Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo dead

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! Psalm 82

The word "gods" here can also mean judges. Earthly judges hold limited power for a limited time. Then, like all of us, they die and face their Maker. And He who said, "Do not commit murder" will not be overruled.


The greatest good for the greatest number

L.A.Times: "The Roman Catholic Church plans to establish its first religious society devoted exclusively to fighting euthanasia and abortion, church leaders said this week."

Good for them. As the sactity of human life is more and more rejected in favor of utilitarianism and moral relativism, there will be increasing need for pro-life people to do more than sit around talking. All Christians should be giving thought to presenting a competing moral philosophy that explains why we should respect human life.

For some reason, I am suddenly reminded of the bodies found in the bogs of northwestern Europe. They are the remains of people who were ritually killed during the region's pre-Christian era. Caesar spoke of the human sacrifices perpetrated by the Gauls, then proceeded to show Roman moral suporiority by killing a million of them. As our society becomes increasingly post-Christian and even to some extent anti-Christian, we lack a rational basis for seeing any inherent worth in human life.

Quite soon a choice will have to be made as to which world is embraced: a Christian world or that of the Druids. (I am using the word "Druid" somewhat loosely here of course, but Felos' "soul communication" is vaguely pagan.) Terri Schiavo is being publicly, ritually killed. Is it possible that the dread which many of us feel at seeing this is at least partly due to vague memories of a distant past when the average person lived or died at the will of the priests, empires were forged with the sword and many who survived the process did so as literal slaves? Can it be that we have shrugged off a Christian worldview and, in our enlightened sagacity, returned to Thor, Odin, Cernunnos, Mars and Venus? Or even to Molech, who inspired his adherents to mate with abandon then kill the resultant unwanted offspring in the most barbaric manner? And how is it "sophisticated" to be numb or nonchalant toward pure evil?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Terri Schiavo: what's the big deal?

JunkYardBlog gives it to InstaPundit with both barrels over his stance on Terri Schiavo. All but calls Glenn an antichrist. I don't think this helps Terri, or anyone. I do understand the frustration though.

Glenn says, "But I've tried to keep my head, even as those around me are, all too often, losing theirs."

I saw a poster once that said, "If you can keep your head when all those around you are losing theirs, perhaps you don't understand the situation." While it would be presumption of the first order for me to say that Professor Reynolds doesn't understand the legalities involved, I do wonder whether he realizes what the issue is about for those opposed to starving Terri, and why it matters so much. His concern for fedralism is understandable (although sometimes I wonder if federalism is dead and gone) and his attempt to remain reasonable and hear both sides is commendable. But there are those of us who are more troubled by the idea of judges decreeing death based on quality of life arguments, unsupported assertions about what someone wanted, and judicial usurping of the physician's role in diagnosing medical conditions. Simply put, if we start with Terri, where do we end? If principles dictate putting her to death based on special pleading, then the same principles surely dictate the deaths of others also.

I initially avoided posting about Terri because I didn't think I could do so calmly. But some things we should not be calm about, and judge-decreed murder is one of them. Abortion has indeed led to voluntary euthanasia, and now we're seeing the start of euthanasia that is merely asserted to be voluntary. The next step, as we see in Holland (see last post) is euthanasia with no pretense that the victim desired it.

JunkYardBlog is wrong in its nastiness toward Glenn, but right in its outrage at what is happening. Glenn is right in his concern for the rule of law, but I believe that on this one his neutrality is morally and historically wrong.

Felos, hospice and euthanasia

The mainstream media has made a big deal of the religious nature of much of the opposition to the torture and murder of Terri Schiavo. For some reason though, the MSM hasn't seen fit to mention the occultic beliefs that motivate Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, to volunteer as a hospice worker and "right to die" activist attorney.

Speaking of hospice, my wife's parents are both receiving great care from hospice workers, who treat them with dignity as cancer takes its toll on both of them. But not all hospices are the same. My wife's uncle was on hospice a few years back, and the family discovered that this hospice's approach to relieving pain is the same as that of Mr. Felos: starve the patient. They did not disclose this to the uncle or the immediate family, and were discovered only when they had nearly killed him.

Is there a widespread occult connection? Let's not fall into Salem witch-burning mode, but something is clearly motivating many people to seek to end the lives of others even against their will these days. There is a culture of death on the march. It needs to be scrutinized most carefully.

A couple of days ago, Wretchard said this:

MSNBC has come straight out and called the Terri Schiavo case the latest battleground in the culture wars... [T]he Schiavo story... was a match dropped on dry tinder. ...When something comes so abruptly out of blue it is usually a sign of cumulative stresses, long ignored, reaching a tipping point; it is a possible indicator of broken symmetry.

Read the whole post as well as this preceding post to get a better idea of the point Wretchard was making.

But the "culture wars" are between those who hold to a historic Judeo-Christian world view and... who? Secularists? Some are, no doubt. But Felos is no secularist; he is an occultist.

Monday, March 28, 2005

RIP Terri Schiavo, due process?

Terri given last rites.

No, she's not dying of a fatal illness. She's not being executed for a capital crime, or any crime. So she needs a feeding tube? So do I. Hers is plastic, mine is called an esophagus. But judges have accepted the word of one doctor who states she's in a persistent vegetative state and rejected the word of many doctors and nurses who have worked with Terri who say she's not in PVS.

Why is she in need of last rites? Bottom line, because judges say she must die. We don't need a reason; we have verdicts. That, apparently, is how it works.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The flame passes on

Letters from babylon has a Protestant perspective and questions the claim: No Creed but the Bible? (Hat tip: Evangelical Outpost)


Christians in the twenty-first century are the beneficiaries of two thousand years of Christian history, in which sincere and intelligent believers have struggled with the perennial issues of the faith, and have expressed their conclusions in many documents of church history known as creeds and confessions. Simply to reject this collected wisdom, and to pretend that we do something other than adopt a creed when we choose to reject this wisdom, is to do ourselves a great disservice. Not only can we learn a great deal from those believers who have gone before us, and avoid repeating past mistakes, but also, the fact that we stand in a long line of Christians ought to be of tremendous encouragement to our faith. We do not live alone in history, and we should not act as though we do.

Certainly, there have been many false ideas advanced throughout church history—some of them contained in the creeds—that are rightly to be rejected. But a wholesale rejection of the study of church history is not a solution to this problem. Rather, we should work to make ourselves aware of those false ideas that have previously worked destruction, that we are better able to recognize and refute them when they appear today.

Spot-on, I would say: a balanced and biblical position. On the one hand, the modern notion entertained by some evangelicals is just plain wrong: "Just me and the Bible, as illumined by the Holy Spirit." On this point our Catholic friends are perfectly right to say that this "Lone Ranger Christianity" is contrary to the Bible itself:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-21

We don't stand in an historical and theological vacuum; we are indebted to the insights of those Christians who went before us, struggled with some of the same things we struggle with, and searched for answers in the same Bible as ours (at least the 66 books we all agree on). It is only with ignorance coupled with arrogance that we could look at the Christians of the past 20 centuries and say, "I have no need of you!" In my observation, people who claim to rely on the Bible alone as their guide are for the most part relying on the proof texts taught by the leadership of their church or denomination, or possibly their favorite teacher or author. None of us are a tabula rasa, although by God's grace we can overcome our predilections in the quest for a fuller knowledge of the truth.

On the other hand, it must also be acknowledged that the creeds of historic Christianity, though often great summaries of key biblical truth as over against doctrinal innovation and error, are not themselves inerrant or infallible, at least from a historic Protestant position. In the end, all creeds must bow to what all Christians acknowledge to be the word of God Himself: the Bible.

In our quest for a robust Christianity founded on scripture, relevant in our own day and informed by the insights of earlier Christians, particularly the earliest, evangelicals should be encouraged to rediscover the patristic writings: the works of the "Early Church Fathers". After all, who today can claim that their biblical exegesis is superior to that of those taught by the apostles, or taught by those taught by the apostles? Whose dedication is greater than those brutally murdered for their faith in the days of the Caesars?

(The title of this post is from a song by White Heart on their Highlands album, dealing with this very subject.)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Our perilous childhoods

(Normally I despise those "forward this to all your friends" emails, but my sister sent me this and I thought it was great.)

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because
WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

When it's not a "slippery slope"

Joe at the Evangelical Outpost is discussing slippery slopes.

I think that often times what liberals dismiss as a "slippery slope" is actually a redictio ad absurdam. What's the difference? A slippery slope asserts without demonstrating that if one thing is allowed then other things will result. On the other hand, premises can have other conclusions besides just the one under consideration, and sometimes these other valid conclusions are absurd or unacceptable. It is arbitrary if not dishonest to insist that only the one conclusion may be discussed. Rather, if an unacceptable conclusion follows logically from its premises, then the premises themselves should be examined.

Joe mentions the example of same-sex marriage and Matt Yglesias' admission that there is merit to the idea of a slippery slope leading to polygamy and/or androgyny. This argument has some merit since the premise -that we can define marriage or gender roles whatever way suits us- leads to these other conclusions also. It is no good merely to deny that polygamy and/or androgyny will result from this premise. Indeed, it seems impossible to construct a coherent argument that society may define marriage one way but not another, other than as an arbitrary choice backed up by the coercive power of the state: might makes right. Let's show this with a couple of syllogisms:

Major premise: Marriage is defined any way that society chooses.
Minor premise: Society defines marriage to include same-sex couples.
Conclusion: Marriage may include same-sex couples.

If the premises are correct, then the conclusion is perfectly logical. Let's use the major premise another way though:

Major premise: Marriage is defined any way that society chooses.
Minor premise: Society defines marriage to include multiple spouses.
Conclusion: Marriage may include multiple spouses.

Now, let's state the major premise more broadly:

Major premise: Morality is defined any way that society chooses.
Minor premise: Society defines euthanasia (or infantacide, theft, laziness, methamphetamine use, cowardice, betrayal, injustice, etc. etc.) as moral.
Conclusion: These things are moral.

Rather than being expected to consider and then accept just leftist conclusions, we should be asking what the underlying premises are and examining those.

Joe asks what we should do when absurd conclusions do become acceptable. Well, I think that they are acceptable only to a fringe and not to most. That's why leftists want to cry "slippery slope" when other valid conclusions from their premises are pointed out; it's just a trick to limit discussion in a manner favorable to their cause. What we should do is not accept such arbitrary ground rules but put leftists on the defense by asking them to show why the other conslusions are not also valid. This they cannot do in a coherent manner. If we are free to make up our own morality, there is no objective limit to this. There is only the arbitrary application of the power of the state to limit the madness that would ensue. The fact is that someone has to choose between alternatives.

The man behind the curtain

USATODAY.com - 'Call to arms' on evolution

Says Stephen Meyer of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design: "My first reaction is we're seeing evidence of some panic among the official spokesmen for science." He says Alberts is wrong — that intelligent design is not creationism but a scientific approach more open-minded than Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Biologists retort that any reproducible data validating intelligent design would be welcome in science journals. "If there were indeed deep flaws in parts of evolutionary biology, then scientists would be the first to charge in there," says Jeffrey Palmer of Indiana University in Bloomington.

Meyer counters that scientific leaders such as Alberts block a fair hearing of evolution alternatives. "There are powerful institutional and systematic conventions in science that keep (intelligent) design from being considered a scientific process," he says.

This article is further illustration of the unlevel playing field in the teaching of science. ID is to be excluded because there isn't reproducible data. OK, fine. But where is the reproducible data showing that bacteria evolved in to humans? There isn't any.

When it comes to evolution, there is an equivocation that goes on with the result that an empirically untestable philosophical position is promoted as science. It goes like this:

Evolution is speciation (as in the USA Today article). Speciation has been observed, so evolution is a fact. Evolution of phyla is the result of changes at the species level, and since evolution is fact phyla must have evolved.

The part that is passed over quickly is the idea that genetic mutation plus natural selection, which can produce species, can also produce phyla. The latter idea has no reproducible data to back it up, but Alberts neglected to mention that.

The goalposts keep getting moved. First the knock against Intelligent Design was that it was a creationism redux. Philosophical materialists are still saying this, but since they don't have a monopoly on the conversation ID proponents are addressing this misrepresentation, and the claim is shown to be false. So then the knock against ID is that it hasn't had any papers published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Well, now it has, although the decision to include a paper on ID cost the editor his career: Darwinist fair and open minds on display. I used to snicker at creationists' claims of censorship in the journals. I don't snicker any more. But now that a paper has been published, the demand is that others do so as well for ID to be taken seriously. Sure, editors and referees of journals will be just lining up to include ID papers so that they can get fired and prevented from doing research like Richard Sternberg was. No pressure there.

Why a call to arms on evolution? Because science teachers are being pressured to include unscientific ideas like creationism? That's a half-truth at best. School teachers are always getting complaints about what is or isn't taught. If creationism were included, it would be the atheists harrassing the science teachers. Teachers in other subjects get the same thing; it's nothing new. I rather think that Stephen Meyer is right: the materialist fundamentalists are feeling the heat because they're not monopolizing the debate anymore. Darwinism has had a monopoly on the classrooms for a generation or two now. If its committed adherents are feeling some pressure, maybe it's because the idea that all life is the result of undirected chemical reactions strikes many as hard to believe or even --well-- unscientific.

Scientists don't issue calls to arms. Zealots do that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Republicans did the chicken dance for Terri

It's what I thought as soon as I learned the upshot of the weekend legislation on the Terri Schiavo case. This was no heroic effort. The judge in Florida thumbed his nose at the Congressional subpoena, and Congress just took it. Then they passed the buck.

Congressional Republicans were in a dilemma. They need those pro-life votes, but their real commitment is to risk-avoidance. So they did the chicken dance. They flapped their arms, squawked and made a big fuss about what was happening to Terri. But instead of taking the bull by the horns --a daring feat for a chicken!-- they passed the buck to a federal judge.

Aw shucks! We really wanted to rescue Terri and all. We truly did! But that mean ole judge said no, just like those mean ole Democrats in Congress and the courts.

Now, Congressional Republicans still have the chance to prove me wrong while Terri lives, but if they do nothing besides make more noises, pro-life voters should think long and hard about whether Republicans are pro-life or just pro-gesture. So far, seems to me, they have shown themselves to be either insincere or ineffectual, neither of which makes them fitting representatives of pro-life voters.

See, I said I can't discuss this calmly.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Keeping track of Terri Schiavo

Catez at Allthings2all is keeping track of the latest developments in the slow torture and murder of Terri Schiavo. She has several informative posts, so keep scrolling. I'm not discussing the situation myself because I don't think I can do so calmly.

Ghettoes and gatekeepers: end-run

Jeremy at Parableman responds to my initial post . While he doesn't agree with my premise regarding a paucity of well-known Christian bloggers, and he mistakenly thinks I want more links to Christians from the A-list, still he offers some good information and advice. Let's start with this:

"There are at least thirty that I know about that are evangelicals in the top 400, and that's not including other Christian blogs or any I don't know about. ...I don't know why even four or five Christians in the top 100 is supposed to count as low."

What we're talking about is five or ten percent (mostly in the USA) in a country that supposedly is 76% Christian. OK, Jesus said not everyone who calls Him Lord really is a Christian. And surely the true number is much less, otherwise this nation would look radically different than it does. But five or ten percent? That still looks like under-representation to me. Are we to believe that only 5-10% of people in this country are Christians, or that Christians have lower-than-average interest in blogging? If I had more time, I would look at the numbers in detail: percent of bloggers who identify as Christians, the amount of content of their blogs that is explicitly Christian, and the percent of links that they get from the A-list, and whether those links are to posts with explicitly Christian content. What makes me believe that La Shawn is right that the A-list is functioning as a gatekeeper --deliberately or not-- is that there seems to be a discernable gatekeeper effect. An effect has a cause. I think we need to consider how to do an end-run around the A-list gate.

"[M]y blog is linked to from most of the top philosophy blogs. Hardly any of these people are Christians. Most of them disagree with some of my most deeply held convictions. Yet a number of them read my blog faithfully, interact with me in detail, and link to me from their own blogs." (From my comments section) "The secret is to know a lot about a subject, learn how to say something about it that people want to hear, and then become known within the community of bloggers on that subject. ...Joe Carter had a great series on how to get noted in the blogosphere recently that encouraged people to find their niche."

I think that this has to be a key part of the equation. Christian bloggers, each in their own niches, relating to non-Christians in the same niche. We can't all be philosophers, but we all have our interests. On the other hand, Evangelical Outpost is (per TTLB) the highest-ranking blog with explicitly Christian content, and Joe is not a niche blogger. He covers the gamut, and his comments sections runneth over. So there is also room for someone who can talk effectively about a wide range of issues.

"I have no interest in being associated with blogs like Daily Kos, Little Green Footballs, or any other site whose signal to noise ratio is just very, very low. "

So be selective and give thought to why you want to be linked by a particular blog. This too, I think, is good advice. I would add that for a Christian to seek notoriety for its own sake is mistaken.

"I guess my question is this. What is it about being linked to by the A-list bloggers that's supposed to be determinative of what Christian blogs are all about, and what reason do we have to think bloggers who aren't Christians would have much interest at all in the things most Christian blogs discuss?"

Just to reiterate, I am not trying to figure out how to get linked by A-list bloggers. But neither am I content to live in a Christian blogging ghetto that non-Christians seldom if ever wander into. There has to be another alternative. I think that part of that alternative involves niche blogging, or the sort of thing that Joe does, for those who have the time and talents. We're called to go where the people are. I still think we need to give more thought to that.

What is a Christian blog?

In my last post, I suggested that elite bloggers have a gatekeeper role, and that their general avoidance of linking to Christians has the tendency to relegate Christian bloggers to a virtual ghetto, as has already happened in the other forms of media. Parableman has posted a reply as well as adding comments to my last post. I think we are looking at different aspects of Christian blogging, or perhaps have different conceptions of it.

Jeremy seems to be thinking of Christian blogs in terms of high-visibility bloggers who are Christians: "Evangelical Outpost, In the Agora, La Shawn Barber, Hugh Hewitt, Scrappleface, and One Hand Clapping" Not A-list, but very well known, widely read and great at what they do. There is certainly a place for Christians addressing news and politics from a Christian perspective; you don't get much of that in the mainstream media except for the occasional guest spot for one of the predicatable few: Dobson, Falwell, Robertson. As Steve Taylor put it over 20 years ago:

A Christian can't get equal time
Unless he's a loony committing a crime.


So I certainly applaud what these folks are doing. I want to ask though: What do we mean when we say "Christian blog"? At first blush the answer should be obvious, but is it? What should we expect to see at a Christian blog? I'm asking this question of myself too, because more often than not my blog has been the place for my reaction to news events, or my opinion on issue X. But if all I do is argue for a pro-life position, what am I doing more than a Mormon would? If I'm just criticizing the Democrats, what am I doing more than a Randian libertarian? If I argue against the denial of a Creator being passed off as science, what makes me different than a UFO conspircist in the eyes of a scientolater?

Surely there is more to being a Christian blogger than lining up with the Republicans 95% of the time; the organizers of GodBlogCon recognize this and that's a positive move. When a non-Christian visits a Christian blog, what is the main idea that they will come away with? That being a Christian means being a Republican? Or pro-life? Or pro-war on terror? I wonder how a Christian in China would answer that. My guess is that he or she would be tearing his or her hair out, seeing that we have complete freedom to blog about anything we want, and we blog about... the news. Is that all we have to talk about?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there's not a real place for giving the Christian perspective on news and politics. I'm not saying there's no place for what Francis Schaeffer called pre-evangelism. We have to show that objective truth exists and that historic Christianity offers reasoned, coherent, relevant answers to the problems that confront us in our own day. And some of the more prominent Christian bloggers are accomplishing more than being effective Republican partisans, otherwise why do the A-listers not link to them as much as they do to less popular bloggers?

What I'm saying is that a Christian blog, to the extent that it addresses problems in the world, ought to provide uniquely Christian answers. And the answer, ultimately, is not better public policy; you can be an atheist and think that. The answer is that Jesus Christ is Lord. Not Karl Rove, not Rush Limbaugh, not Sean Hannity, not the RNC, not James Dobson, or whoever else you want to put in that list, Democrats included. The answer comes when we repent of our rebellion against God and trust in the crucified and risen Christ. The answer becomes active in us as we surrender to the Holy Spirit and our minds become immersed in the propositional truth of the Bible. It will affect not just what we say in our blogs, but how we say it. Democrats, abortionists, homosexuals and journalists at the New York Times cease to be enemies, or even a threat. They are a threat to themselves, but not to us and not to a fallen world that is only seeking someone to lead it down the wrong path. Any religion can condemn people and tell them what sinners they are, but only the message of Christ is Good News. I hope that we as Christian bloggers are making that known.

Update: 3/20

Jollyblogger is blogging about the role of blogging (i.e. metablogging?) and says this (hat tip: PlaidBerry):

"[B]logging is a vehicle, it is a tool, it is a medium for communication. Blogging could play a part in a new reformation, assuming some type of message develops that can radically alter religion and society at large, as happened during the Reformation of the sixteenth century."

A blog written by a Christian is potentially a Christian blog, but not necessarily. It depends what we're communicating, and how. The Reformation was still empowered by the printing press, even though very few owned one. Christian blogs can do great things without the help of the gatekeepers, and the more distinctively Christian we are the less we should expect to get linked to. Now, my cynical side thinks that last statement is a nice way to put a positive spiritual spin on obscurity, but Jesus did say that the world will hate not just Him but His followers. Paul's address on Mars Hill might have begun with bridge-building via natural philosophy, but it didn't end there.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ghettoes and gatekeepers

OK, this is a little weird. I've been thinking about this since yesterday evening. Last night I discover that Joe Carter was posting about it at the same time. Then I discover that La Shawn Barber was too. We're all Christians. Coincidence? (Maybe a non-Christian would refer to Jung at this point.)

It is a phenomenon within the blogosphere. What to call it? Polarization? That's how Joe sees it. A glass ceiling? That's how La Shawn sees it, although she has used her writing skills to smash a hole in it and crawl up. She links to Michael Bowen who also has thoughts on stratification, although he sees it in racial terms. What we all agree is that the blogging elite --the A-list-- are a fairly homogeneous group. Racially so? No idea; I don't know the race of most of them. Gender-wise? Looks like the top 10 are all men except for Michelle Malkin. Politically? Are you kidding? There are partisans of the left and right.

What I see is a paucity of overtly Christian blogs. In fact, in TTLB's top 100 I count two: The Evangelical Outpost and ajhankin. There are a few other Christians in the top 100 (including La Shawn and Michelle), but these are Christians blogging about mostly news and politics. Nothing wrong with that. But there are only two that center on Christianity. This seems a bit odd in the US, where 76% of people identify themselves as Christians.

I'm still thinking about the Washinton Post story I discussed 10 days ago. I can't get the phrase "Christian ghetto" out of my mind. The WaPo story made it sound like this ghetto is the self-imposed cultural exile of ignoramuses. But are ghettoes usually self-imposed? Was Harlem? Warsaw? Were Native American reservations? No, they were imposed upon those without power by the dominant culture; those people had no choice but to live in the ghetto unless they were able to leave their old identity behind. The WaPo story (coincidentally?) suggests the same thing: the couple in the story left the Christian ghetto, got educations and upscale jobs, and changed their identity.

So what I'm wondering is: Are Christians online and in the blogopshere being forced into a virtual ghetto? We're definitely not there commensurate with our numbers, especially in the A-list. Coincidence? La Shawn discusses how moving up in the blogosphere is very hard to do without help from that A-list; someone in that elite has to hold the gate open for you, by linking to your posts, usually a number of times. This is reflected in my own experience; the limited exposure I've had as a blogger is directly or indirectly through the Evangelical Outpost. How willing are those elite bloggers to hold the gate open for Christians? I'm not familiar enough with all ten to generalize, but I will say that there are some whom I've contacted a number of times each with a link relevent to what they're discussing, always without reply. Very recently, I sent a link to one of them, and the link was quickly posted, but without either an email reply or the customary hat tip. Another coincidence? Perhaps. But these coincidences are all tending in the same direction. Are Christians expected to sit in the back of the blogospheric bus and not get uppity? I don't know people's motives, but I'm hard-put to explain this another way. That's not to say that the A-list is anti-Christian as a whole; they likely are not. But it does seem apparent that in the list of things that matter to the elite bloggers, Christianity is not even a blip on the radar screen (Michelle Malkin being the exception). For whatever reason, they are simply unmotivated to hold the gate open to us.

On the other hand, we shouldn't expect those who don't claim to be Christians to carry our water for us. But their gatekeeper role makes it harder for Christians to be seen and heard outside our own community. To paraphrase the famous philosophical dilemma, if a Christian blogs and nobody hears it, does he or she make a sound? We are called to reach out to the people around us, the culture around us. However, in print media, broadcasting, music, movies etc. Christians have been essentially frozen out of the mainstream markets and have been shunted into the Christian cultural ghetto: Christian radio, TV (ostensibly anyway), publishing houses, book stores, and now even to a large extent in this new, empowering medium, the blogosphere.

What do we do about it? I don't know. I do think that Christian bloggers should put our heads together and devise some strategies to be seen and heard in the wider blogosphere and Internet. The glass ceiling can be broken; La Shawn did it. Perhaps it's fitting in a way that a black woman should be our example. This problem is still fermenting in my mind and I will post more later.

Update: 3/18

It seems that there was a lot of misunderstanding about what I was trying to say yesterday. Perhaps the take-home lesson there is that I shouldn't attempt a serious post upon returning from 10 1/2 hours at work. So I will try to keep this brief so as not to repeat my mistake, then post some more later when my brain is firing on all cylinders.

To clarify: It has been my observation that the A-list bloggers do not, generally speaking, link to Christian bloggers much. I'm not trying to figure out how to get them to do it, but how Christians can make an impact in the non-Christian blogosphere in spite of this. To me, the usefulness of the TTLB ranking is not to show that we've acquired a prestigious position but to have a (admittedly rough) gauge of Christian bloggers getting our message across. And again, I'm concerned more about those who blog about Christianity than those who blog about other things but happen to be Christian.

Also, as if I didn't adequately mess things up yesterday, it turns out that Corrie is a guy. My apologies!

I still plan to respond to the thoughts everyone has kindly shared, but when I'm more awake...

Another update: 3/19

More thoughts including a response to Jeremy here and here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Degree of separation

Two decisions in California today. Robert Blake has been acquitted, and Scott Peterson was sentenced to death. What's the moral? If you're going to whack your wife, you should outsource?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Science and Christianity Showcase

The Science and Christianity Showcase is up at Allthings2all. I've just had a quick glance at it before jumping in, and it looks like there's a lot of interesting stuff. Tell your friends!

A contribution from yours truly is included, in which I advocate open, online scientific journals. I see a number of significant benefits, and some potential pitfalls which should be manageable. Other posts I have written that relate to Christianity and science, which also relate specifically to the post that Catez included:

  • Science vs. faith, in another context

  • Role reversal: suppressing heresy

  • Further thoughts on previous post: control through fear

  • Crushing of dissent at Smithsonian

  • Further thought on Smithsonian witch hunt

  • Macroevolution: a smoking gun

  • Now it might be said that some of these are ...er... less than collegial, but there are some things that ought to be opposed rather than acceded to. Suppression of dissent is one of those, especially in science.

    Saturday, March 12, 2005

    Stranger in the house

    Christianity Today is usually pretty reliable. That's why I was so surprised to see this in their Leadership Journal:

    I was so frustrated by last year's promotional hype surrounding Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and I was so frustrated by the movie itself, although I know many good people found it moving and spiritually edifying. Maybe it's because I have deep concerns about the alignment of major sectors of Christianity with 'red-state Republicanism,' and I worry that a kind of modernist, nationalist neo-fundamentalism is trying to claim all Christian territory as its sovereign domain.

    For whatever reason, when I walked out of the recent film Hotel Rwanda, the story of a hotel manager who saves more than a thousand Tutsi refugees from Hutu-led genocide, this thought wouldn't leave me: If we really had the mind and heart of Christ, this is the movie we would be urging people in our churches to see.

    It appears that the author would prefer an alignment of major sectors of Christianity with 'blue-state liberalism', to be consistently applied across theological and political dimensions.

    The biggest problem I see here is that the author, Brian McLaren, likes the idea of Jesus as a moral teacher, in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets, but not so much as the Saviour who was crucified for the sins of a fallen humanity. No, he doesn't say this outright, but I do believe that the real problem that a lot of people had with The Passion of the Christ is that it shows the redemption of Calvary and what that says about our sin and our inability to save ourselves through our own efforts.

    But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24

    Christians who didn't want to see The Passion seemed to me to fall into two groups: those who didn't want to see the gore (which is understandable) and those who have rejected historic, orthodox Christianity and have invented a new "Christianity" that replaces the cross of Christ with the shibboleths of postmodern leftist thought. I'm sure there are exceptions, but that's the trend I noticed, from the ad-hoc group of unbelieving "Bible scholars" who pronounced the movie antisemitic before they saw it to the mainlline clerics lined up to discuss the movie in the mainstream media.

    Instead of The Passion, McLaren prefers Hotel Rwanda, which I gather is a good movie in its own right, and one that I would have seen if it had been (!) shown locally. But the latter is not an explicitly Christian movie. It is about a man who rejects the tribalism of his neighbors and looks upon all Rwandans as part of the same family; his family. This is commendable in itself but, as Francis Schaeffer so brilliantly pointed out, if one's beliefs are not rooted in objective reality then they cannot be long maintained. Love for others, even members of other tribes, is a rational conclusion from the teaching of the Bible, but believers in Darwinism, atheists, agnostics and postmodern relativists believe in it even though their worldview does not provide a rational basis for doing so.

    Another reason I think that McLaren has a beam in his own eye is that he invokes the questionable paradigm of red states --with their gun-totin', abortion-bannin', gay-bashin', racist right wingers-- and blue states with their gun-banning, abortion-defending, gay-affirming, pseudo-pluralistic left wingers and places the two movies on opposite sides of this divide. Say what?! McLaren doesn't even attempt to justify connecting The Passion with red staters; I suspect that it is his own ideological tribalism --the postmodern tribe-- showing through. This is further expressed in his statement:

    "I worry that a kind of modernist [as opposed to postmodernist], nationalist [Huh? Is he suggesting a link between historic Christianity and fascism?] neo-fundamentalism [Oh, here we go: "If you don't think like me you're ignorant, uneducated, backward, xenophobic, anti-intellectual, yadda yadda yadda..."] is trying to claim all Christian territory as its sovereign domain."

    There is another reason that I think "liberals" were so riled up about The Passion. One of the things that separates Christianity from other religions is that it ultimately rests on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as real events that actually happened in history, even though "liberal" Christian scholars have been trying to claim that the resurrection was just made up by the first Christians (who then went on to be martyred for something they knew they had made up).

    And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15:14-17

    To rephrase the apostle using a contemporary catch-phrase, if Christ was not raised from the dead, all we have is a "faith tradition" that is on par with the other "faith traditions" of the world, and Jesus' claim that "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6) may be safely dismissed and we can continue doing our own thing and making it up as we see fit. The resurrection shows that Christ is who He claimed to be, in contrast to the decayed bodies of Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Enlightenment philosophers, and even God's own Old Testament prophets, none of whom were more than human.

    It is not surprising that "the offense of the cross" is still expressed in the world of unbelievers; the message of the cross is still foolishness to those who are perishing. It is surprising to see it in Christianity Today.


    Friday, March 11, 2005

    Congress outfoxed by a Bear

    N.Z. Bear:

    As "Captain Ed" Morrissey of the political blog Captain's Quarters said in an open letter to Sens. McCain and Feingold, during the presidential campaign he linked to Kerry's Web site four times as often as to Bush's, "which would have meant to the FEC that I was a major contributor to his campaign." In fact, he was a Bush supporter.

    Where Ed sees stupidity, I see opportunity! It's rare that such a fine chance for amusing civil disobedience comes along.

    Unless I'm missing something (entirely posssible), current campaign finance rules would hold the offending blogger responsible for giving a "contribution" with their dirty, dirty link --- but they would also hold the campaign linked to responsible, regardless of whether the campaign wanted the link or not.

    Catching on yet? It's easy, and fun, too! Simply pick the least desirable candidate whose sheer presence on our fair planet offends you, and link, link, link to their site!

    How incredibly devious. I love it! Not that it takes a genius to pull a reductio ad absurdam on Congress, but this is brilliant. I've suddenly got the feeling I'll be writing a lot about Hillary in roughly three years.

    Or maybe we shouldn't wait that long. Maybe the blogosphere will (I hope) cause McCain-Feingold to implode as soon as candidates declare themselves, by exceeding limits on personal donations.

    Of course, the FEC will have to assign some monetary value to each blogger's link. So, for example, a single link from this guy might exceed his allowable donation, while I could link to someone 1000 times and it might be worth a cup of coffee. But then, would that mean that Glenn wouldn't be allowed to link to anyone since it would be worth too much? The absurd possibilities are endless.

    Thursday, March 10, 2005

    Dilemma: Terri Schiavo story takes new turn

    WorldNetDaily: A California businessman has offered $1 million to the husband of a brain-damaged Florida woman if he will give up guardianship of her – a move that would save her from court-ordered starvation set to begin next Friday.

    On the one hand, Terri's "husband" claims that she would want to be killed, while some people ask aloud if he's scared of her regaining her speech and spilling the beans about the mysterious incident that left her brain-damaged. On the other hand, he stands to make a million bucks. And if society looks down on a gigolo, what's to be said about someone who will allow his wife to live if he's paid?

    Aside from whether Michael Schiavo takes the money or not, is the possible problem of precedent. Many people think it's a bad precedent for Ward Churchill to be offered a buyout of his contract, since this might encourage other leftist loonies in academia to make outrageous statements in the hope of receiving similar offers. If Schiavo accepts, I wonder whether other legal guardians of brain-damaged people will make a public show of seeking to pull the plug in order to receive similar offers. So while the businessman's offer is a noble and generous act to save Terri's life, I hope this demand doesn't generate a supply.

    Heirs of the Enlightenment?

    Mark Steyn:

    [T]he same form of words has mysteriously flowered from Toronto to London to Sydney. It’s the catchphrase du jour - like “Show me the money” or “You are the weakest link. Goodbye.” Now it’s “Could Bush be right?”

    ...Now the torrents of Arabia cascade on, from Baghdad to Beirut, Cairo, Riyadh and beyond. Those of us who argued three years ago that Iraq was the place to start the dominoes falling and that the Middle East was ripe for liberty, for democracy, for one man, one gloat – whoops, sorry, vote… Anyway, those of us who told you so way back when long ago gave up trying to figure out why the media, the Dems, the Europeans and Canadians were so wedded to “stability” uber alles. But we had a feeling that their enthusiasm was unlikely to be shared by the actual subjects of Assad and co.

    Let's take that a step further. What do the last few years say about who really has the interests of the people of the Middle East at heart? Who is it that really viewed those people as equally and fully human, rejecting the idea that Arabs ought to resign themselves to oppression and servitude because that's just how things are? Hint: it wasn't the leftists.

    Washington to mess with taxes?

    Fox News:

    "We need to throw out the current income tax system, look at various types of consumption tax, so people can see how much they're paying rather than all the disguised taxes we have today, DeMint said."

    This sounds like the Fair Tax movement might be gaining some traction in Congress. I suppose it could be called the Demagogue Endangerment Act, since it would take the malarkey of "tax cuts for the rich" off the table while the proposed rebate would ensure that the poor would be exempt.

    DeMint also points out one of the big flaws in the current system: that paying income tax is not noticed in the same way as taxes that you pay at time of purchase. This has become even more pronounced in the last few years, when public dialogue equates one's annual tax refund with government giveaways, as in the euphemism of "rebates" of taxes that one has not actually paid.

    But why stop there? Why not end every activity and agency of the federal government that is not specifically mandated by the Constitution? Why not at least discuss it, so people have an informed choice?

    Where's the beef?

    Meryl Yourish is hosting the Third Annual International Eat an Animal for PETA Day (hat tip: InstaPundit). I am going to take part. My only regret is that I don't have deer in the freezer. What could have been more appropriate than Bambi with sauteed onions?

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Colorado: academic freedom only for leftists

    WorldNetDaily:

    While University of Colorado officials defend controversial professor Ward Churchill in the name of free speech, an evangelical Christian professor at the school claims he's about to be dismissed for religious or political reasons.

    ...After quoting respected black intellectual Thomas Sowell in a discussion about affirmative action, Mitchell was berated as a racist.

    "That would have come as a surprise to my black children," said Mitchell, who has nine children, two of them adopted African-Americans.

    Then, says Harsanyi, the professor used a book on liberal Protestantism in the late 19th century.

    Harsanyi writes: "So repulsed by the word 'god' was one student, she complained, and the department chair fired him without a meeting."

    This is the same university that has defended the vile claims of Ward Churchill --who has been accused of academic fraud-- on the grounds of academic freedom and "free speech". But a highly-respected professor who takes non-leftist positions is being summarily fired.

    What is going on at the University of Colorado is fraud. It is extremist indoctrination masquerading as intellectual inquiry. It is also undemocratic, since the university accepts public funding while refusing to be accountable to the public. A Student Bill of Rights with definite enforcement provisions seems now like the minimum of what should be done. I understand that some academics don't like the idea of solutions imposed by law, but there are certain universities that simply don't police themselves, where extremists wield almost total power without any accountability to anyone except their fellow extremists. This is not an environment conducive to learning but great for indoctrination, and the public shouldn't be forced to pay for it.

    With cancer, mutation in the DNA of a cell leads to that cell replicating itself and forming a mass in the body, which does not contribute to the health of the body but lives as a parasite within it, until it kills the body. Extreme leftism --not leftist ideas,, but the -ism that tolerates no dissent-- has become a cancer in academia, and the current system for hiring and tenure protects this cancer from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

    Live-blogging Bush Middle East speech

    My first attempt at live-blogging: Bush's address on Fox News. Quotes in italics are approximate or paraphrases.

    Calling out Syria & Iran: End support for terror now. Didn't he have something to say about state sponsors of terrorism shortly after 9-11?

    Hello, Hosni! Arab states must end public & private hate mongering.

    Elections need multiple canditates. Now there's a thought!

    We look forward to the day when the Iranian people are free. Segues immediately into situation in Iraq. Hmmm...

    Support democratic movements in all nations with goal of ending tyranny in the world.... Not by force of arms. Freedom must be chosen. But sometimes those nasty dictators have a habit of getting in the way. What to do???

    Support for nations now simmering in despair. Syria?

    Suppressed desire for freedom can emerge with sudden power. Seems like InstaPundit said this in the past, but I can't remember where.





    Monday, March 07, 2005

    The black helicopters now have "Jesus" fishes

    I see that the Washington Post has a slightly more positive view of evangelical Christians these days (hat tip: Jeff the Baptist). We might still be paranoid, intolerant, extremist zealots bent on imposing theocracy on the nation, but we're not what way by nature. See, we're just the products of our environment. If we could only get an education and an upscale job inside the Beltway, we'd moderate our extremist positions. In fact, we'd become Episcopalians!

    That's the impression I get from the article. Consider these gems:

    "Uchhhhhh, embarrassing," she says. The gaudy soundtrack of the "Christian ghetto" she lived in as a teenager. Lyric the high school "Jesus freak," chastising her church youth group for wasting time on frivolous pizza parties, ignoring any TV that wasn't "The 700 Club."

    "It just makes me wince," she says now that her ghetto self is long gone, now that she's made it here, to Washington, to the languid Friday afternoon tea time in a congressional cafeteria, to her starched white blouse and a stint on the presidential campaign and a husband who works in the Senate, to a salon of what she calls "Christian intellectuals."

    ...[Evangelical discomfort with politics] was before Roe v. Wade, before the Christian Coalition, before evangelicals made money and moved to the suburbs and "began to lose a sense of pessimism and alienation," says John Green, a professor of political science at the University of Akron.

    ...Now Lyric and Jeff are married and live in Fairfax. Jeff works in Sen. James Inhofe's office, Lyric is a political consultant. They've stayed away from the usual evangelical megachurch -- "the music is awful" -- and instead joined Truro Episcopal in Fairfax.


    Ah, but have we grown up and joined the real world, or have we just activated our Cultural Cloaking Devices?

    No more thundering sermons on Wiccans and floods and child molesters, caught on tape and leaked by a political opponent. No more pronouncements about "signs" showing up in California. No more horrors from the Book of Revelation.

    It's what Ralph Reed dreamed of, and now it's finally here. Christians in politics are ready to trade in their guerrilla fatigues for business suits and a day job.

    ...When talking about abortion, the South Dakota Republican prefers abstractions: "I like to connect my principled view with my policy objectives," he says. "Good principles can lead to good policy."

    To secular humanists or even your average Democrat, Thune Land is a scary, scary frontier. "He is this new kind of Republican creature who puts an innocuous face on the religious right," says a Daschle aide who worked on the campaign. "Behind this cheerful frat-boy basketball-star persona is just the same old beast of the far right."

    (Note: "far right" means pro-life.)
    "This new generation has the same convictions but without the edge," says Michael Cromartie, an evangelical scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. "They may believe all the same things, but they are not going to go on 'Larry King Live' and say all homosexuals should die. They've learned how to present themselves."

    Oh, we're not supposed to advocate death for homosexuals anymore? Guess I haven't gotten the memo from Evangelical Theocracy Conspiracy World Headquarters. But HQ has lost its edge since it was taken over by Harvard grads.

    I must say, also, that I'm ashamed of our attempts to impose our extremist viewpoints by stealth, in contrast to this transparent effort by the WaPo to promote peace, love and understanding.

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Treason

    NewsMax:

    "As a Democrat, you don't want anything nice to happen to the Republicans, and you don't want them to have progress," Soderberg observed, before quickly adding, "But as an American, you hope good things would happen."

    However, Soderberg quickly undermined her own caveat, noting, "It's scary for Democrats, I have to say."

    After noting that the U.S.'s remarkable foreign policy success followed the toppling of one of the three members of the axis of evil, Soderberg suggested again that the more success America has in defeating global terrorism, the worse it is for her party.

    "Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's still hope for the rest of us. ... There's always hope that this might not work."

    Every time someone asks, "Can the Democrats sink any lower?" we are shown in disgusting terms that the answer is yes. Here we have, not principled opposition to war or expression of loyal opposition, but the hope that evil regimes that are hostile to America and their own neighbors succeed in their struggle, so that it will help the Democratic Party politically. Democrats are rooting for the psychotic, criminal regime of North Korea and the fascist mullahs of Iran, both of whom have or are seeking nuclear weapons. This is not the mad, raving accusation of unthinking, partisan Republicans but a public statement from a senior Democratic operative.

    If this isn't treason against one's country, could someone please explain what is?

    And if there are any liberals in this country who are still loyal Americans, would you please leave the Democratic Party and establish your own so that liberal voters have a palatable choice besides a pack of cynical traitors?

    Back to the future: update from France

    Last Monday I said that secularism is the past, not the future. This Christianity Today article demonstrates this with a report from the home of secularist rationalism, France:

    At the beginning of the 21st century, the postmodern French have deconstructed deconstructionism, seen through the utopia of socialism, and realized that wine and other sensual delights only go so far in filling what French philosopher Blaise Pascal described as the "God-shaped void."

    ...Henri Blocher, a well-known evangelical church leader who teaches at an evangelical seminary in Vaux-sur-Seine and heads a new doctoral program at Wheaton College, believes this growth is sound. "I visit a number of churches where I meet many people in their 30s, families with children, committed and balanced, with an interest in Christian truth," he says. "This is what I call healthy." People in their teens, 20s, and 30s are the generation who reject the cynicism of their socialist parents. They are Europe's Christian hope.

    If that wasn't amazing enough, there is this bit:
    A veteran missionary to French Muslims who I'll call Steve Adams, speaking on condition of anonymity, says he knows of about 17 support groups for Muslim converts to Christianity in France; all have formed in the last 10 years. "We're on the threshold of major breakthroughs with Muslims," Adams says. "God is saving religious leaders from Islam, like the two former Islamic terrorists I met."

    Ideologies, like kingdoms, come and go. But the truth remains. In a nation spiritually frozen from cynical secularism, it looks like springtime is breaking out again.

    After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

    Yes, even French people will be there! Who says miracles don't happen anymore?





    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Common ground, or mere equivocation?

    Patriot-News (Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog):

    Walczak persisted: 'It's not to say it's not metaphysically correct, but it's not science. There's not a single university teaching intelligent design in its science curriculum."


    I might be seeing the faintest glimmer of hope for finding some common ground in the origins controversies. The first sentence is compatible with my own position, which is that ID is not a scientifically testable hypothesis but is a valid philosophical inference from the scientific data at hand.

    The problem is when ID is juxtaposed with a concept of "evolution" which in effect denies that any intelligence was involved in the origin of species; the latter position is given the mantle of "science" (as it is in this debate) even though the denial of intelligent involvement is also not scientifically testable and is logically impossible to prove. What we currently have in academia (and schools) is an unlevel playing field where one untestable hypothesis is taught as fact and the opposing untestable hypothesis is barred from discussion.

    On the other hand, the above statement from the ALCU lawyer might simply be a repackaging of the old chestnut that "creationism" (which ID opponents keep calling it so they don't have to deal with it on its own perits) can be taught in comparative religion classes. This is the functional equivalent of saying that it may be taught in underwater basket weaving classes, since neither exist in most schools. It also ignores the fact that the denial of ID is taught in science classes.

    (And this can't be repeated too often: Intelligent Design is not creation science!!! It is dishonest for anyone to keep saying otherwise.)

    Given that the ACLU layer was upholding the current paradigm of evolution-as-denial-of-ID, I suspect that what looks like possible common ground was just an attempt to sound more reasonable while defending suppression of dissent.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    4.5 days per victim

    That's what it works out to. Abu Bakar Bashir was found guilty of conspiracy relating to the Bali pub bombing, and got what amounts to 4.5 days in prison for each person killed.

    This sentence comes down as tsunami relief efforts continue in Indonesia, led by the Aussies and Americans; it is the legal equivalent of biting the hand that feeds you. Or maybe spitting on a doctor who is binding your wounds.

    Fox News:

    U.S. terrorism expert Zachary Abuza said that Bashir supporters would be emboldened that the court dropped the serious charges. He said he'd expected the court to hand down an even lighter sentence.

    "They (Bashir's followers) are going to feel vindicated, that prosecutors have to drop many charges against him and indeed dropped demands for a fuller sentence," Abuza said.


    No culture is better than another, huh? Tell it to the victims' families, who will see this monster walk out of prison to a hero's welcome and resume preaching jihad before the last tsunami aid workers depart.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    Rule of lawyers

    Tony Blankley (via Power Line):

    When a Supreme Court justice feels it necessary to write as the closing words of his opinion that he still holds fidelity to the Constitution, it is more than reasonable to assume he knows he has just betrayed that sacred document. But at least he has vouchsafed his popularity at liberal cocktail parties for another year.


    Deacon adds:

    Scalia is right -- words have no meaning to this Court. The law is what a handful of self-aggrandizing old men and women think it should be, without regard to text and without meaningful deference to the democratic processes.


    I wonder at what point citizens start to ask themselves: If the highest court in the nation feels the freedom to disregard the law whenever it suits, why can't I?

    Also, to what extent is democracy a facade if nine people can veto any publicly-supported measure passed by legislatures and signed by a president or governor? This reminds me of dialogue in the movie Gladiator between Emperor Commodus and his sister Lucilla, on whether or not to abolish the Roman Senate:

    Lucilla: Leave the people their...

    Commodus: ...illusions?

    Lucilla: Traditions.

    I realize that I am not a legal scholar, and that there are Constitutional considerations that mitigate against the high court having to uphold whatever passing fancy is held by 50.1% of the people. But if those considerations are not evident to me, then they are probably not evident to other non-lawyers either. It would help if the current Court could articulate some rational, objective set of criteria by which laws in America are spiked on the basis of other considerations, but perhaps the SCUSA is awaiting direction from their colleagues on the Continent or in the UN for that. Or maybe the Revisionist Five know exactly what they're doing but don't dare say it.

    Dance of the Republican chickens

    And so it begins: the Senate begins backtracking on Social Security reform. Frist is confirming what some of us already think: that Senate Rebublicans lack President Bush's courage of conviction and prefer safe, non-controversial, status quo "solutions". These folks are not reformers, they do not favor limited government, they do not believe in taking risks for the sake of freedom. They believe in CYA. This does not bode well for other ambitious Bush goals, such as appointing strict constructionists to the Supreme Court.

    Voters who think that their Republican Senator is a conservative or lover of freedom ought to let that Senator know they are being watched by those whose votes they will eventually ask for again.

    You read it here first, again

    Vancouver Sun: National Hockey League owners are attempting to destroy the players' association, CBC sports announcer Ron MacLean said Tuesday.

    I first suggested that this was the leagues true game plan almost two months ago. But I'm not tooting my own horn. (Well OK, maybe just a little bit.) I'm pointing out that this has been evident to me for some time, and I have to think it's been evident to others also. And I maintain my position: the National Hockey League is committing suicide. The players can play anywhere, and if need be a new league will rise up to capture that market. On the other hand, the NHL is dreaming if it thinks that the fans will pay pro-league prices to watch college or Major-Junior lvel play, as would be the case with replacement players.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    Enviros follow Dean: Fool them with repackaging!

    Washington Post (via In the Agora):

    "While evangelicals are open to being good stewards of God's creation, they believe people should only worship God, not creation," Green said. "This may sound like splitting hairs. But evangelicals don't see it that way. Their stereotype of environmentalists would be Druids who worship trees."

    ..."The Earth is God's body," Hedman said in a recent sermon. "God wants us to look after it."


    A swing and a miss. If you're going to try to convince us that the present environmentalist movement is not pantheistic, it might help to not make pantheistic statements. Just a thought.

    The first sentence reflects my own view: we should be good stewards of God's creation. Development should be sustainable, clean technologies should be aggressively pursued so as to minimize pollution, and wilderness areas should be left for future generations. But contrary to what the WaPo article suggests, there are in fact differences between conserving the earth and the current environmentalist movement. They are not merely different names for the same thing.

    Another problem I see besides the tendency to divinize the earth, whether one calls it Gaia or "God's body", is that the science is still very incomplete. It doesn't help that activism replaces scientific discussion, scientific dissenters against global warming receive death threats, and resultant policies such as the Kyoto accord are really just backdoor socialism because they impose heavy fines on productivity while exempting the worst polluters because they are developing nations. In short, a lot of the discussion about environmental issues today is not honest discussion, and some environmentalists don't even want there to be a discussion. Further evidence that Kyoto fosters redistribution of wealth more than eco-friendly industry is the already real problem of outsourcing of jobs to exampted nations. In a Christian's consideration of environmental solutions, treaties that cost people's jobs should be taken into account, and claims about the enviroment that are based on inconclusive data and maintained by silencing dissent should be suspect at best.

    Then there's this bit fro the WaPo article:

    Even for green activists within the evangelical movement, there are landmines. One faction in the movement, called dispensationalism, argues that the return of Jesus and the end of the world are near, so it is pointless to fret about environmental degradation.

    James G. Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first interior secretary, famously made this argument before Congress in 1981, saying: "God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." The enduring appeal of End Time musings among evangelicals is reflected in the phenomenal success of the Left Behind series of apocalyptic potboilers, which have sold more than 60 million copies and are the best-selling novels in the country.


    Um, no. The Watt quote has been exposed as a lie, and if you look closely the WaPo article includes a half-hearted correction (but not a retraction) in teeny tiny print. The Left Behind angle is a non-sequitur as there is no evidence to suggest that dispensationalists actually think this way or that the Left Behind books actually promote such thinking.

    Christians do have a responsibility to protect the environment, and vote for policies that do so. But for the foreseeable future we will probably have to do so outside the aegis of the "environmental" movement.

    The Falwell Factor: more on "Christian celebrities"

    Jeff the Baptist notes my comments on evangelical spokesmen and moves the ball further:

    The power of the Evangelical movement is the Holy Spirit. It is individuals communicating and representing the truth that is God and Christ. I think it is important to have some of these individuals as good spokesmen in the public sector. I think it is equally or more important for the rest of us to be good representatives of Christ at home and in our communities.

    ...But on the other hand how many of us are capable, I mean really capable, of being spokesmen or spokeswomen even in our own communities. Can you give the reason for the hope you have within you? It is not an easy task.


    Indeed. It involves a lot of study and reflection over a long period, coupled with the humility that comes from realizing that even then our answers are only partial. My fear is that too many young Christians are more conversant with the lyrics and lives of Christian musicians than with the basis of their faith -God's word- and its relevance to today's problems. There are exceptions of course, but I think that church activities need to be more about learning and discipleship than socializing and entertainment. I see a great willingness to reach out, but confusion and uncertainty about what to reach out with.

    In the last election, evangelicals gained the attention of the press and politicians by the way they voted. We ought to be getting their attention all the time by the way we live. To bring this back to Jeff's point, we are filled with the Holy Spirit through learning and submitting ourselves to God's will as revealed in the Bible; listening to the radio helps only to the extent that it is conducive to this.

    How do you say "Berlin Wall" in Arabic?

    Mark Steyn (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) summarizes events of the past month in the Middle East and connects the dots:

    Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30. Don't take my word for it, listen to Walid Jumblatt, big-time Lebanese Druze leader and a man of impeccable anti-American credentials: 'I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen.


    Bush was right. The neocons were right. Those "intelligent" and "nuanced" Democrats and other leftists were wrong. What next? Will we find out that "freedom" is a real, viable concept and not just a pretext for imperialism? Actually, those of us in the West can't answer that. The Arabs will have to answer that one, by choosing between God-given rights and dignity and a government that protects them, or replacement tin-pot dictators who exploit the masses and round up dissenters. After all, when the first Berlin Wall fell the result in Germany was not freedom all around but a socialist government that survives on America-baiting and the people's desire for a free lunch.

    Well of course he's a "dissident"

    Little Green Footballs:

    In the caption for a photograph of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Agence France Presse enlightens those of us who were so rash as to call Osama Bin Laden a “terrorist.”

    When after all, he’s just a “dissident.”


    I don't see what the problem is; I think the term "dissident" pefectly describes bin Laden's relationship with the Saudi regime. They pretend to be our friends while funding our enemies, but Osama takes a more honest, direct approach and declares his enmity toward us openly.

    It was fun while it lasted

    Howard Dean (via Power Line):

    The issue is not abortion. The issue is whether women can make up their own mind instead of some right-wing pastor, some right-wing politician telling them what to do.

    ...Moderate Republicans can't stand these people [conservatives], because they're intolerant.


    I had great fun lampooning Howard Dean's strategy to attract evangelical voters. The above quote suggests that he gave up that strategy (I can't imagine why) and instead plans to win by attracting moderate Republicans and demonizing evangelicals.

    I'm shocked, shocked that his brief, positive overture to evangelicals was only a political ploy and not heartfelt.