Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn's Eve Pigfest

Autumn’s Eve Pigfest

Sunday night, the day before Autumn, I hosted my second ever pigfest. We held a potluck autumnal feast that looked fantastic laid out on the table. And by the end of the night we had discovered that it tasted fantastic as well.

Our discussion went like this (remember devil’s advocacy may be adopted at any time):

Proposition 1: Slavery is biblically acceptable.
What is slavery? What is the slavery in the Bible? Does the Bible accept slavery, or merely regulate it; is there a difference? Is there slavery today? How does debt come in? Are there advantages to slavery (especially indentured servitude) to an economy, a society, or an individual slave? What makes slavery unacceptable? What role should the church play in a society that utilizes slavery? In history, has the church been successful in enforcing the Bible’s limits to slavery?

Proposition 2: Unmarried adults should be allowed to adopt children.
How is this worse than unmarried people working in orphanages? Isn’t it better for a child to have one loving parent than none at all? What are the legal implications when this is allowed? Is this a selfish decision? Does a one-parent household enable the parent to spend time with children, or are they raised essentially in an orphanage anyway, by being left to daycare? If true religion is caring for widows and orphans, should single people be excluded? How does having children as a single person affect other responsibilities or callings? Is an unmarried woman less likely to get married if she has a child through adoption? What about an unmarried father?

Proposition 3: Cohabitation before marriage is the prudent thing to do.
If everybody does it, how can it be bad? Shouldn’t you test out a marriage before you make a lifetime commitment? Are those advocating cohabitation in successful relationships or marriages? Are they good people? What is a Christian’s witness if he/she lives with their partner before marriage? Many people applaud those who wait until engagement for cohabitation; is there any validity to that? How long a cohabitation is advocated? Does cohabitation actually sabotage the relationship, whereas starting with commitment (marriage) would enable the relationship to thrive and function? Is marriage too big a hassle to interrupt a romance? How should a pastor react to a couple who has been cohabiting? Should he marry them ASAP or encourage them to repent? Ought he to refuse to marry a couple living in sin? Are they still living in sin after a wedding if they have not repented? What role does a pastor have in a marriage? Is it endorsement, witness, mere formality? What about the law? What makes a marriage?

Proposition 4: We (the US government) should kick out illegal immigrants.
Where would we kick them? What would prevent them from coming right back? Who will pay for deportation? (It was suggested that the immigrants themselves should be forced to pay, if they can.) Would this be good for the US economy? Would it be tolerable for the US economy? Has the population of illegal immigrants already hurt our economy (for example in the housing crisis)? How does the lack of border enforcement reflect on our laws? Are illegal immigrants typically otherwise law-abiding citizens? What about language issues? Isn’t America a melting pot? Shouldn’t new immigrants be expected to assimilate just like immigrants from decades and centuries past? Could we allow illegal immigrants to remain in the US if they followed a procedure for attaining legal status and citizenship? Is there a risk to national security? Since the waiting list for legally entering the US is so long, couldn’t we change that to make it easier to legally immigrate? Why do we have limits on immigration? Do other countries limit immigration? Do they deport illegals? Is it illegal to be in our country or illegal to get into our country? Wouldn’t annexing Mexico solve our problem? Would Mexico welcome that?

Proposition 5: There are some situations in which extreme violence is justified.
Who decides? Is self defense the only situation? What about defending others? Defending innocents? What about violent interference with the murder of unborn children? Does defense only cover defense from murder, or can it be defense from torture or rape? What about capital punishment? Is it ever right to take a life? Is it right to do nothing when lives are at risk – do I have the right to refuse to take a life or use violence if myself or other “innocent” bystanders are at risk of death? Can I take an innocent life in order to save other lives? Suppose a two year old is intentionally aiming a gun and pulling a trigger; should extreme violence be used against him? Why is the Mosaic law so confusing: day or night, inside the threshold or outside, defending life, defending property…? Does extreme violence refer only to violence leading to death, or to torture, etc.?

Proposition 6: Reading books written in other languages and other eras should be done to encourage independent thought.
Is independent thought desired? Can translated works count? How is that different from traveling to other parts of the world? Does reading sufficiently immerse you in the culture to widen your perspective? (It was pointed out that language is often imbedded in culture. Language is formed to express a certain way of looking at the world, like the difference in description when emphasis is on texture rather than color.) In what ways does your thought become independent? Is this practicable? What about those who don’t read? Do movies count? Foreign films with English subtitles?

Proposition 7 (which was interrupted before actually beginning by the coming of 9 PM and the need to go home): Idealism ought to be valued over pragmatism.
What on earth is idealism and pragmatism? Do they always contradict? Is it ultimately possible for them to contradict? Which ideal?

Some of my favorite things: People were willing to play devil’s advocate. The time before the debate enabled a lot of people to meet each other (and one family’s tire to be changed). There was a lot of participation. Pigfest format keeps a debate from wearing out the disinterested. Everyone fit in my house. One of my friends brought her two infant daughters. It rained just as the party started, with the sun still shining. Cleaning up wasn’t too hard. People had a good time. I’m able to remember the discussion half a week later.

Things I’ll do differently next time (Nov. 1): Have more chairs. Don’t aim for a main meal, but do lots of snacks instead. Pray by myself ahead of time about my attitude and perspective. Think more about proposition ideas I might offer and how to present them in the most discuss-able way possible. Review the rules before we start.

Considerations: Maybe prescreen propositions. Increase time from 15 to 20 minutes. Enlist a new (louder, more aggressive) moderator.

To God be all glory.

Banks, Politics and Imaginary Money

Do you ever get those moments where you have an idea, and after thinking through it, decide it wouldn’t work? And then an hour or so later you get the same idea, but have to think through it all over again to realize it won’t work?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the thought, “I should just get all my money out of the bank.” And then the thought inevitably follows, “If the bank crashes, so does the dollar. What good will it do you to have buckets of cash?”

So you might have guessed I think this is a possibility. And that the thought has crossed my mind recently that the bank is not the safest place to guard my assets. Recent events have not improved my confidence.

Earlier this year the Congress approved an economic stimulus package, giving away hundreds of dollars to each individual who filed an Income Tax Form. This was money they didn’t have. It was borrowed. But don’t worry; the government has no intention of paying the debts. In other words, the money is imaginary. And as long as you go with the flow, believing in the imaginary system, the system floats. A crash is coming.

Of course the government announced to everyone that it was flooding the markets with all this extra cash, encouraging people to spent. Anyone selling something ought to have realized the impact is the same as inflation. In fact it was inflation: infusing the markets with invented money. All the prices go up accordingly, and except for consumer confidence, nothing is gained. Consumer confidence, if not backed by reality, is only setting us up for a harder fall.

Such is the direction of US policy. We push concepts of money and values higher and higher, borrowing more and more as a government and as individuals.

For example, the mortgage industry bail-out. A mere few weeks ago, without asking me or even informing me ahead of time, someone in the government (I think it was an unelected entity) approved essentially a take-over of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. I must say that the government’s regulations and requirements for these companies had already constituted a take-over. To gain popularity, the Democratic Congress and Executive during the 90’s instituted policies requiring foolish loans to be made. For example, they required welfare payments to be counted as income when qualifying for a mortgage.

Now the mortgage industry is in shambles. House prices are too high to be afforded by normal people unless they take one of these horrible loans. The moment times get tight (like gas prices go up by supply and demand, raising the prices of any goods transported from origin to buyers), “homeowners” can’t make payments, and the lenders are stuck losing money. Their recourse is to foreclose, which isn’t a money-producing venture. Foreclosure is cutting one’s losses.

Since this is all the result of government interference in the markets, it is hard to not expect the government to fix their mistake. The problem is that the government can’t fix it. If they do anything at all (except for backing off their policies demanding imprudent lending practices), they will only make matters worse – economically and politically. Nevertheless, do something they did.

And do something they are trying to again. Some people are objecting because the $700,000,000,000 plan introduced this week gives control of the money ultimately to one man which it explicitly makes unaccountable and unreviewable to any body of people. My objection is more fundamental. Government, whose purse only comes from taxes and loans (which are taxes), has no business doing anything with $700 billion, let alone something in the markets. They need to back out.

I don’t even know how to begin to petition our government for a redress of grievances for how they have exceeded the Constitution in the economic sector. The last thing I want is for them to give me money they don’t have again. What needs to happen is almost universal reform. Recall every congressman who exceeds his Constitutional jurisdiction by voting for government interference in or support of financial institutions.

What if the government does what it ought, and stays out of this? Doesn’t our economy desperately need imaginary money to rescue us? Our economy will suffer a major correction, hard times, probably increased unemployment. Ultimately we will be better off. Our position will be less precarious. We will be saved from a harder fall or worse political/international outcomes should we try to prop our markets yet again. Some financial institutions may even fail, if the government bail out does not go through.

Be reasonable, though. Does anyone want irresponsible financial institutions to continue? What about these financial maneuvers and loopholes on which entire industries are based? I’m skeptical of the stock market, let alone the industries whose sole purpose is to lend money. The Bible is pretty much against debt, especially the kind with interest; it’s probably for a good reason. Eliminating these industries will make transactions in this country a lot more straightforward, accessible to every man (also giving small legitimate businesses a fair chance of competition and survival). In this time of mismanagement and corruption, transparency is undeniably something to be desired.

To God be all glory.

Medieval Iceland by Jesse L. Byock book review

Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power by Jesse L. Byock
Written in a reader-friendly research paper style, this nonfiction book invited me into the few hundred years of the colonization, formation, and decline of Iceland as a free state. Several chapters into the book I realized that this little island’s short-lived government had warranted a mention in my world history textbook in high school. You too may recognize the word Althing, the Icelandic parliament.

By far my favorite part of this book was the way in which the author introduced and incorporated native words (closely related to Old Norse). To my surprise and delight, I found I could recognize many of these words as sharing roots with some strong English words. Take Althing. Thing originally meant gathering, and was heavily employed in Iceland to refer to their deliberative gatherings, that which was discussed at the gatherings, etc. The prefix is exactly what you would expect from the sound of it: All. The Althing was different from a general thing because it was the one gathering annually in which citizens from the entire country gathered to hold high court, to address pressing national issues, and to have a marvelous feast and market.

Second favorite was the references to the sagas, and the summaries/explanations of their plots. Once I picked up a book thicker than the Bible at our local library because it had an interesting title, The Sagas of the Icelanders, and a Viking ship on the front. After reading an enjoyable first half of the book I took it back, just overwhelmed by the amount of literature contained. As Jesse L. Byock took me through the history of Iceland, referencing the sagas, I began to vaguely recollect the stories. I’ve heard that name before. Yes, I remember something like that happening in the sagas. I didn’t know that’s what was going on in that saga!

Finally I was fascinated to get a feel for the culture of early Iceland. Though the author seems to believe that they were a stable, upright society, I beg to differ. Though they balanced their government: freedom and power, friendship and dependency; their legal system was built on feuding, which often included the death of men in the territory of the offensive leader, or family members of a person. False charges could be made and prosecuted, essentially stealing a person’s property just by suing him. If one of the primary feuders was killed in the disagreement, his close kin often took up the feud in his honor, or in vengeance. Sometimes this was the only way to defend their inheritance. The society was certainly a might makes right struggle for limited resources and carefully guarded (and uncentralized) power.

There was also a reference to exposing infants, which is murder of the most helpless. When the country converted to Christianity, one of the compromises which made that a peaceful transfer was that citizens were allowed to continue to eat horse and also to commit infanticide.

I did notice similarities between Iceland’s culture and northern Scotland’s before the 19th century. Though not necessarily bound by blood, or even bound for life and generations as in Scotland, clans had similar responsibilities to and expectations of their chieftains. The Scottish people are famous for their tartan weaves, and woven cloth was actually used as a form of currency in Iceland (a country filled with farmsteads and cottage industry). Perhaps the climate and ancestral/invader influences were the same in Scotland and Iceland.

In Medieval Iceland the scholarly author intends to put forward his theories about the transfer and acquisition of wealth in Iceland. He focuses heavily on politics, a hugely interesting perspective in that field. For example the Icelander’s realized (coming out of a feudal Europe) that if a government/king/chieftain could tax your property, you no longer owned the property. They had a strong libertarian democracy, but with a bend to settle things. The government in Iceland was entirely legislative and judicial, leaving enforcement to the individuals and the strong local governments.

Why did this system of government fail? Why is it not in use today? What can we learn from Iceland for our own situation in America today? Iceland is the first country whose origins were observed in history-writing times. Initially the country offered land free for the taking (sometimes taking was in the sense of theft), and the small population was content to be the rugged pioneers of a relatively hostile land. As the population grew and resources were expended, the competition became more and more fierce. Eventually the Althing voted to quench the trampling aspirations of the developing aristocracy by returning themselves to the jurisdiction of Norway (whose government had at this point several centuries after the initial immigration, mellowed). The world was on the verge of transformation: protestant reformation, the printing press, the democratic revolutions (including the founding of America) would all appear in the next several centuries.

To God be all glory.

Sphere by Michael Crichton Book Review

I first looked up Michael Crichton after discovering the time travel adventure, Timeline. Starring all sorts of wonderful people with wonderful accents and wonderful hair (including the now-famous Gerard Butler), Timeline placed a team of archaeologists in the hands of an innovative company that had developed the technology to fax 3-dimensional objects – except they accidentally faxed them to the past. The movie addresses questions of fate, of the impact of tampering with the knowledge in the past, and of whether modern enlightenment is really superior to the technology and wisdom of the past. Given the choice, where would you spend out your life?

Fascinated by the story, I saw that the book had originally been written by Michael Crichton. The list of other movies based on his books was incredible. I’d seen several, all thrilling adventure movies with real intriguing plots at the same time. His imagination lived on the edge of reality, whether it was science fiction or fantasy or the cutting edge of technology. Included in his list are: Jurassic Park, Timeline, Congo, and Twister. He also writes for the TV show ER, though I never watched that.

Then I began to notice that his older books are frequently found on used bookstore shelves for very good prices. I bought a few. The first one I began had a horrible opening scene, quite inappropriate in content and language. Maybe I shouldn’t have spent money on them. I put that one well away.

A few months later I read that Frank Peretti’s favorite contemporary author is Michael Crichton. If Frank Peretti likes him, all his books can’t be like that. And who ever heard of movies cutting the content or language? Rather the contrary. But I’d seen several movies that were mostly just intense. One of the books I own is Timeline itself, a beat up mass paperback edition. I’ve read the first few pages.

Generally speaking, I’m having a hard time justifying novels since graduating high school. In high school there was all this mandatory non-fiction reading and literature (sometimes really boring literature), so I occasionally needed an easy-read novel to lighten things up. Now I read entirely what I want. So usually I might as well read something new, edifying, and educational. In fact I am a much bigger fan of history now that I’m reading books focused on a few years, decades, or centuries rather than the history of the whole world.

But I was cleaning my room a couple days ago, reorganizing some of my books again (I’d used their container as decoration for a Pigfest), when I came across one of Michael Crichton’s books, Sphere. The front cover featured divers swimming around several underwater spheres, and boasted an upcoming motion picture (which is decades old now, and I’ll guarantee you without even checking that it was rated R). The scene on the cover never happens, and totally misconstrues the title. The back was more accurate, indicating some sort of alien novel. I opened to the first page.

Not bad. I set it aside. Now last week I finished the book about Iceland. I had a million things to do, and no free time. So the beginning of this week was spent in rebellion against responsibility and hard work. I’m getting over it. During the hours in which I finally had nothing scheduled, I curled up with Sphere.

To my delight, part of the plot actually does deal with time travel (and I’m such a fan of time travel!). Basically a half-mile long spacecraft is found at the bottom of a shallower part of the Pacific Ocean. Based on the coral growth, scientists estimate that the ship has been submerged for three hundred years. But it isn’t rusted, or even damaged as if from a crash. The conclusion is that it must have materialized there after voyaging through time. A team of US Navy and US scientists is assembled to investigate the Anomaly.

Throughout the book Michael Crichton deals with the question of intelligence, especially contrasted with soul and emotion. The end of the book reveals the paradoxical union of these, and the consequences of neglecting one over the other. Even the individuals on the team represent different aspects of humanity, with our desires and interests, strengths and weaknesses. As sort of a subconscious defense against being too involved in the story, I enjoyed observing what the author was getting at. I observed his craft and motivation as though he was one of the characters. That is the best way to solve mysteries before the author tells you, to collect the clues and notice the connections. Except I lost. I didn’t realize. Oh well.

The book spends a fair amount of time talking about evolution, both biological and intellectual. When discussing the possibility of alien life and the probabilities of its attributes, this is bound to come up. Whence comes life? Why is life the way it is? Can something be alive and not have a body, or not have DNA, or not have emotion? Might there be life that is indestructible? What if it’s thought and communication systems are completely foreign? What if the alien life is intelligent, but evolved mental science rather than physical? They could be blobs that don’t have to sculpt a sculpture; it just is how they think it to be.

Several difficulties with evolution are also mentioned, but skimmed over. I thought it was interesting that the biologists were attributed with the theory that alien life is unlikely, while physicists and cosmologists believe it is likely. The answer Michael Crichton gives is that the physicists and cosmologists imagine a bigger world than what they see. They imagine other dimensions, possibly even other universes. In the twenty years since Sphere was written, a shift has taken place. The sciences heavily dependent on math and probability boast fewer believers in alien life. Biologists are almost desperate to find alien life for two reasons: it would indicate an as yet undiscovered law by which life is more likely to evolve (something to add to chance and natural selection) or it would grant more validity to the increasingly popular theory that since we don’t have any evidence (or enough time) for life evolving here on planet earth, perhaps life was planted here by aliens who evolved a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away where they keep all the evidence.

As to whether I can recommend this book, I’d have to say no. There are some strong content issues in just a few places, some crass language and a lot of mild profanity and a profusion of using God’s name as a curse word. Additionally there is a lot of violence and “disturbing images” – more disturbing when I read because generally I don’t close my eyes for parts that get too scary while I’m reading. At one point I remember thinking, “Wow. I get to see a giant squid. Jules Verne only wrote about one, and the movie versions, they’re all fake… Wait a second!”

Ok, so if you are going to take my recommendation and not read the book, but you’re interested in the conclusions of the ideas presented, highlight the invisible text below:

The main character of the story is a psychologist who specializes in anxiety. He is the one who compiled the team of geniuses to hypothetically meet with alien objects or life (never expecting them to actually be needed). He typically voices the need to heed and control emotions, both in themselves and in each other.

Most of the story takes place in a touchy artificial environment 1,000 feet below the surface of the ocean, in which they are trapped by reason of a hurricane. So everyone is a little anxious, living in tight quarters and needing to make sure everything is done properly.

In the spaceship, by one member’s impulsiveness, they discover some pretty advanced technology, crafted by Americans fifty years in the future. A lot is made of the fact that even our technology today would seem like magic if we brought it back a hundred years or more to brilliant scientists on whose work our technology was built. They’d have to be caught up on our advances in physics and such to even begin to comprehend.

The team learns from the cooperative computers on the ship that the voyage was made to enter a black hole just beyond Pluto, which induced time travel. Black hole theory is explained in layman’s terms using a bowl, and apple, and a ball bearing.

Along the way the spacecraft seems to have picked up an intelligently-designed object, a 30-ft. sphere with “cabular grooves,” which end up concealing a door they can’t open.

Eventually the door is opened without any apparent reason. The smartest man on the team, and youngest scientist, a mathematician, figures out how to get into the sphere, and spends three hours inside, after which he will explain nothing of his knowledge or experience. He is simply exhausted.

Soon after they start experiencing strange phenomenon, like the discovery of three unidentified species of sea life in an area that had been barren of life on the sea floor. They lose a member of their team to jelly fish. And things get worse from there. A giant squid comes around, claiming the lives of most of the team. Those who are left are a mathematician, a biologist, and the psychologist. (mind, body, soul)

In the meantime, the sphere has made contact, projecting first number codes, then letters and words and sentences onto their computer screen. He says his name is Jerry. He can hear them, enjoys talking to them, and doesn’t understand questions about where he came from. They gather as events pass that he is the cause of the “manifestations,” including the giant squid. He wants to talk, and when they wish to talk privately, he gets angry. He turns hostile through the giant squid, which attacks the habitat and individuals, even luring one person with a sign of attention and intelligent playfulness. His hostility grows to the point where he says “I will kill you all.” Not a comforting thought when dealing with an all powerful unknown being. But are they?

What eventually works for the team is the instructions of one of the psychologist’s professors. Don’t try to understand everything. Do something. If that doesn’t work, do something else, no matter how crazy. It’s a pretty good way to quickly tackle the unknown. Especially when this line of reasoning reveals that rather than dealing with an alien entity that doesn’t understand what he’s doing, they’re really suffering the effects of the sphere, which enables those who enter it to manifest whatever they imagine, to manipulate reality. This was the union of thought and emotion: imagination.

The first to discover this was the underappreciated super-genius, who felt lonely his whole life, and restrained from demonstrating his full genius. But he was a man despairingly afraid, and his fears came to life. (In fact his logical brain reasoned that since there was no reference on the spacecraft to the discoverers of the technology in the past – the team discovering it now – that the team must all die in the ordeal, before ever revealing anything about the spacecraft to the world.) The second person to (secretly) enter the sphere was the concrete biologist, who required constant reassurance, connection, and control. She imagined offenses and constantly considered herself the victim. She turns out to be semi-suicidal and bent on self-torture. Finally the psychologist himself enters the sphere and has a mental conversation with his dark side. His weakness is to discredit the importance of logic, to rely on feelings. His survival means more to him than almost anything. Ultimately, though, it is his beliefs that save them all. He believes humans are worth helping. Emotions can be controlled and are worth controlling. He had been the one saying “Stick together,” and so he could not desert.

Was the sphere some cosmic test? Was the sphere itself a form of life? Did an alien (or future human) intelligence want to know how a human would react to getting whatever he wanted? Is that what imagination is for? How powerful is the imagination? Maybe the sphere accidentally had that effect. Maybe its intentions had nothing to do with humanity.

In the end the three survivors (mortal enemies mere hours before) cooperatively and unanimously decide to imagine the sphere and their past week’s experience out of existence. They come up with a new story to imagine in its place, and so it is done. The world ends up having no knowledge of time travel until they boldly voyage for the black hole fifty years in the future.

PS: I looked up Sphere on the internet. Lo and behold it did cut content from the book, and ended up with a PG-13 rating.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Suffering's Surrender

Ravi Zacharias’ apologetics ministry recently sent me “Just Thinking,” containing two excerpts from books by staff of RZIM. The second one was about doubts and suffering. Stuart McAllister wrote of his experience in a Czechoslavakian prison after he and a companion were caught trying to smuggle Bibles through to Poland. He was an enthusiastic young missionary, who knew the potential risks. The missions organization had trained him to respond to difficulties like this. Additionally he had a confidence in the existence and purposes of God that could not be shaken.

After a day or so in prison, however, he began to realize that he had expectations of God that were not necessarily consistent with what he believed. He wanted to experience God’s immediate, physical intervention in the form of a quick release from prison. He wanted to be aware of God’s purposes in allowing the prison term: something like a chance to preach the gospel or some great revelation. In the very least he had accepted the supernatural peace and grace for circumstances that others had reported. God did not grant any of these, so Stuart began to doubt.

He wrestled through the idea of suffering, through the reality of suffering, searching for a reason for suffering. God was real. That never changed. God was present, yes, that too was sure despite appearances. Did God have the right to do this to him? Did God ask such serious consequences of His followers? Had Stuart too long ignored the theme of persecution in the Bible? What examples did the Bible afford? Did anyone else doubt? What answer did God provide?

At last he had to surrender his expectations. There was nothing inconsistent in the character of God if He chose to leave Stuart McAllister in prison for years. He had to give up his sense of control. And then he had to focus.

This experience might be equated with believing you may soon die. When faced with a cancer diagnosis, or any other terminal illness, one is forced to examine just what demands he ought to make of God. God will act in accordance with truth. Knowing the way things really are can prepare us to cope with what comes.

In any case, I think that the sincere surrender to the rights of God over our own, to the possibility of long suffering and of never receiving what we want, is as good as actually experiencing those things. Some do. Others are rescued.

Stuart McAllister left prison after eleven days of not knowing. But he left as matured by the years he had imagined and accepted.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I have just been reading Crystal Paine's Biblical Womanhood blog. She was teaching on frugal living. If you have to, want to, or believe you should live frugally, spending less than you do, she can probably tell you several ways how.

One of her points was that she gets books from the library, even through interlibrary loans, instead of buying them. She even does this for her young daughters. (I know for a fact that she owns a few books, considered school books, that teach sign language or catechism.) From a woman who writes and sells books, I find this an ironic confession.

For myself, I'm a writer. Someday I intend to publish something and get paid for it. In the mean time I blog, for free, and spend all my writing energy doing this much easier exercise instead of putting together a book. Yet I sympathize with authors, feel for the mass of books out there as competition. On top of all this we add libraries.

So here is my solution, killing two birds with one stone. I use the libraries. In this way I discover whether a book is worth purchase. (If it wasn't worth purchase to anyone, it ought not have been written. But some people purchase unworthy books - like all the romance novels we see at garage sales and used bookstores.) After reading a book that I like, I will usually add it to my list to buy. There are a few instances in which I will buy a book without reading it: I trust the author, I trust a reviewer, I trust the store, or I get a really good deal. Which brings up the fault in my reasoning. I would much prefer to own secondhand books than to pay full price in most cases, especially if the author is already mainstream. Some books I see as supporting a ministry when I purchase them full price as directly as possible from the authors.

All this to say I am almost never completely frugal with books. I would not want to have the library own all of my favorites for me. Though I am willing to live in an inexpensive apartment my whole life, and to not eat at fancy restaurants, and not buy new clothes (or many clothes). Though I can resist going to the movies, or buying frivolous things; I have every intention of owning shelves and shelves of books. To this end I never refuse to spend money on a good book. And I have stacks of books in my room.

Just recently I cleaned and rearranged my room in order to shelve all of the recent purchases that had been stacked on my floor. Immediately following this burst of energy and organization, I went out and bought stacks more books. Stacks. And then I went to the library, where I checked out seven large books as research for my writing. (One of them is about Iceland in the Middle Ages, and has me all bound up in that world; look for the review!) So my floor is just as covered as ever with books for my library.

If I ever move or get very organized (and ambitious: buy new shelves, rearrange my whole room...), I will take massive pictures for you. In the mean time this is what you get.

Books Read in 2008 - updated

Books Read in 2008
Persuasion by Jane Austen (ok, so I re-read it, but loved it more the third time. The tale of a good, intelligent woman on the verge of being forever an “old maid,” whose family ignores her but whom she helps all the same. There is a handsome man she loved before he was rich, and so turned down at the influence of her family and friends, and very much regrets. He comes back into her life and suddenly everyone realizes Anne Elliot is the girl they want to marry. I underlined every word that illustrated persuasion, steadfastness, or persuad-ability. There are a lot.)

The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (a modern history book looking at leadership, politics, and big decisions as associated with Billy Graham.)

A Walk With Jane Austen by Lori Smith (Single Christian girl in early thirties goes to England to trace Jane Austen’s life. She dreams of love, finds something special, and goes on to share her very human, very female thoughts about life, love, and God – often borrowing words from Jane Austen herself.)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I'd say the book is about making choices, and the freedom that comes from doing the right thing even when you don't understand what's going on. And it has to do with contentment and waiting and hard work. I see my friend, who recommended the book, in the pages. It's the kind of thing she would like and live - and the kind of thing I would like and try to live. Kit grew up in the free, warm Atlantic equatorial islands. When her grandfather, who raised her, died, she decided to move in with her penpal aunt in New England. The Puritan atmosphere doesn't quite suit Kit, who looks for friends who share her sense of freedom. Life doesn't turn out quite how she imagines (through failure of imagination of consequences), but she means well. Her influence gently softens the community, but eventually she is still tried as a witch.

I recently read GK Chesterton’s first novel, Napoleon of Notting Hill. It was a quick read, interesting and fast-paced. It follows the life and career of the most unique humorist of England, one Auberon Quin, who was elected by lottery the king of England according to the consummate democracy of his fictional future government. Auberon enjoys making people confounded and annoyed, by being himself completely ridiculous. I have a feeling that this would be an even less popular course in England than in America.

Young, Restless, and Reformed by Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of 'young Calvinists.' He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what's so exciting to us about God's sovereignty. Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping - we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West. Why is God doing this? We wait to see.

Brave New Family by GK Chesterton is a compilation of many essays written about the Home and Family, about relationships between men and women and children. It is excellent, but I read it so long ago that I can’t remember all that much about it.

The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton is a sort of allegorical tale about sovereignty and the war of the anarchists. It is filled with character sketches. The full impact of this book did not hit me until after I had read it and proceeded with life, when I began to encounter ideas and people frighteningly similar to those in this book. I think Chesterton based some of them off real people whom he had met as well. Hang in there for the end of the book. It will blow your mind.

Ekklesia, edited and compiled by Steve Atkerson of the New Testament Reformation Fellowship, is an exposition of the New Testament’s descriptions of and instructions for the Church. Apart from the business model, consumer structure of traditional church meetings, the authors argue from the Bible for a more personal and interactive gathering in homes. There was very little in this book with which I could disagree. Not only was it informational, reading Ekklesia was also challenging and encouraging. The theology and exposition is spot on, well supported with biblical references. In an age when God is working in many hearts to produce a desire to engage in community and God-powered ministry, this is a good book for direction. An added bonus is that NTRF has not copyrighted Ekklesia, encouraging you to distribute portions to your friends or quote it in publications.

The Shack, by William Young, is a novel of a man dealing with the tragic death of his daughter and his feelings about God. He ends up spending a weekend with God, dealing with classic issues of the problem of pain and our acceptance of God’s goodness despite what we feel. God is incarnate in three persons, with whom he has many vivid interactions and conversations. At the end of the story, he is left with more peace about God and the life he has experienced, but still does not have answers about what God expects of him. The story is written in a way that tempts you to believe it is based on a true history. At the end when I read the “making of” that told me it was only fiction, I was much relieved. There is enough truth in the philosophy and theology that I could not believe the book represented demonic activity (producing the supernatural things described). But there were also enough problematic elements (God as a girl wearing blue jeans) that I could not believe the events were truly from God. Realizing that the author used fiction to introduce his own thoughts on theology must allow for him to be mistaken yet in some areas. Most concerning are the indications that God would not send any of His creations to hell, because He loves ‘all His children’ – with an unbiblical definition of God’s children. The semi-gnostic tendencies and references, including a conference with Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, provide insight into the background of Mr. Young. The book is not keen on the Bible or church, either. For a best seller, this book is a quick read and an interesting visit to theology. But God gave us the Bible as His personal revelation; don’t substitute anything for it.

The Midnight Dancers is Regina Doman’s fourth fairy tale novel. I don’t know whether she was a rebel herself or consulted heavily with people who had been there, but all of her observations on motive and inner conflict resonated well with my observations, and actually explained things. Her main character is very human, torn between desires to be responsible and to be appreciated as an adult, between her love of freedom and her love of people. Midnight Dancers also shows the slippery slope of sacrificing even a little bit of discernment while justifying your freedom and pleasure. Like all of Mrs. Doman’s books, I was entranced. However this edition, similar to Waking Rose, got pretty graphic and even too intense for my spirit to remain healthy. I skipped a few pages near the end. Fairy tales are fairly predictable in their endings, and this is no surprise. They all lived happily ever after.

Mark is a book that transports me immediately back in history. Full of action with little explanation, it is a biography of acts more than teachings, of impact rather than influences. Beginning with a scene straight from a screenplay, of a voice crying in the wilderness, climaxing with the compassionate passion of a good Man suffering in the place of others, and closing with a simple instruction to pass the story on, Mark is a book for the ages. Even though Jesus is the main character, the other characters are just as active and many are vivid personalities. Mark himself may even make a cameo in a humble role at Gethsemane. First to last this gospel is glorious.

It never ceases to amaze me how many facts are tucked into Genesis. Details of the lives and failings of men who lived so long ago surprise me with their human reality. Places and people, kings and battles, ancestries and inventions cover the pages. Of course Genesis begins with creation, establishing the understanding of matter, time, energy, life, marriage, science, music, farming, boats, rain, rainbows, government, justice, worship, sacrifice, truth, possession, family, and judgment. The generations are also sprinkled with hints of redemption and unwarranted preservation and forgiveness, of the second man supplanting the first. Read in light of the New Testament’s references to this first book, Genesis is remarkably alive with parables and theology. My favorite part in this reading was the theme of changed lives.

Treason by Ann Coulter is a history book with a strong political bent. She documents how the Democratic Party is always cheering for and or supporting America’s enemies. In the very least they have a record of opposing any efforts Americans make to defend themselves against enemies. She describes the myth of McCarthyism, pointing out that all those people whose lives McCarthy’s trials (and just his influence) supposedly ruined were either open Communists or eventually found out to be Communists. And most of them enjoyed long, pleasant lives (not getting everything their way, but who does?). McCarthy, on the other hand, died young, at age 48. But Ann Coulter doesn’t stop with the post World War II McCarthy. She goes on to discuss Vietnam, the Cold War, North Korea, and the War on Terrorism. History is dirty, and she both addresses some mature issues and references them to make jibes. But I appreciate the excessive documentation of the habit of Democrats to stand up on the side most opposed to America’s interests. They used to call such blatant and effective acts “treason.”

Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas and Power by Jesse L. Byock (see full review)

Sphere by Michael Crichton (see full review)

Alien Intrusion by Gary Bates (see full review)

Godcast: Transforming Encounters with God; Bylines by Media Journalist and Pastor Dan Betzer (see full review)

Lady Susan by Jane Austen (To balance the post-election doldrums this week, I read Lady Susan, a complete short novel written by Jane Austen, the last on my list of her works to read. Consisting entirely of letters except for the last two or three pages (which summarizes both why the story could not be continued in letters and the fates of all the main characters). For my part I wish that the story had been developed more. I want to know the young Miss Frederica, and the smart Mr. Reginald de Courcy. Perhaps the value is in the art by which Miss Austen communicates so much leaving almost the whole unsaid. One feels that there is a whole story and world of events that Jane Austen knew but wouldn’t share because she didn’t have to. The worldview of the widow Lady Susan is summed up in her words from Letter 16, “Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language, as admiration waits on beauty.” She is a scandalous flirt and insufferable liar, scheming throughout the novel to acquire pleasure, money, and importance at the expense of all her relations, friends, and even her daughter. Jane Austen tends to end with her villains unpunished. They don’t go to prison, or suffer a life-long illness or poverty or death. The world may scorn them, but generally they never cared what the world thought. We the good readers may pity the partners with whom they finish the tales, but the villains themselves will not wallow, we think, in self-pity for long, rather getting something for which they have always aimed. Lady Susan is a novel where, with the concise style, these patterns are readily exposed. Read Lady Susan. It’s a light, funny story with a background romance. Characters are typically Jane Austen even if we see little of them. And the style makes a good template for understanding the rest of Jane Austen’s beloved books.)
Dead Heat by Joel Rosenberg (see full review)

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver (There wasn't a lot of new Christian stuff in this book, but it was a good read and some challenging reminders. This book covers topics ranging from worry to service to worship to personal devotions. I love how the book draws everything together into the One Thing conclusion. Joanna invites you to join her journey of seeking a Mary Heart in a Martha World.)

To God be all glory.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jealousy and Grace

Friday was one of those days in one of those weeks from one of those months. My closest friends are out of the country or on their way out. One will be gone for a whole semester, to the blissfully romantic Oxford, the Oxford in England, full of history and literature, thought and conversation. In England there is rain, there is beauty, there is architecture, there are accents! What's more, she's going to study worldviews in a small class of 9 Christian young men and young women, doing life with them. Already she sends home emails reveling in happiness beyond her expectation.

On Friday I was feeling rather alone and untraveled. Autumn is here with an air of adventure, and none has knocked on my door. But God is quite the gracious Giver of good gifts. He blessed me with hours of conversation in the evening. Friends gathered and the casual conversation was whether God changed His mind, and the way He ordains intercessors for us against His wrath. Then we officially talked about jealousy, but we didn't say much on that topic. What actually happened led into a discussion on grace and glory, predestination and the rights of God versus the rights and capabilities of man.

Even though we didn't delve into jealousy, our text was 1 Corinthians 13:4: "Charity suffereth long and is kind. Charity envieth not; Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." Charity, or LOVE, does not envy. It is not jealous. Love is the call of all Christians towards their neighbors. Jealousy prevents us from entering into their happiness in the way Paul describes in Romans 12. The simple reminder that love is my call was enough to convict me of my attitude towards my friend. So I decided to rejoice with her. (I really am absolutely delighted for her experiences, and excited for their impact!)

But the grace and the lesson didn't end. Deciding to rejoice with her, I was yet challenged by my friend's confession of happiness. Her email bubbled over with enthusiasm for life and people, and happiness at being where she was. Once she even wrote she can't remember the last time she was so happy. When was the last time I was simply happy? What did it look like?

The privilege and delight of seeing a friendly face can light my face with a smile, and untroubled happiness. Knowing God is in control and He'll take care of the details is blessed happiness. Knowing I am blessed is reason to be happy. And I am so blessed. So I set out to be happy.

Saturday I went to Steeling the Mind Bible Conference, put on by Compass Ministries. I imagined the happy me, which is much easier to live out when brought to mind! Should I see a friend, I would be happy. Should I spend the day with my dad alone, I would be blessed. Should I get encouragement in my walk with God, I would have assurance that He was heeding my days. And He was. He let me know.

For example, the second-to-last speaker was a woman raised as a Muslim. One of her many points was that Muslims live in fear, not only of non-Muslims, not only of "monsterous" Jews, but even of each other. Women obviously fear men, who have essentially absolute power over them. They also fear the envy of others, by which the jealous party would, they superstitiously believe, put a curse on them: the evil eye. Envy and fear of envy separated the community, leaving no room to trust anyone. Jealousy is a serious issue.

In the British Isles, there is rain. Here the past week we have had rain more days than not. Friday night it rained. Saturday night, too. I'm afraid to sleep for missing some evidence of God's grace reminding me that "no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." But even sleep is a peaceful, cozy gift.

This morning at church we watched part of Beth Moore's teaching on the Blessing of Asher. Asher is a Hebrew word translated either Blessed, or Happy. Leah named the second son of her handmaid Asher, after years envying Jacob's love of Rachel and jealousy over his affection. At last she simply named a son "happy," content and blessed, going forward straight on the way, fruitful. And Beth Moore taught us not to be responsible for the happiness of others (or of ourselves!); happiness is a gift by the grace of God, so we ought to seize our happy moments, with gratitude.

A friend blessed me with a compliment when I needed the encouragement, and her husband even offered to help diagnose my poor car whose Service Engine Soon light has been on and off for over a year (but I haven't found a good mechanic to fix it). My day was really too amazing.
After church I sat in a meeting of youth leaders, pondering the high school girls small group of which I'm a part. And I realized that I've been running around, forgetting to be God's vessel, forgetting the blessing it is to share life with these ladies, forgetting that when I walk with God, I will want to and be able to connect with the girls in love. There doesn't have to be a formula or a schedule. If I want to see them, this won't be a burden. In my life I've observed that happiness (and pain at times, and many other things besides) comes through people, through fellowship, through getting deeper into relationships and community. Do you realize what release I remembered and reclaimed?

Finally, on my way to visit my aunt in Greeley, CO (and my grandparents and a few cousins, an uncle and another aunt), I was riding in our big, truck-like van, watching light glint off the ring that reminds me of God's presence and claim on my life. So often I ask Him for things, but today I thought of the way characters pray sometimes in biblical dramatization novels by the Thoenes: "Blessed are You, O Adonai, who..." So I started. God is blessed for being, for doing, for giving. Blessed is He for knowing the end from the beginning. Blessed is He for ordaining good works. Blessed is He for holding my friends in His strong hands. Blessed is He for being my sure refuge and comfort. Blessed is He for the blood He shed, and for reminding me of His faithful covenant through the Lord's Supper this morning. Blessed is He for the celebration that the Lord's Supper is and represents, the community of saints waiting for the Beloved. Blessed is He for hearing my prayers. Blessed is He for being Almighty.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Loneliness in Biblical Womanhood Case against Sarah Palin

This morning I woke feeling very lonely. For the past several days the sense of loneliness has edged into my life from different directions. I’m happy for my friends out of the country (or soon to be), energized for the moms with new responsibilities and challenges everyday, and interested in the things people are learning in schools and jobs and ministries around the country. They’re just not home. I ridicule the texting culture, for what it has done to social lives and the English language. But the teenagers I know who text, have friends that will communicate with them at all hours. My friends are so busy, and of my opinion about texting!

There’s a different kind of loneliness, and more profound. After all, in most circumstances, I can find people, and engage in conversation. There’s blogging and reading blogs, usually a one-sided conversation either way. Where I feel the impact of loneliness the most, though, is when I am surrounded by people and voices believing and advocating things with which I disagree. Such was the case this morning.

Last Friday I heard on the radio the eager rumors spreading that John McCain had selected the governor of Alaska to be his running mate. I was excited, as I have said, to find out about Sarah Palin, to have the thrill of being the first to report facts I heard or read to the less initiated. However, I had no intention of voting for McCain, even with this selection. If I had agreed more with the policies of McCain, believed him to be truly pro-life and of good honest character, a man who rightly understood and upheld the Constitution, the pick of a wife and mother for Vice President would have rattled my willingness to vote for him.

Since the announcement confirming her candidacy, the media has worked overtime to find information on this unknown political figure. Naturally they choose the juiciest and most controversial items to publish first and loudest. And I don’t want to be a part of attacking a candidate and holding them accountable for the mistakes of their family. I do, however, wish to make a wise judgment on the capabilities of a candidate. The way a person parents their children is an indicator of their leadership, and so facts about their level of success in raising moral and obedient children ought to be considered.

Additionally, those who for years have been promoting the feminist agenda are scrambling so much for a word against Sarah Palin that they argue she ought not take such a big job as the vice presidency because she would necessarily be neglecting her five young children. These people are using the position as an ad hominem. I would make the case on principle, principles I have held and by which I have tried to live for years.

I have a list of reasons why Sarah Palin should not be the Vice President. Most of them have to do with being female. Am I anti-woman? Absolutely not. I believe women are given a calling to be influencers and helpers rather than leaders, and that they are most effective and the people being led and influenced are better off when women fulfill that role and men are the leaders and representatives. This is arguably the structure on which our federal representative government was founded. That America has as of yet not wholly abandoned the model in their representative government has spoken to the preservation granted America’s morality and faith as a result of the conviction of its earliest pilgrims and statesmen. The rest of the world has abandoned male leadership in the family and the state, simultaneously departing from a representative government and moving to a socialist mommy state system.

Am I inconsistent? No. In the past week I have heard Palin supporters demand, “Would you tell a woman she can’t be CEO of a company because she has a family?” Of course if I were doing the hiring, I would not hire a woman to neglect her family in order to give feminine leadership to a business. But I have no CEO for which I am making decisions, and I do have a vote and a voice in this election. I will not be responsible for putting Governor Palin in power, even though she is a good person.

She is a good person, I believe. Her whole life has been spent as a feminist, though, and she’s been so busy running after achievements that there has been no time to consider whether the towers of her life are built on the same worldview that she claims to believe. McCain knew exactly what he was doing in nominating her. If people ask me what I think of the choice, my one word answer is “Strategic.” She is female to appeal to women, both “conservative” women and disenchanted former Hillary supporters. At 44, her youth counters both Barak Obama’s appeal to students and twenty-somethings, and arguments that McCain is dangerously old for office. Her experience as a governor outweighs any other executive experience offered in this campaign. Governor Palin has a large family, and has been married (unlike McCain) to the same person her whole adult life. By confession, she is pro-life. Her policies as governor were fiscally responsible and pro-reform. We all witnessed her speaking abilities Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention. And lately the big campaign issue has been energy independence and costs, on which she has long held what recently became an astoundingly popular position.

McCain, as I said, knew what he was doing. He also knows that she is the complement to his less popular ideas. She is, he believes, his ticket to getting conservatives to vote for him. He is using her to manipulate us, the grass roots Republicans who have been feeling pretty abandoned in recent years. Enjoy this campaign while it lasts; I say we’re liable to feel pretty abandoned again come February. McCain will still be the president, proudly going his own way on his own wisdom which he has demonstrated is in opposition to some values that are very important to me. If he was unacceptable as president before, he remains unacceptable. Choosing Governor Palin was not a sign of a change of heart in the presidential candidate: pragmatic as ever, he was making a shrewd move to buy your vote.

A great number of people have been dissatisfied with McCain as the only apparent representative of Judeo-Christian values this election cycle. In that I did not feel lonely. But I was surprised by an even greater number of people who put SIGNIFICANT differences aside in order to endorse, campaign for, and cheer John McCain. All they want is to see a Republican in office rather than a democrat, rather than Barak Obama. Acting out of fear and under manipulation, these true conservatives are willing to “Get drunk and vote for McCain,” as Ann Coulter says. So much excitement at the Republican National Convention bodes well for the Republican ticket, and very badly for the greater of goods. Why are people so pleased to be voting for the lesser of two evils? Our country was founded with the opportunity to vote for the greater of many goods.

So I feel lonely now, abandoned even by most of the formerly dissatisfied voters. When I turn on talk radio, or read editorials from places like Townhall, they are filled without exception with promotions of Sarah Palin and defenses of her womanhood and parenthood. These havens of logical thought and biblical values have begun to vehemently criticize and rile against the stand I have taken for femininity. Though I found a handful of Christian blogs (Doug Phillips, Voddie Baucham, Generation Cedar, Ladies Against Feminism) sharing my views, I still feel very lonely.

Those of us who agree (same position, same reasons) on the issue of women in government, have begun resigning ourselves to being radical right-wing fundamentalists. Funny, since these values are those that were mainstream Christian tenets as little as sixty years ago. What has happened to cause the middle ground to shift so far away from us? Have those changes been good or bad? (The answer to the last question depends on your standard. If you think the goal of society is to achieve equality between men and women, the past fifty years has been very productive in the short term. However, reality and truth will ultimately win out. We will reap what we sow, and no amount of aiming for or pretending to equality will actually produce it. Those who usurp the created order will end up in worse situations, even by their own standards.)

My radical right-wing fundamentalist case against and concerns for Sarah Palin as vice president are as follows:

  • Women are created to submit. God made the world this way, and revealed it in His word. Evidence bears this out as true and effective. A world in which women are in charge (much like our own) has serious inter-generational issues resulting in psychological instability and even death. Don’t believe me? See the next point.
  • Sarah Palin’s pro-life example is promoted as being something abnormal. It is abnormal according to today’s statistics, but it ought not be abnormal. Going through with a pregnancy is not heroic. It is natural. The fact that millions of babies die each year legally and for convenience is a sign of decay well associated with the break down in the family and the abandonment of nurturing and education of their own children by women.
  • Women are emotional and social by nature. God made us to sympathize and nurture, to meet needs like hunger and shelter. The Proverbs 31 woman even extended her hand to the poor in these areas. When women run governments (or even participate in elections), the emphasis of government is diverted from justice and defense to social causes that ought to belong to individuals, households, and churches. I hope that the danger to a nation with less interest in justice and defense is evident to you all.
  • Families need moms. Todd Palin’s family needs Sarah. They need her to nurture and guide them, to support Todd and unburden him with household affairs that he may fulfill his role as man, husband, and father. As possible evidence of the effect of Sarah’s feminist choices so far, her seventeen year old daughter rebelled against her parents’ principles and became pregnant out of wedlock. There is forgiveness for that, and the Palins are offering it. There ought also to be support and direction, restoration of the young woman. Who is offering that?
  • Along the same lines, the Palin family has utterly sacrificed their privacy. The youngest daughter, Piper, seems to be enjoying the life of a celebrity, waving like a little movie star and smiling shyly at cameras, all while trying to help with her baby brother. Child stars have rough lives. How healthy is it to expose the good and bad and neutral choices of all to the critical eye of the media and public? Is blame for any hurt to be laid entirely on the public? I don’t think so. As I said before, the conduct of children is an indicator of the responsibility of a parent. The Bible requires the children of deacons and elders to be obedient and under control. Why is this except that the behavior of children is relevant to the leadership of the parent?
  • As a member of “Feminists for Life,” Sarah Palin is promoting circular reasoning. Feminism promotes abortion – yes, inherently. When women are made to believe that work and public achievement is as valid a goal if not more so than being a wife and a mom, children are robbed of their high and exclusive place in the attention of women. Once devalued, the slope is slippery in leading to abortion. Also women who deny that God created them fundamentally to be wives and mothers will be much more tempted to use their sexuality in immoral ways. Promoting abstinence and abstinence education as she does, Sarah Palin is being inconsistent with the values of feminism, which asserts choice above goodness.
  • Sarah Palin, by being a mayor, a governor, and a vice presidential candidate, is promoting feminism, a fundamentally anti-God, counter-biblical philosophy, to an emerging generation of young women.
  • Though she is forty four, Governor Palin just gave birth to a baby boy. At such an age that was considered a high risk pregnancy, and the risks were produced in a handicapped child. For these reasons, Todd and Sarah may already have plans to prevent future fertility. Is this biblical? Surely their decision will also be influenced by the difficulties of pregnancy while holding public office. Is that fair?
  • What if she does get pregnant, then, while vice president of the United States? It isn’t as though she can appoint a regent, or take a maternity leave. She already risked Trig during her last pregnancy by taking an airplane three days before her due date and returning home in labor during the flight. No doubt there would be more obligations to fulfill than a voluntary speech, were she vice president.
  • John McCain betrayed his first wife for Cindy (his wife of nearly thirty years now), a beautiful woman twenty years his junior. Now he has voluntarily chosen a woman he named his “soul mate” to serve in intense team situations, who is beautiful and ten years younger than his wife, Cindy. Granted, he’s in his seventies. Isn’t this playing with fire?
  • The vice president has some specific jobs granted by the Constitution, and most of Sarah Palin’s qualifications have little to do with the responsibilities enumerated there. She would, if elected, be first in line to the presidency behind a man whose health and age give reason to believe in its frailty. And a vice president is offered a position of counsel to the president. How much he depends on her views will be entirely up to him. What I’m saying is that all of Sarah Palin’s conservative values may be wasted on the vice presidency, should John McCain choose to ignore them.
  • What is Todd Palin supposed to do? There are many conflicts between his position as head of the household and her aspired-to role as second in command in the United States. I think he would be expected to move to Washington, D.C., and take care of the kids and grandchild. And certainly the couple discussed the possibilities before his wife accepted the nomination. But I think that for him to defer to his wife as leader would be wrong, and for the kids to be given almost entirely to the care of the father and professionals would be unhealthy.
  • Finally, just as I find it confusing and isolating that liberals wish to attack Palin on the same grounds that cause concern in me, the double appeal to evangelicals and Hillary feminists is suspicious. Are our standards so low that we can agree with Hillary supporters on a candidate whose qualifications and expectations are deep and varied? Can a stream give fresh and salt water?

The loneliness I feel saddens me. So much of our world is suffering. First of all this is because our world needs the gospel. Life comes from Jesus, who died as substitute for us, who have earned the wrath of God for our sins. Repentance from sin is the solution to these problems. There is also common grace given to those who function in the world as God designed. They sow and reap, for God made the earth to yield harvest in that way. They marry and bear children, for God created humans that way. Yet our world suffers because we are too foolish even to acknowledge the way the world properly works. In our mass rebellion against all things instituted by God, we have cut the floor out from under ourselves. I see everywhere hurting people, people who have no imagination that there is anything better than the existence they have experienced. I speak up today to direct people back to some of the principles by which God created society to work. As always, I pray that my words will direct people to the wise God who loved us even while we rebelled against His ways and Himself. How marvelous. That is the only hope I have for our nation. It is the hope I cling to for myself.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Are we making Progress in Iraq?

A lot of people still think America is mired in an endless conflict in Iraq. If you asked them what they want to happen, they'd say they want our troops to come home. When asked how we ought to leave Iraq, most agree we should let the Iraqis take responsibility for their defense and government. Of course this is everyone's object.

Since skirmishes and attacks in Iraq stopped producing sensational signs of violence and death, the media has decided to fail in its essential role of informing you - though they must know themselves - that not only do our troops remain in Iraq; they are changing the status quo. Dozens of soldiers are not dying each month. And in fact, more and more provinces are being surrendered to the official control and defense of the Iraqis.

Joel Rosenberg wrote "Victory in Anbar." Anbar, that province where deployed soldiers dreaded going because there was so much unrest, is a huge province just this month turned over to Iraq. The map he includes is a vivid picture of the immense progress we are making in Iraq.

On a related note, I saw ABC's review of the Republican National Convention yesterday and George Stephanopolis was saying that President Bush is a drag on John McCain's campaign, but handled his appearance at the convention rather well. I still think that President Bush is better than John McCain (just as I thought when John McCain was running against him in the primaries eight years ago). But I wonder how many people share my opinion. And I don't know what makes President Bush so completely unpopular. People cite Iraq, but that doesn't even make sense. Since September 11's attacks on the United States, seven years have passed without any further terrorist attacks executed on our soil. Since we went to war in Iraq, we have won the war, caught/tried/executed Sadaam Hussein, and made significant progress toward establishing a stable democratic rule in Iraq - all under the administration of President George W. Bush, working against a hostile media and for the last several years, a hostile and lazy congress. Give him credit.

To God be all glory.

Monday, September 01, 2008

This is Unacceptable

Russia has announced that South Ossetia, the province of Georgia which Russia recently invaded, will join Russia within a few years. So much less than ending hostilities and removing troops from the territory of Georgia, Russia is now essentially claiming that land for itself. I don't understand how a country can be forced to cease-fire and still win all the advantages. Again, strong action must be taken.

If Russia is allowed to annex South Ossetia, what's to stop them from including Alaska in their territory? I mean, there are probably ethnic groups in Alaska related to ancient Russians. If they want to leave the unpopular United States, Russia would help them, wouldn't it? The whole argument of ethnic unity is a farse. Russia obviously contains many different ethnic groups in its vast territory, and is rather more interested in including more people groups in its empire than fragmenting that which is "theirs" already.

Large united forces are hard to beat. And it is a good strategy to divide one's enemies. Russia has effectively sliced Georgia into pieces, leaving her weak and proving to Georgia that the world has no intention of coming to its aid. The excuse of defending ethnic minorities being debunked, one is left to ask why Russia is really adding South Ossetia to its land, complete with military posts. Did they just need an extra hundred square miles or so of land? Of course not. Putin has the ambition of taking over all of friendless Georgia in order to solidify his alliance with the Islamic nations to the South.

The definition of nation is at stake, along with the sovereignty of all countries today. Don't overlook this!

Thanks to Joel Rosenberg for the link and some of the insight.

To God be all glory.