ornament 21 July 2004 ornament


In opposition to the inaction of this blog, I thought I’d give you a section of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s poem “Stations on the Way to Freedom,” called Action:

Do and dare what is right, not swayed by the whim of the moment.
Bravely take hold of the real, not dallying now with what might be.
Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom.
Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living.
God’s command is enough and your faith in him to sustain you.
Then at last freedom will welcome your spirit amid great rejoicing.

Published in Bonhoeffer’s Ethics, 1995 Touchstone edtion.

This small section of verse has given me motivation on countless occasions. I hope it does the same for you.

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ornament 19 July 2004 ornament

When Coldness Reigns

I’ve rarely read anything as cold as this narrative of a woman pregnant with triplets who decided to kill two of the fetuses by “selective pregnancy reduction:”

What I was going through seemed like a very unnatural experience. On the subway, Peter asked, ”Shouldn’t we consider having triplets?” And I had this adverse reaction: ”This is why they say it’s the woman’s choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That’s easy for you to say, but I’d have to give up my life.” Not only would I have to be on bed rest at 20 weeks, I wouldn’t be able to fly after 15. I was already at eight weeks. When I found out about the triplets, I felt like: It’s not the back of a pickup at 16, but now I’m going to have to move to Staten Island. I’ll never leave my house because I’ll have to care for these children. I’ll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don’t think that deep down I was ever considering it.

Two of this woman’s three children that were growing inside her were injected with potassium chloride into the heart because she didn’t want to shop at Costco. It makes you wonder whether or not the child who survived got the raw end of the deal, growing up with a mother so callous.

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ornament 14 July 2004 ornament

In the Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes people just don’t agree on what looks good and what doesn’t. Such has been the experience of Kentucky’s latest vehicle license plate. Take a look for yourself—would you want to drive around behind that ridiculous smiley-faced sun all day?

Mr. Smiley

I didn’t think so. Neither do many Kentuckians. A trend around Louisville is to put your favorite sticker over “Mr. Smiley’s” face. Some were even so turned off by the plate that a contest was held to design a new one.

Just when it seemed that everyone was out to get Mr. Smiley, the plate has now won the 2003 Best License Plate Award from the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. This is the biggest upset since Shakespeare in Love took the Oscar from Saving Private Ryan.

Now I just need to find a sticker to cover up that smug little Mr. Smiley on my car. Any suggestions?

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It Ain’t Right

Forgive this excursion into improper grammar, but it just ain’t right that the National League can’t win an All-Star Game. They haven’t done so since 1996, and don’t even get me started about the 2002 “tie.” I think Roger Clemens must have been working as a double agent, giving up six runs in the first inning.

The only part of the game that I got to watch was Muhammad Ali throwing jabs at Derek Jeter in the pre-game (apparently baseball isn’t just peanuts and Cracker-Jacks these days). After that a storm knocked out our power for the remainder of the night. It’s just as well.

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ornament 13 July 2004 ornament

Human Rights Violations

It looks like the Bush administration is up to even more human rights violations than previously thought. According to a recent New York Times article:

In May, the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists called the Bush administration’s increased financing of abstinence-only programs at the expense of comprehensive sex education a violation of children’s human rights.

“Over 40 percent of 15-year-olds are sexually active and they’re not getting information on how to protect themselves from pregnancy and diseases,” Barnaby B. Barratt, the association’s president, said in an interview.

Wow! And I thought abortion and the genocide in Rawanda were bad. Imagine these children being denied their basic human right to have sex! The next thing you know, 15-year-olds will be denied the right to vote. It’s a slippery slope, my friends…

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ornament 12 July 2004 ornament

Those Pesky Passwords

Everybody these days thinks you need a password to visit their website, even if the content is free. A few years after the New York Times initiated its “registration” process, it’s becoming difficult to find news providers who do not require you to first submit a user name and password. Everyone from the Washington Post to the Kingsport Times-News now forces you to login before you can read their content.

This isn’t so much of a problem for sites visited frequently, as cookies usually save the login information. If you ever clear out your cookies, you’re in trouble unless you’ve saved the login information with your browser. Even then, if you update or switch browsers (or work on multiple computers), you’re up the creek.

All this passing around of passwords is done for the benefit of advertising, right? The marketing people want to get to know their audience a little better so they ask of them a few questions so they can better advertise.

While big-time papers like the Times and Post can get away with this—I visit them regularly enough to fill out the registration and leave the cookies—I’m not sure if this is beneficial to smaller new agencies like the Kingsport Times-News or WHAS11.com. Most of the time I’ll just pass on reading one of their stories rather than figure out which of my “regular” passwords I used for this site. The marketer will get to know his audience really well whose audience never shows up.

All this to say that I will not be requiring a username and password to access TruePravda. I know you were worried, but rest at ease.

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ornament 10 July 2004 ornament

Tour de Frog

At the risk of sounding too French, I’ll have to agree with Nick Troester in that the Tour de France is the greatest* sporting event on earth. These men are true athletes, going the distance day in and day out. It is for legends like Miguel Indurain, Eddy Merckx, and Greg Lemond that I have a hard time even considering NASCAR drivers as athletes. Sportsmen, perhaps, but not athletes in the way that professional cyclists are.

The chess match of a race has already begun this year, with five time winner Lance Armstrong already in posession of the Yellow Jersey at least once already. Look for him to attack in the mountains, where the real battle occurs.

I’ve kept up with le Tour since 1986, when Greg Lemond won his first title. The most memorable, however, was in 1989 when Lemond defeated Laurent Fignon by 14 seconds on the final day. Zut alors!

Unfortunately, I don’t get the OLN TV station, which airs the Tour here in the U.S.A., but I can keep up with the happenings on the excellent Tour de France Blog.

*It’s the greatest sporting event barring Tennessee football victories over Florida (of course!).

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ornament 9 July 2004 ornament

Youth Disconnect

Dale Buss has a must read WSJ piece today on the large number of Christian teens who profess orthodox beliefs, yet in reality believe something different. The results of this trend should give us all pause:

Indeed, the consequences of this theological implosion now pervade the thoughts and actions of believing teenagers, following the moral breakdown of the broader American culture. Here’s one practical example: Only 10% of Christian teens believe that music piracy is morally wrong, according to a recent Barna survey, not all that different from the 6% of their non-Christian peers who feel the same way.

Then extrapolate the situation to other possible big-picture results. Nearly 60% of evangelical Christian teenagers now say that all religious faiths teach equally valid truths, according to Mr. McDowell. It’s bad enough that they seem to have been co-opted by relativism from within our culture and even from within the church and family. But it’s even more disconcerting to realize that we’re relying on this generation for the future defense of Judeo-Christian civilization against the highly motivated forces of militant Islam.

This drives home the importance of teaching repetitively the whole counsel of Scripture, no matter how antiquated it may seem, to our younger generation. Here is where Sunday school teachers of children and youth need to buck the trend that many youth-oriented teaching materials employ, making relevance the highest value. This leaves teachers with material that is “hip” and “cool,” but often devoid of substance.

Such a capitulation to “relevance” is indicative that we have forgotten that the gospel is, after all, not relevant to us. Prior to conversion (and all youngsters begin life in a “conversion-prior state”), the gospel is completely foreign to us. It is only through a righteousness that is alien to our own sinful nature that we are made righteous.

Granted, we do need to communicate effectively, but youth oriented products like the Revlove and Refuel New Testaments remove all sense of otherworldliness from the gospel. Steeped in training with materials like this, it’s no surprise that our kids beliefs are closer to those of the world than to orthodoxy.

Perhaps we need more teachers to rebel from anemic Sunday school and Bible study curricula and teach the “unhip” truths of the faith. It may mean more preparation and study on the teacher’s part, but it is well worth it if it keeps our younger generation from seeing faiths like Islam as compatible with Christian belief.

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ornament 7 July 2004 ornament

When Engaging Becomes Reflecting

One of the great tasks of evangelical Christianity over the last few decades has been to engage the culture with the Gospel. Tragically, many evangelicals have overstepped mere engagement and have begun to reflect popular culture. The result is that there is little difference displayed by evangelicals from the world. It is often hard to tell the two apart.

Take, for example, the CBA (formerly the Christian Booksellers Association). Amy Welborn, a Catholic writer, has this take on the status of pop evangelicalism via a recent visit to the CBA convention:

The pop evangelical engagement with pop culture is always an interesting topic, and you never see it so blatantly displayed as you do at CBA. The motivation, I know, is to discern what people are concerned about from pop culture trends and then show them how to meet those needs via Christianity. That’s a good motivation. When I taught high school, it’s what I did, in essence – listen to the kids and show them how their deepest questions and fears were not new at all, and were answered by the truth God has revealed to us.

But it’s obvious something has gone haywire in the pop evangelical take on this. What it is, I think, is the failure to hold up what secular pop culture reveals about human needs to any kind of judgment. My sense is that this has happened because of the evangelical emphasis on church growth and the CBA concern for profit and sales. If self-help and personal happiness concerns have taken root in American culture, the pop evangelical response is to simply baptize those concerns without really questioning them. If Americans want to diet, we’ll just give them Christian diet books.

Welborn’s entire post is worth reading, and should serve as a reminder to evangelicals just how out-of-hand this trend has become. Evangelicals following this formula are no longer a guiding light to the culture outside—they have instead become a vivid reflection of it. Engagement, after all, should result in confrontation, not absorption. If we are to do reflecting, let us reflect the scandal of the cross above the scandal of the world.

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ornament 6 July 2004 ornament

Seeing Red

Reading my travel-sized Bible over the last few days has once again reminded me of the problem with red-letter editions. You know—the ones with “Words of Christ in Red” printed on the spine.

In fact, it’s hard to find an English translation of the Bible these days that does not have the word of Christ in red. Even the new English Standard Version (ESV) has red-letter editions. Typically, to find an edition of the Bible that is all in black print, one has look at the low-end ($5 giveaway editions) or the high end ($60 + genuine leather editions). Everything else in between is “in the red.”

Ostensibly, the sayings of Jesus are put into red type to draw attention to the importance of the words of our Lord. After all, if Jesus said it, we should pay attention to it, right? No argument here—the words of Christ are extremely important.

The problem is, however, that if we believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God, and that all Scripture is God-breathed [2 Tim 3:16], how are the rest of the words of Scripture (the ones in black) any less important?

Is not all the Bible the word of God? Why not put the entire text in red? Here’s a novel idea: for the sake of our eyes, put all the text in black. Historically, the practice of putting the words of Christ in red is recent. Some reports have the practice emerging at the beginning of the last century. It is probably no coincidence that liberal theology, which denied the inerrancy of Scripture, was emerging at that time as well. A theology that venerates some Scriptures and castigates others is very friendly to a red-letter edition.

There are also questionable parts of red-letter editions where some passages printed in red may not even be the words of Jesus. The Greek manuscripts having no punctuation, many red letter editions include John 3:16 as a quote of Jesus to Nicodemus. A careful evaluation of the passage, however, reveals that it may be a return to the author John’s editorial comments and not a quote of Jesus. With a proper view in play, it matters not in the end—as it is all the word of God.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with reading a red-letter edition of the Bible (it’s definitely better than not reading the Bible at all), Christians should begin to move away from the practice. Publishers should cease deemphasizing the bulk of God’s word by placing certain words in a different color. The underlining and highlighting should be left to the student.

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