Yet Again, the World’s Oldest Person Dies

I’ve written about this time and again. Something is afoot. Perhaps now the United Nations will step in and do something about this global problem of the world’s oldest people dying. The 114 year-old Ramona Trinidad Iglesias Jordan has now passed on.

This woman should surely watch out, now that she’ll probably the next of the world’s oldest people to make an exit.

Is it just a coincidence that this happened on the same day when the world’s youngest person was born? I think not.

Here Come the Privacy Police

Google’s forthcoming new email service, Gmail, has raised the ire of privacy advocates everywhere. They are concerned because Google’s service will feature targeted ads based on keywords used in the email messages. Google has indicated that no human eyes will ever see the contents of a message.

However, this assurance is little comfort to some. The California Senate has now passed a bill limiting what the ads can do.

I’m all for privacy, but why does the government need to get involved here? The answer to this problem is much simpler. If the California legislature had only consulted me, I would have saved them thousands of dollars. If one does not want one’s email read by Google’s bots, one should not get a Gmail account! Problem solved.

A Long, Long, Long, Long Time

Anybody remember the Marathon Bar, the candy that lasts a long, long, long, long time? It was a pretzel-looking chocolate candy bar that supposedly took all day to eat. I fondly remember getting them as a kid. Then, the candy bars started to disappear, never to be seen again.

Fast forward to May 2004. I finally discovered what happened. Apparently, sales weren’t sufficent for Mars, Inc., so they discontinued the candy in 1981. Now, sadly, my search is over. Or is this a partial solution?

Gore Names Bush as Prison Abuser

Al Gore, the has-been inventor of the internet (and everybody’s favorite pseudo-Tennessean), delivered today a speech for the MoveOn PAC in which he implies that President Bush was standing right beside Lynndie England and company at Abu Ghraib. A simpleton such as England couldn’t have thought to commit such atrocities on her own:

Private Lynndie England did not make the decision that the United States would not observe the Geneva Convention.

Well, maybe not, but she photos looked like she surely enjoyed it. Gore called for almost everybody above Pvt. England to resign. Apparently it is better to have no military at all than have anyone in the chain of command remain.

The whole speech is filled with so many revelations of truth that there’s little room left for facts.

The preacher in the former Vice President/Senator/Divinity Student felt the need to wax poetic:

In my religious tradition, I have been taught that “ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit… Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

While Mr. Gore’s fruit is presumably the internet from which you’re reading, President Bush has deposed a dictator, liberated a nation, and kept terrorists organizations so on the run that their plans against us have been frustrated. How do you like them apples, Mr. Gore?

John Kerry’s Campaign Spam

The censors at TruePravda are hard at work. My last entry just got a “comment” from a Kerry supporter on something completely unrelated to my post (Kerry’s energy plan). There’s one good thing about Movable Type 3.0: I can approve or delete each comment before it is published to the site. This one from the Kerry camp was summarily deleted.

If Kerry supporters want to discuss a particular issue related to a post I’ve made, by all means let’s discuss it. If you want to use my website as free advertising space for your party platform ideas, rest assured that your post will never see the light of day. Save your pixels.

Iraq and the Lessons of a “Sort of Free” Russia

As our eyes are on Iraq and transitioning a dictatorship into a democray of the people, two important writings of late have been looking at how things are going in Russia.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Andrew Higgins examines the fact that while the Russian free economy has improved, the free political scene has regressed [subs. req’d]:

For more than a decade, Washington and its favorites in Moscow embraced a seductive theory: Free markets would anchor free democratic politics in post-Soviet Russia by creating prosperity and property owners. Now capitalism has vanquished communism across the former Soviet empire, destroyed Marxism as a global rival to America’s free-market creed and, after years of turbulence, brought Russia robust growth. But Russians’ faith in Western-style democracy has withered. Liberal economics and liberal politics, instead of being an inseparable tandem, have drifted apart. Many Russians even see the two as at odds.

Richard Pipes, a prominent scholar of Russian history, has also written in Foreign Affairs of how Russians are happy to settle for a less-than-free society. The article is unavailable for free online but here is the article summary:

Critics decry Vladimir Putin for turning Russia into a one-party state. But polls suggest that Russians actually approve of his actions by sizable majorities, caring little for core Western principles such as democratic liberties and civil rights.

Pipes suggests that Russians have always sought strong leadership. At the popular level the Russian people have always wanted someone else to shoulder the political responsibiliy for them. As long as they are fed and housed, Pipes suggests, Russians will be apathetic toward government.

This all reminds me of Jeffrey Tayler’s 2001 Atlantic Monthly article on the condition of Russia (aha! this one is free online!):

Faced with such danger, disarray, corruption, and deceit (most of which is well publicized by the Russian media: news shows frequently amount to chronicles of bribery, death, and dismemberment), Russians have stopped feeling outrage and have resigned themselves. The murder of an entrepreneur “as a result of his business activity” (to quote a phrase beloved by militia press centers) arouses no surprise, only a shrug. The excesses of mobsters on a Moscow street provoke no indignation, only envy. It is accepted that the chaos and contradictory laws benefit those in power—that the state has abandoned its people to the thugs because it is in league with them. In any case, those in power, be they mafiozy or the government, have the guns; thoughts of overt resistance are rare.

We certainly need to take a lesson from Russia in dealing with Iraq. While the United States wasn’t in a nation-building role with Russia as we are with Iraq, certain questions need to be asked. Can the underlying worldview of Iraqis sustain a democratic government? Do those with the appropriate political and philosophical underpinnings have access to positions of leadership, or will thugs rule with puppet strings from behind?

Only time will tell for sure, but I pray that questions like these are being addressed. The outcome of dismissing such ideas? Pipes predicts that Putin’s thirst for military power will only increase, with hopes to return Russia’s status as a superpower. If we’re not careful, we run the risk of another Sadaam Hussein arising out of Iraq’s political ashes.

Bush Speech

I was a little disappointed with President Bush’s speech tonight, primarily because he really didn’t say anything new. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed to be more of a “placate the Middle Eastern detractors” speech than anything. Nothing really bad, just not one of his best.

I did like this line though:

Iraqis will write their own history and find their own way.

I just hope it will be the right Iraqis doing the writing…

The Dangers of Segmenting the Gospel

A common tendency of evangelicals is to zero in on one issue in theology, ministry, or cultural engagement, and devote an exhaustive amount of effort and energy toward this issue. Often, in the exuberance of addressing a particular soapbox or hobby horse, all other issues are neglected. What results is a lopsided Christianity that is deficient in many areas.

This is why I appreciate Ken Myers of the Mars Hill Audio Journal so much. He seeks to even up this imbalance examining the truth that the Gospel has implications that overflow into all our lives. In a recent fund raising letter [PDF copy], Myers writes:

One doesn’t have to look very closely to realize that the Great Commission is not a message about evangelism and conversions, but about discipleship and the continuity of obedience in all things. When we look at the whole of the message of the Bible, we see something much bigger than a message only about personal renewal and piety. Jesus did not come to teach, suffer,die, and rise again so that we could have comforting insights for living; he comes to bring about a new creation, that is, a radically realigned pattern of life over the whole world and in the concrete experiences of all human endeavors.

Myers’ assessment of evangelism is a good example. We evangelicals too often concentrate on “getting out the message” when the real imperative in the Great Commission is to “make disciples.” While the message must be delivered, that is not the extent of the commission. Getting the message out at the expense of making disciples would be counterintuitive.

Another area where evangelicals need to be careful is the attack upon the “gay marriage” phenomenon. While I can’t stress enough that this is a battle that needs to be (and must be!) fought, we cannot allow this one issue to distract us from other and greater challenges.

We must never allow the battle against same-sex marriage to supercede the daily battle we all face to order our lives in a Godward manner. If this battle is lost, Christ’s bearing upon the same-sex marriage issue has little meaning to the outside world. Let us be careful not to make the prohibition of gay unions become the sole purpose of Christianity.

For that matter, we should be wary when any “sole purpose” of the Gospel is proclaimed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is comprehensive, redeeming all of our lives.

When Tonto is Given the Spur: The Unintended Arrogance of “Lone Ranger” Christianity

The actor John Corbett was interviewed by Christianity Today over at their movie website. Aside from the usual movie plugs and questions about the celebrity life, one answer by Corbett caught my attention. When asked about his faith (he plays the role of a Lutheran pastor in his new movie), Corbett replies that he is formerly a Catholic, but is now born-again Christian. He said that he used to attend a non-denominational church, then the following:

So, you’re attending a non-denominational church now?

Corbett: No. Not anymore. I’m a guy who reads the Bible now. I don’t go to church.

Apparently, Corbett has graduated. It’s hard to read too much into such a short interview, but if Corbett is “just a guy who reads the Bible,” then he hasn’t read it that well.

Mr. Corbett, along with a host of others these days, might be surprised to find that this sort of “Lone Ranger Christian” mentality looks nothing at all like biblical Christianity. The bulk of the New Testament writing is addressed to churches. Those letters which were written to individuals (I & II Timothy and Titus, for example) were for the purpose of building up the church. Even these letters were promptly circulated throughout the churches of the area for the benefit of the body of Christ at large.

I don’t know if this is Mr. Corbett’s rationale or not, but many people I’ve met who share his view of a churchless Christianity eschew church because of the hypocrisy they find there. I’ve heard many say that they don’t want to be a part of something which is so often emobroiled in scandal.

In one sense I understand the feelings of the churchless Christianity crowd. Many churches serve simply as therapy groups for people who feel bad about the sins they commit. They preach one thing, and do another. Why would anyone want to be a part of something like that?

The problem is that this type of thinking leads one away from the biblical norm for a Christian. It catapults the churchless Christian into a number errors, some of which may be unintended. First, such thinking presumes that the church is necessarily antagonistic toward God. While this may seem true at times, especially with abuses running rampant, the church remains the body of Jesus Christ. To call the church inherently evil is in a sense to call Christ evil as well.

Second, churchless Christians forget that the church is a body of the redeemed. Every member of the true church of Christ has been saved from their own sinful nature by the grace of God through Christ. Although each person has experienced a new birth, vestiges of the old self emerge all too often. The fellowship of believers serves to guide us away from that old self, and keep us from straying too far.

Third, while attempting to distance themselves from the sinfulness of the church, churchless Christians display an certain arrogance over those in the church. Intentionally or not, they are saying that their lives are somehow more pure than those in the church and the fellowship of other believers is not needed. All they need is their Bible and thier own private conversations with God.

It is my prayer that Mr. Corbett and those of like mind will see the danger of this position and seek fellowship in a Bible-believing church. I pray that they would see that they have been saved unto into the church. Indeed, salvation is personal, but at the same time it is corporate as well. And who knows? The church might benefit from their presence as well…

Summer Reading

I know summer is officially a month away, but in order to get the amount of reading I have planned completed (I never actually do), I thought I would get a head start. So, here’s what’s on the shelf…

Currently opened and past the first chapter are Jackson Lears’ Something for Nothing: Luck in America, Brad Miner’s The Compleat Gentleman, and Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1. The Lears book, which I’ve been picking at for a long time is a pretty facsinating look at how Americans view luck, and how Providence and grace differ from the culture of chance in which America now finds itself. Miner’s book I got a couple of weeks ago and will finish quickly—it’s a smart book that is heads above any other “masculinity” book I’ve ever read. Calvin’s work, of course, is a classic that displays both genius and a pastoral nature simultaneously.

Sitting on the shelf waiting to be read are: David McCullough’s John Adams (my biography selection for the summer), Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (I’ve never read any Roth, but I feel I need to be familiar with this American icon of letters), Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood (which I know will be splendid), and James Herrick’s The Making of the New Spirituality (which Ken Myers says should be required reading for any seminarian or pastor).

If I get through these, I still have Carl Henry’s six-volume God, Revelation, and Authority awating me, along with John S. Feinberg’s No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. As usual there are a few others waiting in the wings as well.

Will I finish all of these by summers end? Probably not. I’m a slow reader and I tend to read several books at a time, thereby making it take an eternity to finish one volume. I will probably even pick up something that’s not on the list (like Walker Percy’s The Second Coming, for instance).

In other words, I need to quit writing now and go read. So I will.