ornament 16 January 2005 ornament

Odds & Ends

Odds & Ends from around the ‘net:

Novel Additions: Fellow blogger and good friend Colby Willen has published his first novel, Dolor for Misdeeds, online at http://www.dolorformisdeeds.com. I read the novel some months ago, and I highly recommend it as an entertaining yarn with some thoughtful underpinnings.

Darth TaterMay the Spuds Be With You: Hasbro, the makers of the Mr. Potato Head line of toys, has announced its newest spudatomically correct product: Darth Tater. If you only knew the POWER of the dark spud…

Anonymity, or Not?: Paul Baxter has a thought-provoking post on anonymity and the internet. Baxter thoughtfully questions whether or not bloggers and the like should write under pseudonyms. I go back and forth on this issue. Part of me likes the fun of characters such as Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard” Saunders, but another part of me values the authenticity just being who you are. My name is really Jared Bridges. As far as you know…

Rather, or Not?: In case you missed it—and I did—RatherBiased.com has reproduced Saturday Night Live‘s parody of Dan Rather’s apology for the forged-document scandal. Side-splittingly funny.

Bloglines: I’ve known of its existence for a long while, but I’ve only started using this free, web-based RSS utility for a couple of weeks. I’m hooked. Oh how I wish all the blogs on my blogroll had an RSS feed…

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ornament 13 January 2005 ornament

The Academic Left, The Christian Right, and The “A” Word

If his initial idea of the academic left and the Christian right forming a political coalition was a misty but hopeful notion, William J. Stuntz’s latest elaboration of the idea is a pipe dream. A Harvard Law professor, Stuntz claims that having belonged to evangelical churches for the last twenty years gives him a unique perspective on how the two worlds of left and right might interact.

It’s a unique position indeed, but Stuntz has now taken a leap into the deep end by succumbing to the left’s view of abortion. He writes:

Abortion. Begin with the hardest nut to crack. The secular left believes strongly in abortion rights. Conservative Christians believe passionately that abortion is evil. Surely common ground can’t exist here.

Yet it might. The key is that the two sides don’t need to agree on premises in order to buy the same conclusion. Pro-life Christians want to see fewer abortions. That is already happening: the abortion rate has been falling since 1981; from that year to 2000 the rate fell by 27 percent, according to census data. Among teenage girls, the decline is greater still. The abortion rate is probably lower today than in 1975; it might be lower than in 1972, the year before the Supreme Court legalized the practice nationwide. What lies behind these trends? Strangely enough, the answer has a lot to do with the law being pro-choice. When the culture is sharply divided on some kind of behavior, the side that wins the law’s endorsement tends to lose ground, culturally and politically. Roe v. Wade has been the pro-life movement’s friend. Those who want abortions to be rare would do well to keep them safe and legal.

This type of reasoning shows that although he has spent 20 years in evangelical churches, Stuntz still views abortion through the eyes of his leftist colleagues. Let’s apply Stuntz’s logic to another antithetical group—storeowners and shoplifters. Storeowners and shoplifters are sharply divided on a particular behavior (you guessed it–shoplifting). Storeowners think shoplifting should be eradicated. Shoplifters long for further success in their chosen field. The answer to this dilemma of division, according to Stuntz’s reasoning, would be to make shoplifting safe and legal—which would consequently produce a drop in shoplifting.

The statistics Stuntz cites to show that abortions have declined neglect many other factors that bear upon the abortion rate. The increasing availability of birth control and the ever-unveiling knowledge by the public (via education by pro-life groups) of what occurs during abortion procedures are just two of many factors that have influenced the decrease in abortions. “But there’s no evidence that these factors have directly influenced the number of abortions,” one might say. There is likewise no evidence that the legalization of abortions has reduced their number—only correlation, which we all know does not equal causation.

A society that permits a behavior it deems destructive for the purpose of reducing the occurrence of said behavior has lost its collective mind. Such a utilitarian view of law has no respect for right and wrong. Christians, who believe in an absolute God who defines absolute good and evil, should seek to make abortion illegal—not just because it saves X number of lives, but because it is wrong. Any “Christian right” that embraces legal abortion for the purpose of the greater good has in effect become a “Christian wrong.”

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You Won’t Be Able to Get it Out of Your Head

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. When I first heard the song that is currently #1 in Germany, I thought that the Germans must have carried on at Oktoberfest a little too long. Then, for some unexplained reason, I played the song—written and sung by a 4-year-old about a crocodile—again. It was all over from there.

via In the Agora

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ornament 12 January 2005 ornament

Photos for the Fans

I’ll undoubtedly be lynched by the family if I don’t post some more photos of our newborn son, so I will oblige. I’m not showing off here—really. I’m doing this because the family wants to see the photos. I’m not showing off. I’m not…

Continue reading…

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ornament 11 January 2005 ornament

America and Its “isms”

David Gelertner’s Commentary article, “Americanism—and Its Enemies,” brings to light a number of elements that form the impetus for the American ideal of democracy for all mankind. Gelertner’s premise is that Americanism is a religion unto itself—the modern-day incarnation of Puritanism, as a matter of fact. Gelertner buttresses a pedigreed Americanism against the tide of anti-Americanism that is so rampant in today’s world.

Americanism is indeed a religion—insofar as it consists of the typical traits of a religion. As Gelertner adeptly observes, it has a core set of beliefs, “religious texts,” and a belief in the moral superiority of Americanism. The integration of Americanism with many Christian and Jewish groups is evidence of its wide-ranging appeal and adaptability. After all, who has been in an evangelical church where an American flag (along with the “Christian Flag”) wasn’t displayed prominently within the sanctuary?

Gelertner writes:

But Americanism is not (contrary to the views of many people who use these terms loosely) a “secular” or a “civil” religion. No mere secular ideology, no mere philosophical belief, could possibly have inspired the intensities of hatred and devotion that Americanism has. Americanism is in fact a Judeo-Christian religion; a millenarian religion; a biblical religion. Unlike England’s “official” religion, embodied in the Anglican church, America’s has been incorporated into all the Judeo-Christian religions in the nation.

Here is where Gelertner’s thesis breaks down. Americanism is a secular ideology. While it may not be “merely” secular, its integration into Judeo-Christian religions in America does not give it a spiritual aspect. Many secular philosophies and ideologies are incorporated (usually wrongly) into churches today—pragmatism is rampant, as is dualism and most recently, postmodernism. Mere incorporation doesn’t baptize these philosophies as religion.

Americanism also doesn’t have the international transcendence found in religion. Christianity can exist in its purest forms in places as diverse as China, the Sudan, and America. While Americanism seeks to be applied internationally, it is difficult to imagine its application without intense hybridization. Americanism can only work in the fertile soil that is America. Democracy can work elsewhere, such as in the Middle East, but never is it pure Americanism—e.g., Israel’s socialist democracy.

The premise that Puritanism morphed into Americanism is likewise suspect—a point that Gelertner concedes is impossible to prove. While Americanism may have adopted traits from Puritanism and to a great degree informed it, to say that it supplanted it is a stretch.

It’s more likely that Puritanism morphed into modern Christian fundamentalism (a term as nebulous as Puritanism itself) and even evangelicalism to an extent. These two offsprings share a continuity of faith with Puritanism that is lacking in Americanism.

The strength of Gelertner’s thinking lies in that it exposes how much we take for granted how extensively Americanism is integration into our nation’s actions. It sheds much light on why Americanism has its enemies. Because it is so transformative, Americanism makes demands upon all nations to surrender to freedom. Tyrannical despots, of course, do not share this love of democracy that threatens at all times, regardless of whether or not we are at war. Because it is based solidly upon foundations that do not move, Americas enemies chip away at the foundation—only to find that their chisels aren’t sharp enough.

This post is part of Joe Carter’s blog symposium on Gelertner’s article at EvangelicalOutpost.com, visit EO to see other responses to Gelertner’s article.

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Wanna Be Lazy? Call It A Boycott

Writer David Livingstone is organizing a “boycott from work” on Inauguration Day:

David Livingstone says the idea behind the economic boycott he’s organizing is simple: If people don’t show up at work or buy things, companies lose money. As he sees it, that’s money the Bush administration can’t tax, and can’t use to run the war in Iraq, protect polluters or chip away at the Constitution.

Hmmm. Seeing as Livingstone is a writer and doesn’t really have a job to go to on Inauguration Day (he plans to spend the day protesting, wearing black armbands, and letting “the GOP, big oil, big banking, big box stores and any other “bigs”…know they can’t push him around or ignore him”), it seems he has little to lose in such a busy day. Everyone else, however, should not go to work.

This is like me saying that all millionaires should give half their fortune to third-world aid. It’s awfully easy to spend someone else’s money.

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ornament 10 January 2005 ornament

For The Cartophile In All Of Us…

1861 Map of Tennessee and Kentucky (Library of Congress)

The Library of Congress has released on the internet thousands of maps from the Civil War period. The website, located here, contains battle maps and other general maps from the time. If you live in a state where the Civil War raged, check it out to see what your area looked like 150 years ago.

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ornament 7 January 2005 ornament

The New Age of Adulthood

When does one become an adult? Is it 18? 21? How about 26? A Wall Street Journal article by Jeff Zaslow highlights the tendency of many young Americans to put off adulthood:

Ages 18 and 21 are no longer the true entry points into American adult hood, as more young people today take soul-searching breaks after college or put off starting their “grown-up” lives. A 2003 poll by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found that most Americans think adulthood begins at about age 26. Understandably then, many parents don’t know when and how to disengage, which can leave their kids overly dependent into their thirties and forties.

Zaslow notes that the parents of such prepetual adolescents often have difficulty deciding what to do with their children—a quandry that I think makes perfect sense given that a parent’s role of provider should rightly be finished by that time in their childrens’ lives. The children, however, have their own set of problems with the idea:

Young adults also feel torn. Courtney Reilly, 28, moved back into her parents’ Manhattan home in 2001 while in graduate school, and has remained there ever since. “There’s a stunted independence of 20-somethings today,” she admits. “I finally have my career settled. I really have to move on.” Still, she calls living at home “a great deal” that’s hard to walk away from.”

A “great deal” indeed. In a culture that glamorizes youth and derides maturity, it’s not difficult to see that such a result. One of the problems with my own generation (I’m 30 years old) is that too many of us have the mentality of Ms. Reilly—we think we must have certain areas of our lives “settled” before we can move on to the next stage—be it career, independence, children, etc. The problem we keep encountering is that one thing settled causes another thing to be unsettled. We don’t realize that true adulthood is knowing that not everything is under our control.

I don’t fault those who by extreme necessity have to move back home for a time—tragedy can befall us all—but those who do it because it’s a good deal need to, as the saying goes, grow up.

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ornament 5 January 2005 ornament

Booklists and Bookshelves

Although I read more in kindergarten than I have in the last month (having a child causes “adjustments” in one’s reading schedule…), I still consider myself a bit of a bibliophile. While my love of books is scrupulous (I never, ever write in my books–not even my Bible!), something I love almost as much are book lists.

I love seeing what other people read and recommend. For example, Joshua Sowin points to an update of Desiring God Ministries’ booklist—which is a hefty, nutritional list that ranks among the best I’ve seen.

I remember the excitement I had when I found musician Michael Card’s book list on the internet way back in 1997. In a time when I was hungry for good books to read in my personal, extra-curricular study but had few resources, Card’s list provided a great starting point.

Albert Mohler’s annual list of “Top Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read” is always helpful as well. A highlight of my seminary career was touring Dr. Mohler’s personal library of some 25,000+ volumes. It put Barnes and Noble to shame, and aroused feelings of covetousness from within my soul.

Even if a person doesn’t have a recommended reading list, I always find it enlightening to peruse the contents of their bookshelves. I can usually learn a lot about a person from what’s on their shelves, although one must careful in forming judgments from what is on the bookrack—most everybody some pork on the shelf. Perhaps what would be most telling are the books stored away in a closet that don’t make the cut for the bookshelf…

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ornament 3 January 2005 ornament

The Church Apostate

Though I’m a confessing Baptist, I sometimes cringe at the actions of others who claim that denomination. Much like the way most Americans feel when Michael Moore or Barbara Streisand claim to speak for America, I want to dissociate from those who are only Baptists in name.

One such church is the infamous Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. This church is the home base of operations for none other than Fred Phelps. If you’re not familiar, suffice it to say that the name of the church’s website is “God Hates Fags.” Not surprisingly, the church’s most lasting impact on society has been its rejoicing over the deaths of homosexuals.

Westboro’s latest act of love for the world has been to celebrate the death of over 20,000 Swedes as a result of the Southeast Asia Tsunami.

Westboro Baptist and Fred Phelps have so far removed themselves from anything Christian, much less Baptist, that it leaves one wondering just what they are outside of an apostate church.

[hat tip: Best of the Web]

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