Friday, December 30, 2005

It is the end of the last day of work for 2005! At the end of my first full year in a new position, I have much to be thankful for. First, I am thankful that I have, by the grace of God, survived the year. The first nine months were difficult and stressful, then it evened out pretty well. I have learned more new things in the last 18 months than I ever thought possible, as I switched to representing the hospital district. Health law is really complicated.

I am also thankful for a great bunch of people who work for me and support me as I scurry around trying to cover all the bases. They have been great to give 100% to me after losing their beloved former boss to retirment.

Third, I am thankful to the Little Woman, the wonderful wife who has prayed for me and encouraged me and often waited for me to get home late for dinner. Thanks, Hon, I love you.

Fourth, I am thankful to my friends who have been understanding as I have had less time to get around than I had in my former position.

May God bless and grant us another year of success in 2006.
I'm so glad my local Christian radio station has returned to its regular format,post Christmas. I had a great time this morning listening to good music on the way to work.

The station, KCBI, played an older favorite today, Chris Machin's "Bow The Knee". It is about submitting to God even when you do not understand what He is up to. I need to get a copy of it, I really like it. I also like Chris Machin. He and his wife, Diane, have visited and sung at our church, and were just really nice people.

I have also noticed a new trend in Christian music. I heard two songs today that actually used the word "sovereign" in reference to God. Has anyone else noticed that? It is interesting to me, because most songs of the last few years were about God helping you do what you wanted to do, rather than God doing what he wills.

It was a great way to start the day. Thanks, KCBI, and my friends, Ron and Sandy, for getting the day off to a great start.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

After seeing the Chronicles of Narnia movie and hearing all the renewed interest in C. S. Lewis, I could not resist looking up my favorite quote from Mere Christianity. (For my young readers, when I was in college, we looked at Lewis, and Francis Shaeffer, with the same awe as you do John Piper).

Lewis stated the argument that Jesus' status as a great moral teacher cannot be divorced from his claims to divinity:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon and you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
This quote is from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening and is part of the morning devotion for today, based on Galatians 2:20.

Faith lays hold upon the Lord Jesus with a firm and determined grasp. She knows His excellence and worth, and no temptation can induce her to repose her trust elsewhere; and Christ Jesus is so delighted with this heavenly grace, that He never ceases to strengthen and sustain her by the loving embrace and all-sufficient support of His eternal arms. Here, then, is established a living, sensible, and delightful union which casts forth streams of love, confidence, sympathy, complacency, and joy, whereof both the bride and bridegroom love to drink. When the soul can evidently perceive this oneness between itself and Christ, the pulse may be felt as beating for both, and the one blood as flowing through the veins of each. Then is the heart as near heaven as it can be on earth, and is prepared for the enjoyment of the most sublime and spiritual kind of fellowship.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What am I missing here? The Bush administration wants to jump into the lawsuit of Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith. This suit is every monied family's worst nightmare. Smith is suing to collect from her deceased husband's estate. When Smith was a 26 year old topless dancer in Houston, she married J. Howard Marshall II, the 89 year old oil man.

This case is a probate case. It was tried in Texas probate court and Smith lost out to Marshall's son. The case should have ended there. There is no reason to treat this as more than a probate suit, except that the deceased was rich and the plaintiff is a stripper\model\headcase.

Nonetheless, the case has been to bankruptcy court, where Smith won. It was reversed in Federal District Court. Smith lost some, but not all. It was completely reversed in Federal Appeals Court. Smith lost it all, not just her top.

Now the case has been appealed to Federal Court so they can try the issue of whether the federal courts can hear state probate matters. This is where the Solicitor General comes in, filing briefs on behalf of Smith. The reason they did this is supposedly to protect federal jurisdiction. I am disappointed that the Bush Administration would ignore State sovereignty and proceed in this fashion, and especially in a case with no more merit than this.

The best part is that Smith plans to attend court. If you ever saw her tv show, where she could hardly stand up half the time and was almost always incoherent and gross, it would serve the Solicitor General right if she sits right beside him. It is no telling what will happen.
I went to see Fun With Dick And Jane today. Let me take this hit for you. It is not that funny. They were obviously more interested in making a statement about the corruption in corporate America than they were in making a comedy. The movie focuses much more on the troubles of the family than on their mad cap adventures as robbers. I guess you would expect that from a Hollywood that has become saturated with liberal politics to the extent it cannot even see the forest for the trees. The forest in this case being that Hollywood is everything and more than they complain about it corporate America.

The best part was that Alec Baldwin was typecast as a fat blowhard.

If you want to enjoy this movie, go rent the original 1977 movie withe Dick Segall and Jane Fonda. It was much more entertaining, and you already know what Alec is, so you do not need to see the movie to have it reinforeced.
Adrian Warnock summarizes the debate over Bible translations well. I feel as he does that the translation should not make assumptions for you, but translate the text as is. I think that applies to the gender question. If the text says "man", it should be translated a "man" and we can figure out who God meant by that, rather than having the translator decide and not let us know. Read his post Adrian's Blog">here.
Hello everyone. I appear to have survived Christmas, although I am taking off an extra day to make sure. As usual, it was a time of surprises and contradictions, as well as fun. Here are some.

Our church, fortunately, had a service on Sunday, Christmas Day, even though we had a Christmas Eve service. The pastor seemed genuinely glad to be there and even spiritually moved during the service. That made me happy. Also, Josh came Sunday morning, which I suppose was at least in part because I gave him a hard time about his church taking the day off. He looked really nice in his suit and tennis shoes.

We celebrated the Lord's Supper, which was really nice, and the pastor talked a lot more about Christ's death than birth, so it was kind of like Palm Sunday and Christmas rolled into one. It is sort of like the way we do Independence Day. We don't celebrate our independence at all, but we do celebrate our military, so it is Memorial Day and Independence Day rolled into one. Also, we had a video portraying Christ at the Last Supper, and you know how I feel about showing images of Christ.

The most interesting thing about church during this time was that the Pastor clearly wanted to make Christmas a sacred time, rather than a secular time. Yet, the Christmas program had secular songs. Actually, the Baby told me her Sunday School class sang Jingle Bells. That makes me cringe. Also, the sanctuary was decorated with Christmas trees and wreaths and other things that are definitely part of the secular side of Christmas. It makes me wonder if Protestants have lost the ability to discern the difference, or the knowledge of what is really going on.

The family thing was weird this year. My mother and her husband went to Denver to see his daughter. My brother and his family went to Georgia to be with his wife's family. My mother-in-law stayed home with a cousin. So, our family circle shrunk to our immediate family and the son-in-law. We invited some extra friends to fill out the table. It was nice, but it was weird.

I think that might be part of my problem with Christmas. It is weird. People string up lights all over everything, shop until they are broke and tired, eat too much, worry over the arrangements and who can be where and when, and then say we are doing it all to observe the birth of Christ. He was born in pretty humble circumstances, although he did have one big light. He also had a pretty dramatice announcement to the shepherds, although I cannot find anything that said they sang. And, tah dah, most interestingly, he never told us to celebrate his birth, only his death. At least we did that on Sunday.

I'm still glad I took an extra day off.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

If you pay any attention at all to the news, you are accustomed to hearing and seeing the president of Iran foam at the mouth. His latest rabid rant is against Western music, which he has banned. When I heard it, being a Midland kind of boy, I thought, what is wrong with Western music. It has tumbling tumble weeds and cool, clear water. But, then someone explained to me that it means music from the West, such as the U.S. and Europe. So, no Bach for Persia. Also, no Copeland, my favorite, for the Iranians.

Does this mean music from any place west of Iran? Does this mean Eastern music is ok? So, you could not listen to French music, not that you'd want to, I'm just using it as an example, but you could listen to Indian music? I’m just wondering.

I was also thinking the Pres might like old Ray Stevens. You remember Ahab, the Arab? Although I realize the Persians aren’t really Arabs, I think that kind of got lost in the jihad.

If Iran’s president doesn’t behave better, we’ll send Teresa Heinz Kerry to see him. You might remember her as the money behind the loser of the last presidential election and the woman who proved you do not have to be poor to be trailer trash (this was before Paris Hilton took over the job). Well, now she says our president is soft on Iran. This is while her husband thinks the president is too hard on Iraq. I guess we should have invaded Tehran instead of Baghdad to make the Kerry’s (or is it the Heinz’s) happy.

The thing that has Terri unhappy is Ahmadinejad's claim that Israel should be wiped off the map. That pretty much upset everybody, especially Israel, which likes the map just like it is (except for that guy that keeps giving up large chunks of it). But I don’t think Congress would let us invade Iran over it. Not that I wouldn’t like to.

Terri said "The only way to prevent the virus (this is a metaphor for hatred of Israel)from surviving and spreading is to attack, killing it with the strongest possible condemnations before it has a chance to mutate and spread." She does not mean attack with weapons, but with words, preferably at the U.N. and C.N.N. and any other N's we can think of. We know how often the U.N. fixes things. Just ask Rwanda.

I suggest we make a video of the Grand Poo Bah Anan saying “Bad president, no no!” and send it to old Ahmadinejad!

However, I don’t think old Ter needs to worry too much. I think the Israelis will take a dim view of the process and move to stop it. They did it to Iraq and I think they’ll do it again.

Here are some interesting signs.

First, Israeli military intelligence chief Farkash said Israel will have failed diplomatically if its efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not referred to the U.N. Security Council before the end of March. Behind this rather tame sounding sentence is a deadline and a statement that they tried diplomatic channels before resorting to force.

Second, Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz said Israel must get ready for non-diplomatic actions with regard to Iran.

Third, Benjamin Netanyahu made a campaign promise to attack Iran. He could never make it in the U.S. as a Democrat, could he.

The Times of Britain claims that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already ordered preparations for the attack, including ground troops and air strikes. Guess when? The end of March.

If I lived in Iran, I’d buy a helmet.
In the middle of the battle for Christmas this year, Congress acted and passed a resolution supporting Christmas. Here is what it said:

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and
Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States would prohibit the establishment of religion, not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore be it resolved, that the House of Representatives –
(1) Recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
(2) Strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
(3) Expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions, for those who celebrate Christmas.
But note this: 22 Democrats voted against it!

Many have claimed that Christians won the battle, since Congress passed the resolution and several retailers said they would return to the use of “Merry Christmas” next year. However, given that many of our largest churches closed for the day, I wonder if we can claim victory. I think large numbers of our people were not defeated, they just surrendered.
Christmas is rocking along. Hope it is going well for you. The College Daughter, the Baby and I went to the Christmas Eve Candle Light Service last night. We used to do the service at midnight. I guess it was our nod to the Catholic Christmas Mass.

Protestants are ever practical, however, and so we realized it was hard on parents with young children. It took a few years, but the deacons finally noticed that the volume of crying increased as the hour went on. Then, some of the older folks fell asleep and dropped their candles. So, we moved it to 6pm.

The one variance this year was the appearance of two young men serving with the Marines in Iraq and who have just returned home. They thanked the congregation for its prayer support, and encouraged us that things were doing well in Iraq, the Iraqis like us and morale is good. They received a standing ovation.

We ended the service with the traditional lights out, candle lit singing of Silent Night.

The Little Woman unfortunately had to work. Nurses, like policemen and firemen have to work and protect and serve regardless of the holiday. Thanks to all of you. Because of you, the rest of us have a Merry Christmas knowing you are there.

We did mourn the inability to go to Starbucks, as they closed at 6pm. However, we are glad all our friends there got to go home and have fun with their families.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"As God will be worshiped solely, and wholly, so He will be worshipped constantly." Arthur Salwey, Puritan.

Have a Blessed Christmas! Have great joy, as declared by the angels at His birth.

Go to church on Sunday and thank your pastor for making it happen.

And, call Josh and wake him up.
My kind of association.
The only time Malcolm Muggeridge voted was for a candidate who had at one time been committed to an asylum. Upon his release, the asylum, gave him a certificate of sanity. Muggeridge said he had to vote for the guy. What other candidate had such a certificate?
Another way of putting the thesis of this book is found in the Introduction. “The acid test of biblical God-centeredness – and faithfulness to the gospel – is this: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing the cross of Christ as a witness to your worth, or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever?” John Piper, God Is The Gospel.
A recent survey shows that 54% of Americans support the confirmation of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court. Americans do not, of course, get to elect said judge in any fashion other than through our elected representatives. So, those numbers may not translate into the same percentage of Senate votes.
Funny video here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Here is a challenge to your thinking about education. We all say our schools have problems, but we do not seem to get them fixed. Maybe that means we have misdiagnosed the problems. Someone said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.

Two guys at the Manhattan Institute think our perception of the education problem is wrong. They are Jay Greene and Marcus Winters. They say nearly all we believe about the role of money, class size and testing is wrong. Here are their findings.

• The average total of federal and state spending for education is almost $500 billion each year for public K-12 schools. That comes to about $10,000 per pupil per year. It is more than the $430 billion spent on national defense in 2004.

• Studies of class-size show no effect by reducing class size. While the average student-to-teacher ratio dropped from 22.3 in 1970 to 16.1 in 2002, student achievement did not improve.

• School teachers make more than other public servants. For example, in 2002, the average elementary school teacher earned $30.75 per hour. Firefighters earned $17.91 per hour and police officers $22.64.

• The main obstacle to college attendance for low-income and minority students is academic. We assume it is financial. However, out of the 4 million students that enter high school each year, only 2.8 million graduate. Worse, only 1.3 million meet college admission requirements.

• High- and low-stake standardized tests produce similar results. Those of you in Texas will appreciate that comment.

If Greene and Winters are correct, and the data indicates they are, most of the education establishment and legislative bodies are insane. And we are insane for supporing them.
The U.S. Department of Education has released a new study showing that 11 million American adults (16 and older) do not understand simple English. I’m not sure how they did the study, but no one who has picked up dry-cleaning, ordered a hamburger at a drive through or worked in a hospital would be surprised.

No one who has visited a high school lately would be surprised either. There are at least two classes of people in high school. Broadly speaking, there is a class of bright, learning, active people. Then there is the class of unengaged, dull and uncaring people. They may be into drugs, alcohol, sports, video games or sleeping, but they are not learning. Their parents are not encouraging them to learn in many instances. They are doomed.

And you are doomed, as an educated person, because they are not going to get your hamburger order right, or get the right level of starch in your shirts or be able to understand you tell them what is wrong with them so they can get well. The law forces us to have interpreters for people who do not speak the national language, but soon we will need special interpreters for the indigenous population that neglected to learn the language (or anything else useful).

Another thing going on is the declining rate of English literacy among native Spanish speakers. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy showed literacy increasing for almost every segment of the population. However, scores for Hispanics generally and native Spanish speakers specifically dropped. The average score for native Spanish speakers is now at the the “below basic” mark.

You have to think that the increase in Hispanic immigration, especially illegal, contributes to this. Illegal immigrants are less likely to be enrolled in English programs. They seek jobs where they can speak Spanish or broken English, they live in neighborhoods where Spanish is spoken and do not melt into the English pot. For them, America is just a suburb of Mexico, but with more jobs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Josh Orr is posting at Protestant Pub. Go read it. Here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

At a meeting I went to this morning, the speaker said there were 165,000 households in Texas as Katrina evacuees. Two-thirds of them have no work history. NO WORK HISTORY!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Al Mohler: Like many admirers of Lewis' work, I harbored deep suspicions that the movie would not be faithful to the book. After all, the movie world has robbed and pillaged many of history's greatest works of literature. Furthermore, given the unmistakable Christian allusions in Lewis' work, The Chronicles of Narnia would be particularly susceptible to cinematic subversion.

Those fears were unfounded. The film is a tour de force, combining faithfulness to Lewis' story with a wonderful cast. Watching the film is an exciting and fulfilling movie experience. I am not an expert in cinematography, nor would I pose as an expert on film technique. Still, from the vantage point of a film lover who had reservations about this adaptation, this movie has been worth the wait.
Melvin Laird was President Nixon’s secretary of defense and was the chief architect of the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam. He recently broke a 30-year silence about foreign-military affairs to discuss Iraq with “Iraq: Learning the Lessons of Vietnam,” in Foreign Affairs magazine. His conclusion?

"President Bush does not have the luxury of waiting for the international community to validate his policies in Iraq. But we do have the lessons of Vietnam. In Vietnam, the voices of the “cut-and-run” crowd ultimately prevailed, and our allies were betrayed after all of our work to set them on their feet. Those same voices would now have us cut and run from Iraq, assuring the failure of the fledgling democracy there and damning the rest of the Islamic world to chaos fomented by extremists. Those who look only at the rosy side of what defeat did to help South Vietnam get to where it is today see a growing economy there and a warming of relations with the West. They forget the immediate costs of the United States’ betrayal. Two million refugees were driven out of the country, 65,000 more were executed, and 250,000 were sent to “reeducation camps.” Given the nature of the insurgents in Iraq and the catastrophic goals of militant Islam, we can expect no better there.

As one who orchestrated the end of our military role in Vietnam and then saw what had been a workable plan fall apart, I agree that we cannot allow “another Vietnam.” For if we fail now, a new standard will have been set. The lessons of Vietnam will be forgotten, and our next global mission will be saddled with the fear of its becoming “another Iraq.”'
Just in case you were wondering if there were still any differences between Catholics and Protestants, besides the fact that the Catholics have church on Christmas, check out this announcement from the Vatican on November 29. Pope Benedict XVI declared a “plenary indulgence” for Catholics who honored the Virgin Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8. (I hate it now that I missed the chance, but I notice he limited it to Catholics anyway. What does a Separated Brethren have to do to get a break here?)

A plenary indulgence, by the way is "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilty has already been forgiven." This is according to Pope Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina (1967). The Pope can degree indulgences, since he is Christ’s representative on terra firma, and sometimes he delegates it to the bishops. The cool thing is you can obtain indulgences for yourself or for souls in Purgatory. So, if you think Aunt Mary, although a good Catholic, might be spending a long time in purgatory to burn off some sins, you can spring her with an indulgence. Or, if you are selfish, take care of the old sins you are worried about. All you have to do is celebrate the feast of Immaculate Conception.

Or you could do a random act of kindness. Just do some research and find some Catholic who recently died, and give the indulgence to them. Just imagine, here they are just roasting away in Purgatory and, bam! They are sprung. It is kind of like when Mormons baptize for the dead. You are sitting around feeling bad because you aren’t in the celestial heaven with the Mormon elders, because they are, after all, a fun bunch, and bing bang boom, up you go because some Mormon guy was nice enough to get dunked just for you.

To get this particular indulgence, you had to “participate in a sacred function in honor of the Virgin, or at least offer open testimony of Marian devotion before an image of Mary Immaculate exposed for public veneration, adding the recitation of the Our Father and of the Creed, and some invocation to the Virgin." The Mary thing is becoming increasingly big in Catholic circles, and it has always been big. But they want it to be bigger. And the Pope doesn’t want to do it alone. When he renders public homage of praise to Mary, the Pope has the heartfelt desire that the entire Church (Catholic church) join with him, so that all the faithful, united in the name of the common Mother, become ever stronger in the faith, adhere with greater devotion to Christ, and love their brothers with more fervent charity. And honoring Mary will evidently do all that, plus spare your loved ones some heat.

The Pope declared the indulgence to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. (I was glad it was over, too, but did not really celebrate.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Calvinist Tatoo.
Dr. Paul J. Dean, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Greer, South Carolina, also weighs in on Christmas Day church closings in a column here: .
Here is some trivia about social security numbers. The first three numbers are an area number. Area numbers are assigned to each state, starting on the east coast and moving west.

The middle 2 numbers are the group number. Group numbers are assigned in specific odd and even number sequences determined by when and where your application was processed. The final four numbers are your serial number.

Social security numbers are never re-assigned. Over 415 million have been issued.

The lowest number, 001-01-0001, was assigned to Grace Owen of New Hampshire in 1936.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

One of my favorite moments of last year was Al Gore’s giving an impassioned outdoor speech on global warming. I enjoyed it because he gave it during a snow storm.

Now, it appears that December is headed toward becoming one of the 10 coldest Decembers in the last 100 years. The only thing better than that, is that this information comes out right after a U.N. conference on climate change this week, that claimed the Earth is getting warmer. Of course, they blamed most of it on the United States. Bill Clinton even joined the criticism. No doubt he thinks his wife would fix this if she were in the White House. (If they get in, will they bring back the furniture they stole?)

Joe Bastardi is a senior meteorologist with He said weather patterns across the country show below-normal temperatures. Still colder forecasts are coming.

Get a load of these temperatures: 17.5 degrees below normal in Omaha; 14.1 degrees below normal in Indianapolis;13.9 degrees below normal in Chicago; and 11.9 degrees below normal in Denver. If that is global warming, I do not want to experience global cooling.
"Brethren, we must preach the doctrines; we must emphasize the doctrines; we must go back to the doctrines. I fear that the new generation does not know the doctrines as our fathers knew them."
—John A. Broadus

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Babies are born with only two fears: fear of falling and loud noises. All other fears are learned.
A teenager brought home a bad report card. His angry father said "this is the worst report card I've ever seen. You made five F's! How could you do that?"

The son said "What do you think it is, Dad, heredity or environment?"
I have been doing a lot of thinking about Christmas lately. I apologize in advance to my friends and family who are able to take the whole thing at face value and enjoy it. I can only take comfort in the fact that, if you have been my friend for more than 3 weeks, you know I cannot do that. This is why the Little Woman should be nominated for sainthood.

I read an interesting article today by Umberto Eco, the author. He called it “God isn't big enough for some people”. He has a little problem with Christmas, too, it seems. He also sees it as part of a bigger problem.

Eco said “We are now approaching the critical time of the year for shops and supermarkets: the month before Christmas is the four weeks when stores of all kinds sell their products fastest. Father Christmas means one thing to children: presents. He has no connection with the original St Nicholas, who performed a miracle in providing dowries for three poor sisters, thereby enabling them to marry and escape a life of prostitution.”

I do not know much about St. Nicholas, except he was not Southern Baptist and not a Calvinist most likely. I would agree with Eco, though, and transliterate his evidently Catholic thought this way: Christmas is more about shopping than Christ.

Actually, here is the whole article. It is worth reading without my comments (not as good, maybe, but worthwhile. : )

Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.

They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms - yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious - to such an extent that it sometimes seems to me that to be a rigorous unbeliever today, you have to be a philosopher. Or perhaps a priest.

And we need to justify our lives to ourselves and to other people. Money is an instrument. It is not a value - but we need values as well as instruments, ends as well as means. The great problem faced by human beings is finding a way to accept the fact that each of us will die.

Money can do a lot of things - but it cannot help reconcile you to your own death. It can sometimes help you postpone your own death: a man who can spend a million pounds on personal physicians will usually live longer than someone who cannot. But he can't make himself live much longer than the average life-span of affluent people in the developed world.

And if you believe in money alone, then sooner or later, you discover money's great limitation: it is unable to justify the fact that you are a mortal animal. Indeed, the more you try escape that fact, the more you are forced to realise that your possessions can't make sense of your death.

It is the role of religion to provide that justification. Religions are systems of belief that enable human beings to justify their existence and which reconcile us to death. We in Europe have faced a fading of organised religion in recent years. Faith in the Christian churches has been declining.

The ideologies such as communism that promised to supplant religion have failed in spectacular and very public fashion. So we're all still looking for something that will reconcile each of us to the inevitability of our own death.

G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: "When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything." Whoever said it - he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

The "death of God", or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church -- from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.

It is amazing how many people take that book literally, and think it is true. Admittedly, Dan Brown, its author, has created a legion of zealous followers who believe that Jesus wasn't crucified: he married Mary Magdalene, became the King of France, and started his own version of the order of Freemasons. Many of the people who now go to the Louvre are there only to look at the Mona Lisa, solely and simply because it is at the centre of Dan Brown's book.

The pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked if he believed in God. He said: "No. I don't believe in God. I believe in something greater." Our culture suffers from the same inflationary tendency. The existing religions just aren't big enough: we demand something more from God than the existing depictions in the Christian faith can provide. So we revert to the occult. The so-called occult sciences do not ever reveal any genuine secret: they only promise that there is something secret that explains and justifies everything. The great advantage of this is that it allows each person to fill up the empty secret "container" with his or her own fears and hopes.

As a child of the Enlightenment, and a believer in the Enlightenment values of truth, open inquiry, and freedom, I am depressed by that tendency. This is not just because of the association between the occult and fascism and Nazism - although that association was very strong. Himmler and many of Hitler's henchmen were devotees of the most infantile occult fantasies.

The same was true of some of the fascist gurus in Italy - Julius Evola is one example - who continue to fascinate the neo-fascists in my country. And today, if you browse the shelves of any bookshop specialising in the occult, you will find not only the usual tomes on the Templars, Rosicrucians, pseudo-Kabbalists, and of course The Da Vinci Code, but also anti-semitic tracts such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

I was raised as a Catholic, and although I have abandoned the Church, this December, as usual, I will be putting together a Christmas crib for my grandson. We'll construct it together - as my father did with me when I was a boy. I have profound respect for the Christian traditions - which, as rituals for coping with death, still make more sense than their purely commercial alternatives.

I think I agree with Joyce's lapsed Catholic hero in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: "What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?" The religious celebration of Christmas is at least a clear and coherent absurdity. The commercial celebration is not even that.

As churches close for Christmas, have secular programs and adopt commercial standards for our observance, let's remember when we do we forfeit our pulpit. We lose our right to speak and we fail to offer the one thing that brings meaning to life and the ability to face death. It is Christ or nothing, isn't it?

This man who has abandoned the church sees it. I pray he finds the church again. I pray there is a church there to find.

Go here for an interesting and funny post about Hyper Calvinism.
I know that you can do all things,and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2
Robert Heinlein: “When only cops have guns, it’s called a “police state.”

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Eugene McCarthy has also died. McCarthy had a career in politics as a liberal democrat. When he ran for president, he was the darling of the left, especially among college students. He did not have a prayer of winning, but we did not know it then.

The last of the pre-baby boomer generation is passing away. xmifhow
Richard Pryor has died. Pryor vacillated between nasty stage humor and movie roles that were caricatures of black people. It is somewhat surprising that he made it to 65. He had a huge drug habit for years and nearly killed himself once freebasing cocaine, when he ignited himself.

Friday, December 09, 2005

This is where Liberalism leads. Vancouver Health officials operate a facility for heroin injection. No, I am not kidding. The facility opened in 2003 as a test site, and its operators now want to make it permanent. They even want to add additional clinics to meet high demand. Pun intended.

The clinic oversees 800 heroin injections daily. The Chief Medical Officer of British Columbia said "It's all-round positive, with no downsides." Many of you would count 800 heroin injections per day as a downside.

The clinic is located in the Downtown Eastside District of Vancouver. More than 5,000 heroin addicts live there in a 10 block area. Here is a downside. Do you think you can walk down the street at night there and be safe? This neighborhood is Canada’s poorest. It is hard to be rich when you shoot up constantly.

The theory is that they will reduce overdose deaths, hepatitis and HIV. The addicts buy their own drugs and bring them. It is still illegal to buy heroin. Then, they inject themselves in the clinic, under “medical supervision”. If they overdose, there are emergency services. There are about 50 of these in Europe. That explains a lot to me.

You see, in Europe and Canadian, they view drug addiction as a health issue primarily, rather than a criminal issue. So, the government now wants to operate its own opium den so that it is safer than the privately owned one. The next thing Vancouver wants to experiment with is free prescription heroin. This is to reduce crime. Heroin addicts are less likely to kill you for your wallet if they can get their narcotic for free.

It also keeps addicts off the streets. Vancouver is known for having thousands of addicts shooting up right there on the street. Addicts also tend to litter. Therefore, Vancouver is also known for the syringes left lying around on the street, the park and in the libraries. Police have started to crack down on such public use. This was met by protest, of course. Advocates for the addicts said the police crackdown is cruel because the clinic can only serve some of the many addicts. I feel a tear coming on.

"It's just a really destructive thing," said Ann Livingston of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users.

Not only that, but the clinic is discriminatory. No place is provided for those who smoke their coke or heroin, rather than inject it. The poor things just have to find their own places to inhale narcotics into their drug addled brains.

I guess it is cheaper to open clinics and let people kill themselves than it is to conduct the war on drugs as we have done in the United States. However, it is painful to think you just write these people off as addicts and help them stay there. It sounds a lot like financial welfare: the government gives you money to stay of sight. You can take it if you have no self respect and are willing to continue in your pitiful state.

I am grateful that God kept me from trying heroin, LSD, marijuana or cocaine as it swirled around the campuses of the ‘70s. I hate to think I might be cowering in an alley, sticking a dirty needle into my arm and waiting for a rush that is never as good as the last one.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

In the midst of the battle to fight the secularization of Christmas, some big churches have surrendered.

Christmas falls on Sunday this year. If you were celebrating the birth of Christ, what better way to do it? It really will be a Christ Mass on Sunday of sorts.

Some of the big churches closing down are Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, Southland Christian Church in Kentucky, Fellowship Church in Grapevine Texas, and North Point Community Church in Georgia.

Various reasons are given for closing the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day. Some cite low attendance. Some say it is a family day and they do not want to interfere with family activities. Another point is that it is a waste of the time of all the staff and volunteer workers when fewer people attend. Willow Creek said it was not the most effective use of their staff. (I know you can hear my head exploding even in cyberspace.)

Given the battle that has been raging this year between Evangelicals and secularists over the observance of Christmas, the closings have come as a shock and disappointment to many. I am disappointed, but not shocked, buy more about that later.

David Wells, a professor at Gordon-Corwell Theological Seminary weighed in on the side of the critics. He said "This is a consumer mentality at work: 'Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient. I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

In contrast to these evangelical churches, Roman Catholics, Lutherans and others will see their biggest crowds of the year.

It is time for a disclosure. I am not a big fan of “mega-churches” in general. I am especially not a fan of those who, under the name of “seeker friendly”, have abandoned traditional worship in favor of entertaining shows that draw in large crowds of people. That being said, their philosophy is simply showing here. They area about generating crowds, and Christmas does not generate a crowd in churches for whom worship is secondary to personal needs and entertainment. It is more entertaining to open presents.

The spokesman for Willow Creek put it this way: "If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" The problem is, it should not be your only mission to reach the unchurched. The fist mission of the church is to worship the founder and sustainer of the church or, as the Bible puts it, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and the One whose incarnation is the supposed point of the whole thing.
Although the assistant pastor at might church has said similar things, like “we are saved to witness”, we have not abandoned worship. We are not only having a service on Sunday, we are observing the Lord’s Supper.

The other point is that evangelicals have lost the point of the Lord’s Day. Christmas does not cancel the Lord’s Day. My personal feeling is that most Evangelicals reverted long ago to the pagan observation of the day, but, that aside, when it falls on the Lord’s Day, the Lord’s Day prevails. And to the lady at Willow Creek, note that we call it the Lord’s Day, not the Lost Person’s Day, and that is for a reason.

At the first observance of the birth of our Savior, angels gave praise, shepherds worshipped, and wealthy wise men traveled great distances to give him gifts. This year they would be encouraged to stay home and keep their presents for themselves.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Brian D. McLaren, the guru of the so called "Emergent Church" has written a book called "A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a Missional + Evangelical + Post/Protestant + Liberal/Conservative + Mystical/Poetic + Biblical + Charismatic/Contemplative + Fundamentalist/Calvinist + Anabaptist/Anglican + Methodist + Catholic + Green + Incarnational + Depressed-Yet-Hopeful + Emergent + Unfinished Christian."

In it he says "To be a Christian in a generously orthodox way is not to claim to have the truth captured, stuffed, and mounted on the wall. It is rather to be in a loving (ethical) community of people who are seeking the truth (doctrine) on the road of mission..." (293).

Notice his disdain for the truth. He pictures it as a dead animal head mounted as a trophy. His vision is no different than the Unitarian\Universalist church, which tolerates any belief as long as you want to come and hang out together. He just wants to move this non-believing vision into the believing church.

Two problems. First, Jesus said he is the Truth (John 14:6). That makes McLaren's philosophy wrong per se. The purpose of the church is not to sew a patchwork quilt of beliefs from various seekers who get together over coffee. It is to know the truth, teach the truth, and live the truth. Otherwise, the church is irrelevant. It has nothing to offer the local book club or motorcycle gang does not.

Second, if there is no truth to dispense, we do not need McLaren or any other guru. The blind do not need another blind man to lead them. They can stumble along in darkness just fine all by themselves.
Here is a great Christmas story from Lee Strobel, courtesy of
An Army soldier, Joshua Sparling, received a death wish while recovering at Walter Reed hospital from a gunshot wound he received in Iraq. It was in the only Christmas card he received. I think this soldier deserves better than that. I am sending him a Christmas card. You can too.
Joshua Sparlingc/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center6900 Georgia Avenue N.W.Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

If you want to send cards to other wounded soldiers, you can get names by calling Walter Reed hospital at (202)782-3501.

If you want to consider including a gift, you could always enclose a phone card to assist them in calling home during the holidays.

If you want to send a bunch of cards, you can bundle multiple cards in one big envelope and send it to the Red Cross. Send it to:
Red CrossWalter Reed Army Medical Center6900 Georgia Avenue NWHeaton Pavillion3EO5 Washington, DC 20307

Red Cross will distribute them.
Of great dismay to the Democrats, the best news of the week is that the economy is still in great shape. The growth of gross domestic product for the third quarter was a robust 4.3 percent. This level of growth is the highest average for the last 10, 20, and 30 years. It would be huge on its own, but is incredible given the (artificially) high energy prices and hurricanes.

Can you say “tax cut worked”?

The growth rate is the highest quarterly rate since the third quarter of 2003, when the Bush tax cuts kicked it. That rate was an incredible 7.25 percent annualized growth rate. The third quarter rate raises the average for the last 10 quarters to 4.1 percent, which even beats the 3.6 percent mark set for President Clinton’s term.

Remember also that this president inherited an anemic economy. Democrats criticized his economic policy, especially the tax cuts. Now the proof is in the pudding. Lower taxes and the economy will boom.
Saddam Hussein is supposed to be on trial, but it is hard to tell whether it is a trial or a circus. The head clown has now become Ramsey Clark. Clark was active in prosecuting the Vietnam War. He seems to feel he must atone for that sin by representing and supporting anyone America opposes. He represented Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader responsible for ethnic cleansings and other killings. That qualifies him for this assignment. He is now on the defense team of Saddam Hussein.

Clark’s latest comedy routine has been to walk out on the trial. He then returned after 90 minutes to claim the trial and the court were not legitimate. He also complained that there was not sufficient protection of the safety of the defense team. Hello, Ramsey, this is Iraq. The guy you are defending made sure no one is safe.

Clark also manifests the ability to state the obvious with a great sense of righteousness. He said “this trial can either divide or heal”. How do you say “duh” in Arabic?

Do you also notice how often liberals use the word “heal”? The first witness against Saddam has testified. He testified to how his family was tortured. He also testified to seeing a human shredder. Stories circulated before the war about Saddam and his sons using tree shredders on their victims. I don’t think there will be much healing there, Ramsey.

Clark said the defense attorneys were “heroically here to defend truth and justice". I think Clark is there to defend one of the biggest mass murderers in history.

Clark’s client added to the circus atmosphere by shouting "Long live Iraq! Long live the Arab state." He means “long live Saddam”. His cohort, Barzan, got the message and began shouting "Long live Saddam." I guess he did not think that effective, because then then shouted "Why don't you just execute us and get this over with?" That sounds somewhat contradictory to me, but I am for the latter one.

That other great voice of reason, and sympathizer with corrupt governments because it is one, the U.N., is jumping into the act, with one official stating he was deeply concerned and doubted the proceedings could ever meet international standards. I’m not sure what international standards he is referring to, but, knowing the U.N., I think it is a complaint that he has not been bribed., the liberal anti-Bush spending machine, recently took out an anti-war ad. Its theme was that American soldiers were “stuck in Iraq” at Christmas. They spent $20,000 to hire actors. They also spend 5,000 British pounds to buy film of British soldiers that they tried to fake us into believing were American soldiers. People quickly saw through the scam, however. The uniforms gave them away. Then spent money to buy media time to show the faked commercial. For example, they spent $480,000 in Georgia.

Do you want to know the great news? They received no calls, no emails and no letters as a result of the fraudulent advertisement. But, thanks for feeding the economy here and abroad.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

In the Spirit Of The Season, I am happy to report that the North Shore Mall in Peabody, Massachusetts, would not allow 4-year-old girl Michele Grigorian to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what she wanted for Christmas unless she bought a picture. The cheapest picture was $21, and Michelle’s single mom, Maria, couldn’t afford it. Little Michele burst into tears and left saying “Mommy I just want to tell Santa what I want for Christmas.”

I wonder what Santa was doing during all this: screaming “pay up or get up!” or “Elves have to make a living, too” or “that’s what you get for saying Christmas instead of Holiday”.
Two Swiss women have sued the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan. They were repeatedly were bitten by bedbugs during their week long stay. My question is: why would you stay a week if you were being constantly bitten by bugs?

The women had to have medical treatment in the form of antibiotic shots. It today’s world, I should probably say injections instead of shots. People will be lining up to be bitten so they can get free drinks.

At least they did not need a face transplant. A French woman who was attacked by a dog needed one after her nose and lips were torn off in the attack. So, doctors in Amiens, France, transplanted tissue, muscles, arteries and veins from a brain-dead donor to the attack victim. I hope she does well.

I saw a movie about this once, where John Travolta got Nicholas Cage’s face and vice versa. As I remember, it was hard on Cage’s on screen girl friend. I thought I might ask Robert Redford for his face when he no longer needs it. The Little Woman has always been inordinately attracted to it.
Scientists in Arkansas (who knew!) have discovered how to make fuel from chicken fat. They used to say farmers raised pigs because nothing was wasted except the squeal. Now that may become true for chickens. From the frying pan to the Firebird, chicken is your bird.

PETA may not like this.

PETA would prefer we use human fat. That may not be a bad idea in America, given all the publicity about the obesity epidemic. Oh wait, I dropped my Oreo. Anyway, the energy companies could hire plastic surgeons who would perform liposuctions on obese people for free, then convert the fat into fuel for cars. America would get skinny and so would the Middle East.

Skinny countries would have to continue relying on chicken fat.

But then, bird flu might really be a problem. It would not only cut down on the fried chicken, but on automobile fuel. Here is a question I have: when birds get bird flu, do they run a temperature and get a runny nose, or beak? How do you know when a bird has the flu? Do they call in sick to work? Hello, I won’t be at the coop today. I think I got the flu.

Really, I think it is a form of cruel species profiling. It is just wrong to assume that, just because you are a bird, you are more likely to have bird flu. And anyway, that’s Avian Flu to you buddy. I mean, I heard they were stopping Avians at the airport just because they were birds. I’m calling Al Franken.