all apparent to me that morality is either evident or innate, although we do have (as the Bible says) consciences that remain more or less intact in each individual.

In his book How Shall We Then Live, Fransic Schaeffer poijnts out that if we have only ourselves, individually or collectively, as sources of information from which to reason to conclusions, our ability to reach satisfactory conclusions will be limited, because what we know is limited, especially in comparison to what we need to know to reach the conclusions we seek. That is why the Enlightenment resulted ultimately in postmodernism: despair of finding objective true answers to the human condition, once the possibility of revelation from God is rejected.

Bettman out

Yesterday, Gary Bettman said: "We are increasing our offer of yesterday by increasing the maximum individual team cap to $44.7 million ($42.5 million in salary and $2.2 million in benefits). This offer is not an invitation to begin negotiations - it's too late for that.

This is our last effort to make a deal that's fair to the players and one that the clubs (hopefully) can afford. We have no more flexibility and there is no time for further negotiation."


Today he said: "Well, if they had suggested a $45 million cap, that might've changed something."

That's the man the NHLPA was bargaining with. As soon as the negotiations become open to the press, it became apparent to me that the players' union was making all the concessions and that Bettman had no intention of compromise, and perhaps no intention of reaching an agreement. The players gave in on the key difference: a salary cap. They threw in a 24% salary rollback across the board. It wasn't enough.

The players didn't have a serious partner in negotiations, and now the hockey season is cancelled, something that two world wars failed to achieve. It's time for Gary Bettman to go. Now.

Thank you!

Thank you, everyone who stopped by my blog, especially those of you who posted a comment or linked to me, even if you disagreed with me! I hope to keep this blog entertaining and thought-provoking enough that you want to stick around, and even invite a friend.

Special thanks to Joe Carter of The Evangelical Outpost, whose link brought me visitors.

As a result, in just a couple of days I have evolved from an Insignificant Microbe all the way to a Slimy Mollusc! That just makes my day.

Jittery mullahs

Fox News: "An aircraft reportedly fired a missile near the southern city of Dailam in Iran on Wednesday as both Iran and Syria said they will unite against any challenges or threats to their nations' livelihoods.

...the explosion may have been caused by a fuel tank dropping from an Iranian plane."


Now why would the Iranian mullahs be so jumpy? Just because the world's only superpower is on their doorstep, with its unmanned drones and special ops forces doing recon in and over Iran, having sucessfully completed the forcible transition of their neighbor Iraq from tyranny to democracy, and the Iranian people wanting freedom too? Is that reason to be nervous?

I understand that they brew their coffee very strong in that part of the world. Perhaps the mullahs need to cut down a bit. Anyway, don't they trust in Allah?

Gary Bettman: moonbat?

Yahoo! Sports: "Early Tuesday evening, the league had made a take-it-or-leave-it pitch of a $42.5 million salary cap to the players' association. The union responded with a cap figure of its own: $49 million.

The league dismissed that out-of-hand, saying all teams couldn't afford that much.

``If every team spent to the $49 million ... total player compensation would exceed what we spent last season,'' NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in his second letter of the day to NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow. ``We cannot afford your proposal.''"


Um, excuse me, Mr. Commissioner. A salary cap of $49M doesn't mean that a team must spend that much. It means they can't spend more than that.

Either Bettman was sincere in making this statement, or he wasn't. If he wasn't, then to throw up another roadblock to an agreement in the dying seconds lends credence to the suspicion that his real goal is to break the players' union even if it costs the hockey season.

If he was sincere, then two years' negotiations and the possible loss of the hockey season, unsuccessful because of irreconcilable differences over a salary cap, went on with the Commissioner of the NHL not understanding what the term means. Wouldn't that be a real screamer?

Settle down, Dr. Dean. I wasn't talking about you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I don't feel good about this

I read some more of the Zondervan article. It doesn't look good.

Zondervan: Why the TNIV Bible is Important: "Part of the reason for this mass exodus is that today's generation thinks differently than previous generation. For example, they're more likely to relate to stories and personal experiences than to traditional expressions of propositional truth. For them, authentic religion is a much about HOW they live as WHAT they believe."

First of all, if postmodern existentialism is the cause of young people leaving the church, I fail to see how catering to it can be the solution. The Christian gospel is communicated in "traditional expressions of propositional truth". The gospel isn't merely "true for us" because we choose to believe it or because it "works" pragmatically (although if it is true, it should work). It is objectively true whether we believe it or not. It is existentialism, not historic Christianity, that needs to be rethought.

Also, the above quote proposes a false dilemma: On the one hand we have propositional truth and on the other hand we have "authentic religion" with integrity. This forgets the "traditional expression of propositional truth" taught in James 2: that the propositional truth must be lived out to be genuine.

We can't get the cart before the horse. Personal experience should agree with the propositional truth of the gospel, but truth is not determined by experience. I am sure that someone who doubts this would quickly resort to propositional truth if someone claimed, for instance, that their "experience with God" had led them to become a murderer or misogynist. And if ever an airline pilot taxiing to a takeoff decided to announce that he would rely on experience rather than navigational computers, I wonder how many people would choose to remain aboard. Existentialism is a cute parlor game played when the stakes are not perceived to be high.

Intentionally or not, Zondervan seems to be coming dangerously close to implying that "the faith once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 2) is epistemologically deficient and must embrace existentialism to remain relevant. I don't think I'll be buying a TNIV.

Why they leave

(This entry speaks of a phenomenon within evangelicalism, but should be of interest to non-Christians who have ever thought that Christians are hypocrites or no better than the rest.)

Mark D. Roberts is starting a series on the new TNIV translation of the Bible. As he reports, part of Zondervan's rationale for a new translation (their NIV isn't exactly archaic yet) is this:

Perhaps the most important reason to produce a new translation is to reach today's generation of 18- to 34-year-olds, a generation that is leaving the church in record numbers. According to research, four out of ten people leave the church after high school, and another eight million twenty-somethings will likely leave the church by the time they turn 30. (barna.org)

This has been phenomena for longer than a recent poll. I've seen it happen. A good friend of mine who is a pastor told me that he's seen it for a long time. A teenager faithfully attends church and even goes to youth group, but when they turn 18 poof! they disappear. We puzzled over this together, and I continue to puzzle over it. As an elder in my former church (we moved recently) I felt it was my responsibility to at least try to understand what was causing it. I share here not a definitive answer (surely such an answer could come through several doctoral dissertations) but a few short observations and suggestions. These are offered with trepidation, knowing that my own kids are coming of age.

What is most evident to me is that, when you look closely, you get a feel for which kids will remain in church and which will not. You look close enough, you might see it even when everything looks good on the outside. Sometimes it is apparent: a kid is dragged along unwillingly to church by parents and puts up with it until it's time to leave and go do something that matters. Sometimes the signs are more subtle. How involved is the teen in church activities that he or she is not forced to attend? What do they talk about when they talk about whatever they want? They might listen to Christian music (especially if secular is frowned upon) but do they ever engage the lyrics, or is it just an occasion to shake their groove thing? Is their Bible worn from use or because they toss it around like a dead fish? They might go on a weeklong mission trip to Mexico to help the poor, but are they more excited about that or about the layover at Disney Land on the way back? They might speak using evangelical lingo, but what attitudes are conveyed with it?

God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

We can't see the heart of another. Not really. But we can infer some things from clues as to what's going on within.

For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. Luke 6:44-45

Sometimes kids grow up in the church mouthing the right answers, but those answers aren't real to them. They've just learned that saying that stuff elicits a positive response from their "owners", perhaps as a gorilla is taught to dab paint on a canvas. There comes a point when each of us are faced with the choice of accepting the Christian gospel as true or not, and the claims of Jesus Christ: who He is and what His claims are on us as individuals. I think that some teenagers who leave have not come to that point yet, because nobody becomes a "new creature" by osmosis. Some are faced with the choice after they are on their own. Some make the choice to become a Christian, and some make the choice not to. Some (including myself) belonged to a dysfunctional or legalistic church and had to leave for a time in order to learn to separate the wheat of God's revelation from the chaff of human tradition and hypocrisy.

Some have had a genuine personal encounter with Christ while growing up but are enticed away for a while to "sow their wild oats". These often return, sometimes scarred from the experience.

Some too, if they have an inquisitive or introspective turn of mind, might get discouraged and leave if their church is not the same way, and the leadership commands unquestioning faith and obedience rather than "lov[ing] the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30) I include this too in my own experience.

What can be done? I don't think that a fresher Bible translation will do it, even if endorsed by the uber-cool Peter Furler. My own suggestions:

Parents: You have the most important role. Taking kids to church, and even reading the Bible and praying as a family are good. But where is your heart? Do you make day-to-day choices tht reflect the reality of what you say you believe, including the transitory nature of this life and the permanence of the next (what some call "the eternal perspective")? Have you given thought to how the teachings of the Bible pertain to different aspects of your own life? Do you embrace them, or rationalize to yourself why you don't or can't? Simply put, is it real to you? If it isn't, your kids will see it. They're not dummies.

Are you equipping your kids? Feelings of certitude will only take them so far. Are they becoming Biblically literate? Are they critical consumers of the messages they are bombarded with every day? If they are not homeschooled, then what are they learning in school? Do you even know? There are many fine public schools, but there are also zealot teachers who use the classroom to proelytize for alternate lifestyles, postmodern relativism or even overt, specific rejection of Christianity. How is your kid dealing with it?

Are you and they in a healthy enviroment? The Christian radio you listen to, the books you read, the church you attend, what are their focuses and goals? Is Christianity a mere source of Rated G entertainment or aid to "clean living"? Is the worship service focused on God or on providing an experience for an "audience"? Is the focus so much on Left Behind/black helicopter fare that you have become fearful and paranoid, or irresponsible? (This is not to deny the Second Coming, but a Christian life should be balanced.) Even if you are into defending the faith, do those you learn apologetics from make their case in a respectful and loving manner (1 Peter 3:15), or do they model self-confidence, sarcasm and disdain? A Christian life involves integrity: not just a lack of dishonesty but an embracing of the implications of what we say we believe. (Example: you believe that even an atheistic, evolutionary scientist is created in the image of God, right?)

That kid you love so much is not perfect. They sin sometimes. You don't do them a favor if you either ignore or rationalize it, or punish them in anger and denigrate their personhood.

If you want it to be real to your kids, then model it yourselves. If you don't, then don't be surprised if they bail.

Pastors and leaders: If you are told to exercise oversight of the flock, then how well do you know each one? Are you a shepherd among them, or just a speaker in front of them? Are you there to equip and strengthen them, or are they there to serve and affirm you? Do you have concrete plans to promote biblical literacy and correct handling of the word, or do your people have the notion that they can't understand the Bible themselves and must look to you to explain it? Are you equipping them to assess contrary truth claims and worldviews? How do you treat the world outside those church doors: with compassion, hostility or indifference? Are you a servant or an employee?

Oh. And all the stuff I said to the parents about Christlike character, integrity, eternal perspective and healthy balance? That applies to you too; you more than anyone must show the reality of what you say you believe. If you're just a symbol manipulator, most of the kids will get bored and leave.

We have enough Bibles. We have enough sermons, Christian music, books, church growth and mamagement programs, activities and fellowship. What we need is more reality. Then maybe, by the grace of God, more of our kids will see it and want it.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Captain should go down with the ship

Yahoo! Sports: "There has been more talk ever since the league sent out a memo to its 30 teams on Friday releasing the gag order on owners, GMs and team executives, not only allowing them to talk about the lockout to the media but also giving them the green light to reach out to players if they wanted. This appeared to be a move to circumvent the union leaders, hoping GMs could start a groundswell among their players to put pressure on Goodenow to accept a salary cap."

Does this sound familiar? Um, yes. Over a month ago I suggested that the league's real game plan was to break the players' union. To repeat what I said then:

The league might think it's going to break the players' union, but it is slitting its own throat. Very few fans will pay to watch replacement players drawn from farm leagues, obscure European leagues or the Juniors. It just will not fly. Hockey will go on, but I have my doubts about the National Hockey League. It's too bad too. A league with so much history and tradition is about to die because of imbecilic management.

The NHL will look for replacement players or strikebreakers, but what is needed is either replacement league management or a replacement to the NHL itself. Bettman's statement above demonstrates what is all too clear: he is a businessman but not a lover of the game. The NHL needs a commissioner who is both. I add my voice to those who think that Wayne Gretzky would do a fine job.

Praise the Lord and pass the talking points

Christianity Today has an article on Democrats and evangelicals that, intentionally or not, is hilarious. It shows why the DNC's hopes of capturing the evangelical vote are ...er... a longshot. Some excerpts:

Earlier in the week, congressional Democrats hosted a study session with University of California-Berkeley linguist George Lakoff on how to communicate the Democratic commitment to moral and religious values.

Shades of the movie Stargate. The military sends a team through a space portal to the other end of the universe. Since they could find either strange aliens or humans who had been separated from earthlings millennia earlier, they wisely decided to include a linguist in the team in the hope that they might communicate. Certainly they couldn't have communicated with such alien beings without one. As it turned out, the linguist enabled them to free distantly related humans from their ignorance and slavery.

At least two years ago Democrats started to worry that they were painting themselves into a small corner of a mostly religious America as the secularist party. Democrats started holding workshops on how they could win the support of religious voters.

Translation: we must learn the ways of these strangers.

As governor of Vermont, Dean promoted homosexual civil unions. His presidential campaign stumbled over clumsy attempts to display biblical literacy and religious values. At one point the governor was quoted as declaring that the Book of Job is his favorite New Testament book.

Yes, that learning curve can be rough.

Pollster Celinda Lake told the women Democratic leaders that "the most powerful predictor of the 2004 vote was religion. The religious 'others' and the nonreligious voted for us. The worst voters were against us." Catching her misstatement, Lake said she meant that the voters among whom the Democrats had the worst support were the evangelicals and Catholics.

Really rough.

Immediately after Lake's presentation, Dean launched a volley of well-prepared pro-religion, pro-moral-values remarks. This time there were no biblical misquotes.

Those evangelicals are such rubes, all we need to do is repackage ourselves a bit.

Dean told the women not to say that the Democrats are pro-abortion. "We are not pro-abortion!" was his lead off sentence.

Those evangelicals are such rubes, they just believe what they hear. They won't remember our legislative track record of the past 30 years.

Dean seemed to be trying to leave the impression that the Democratic women need to reach out to pro-life women. "There are a lot of women's groups," Dean observed. "We need to figure out how they can all get together."

What?! There are women's groups besides NOW and NARAL? Who knew?

Dean mocked the Republicans as family values hypocrites. "The GOP wants to cut the money for feeding kids. They only get two of the values of the New Testament. Do they talk about having walked among the least of these?"

There you go! Stay on the message that limiting the growth of social programs to 3-5% a year is a "cut". That one will get us some traction, because those who didn't vote for us are rubes.

Comparing the Republicans to Sadducees and Pharisees, Dean said, "I haven't heard the Republicans talk about that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man through the gates of heaven."

In contrast, the Democrats' fresh new strategy is to remove that excess baggage. They aren't just trying to save us from temporal want now, but from Hell! I wonder if Soros got the memo.

Dean said that Democrats have failed to use language that common Americans could relate to. "We need to get away from slogans and ideology," he said. "We learned in the last election that language makes an enormous difference."

Translation: Hey, does anybody know some Bible verses that promote class warfare and dependency? And what are we going to do about those pesky passages on sexual morality?

However, after this stirring anthem to openness to evangelicals, Dean was still not ready to say that he would name an evangelical to his transition team. He told CT that his planning hadn't "got that far yet."

Look, we favor desegregation. But do you really expect us to live with these people too?

Dean did not address the controversy of the fierce personal attacks against pro-life Democrat Tim Roemer while he was still in the running against Dean. One night earlier, outgoing Democratic chairman Terry McAuliffe called the attacks on Roemer "way over the top." Many pro-life Democrats who don't feel welcomed in the party, likely feel that Dean's supporters savaging of Roemer is a sign that the party hasn't changed... Few rank-and-file Democratic leaders had yet to catch a hold of Dean's new way of talking.

What we really need is for DNC confabs to be held behind closed doors, otherwise those rubes might not buy it. And we need language coaching. Position statements need to be prefaced with, "The Lord is leading us to..." and include a few Bible quotes.

Charles Saechting, chairman of the Texas Democrats, regaled his audience with declarations that the Republicans "are probably the least Christian party that has ever been." He talked of his own upbringing by an African American who became a pastor, but also unconvincingly argued that "pro-life falls within the pro-choice belief."

This should work a lot better than, "I was in favor of abortion before I was against it" or "It depends on what the definition of 'pro-life' is."

The most honest expression was this one:

[T]here were a few evangelicals sprinkled here and there—a deacon from Alabama, a minister from Maryland, or a faith-based community service leader in a few states. But most Democrats preferred to duck the issue. Jim Fraser of the Oklahoma delegation declared that he was "pro-choice, pro-life" and that he didn't ask people what their religion was. "I am not being very cooperative with you, am I," he chuckled as he walked away.

But our only real difference is a matter of semantics; not attitudes, priorities or policies. Really!

While [Rev. Zina] Pierre's role was relegated to a time when most Democrats were exhausted and streaming out of the auditorium, the emotional high point of the convention occurred with Dean's embrace of Democratic lesbians.

OK OK, so our stagecraft needs a little retooling also. Next time, someone find a lesbian minister for the candidate to hug.

Memo to the DNC: Wanna know what the real problem is? Most of us evangelicals haven't bought into this whole postmodern relativistic thing-- even those of us who went to college! We believe that our creeds contain propositional statements that are objectively true in their own right, regardless of whether people believe them. We believe that God is the maker, ruler and judge of the universe, not a tool to be used for crass political ends. We believe that God has revealed His will for each of our lives, and so it's not up to us to invent a religion or a god as we conceive of Him/Her/It/Them/Other. While we respect everybody's right to practice their own "faith tradition", we don't think that someone's believing in a given "faith tradition" necessarily makes it valid or true. While most of us recognize an individual's right to live in what the Bible calls sin, we will never express approval of it or buy into the idea that someone's sin constitutes their whole identity.

And this whole "compassion for the poor" thing? There's this wee small matter of it being voluntary. And the goal isn't long-term dependence on Caesar.

See, the thing is, even though you are trying to figure out how to talk in our lingo, we still see a lot of things that suggest that you remain secularists and relativists, antagonistic to us way down deep at the level of worldview. I really don't think that a linguist can help you. So your only real hope at this point is that the Republicans run candidates who are like you: secularists and relativists who think they can snow us with a bit of lingo and a few Bible verses.

Oh. And Job? It's Old Testament.








Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Peace: just an interlude

Palestinian Media Watch provides a translation of the Friday, Feb. 4 sermon on the official Palestinian Authority TV station (via WorldNetDaily):

"Our willingness to return to the 1967 borders does not mean that we have given up on the land of Palestine. No! We ask you: Do we have the right to the 1967 borders? We have the right. Therefore, we shall realize this right with any mean it takes. We might be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1967 borders, but we shall not be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1948 borders. No one on this earth recognizes [out right to] the 1948 borders [before Israel's existence]. Therefore, we shall return to the 1967 borders, but it does not mean that we have given up on Jerusalem and Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, Natanyah [Al-Zuhour] and Tel Aviv [Tel Al-Rabia]. Never."

Meanwhile, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas announced,

"We have agreed with [Israeli] Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to cease all acts of violence against the Israelis and the Palestinians wherever they are," Abbas said in a statement at the end of a landmark summit with Sharon in Egypt."

and Hamas weighs in:

" Abbas's declaration "expresses only the position of the Palestinian Authority (news - web sites). It does not express the position of the Palestinian movements," said Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri."

So what we have is no breakthrough at all, but only more of the same: a "peace" process in which the Israelis continue to make concessions in exchange for an end to Palestinian terrorism, promised by the Palestinian Authority as they wink and nod to the various Palestinian militias and terrorists whom they claim they can't control, all with a view to incrementally reducing the Jewish state to the point where it no longer exists.

For the West to support such a cynical "peace" process while ignoring the true and plainly stated aims of the Palestinians only shows that anti-Semitism is still alive and well. Melanie Phillips eloquently exposes the shape of the new European anti-Semitism but also notes that some of it, including "journalism" from the BBC, is straight out of the Josef Goebbels playbook:

"When Tam Dalyell claimed that both Tony Blair and George Bush were influenced by a ‘cabal’ of powerful Jews – including people who were not Jews at all, but merely had some Jewish ancestry -- his remarks were brushed aside indulgently as an embarrassing outburst by a venerable eccentric. The following day, BBC TV Newsnight – far from asking how such an ancient prejudice could have been revived – devoted a substantial item to asking whether Dalyell’s claims were true in the US . This left the impression that there was indeed a group of ‘tightly-knit’ Jews in America who wielded far too much power."

Ah yes. Things are so different now. No archaic prejudices, no bigotry and hatred arising from ignorance and fed by government propaganda, no scapegoating of minorities; we're above that sort of thing now. Never again.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Home to roost

Supreme Court questions Utah bigamy law in case against officer.

The Left ripped Sen. Rick Santorum for asking it, but it's a legitimate question: if society can't pass laws outlawing homosexual activity, then what is the objective basis for outlawing polygamy? They ripped him not because the question was illegitimate but because there was no answer.

Now the folks in Utah might find themselves in a situation where polygamy is technically illegal but not prosecuted: exactly where homosexuality was until recently.

If I had a nickel every time the Left expressed contempt at "slippery slope" arguments... But the slope is indeed slippery when we have nothing to hold on to, and morality is as changeable as whim, or subject to activist judges.