Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It may be a bit redundant to comment about comments to an article, but so be it. It's interesting stuff, so here it is.


Morford passes along the opinions of a “longtime reader,” a public high school teacher in the San Francisco area, about the “horrifying” state of teen minds. The teacher “speaks not merely of the sad decline in overall intellectual acumen among students … not merely the astonishing spread of lazy slackerhood ….” Morford shared a few more observations about iPods and cell phones and the lack of time spent outdoors before throwing the “mindless, fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemming” bomb.

Here is that 'bomb'...

We are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom. We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon, and if you think the hordes of easily terrified, mindless fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemmings have been bad for the soul of this country, just wait.

I don't think it's any big secret that public schools are pretty much failing. Sure, not all are, and no doubt even from the bad ones there can come students with a somewhat decent education, but by and large yes there are reasons to question whether what we are putting into public schools as far as tax monies goes is really being returned to us in well-educated students.

The statement about 'evangelicals' is, of course, simply a cheap shot by someone with an obvious bias. He is entitled to his opinion, even one as flaky as that one.

Then our discussion often turns to the meat of it, the bigger picture, the ugly and unavoidable truism about the lack of need among the government and the power elite in this nation to create a truly effective educational system, one that actually generates intelligent, thoughtful, articulate citizens.

This opinion, however, has to be more then a little off. Is he really trying to tell us that the US government thinks it doesn't need well-educated citizens? That we don't need scientists, authors, researchs, doctors, lawyers (yes, sadly, they must be mentioned here), and any other such roles? That it is some kind of grand conspiracy that schools are producing morons?

Why do I sense some kind of Bush-bashing here? After all, this guy seems pretty strongly on the left, and isn't that their first excuse for all that goes wrong?

Hell, why should they? After all, the dumber the populace, the easier it is to rule and control and launch unwinnable wars and pass laws telling them that sex is bad and TV is good and God knows all, so just pipe down and eat your Taco Bell Double-Supremo Burrito and be glad we don't arrest you for posting dirty pictures on your cute little blog.

I get more the impression of a tirade here then of a coherent position and argument. True, there is a further shot at Christianity, and if his last statement is meant to mean that he thinks that posting porn on the web is ok, then maybe we can see why he thinks God is not good. It think it was Aldous Huxley who said that when he was young and full of athiesm, for he and his fellow unbelievers it was a case that behind all of their protests and rhetoric, in the end it all came down to sex.

In response to that last paragraph, here's what the CMI writer wrote...

This is what liberal goulash looks like. String together a bunch of leftist lunacy, smear Christians and blame everyone else. Personal responsibility? Pshaw.

...and further...

Somehow Morford overlooks one obvious point: the teachers who dominate the “horribly failed educational system,” whom he suggests are deliberately dumbing down American students, are overwhelmingly liberals.

Perhaps if Morford and his reader/teacher traveled outside the liberal enclave of San Francisco, where the city grants permits for fairs celebrating sadomasochism on public streets but denies the Marines permission to film a commercial on those same streets, they’d see a different American teen. And maybe if they, and parents, held kids accountable for making the most of their education, instead of blaming the government and the “power elite,” they’d be a little less despondent.

And there is the point to all of this. It has been liberal ideas that have, for example, discouraged certain types of disciplinary measure which may have helped in straigtening ot unruly students, that have put self-esteem and feelings over performance and learning, which have watered-down textbooks and basically rewritten history books so that they reflect liberal worldviews and biases, that have told kids to be so ashamed of their country that they will not even say the Pledge of Allegiance but rather make up their own version based on their own selfishness.

In other words, it is the ideas of people like Morford which have resulted in this train wreck, and for him to try to shunt the blame on to evangelicals or the government is childish.

If such students exist as he claims, they are the children of himself and his liberal pals. They are the result of their ideas being put into practice, and are the logical outcome.

Monday, October 22, 2007

mclaren on 'di vinci code'

Ok, I'm not exactly bleeding-edge here. This interview was roughly a year and a half ago, and seems to have even been done before the movie was released. But although some things may have moved on, maybe not so much, either. Anyway, here are my comments about it, for what they are worth.

I think a lot of people have read the book, not just as a popular page-turner but also as an experience in shared frustration with status-quo, male-dominated, power-oriented, cover-up-prone organized Christian religion. We need to ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brown's book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church. Why would so many people be disappointed to find that Brown's version of Jesus has been largely discredited as fanciful and inaccurate, leaving only the church's conventional version? Is it possible that, even though Brown's fictional version misleads in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the church's conventional version of Jesus may not do him justice?

So, what does it say? Let's say that there are some who are misrepresenting Jesus--for example, the televangelist Jesus who wants everyone healthy and wealthy. But can that explain why 'Di Vinci' has been so popular?

McLaren, in his fashion, is all too ready to blame the church for all things he thinks are wrong with the world. Read the above, and you'll see some PC reasons, with the idea I suppose that Jesus would be for those PC things

Why would some people be drawn to a fictional Jesus? Maybe because such a Jesus would be a Jesus made in their own image. Maybe because it would be a Jesus that they could control.

It would be the same as imagining meeting someone, and actually meeting them. Let's say, for example, that a man sees a woman from the distance, and is attracted to her. In his mind, he images what she must be like, how there conversations may go, how she laughs and talks and what things she likes and doesn't like. He does, in essence, make a version of her that has a basis much more in his own self then in any reality of the real woman.

Let's say that he does eventually meet her. The real woman is different from the one he imagined. She is a real person, with real ideas and opinions which he has no control over. She is much more complex and difficult then he could imagine. Perhaps he may even like the imagined her over the real her, maybe with good reason--the real her may be vain and snide and not a nice person--or maybe for bad reasons--she may not think him as good a guy as the imagined one does.

We simply cannot ignore the words Jesus spoke about how the message about Him would be received, that He was hated and not received, and that those who preached him would be hated because of Him. We are told that those who live godly will suffere persecutions. We are told that with Jesus light has come into the world, and that men loved the darkness and not the light, because what they did was evil.

Too many Christians have suffered and died for Christ for someone like McLaren to use political correctness to try to explain why people don't like Jesus.

McLaren: For all the flaws of Brown's book, I think what he's doing is suggesting that the dominant religious institutions have created their own caricature of Jesus. And I think people have a sense that that's true. It's my honest feeling that anyone trying to share their faith in America today has to realize that the Religious Right has polluted the air. The name "Jesus" and the word "Christianity" are associated with something judgmental, hostile, hypocritical, angry, negative, defensive, anti-homosexual, etc. Many of our churches, even though they feel they represent the truth, actually are upholding something that's distorted and false.

I suppose we should never mind that many of those stereotypes have more to do with media depiction and distortion then on actuality. Judgmental and hostile? No, but if all one does is read the press, one could get that impression. Hypocritical? That's a copout. Again, the press makes much of hypocracy in conservatives and Christians, but essentially ignores it when liberals are--think of the Louisiana congressman found with money in his freezer, but who far from being asked to step down has been promoted. Think of Ted Kenndy--what true conservative could have such a history without it being brought up every five minutes by the liberal media.

In fact, here a perfect example of what I mean. The governor of Tennessee, a liberal Dem, uses a derogatory term for Chinese workers from many years ago in a letter to the newspaper. It happened a few days ago, and so far, I have not heard any broohaha about this. I'll wait, though not with bated breath, for the media and fellow libs to get in a dander about this, call for investigations, demand that the governor step down, and the usual shenanigans they demand whenever a conservative is even accused of such thing (please note, not even proven, only accused).

Angry, negative, and defensive? No more then any other political movement. The most distasreful rhetoric I have heard, the most vile insults, have come from liberals. Defensive? Only because there are things worth defending, like the life of the unborn, and morality.

Anti-homosexual? I think McLaren is showing some serious PCness here. We are dealing with what is clear biblical morality, that homosexual activity is clearly sinful. McLaren may think that some of the rhetoric may be too strong or too judgmental or too condemning, maybe he'd be right on some of it and maybe he'd be wrong, but as a biblical Christian I would hope that he would be at least anti-homosexual in the sense he thinks it is sinful and those who practice it are going against God's commands to not do those things. He may want to approach it from a "kinder, gentler" position then others, but he should be careful of those whose position is more strongly stated then his.

McLaren: The book is fiction and it's filled with a lot of fiction about a lot of things that a lot of people have already debunked. But frankly, I don't think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novels. And in a certain way, what the Left Behind novels do, the way they twist scripture toward a certain theological and political end, I think Brown is twisting scripture, just to other political ends. But at the end of the day, the difference is I don't think Brown really cares that much about theology. He just wanted to write a page-turner and he was very successful at that.

I think this comment of his is simply distasteful. Comparing 'Di Vinci Code' to 'Left Behind' can be nothing but a sign of a lack of balance on his part, and to even hint that 'Left Behind' may have caused more damage then 'Di Vinci Code' is sick.

I'm not saying McLaren needs to become a dispensationalist, though I would recommend it, but for him to try to be so understanding of Brown while then making such a slam on Lahaye, Lahaye being a fellow Christian whose works have lead many to Christ while Brown is not a Christian and whose works have been a source of deception, is not right. Surely McLaren can disagree about end times matters without making such comments.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

book review, part 4--velvet elvis

Continuing on, more or less where the last entry left off...

Somebody recently said to me, "As long as you teach the Bible, I have no problem with you."

Think about that for a moment.

What that person is really saying is, "As long as you teach my version of the Bible, I'll have no problem with you." And the more people insist that they are just taking the Bible for what it says, the more skeptical I become.

Say what?

I have to call 'shenanigans' here. Does Bell really think that we are completely unteachable, only wanting to hear what we already know? What attitude would make him happy? One that would accept anything any teacher calling themselves Christian may say?

A phrase such as "As long as you teach the Bible" does say at least one thing, that the person saying it has some knowledge of what the Bible says. Not perfect knowledge, certainly, but although I do agree to some degree that the Bible can be difficult, it is not all difficult.

I would say that by that phrase, the person meant that as long as Bell teaches what is plainly taught in the Bible, there would be no problem. If, for example, he tries to tell us that the Bible teaches that Christians need to return to the Mosaic law and for example men need to be circumcised, then there would be problems.

So, I'm not prepared to accept Bell's interpretation of this person's statement, and certainly not that every person who thinks that way means what Bell means. It seems more like an attempt on his part to dismiss such thinking, though I question why he would want to. As a pastor, he should want people to see if what he or any other pastor or teacher is saying is biblical.

Which for me raises one huge question: Is the Bible the best God can do?

With God being so massive and awe-inspiring and full of truth, why is his book capable of so much confusion?

Why did God do it this way?

Where does on go in trying to make sense of what the Bible even is, let alone what it says?

I find this a bit disturbing. Perhaps he means to be provocative. Very well.

Is the Bible the best God can do? Does anyone, even Bell, really want to say 'not'?

Why is the Bible capable of so much confusion?

That question is actually pretty good. I don't want to blithely dismiss the Bible's difficulties, but maybe more importantly, why do people insist on making it confusing? I suspect there are many issues that have been called confusing not so much because the Bible is confusing, but because there are people who do not like the Bible's teaching and so try to muddy the waters, to add confusion, so they can explain away.

Why did God do it this way? Again, do any of us want to say God should have done it some other way?

Where can we go to understand the Bible?

That's a fair question. There are no lack of resources, but how are we to know which are the best and which are dead wrong?

Here is Bell's answer, or at least the part that he writes about in that part of the book.

For me, clarity has begun to emerge when I've begun to understand what Jesus believed about the Scriptures.

I have no problem with that answer, again as far as it goes. But at least for the next several paragraphs, which I'm not going to put here, I'm not sure what he means by this statement.

I have recently listened to a couple of mp3 audios from a man called Mark Driscoll, a pastor in Seattle. The audios were him talking about the Scripture, and in one part of it he goes into how Jesus viewed them. He tells how Jesus treated the OT as real history--that for example Jesus says that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that Isaiah wrote the book now called Isaiah, that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel. He goes into it more, but the point for now is that Jesus treated the OT as real history.

With Driscoll, I have a pretty good idea of what he would mean if he says something like what Bell wrote above. Maybe I'm missing it, but I haven't seen where Bell explain his understanding of what Jesus believed about the Scriptures. I'm really not trying to be difficult, I'm just not seeing it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

book review, part 3--velvet elvis

Ok, I've started wondering if these are really book reviews, or something else, like maybe ramblings involving thoughts from books I've read. Yeah, something like that.

Anyway, back to 'Velvet Elvis'. And you thought it was safe to come back on the internet.

The second chapter is quite long, and full. Dealing with all of it here and now is, perhaps, not practical. So, from the beginning...

Actually, not much to say about the beginning. It's just Bell telling us how he got into the preaching gig. Then he gets into some things of interest, kind of starting with this statement.

"The Bible is a difficult book."

Fair enough, and true enough, as far as it goes.

He does kind of lose me here...

"...what about those letters in the New Testament form one person to another group of people? Notice his verse from 2 Corinthians: "I am out of my mind to talk like this" A man named Paul is writing this, so is it his word or God's word?

"Is God out of his mind?

"Is God out of Paul's mind?

"Is Paul out of God's mind?

"Or does it simply mean that Paul is out of Paul's mind?

"And if the verse is simply Paul being out of Paul's mind, then how is that God's word?"

As a footnote, Bell gives the reference for that verse, 2 Corinthians 11:23. I don't know what version he got those words from (it does kind of have a The Message feel to it), but in the NKJV the verse goes something like this, "Are they ministers of Christ?--I speak as a fool---I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often."

I would guess that in the version Bell used "I speak as a fool" is translated "I am out of my mind". Why?

This paragraph is being written the next day. I have an interlinear NT, and looked up the verse in question. In the interlinear, the phrase is given in English as "as being beside myself I speak". It seems to be saying more what the NKJV seems to be saying, the Paul isn't saying he is out of his mind but that what he writes is as if he were out of it. In those last few chapters of 2 Corinthians, Pauls says much about how his boasting in those chapters seems to be folly, and in the context of the passage, he is comparing himself to those whom the Corinthians seemed to think were apostles but weren't.

Anyway, Bell does bring up an interesting passage, a place in the first Corinthian's book where Paul seems to be giving his own opinion and isn't certain it's really from God, "But to the rest I, not the Lord, say...", 1 Corinthians 7:12. It's even more curious, I think, when one considers what he says in verse 10, "Now to the married I command, yet not I bout the Lord...".

I'll grant that some level of difficulty. And at least for the moment, and like Bell, I'm going to punt on it.

The next few paragraphs are about his reaction when he thinks the Bible is being misused. There is no problem with him finding it distasteful when the Bible is misused, quite all right, I can understand.

He does, I think, get a bit off when he talks about a woman who uses language such as "personal relationship with Jesus". He makes the point that such a phrase is not in the Bible. Very well, but I do think that it has some basis in the Bible, and isn't something that came out of the air. I've seen similar arguments used against the concept of the Trinity, but not finding the word Trinity doesn't mean that the idea itself has no biblical basis.

"I was reading last year in one of the national newspapers about a gathering of the leaders of a massive Christian denomination (literally millions of members worldwide). The reason their annual gathering was in the news was that they had voted to affirm their view of the importance of the verse that says a wife's role is to submit to her husband.

"This is a big deal to them.

"This is what made news.

"This is what they are known for."

Bell doesn't give any more info about this gathering. I don't know from what he wrote who they were, what they said about it overall, or really much of anything else. I'm really not even certain when it took place--the books copyright is 2005, so maybe 'last year' is relative to that, but that depends on if he wrote that that year.

Anyway, he goes on...

"What about the verse before that?

"What about the verse after that?

"What about the verse that talks about women having authority over their husbands?

"What about all of the marriages in which this verse has been used to oppress and mistreat women?"

Ok, what about them? I assume he wants us to think that this denominational meeting did not deal in any way with those things, and has not in the past. Maybe he's right, maybe not. The fact is, we know only the very little information that Bell has given us, and we seem to be asked to accept his inferences that they gave and have not given any thought to those things.

But this does raise up something that seems to be common--the idea that some things in the Bible should be questioned because they have been misused. Like what Bell says about the verse that says a wife should submit to her husband. He raises the spectre that "this verse has been used to oppress and mistreat women".

Ok, let's say it has. Does that negate the verse, or how people have practiced it? I think it was Rasputin who took the doctrine of repentence and forgiveness of sins and abused it to think that he should intentionally sin so that he could continue to experience the joy of forgiveness. Should we do away with that doctrine, which has solid biblical support, because it was been abused?

We know the NT taught that there are times people who should be cast out of the church because of their sins. No doubt that has been abused, but does that negate such teachings regarding church discipline?

We have places in the Bible were we are told that corporal punishment, spanking if you would, is a good way to punish and correct children. People could point out that those passages could be used to condone abuse of children. We could point out that the verses say no such thing, they do not condone abuse but rather correction, and for someone to use them to say that they condone abuse is to misuse them.

This "argument from abuse" just doesn't hold. Bell may point out that the verse has caused abuse, but that is because the verse has been misused. To try to use examples of abuses to argue against the teaching isn't sound. It only points out that we as fallen humans can take good things, and make evil of them. I don't know how a man blessed of God with a wife could abuse her, but I know it happens. We are fallen, and sick.

Monday, October 15, 2007

update on last entry

Al Gore’s inconvenient judgment

Al Gore’s award-winning climate change documentary was littered with nine inconvenient untruths, a judge ruled yesterday.

An Inconvenient Truth won plaudits from the environmental lobby and an Oscar from the film industry but was found wanting when it was scrutinised in the High Court in London.

Mr Justice Burton identified nine significant errors within the former presidential candidate’s documentary as he assessed whether it should be shown to school children. He agreed that Mr Gore’s film was “broadly accurate” in its presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change but said that some of the claims were wrong and had arisen in “the context of alarmism and exaggeration”.

My last entry may have been a bit off, and I'm sorry about that. This one, saying there were 9 errors, may be more accurate.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Court Identifies Eleven Inaccuracies in Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

Court Identifies Eleven Inaccuracies in Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

Here's a few of those falacies...

The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government's expert had to accept that it was "not possible" to attribute one-off events to global warming.

The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.

The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

There's more there.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

various thoughts

Looking through other blogs can be rather educational, at least in the sense that you can learn things that maybe you really didn't want to know about. Still, strangeness happens.

Here is something that happened recently in Colorado.

Boulder students protest "God" in Pledge

Apparently, some students at a high school decided that they weren't going to take it anymore. It was wrong, it violated what they considered their constitutional rights, and by golly they were going to do something about it. They weren't going to repeat those awful words of oppression which their school forced them to repeat and listen to. No, they were going to make their own version, and so stick it to the man.

What the were protesting was saying the Pledge of Allegiance. After all, it has the words 'under God' in it, and that's tantamount to pledging allegiance to a religion, and that's a violation of constitutional rights, isn't it?

Instead, they made their own version of the pledge. Here it is.

""I pledge allegiance to the flag and my constitutional rights with which it comes. And to the diversity, in which our nation stands, one nation, part of one planet, with liberty, freedom, choice and justice for all."

Notice, please, the changes they make to it. Instead of pledging "to the flag of the United States of America", they pledge to "my constitutional rights with which it comes". A not-so-subtle shift from the one from whom one receives the benefits to the benefits themselves--in other words, the only thing of value is the gift, not the giver.

To put it simpler still, "It's all about memememememememememe!!" Forget responsibility, forget patriotism, but you'd best not forget my rights!

And another change, from "And to the republic, for which it stands" to "And to the diversity, in which our nation stands". I think one could hold that change up as one of the baldest example of political correctness ever displayed. Instead of acknowledging the source of the good things that they receive from this country, they instead make one of those good things the thing itself to which they claim to own allegiance.

To give a parallel, it's like a man making a marriage vow not to the woman herself but to, say, her breasts, or her ability to reproduce, or even to her ability to cook meatloaf. It is objectifying her, and these kids are objectifying this country--it is only worth loving as long as it gives them what they want.

Further changes are, of course, "one nation, under God, indivisible" to "one nation, part of one planet". To continue with a useful parallel, it's like a man telling his wife "You are one woman among millions of women. You are not special, you are not particularly beautiful in my eyes. I owe you no more then I owe to any other woman. Never mind that in our years of marriage you have given and sacrificed much for me--you have born my children, encouraged me to become a better man, prepared good meals for me, listened to me when I was down. You have sacrificed a career, you have sacrificed friends and family when my work required us to move. You have given me your body, your mind, all you have. But you are still only one woman among millions, and for you to say that I owe you something more then I owe any other woman for all you have given me is selfishness on your part."

And I mentioned nothing about the PC exclusion of "under God". It would fit right in with the scorned spouse parallel, though, don't you think?

And, finally, "with liberty and justice for all" is changed to "with liberty, freedom, choice, and justice for all". Let's never mind that 'liberty' and 'freedom' and pretty much redundant. What do they mean by choice? If they mean simply liberty and freedom, then again, redundant. Considering, though, the usual political meaning of 'choice', I can't put it beyond them to mean they are pledging to the pro-abortion agenda.

This whole pseudo-pledge is a oath to selfishness. It's all about the benefits, and nothing about the responsibilities.

While driving Friday evening, I was listening to a Cincinnati sports talk show. Surprisingly, the host was going on about something that had happened in Cleveland the night before. Apparently, the star of the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA basketball team, Lebron James, wore a New York Yankees cap to the Cleveland--New York playoff baseball game.

The host was pretty ticked about that, going on about how James had turned on the city of Cleveland, about how can he expects the fans in Cleveland to cheer for him when he does something like that, and so on and so on.

For my part, I'm driving along wondering "What's the big deal!"

I'm not a Yankees fan, not one bit. As far as I'm concerned, the more they lose, the better baseball is.

But that is my opinion, and there is no reason for anyone else to hold it.

Lebron James plays professional basketball. The Yankees are a professional baseball team. Simply because James plays for one city, doesn't mean that he must needs cheer for every team in that city, and not show his support for teams in other sports in other cities.

I don't have too high an opinion of Cleveland fans. I remember that they cheered when Tim Couch was injured, and frankly if the Browns never win again, I think it would be too soon. I've nothing against the Cavs or Indians, though my cheering for the Indians against the Yankees has more to do with anti-Yankees sentiment then pro-Indians.

If Lebron were wearing, say, an LA Lakers caps, I could maybe understand people being upset. But it is unreasonable to expect him to cheer for the Indians simply because he plays for the Cavs.

But, hey, if Cleveland fans want to get rid of the turncoat, I'm sure there are more then a few NBA teams all too eager to take James off of their hands. And I'm sure most of them couldn't care less what baseball team he cheers for.

While writing this, I've had "2001: a space odyssey" playing on my TV. This is the first time I've seen this movie, and frankly I think it should fit somewhere in the art world under 'surreal'.

You probably know the music in it that is some popular for, say, marching and pep bands. The "booom booom booom boom, ba boom, dumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdumdum" thing (sorry, music doesn't really do well when written like that, does it (speaking of surreal)). Anyway, it's this music that's suppose to be moving and inspirational, at least by how it sounds.

And what happens in the movie when that music is playing? Some kind of hypothetical fictitious ape-human transitional creature is beating up on the skeleton of some animal. Viciously beating, yes, and in slo-mo, but still, only on the dried and brittle bones of something dead.

It was a surreal moment for me. Almost as surreal as reading that fake pledge up at the top of this post. And what I've seen of the rest of the movie so far has done nothing to lessen that surrealness.