17 October 2005

Looking for birth pangs

My mother in law looked at me this morning and asked, "With all the earthquakes and other natural disasters lately, do you think we're in the 'End Times'?"

In the spirit of full-disclosure allow me to say that I have a Pre-Mil, Pre-Trib view of eschatology. That said, I also strongly assert that really smart, sincere Christians have been disagreeing on this topic for two-thousand years. The subject is (meaningful buzzword inbound...) a Mystery. We are given hints and clues, but I think it's hubris to claim
doctrine on eschatological matters. But again, I think it dangerous to be a Panmillenialist ("It will all pan out in the end!" ~chuckle~snort~chuckle~snort) and willfully remain ignorant of the issues. Christ says (at least) two unequivocal, important things on the matter.

One: that no man knows the day or the hour of his return - not even the angels in heaven, but only the Father (which seems to also exclude Christ Himself, but I wouldn't bet on that.) So any kind of date setting seems reckless on its face. While it would appear that His first coming and the events of Palm Sunday were predictable based on well known prophecy - perhaps even to the very day - the church age is different. The church itself (Christ in us) is a mystery and it would seem that Christ's return has been imminent since the day after Pentecost.

Two: He says that when you see these things, all the 'signs', come to pass you will know that the time is near. He compares it to seeing the new buds on an olive tree. When you see this you can be certain that Spring is right around the corner. The conclusion - and I'm certainly not the first person to conclude this - is that while we may not know the exact timing of the 'end times' we should be able to discern its approach. And I'm also reminded that Jesus holds the religious leaders of Israel accountable for NOT recognizing the timing of His first coming. It's like, "If you had only been paying attention, none of this ugliness would have had to happen."

But enough of that - I just wanted to state where I'm coming from.

The question about whether or not seemingly more frequent natural disasters was indicative of the end times or not is a complicated one. For one thing, are we really seeing a numerical increase in disasters or are we really only seeing an increase in our awareness of these events. Probably as little as 25 years ago, a big earthquake in Iran or Pakistan wouldn't really have made it to the American news - and certainly not in the detail we get today. Katrina is another, but different example of how news coverage colors
everything. Now that the actual bodies have been counted, and the hysteria dispelled, Katrina was clearly NOT the apocalyptic event it seemed to be in those early hours when we get unending reports of mayhem and anarchy and cannibalism, but in the years to come, folks will likely be left more with that panic filled impression than with the actual facts. So in short, I'd like to see statistical evidence that these events really were more common instead of just relying on an admitedly powerful impression.

But - that said - I do see other prophetically significant developments that do seem to be the slow budding of the olive tree. Most of these are political in nature though, and not environmental, and political timelines are almost impossible to predict. I think if I were alive when Israel became a  nation I would have been on my roof with a suitcase, but here we are 60 years later...and no Jesus.

So in answer to my mother in law - if I was really put on the spot I probably would offer a cautious, "Probably." to her question. Cautious because while I perceive prophetically significant progress, I don't know how far we are from the result of that progress. I also don't think that there is an alarm clock in heaven and when it strikes midnight the show is over. For my own reasons I believe the date of the end isn't actually a set-time in the way Palm Sunday was, but rather something that is inevitable and imminent. Could be today...could be many years from now...

And while it may sound like I'm just being squishy, my answer is actually based on what I see as logical, theological reasoning and not just a desire to avoid answering the question. :)

07 October 2005

Bill Moyers is a Whining Little Baby

Here’s an interesting article: http://www.southbendtribune.com/stories/2005/10/06/faith.20051006-sbt-MICH-D4-Theologians_debate_m.sto

In part is reads, “ "The country is not yet a theocracy but the Republican Party is," Moyers charged. "Democracy is in peril." He compared conservative Christian activists with Muslim terrorists who can cite "many verses in the Quran" as grounds "for waging war for God's sake." America's "homegrown ayatollahs," he stated, are deceitful bullies whose "viral intolerance" undergirds "an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power" and "political holy war financed by wealthy economic interests." ”

I’m tempted to poke Moyers in the eye for his endemic failure to see the clear moral distinction between even the most vitriolic smack-talking and a single act of intentional murder. I’m also tempted to berate Moyers for his totally irresponsible moider of da Queen’s English (Nyuck’ Nyuck’ Nyuck’)~ his extreme hyperbole in the use of ‘theocracy’  or ‘ayatollahs’ displays either a total ignorance of those words real meaning or recklessness with the images they concoct.

But what I’m really interested in is this bit, “an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power.”

It wasn’t very long ago that both politics and the press had a kind of monopoly on the information they worked with. It was axiomatic that knowledge was power – and they traded in that power. It was a world where somebody in Moyers shoes could say virtually anything they wanted and there was very little anybody could do about it. They were unchallenged, uncompetitive and above accountability.

But the internet, among other technologies, has caused a sea change on the nature of information and how it gets both shared and vetted. The shift is both subtle and profound – a whisper heard ‘round the world.

Case in point: the unprecedented move that Moyers bemoans is nothing more than the fact that his authority is being challenged by people he thinks beneath him. Christians found their long-dormant energy in the last several years, particularly since 911, and they are simple participating in the public sphere where they had been largely absent for the previous 40 years. It’s worth remembering the famous FDR quote. When asked what his philosophy was (a socialist, a fascist, etc) he responded “...I’m a Christian and I’m a Democrat.” At that time – in an age our grandparents still remember – a sincere Christian in public office was no novelty. But sometime later, I reckon near the late 50’s, Christians lost their voice in public debate. Not because it was beaten out of them, or they were defeated in the realm of ideas, but more because they got tired of fighting and simply stopped. So we have a generation of politicians and pundits, Moyers et.al, who came to their own with nary a whimper from the church and the right ~ so from Moyers stands it really must seem like an aberration to hear Christians saying anything at all, much less competing for real cultural dominance.

Here’s another anecdote to illustrate this point. Oregon was in the middle of a debate of gay marriage this last year (Measure 36). There was an article in the Oregonian where they quoted one of the leaders on the No on 36 (pro-gay-marriage) side saying that he was used to dealing with Christians like that moron in Oklahoma with the “God Hate’s Fags” signs. In his mind ALL Christians (and by extension all Republicans (he said it, not me)) were vile, hateful, mean sons-of-bitches. But he said that this debate had brought him into contact with an incredibly broad, intelligent, sincere, and articulate Christians that he never knew existed. What was refreshing was that he recognized that something different was happening...he was now dealing with a group of people who were not cavemen, were not hillbillies, and were NOT ayatollahs seeking a theocracy. (Measure 36 passed by the way).

Which brings me to my point. Moyers is whining like a little baby because he’s unaccustomed to having the peasants reply to (God forbid question!) his ivory tower wisdom. Dan Rather was simply the first noble to be guillotined in this revolution...and Moyers probably sees his fate approaching. I think the politicians are experiencing the exact same kind of paradigm shift but since their mutational generations are much shorter than the press, they’re responding more quickly. It should be noted that this is not a left vs. right thing though. It just so happens that at this moment the left is more distant from middle America than the right is – but that could change in 60 days. In short, this whole open-source/blogosphere/flash-mob phase has made snake oil MUCH MUCH harder to sell, whatever flavor it might be.

In closing, the church is finding its voice again...and using it. We’re simply throwing our two cents into the marketplace of ideas, and people are buying. That irritates Bill Moyers and he’s responding like Marie Antoinette. Vocal, participatory Christians are not at all new in this country and by no means “unprecedented.”
I don’t want to stray too far from my main point in this post, but I do think that this is the direct result of what’s been happening inside the church for the last several years. Specifically a growing focus on Christian community (as opposed to isolationism) lead by the Spirit, and a rediscovery (hello!) of authentic Christian masculinity...but I digress.

Letter to The Editor July 14, 2005

This was submitted to (and appeared in) my local paper a few months ago. Since it has some bearing on current debates...I figured I’d stick it up here.

Shame on Marv Kaplan for so blatantly mischaracterizing my previous letter to the editor.
Mr. Kaplan says that I discourage people from talking to him. In a rhetoric class, this is the technique of restating your opponent’s argument in the strongest possible terms. Mr. Kaplan’s purpose is to make me seem extreme and unreasonable. What I actually wrote suggests that we on the right not allow Mr. Kaplan and others to define the terms of the debate.

Mr. Kaplan’s June 22nd letter to the editor is another case in point. In it, Mr. Kaplan rails against bigotry, hatred, and divisiveness; arguments that may seem familiar to those who watched the Measure 36 debate. That’s because they are the same arguments - it’s the same issue. SB 1073 (and HR 1000) is simply gay marriage by another name. For the record, Measure 36 passed, in liberal Oregon, by a strong majority that did not follow party lines, but instead cut across all demographics. These new bills before the legislature are cynical attempts to circumvent the clear wishes of Oregonian voters.

Instead of saying that Oregon voters were wrong and it’s the legislature’s job to intervene, protecting homosexuals from the ignorant and misinformed, Mr. Kaplan prefers to make us feel guilty for our beliefs. Instead of acknowledging and honestly supporting the discarding of Measure 36, he prefers to call us bigots and haters. Mr. Kaplan even goes so far as to liken those of us who voted for Measure 36 to Nazis. (Marv - haven’t you learned that comparing fellow Americans to Nazis is NEVER a good strategy?)

Instead of Mr. Kaplan’s vision of the discussion, here are the terms I am willing to debate: Is it appropriate for the legislature to openly work around Measure 36 when its language is so unambiguous and the majority vote was so strong? Should our local representatives, all of whom oppose these bills, be chastised as “unbalanced” when their views clearly reflect the majority opinion of the people they represent?

For the sake of fairness, allow me to point out a similar matter in which my side lost. I do not support physician-assisted suicide, but the initiative passed fair and square, following due process. Despite my deep disagreement with this law, I think it is totally inappropriate for the Justice Department to interfere and I’ve written to the President to say as much.

Mr. Kaplan, let us agree on this - like it or not Measure 36 is the law of the land. There are more honest, more legal, and more honorable ways to go about changing that law – win the support of the majority of voters. Don’t allow your admirable passion to sully your trust in democracy.

Politics, Pop-Culture...and now poetry


The stars here are different.
As is the sun and the dirt and the air.
The only U.S. came with us
in Levis and Skippy and Bayer.

Scorpio looms in sky-spanning splendor,
Orion has stalled in mid-rise.
Wrapped snugly in Holo-Filled Gortex® .
we hear hyenas circling the fires.

The wildebeests wander from me to the haze,
a staggering swell of zebra and gnu.
Karanja asks if I’ve met him
and points to my AirJordan shoes.

A friend read this poem and discovered a deeply personal, but wholly untended political message in this poem that went something like this...

(in which our heartless capitalist anti-hero victimizes the local color...I mean the local pre-industrial object of Western exploitation...with the choice of his footwear)

The stars here are different and morally superior,
As is the un-occluded sun, the mercury-free dirt and the pre-revolution air.
The only neo-imperialist artifact came with the neo-imperialists
in Levis made in sweat shops and Skippy
(named after the white slave owner who stole the idea from his oppressed slave Ndung-'nu).

Scorpio (which somehow seems to avoid political implications...which is suspicious in itself) looms in sky-spanning splendor,
Orion, the symbol of white oppression and Christian global terrorism has stalled in mid rise...like it should...damnit!
Wrapped in the loot and ecological rape of our decadent society
we hear hyenas circling the fire (which does cause particulate pollution, but is appropriate to these native people who are more in touch with their delicate ecosystem and better stewards of their carbon emissions).
We deserve to have them eat us. (The hyenas, not the natives)

The wildebeests (which should be listed as endangered since its virtual disappearance from Antarctica) graze in perfect natural harmony from me to the haze (formed in the accursed traffic circles that British imperialists built decades ago)
a staggering swell of zebra (also endangered) and gnu (a separate endangered listing)
Karanja (now ignorant of the native tongue his ancestors spoke 3 million years ago due to western indoctrination) asks if I've met him
and points to my AirJordan (that Uncle Tom! He should be ashamed of the way he prostitutes his entire race just to make a few bucks!) shoes

05 October 2005

The Stem Cell Debate

Here’s an interesting article: http://www.betterhumans.com/News/4677/Default.aspx

(But a company named Better Humans? I wonder if this isn’t something other than it appears to be. Seems kinda fishy...)
But – regardless of the reality of this particular article, it stands in a line of many hundreds of articles about the real-world, right-now, measurable results that have come from NON-embryonic stem cell research.

I’m struck by how the embryonic stem cell debate rages on in this country. How many real treatments have come from embryonic stem cells? As far as I can tell – zero. How many have come from some other kind of stem cell? (adult, cord blood, placental etc.) The last count I saw was over 200. The promise of stem cell research that present no ethical concerns has just barely been explored but the early signs are incredibly promising – indeed they present all the promise we hear surrounding embryonic stem cells – but they are totally devoid of ethical concerns. So why then, is there this vivid and energetic movement to force the destruction of embryos?

Allow me to get a little weird / spooky here...
Who has heard of Lilith? Depending on the story you hear, Lilith may have been Adam’s first wife, a demon, an angel, a goddess, in some cases the name refers to a type of spirit or demon akin to the incubus and succubus. In most stories, Lilith is associated with eating or killing babies. For example, (a) Lilith might seduce a man, and then eat the child she bears for him. The Adam’s wife Lilith is told to have devoured her child after being cast from Eden and vowing to more of the same as a kind of revenge. More recently, Lilith has come be a symbol of feminism, particularly that brand of feisty feminism that looks on abortion not as a right, but more as an act of sexual defiance.

Have we somehow invited Lilith to live amongst us?

Now I use the term ‘spirit’ loosely. I don’t really have an opinion if Lilith might be an individual spirit, a group/class of spirits, or more of an attitude (as in mean-spirited) - but it would help to explain some things. Why is there this animus that drives Planned Parenthood to actively oppose adoption? Why this push to destroy embryos when ethically pure alternatives are both more developed and more promising (and cheaper)? How can people of otherwise clear thought defend partial birth abortion? It’s as if there is some underlying impulse to destroy as many children as possible. Some unnamed pressure that says we must take every opportunity to kill an infant that we can. Any abortion that could happen, but doesn’t, is a problem.

In most exorcism rites – knowing the spirit’s name is required to cast it out (Christ’s ability to cast a demon out of a mute (where He couldn’t ask the demon its name) was a signal that he was Messiah) . Perhaps this spirit’s name is emblazoned on Tori Amos, Sarah McLaughlin and Indigo Girls tour T-Shirts.

If American Christians were to pray against this spirit by name – what would happen?

04 October 2005

Pornography and Divorce

I don’t know if this idea is new, or just new to me, but I’ve heard the following line of thinking several times in the recent past:

  1. Jesus says that looking at a woman with lust in your hearts is the same thing as adultery
  2. Jesus affirms that adultery is grounds for divorce.
  3. Since looking at porn would constitute “looking in lust”, pornography is grounds for divorce

(Let me start by saying that this is a conversation by, for, and about Christians. I don’t think it has much to do with the folks who don’t accept that moniker and the standards of behavior that go with it.)

This conclusion, that porn=divorce, is sloppy thinking and it has lead to more than one inappropriate divorce IHMO. Let’s just think this through.

Jesus' point was very clearly to indicate that legalism in the case of adultery (and murder) were misguided. He’s pointing to the fact that sin resides in our hearts, not in our outward actions. For instance, it is still a sin to have a girlfriend on the side even if you’re not sleeping with her. But Jesus is NOT making a legal equivalent between lust and adultery. And this is so clear – if he were making that connection what marriage could ever last? Who of us would not be guilty of capital murder?

I’m not suggesting that pornography isn’t a sin – I’m only saying that it doesn’t rise to the level that justifies a Christian divorce.

I think that I will revisit this subject in the future. This post is pretty brief and I think this is a subject worth exploring in more detail, and also worth better writing. :)

My Real Purpose...

Just for the record: My real purpose for this blog is simple. I want Hew Hewitt to mention me on his talk show. :)
Hew – please man, if you ever do mention me, the proper title is the one you used yesterday, I think conjunction with Albert Mohler, “A Leading Conservative Thinker”

...And I only get to listen to you in my car, so please let me know ahead of time so I can tape it...better yet, call me and I'll be on your show supporting the San Diego Chargers.

03 October 2005

On Harriet Miers and 'Judicial Temperament'

Today I've been listening to lots of talk on the recent nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. On both the left and right I've heard a similar refrain (although their conclusions often differ): “We need to know what sort of things she thinks before we can evaluate her desirability as a Supreme Court Justice.”

On the surface, that sounds like a smart and reasonable thing to say, but something strikes me as 'off' about that line of thinking.

Do I support a judge because he or she is likely to agree with me?

Put another way - who is interpreting the Constitution here? Me or her?

The conversation seems to indicate that any given commentator has their own opinion of Constitutional interpretation and what they really want is to find a judge who will carry their interpretation into the court room, as opposed to thinking that what we really need is to find someone with demonstrated wisdom, courage, and intelligence...probably in that order...and let the Constitutional interpretation follow. The line of thinking is one where the commentator concludes, perhaps accurately - perhaps not, that they (the commentator) possesses the wisdom / courage / intelligence / experience / education to interpret the Constitution themselves...in fact, they've already done the hard work as they type out their weekly columns. So all we really need is somebody in a black robe who will listen to me.

It seems another case where our society lacks any shred of submission to proper authority, that we are all deeply vain in these matters, and there is no recognition of wisdom for wisdom's sake. It's a shame. :(

That said, I'm totally aware of a feeling, particularly among conservatives, that the last 50 years have shown a weakness in the judiciary's ability to restrain themselves to their job. That presumably wise / courageous / intelligent judges can come up with seemingly idiotic decisions. So I get it - nobody wants to appoint the devil they don't know, but somehow this just seems like the structure is out of whack.

Two more things while I'm on this topic:

  • I'm encouraged that Mrs. Miers is reportedly a strong and sincere Christian. I care about that more than her political leanings. If I have faith in God's ability to lead His people, then I need to have faith in God's ability to lead her...regardless of her contribution to Al Gore's campaign.

  • It seems that she is seen as a "weak" candidate. Rush thought she was a pick from a position of weakness. But perhaps another idea - maybe she's a whipping boy (is that the right metaphor?) Perhaps she's being set-up to take a lashing from the Democrats - in order to expend all their ammo and energy - so that the "real" candidate can come next, a kind of straw man who is designed to fail