Friday, December 28, 2012

When it rains, it pours.

Christmas at the Munday household this year has been marked by tough times and tough decisions.  

Chris and I went to Illinois for Christmas to see our mothers (mine is 92 and in a nursing home).  We noticed that my mother had a bandage on her left foot (apparently the result of an infection) and were told that the staff were watching it carefully.  The next day they told us that the infection had taken a turn for the worse and they were sending her to the hospital.  A surgeon cleaned out the wound and removed some diseased tissue.  

Today, I got a call from the "palliative care nurse" who wanted "to go over our options."  One option consisted of continuing to aggressively treat the infection.  The other option was to "move her to hospice care and keep her comfortable until she passes."  Imagine--letting a 92 year old woman die because of a foot infection!  I think the irritation (not to say anger) must have shown in my voice as I explained that, no, we would not be taking that option, and that they should continue to treat her infection by every appropriate means, including surgery, if necessary.

As we continued to talk, the nurse discovered that she was looking at a page from someone else's file when it came to knowing what insurance coverage my mother had.  When the nurse discovered that my mother had not only Medicare but private health insurance, suddenly it seemed they were more willing to do whatever was necessary.  In the three hours since that call, I have received calls from the admitting physician at the hospital and the surgeon who will intervene surgically if the infection doesn't improve, and it appears we may be faced with a decision in the next few days about amputation of part of my mother's left leg.

I think there are at least two lessons here: (1) As healthcare in America deteriorates, only those who can pay for it are going to get the level of care and compassion that we used to extend to everyone.  And, (2) those of us who are pro-life are going to have to insist on not taking the easy way out when it comes to how we care for the elderly, the young and vulnerable, and ourselves. 

I am still in shock to think that, if I had given a different answer a few hours ago, my mother would, right now, be moved out of the hospital to a place where she would be getting only palliative care until she died. 

Parenthetically, let me say that I know the flip side of this: that you can prolong someone's suffering unnecessarily by using extraordinary means to keep them alive; and that hospitals might be willing to employ extraordinary measures on someone with private insurance or private means in order to take in more money.  I am aware of that, but that is not what we are talking about here. 

I am also pondering what impact it might have had if my mother had signed an "advanced directives" form in years past.  Could it have affected whether we were even presented with options now, or what the options might have been.  If there had been an "advanced directives" form on file, would I have even been consulted? 

Of course, we don't know how this is going to end, and we know that someday my mother, like everyone, will die.  For the immediate future we can expect our anxiety level to rise every time the phone rings.  But we know this: no one we love and care about is going to die simply because it is easier and less costly for us to let things go that way.  In other words, no one we can save through appropriate means is going to die by choice. 

If you think of it, please pray for Kathryn.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Holiday Eating Tips

1.  Avoid carrot sticks, (also celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)  Anyone who puts raw vegetables on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit.  In fact, if you see any little trays with raw vegetables, leave immediately.  Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2.  Drink as much eggnog as you can.  And quickly.  It's rare...  You cannot find it any other time of year but now--especially the homemade kind.  So drink up!  Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip?  It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something.  It's a treat.  Enjoy it.  Have one for me.  Have two.  It's Christmas!

3.  If something comes with gravy, use it.  That's the whole point of gravy.  Gravy does not stand alone.  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes.  Fill it with gravy.  Eat the volcano.  Repeat.

4.  As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk.  If it's skim, pass.  Why bother?  It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5.  Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food.  For free.  Lots of it.  Hello?

6.  Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's.  You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.  This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7.  If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention.  They're like the person you wish you had asked for a date in high school.  If you miss the opportunity, you'll never see them again.

8.  The same goes for pies.  Apple, Pumpkin, Pecan, Mincemeat.  Have a slice of each.  Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and two pumpkin.  Always have four.  When else do you get to have more than one dessert?  Labor Day?

9.  Did someone mention fruitcake?  Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid fruitcake at all cost.  I mean, after all, you have to have some standards.

10.  One final tip:  If you don't have trouble walking when you get up from the table or leave the party, you haven't been paying attention.  Re-read the above tips; start over.  But hurry, January is just around the corner.

Also, remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand and wine in the other, body totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO!  What a ride!"  At least that's my advice until it comes time to make my New Year's Resolutions.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Liturgics Quiz

Okay, kids, put yout liturgical thinking caps on and tell me:  What's wrong with this picture?

(I'm not going to identify the source of the photo, except to say that it came in an e-mail from a religious institution--where they should have known better.) 

Submit your answer in the comment section.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Out with the old, in with the new. I'm still not happy with the 2011 NIV...

...and I don't think I ever will be.

From the 2011 Christianity Today article:
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, one of the leading critics of the TNIV, promised a full review of the updated NIV after it goes to print.  In November [2010], when online text of the updated NIV became available, the group released a statement saying it could not recommend the new NIV Bible because of "over 3,600 gender-related problems" that were previously in its critique of the TNIV.

In other initial reviews, some evangelicals praised the clarity of the new edition while others were still unconvinced that the gender-related problems of the TNIV were resolved. Statistics compiled by Christian web techies Robert Slowley and John Dryer show that 31 per cent of the TNIV is retained in the updated NIV.

Many reviewers thus far are not fans of the mixing of gender-neutral singulars and plurals like "that person" and "they" in the new text.
Read it all.

You can read the Council's report here (PDF file). 

I also recommend this article: "From the NRSV to the New NIV: Why Gender-Neutral Language Represents an Enforced Agenda Rather than a Natural Evolution," in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  It is a PDF file.  You'll have to scroll down to pages 27-30.

Friday, December 14, 2012

BDSM Comes to Harvard

Last week, national media outlets were titillated by the news that Harvard University had formally recognized a ­student-run BDSM group (short for bondage, domination, and sado­maso­chism).

Newsweek reports:
The idea of buttoned-up Crimson coeds discussing their fondness for fetish challenged the conventional image of the Ivy League university, home to the best, the brightest—and now, the kinkiest.

Joining the Composers Association, the Mathematica Club, and about 400 other student organizations, the Harvard Munch will now get money to host gatherings and guest speakers.  While conservative pundits on Fox roasted the school for giving money to this “marginal” group, the larger BDSM world welcomed the news. “Within the next decade, I think we’ll see a huge number of colleges and universities providing safe spaces for their students to explore alternative sexuality, just as they have done for LGBT groups,” said Mollena Williams, an educator in the kink community.
Read it all.

I am sure if the Arcus Foundation wants to come through with another grant, the Episcopal Church can have a liturgy ready for blessing this by the next General Convention.  But, seriously, once you open the door to sexual relations outside of God's design for monogamous, heterosexual marriage, the trajectory is always in the direction of more permissiveness.  One more thing... then one more thing... then one more thing....  Does anyone doubt that the culture is doing exactly that?  And that the so-called "mainline" churches are following right along?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Islam and Agnosticism Surging in Britain as Christianity Fades

What world has Rowan Williams been living in?  Christianity is not "fading away" in Britain, he says.  Well, actually, yes it is, as the census figures clearly illustrate.

Since the last census in 2001, the number of Britons identifying themselves, however loosely, as Christians is down 13 percentage points to 59 per cent.

The number of respondents who say they have no religious faith is up 10 points to 25 per cent.  Meanwhile, staggeringly, the Muslim population has grown from 1.55 million to 2.7 million, an increase of 1.15 million from 2001 to 2011.

The surge in Islamic belief is entirely a consequence of immigration.  The spread of agnosticism and atheism that is occurring among Britian's youth is largely generational.

As we seek to spread the Gospel, this is the reality we are up against in Britain (and, increasingly, elsewhere): the default position of people born since 1980 is agnosticism or atheism.  Friends of mine in England tell me that, in past generations, people of little or no faith would probably have checked the "CofE" (Church of England) box in the census.  This means that, as current and future generations are being more candid about their unbelief, statistics for the Church of England will probably take the biggest hit in years to come.

Pope Tweets for the First Time

What better day to do it than 12/12/12?

Pope Benedict XVI addressed his more than 838,000 Twitter followers today for the first time, posting five messages in the early morning hours.

"Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter," he wrote in his first message via @Pontifex.  "Thank you for your generous response.  I bless all of you from my heart."

The 85-year-old religious leader officially joined the micro-blogging service early this month, planning to answer questions about faith from those who use the hashtag #AskPontifex.  His Holiness will tweet in eight languages from eight different feeds, including English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Polish, and Arabic.  Hours after the Vatican's Dec. 3 announcement, the Pope already had more than 171,000 followers on his English account alone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I felt safer the week after 9/11/2001 than I do today...

 Perhaps this is the reason:

We had a President who worked to unite us instead of one who is dividing us by class, race, age, and ideology--pitting Americans against each other and taking us from the rule of law and free enterprise in a constitutional republic down the road to socialist tyranny.

God have mercy, and God please save our nation!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Months before graduation, West Point cadet quits, citing culture of overt religion

The following story makes me sad for a couple of reasons:  First, it is another example of militant atheism trying to drive any expression of religion out of public life.  (See my previous post.)  But secondly, I am sad because the cadet in question, Blake Page, is obviously hurting and doesn't see the possible connection between his anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) feelings and the depression and anxiety he is experiencing, which could be directly related to his feelings of hostility toward his environment. 

My sympathy goes out to Mr. Page over the suicide of his father last year.  But this, too, possibly says something about the pathology of the family system that could have been helped by faith in Christ.

Two final observations about this story: (1) While Page resigned and was honorably discharged, the fact remains that he had been medically disqualified from receiving a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant — like his classmates will receive in May — because of clinical depression and anxiety.  It is almost unheard of for someone to graduate from the Academy without receiving a commission, and there is a stigma that goes along with that.  He had, in a sense, failed in relation to other West Point graduates, so he might as well have resigned.  In other words, it was already determined that he was going to end up in a different place from his classmates, so now he gets to resign and begin a career as an anti-religious activist with regard to the military.  He indicated that "he plans to remain an activist on the role of religion in the military" and is quoted as saying, "I'd really love to be able to do this for the rest of my life."  This sounds cynical but, given his ambition, it was a smart career move for him to resign at this point.

And (2):  Is it just me, or do some of his statements, especially about  "criminals" in the military, sound a little over the top?  To put it another way, if I were a soldier in combat, pinned down by enemy fire, this isn't the kind of guy I would want next to me.  Live or die, I would want someone next to me who, at the very least, had a little more faith in his country and its institutions--the kind of soldier described in these verses from an old poem:

There are soldiers today as brave as those
Who gathered by Concord's stream,
Or fought with Warren on Charlestown Heights,
When Freedom was but a dream.

There are sailors today who would die at their guns 
As the tars of the Cumberland died,
Or with Somers sail through the jaws of Death 
On Tripoli's fatal tide.

For buried deep in each loyal breast,
The undying embers still glow,
Of the fires which set the world ablaze 
A hundred years ago!

Thrones have crumbled and fallen since then,
And Empires have melted away;
But Freedom still reigns! and oppression's waves 
Shall beat harmless against her sway.

And the Flag that has weathered a century's storms,
Triumphant on ocean and sod,
Will not be dishonored by Liberty's sons
Nor abandoned by Liberty's God.*  
I pray that Blake Page's time living with his grandparents becomes a turning point in his life and that someone close to him can introduce him to Christ.

Here's the story:

A cadet quitting West Point less than six months before graduation says he could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.

Blake Page announced his decision to quit the U.S. Military Academy this week, telling The Associated Press that he could not become an officer because of clinical depression played a role in his public protest against what he calls the unconstitutional prevalence of religion in the military.

'I don't want to be a part of West Point knowing that the leadership here is OK with just shrugging off and shirking off respect and good order and discipline and obeying the law and defending the Constitution and doing their job' - Blake Page
"I've been trying since I found that out: What can I do? What can I possibly do to initiate the change that I want to see and so many other people want to see?" Page, 24, said. "I realized that this is one way I can make that change happen."

West Point officials on Wednesday disputed those assertions. Spokeswoman Theresa Brinkerhoff said prayer is voluntary at events where invocations and benedictions are conducted and noted the academy has a Secular Student Alliance club, where Page served as president.

Maj. Nicholas Utzig, the faculty adviser to the secular club, said he doesn't doubt some of the moments Pagedescribed, but he doesn't believe there is systematic discrimination against nonreligious cadets.

"I think it represents his own personal experience and perhaps it might not be as universal as he suggests," said Utzig, who teaches English literature.

Page criticized a culture where cadets stand silently for prayers, where nonreligious cadets were jokingly called "heathens" by instructors at basic training and where one officer told him he'd never be a leader until he filled the hole in his heart. In announcing his resignation this week on The Huffington Post, he denounced "criminals" in the military who violate the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution.

"I don't want to be a part of West Point knowing that the leadership here is OK with just shrugging off and shirking off respect and good order and discipline and obeying the law and defending the Constitution and doing their job," he told the AP.

One of Page's secularist classmates called his characterization of West Point unfair.
"I think it's true that the majority of West Point cadets are of a very conservative, Christian orientation," said senior cadet Andrew Houchin. "I don't think that's unique to West Point. But more broadly, I've never had that even be a problem with those of us who are secular."

There have been complaints over the years that the wall between church and state is not always observed in the military. The Air Force Academy in Colorado in particular has been scrutinized for years over allegations from non-Christian students that they faced intolerance. A retired four-star general was asked last year to conduct an independent review of the overall religious climate at the academy.

There also has been a growing willingness in recent years by some service members to publicly identify themselves as atheists, agnostics or humanists and to seek the same recognition granted to Christians, Jews and other believers. Earlier this year, there was an event at Fort Bragg that was the first known event in U.S. military history to cater to nonbelievers.

Page said he hears about the plight of other nonreligious cadets in part through his involvement with the West Point affiliate of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The founder and president of that advocacy group said Page's action is a milestone in the fight against "fanatical religiosity" in the military.

"This is an extraordinary act of courage that I do compare directly to what Rosa Parks did," said Mikey Weinstein.

Page, who is from Stockbridge, Ga., and who was accepted into West Point after serving in the Army, said he was notified Tuesday of his honorable discharge. He faces no military commitment and will not have to reimburse the cost of his education.

West Point confirmed that it approved his resignation and that Page had been meeting the academic standards and was not undergoing any disciplinary actions. Page said he had been medically disqualified this semester from receiving a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant — like his classmates will receive in May — because of clinical depression and anxiety. He said his condition has gotten worse since his father killed himself last year.

It's not unusual for cadets to drop out of West Point, an institution known for its rigorous academic and physical demands. But the window for dropping out without the potential for a penalty is in the first two years. Dropouts are rare after that point.

Page expects to leave for his grandparents' home in Wright County, Minn., in the coming days. He plans to remain an activist on the role of religion in the military.

"I'd really love to be able to do this for the rest of my life," he said.
Read it all.

* (From "Centennial Musings, July 4, 1876," in Sights and Shadows of Our Cruise, edited by George R. Willis, published by the crew of the U.S. Frigate "Tennessee," Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet 1875-1878.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

'Merry Christmas Charlie Brown' Performance Canceled Following Atheist Complaints

Well, it must be getting close to Christmas again, because the annual round of "Whiny Atheists Threatening Lawsuits in order to Kill Christmas" has officially begun.  Witness the following news item from Arkansas.

It seems a church that was putting on a production of the play, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! had scheduled a Friday afternoon performance that school students could attend as part of an optional field trip.  Notice I said "optional"—as in, a field trip that students didn't have to go on but could if they had their parents permission.   So if a student didn't want to go or the student's parents thought this was something they didn't want their child to attend, the child could skip it.

Let me say parenthetically that, when I was in elementary school, public schools actually put on their own productions of Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!  You didn't have to go to a church to see it or smuggle the video home in a plain brown wrapper.

Incidentally, the ABC network just aired Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!, last Friday, and I have to say that I am always pleasantly surprised that the normally less-than-friendly-to-Christians, Disney-owned, ABC network continues to show it—unedited—with Charles Schultz' wonderful 'real meaning of Christmas' conclusion uncut.  (See video above.)  It is the clearest explanation of the message of Christmas you'll find on commercial television.

Anyway, back to Arkansas:  One parent decided to complain because, although the field trip was optional, "the woman planned to allow her daughter to attend the production out of fear she would be singled-out by her classmates."

Gee, Mom, if you think your daughter's classmates would have singled her out for not going on the field trip, how do you think they're feeling now that you killed the field trip for everybody?

Also, Mom, do you think that maybe, if your daughter is going to grow up in a society that has been profoundly influenced by Christianity, it might be a good learning experience, at least once in her life, to hear from Christians, first hand, the essence of the Christmas story?   You'd let your daughter listen to Hindus and Muslims first hand to hear what they believe, wouldn't you?   I mean, it's the tolerant and multicultural thing to be exposed to the ideas of others, even those with whom we disagree, isn't it?  But I digress.

The upset mother also contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), the organization that complained to the Little Rock School District on her behalf.   (As one who lived just across the river from Arkansas, in Memphis, for many years, that name—Arkansas Society of Freethinkers—is generating so many jokes in my mind right now, I am about to explode.)   But, again, I digress.

To their credit, the school's Principal and legal counsel concluded that the optional field trip didn't violate anyone's rights and were prepared to go ahead with it.  But—the church's pastor decided to pull the plug and cancel the Friday performance rather than put the school district in a difficult spot.

Pastor, if Christians are going to abandon the field every time they are challenged by secularists and atheists, then I hope you like the idea of Christians meeting in secret in basements and catacombs, because that's where it's going to end.

Anyway, here's the story.  What do you think should have happened?
From here:

A church in Little Rock, Ark., canceled one performance of "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" after an atheist organization complained and said students should not be exposed to a show with Christian themes as part of a school field trip.

Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church, issued a statement on the church's website on Wednesday, stating that while he believes the school was within its constitutional rights to bring students to the production, the church has nevertheless decided to cancel a Friday showing for students. 
[Yes, the pastor's first name really is "Happy."  I can't help wondering if he had brothers named, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sleepy, Bashful, and Doc.  But, from what I hear, he is actually a prominent and well-respected pastor in Little Rock.]

"It is not our desire to put hard working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm's way," wrote Caldwell.  "What we want said is that we love our city, our schools, parents and families.  People are at the heart of the matter to us."

He also said Principal Sandra Register of Terry Elementary School took a "courageous stand" when she decided not to cancel the trip after learning that someone had complained about it.

The controversy began when a parent became upset at the school's offer to take students to the church to watch the play, which is based on the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" cartoon and contains some Christian themes.  Although the field trip was optional, the woman planned to allow her daughter to attend the production out of fear she would be singled-out by her classmates.  The upset mother also contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), the organization that complained to the Little Rock School District on her behalf.

LeeWood Thomas, a board member and spokesperson for ASF, told The Christian Post it was never his organization's goal to stop the play's production, though they did not think the school should have made it into a class field trip.

"The church has every right to hold a Christmas play for the community and invite everybody there.  It's just that invite through the public school system is where we saw the violation of the separation of church and state," said Thomas.

Thomas also hopes the school has changed its mind about taking similar trips in the future.

"One of the things that I'm hoping comes out of this is that the school, in knowing that the Friday field trip play is being canceled, I still hope that they recognize that what they were doing would have been illegal," he said.

Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, previously told CP that it would have been constitutional for the school to take its students to the production, "especially" when parents were given the opportunity to keep their children from attending.  A spokesperson for the school district also told Fox News that the district's legal team had determined the trip was acceptable.

Though students will not be able to attend as part of a class trip, Caldwell and his church have invited parents and children to attend public performances on Dec. 15 and 16.

"To quote Bible verses and song lyrics that apply, they reflect our heart toward the Little Rock School District and everyone involved – Peace on Earth, Good will toward men," wrote Caldwell (emphasis his).
Read it all.

People in Little Rock have had their First Amendment "free exercise of religion" curtailed by threats from militant atheists, and a lot of impressionable young minds have been taught that their school district was doing a bad thing in exposing them to what Christians believe.  But, by all means, Pastor, let's keep thinking peaceful (dare I say, "Happy"?) thoughts.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

As Americans face a fiscal cliff, the Obamas make do with 54 Christmas trees

Why does the phrase, “Let them eat cake” come to mind?

From here:
Amazing how a reelection can reshape an incumbent's thinking about many things.  Now safely ensconced in the White House for 49 more months, the Obamas have decorated the place with 54 Christmas trees this year.

Even allowing for the usual Washington excesses with taxpayer money, that's a whole grove of Christmas trees. 

"We have 54 trees in the White House," an excited Michelle Obama proudly told visitors the other day.   "54!  That’s a lot of trees."

In fact, the Obamas' 54 trees this year are almost 50% more Christmas trees than last year.  That was during the campaign before Obama whispered a reminder to the Russians that he had to be careful until Nov. 6, when a victory would give him more "flexibility."

Now, how much carbon do you suppose those 54 trees could be sequestering had they not been chopped by this green president?
Read it all.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Former rector of nation’s largest Episcopal church becomes a Roman Catholic

From Religion News Service:
The former rector of the nation's largest Episcopal church has become a Roman Catholic.

The Rev. Larry Gipson was dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham from 1982-94.  Gipson retired in 2008 from the 8,000-member St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, where his parishioners included former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.

Last month, Gipson was accepted as a Catholic into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a structure set up by Pope Benedict XVI to accept former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

"The nature of authority in the Catholic Church is what attracted me to it," Gipson said. "After I retired, I was concerned and had been for many years about the Episcopal Church's authority structure."
Read it all.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Love is a Verb

I ran into an old friend of mine the other day—a friend who, after many years, had achieved a successful career as a scientist.  (I am taking pains not to include too much identifying information.)

What with both of us having been active in Christian activities as youth, our conversation invariably turned to some of our experiences in our younger days.  Then, somewhat hesitantly, my friend told me he had stopped believing in God.

Frankly, I was not terribly surprised, given the trajectory of his life in recent years, which had drifted farther and farther away from God and the church, and, along the way, included divorcing his wife and marrying a woman twenty years younger.  It is the old, old story.

If you have ever spoken with some of the leading "new atheists" such as Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, they have been known to concede (in their more candid moments), that a part of their rejection of Christianity is a rejection of the moral claims that believing in God places on one's life.  This fits a pattern that I have seen time and time again as I have talked with people about Christian faith.

It happens like this:  Over time, one comes to realize that if God exists, and especially if he has spoken to us in the Bible, then there are things he has told us to do that (gasp!) infringe on our personal autonomy.  Often this realization happens on a subconscious level.   And so, subconsciously, one begins to find the notion of God's existence and of the truth claims of the Bible to be, for lack of a better word, distasteful.  Consequently, people in this situation begin to use their intellects to find objections—excuses for not believing what they have already decided they don't want to believe.  

For example, when God says, "do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth," or when he says, "I  hate divorce... because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence,” (Malachi 2:15-16) or when he commands us to "rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:18), there is a moral claim being made so that, if I believe in God and believe the Bible to be his Word, then, yes, my personal choices are being directed and my autonomy is being limited.

But—and this is where skeptics miss the boat—God's commands are not aimed at robbing us of our freedom or denying us pleasure; in fact, quite the opposite is true.  God wants men and women to have loving, lifelong companionship.  He wants children to have stable and loving families where they can be brought up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).  He wants families that endure over generations and are the building blocks of a society and a people who love and honor him.

Feminists (among others) need to recognize that divorce is not liberation and marriage is not slavery (at least it should not be, if is lived according to God's intention).  God's injunction, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Galatians 5:22) comes within the context of all of us "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:21) and is balanced by the injunction, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (5:25).

When God commands husbands to love their wives or all of us to love one another, he doesn't mean for us to do so if we feel like it.  But neither is he telling us to do something objectionable, or contrary to reason or nature.  He is telling us, (in the words of the currently popular song by John Mayer) that love is a verb.  As with Anselm's faith seeking understanding ("I believe in order that I might know"), love is something we do in order that we might feel, not something we are supposed to wait to feel before we do.  But love is something that, once we do it, can have (in the words of the old prayer book) innumerable benefits—for ourselves, for each other, and for the whole human race.

All this is merely one more illustration of the fact that God loves us and that his commands are for our good and for our joy.   As the Psalmist says,
The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward  (Psalm 19:7-11).
"In keeping them there is great reward."  There is a transcendent dimension to life that the skeptics will never know unless they come to believe in God and trust in his Word.   It is only when we have faith that we know the experience of the Psalmist as he prays to God,
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).
Heavenly Father, for all those we know and love, grant that they might come to know you as you are revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Updated: What can we expect for America in a second Obama term?

The Economy

It is hard to believe, but Americans have been suffering the weakest economic recovery in the history of our country.  Annual GDP growth is actually slower than the recovery in the Great Depression from 1934 to 1940.  President Obama's next term means we should expect more of the same.  Obama's desire to increase taxes and regulations will drive investment out of the US to other countries.

During President Obama's second term, the economy should continue to limp along.  Even if we can get back up to a 2 percent growth rate, it would leave us well below the average 3.1 percent growth rate that the US had between 1965 and 2007.

Government Regulations

A massive wave of regulations has been kept on hold until after the election so as not to cause Obama any political problems before the election.  These regulations will drive up the cost of utilities, energy, health care, housing, and consumer goods, thereby further weakening the economy and increasing unemployment.

Foreign Policy and Defense

Last March, President Obama told then Russian President Medvedev to wait until after the election when he would have to run for re-election again and would be freer to do what he wants to do with regard to unilateral missile disarmament.  More revelations will undoubtedly come out about the attack on our consulate in Benghazi.  It is apparent that Pres. Obama would rather put an American in jail for a video than admit terrorism still exists in the middle east.  So we can expect the Obama administration to continue to apologize for the United States, and to weaken our defense and our standing in the world.

Government Spending and Debt

If you believe that government spending is the way to create growth, you will be happy with what will happen over the next four years.  Obama doesn't believe in tax incentives for those who can actually get the US economy growing again.  He would rather penalize the most productive Americans for working hard and taking risks in order to succeed.  This means that the US will slip further behind the rest of the world.

Runaway government spending under Obama has doubled the national debt to more than $16 trillion.  In the next four years, the impact that this debt has on the value of the dollar will hit home with painful, maybe even disastrous consequences.  This election was the United States' last chance to avoid becoming the next Spain or Greece. 


This election was the only way the United States had of effectively preventing the implementation of the government takeover of healthcare known as Obamacare.  Increased regulation, increased costs, and a decline in the once great system of healthcare and innovation in medical science that this country was known for are what we have to look forward to.

Religious Freedom

The contempt that the Obama administration showed for the Roman Catholic Church and any religious person who is opposed to abortion during the implementation of the Health and Human Services mandate is echoed in the increased hatred (yes, that's not too strong a word) his supporters have for people of faith, especially conservative Christians.  As the selfishness and lawlessness of the anti-religious left increases, buoyed by their success in this election, we can expect further infringement on religious freedom.


My greatest fear going into this election was that American had not suffered enough to realize the bankruptcy of the liberal/socialist ideology that the Obama administration represents.  In the next four years the country will come to see and regret what has happened in giving this administration another term.  Things will need to be turned around in the mid-term elections of 2014 and the presidential election in 2016.  I only hope it won't be too late--but I am afraid perhaps it already is.

Addendum:  Our only hope in all this is a revival or spiritual awakening among faithful Christians that gives the Church new unity, boldness, and power in accomplishing its mission, and that turns the hearts of the people of this country to repentance.  It is incumbent on Christians to pray and work as never before.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Apple, Inc. akin to religion? Studies suggest yes

From here:
For years, observers have noted the similarities between Apple, Inc. and religious cults.  Origin myth?  Check.  Faithful masses?  Just walk by an Apple store when the iPad Mini goes on sale later this week.

“A stranger observing one of the launches could probably be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a religious revival meeting,” anthropologist Kirsten Bell, told Tech News Daily this past week.  Bell reviewed several Apple product launch videos for Tech News prior to the iPad Mini launch event last week.


A BBC documentary series that aired last year cited a scientific study that seems to confirm this link.  In the study, neuroscientists analyzed the brain activity of an Apple devotee and discovered that Apple stimulates “the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.”
Read it all.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Apocalypse Now

How's this for apocalyptic literature?
And it came to pass in the Age of Insanity that the people of the land called America, having lost their morals, their initiative, and their will to defend their liberties, chose as their Supreme Leader that person known as ‘The One’.
He emerged from the vapors with a message that had no meaning; but he hypnotized the people telling them, "I am sent to save you.  My lack of experience, my questionable ethics, my monstrous ego, and my association with evil doers are of no consequence.  I shall save you with Hope and Change.  Go, therefore, and proclaim throughout the land that he who preceded me is evil, that he has defiled the nation, and that all he has built must be destroyed.”

And the people rejoiced, for even though they knew not what ‘The One’ would do, he had promised that it was good; and they believed.

And ‘The One’ said, "We live in the greatest country in the world.  Help me change everything about it!"

And the people said, "Hallelujah!  Change is good!"

Then he said, "We are going to tax the rich fat-cats."

And the people said, "Sock it to them!  And redistribute their wealth."

And the people said, "Show us the money!"

And then he said, "redistribution of wealth is good for everybody.”

And Joe the plumber asked, "Are you kidding me?  You're going to steal my money and give it to the deadbeats??"

And ‘The One’ ridiculed and taunted him, and Joe's personal records were hacked and publicized.

One lone reporter asked, "Isn't that Marxist policy?"  And she was banished from the kingdom.

Then a citizen asked, "With no foreign relations experience and having zero military experience or knowledge, how will you deal with radical terrorists?"

And ‘The One’ said, "Simple.  I shall sit with them and talk with them and show them how nice we really are; and they will forget that they ever wanted to kill us all!"

And the people said, "Hallelujah!!  We are safe at last, and we can beat our weapons into free cars for the people!"

Then ‘The One’ said "I shall give 95% of you lower taxes."

And one, lone voice said, "But 40% of us don't pay ANY taxes."

So ‘The One’ said, "Then I shall give you some of the taxes the fat-cats pay!"

And the people said, "Hallelujah!  Show us the money!"

Then ‘The One’ said, "I shall tax your Capital Gains when you sell your homes!"

And the people yawned and the slumping housing market collapsed. 
And ‘The One’ said, "I shall mandate employer-funded health care for every worker and raise the minimum wage.  And I shall give every person unlimited healthcare and medicine and transportation to the clinics."

And the people said, "Give me some of that!"

Then he said, "I shall penalize employers who ship jobs overseas."

And the people said, "Where's my rebate check?"

Then ‘The One’ said, "I shall bankrupt the coal industry and electricity rates will skyrocket!"

And the people said, "Coal is dirty.  Coal is evil.  No more coal!  But we don't care for that part about higher electric rates."

So ‘The One’ said, “Not to worry.  If your rebate isn't enough to cover your expenses, we shall bail you out.  Just sign up with the ACORN and you troubles are over!"

Then he said, "Illegal immigrants feel scorned and slighted.  Let's grant them amnesty, Social Security, free education, free lunches, free medical care, bi-lingual signs and guaranteed housing..."

"And the people said, "Hallelujah!" and they made him king!

And so it came to pass that employers, facing spiraling costs and ever-higher taxes, raised their prices and laid off workers.

Others simply gave up and went out of business and the economy sank like unto a rock dropped from a cliff.

The banking industry was destroyed.  Manufacturing slowed to a crawl.  And more of the people were without a means of support.

Then ‘The One’ said, "I am ‘The One’- The Messiah - and I'm here to save you!  We shall just print more money so everyone will have enough!"

But our foreign trading partners said unto him.  "Wait a minute.  Your dollar is not worth a pile of camel dung!  You will have to pay more..."

And ‘The One’ said, "Wait a minute.  That isn't fair!!"

And the world said, "Neither are these other idiotic programs you have embraced."

"Lo, you have become a Socialist state and a second-rate power.  Now you shall play by our rules!"

And the people cried out, “Alas, alas!!  What have we done?”

But yea verily, it was too late.

The people set upon ‘The One’ and spat upon him and stoned him, and his name was dung.

And the once mighty nation was no more; and the once proud people were without sustenance, shelter or hope.

And the Change ‘The One’ had given them was as like unto a poison that had destroyed them and like a whirlpool that consumed all that they had built.

And the people beat their chests in despair and cried out in anguish, “Give us back our nation, our pride and our hope!!”

But it was too late and their homeland was no more.

You may think this is a fable, but it’s not.  It’s happening right now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Episcopal Church Hits Bottom, Keeps Digging.

If you are an Anglican or an Anglican Wannabe and have never been to Charleston, South Carolina, you MUST go.   And you may want to hurry.

Charleston is the most Anglican city in North America.  The spires of several Anglican churches are among the most prominent features of the city's skyline.  There are street corners on which you can stand and see more than one Anglican church in a single glance.  The only other city I have been where that was true was London.  But, of course, it is not in America.  Also, you would not find the churches in London nearly so well attended.

Wander into any of Charleston's downtown parishes on a Sunday morning and you will hear some of the finest Anglican choral music on either side of the Atlantic.  The Bishop of London, preaching at last year's Mere Anglicanism conference, at St. Phillip's Church in Charleston, praised the choir for one of the finest renditions of Sir Hubert Parry's "I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me" that he (or I, for that matter) had ever heard.   (If you aren't familiar with that piece, you can listen to it here, although you will have to settle for the choir of Westminster Abbey performing it at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.)

More importantly, if you visit most of the Diocese of South Carolina's parishes on a Sunday you will hear the Word of God exposited faithfully and well.   And therein lies the problem, at least as far as the Episcopal Church is concerned.  Anglicans/Episcopalians in South Carolina want the Word of God preached whole and entire, and unadulterated (no pun intended).  Consequently, they aren't on board with some of the new things the Episcopal Church has been promoting lately.  As the Episcopal Church's departure from biblical and historic Christian belief and practice has increased, the Diocese has sought to differentiate itself from the innovations of the Episcopal Church, while still remaining in it.

But it appears that some local malcontents, in concert with the Episcopal Church's leadership, decided that they were tired of the Diocese of South Carolina not getting with the program; all of which led to this week's news:  Panzer Tanks Invade Poland...  er, no...  Enemy Planes Attack Pearl Harbor ...  er, sorry, wrong war... 

Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of SC:
On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. 
As the Diocesan website was quick to note, there is a serious question of who has abandoned whom:

Episcopal Church Abandons Bishop and Diocese:
Anglicans have been worshiping in South Carolina since its establishment as a British Colony. From the beginning, they have defended and upheld the doctrine, discipline and worship of the faithful generations who came before them. That freedom is now under direct assault.

As a founding Diocese of the Episcopal Church, we have taken steps in recent years to defend our freedom of worship and order of gathering. On Monday of this week (October 15), the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence (14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina) was informed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church that a disciplinary board had certified that he was guilty of abandonment of the communion of the church – that he had, in effect, by his words and actions, left the church. We believe that these actions of the Episcopal Church are both invalid under the Constitution of the Episcopal Church of this Diocese and violations of rights and freedoms which all Americans hold dear. We emphatically reject them, as well as the attempted restriction upon the ministry of our Bishop.

An Assault on the Bishop

This action is a deplorable assault upon the Bishop of this Diocese. The attack came in the midst of negotiations whose stated intent was to find a peaceful solution to our differences with the Episcopal Church. It involved a process in which there was no prior notice of the proceedings, no notice of the charges against him nor any opportunity to face the local accusers (who remained anonymous until today).

An Assault on the Diocese

These actions, however, are not just an attack upon Bishop Lawrence. They also represent an assault on  this Diocese and its congregations....

Read it all.
What, then, are Anglicans in South Carolina to do?  A special Convention of the Diocese has been triggered by the actions against Bishop Lawrence, which will convene on November 17.  In the meantime, the best advice I have seen comes from the Rev. Chuck Owens, rector of the Church of the Cross, in Bluffton, SC, who wrote to his parish about a phone call he received from a reporter today:
"You guys are the biggest Episcopal church in the area so I called hoping you would give me a comment for my paper."  "About what?" I asked.  "About Bishop Lawrence abandoning the Diocese of South Carolina," the reporter continued.  "No such thing has happened; you must be confused."  "No," she insisted, "I read it on the internet just a short while ago."

Well, my friends, she was confused . . . very confused; and I don't want you to be taken in by her or anyone else for that matter!  In the coming days and weeks and perhaps even longer, much is going to find its way into newspapers, onto blogs and along human grapevines that will suggest to those who relish controversy that Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, including The Church of the Cross, have fallen into an abyss.  Don't believe it!  Here is the truth in a nutshell.

Since 2003 the Diocese of South Carolina has been trying to stay in The Episcopal Church as an island of orthodoxy in an ever-widening, ever-deepening sea of liberalism and to do so without compromising its identity.  Actions taken to this end prompted The Episcopal Church this week to move against Bishop Lawrence and by extension the Diocese of South Carolina.  As a result a divide now exists between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina that will likely take the parties into court at some point in the future.  That's the gist of it.

The question now becomes, "How should we respond as members of The Church of the Cross?"  First, pray for the leadership of this diocese and this parish.  Second, trust in the leadership of this diocese and this parish.  Third, support the leadership of this diocese and this parish.  Fourth, in the power of the Spirit do the work of the Gospel: proclaim Christ crucified, dead, buried and risen; witness to His grace and forgiveness; use your time, talents and treasure for His Kingdom purposes; and seek ways to rally the flagging, inspire the doubting, and buoy the drifting.  Fifth, humble yourselves before the Lord God Almighty and strengthen your faith in Him - He is sovereign over this and all things and His glory will ultimately be revealed.

We are in this together, you and I; and it's my firm conviction that God has brought us to this place not to wilt but to blossom . . . and blossom we will - praise God!  Read More

In His power and for His glory,

 That's all for now.  But I am sure there is more to come.  Stay tuned.  And keep praying!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Call to Prayer for Spiritual Awakening in Our Churches and Our Nation

Earlier this month, the Rev. Canon Thad Butcher, of St. Michael’s Church, in Nashotah, Wisconsin, wrote an article calling God’s people to prayer for our nation.  His call was based on conversations he had had with religious leaders who share the concern that our nation is at a crossroads.

As we look around us today, we see a growing hostility toward the Christian faith and its standard of morality.  We see the promotion of a new and militant form of atheism.  We see continued opposition to the idea of God as the Creator.  We see the attempt to redefine marriage and to normalize behaviors that have always, in every civilization, been considered wrong and sinful.  It seems as if there is a growing movement that is intent on ruling God and the Bible out of human affairs.  We are indeed at a crossroads—and the choice is between God sending judgment and God sending spiritual revival.

Most Christians today believe that until modern times, America was a solidly Christian nation with high moral standards, originally established by godly Founding Fathers, and has only recently been weakened by the infiltration of secular, humanistic thinking.  However the reality is actually quite different.  There have been times in the past that were in many ways similar to the times we are living in today.

The late historian, Dr. J. Edwin Orr, writes that the period immediately following the Revolutionary War was one of those times.  In the late 1700’s, many Americans were greatly influenced by the writings of humanists like Voltaire and Rousseau in France, and Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen in America.
“Drunkenness had become epidemic.  Out of a US population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year.  Profanity was of the most shocking kind.  For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence."

“The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, James Madison (a cousin of the statesman James Madison), that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’ Voltaire averred, and Tom Paine echoed, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.’”1
Orr reported that colleges were bastions of unbelief.  Students rioted.  They held a mock communion at Williams College and put on anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth.  In New Jersey, students took a Bible from a Presbyterian church and burned it in a public bonfire.  Church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote, “It seemed as if Christianity were about to be ushered out of the affairs of men.”2

What happened to change things?   It was during the 1790’s that the Second Great Awakening began.   (The First Great Awakening is associated with the ministries of George Whitfield, John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards and spanned the decades from the 1730’s to the 1770’s.)

The Second Great Awakening (which lasted from around 1790 to 1840) broke out first in Connecticut, and then in Massachusetts and all the seaboard states before spreading to the frontier.

The modern missionary movement was born out of this Second Great Awakening.  Along with it came the abolition of slavery and the establishment of hospitals, colleges, public education, Sunday school, Bible societies, mission and relief agencies, and countless other social benefits.3  Subsequent revivals that some scholars have identified as being part of a Third Great Awakening swept the United States and the British Isles in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  The Awakening was worldwide and had a great impact on China, Korea, and the nations of East Africa.

Much of what we take for granted about the influence of Christianity on our national life is not due primarily to our Founding Fathers, but rather to these mighty outpourings of the Spirit of God at several points in our nation’s history.

Although the world’s circumstances look bleak today and it perhaps seems that, once again, Christianity could be ushered out of the affairs of men, God’s promise to his ancient people remains true for the Church today:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
How can we experience a spiritual awakening in our day?  The great early American theologian, Jonathan Edwards, wrote a treatise about spiritual revival in his day.   The lengthy but descriptive title of that treatise was as follows: A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of All God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.

There is the answer: We must have the explicit agreement and visible union of God’s people in extraordinary prayer.

(1) God’s people need to agree that they are coming together for the explicit purpose of seeking God’s face in order that He would forgive our sins, give us the fullness of His Holy Spirit, and heal our nation.

(2) There needs to be a visible union of God’s people coming together for this explicit purpose.

(3) It needs to include all God’s people, of every denomination and background.  We need to invite our friends and those who may not have thought about this issue to join us in concerted prayer.

(4) It needs to be extraordinary prayer, not simply the times of prayer for which we may already gather, though these may be used to pray for revival as well.

Not only do I believe that there is the possibility that in these days God might want to work in a special way, pouring out His Spirit, bringing revival to the Church and an awakening to the nations, I know, based on the promise of His Word, that He will do it, if we seek Him above all things.

Will you join me?

Toward this end, The Church of the Savior, Milwaukee, WI, will be meeting for a time of extraordinary prayer for revival each Tuesday at 7 p.m., beginning on October 23.  Directions are here.  You are warmly invited to join us.



1. J. Edwin Orr. “The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakenings.” Oxford Association for Research in Revival, Los Angeles, California, 1976, p. 1.  You can see Dr. Orr's video of this address on YouTube.

2. Ibid, p. 2.

3. Ibid.

See also:

Michael Catt, The Power of Surrender: Breaking Through to Revival. B and H Publishing Group, 2010.

Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home. Harper Collins, 1992. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

How Ideology Colors Morality

This article from 2008 helps explain why a liberal, union, public school, geometry teacher in Philadelphia berated a 16-year-old high school sophomore for wearing a Romney t-shirt to class (mentioned in my last post). 

How Ideology Colors Morality

Conservatives and liberals reside in different moral worlds.

Liberals tend to think that conservatives are either stupid or evil.  They see George W. Bush as a buffoon and Dick Cheney as a nefarious architect of doom.  These two options strike liberals as the only possible explanations for why someone would adopt a conservative agenda.   Conservatives must be either be confused about what morality demands of us in the political sphere, or they must recognize the demands of morality and simply ignore those demands, in pursuit of power or lucre.  Conservatives have no more a flattering conception of liberals.  For their vantage point, liberals either look hopelessly naïve (read "stupid") or dangerously corrupted (read "evil").   Liberals are either tree-hugging fools or calculating agents of moral degeneracy. Why is this?

One answer is that liberals and conservatives each make the same false assumption about the other side: they assume that their opponents share the same basic moral values.   Suppose you and I share the same basic values, but you advocate some policy that I oppose.  That means one of us is either making a mistake about what our shared values entail or willfully pursuing something we know to be immoral.  One of us is stupid or evil.  But there is another possibility: perhaps we have some different basic values.  Perhaps we are both pursuing exactly what our values demand of us, but, since those values differ, we are pursuing different political agendas.
Read the full article.

This Is What We Face

Teen Returns to School After Romney T-Shirt Flap

From here:
A 16-year-old high school sophomore who says she was ridiculed by her geometry teacher for wearing a Mitt Romney T-shirt returned to school Tuesday following a rally by cheering supporters.  The teacher has also written a letter of apology that was read aloud to students.

Samantha Pawlucy hadn't been back to Charles Carroll High School in the city's Port Richmond section since last week.  That's when she and her family say she was mocked by her teacher for wearing the shirt supporting the Republican presidential candidate.  She said the teacher questioned why she was wearing the shirt and called others in to the room to laugh at her.

Pawlucy, whose family had expressed concern for her safety, returned Tuesday after a rally that featured supporters singing the national anthem and reading the First Amendment — as well as shouts of supporters calling "Go, Sam!" and "You're great, Sam!"


Pawlucy wore the pink "Romney/Ryan" shirt to "dress-down" day on Sept. 28. She said that during class, [geometry teacher Lynette Gaymon] pointed out the shirt, questioned why she was wearing it and told her to leave the classroom.  Gaymon, Pawlucy said, said it was a "Democratic" school and compared it to wearing a "KKK" shirt.
Read the whole story.

I think I have changed my mind: We do need more education in schools about tolerance, diversity, and respect for the opinions of others.   Only the education needs to be for the teachers.

Taliban gunmen shoot 14-year-old girl activist

From here:  
Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai was admired across a battle-scarred region of Pakistan for exposing the Taliban's atrocities and advocating for girls' education in the face of religious extremists. On Tuesday, the Taliban nearly killed her to quiet her message.

A gunman walked up to a bus taking children home from school in the volatile northern Swat Valley and shot Malala in the head and neck. Another girl on the bus was also wounded.

The young activist was airlifted by helicopter to a military hospital in the frontier city of Peshawar. A doctor in the city of Mingora, Tariq Mohammad, said her wounds weren't life-threatening, but a provincial information minister said after a medical board examined the girl that the next few days would be crucial.

[Please pray for Malala.]

Malala began writing a blog when she was just 11 under the pseudonym Gul Makai for the BBC about life under the Taliban, and began speaking out publicly in 2009 about the need for girls' education — which the Taliban strongly opposes. The extremist movement was quick to claim responsibility for shooting her.

"This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter," Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan by telephone.  [Emphasis added.]

[So, according to the "religion of peace," young girls getting an education and speaking out against injustice is obscene, but murder isn't.]

The shooting provoked outrage across the country, angering Pakistanis who have seen a succession of stories about violence against women by the Taliban.

"This attack cannot scare us nor the courageous Malala. This cowardly act cannot deter Malala to give up her efforts," said Azizul Hasan, one of the girl's cousins.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf condemned the attack and called her a daughter of Pakistan. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the shooting "barbaric" and "cowardly."
Read the whole story.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

What Should We Think of the New International Version 2011? (Part 2)

A frequent problem with some new translations of the Bible is that, in their effort to use language that is more "gender neutral," the translation becomes less accurate; and, in the translation of some passages, loses theological integrity.  This is particularly true in the translation of the theologically significant phrase "Son of Man."

Consider Psalm 8:4-6 from the 1984 NIV:
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet
In the 2011 NIV Psalm 8:4-6 becomes:
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet
What can be seen in verse 4 is a rich parallelism between man (or mankind) in the first half of the verse with the Son of Man, the Messiah, in the second half of the verse.  This passage, which is widely considered a Messianic reference, now has that reference obscured by being translated as only referring to human beings (plural) throughout.

Students of the Bible will recognize that Jesus may have had such passages in mind when he referred to himself as the Son of Man.  Not only that, but the (inspired) writer of the Letter to the Hebrews obviously considered this passage from Psalm 8 to be a Messianic reference when he quotes it in Hebrews 2:5-9,
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
7 You made him a little lower than the angels;
you crowned him with glory and honor
8 and put everything under his feet.”

In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.  9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In the 2011 NIV this passage from Hebrews becomes:
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.  9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
The distinction is that, in other translations and for most biblical scholars, everything from the latter half of verse 6 and following is arguably a Messianic reference.  In the 2011 NIV, only in verse 9 does the passage begin clearly to refer to the Messiah.  The whole thrust of verses 7 and 8 has been switched from the Son of Man (the Messiah) to human beings; and "the son of man" (a reference to the Messiah) in verse 6 becomes "a son of man" (a reference to a human individual) in the 2011 NIV.

I have to confess that the first time I read verses 7 and 8 in the 2011 NIV I was impressed at what a nice, clever, and insightful translation it was.  (Actually the word that came to mind was that it was a very "slick" way to handle the translation of this passage.)  But then, recognizing the enormous shift in the focus of the verses, I quickly regained my senses and realized that the test of any Bible translation is not whether it is a nice, clever, or insightful (or slick) translation, but is it a truthful and accurate translation?

While I am somewhat sympathetic to the aims of a dynamic equivalence translation, I believe readers can only be assured of the truthfulness and accuracy of theology-laden passages like the one from Psalm 8, quoted in Hebrews 2, if we translate what the writer actually said rather than what we think he might have meant, or what we would prefer to have him say to our contemporary ears.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What should We Think of the New International Version 2011? (Part 1)

Those who know me well have heard me express my concerns about the 2011 edition of the New International Version of the Bible.  Today I ran across this passage, which has changed significantly from the 1984 to the 2011 edition:

Romans 1:4
New International Version 1984 (NIV 1984): "4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."

Romans 1:4
New International Version 2011 (NIV 2011):"4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."

Do you see the difference?  We are talking about the translation of ὁρισθέντος (horisthentos).  The phrase is "τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ," which the NIV 2011 translates as "appointed the Son of God," and which every other English translation I can find translates as "declared" (or a word with an equivalent meaning such as shown, proved, marked out, or demonstrated) to be the Son of God"

GREEK: τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ
NASB: who was declared the Son of God
KJV: And declared [to be] the Son of God
INT: having been declared Son of God

Romans 1:4 is the only occurrence of ὁρισθέντος in the New Testament, while ὡρισμένος (hōrismenos) in Acts 10:42 and ὥρισεν (horisen) in Acts 17:31, which are translated as appointed, are related but not the same word.
While ὁρισθέντος may be translated as appointed, a better translation is marked out, determined to be, or declared.  It is significant that virtually every English translation translates it this way: 
(KJ21) 4 and was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead,
(ASV)who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord,
(CEB)He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord.
(CJB)he was powerfully demonstrated to be Son of God spiritually, set apart by his having been resurrected from the dead; he is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.
(CEV) 3-4 This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death.
(DARBY)marked out Son of God in power, according to [the] Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of [the] dead) Jesus Christ our Lord;
(ERV) 3-4 The Good News is about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As a human, he was born from the family of David, but through the Holy Spirit he was shown to be God’s powerful Son when he was raised from death.
(ESV)and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
(ESVUK)and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
(GW)In his spiritual, holy nature he was declared the Son of God. This was shown in a powerful way when he came back to life.
(GNT)as to his divine holiness, he was shown with great power to be the Son of God by being raised from death.
(HCSB)and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness.
(PHILLIPS) 3-6 The Gospel is centred in God’s Son, a descendant of David by human genealogy and patently marked out as the Son of God by the power of that Spirit of holiness which raised him to life again from the dead. He is our Lord, Jesus Christ, from whom we received grace and our commission in his name to forward obedience to the faith in all nations. And of this great number you at Rome are also called to belong to him.
(KJV)And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
(LEB)who was declared Son of God in power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ our Lord,
(MSG) 2-7 The sacred writings contain preliminary reports by the prophets on God’s Son. His descent from David roots him in history; his unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master. Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ! And I greet you now with all the generosity of God our Father and our Master Jesus, the Messiah.
(NASB) who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
(NCV) 3-4 The Good News is about God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As a man, he was born from the family of David. But through the Spirit of holiness he was declared to be God's Son with great power by rising from the dead.
(NKJV)and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
(NLV)The Holy Spirit proved by a powerful act that Jesus our Lord is the Son of God because He was raised from the dead. 
(NLT)and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
(NRSV) and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spiritb of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
(YLT)who is marked out Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of sanctification, by the rising again from the dead,) Jesus Christ our Lord;

The NIV 1984 edition is consistent with all other translations:

(NIV1984)and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then comes the updated family of New International Version Bibles, the NIV 2011, followed by the UK version, the NIV Reader's Version (a version for young people) and the Today's New International Version (TNIV) which was discontinued at the same time as  publication of the NIV 2011 began.
(NIV) [2011]and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
(NIVUK)and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
(NIRV)By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was appointed to be the mighty Son of God because he rose from the dead. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
(TNIV)and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

The reason why this matters so much is the Christological heresy known as adoptionism, the view that Jesus was born merely human and that he became divine—adopted as God's son—later in his life.  No theologically knowledgeable translator could be unaware of the error of adoptionism, and to translate Romans 1:4 in a way unlike any other English translation—a way that opens the door to this erroneous view—is inexcusable. 

This is only the beginning of a whole catalog of problems I am finding with the NIV (2011).  I'll return to this subject as time permits.