ornament 18 October 2004 ornament

Things I Love

Blogger Gideon Strauss has a habit of making lists of things he loves, and he encourages others to do so as well. Here’s my list, not comprehensive, in varying intensities, and in no particular order:

Continue reading…

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ornament 17 October 2004 ornament

A W is a W

Vols 21, Rebels 17

There are many W’s floating around this time of year, but Tennessee found the right one at Oxford tonight. I didn’t get to see the game tonight (these are the times I rethink my decision not to pay for cable), but I was able to pickup a Nashville AM radio sation for the end of the game. Judging by the recap, it didn’t look too good for the Vols, but all we need are wins right now, one at a time. That’s why I’m for “W” all the way in ’04.

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ornament 14 October 2004 ornament

Get the Flu Shot, Not the Flu

Get the flu shot, NOT the flu.

There’s a story behind this T-shirt. My little brother once procured the garment at one of the obscure summer jobs he was working. The first time I saw him wearing it, I laughed so hard at him it, that he gave it to me the following Christmas. I’ve worn it with pride ever since.

The obnoxiously stern warning on my T-shirt is a bit irrelevant this year, due to the great flu-shot shortage of ’04. Even though I’m only 29 years old (for the time being), I have to confess, I did get a flu-shot this year. I qualified for reasons other than my age. What is funny is that although my wife qualifed as well (likewise for reasons other than her age), she has been thus far unable to obtain the vaccine.

Now that President Bush has gone and made a big deal about foregoing his flu shot in last night’s debate, I’m left feeling like I ate the last brownie on the plate. Oh well, at least I can wear my T-shirt with integrity. For what it’s worth, my shoulder hurts where I got the shot…

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ornament 13 October 2004 ornament

Body and Soul

Did anybody notice Kerry’s gaffe when quoting the Scripture that is ever-so-meaningful to him? He said that the two most important commandments were to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, body, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” [emphasis mine] Compare this with an actual translation of Mark 12:30-31:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Does this sound like a man who is deeply influenced by this Scripture?

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Round III

He got off to a rough start, but President Bush wins Debate III. He connected with Americans on a personal level when talking about his wife, his faith, and his stance on abortion. For Sen. Kerry, it was more of the same—he didn’t exactly breakdown, but he did look like a fish out of water on the faith and abortion questions. On the abortion issue especially, Kerry has put himself in such an intellectually precarious position (believes pro-life but votes pro-choice) that it’s had to dance around without throwing in some esoteric argument to fog the issue.

Bush wins because to an audience who is undecided, he came off as a man who has made up his mind. Making up their minds is what the “undecideds” have to do ever so soon. I think they’ll resonate more with someone who is clear on whom they are and what they believe. Hem-hawing time is over; it’s decision time.

Bob Schieffer was probably the worst debate moderator I’ve ever seen. Although he was undoubtedly ticked off at President Bush’s questioning of major media’s trust (an obvious slam at Schieffer’s CBS), Schieffer continued to set Kerry up. The question about the “back-door draft” sounded as if it had been sent directly from the Kerry campaign (perhaps one of the thousands of emails that Schieffer got this week…). And what kind of a question is “will you try to reunite this nation?” Duh.

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ornament 11 October 2004 ornament

Ken Caminiti: Almost A Hero

The sudden death of Ken Caminiti reminds me of how he was almost one of the baseball heroes of my youth. Sometime in the mid-to-late 1980’s, my parents took my brothers and I to an Atlanta Braves game at Fulton County Stadium. The Bravos happened to be playing the Houston Astros that night, and we were all excited because the “Big Train,” Nolan Ryan was pitching that night.

We arrived at the stadium a couple hours early, and since we were sitting on the Astros side, we went down near the bullpen hoping to catch a glimpse of Nolan Ryan and maybe—just maybe get an autograph. Ryan threw some balls but went inside quickly. Two other Astros were milling around, and I took my brand-new baseball down to the fence, hoping to get it signed. I saw that one of the players was Ken Caminiti, and the other I didn’t recognize. This other person grabbed my ball and signed it, and just as Caminiti got to me, he was summoned from the dugout and he jogged off. No Caminiti autograph for me. Whose autograph did I get? I still do not know to this day. The signature is far worse than any physician’s that I’ve seen.

If I had gotten Caminiti’s signature, it would have undoubtedly made him one of my favorite players. But I didn’t get the signature so my short attention span turned elsewhere. I watched Dale Murphy homer off Nolan Ryan in that game, so Murph retained his “most favored player” status.

Caminiti went on to become an All-Star and an MVP. The tragedy, however was that Caminiti ended his career in shame rather than with the accolades that hard work should reap. He admitted that his 1996 MVP year had been aided by steroids, and that he had been addicted to drugs and alcohol during his career.

Just last week the fallen star admitted to further cocaine use. It’s not a stretch to speculate that this had something to do with the 41-year-old’s death. It’s also not a stretch to say that Ken Caminiti could have done better.

My heart goes out to guys like Caminiti and Daryl Strawberry—guys who have enormous God-given talents, yet time after time, they never can seem to get it together. When I look at them closely enough I realize that they are not all that different from me (save the ability to play baseball on a world-class level!). I stumble just as much, if not more often—though may not be on the same scale, the same source of failure is behind it. It is only by the grace of a loving God that we all do not wander down a path like that of Ken Caminiti. It is only the grace of a loving God that can save us from ourselves. I pray that such grace found Ken Caminiti, and that it finds his family in the time of their mourning.

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ornament 10 October 2004 ornament

Debate #2: A Late Take

By any standards in the blogosphere, late Sunday night is far too late to be weighing in on a Friday night debate, but here’s my take: President Bush won this one handily. He was lively, coherent, and he doesn’t own a timber company. Kerry seemed repetive, saying, “George Bush rushed to war without a plan to win the peace,” (said in one monosyllabic breath). He also made it abundantly clear that for whatever the issue was, he “had a plan.” Details on that plan are sketchy, but you can find it on his website (doesn’t this disenfranchise voters who don’t have internet access?).

Although Glenn Reynolds thought it was a good answer, I think Kerry’s answer to the abortion question was a fallacy-filled fog of uncertainty. The question, about taxpayer-funded abortions, was answered by Kerry in these terms: if a poor person needs an abortion, how can I let my beliefs deny their constitutional rights? This argument breaks down like this:
1. A person has a constitutional right to have an abortion.
2. If a person is poor, the government should provide a person money needed to exercise that right.

I answer the Senator from Massachusetts with this analogy:
1. A person has a constitutional right to own a truck.
2. If a person is poor, the government should provide a person money needed to exercise that right.
Does Sen. Kerry really follow this line of reasoning? We really cannot elect this man.

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ornament 9 October 2004 ornament

The Dog Days Are Over!

Vols 19, Bulldogs 14

Tennessee has broken the recent “Georgia curse” with a stunning win in Athens, shunning the oddsmakers who predicted a 12.5 point Bulldog victory. In a very sloppy game where penalty-wrought Georgia went back and forth with a Tennessee team who missed three field goals, the Vol defense picked themselves up from last week’s pasting and became a force to be reckoned with.

The Vols played today like a team that wants a rematch with Auburn in December. It’s a long road to get there, so they need to remember the vigor with which they played today. I know my orange blood is boiling with hope for revenge…

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ornament 8 October 2004 ornament

More Than a Trace

I caught an episode last night of Without A Trace, a mildly-entertaining FBI drama on CBS. Though the show focuses on kidnapping victims who vanish “without a trace,” there was more than a trace of hostility towards the pro-life position in last night’s show.

The story was about a “Christian” family that was formerly involved in the bombing of an abortion clinic. The wife was kidnapped by the fanatical leader of the former group (called “Soldiers of the Cross) to which they belonged. The FBI agents uncovered a vast underground network that the abortion bombers used, and even stormed in with guns blazing to the group’s communication headquarters—a seemingly innocuous Bible church. Needing more information on these terrorists, the FBI team goes to an NYPD informant who has infiltrated the “anti-abortion” movement.

A fairly positive view of abortion clinics and their patrons is shown. They’re portrayed as level-headed, overcoming people who even have the religiosity to forgive those who have maimed them in the past. Good for them.

The portrayal of the pro-life position is not so rosy. There is no outright assault on the general pro-life position, or on Christians in general. What occurred in this episode, however, is an insidious association of pro-life Christians with abortion clinic bombers. Had I not known better, I would have immediately drawn the conclusion from the show that Christian pro-lifers were extremist terrorists. There is not a single positive depicton of a pro-life Christian in the episode.

This type of stealthy subversion is difficult to combat. Who, after all, wants to be associated in the same breath with a terrorist? To rise up in protest runs the risk of being charged with defending violent terror. More often than not, this is turning out to be the norm for how to portray a Christian in the entertainment industry. A Christian worldview being so far from their own, the cohorts of Hollywood seem to be at a loss for how to deal with Christian beliefs—much less anyone who holds them. Is it only a matter of time before American popular culture is “without a trace” of Christianity?

However it goes, Christians must never cease being salt and light to the world. Though we may become marginalized, we still serve one who is King over all—and traces of him are everywhere.

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ornament 6 October 2004 ornament

Boxes for the Masses

If you’re into horoscopes, a typical ice-breaker to conversation might be, “What’s your sign?” Ostensibly, if you know someone’s particular sign of the Zodiac, you already know a great deal about them. Many people read horoscopes with the same enthusiasm of reading a fortune cookie—they’re seen as merely forms of entertainment, never taken too seriously. Like fortune cookies, horoscopes are written so vaguely that they could be made out to agree with almost any account of future events.

A new book by Annie Murphy Paul, The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves, sees the same parallels in a number of popular personality tests, such as the MMPI, Myers-Briggs type indicator, and others. In an interview with Salon, Paul says:

These descriptions have a little something for everybody. They hint at things that we all would like to think about ourselves. Or they’re hedged carefully enough so that, sure, they could apply to me. They could apply to anybody. All it takes is for our imagination to fill in the gaps and say, “Oh my…that’s exactly me, they really hit the nail on the head.”

This reaction echoes my experience to some degree. There are always elements in the descriptions that the tests return that seem remarkably true. The funny thing is that I think I could have read through all the “descriptions” and picked the same personality type without even taking the test. Are the questions in these tests even necessary?

Having recently written (briefly) about the questionable depth of such tests, I find Ms. Paul’s thesis intriguing. The author challenges the notion that such tests are effective means of measuring human personality. The human personality is much more complex than a 100- or even 500-question test can measure, and these tests give snapshots that could mislead if given too much creedance.

While neither the MMPI or Myers-Briggs instruments claim a 100% foolproof result from their tests, the results are used extensively in many areas. The Myers-Briggs website lists about a dozen uses with the addendum, “And new uses are coming up every day!” These tests have become the de facto standard for understanding personality in workplaces, schools, and churches.

The “spiritual gifts” tests that are administered in many churches (here’s just one of many available on the internet) are strikingly similar to personality tests, eliciting answers to questions about the respondents likes and dislikes. I’ve been in many Christian settings where boths tests were used. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but churches and Christian organizations need to beware the danger of allowing these psychological devices to supplant theological living.

With regard to spiritual gifts, I’ve encountered many Christians who are quick to define their spiritual gifts with the results a test. The danger is that they may just be picking out something that they like to do, rather than what they are truly gifted to do. For example, someone may like being a teacher, but that doesn’t mean that they are especially gifted by the Holy Spirit to do so (as an aside, I tend to think that spiritual giftedness will tend to display itself on its own as a believer matures in Christ—a believer’s life serves as a better “spiritual gifts test”).

Much of this dependence on psychological data has to do with trends in the culture at large. As sociologist James Davison Hunter notes:

There are sociological reasons why psychology has emerged as the framework for understanding the moral life . . . With theology in all its forms discredited as a public language, psychology has offered a seemingly neutral was to understand and cultivate the best qualities of human personality. It is “science” after all, and science, we are inclined to believe, is “objective.”

James Davison Hunter, The Death of Character, p. 82

Psychology is useful in many ways, and should not be discarded. However, we must always be careful that our theology informs our psychology. Christian theology says that God made mankind in his image. However useful they are, personality tests that group people into identifiable boxes must always be a little suspect to the Christian.

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