ornament 19 November 2003 ornament

Bush & the Redcoats

President Bush’s speech today in London was incredible. The President’s fearlessness amazes me. Such conviction is rare in the world today. Something I found particularly interesting were Bush’s opening remarks:

Americans traveling to England always observe more similarities to our country than differences. I’ve been here only a short time, but I’ve noticed that the tradition of free speech — exercised with enthusiasm — (laughter) — is alive and well here in London. We have that at home, too. They now have that right in Baghdad, as well. (Applause.)

The people of Great Britain also might see some familiar traits in Americans. We’re sometimes faulted for a naive faith that liberty can change the world. If that’s an error it began with reading too much John Locke and Adam Smith. Americans have, on occasion, been called moralists who often speak in terms of right and wrong. That zeal has been inspired by examples on this island, by the tireless compassion of Lord Shaftesbury, the righteous courage of Wilberforce, and the firm determination of the Royal Navy over the decades to fight and end the trade in slaves.

It’s rightly said that Americans are a religious people. That’s, in part, because the “Good News” was translated by Tyndale, preached by Wesley, lived out in the example of William Booth. At times, Americans are even said to have a puritan streak — where might that have come from? (Laughter.) Well, we can start with the Puritans.

To this fine heritage, Americans have added a few traits of our own: the good influence of our immigrants, the spirit of the frontier. Yet, there remains a bit of England in every American. So much of our national character comes from you, and we’re glad for it.

It’s a shame that so many Brits have forgotten the moral history that we share. Sadly, many have not forgotten it—they’ve remembered it and repudiated it.

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ornament 18 November 2003 ornament

Why Evangelicals Will Never Embrace Gay Marriage

Virginia Postrel is wrong. In response to today’s Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that anti-homosexual marriage laws are unconstitutional, Postrel writes about the evangelical Protestant view on homosexual marriage:

As I’ve said before, saying that homosexuality is wrong has increasingly become the defining public characteristic of evangelical Protestants. Publicly disapproving of gays separates them from popular culture–and, hence, reinforces religious commitment—while exacting little personal toll. When I was a kid, evangelical churches disapproved of dancing, of rock music, of working women, of divorce. Now they incorporate all of those elements in their church programs. (They still don’t like divorce–who does?–but today’s evangelical churches not only have programs for divorced members, they even arrange their buildings’ security so non-custodial parents can’t swipe the kids.) What’s left? Gays. That’s why pastors tend to talk so much about them.

Why not? Through the years, evangelicals have changed their positions on many issues. Take slavery and racial issues for example. My own denomination, Southern Baptists, have at times come out in support of slavery, and many churches were explicitly racist. Thankfully, the faithful in the churches eventually saw the sinfulness in this behavior and reputiated it.

Isn’t the issue of homosexual marriage just another cultural issue that evangelicals need to get over? I argue that it is not. Homosexual marriage will never be welcomed in evangelical circles because it is fundamentally different from an issue like race relations. Regarding racism and slavery, the church was clearly in the wrong—not because the outside culture said that they were wrong, but because the Scriptures said that the churches were wrong. The revelation of God can shed light on many cultural issues, and it blazed its light upon the sin of racism in the church.

The issue of homosexual marriage is an entirely different animal. With racism, popular culture was in the right with respect to the Bible and the racists in the church were wrong. With homosexual marriage, popular culture is clearly in the wrong according to the Bible, and evangelicals are actually in the right this time: Scripture is very clear in its teaching that homosexual practices are sinful.

What this boils down to is that the minute that evangelicals throw out Scripture, they cease to be evangelicals. Our worldview hinges on the fact that the Bible is the revelation of God to man. Some may claim that this is ridiculous or even “Neanderthal.” I say that it is much more solid than resting a worldview on a popular culture that will change thousands of years of civilization on the whim of a few.

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ornament 16 November 2003 ornament

Culture Shock

Culture shock is an interesting phenomenon to me. I’ve dealt with it on a number of occasions in varying degrees. Jon & Shawna Cronan are dealing with it right now. They’re a couple of missionaries I’ve met who have just moved their family from Tennessee to Nepal (last week) and are now blogging about their experiences. Check out their blog Namaste! (also located on my blogroll).

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ornament 15 November 2003 ornament

Breathing Room

Vols 59, Bulldogs 21

Tennessee finally earned a little breathing room today against Mississippi State with their first blowout of the season. It was a fun game to watch, and Tennessee’s offense was unstoppable, not that Mississippi State had anything to stop them.

The funniest part about watching this game was when one of the JP Sports announcers said with sincerity, “All of the sudden what started out as a close game has turned into a blowout.” All the sudden, yeah…I suppose every game does begin with a tie.

Next week: The Volunteers take on the intramural Commodores of Vanderbilt.

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ornament 14 November 2003 ornament

In Praise of McJobs

Merriam-Webster has the term “McJob” in the newest edition of their collegiate dictionary, which has caused McDonald’s, from whence the term is derived, to be slightly upset. The new dictionary defines a McJob as, “a low paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement.”

McDonald’s is upset because they say that these jobs are not dead-end and do offer opportunities for advancement. I think I’ll have to take the unpopular road and side with McDonald’s on this one. I’ll even admit to liking McDonald’s. Yes, they’re everywhere. No, it’s not good for you. But the food is not that bad—especially when you’re in a foreign country and have had enough of the local fare, Micky D’s can be an expatriate’s solace.

Back to the jobs—it’s true that flipping burgers at McDonald’s is a less than desirable job. Nobody wants to make a career out of it, and that’s the point. The thought that “McJobs” provide little opportuinty for advancement it ludicrous because these jobs are so bad and pay so little that everyone who works in them has ample motivation to leave them after a time. McDonald’s employees come and go like the tide, but they go with a little experience that helps them get another job. The Wall Street Journal observes:

Notwithstanding laments to the contrary, this ladder of opportunity remains a fact of American life. In a recent study of earnings mobility in California, economist Michael Dardia of the Bay Area’s Sphere Institute found that for most young people minimum-wage jobs such as those in retail or fast food are only a temporary stop on the way up. “Condemning retail jobs as ‘dead-end’ jobs misses the point that these are primarily entry-level jobs for entering or part-time workers,” says Mr. Dardia. “The important issue is where workers end up–not where they start.”

I’ve never worked fast food, but I have worked the in the factory equivalent. One of my first jobs involved putting a washer onto a pin follwed by a rubber stopper. This process was repeated thousands of times during my eight-hour shift. I earned $4.35 an hour. I am also no longer there.

Sure, there are exceptions. Some people for one reason or another never advance beyond entry-level jobs. For most of us though, these jobs are a door into the marketplace though which virtually anyone can enter.

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ornament 13 November 2003 ornament

Revolving Headline

World’s Oldest Person, 114, Dies in Japan

A headline exactly like this shows up every couple of months. The oldest person in the world is naturally close to death, so I suppose that it’s excusable—it makes for a steady flow of news. Might I suggest the following headline, which would give the news agencies an even steadier flow of news:

World’s Youngest Person, 1 Minute Old, is Born in India.

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ornament 12 November 2003 ornament

The Changing of the Wed

I’ve attended several weddings this year, and for the most part the ceremonies were well-done and thoughtful of the marriage which was about to take place. I have noticed though, both in weddings I’ve been to and in ones I’ve heard or read about, that a change seems to be taking place. Many weddings today have become more about style, production and showmanship than about the important ceremony that a wedding marks: namely the public action of a man leaving his father and mother and being joined to his wife (Genesis 2:24).

An article in The Atlanic makes further note of this change:

Whereas a wedding once provided young people with a moment of transformation so powerful that even a modestly funded event was a momentous one, nowadays—with marriage an iffy bet and with most betrothed couples having already helped themselves to all the liberties of adulthood—the only way to underline the moment is to put on an elaborate and costly show. Further, there were once measures of propriety that held wedding spending in check: no large weddings for second-timers, or older brides, or couples of differing religions, or the visibly pregnant, or cohabitating partners, or couples who would have to assume large debts to throw a lavish reception, or women whose sexual history was extensive and well known. But these strictures have all eroded. With clergymen and parents no longer the guardians of wedding rituals, that role has passed to retailers and party planners, who would happily marry a pair of baboons if someone was willing to foot the bill (indeed, the summer issue of Martha Stewart Weddings included “Tips for Making Your Favorite Furry or Feathered Friend a Part of the Festivities”).

The issue of clergy no longer being the guardians of wedding rituals is one that should not be ignored. Anyone can become ordanied through an organization such as the Universal Life Church (over 20 million served!) and perform a wedding in any state. There are some accounts I’ve read that even dogs and deceased persons were ordained through organizations like this. This “religion’s” sole purpose seems to be the ordination of people for the purpose of performing weddings. While I’m all for freedom of religion (even para-religions like the Universal Life Church), I think this signals a key problem in our culture.

Those who are getting married are under no authority at all. If a pastor refuses to marry them for one reason or another, they simply go down the street or call their buddy. I do not think that clergy and parents should have ultimate authority in these matters, but to have none at all shows that couples are ignoring the wisdom of those who have gone before. There is no real ritual present anymore that couples must submit themselves to—the wedding has indeed in these instances become only a party.

The scene is not all bad, however. I’ve been to a number of weddings this year that exemplified more than just a party for which to dress up. In these weddings, the ritual was not empty, but it was evident to all that something special was taking place and that a change was underwent by the brides and grooms. My bet is that these marriages are standing on stronger ground than those for whom the wedding is just a show. Only time will tell.

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The Inventor of the Internet

Speaking to Middle Tennessee State students yesterday, Al Gore commented on the role of television in our democracy:

“Our democracy is suffering in an age when the dominant medium is not accessible to the average person and does not lend itself most readily to the conveyance of complex ideas about self-governance,” Gore said. “Instead it pushes toward a lowest common denominator.”

Gore said the results of that inaccessibility are reflected most prominently in the changed priorities of the country’s elected officials, who feel that debating important issues is “relatively meaningless today. How do they spend their time instead? Raising money to buy 30-second television commercials.”

What on earth is this man talking about? Television is inaccessibile? I agree that it is not the best medium for communicating complex ideas, but show me a home in this country without at least one television! Gore goes on to cite the fact that most Americans watch four hours of television per day. Am I missing something here or does this make no sense whatsoever?

Gore’s lecture was watched by most people via satellite television. I suppose that made it difficult to communicate his ideas, resulting in his confusing statement.

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No Saruman in ROTK

Christopher Lee’s character Saruman won’t appear in the Return of The King when it comes out next month. Lee says that 7 minutes of his character’s role has been cut from the final film. This is quite strange, because it will leave few loose ends remaining for moviegoers. If you read the book, you know that Saruman shows up. I suppose director Peter Jackson had to have something for the extended DVD version…

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Man vs. Machine

Garry Kasparov, the top-ranked chess player in the world, is playing a computer again. He tied the first game of the match—let’s hope for the sake of all humanity that he wins, else the machines overtake us. I have a hard enough time keeping up with those computer chess programs, much less an entire computer built just to play chess. I’m glad Kasparov is such a good sport to play these matches—even though is well paid, he’s not out making a fool of himself like former chess king Bobby Fischer.

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