Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Execution Caught on Camera Phone

Saddam Hussein's execution by hanging was apparently caught with a camera phone by one of the witnesses and was downloaded to the internet shortly after. I found a link to this and viewed it a dozen times or so. It isn't very graphic as the video and sound quality of camera phones aren't great anyway, and the academy award nominee didn't hold the phone very steady. But you can see him drop through the floor, and a bit later below the platform you can see his head and the noose. I can't be quite sure whether he is swinging by the noose or if the camera is swinging by the arm of the camera person. At the end it's dark and what appears to be a camera flash shows him hanging by the noose. You might be a bit more motion sick from the unsteadiness of the camera than from watching somebody die.

I'll do my postmodern, radical individualist, nosy blogger's duty and post the link. Ultra-squeamish and self-righteous need not click thru. Principled abstainers also.

My wife and I were wondering if somehow his hanging would be staged or concealed and he might still be alive in some tropical resort somewhere. Maybe one of his decoy doubles was hanged and he's really with Hitler, Elvis and Jim Morrison drinking a pina colada.

Ecclesiology: Should We Walk By Faith Or By Sight?

Andrew Sandlin will shortly be releasing a new book titled, "Un-Inventing the Church: Toward a Modest Ecclesiology." Since I'm not an avid book reader, I'm usually not very excited about new books. This is an exception. I made a comment on his blog about the upcoming book, and I will expand on it in this post. I wrote:

The relationship of Christ to church - as head to body - is foundational to the NT. In my view, one of ecclesiology’s foundational problems is wrangling with the question of the authority with respect to pastor, pastor-teacher, elder, priest, presbyter, bishop, cardinal, pope, etc, in how they relate to the church. Are they members of the body just like everybody else, with special ministerial duties, or are they members of the head, with magisterial duties? Are they servants or are they overlords? A combination of the two?

Answering this question is a must if we are to "do church" according to God's will. Both ideas have been with us throughout church history, and are with us today. If church leaders are members of the body, then they have the same standing before Christ that everybody else does. They have gifts that are employed for the purpose of helping God's sheep. They are imperfect and make mistakes. They need humility just like everybody else. They themselves can be the recipients of exhortation, admonition, rebuke and correction from those who are not leaders.

If church leaders are members of the head, that is Christ, then because Christ is perfect, there will be aspects of church leadership - what they believe, what they say, what they decide, what they instruct - that will be infallible, perfect, binding, final and beyond either criticism or appeal.

I stand on the former view. Church leaders have duties that are ministerial, not magisterial. They are servants, not overlords. This is also very important for the argument that the church holds the keys to the kingdom. Does the church use the keys to open the door for those God would have go in, or does it use the keys to open to only those who it says can go in? Does it get to decide who is in the kingdom?

With regard to "church discipline" in Matthew 18, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." Many use this argument to say that whatever the church decides, Christ has already decided in heaven. They're right. But some would believe that because of their view of authority within the church, that the church is correct. But Jesus never said the church would always be correct. If the church excommunicates somebody, it could very well be that the individual is not in sin, but the church is, and that Jesus already decided for that individual not to remain a part of a sinning church. The blind man in John 9 would be an example. So would Martin Luther.

I think one reason for the view of magisterial duties for leaders is that some people simply cannot fathom the idea that the church's head is in heaven and cannot be seen. He rules His people through His word; He is in control and we walk according to faith. But they need to see the authority in the flesh, so they embody it in an institutional concept of the church.

Should we walk by faith, knowing that Christ rules actively, or should we walk by sight by requiring a human ecclesial political structure?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mis-Reading The Ninth Commandment

"Thou shalt not bear false witness" - The Ninth Commandment - Exodus 20:16

Many, many Christians would agree with the above statement. It is from God, after all, and should be obeyed. It is applied to life in so many different ways. It is used by preachers, teachers, parents, friends, authors, commentators and many Christians in general to remind us to always tell the truth. As Christians we should be truthful in our speech. In fact, it is sometimes used to tell us not to conceal part of the truth either.

But, do you see anything wrong with the above quote from Scripture? Astute grammarians might rightly note that I left out the period at the end of the quote. The quote above is a complete sentence after all. But I left out the period for a reason. The reason is because the above is only a part of the Ninth Commandment. It is a truncated version, and sadly, far too much of our popular theology comes from this taking away from God's Word. Taking away from God's Word is prohibited. So let me now quote the Ninth Commandment in its entirety:

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

Notice the difference? God does not give us a blanket prohibition of bearing false witness, merely the bearing of false witness against our neighbor to his harm. I've heard many debates amongst Christians as to whether it is ever okay for a Christian (or anybody for that matter) to ever utter something that isn't perfectly true. Even when instances of believers telling lies in the bible are brought up, then further backing that up with God's blessings upon them for lying as a part of faith, many Christians can't see the righteousness of the situation.

Rahab lied to save the skin of the spies, and is set forth as an example of faith. Yet many Christians, completely indoctrinated with a false view of the Ninth Commandment, still label her action as sin. Oh, yes, they say, God used her sin in accomplishing His purposes, but even that never grants us the authority to sin. The Hebrew midwives lied to the Egyptians to save the lives of newborn babies. God pronounced His blessings upon them! But why?

There's something our popular theology is missing. Let me ask this question: if somebody wants a piece of truthful information from us in order to commit an act of evil, is it our responsibility to give them that truth? Or what if not answering at all or giving wavering body language tips that person off to the answer? Is it still our responsibility to not lie? Well, of course not. If telling a lie or "untruth" thwarts evil intentions of others, have we sinned? If God's own words of blessings in the bible aren't enough to help us answer this question, nothing else will.

Then there are the things that are nobody else's business. Even close Christian friends, sometimes. We have no responsibility to inform anybody else of anything that will lead to evil. Jesus instructed us to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, and there's a reason He chose to use the serpent in His instruction.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Most Reformed of All

Different Protestant denominations have had varying degrees of departure from the theology and practice of the medieval Roman Catholic church toward "pure Christianity," which would be a completed Reformation. I'd like to look at various denominations to show how far they've turned from Rome (in ascending order), and will give their progress in percentages.

First, the Roman Catholic church. They're still unreformed so the progress looks like this:

Roman Catholic score: 100% Catholic - 0% Christian.
Next, Anglican and Episcopalian. These folks recognized the Reformation to some degree, but still retained quite a few Roman distinctives like infant baptism, priestly robes, liturgy and church hierarchy. The only difference between these two churches is English accent vs. American accent.

Anglican and Episcopalian score: 75% Catholic - 25% Christian
Next, Lutheran. Some of the same as Anglicans and Episcopalian, but they've come a bit further, especially in pseudo-Reformed theology.

Lutheran score: 50% Catholic - 50% Christian
Next, Presbyterian. They've done away with the half-baked Catholic views of Lutheranism on communion, but still sprinkle babies, and sometimes wear robes and have stained glass.

Presbyterian score: 26% Catholic - 74% Christian
Next, Christian Reformed. They basically hold the same thing as Presbyterianism, but just slightly lighter on the church hierarchy.

Christian Reformed score: 25% Catholic - 75% Christian
Last, Baptist. These folks have shed every thread of Catholicism. No baby baptism, no preachers wearing robes, no stained glass, no bread turning into Jesus just because a priest says so, no demon alcohol, no church hierarchy whatsoever. Just me, Jesus and my bible. And my quiet time. The greatest deviation from Rome there is.

Baptist score: 0% Catholic - 100% Republican
Thus we have a complete picture of church life in America today. PTL and you betcha.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas' Economic and Moral Lessons

Lew Rockwell posts this gem about the reality of the Christmas story. It's truly a shame that the realities in which biblical characters lived are rarely mentioned in our church culture, whether from the pulpit, Sunday school or general reading. And sometimes sentimental legends are tacked on to the story. Rockwell, for example, rebuffs the idea of Joseph and Mary traveling from inn to inn.

I can think of a few more. I've always had the picture painted for me that Jesus was poor. Dirt poor. You know, "birds have nests and foxes have holes, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." An extension of this is the idea that self-inflicted poverty is some kind of Christian virtue. It's odd that we tend to think of Him as poor. After all, he received gold, frankincense and myrrh. From nobility and royalty, no less. A number of times I've heard that contrary to popular opinion shaped by our Christmas stories there would have been far more than three travelers that sought the newborn King. Ancient customs would tip us off that there would have been a delegation of dozens or maybe even hundreds. Historical realities of this nature are only slightly helpful, however, because the more important implications are ignored.

Ancient customs would also direct us to believe that royalty in search of a newborn king would have showered Him with gifts. The amount of gold and spices would have been unfathomable to the average person. In contemporary vernacular, Jesus would have been an instant millionaire. Dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking rich. Just read the chronicle books to discover how kings, like David and Solomon and their peers, treated each other. Ever wonder where that vial of perfume came from that was applied to His feet with that woman's hair? The disciples were indignant at the waste and my center margin notes tell me that it would have been worth a year's wages. That's about 40 G's today, blue-collarly speaking. My revised view of Jesus as being rich sheds new light on how I view Him and His attitudes about people around Him, and has changed how I view my own life.

Another one is Joseph's and Mary's travel to Bethlehem. I've also had a picture painted for me that they were these wonderful, righteous believers who showed their Christian virtue of obedience to the government, floating over the roads a few feet off the ground, with halos and angelic choirs singing in the background, the sun's rays beaming through the clouds. Nonsense. They were terrified people who didn't want their lives turned into a much greater hell by tyrants. I've heard that the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem was long and grueling. This is the last place I'd want to escort a pregnant woman. It was no afternoon cruise down the PCH listening to the Beach Boys. My wife is pregnant and it's enough just getting her to church and back.

God is merciful, political tyrants are not. God's general requirement for worship in the OT was to bring an offering to Jerusalem. If you lived too far away, God would set up a more convenient place. Kinda like FedEx does with their express drop-off boxes. Convenient for the ones you're dealing with. But it seems from the bible that each person was mandated to travel to the city of family origin to register. I stated above that Joseph and Mary didn't obey because it was supposedly the right thing to do, but because they probably feared for their lives. I'm fairly sure of this because only a little while later, Herod tried to murder their son, and did murder many other children.

I've often wondered that if in eternity God would show us a video history of history. If we really knew what life was like, what Paul's face looked like, how tall Noah was, etc, would we be shocked? I'm sure we would be surprised.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

One Foggy Christmas Eve

As part of family tradition, we spend Christmas Eve with my wife's family near Sacramento. It's not quite an hour and a half drive. We have dinner in the early evening and with kids we try to leave by 9pm. I need a coffee to make it home that late, so I've taken to getting a Starbuck's frapuccino for the drive.

All day, and night, the weather was great. Temps in the 30's to low 40's and foggy. Not foggy enough to cause driving hazards, but enough to know it's foggy. On the way home, a train passed by on the tracks which run parallel to the freeway, about 50 yards away. It was off on the right side, headed for Sac, and its lights pierced through the fog. This effect created a silhouette of the train, and the combination was surreal. It was a wonderful sight and feeling and it's too bad everybody else was asleep. I love fog.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Music

It's a shame that some of the best hymns of the faith are reserved for only one twelfth of the year. Christmas in July, anyone?

Twisted Sister Adores Jesus

I just saw a very inspiring piece of music on TV - and NO, I'm not making this up! - 80's hair metal band "Twisted Sister" just performed a thrashing version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It was done in the same vein as their greatest hit, "We're Not Going To Take It." As they performed it, I couldn't help but notice how much the two melodies have in common. And they didn't twist any words, but stayed true to the lyrics, and it was quite obvious that no parody or sarcasm were intended. So hearing Dee Snider belt out, with convincing enthusiasm, "O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!" gave me a rush.

Many times in the bible God says that all of creation will praise Him. Jesus claimed that even the stones would cry out if the children didn't. I have no idea if Dee or any other members of the band are Christians, but if they can sing such a great piece of music with heart and energy, I can really enjoy it. Thanks, Dee and Co.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I guess a backlog of blogging ideas could be a "backblog." I have so much I want to write about, but little time. A career, a family with another one on the way, long commute, etc, has delayed some things. I'd really like to continue at a faster pace on my "Re-Thinking Romans 13" series, and start my "Re-Thinking Church Membership" series. I also want to post regarding rent control, carpool lanes, privacy, the "regulative principal of worship," and do much more at my baseball blog. Christmas vacation?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blogroll Addition: Blessed Economist

It's not too common when I run across a blogsite where I agree with most of the theology, economics and politics written about by the author. Many of the sites on my blogroll contain some things I don't agree with, or things I haven't thought through, or contain many other types of topics.

So I am adding the Blessed Economist to my links section. It's refreshing to hear his views with such an uncomplicated process from presupposition to conclusion, without a 1000 page volume to tread water through. I found him through Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner.

Post-Modern Christmas Gifts

All the great stuff our culture has brought us in the last ten years, "extreme" anything, "reality" TV shows, etc, are all very interesting. In light of this, here's a list of what I think would make good Christmas presents.

  • Extreme Anatomy Barbie
  • On DVD: "Winnie The Pooh Goes to Vegas"
  • Desperate Housewives Action Figures
  • Survivor, Berkeley - Home Version

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Am "Personal Quiet Time" Challenged - or - The Tyranny of The Personal Quiet Time Mongers

I just came across this at Chalcedon's blog section of their website. I'm thankful to see such a critique of one of pietistic Protestantism's sacred cows, the "personal quiet time." It is pointed out that the personal quiet time is nowhere commanded in Scripture, nor even shown as an example, yet it is put forth as one of the top barometers of spiritual life. I can testify to this fact quite readily. Just last night in our "home group" bible study, several people talked about struggling with keeping up their quiet time, and one claimed to realize that our acceptance with God is not based upon our works so even when she missed her personal quiet time, she could still know she was accepted by God.

A couple of months ago at an initial meeting for a men's ministry, a questionnaire was given out to determine how our lives were lived. All kinds of questions were asked, and many were the wrong questions, and therefore unanswerable, so "wrong" answers were guaranteed to come from me. Many were scaled answers rated from zero to 10. One of the most important was about "personal quiet time." I answered with a zero, and wrote my own note that said I don't believe that a "personal quite time" as taught by evangelicals was necessary for the Christian life.

Don't get me wrong. If somebody has this type of discipline, then fine. Good for them. But I don't. I pray, I read the bible, and God knows I sit quietly for periods of time, but it doesn't mesh like I've been taught at all. But it's held over people's heads as a form of guilt manipulation. I'm glad I've discovered this and now I rejoice that I'm spared this tyranny.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm A Radical Individualist Shot Down In Flames

Commenters at, in reaction to Kevin Johnson's posting a snip of one of my blog posts, skewered me for mis-using Luther's priesthood of believers doctrine among other things. My attempt to show Protestantism's duplication of many of medieval Rome's despised errors also brought about some pretty wild speculations, warnings and general goofiness on behalf of the commenters. I learned quite a bit about myself that I doubt my wife even knows.

I have a misconception of Luther's doctrine (comments #1 and #3), am headed for "house church" theology (#2), wrote a troubling post, have some kind of problem attitude, and am implied as being a radical individualist (#3), but the spirit of my post is what is important (thanks for noticing, Kevin! [Edit. Kevin was the poster]) (#5), am attributed - incorrectly - with saying that every [Protestant] pastor has begun to speak "ex cathedra" (#6), in combating the error of the tyranny of the community I have introduced the opposite error of tyranny of the individual (#7) haven't thought things through to their conclusions (#7), am alledged - incorrectly - with saying that the highest authority in existence is the individual (#8) - (which would of course make me God), and by extension "walk[s] with all the glory of a Metropolitan, each one with his own, custom-made, paper mache mitre stapled to his hair." (#8), and another commenter (#10) agrees whole-heartedly with comments 6 and 7.

Whoa, am I messed up! One commenter (#3) believes that my understanding "of of the point of the Reformation relative to the private individual is, though quite a common one held by Protestants, historically and theologically inaccurate." Now, he may have a point here. I admit that my understanding of Luther here is solely based upon what I have learned from my churches and accepted literature. So, maybe I should go outside of my community and, in the spirit of radical individualism, learn for myself about what Luther really believed. But of course, as these commenters proved, such an attitude is destructive, so maybe I'll just hold to what my churches have taught me and stand by everything I said in my post.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Power and Corruption

It is often said that power corrupts. But is this really true? Does power corrupt, or, conversely, does corruption seek power? Maybe we've all looked at this from the wrong angle. Maybe power simply reveals a hidden and already existent corruption.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lyrical Revelations

Being that rock music's lyrics are hard to understand, only on occasion - maybe once a year - do some muddled lyrics in a familiar song suddenly become clear to me. It's usually when I merely hear the song but am not concentrating on the words.

Well, today I had a major revelation of lyrics. Four times in the space of an hour I had lyric revelations, three times in one song in the space of ten minutes, and one time in another song. The first song was "Rock and Roll Band" on the self-titled debut album from Boston. This is probably my favorite album of all time, or at least one of the top three, and I've heard it a million times over the last 30 years. My first revelation came while I was concentrating on my project at work and had some tunes on. The other two came while I was double checking the first; I was concentrating on only the words I thought I had revealed, so I was merely hearing the other words. Of course this is exactly when I hear words for the first time.

The revelations were in order in the following lyric string: 1) car radio, 2) man, 3) Rhode, in "Playin' for a week in Rhode Island - A man came to the stage one night - He smoked a big cigar - Drove a Cadillac car - And said, Boys, I think this bands outta-sight - Sign a record company contract - You know I've got great expectations - When I hear you on the car radio - You're goin' to be a sensation!" Thanks to this link from The words "car radio" and "man" I had no idea what they said, but for 30 freaking years I heard "playing for a week in LONG Island," wondering why Boston was in New York before they made it big. Now the fourth revelation I can't remember, but I'll be listening again.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Adoptive Parents Are Suspected Terrorists

Shortly after we adopted our youngest child almost two years ago, my wife and I discovered that, thanks to the Patriot Act and various other regulations created by Homeland Security, adoptive parents are now suspected terrorists. We were put on a no-obtaining-of-documents list, similar to the no-fly lists we hear about in the news. We were prohibited from directly obtaining official documents for our very own child, even after the adoption was complete. The only workaround was to secure the services of an attorney that could lobby on our behalf to obtain any necessary documents.

Long ago I decided that I would do the utmost I could to live my entire life without ever using the services of a lawyer. So much for that. I compromised on my principles and decided that keeping my son was more important.

Then, after we received the paperwork from the state, we were required to immediately return the paperwork to the state so that they could confirm that the documents were legitimate before they returned them to us. Yes, you read it right. All this screwed up our taxes and tied up thousands of dollars of our own money for quite some time, with some still being tied up.

How interesting that the political party in control of both houses and the white house when the Patriot Act was passed claims to be the "Pro-Family" party. Well, I'd like to thank them again publicly for being so pro-family to us. I already thanked them in private on November 7th.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dead Blogging Weekend

My blogroll of favorite sites (more than the ones just shown on my blog links) were extremely quiet this Thanksgiving weekend. Out of the dozens, I think only two had any posts at all. Maybe everybody was with family, out of town, half sussed, totally sussed, away from the computer or maybe something else altogether. I hope everybody enjoyed their time. Happy belated Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Counting the Cost of the "War On Terror"

"For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace." Luke 14:28-32.

Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner posted a short piece that links to a lengthy, detailed defense (by Orson Scott Card) of Bush's noble "war on terror", and asks opponents of the war to read the article and consider how Christians can sincerely support it. Then, if we still disagree, he wants to hear opinions as to why. I've read the article several times and, contra Gene, am more convinced of the wrongness of the war as a result of reading the article. Here's why.

I'm not going to deal with the morality of a generic war on terror, or even other potential wars or types of wars against it in Iraq and Afghanistan, but of the Bush war specifically. The above passage from the bible is one that Jesus used in reference to counting the cost of being one of His disciples. But since He used obvious earthly principles as applications to spiritual realities, they are valid here as well. Much is made in this article of necessary support of the war from both Congress and the American people. The lack of or withdrawal of support will doom the whole effort, and the end result will be worse than what we started with. I don't disagree with that at all. It also points to our kicking ass in Germany and Japan in WWII because of an unwavering commitment, and the result is two free, economic superpowers that benefit the world. It also points to our wavering in Vietnam and the first Gulf war and the eventual withdrawals resulted not only in defeat, but of defeat of our allies:

As happened in South Vietnam. The negotiated peace was more or less holding after American withdrawal. But then a Democratic Congress refused to authorize any further support for the South Vietnamese government. No more armaments. No more budget.

In other words, we forcibly disarmed our allies, while their enemies continued to be supplied by the great Communist powers. The message was clear: Those who rely on America are fools. We didn't even have the decency to arrange for the evacuation of the people who had trusted us and risked the most in supporting what they thought was our mutual cause.

We did it again, this time in the Muslim world, in 1991, when Bush Senior encouraged a revolt against Saddam. He meant for the senior military officers to get rid of him in a coup; instead, the common people in the Shiite south rose up against Saddam.

Bush Senior did nothing as Saddam moved in and slaughtered them. [Emphasis mine]

With a Democratic takeover of both houses, and a promise to do what it takes to withdraw our troops, and severely waning support from the American people, we stand just two years away from also a possible Democrat as president. Also, as the article points out, a war on terror could last for decades and in many more countries than just Iraq and Afghanistan. Now for the rub. Wasn't all this part of the Bush administration's counting of the cost of the war on terror? If not, why not? Conservatives are as of this election year criticizing the Democrats as a party that would purposely sabotage this war effort, severely compromise America's future and leave it ripe for future attacks from terrorists. Would Democrats do this just to gain a political twisting of the knife in the Elephant's side? Of course they would. They're Democrats. And Republicans have not only known this for decades, but they remind us every chance they get.

Yet the Bush administration counted them in as supporters in the war on terror. Every last Republican on Capitol Hill and every Democrat save one supported this initially. So did about 90% of the American people. But was his memory so short as to what happened to his father? One simple broken promise on taxes brought about a monumental crash of support for Bush the First. If he had only kept this one simple promise, the world may never have heard about Bill - or Hillary - Clinton.

If the Democrats are so untrustworthy and the American people are so fickle and have such an instant gratification, video game mentality, then how could they be counted on for continued support in such a war? If this current war strategy is going to be successful, it will need full-blown, unwavering, committed bipartisan and popular support for several decades. I can't think of a single thing in American political history that has enjoyed such support, so why would anybody think something would suddenly attain to this lofty necessity? Yet Bush pledged this support - no, he promised this support - but in reality, because of our political system, he had only a maximum of two years political support from both houses, only six years of his own oversight, and only enough popular support to last until tomorrow's headlines. In short, Bush relied on America in counting the long term cost of such a war. And as I highlighted from the article, (notice the irony here), "those who rely on America are fools." He promised something that was impossible to deliver.

This brings me to address the foolishness of a military solution to terrorism. We kicked ass in WWII because Hitler and Japan were engaged in a military conquest of the world. We also had a stake in it as a nation because both countries declared war against us first. Fire could be fought with fire. Vietnam, Korea and the Gulf are somewhat different because we had no direct defensive reason to win a military war, even though it could still be possible. But this current "war" waged by the "terrorists" isn't the same kind of war. It needs to be fought in a completely different way. It's funny how conservative supporters of this war continually warn of a misunderstanding of what radical Islam and terrorism are about and how they operate, but fall back on a military solution.

Another puzzling thing about conservative support for this war is how they fail to see it as just another form of a government welfare program. The people are coercively taxed to help some underprivileged group of people somewhere else. Instead of the poor living in inner city ghettos or trailer parks, they're in some other country. Soldiers are the equivalent of social workers. And the "exporting of freedom" is merely a transfer of freedom. The freedom of Iraqis increases while ours decreases through draconian "der Homelander Sekkurity" nonsense. We have enough problems with freedom in our own country. Concentrating on freedom in the Middle East is the political equivalent of removing the dust speck from somebody else's eye while ignoring the national forest in our own.

Even if all the principles behind such a war on terror were morally right, the guaranteed folly in carrying it out the way that it is currently is morally wrong. And all the backlash against American citizens abroad and increased hostility, etc, will be the responsibility of the one who really didn't count the cost as he should have in the first place.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Salvation By Law and Teenage Drinking

James Leroy Wilson, in a post at, comments on a House Bill to stop teenage drinking and says this:

We do not mean to downplay the seriousness of teenage alcohol abuse. But that’s different from teenage drinking. Where alcohol is prohibited, it becomes more alluring to young people who want the freedoms adults have. Moreover, because they’re prohibited even in adult company and with adult supervision, drinking is more likely to get out of hand. The law prevents parents and other adults from teaching kids to drink responsibly. Countries in Western Europe that are more permissive toward teenage drinking have far fewer incidents of abuse and of alcohol-related accidents and deaths.

A deskmate of mine at work was born and raised in Eastern Europe under communism before immigrating here after the iron curtain fell. He says it was common for children, not yet even teenagers, to be sent to the store by their parents to buy beer and cigarettes.

In the bible, children (of any age) are instructed to "honor thy father and mother" and "obey your parents." Here in America, the government says, "thou shalt not obey your parents." Like spaghetti? Any good spaghetti sauce recipe I know includes red wine as an ingredient. It won't be intoxicating to anybody because the alcohol will be cooked down. Send your 20 yr/11 month old to the store to pick up dinner... Oops, my mistake. That would be a crime! Shame on me and my kid. And how many responsible married couples aren't yet 21 and can't buy the proper ingredients for dinner?

We live in a society full of self-righteous people who don't bat an eyelash at adding to God's word. Jesus reserved the highest condemnation for such people. Yet politicians are especially prone to this nonsense. And just how successful are our drinking age laws? In my experience, liberals have always pointed out that we are considered adults, have the right to vote and be drafted and killed in the military at 18, but can't drink until 21. They're right. Like Wilson pointed out, laws prevent kids from being trained in responsible behavior. It's at 18 that most kids leave home for college. Guess what age group is the most prone to alcohol problems? It's the 18-21 age group - college underclassmen!

As is always the case, laws that make taboo things that God doesn't result in the greatest problems and in the greatest abuse of the behavior that is the object of control. It is especially problematic when professing Christians get involved. History shows us that a bunch of church ladies created Al Capone through prohibition legislation.

Some things never change. Two thousand years after Jesus warned against the leaven of the Pharisees, we still have Pharisees among us, and it seems they will continue to add to God's word right up until Jesus declares to them, "I never knew you."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Romanticizing the Early Church in Today's American Twilight

Bruce Gerencser at The Hungarian Luddite has posted this on what he thinks of today's church. In it he comments on comparisons between today's church and the church of the book of Acts. Since I've been doing some thinking lately on this comparison and have wanted to post on it, I'll let his post be my spark.

In my circles, there have been many who have complained about how little the American church, American evangelism and American Christians resemble what is read in the book of Acts or the NT epistles. But I've noticed that the most outspoken critics have been those "hyper-spiritual" types who shun not just materialism, but the material as well. They read in Acts how the gospel spread like wildfire, miracles were witnessed, mass conversions occurred, and yes, persecution seemed to be part of daily life for believers. But they have a certain romanticism for the early church times - as if what is recorded in Acts is the only thing there is in life. Because today's circumstances don't match their romantic fantasies, they want out. Some want to travel to third world countries where the gospel hasn't been preached to live out their romances. Don't misunderstand me here, they romanticize not so much about the tactics used by the early church, but romanticize about the outcome. For many of these people, I hope they do get to leave. Life would be better for all of us.

But there are some major, profound reasons why we don't see the early church experience today in America. I wish this were discussed to a much greater extent. Today's America and the early church's Roman Empire are quite different contexts for gospel living. We have completely opposite starting points and are moving in opposite directions. The Roman Empire was in complete gospel darkness. Christ was completely unknown and news to most everybody who heard the good news. Christianity was completely non-existent. Pagan idolatry was life. To the contrary, America had a major Christian foundation based to a great extent on biblical principles and God's law. This from people who came from Europe which already had over a thousand years of Christianity to learn from. Great Christian institutions were part of life, from hospitals to education to civil freedom to the upholding of property rights, etc.

The Roman Empire was a great darkness. Christian ideas were new. America started as a great light. Christian ideas are still so part of life that we take them for granted. In fact, they are so part of our culture that unbelievers don't even recognize most of them as Christian. So when Christians today in America do Christian things, those things are much less recognized as Christian than they would have been in the early church.

Here's an analogy. The early Christians were the stadium lights in a baseball night game played in the darkness of the Roman Empire. The lights were bright enough to allow a game to be played much like during a day game. Today's Christians are the stadium lights turned on for a night game just prior to the setting of the sun. The sun is the Christian foundation of America. It is waning and setting. This twilight situation makes it the most difficult time of the day to see the ball. The stadium lights are fully on and just as bright as they are when it's dark, but haven't taken effect yet because the little sunlight left is still so bright as to nullify the lights.

The romanticists are generally minimalists and fundamentalists who haven't yet figured out how to address our culture and have given up on the task. So they retreat into trying to re-create what they love about the past instead of trying to address the world they live in. Additionally, Americans have heard the gospel mixed with every conceivable perversion, coming from antinomians, legalists, swindlers, idolators, liars and egomaniacs. It has been wrapped in the cheesiest of plaid leisure suit wearing used car salesmen tactics. When Americans hear the gospel, they yawn. The gospel and Christian love are just as simple today as they were in the book of Acts, it's just that the result is more sophisticated because of what kind of culture has been built for us. Bruce is right to feel ill at the institutionalized church. Institutions and bureaucracies are incapable of love; they are soulless abstractions that do fair amounts of damage. Our culture, as a result, doesn't see the love it needs to see in order to believe the true gospel when it hears it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Roses Smelling

Okay, nevermind.

Smelling Roses

My #17 Cal Bears are in the LA Coliseum right now to take on the #4 USC Trojans. A Cal victory will ensure our first Rose Bowl since 1959. Of the 10 teams in the Pac10 and 11 teams in the Big10, Cal has the longest Rose Bowl drought. Only Arizona hasn't been to the Rose Bowl, but then they weren't even added to the Pac10 until 20 years after Cal's last appearance.

My freshman year was the incredible nix of John Elway's last-minute, bowl berth, Heisman Trophy bid, length-of-the-field drive to beat Cal in his last college game. Of course, Elway made maybe the greatest mistake in the history of football when he called time out then looked at the clock, instead of looking at the clock and then calling time out. His blunder left Stanford with 8 seconds to kick a field goal to win. The would-be game winning kick took only 4 seconds, forcing one last technicality of a kickoff. Of course, 5 laterals and running through the Stanford band later, Cal pulled off the greatest play in football history. As sweet as that memory is, we need a Rose Bowl berth today.

Evangelicalism: Protestantism's [Smaller] Rome

The Protestant Reformation railed against what was deemed to be unbiblical excesses of the Roman Catholic church. Power concentrated in the clergy, clergy-laity distinctions, priesthood of priests, the papacy, church leaders speaking ex cathedra - in short, usurpations of authority. The doctrine of the priesthood of believers was promoted to show the actual standing of individual believers before God. Every believer was a priest. But also closely linked were doctrines of family and vocation. These doctrines served to show how "government" (i.e. authority) was de-centralized and that God placed authority in the hands of individuals. Tyranny was replaced with liberty.

But something has happened over the last 400 years in Protestantism to nullify these doctrines. Although it didn't take 400 years, today's typical structure of evangelical ecclesiology reveals it. Oh, the doctrines are still given lip service, but practically they are denied. The pastor is the man in charge, and what he says, goes. In churches that believe in a plurality of elders/pastors, quite often this group of men lord it over the flock. A "priesthood of the clergy" mentality reigns. Instead of the sheep ministering, the pastor is viewed as the minister. Church leaders dictate doctrine to their congregations and require adherence to creeds, confessions, by-laws and statements of faith as requirements for "membership." This is then used against Christians who don't fully agree, even if their views are quite biblical. In essence these leaders are speaking ex cathedra, where the church is the final court of arbitration in all matters, and they forget their "protest" against medieval Rome for the same thing. Leaders control (i.e. lord over) all the ministries of the church and no ministries outside of the institutional structure are legitimized. Even though commands in the bible are given directly to individual believers (e.g. the "one anothers", not the "body anothers"), the churches assume a mediatorial position between gifts of believers and their exercising thereof. The pastor is simply a smaller version of the pope.

Lip service is given to the priesthood of all believers. This doctrine is clearly taught, where each individual is responsible for interpreting Scripture for himself and applying it to his own life - just as long as their conclusions are the same ones reached by the church leadership.

I'm praying for another "protestant" reformation in the church that will result in the freedom for which Christ set us free.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

It's Veteran's Day and I'm Glad I Never Served

Today is "Veteran's Day" and I'm very glad and thankful that I never "served" in the military. I don't have a military bone in my body. A 5:30am bugle is anathema to me. I do pushups only of my own volition. I don't use toilet facilities in full view of others or in a foxhole outdoors. Motel 6 is roughing it, and I prefer soundproof walls and solid porcelain, thank you.

I've been reminded so many times in my life that I fall into the first generation not to be subject to a military draft. I was however coerced with threats of prison (and an unwanted boyfriend named Bubba, no doubt) by our compassionate government to register for the draft on my 18th birthday. The last draft used was for the Vietnam war, and talk revived during the first Gulf war, just short of my being too old. That draft talk was frightening to me then. But it has been revived yet again, and I fear for my sons' freedom when they are old enough to face the same coercion.

The bible is clear in the Old Testament about military service being voluntary. Those who are scared or who are recently married are not to serve. God only wants dedicated volunteers, and I joyfully hold this truth for my country today. The idea of a draft is unbiblical. Even though my father served in the navy and his father in WWI and several other uncles and cousins since then, I never felt any compulsion to serve in any capacity. In fact, my dad told me he would kick my ass if I ever joined. That had no effect, as I would be too scared to go to war anyway. Sorry, warhawks.

But I even held my fear of military service, before my conversion to Christianity, while I was a Republican warhawk. I wanted to nuke Iran in '79 - quite literally - and Iraq in '91. The smart bomb techno war in the Gulf turned me on. I saw several stories about our pilots in their early 20's listening to heavy doses of death laden heavy metal music (my favorite genre at the time) just prior to their sortis that killed thousands. Carpet bombing a hundred thousand Iraqis into another world was quite thrilling to me (their families were just as guilty as Saddam because they dared support their men against the US of A). I never had the slightest problem with civilians being killed, either, because they were just worthless dregs of humanity that could never amount to anything resembling Americans. My pro-death, pro-military attitude was in full force, just as long as somebody else was over there fighting the war.

Today, I still couldn't serve in the military. If my neck of the woods were attacked by an invading foreign power (or a domestic one as well) I could see myself fighting out of necessity, but only in a militia or as a freelance warrior. My tactics, odd as it may seem to most Americans, would be quite similar to those of the "insurgents" in Iraq. I would subject the invaders, even decades after a successful invasion, to blind, "random" (to their minds) attacks. I could be an invisible sniper or something similar. I'm a Christian, but not a pacifist. I wouldn't rule out extreme torture or grotesque body disfiguring or mutilation of captured soldiers as means of psychological torment and warning to other invaders. I've never understood the concept of "rules of war" and as a holder of private property, there would be no rules for self-defense. If my life were unlawfully threatened by anybody, military or otherwise, I see no restraint whatsoever in defending myself from them. Anything would be fair game to save my life or the lives of my loved ones. None of this means I support torture tactics used currently by the US in the "war on terror" because I don't see our current was as moral in the first place. But maybe the idea of "rules of war" such as the Geneva convention are useful in restraining states from gross evil when acting out of their own self-interest.

I sincerely hope I never have to engage in anything close to this in my life. I hope the same for our sons and their sons. I do believe in the biblical promise that the nations will beat their swords into plowshares. I hope this happens within my lifetime. Meanwhile, I'm still thankful I never served in the military and am quite convinced that my life is much better because of it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

America's One Party System: The State

I remember a number of times during the cold war seeing stories about elections in communist countries. They had ballots and showed up to vote just like we did in America. With one small difference. There was only one candidate for each office, the communist state party candidate. Of course, he won. Naturally, this was a source for ridicule. Here in America, we had more than one choice. Each candidate had differing views and different ideas. We had true freedom - or so I was taught.

I wrote a few posts ago on the idea of divided government as a political strategy, or at least as favorable to one party rule. The idea is that if the different branches of government are divided between parties and ideologies, they will have a greater tendency to cancel each other's ability to dominate the people. But, I'd like to look at this from a slightly different angle.

Imagine a huge tug of war match between the Democrats and Republicans. It takes place on a football field, and the rope is placed in the center of the field on the 50 yard line. The winner will pull the opposing team across its own goal line. There are a few dozen people on each side. The match starts, and after a few minutes one party takes a good advantage. The other exerts a large amount of energy and stops the progress. Then they take the advantage. On this goes for quite a long time, back and forth. Hopes rise, then fade, then fall, then rise again. But the match keeps going.

But going quite unnoticed, one team has a slightly larger percentage of people anchoring with their left feet, and the other team has a slightly larger percentage anchoring with their right feet. This is a small effect, but since it is mirrored from one side to another, the net result is movement in the lateral direction - toward one of the sidelines. While everybody is focusing on the visible back and forth tugging, the real story is that the whole group is heading out of bounds.

So while we see the liberals and conservatives fighting back and forth, pitting ideals against each other, the real story is that they have something far more destructive in common. Despite their differences, they are all still politicians, all public masters and not public servants, all power hungry statists, all desiring to control other people. Their very visible differences mask what they have in common. Yes, it's true that there are ideologues on each side, fighting for their pet causes, and this tends to slow the real agenda of state control, but it only limits it - it doesn't stop it.

Although the communist countries have only one "choice" in an election, we still have something very dangerous in common with them - one state.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Church Government: I've Recently Changed Positions

There are and have been numerous forms of "church government" now and throughout history. But the "biblical" form of government, or so I have been taught in my circles, is the one known as "elder rule." Churches are independent from denominations or other outside influences, but within the church, the ordained elders rule within the congregation. The ideal of a plurality of elders (the term "elder" is interchangeable with "pastor", "overseer" and "bishop") is the guiding principle to prevent authoritarian dictatorship by one man.

But I'm now convinced of a different form of church government. I'll call it the "Christ rule/elder servant" model. Jesus told his disciples that whoever wants to be first among us shall be servant of all. I see from the bible that godly leaders lead by example, not by dictation, overlording, politics or the like. The pastor/elder position is a ministerial position, not a magisterial one. Followers witness a life of self-control in their leaders and then imitate that life. According to Galatians 5 it is self-government, and not church government, that is the fruit of the Spirit.

The problem I think lies in the common view (taught in the seminaries, unfortunately) that the church is not an organism but an institution. In an organism, which is what the body of Christ is, Jesus and the Apostles through Scripture delegate authority directly to individual believers over their own lives, the use of their own gifts, the working out of their own salvations, the carrying out of their own responsibilities to love one another, the very work of the ministry itself, and on we can go with this. So much authority is delegated directly to individuals that not much authority is left over for the pastors. Yes, they have the authority to preach, teach, exhort, admonish and rebuke, but it is the individual believer that must apply these things to their own lives. This is the sense that Scripture says to obey our leaders.

But in an institutional idea of church, those formally trained in theology see that the Scriptures say very little, if anything at all about government of an institution. They then take this lack of restriction as liberty to govern how they see fit. This would of course be true if the church were an institution, but it's not. The result is close to a totalitarian bureaucratic system run by the clergy with little decision making by individuals. This can lead to the individual believer feeling like he can do nothing without the approval (in triplicate form sometimes) from the leadership. When multiple generations have been taught and experienced this junk, then it is all the tougher to debunk. The pastor(s) is(are) the man(men) in charge, mainly because they completely miss the delegated authority to individuals.

Since all this authority comes directly from Christ ("all authority has been given to me....") it is a "Christ rule" model that the bible outlines.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Divided Government - A Viable Political Strategy?

James Leroy Wilson, a contributing blogger at Indie Castle, used one of my posts about the ping pong mentality of voters in a post (read it here) to suggest that rather than voters being stupid enough to switch party voting because the party they last voted for just screwed them, maybe they were realizing "we are screwed over less badly when we have divided government (President from one party, one or both houses of Congress controlled by the other), than when one party's in charge." I have no idea if this is the case with the voters.

But I have for a long time rejoiced at political stalemate that resulted in civil government's lack of ability to act legislatively. In California, it's almost an annual occurrence that the two parties can't agree on a yearly budget, and by law, the government shuts down until a budget is in place. A few years back, I read a piece by Joel Miller praise a stalemate in the New York state legislature because nobody was getting screwed as a result. When divided government has occurred to the benefit of the people, I have rejoiced, but until James' post, it never occurred to me that this could be used as a political strategy.

Although no longer either a political conservative or a Republican, I still have trouble voting for a Democrat for office. But if I viewed both the Democrats and Republicans as my evil enemies, could I vote for the slightly smaller greater evil to fight the larger lesser evil to gain the result of the two being so engaged disabling each other that they turn a blind eye to my own peaceful agenda of governing my own life? I'll have to sprinkle a dash of this on my next steak. Thank you, James, for turning the light bulb on.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Economics of One Vote

With election day on Tuesday, I'll have one vote... if I decide to use it. I plan to vote, but if something more urgent comes up, as has happened in the past, I'll divert my attention accordingly. Is this a sign of voter apathy on my part?

Well, let's look at the economics of my one vote. "Every vote counts." Well, in a sense this is true, but "every vote is counted" is more realistic, rigged elections aside. Just how much does my vote count? If I look at the voting districts I live in and how many people vote here too, my vote gets smaller. I live in California, which is the most populated state by far. My county has nearly a million people. My congressional, state senate and state assembly districts are quite large and I don't presently live within an incorporated city limit. But the cities I have lived in are large, too, with populations from 50,000 to 120,000.

It is often said that a vote not cast helps the wrong side win. But, in reality, just how many times has any election I've voted in been decided by one vote? Not even close. A hundred votes? A thousand? The fact is, I've never lived in any voting "district" small enough for my vote to matter much at all. I've had plenty of occasions where five of us went out to Chinese instead of Mexican or something similar because the vote was three to two.

On a large scale, the only voting I've ever done that mattered is when my best friend and I cast more votes for Ryne Sandberg vs. Steve Sax for National League All-Star at second base than his eventual margin of victory. Long hours of ballot box stuffing paid off for us Dodger haters. We were the reason Sandberg won!

Now, how much time is required to be an "informed" voter? In California, ballot propositions are legalese, with an untold number of pages of actual text. Candidates at every level have dozens of positions on various issues. Radio, TV and newspaper ads don't often help. If I divide the actual weight of my vote by the amount of study required to make its weight felt, it's pretty close to a waste of time. Even "local" government is far too big where I live for my vote to matter much.

But what are the ramifications if a potential failure to vote ever decided anything? Let's say it results in Congress' scales being tipped from one party to another, or a 1/4% sales tax being passed, etc. Over the course of a year, I might see a few hundred bucks difference in my overall life because of taxes and regulations or whatever. But this has never even been close to happening. If I invested all the time necessary to be an informed voter into something else like my profession, my family, working overtime or extra jobs, I think it would make more of a difference to the outcome of my family and my life.

If I actually were involved in a democratic system small enough for my vote to matter, like a block vote in my neighborhood where there are maybe 50 people or less, it might be worth the effort. But I think all this goes to show that my voting habits are not the problem, but the size of civil government, even at its most local level, is the problem.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

9/11 Coverup? Rumsfeld States Flight 93 Shot Down

A video clip (I found the link at Chalcedon's blog) that has to be seen. Donald Rumsfeld is taped saying that Flight 93 was shot down by terrorists. A slip of the tongue? Doctored video? The truth? See it HERE. Edit - Or straight from YouTube HERE.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Our" Troops

Bring home "our" troops. Or, send more of "our" troops. I no longer look at the US military personnel as "ours." I see them more as ordinary government employees that do what the government tells them to. They're not much different from social workers, mailmen, building inspectors or highway workers.

I don't mean any offense to those who "serve" in the military or to their relatives. I'm sure some would take offence, though. I have a number of family and friends who either have served or are currently serving. But our culture seems to have placed a higher view upon the soldier than most other jobs. Almost a worshipful deification. Ironically, though, active military personnel during a war often work long, grueling hours overseas in terrible conditions risking death for almost no money. Some appreciation from those who claim to support them. Whatever happened to soldiers plundering the enemy and keeping the booty? Now that's an incentive to fight.

I don't quite understand those in the military - even reservists - who object to being sent overseas, such as in the case of Iraq, or of their families who complain that the President is breaking a promise that they'd be home by Thanksgiving or Christmas or whenever. Are they completely ignorant of repetitive history? "Gee whiz, I never expected to be called up." Huh? Did you really expect the President to keep his promise to have the troops home by a certain date? He's not even in control of the outcome of the war, let alone the enemy. The enemy fights back.

Military life - love it or leave it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Real Government

Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner clips posts from a favorite blog of his:

In the Magnificat, Mary prophesied...that rulers would be brought down from their thrones and the ordinary people would be able to govern themselves.

I'm glad to see Christians considering what the bible really has to say about government.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

War In Iraq? What War? We've Already Won!

Remember on May 1, 2003 that President Bush declared victory in the war in Iraq? He did so from an aircraft carrier near San Diego, with a huge banner in the back that read, "Mission accomplished." Remember this? I certainly do, and I Googled a few stories, here and here.

But a strange thing occurred today. Bush claimed he wasn't satisfied with the progress of the war in Iraq. Here on Comcast News, he's quoted as saying, "I'm not satisfied either" and "Absolutely we're winning" and he said a fixed timetable for withdrawal "means defeat. You can't leave until the job is done". Also came this, "We're winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done."

Time just seems to go backward these days.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We Live In Joe DiMaggio's Home Town

Martinez, California, is a smallish town that is the birth place of two hugely famous icons of American culture. The less famous, if I were to judge, is baseball Hall of Famer, "Mr. Coffee" and husband of Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio. The house where he was born is still standing, just a few blocks from downtown proper, and is marked by a plaque. I'm not sure of his extended family, but there are a couple of businesses around named after the family name, one a restaurant and the other a barber shop.

The other product of our town is the world famous cocktail known as the Martini, its name derived from Martinez. Yep, it too was born here, and yes, there is a plaque on the sidewalk in front of what used to be the bar that invented it. Also, there is the home of naturalist John Muir.

Aside from this, Martinez is just your typical non-famous place. The county seat, its downtown is busy from 9am-5pm Monday thru Friday, period. Aside from a few liquor stores and biker bars, the downtown is fairly non busy. Heck, McDonald's closes at 6pm here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

It Doesn't Matter Whether Or Not Islam Is A "Peaceful" Religion

There's been a big flap in the media and on the internet over the past, say, five years about whether Islam is a peaceful religion or a violent one. It's a big enough debate over which to start a war. Even two of them. But I think the proposition is a fallacy, with too many people drawn into the debate. Debating this point using blanket statements only serves to add fuel to the fire.

Islam, not unlike Christianity, is not a cohesive whole, perfectly unified in its doctrines among its followers. It has sects and "denominations", if you will. They even war against each other in the name of Allah. My lifetime has seen this type of thing most strongly with the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Hardly the best representation of Christianity.

Many point to the blood thirsty madmen who call themselves clerics that spew forth hatred, blood and death toward Israel and America and are on a rampage to conquer the world with the sword in the name of Allah, commanding all infidels to conversion or death, as evidence that Islam is violent. Do such evil men exist? Sure. Others point to millions of everyday people who claim Islam as their religion, who just want to live life and feed their families and carry on their traditions without problems as evidence that Islam is peaceful. Do such people exist? Sure. Their religion is viewed both ways by those who profess to be Muslims. I've heard several former Muslim religious leaders, now converts to Christianity, who testify that they were taught, and ended up teaching, that Islam conquers with the sword and that it is every Muslim's duty, according to the Koran, to kill non converting unbelievers. I've heard others who deny this claim.

What is true is that there are individuals within Islam that are violent or peaceful. I've known a number of Muslims in my life, and none of them have ever bombed my house, coerced me into conversion, held my family hostage at gunpoint. I've known people who have lived in Muslim countries, missionaries included, and they speak of the common people in peaceful terms. I've been invited to dinner, even as a stranger, into the house of a Muslim. He was more generous than most Americans. If these people were being unfaithful by not trying to kill me, if they were being disobedient to the Koran, then thank God for unfaithful Muslims.

But the real issue is that because Islam doesn't recognize Jesus as Lord, and denies that His Word is truth, it is not a true religion. It will not be able to stand. There is no Holy Spirit guiding its followers in its practices and worship. Its people cannot be unified forever. As Gentiles, they will in due time be converted to Christ (as I believe the bible teaches) before this world ends. They will be converted by the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and not by the sword of the Pentagon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Political Ping Pong Mentality

I've been hearing in the news lately how Americans are fed up with the Republican Party and their scandals and wars and spending and spying on Americans. As a result the Democrats stand to gain greatly this election. But why?

Don't Americans remember that the Democrats screwed this country over so bad that they voted for the Republicans as a result? And the Democrats only had a chance to screw us because Americans were so fed up with Republicans screwing us after the Democrats screwed us because the Repub...

Are Americans really that stupid? Guess so.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If Iron Sharpens Iron, Then Why Is The Reformed Drawer So Full of Dull, Rusty Knives?

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

A good surgeon will use only the sharpest of knives. Why? It's because the sharper the knife, the cleaner the cut it makes. And the cleaner the cut, the closer the two sides match each other. The closer the two sides match each other, the easier it is for them to come together again in the healing process. Dull knives and chain saws make for hack jobs; the ripping up of flesh so that the two sides don't match each other. Healing is made much more difficult if not impossible. The word of God is spoken of as sharper than any two edged sword.

The irony of many Christians who hold to "doctrinal purity," and require the strictest adherence to doctrinal minutiae for fellowship, church membership, ministry leadership or pastoral candidacy is that they don't understand how iron sharpens iron. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Ephesians 4:3, "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace", interpreted as, "you must agree with every doctrinal position of the elders/church/by-laws, etc." Disagreement in any form is shunned.

But iron sharpens iron because each piece is rough. They grate against each other and the friction caused by the imperfections is what eliminates the imperfections, resulting in a sharp knife or sword. When surgery is needed, success results. When roughness in beliefs is disallowed, and everybody in a particular group is required to believe the same exact thing, no sharpening can occur. The result is, ironically, the exact thing that is not allowed. What the doctrinal purists who distance themselves from others who disagree are in effect saying, is, "I will not be sharpened by another piece of iron." And so they exist as drawers full of dull, rusty knives. When surgery is needed, a hack job results, and the one in need of surgery is not healed, but rather wounded even more.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Got Toothpaste? State Sponsored Child Abduction and Destruction of a Family is a Better Solution

The other day I saw a brief story in the news about a mother (presumably a single mom) who was neglegent in her 5 year-old's dental care. An x-ray was shown on the news as supposed evidence to this fact. It was far more muddled than I'm used to seeing, but the idea was to show the extent of his tooth decay.

Somehow this was brought to the attention of state authorities. Their solution? Well, it wasn't to have a judge order the mom to pay for the proper care of her son's teeth (the biblical concept of tooth for tooth is backward and barbaric, don't you know). Rather it was to charge the mom with a crime, jail her, and abduct the child from his family and place him in that pedophile's paradise known as foster care (I know whereof I speak).

Now I know that there are quite a few stupid and ignorant people in the world. But God gave authority over children to the parents for a reason. If the parents are neglegent in a certain area (and aren't we all), why not encourage them to grow in that area?

Let me get this striaght. The problem was that the child was deprived of a toothbrush by his mother. So the solution is to also deprive the child of his mother, family, home, neighborhood, friends just so he can now have his teeth brushed? Is the government collectively demon-posessed?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Godzilla Brought Down The Twin Towers on 9-11

It might just be a coincidence. My oldest son has taken to like Godzilla movies, so we watched a new one (for us) tonight. Godzilla brought a number of buildings down in downtown Tokyo. The movie ended just before CBS's 9-11 documentary started, which showed the twin towers, plus tower 7, collapse.

For some reason I just can't believe that buildings fall like that without planned assistance. Especially after just an hour of fire from jet fuel (kerosene) that doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel. And buildings that aren't even hit, like building 7, don't just collapse on themselves from the bottom up.

Wacky conspiracy theories aside, the only plausible explanation is that Godzilla did it and that he's now invisible.

Apocalyptic Stupidstition

Superstition is stupid. That's why I call it stupidstition. As a child I learned all the superstitions of my parents' generation; not that my parents believed in them, but I knew them. Walking under a ladder, having a black cat cross your path, spilling salt, two people walking and having a vertical object pass between them, rabbit's feet, breaking a mirror, the number 13, etc. I've also experienced the stupidstitions of sports fans and players. Wearing dirty underwear during a winning streak until their team loses, lucky jerseys, players not stepping on the foul line and all the rest. Then there's the apocalyptic stupidstition.

A few years ago I went out to lunch with a friend from work to a deli. I ordered, and I'm sure it was an uncommon combination of items, then made it to the register. The cashier rang up my order and declared to me the amount. I could simultaneously feel several conversations of people in line behind me abruptly stop and also a number of people behind me take a collective step backward. It was an odd feeling, but I knew exactly what it was. The cashier immediately declared, "I can add an item to change the total if you'd like." "No," I replied, "I'm not superstitious."

The cause? My total was $6.66. Six dollars and sixty six cents. That's 666. The number of the beast. The anti-christ. That my lunch total showing up on the register could cause people to step away from me in fear says a lot about a generation of people who ridicule my parents' generation for their idiotic superstitions. They aren't any different.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Album Review: Led Zeppelin IV

I've finally pulled off something I've wanted to do for a long time; write an album review. I want to do this regularly in the future, writing about my favorite recordings (and maybe some not-so-favorite) from a number of musical genres. Music clearly falls into the category of God's kingdom, so I'll be mentioning the album reviews here, but posting them over at From the Front Porch. Read my first one here.

Labor Day

Today is "Labor Day" in the US - a national holiday. So I spent the day laboring in the yard. I'll labor some more tonight as we need to get some things done. I'll celebrate the end of my labors when I get them done.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Abortion and Society

Here's a question for those who are pro-life. Which society would you rather live in?

A) a society where abortion is outlawed, and those involved in abortions are prosecuted to the full extent of the law? or

B) a society where abortion is completely legal but every last member of society has a personal conviction against it so that no abortions occur?

I consider myself pro-life in a general sense. I'd rather live in society B, but I'm convinced that we're closer to A right now.

Jesus: A Man With No Credentials

Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner posts this about Jesus' higher education:

Maybe the fact that we think we need so many Doctors in the modern church in America is because we really are SICK.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Conspiracy, Conspiracy Theories and The Bible

Recently I've read a few good articles about conspiracies, their theories and the theorists that live off of them. A few were written by Gary North at Lew Rockwell, Andrew Sandlin and James Leroy Wilson.

I've likened conspiracies (especially government conspiracies) and conspiracy theories to what Jesus termed wars and rumors of wars. Conspiracies happen, and the theories try to connect hidden dots to explain what happened. Or they can plainly be fabricated nonsense. But one thing has always interested me is how people react to conspiracy theories. Some think anybody who listens to them are fringe wackos, rejecting all theories outright, some think anybody who doesn't listen to them are brainwashed proles who only help the cause of the conspirators.

I have a circle of friends who are former conspiracy theory nuts and former members of various patriot groups on an endless search for the "silver bullet" that will slay the government beast. I firmly believe that there are many government conspiracies - and their coverups - that occur all the time. Most of them we never hear about.

For me, knowing what they are isn't the most important thing. But as a "bible-believing Christian", I must believe in government conspiracies. Why? Because the bible is chock full of them; and so is history and our newspapers. Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill newborn sons. The Egyptians feared the multiplying Hebrews and conspired to make their slavery a serious hardship. Daniel and his friends were targets of two government conspiracies. In one, some lesser government workers deceitfully petitioned the king to pass laws that they already knew God's people wouldn't obey. The wicked Haman did the same thing to rid the world of Mordecai and the Jews in the book of Esther. David's own son conspired to take the throne. Ahab and Jezebel took Naboth's vineyard in a diabolical eminent domain story. Herod plotted to kill the newborn king. The religious leaders of Jesus' time conspired with Roman involvement to have him killed. Nero burned Rome down and blamed it on the Christians. Psalm 2 is a divinely inspired testament to government conspiracies.

One of my friends formerly committed his life to chasing conspiracies. His insight has been very helpful. He chased paper trails and came up with evidences to various conspiracies. Some were simple. But some were not. When everything lined up, he would pull back the cover to reveal the central conspiracy... only to find another cover. He eventually saw many conspiracies as "onion skin" in composition. Pull back the thin veil only to find another one. He saw that facts quite often fit together, but that the complexity to how they fit was of such a degree that he had to conclude that many "conspiracies" could not have been human in origin. They were spiritual in origin and developed in the heavenly places.

And this brings me to the greatest "conspiracy" of all in the bible. This is recorded in the book of Job. Satan accused God of protecting Job in order to call him a righteous man and dared God to loosen up his hedge around him. God gave Satan authority to plague Job, but not to kill him. One day Job had his world fall apart on five fronts, and messengers brought him the news one after another. The Sabean assault, fire from heaven, the Chaldean assault, a wind storm and boils on his body. If this happened today, the conspiracy theorists would have a field day with the earthly appearances and blame God's providence on mere men. One thing I do know; even if I don't know what is behind the veil or how wickedly men act, God is in control and nobody will get away with anything in the end.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Book Meme

Things have been slow in my blogging world for a few weeks now. I've been going to work earlier, working longer days, going to bed earlier, working not only on the kitchen but the back yard too. We've gone to a few more Giants games than normal. Just busier. If this keeps up, my blog will turn mainly to answering tags. But they are usually fun and Mrs. Scott likes to know what I'm thinking.

This time Vache Folle tagged me with a meme about books. I'm not much of a book reader, as my reading tends to be more technical and short article oriented, but I have read a few in my life. Here's my feeble attempt:

One book that changed my life:
Other than the Bible, I can't say that one book has changed my life. Sure there have been some changes in my life as a result of what I read in books, but that is different from having my life changed.

One book I have read more than once:
George Orwell's "1984."

One book I would like to have on a desert island:
"Swimming for Dummies."

One book that made me laugh:
"Baseball Confidential" by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo. They surveyed baseball players on many subjects and got their opinions. My favorite was Detroit Tigers player Kirk Gibson quoting yours truly as a heckling bleacher bum. Read about it here.

One book that made me cry:
I usually don't cry, and reading a book isn't likely to start that.

One book I wish I’d written:
I think this means any book written by somebody else that I would rather have authored myself than them. But I'm going to change the grammatical emphasis to: any of a number of books I've intended to write myself but never made time. I've started writing books before and have had numerous ideas for writing books but none have progressed past about 30 pages. Most are ideas. From being a bleacher bum to theological topics to the Giants/Dodgers rivalry.

One book I wish had never been written:
Harold Camping's "1994?". The religious radio station president predicted the end of the world and it didn't happen. It did much harm to many lives.

One book I’m currently reading:
I'm not currently reading a book.

One book I have been meaning to read:
John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress." It's the second best selling book in history (if you count the Bible as the first best). I've read the first 40 pages about five times. I need to get those last 260 in sometime soon.

Five bloggers to tag with this meme:
I don't know if I have five readers of my blog, and two that I know do read it have already been tagged. So here's a try. Apologies in advance for my bloggemarketing.

Gene Redlin
Bruce Gerenscer
James Leroy Wilson
The Billy Goat
"Uncle Dale"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Record Heat Wave

It's HOT here in the Bay Area. It's been going on for a week and a half and today's forecast says it'll be going on for another week. Well over 100 degrees the whole time. It was 116 in Pleasanton, the place I work, yesterday. Fortunately, my family and I were at a Giants night game (actually 2 nights in a row), where is was only in the upper 80's. Two consecutive nights at a Giants game where I could wear shorts and a t-shirt. I've been to nearly a thousand games in my life and I'm still under ten where I could wear summer clothes to a Giants night game.

Anyway, when the A/C comes on at 8am and runs until 4am, it's hot. We took the train to the game, and all a/c units were burned out. It was sweltering on the BART. Every stop, the people got on and immediately excaimed how hot the car was. Brutal. It's 11:30pm and it's still 95 outside. Some day I'll get the a/c fixed in my car.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Lazy, Slow Tag Reply

Meme of Fourz: The Mutant

Vache Folle indirectly tagged me by his blog vicariously tagging anybody who came upon it. Well, I did, and here's my belated half-hearted reply.

Here’s the “Meme of Fourz”:

4 jobs I have pretended to have when out of town and talking to strangers:
(1) Entrepreneur
(2) The job I had just prior to being unemployed
(3) Architect
(4) sorry, only three

4 movies that I wish I had never seen:
(1) Pink Floyd Plays Pompeii
(2) whatever that Andrew Sandler movie is about golf. Happy Gilmore?
(3) It Came From Outer Space
(4) Top Gun, a thousand times

4 places where I lived but wish I had not:
(1) Massolo Drive
(2) Room 402, Davidson Hall, UC Berkeley dorms.
(3) My parents' house the third time
(4) Wouldn't you like to know?

4 TV shows that I deny that I ever watched but which I actually watched regularly:
(1) Desperate Housewives
(2) Gilmore Girls
Can't think of any more

4 popular TV shows that I just don’t get the appeal of:
(1) Friends
(2) That 70's Show
(3) The View
(4) Fear Factor

4 godawful vacations I have endured:
(1) Coronado Island, San Diego
I usually enjoy my vacations.

4 dishes that make me want to retch:
(1) Meatloaf
(2) Any fast food
(3) Quiche
(4) Candied yams

4 web sites that I avoid at all costs:
(1) Right Wing radio talk show host websites
(2) Anything porn
All else is fair

4 places where I am glad I am not:
(1) An AA meeting (or other AA affiliated groups)
(2) Tony Robbins seminar
(3) Guantanamo Bay
(4) Fundamentalist church

I tag you only if you want to be tagged.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My 37-Hour Christian Day

When I add up all the hours in a day that I'm supposed to spend on the various areas of my Christian life, according to sermons, books and other sources by various "authorities," that number far exceeds 24.

For example, I've heard sermons where the preacher proclaimed that anybody who didn't spend at least three hours a day in prayer has no spiritual life to speak of. Some Reconstructionists belittle an 8 hour day and 40 hour week as modernist. One even claimed that a 40 hr work week was "for wussies." Some bible experts claim that a 12 hour day (six days per week) is closer to the Christian ideal. Christian education experts push for spending two hours per day reading to my children. Christian fitness experts recommend one hour of daily exercise, and health experts require 8 hours of sleep every night (yeah, right!). My employer's office policy book urges a full hour for lunch to avoid burnout, and many Christians agree that this time can be used for bible reading. At least one hour of bible reading is recommended by many. Several hours of family worship/devotion, too. A few hours at the dinner table where leisurely eating combined with family business discussion is also urged by some. I need to play with my kids. I already spend over an hour a day just commuting. I also have to eat breakfast, shower, personal stuff and the like before I even get in my car. Christian relationship experts suggest spending several hours of direct communication with a spouse. I need to attend church, prayer meeting, bible study, home group. An hour a day writing a journal before bed. Reading the newspaper and watching the news are quite necessary for any Christian to keep up on current events.

Okay, you get the idea.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Deceitfulness of Sin

One of the ways that sin is most deceitful is that it sets itself up against itself and begs us to choose sides. Which side is right? Well, in the world we live in, quite often - maybe I can be as bold as to say most often - both sides of an issue or argument are wrong.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Steroids, Schmeroids

I've finally aired my view on baseball's steriod issue. Read it over at my baseball blog, From the Bleachers.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Blogger's Funny SpellChecker

Blogger's spell checker is humorous. It doesn't even recognize "blog" as a word, suggesting "bloc" in its place. But when I use my blogpeer's handle "Vache Folle" I get the suggested replacement words, "vague folly." Blogger said it, not me.

Friday, March 17, 2006

God Gave Guinness

History has it that St. Patrick explained the Holy Trinity to the king of Ireland using the three leafs of a shamrock. This is reason enough to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with one of my favorite pastimes. Drinking a pint of Guinness Stout; room temperature, of course. Not only did Mrs. Scott buy me a six pack, but my mom is cooking a special corned beef and cabbage dish using the hearty dark brown fluid in the recipe. Looking forward to a special day that will result no doubt in thankful praise and worship.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Newly Tagged Blogger

I'm deciding to "tag" Bruce Gerencser (aka the Hungarian Luddite) with the blog chain because of his comment (and because I only tagged two of my four). In a positive way, of course. Bruce, you're under no obligation, especially in tagging others, but it would be interesting to see your answers to this list. If I'm out of line in my electing you, please let me know.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tag, You're It!

James Wilson at Independent Country has tagged me with a chain-post, "Memes of Fours." I'm not familiar with this in a blog setting, but since this chain is free of the usual "pass this along and you'll have some great thing happen; failure to do so will result in everybody you know dying" or some such nonsense, I think it'll be fun. Here goes next-to-nothing:

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. car smasher at a wrecking yard (by far the most fun job I've ever had!)
2. department store stockroom temp (where I met my wife the first time)
3. pizza delivery dude
4. architect

Four movies I can watch over and over:

1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Four places I’ve lived: (yawn)

1. Concord, CA
2. Berkeley, CA
3. Pleasant Hill, CA
4. Walnut Creek, CA

Four (screw it...FIVE) TV shows I love [the fifth slot was Wally Conger's addition]:

It doesn't say whether these are current or all-time. I don't watch much TV on my own anymore, but usually only watch what my wife watches when I'm in the room., so I'll answer with my all-time faves.

1. Monty Python's Flying Circus
2. Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show
3. Barney Miller
4. Carol Burnett Show
5. Cheers

Four highly regarded and recommended TV shows I haven’t seen (much of):

1. Friends
2. Will and Grace
3. 24
4. Lost

Four places I’ve vacationed:

1. San Diego, CA
2. Denver, CO
3. Phoenix, AZ
4. my wife's kitchen (remodel)

Four of my favorite dishes:

1. my wife's lemon chicken
2. my mom's cornish pasties
3. chicken enchilada special from El Tapatio/La Tapatia
4. lamb vindaloo

Four sites I visit daily:

1. Independent Country
2. St George Blog
3. Center for Cultural Leadership
4. John H Armstrong

Four places I’d rather be right now:

1. Little Italy district of downtown San Diego with my wife
2. ballgame at Fenway Park in Boston (I've never been there)
3. Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY
4. wouldn't you like to know?

Four new bloggers I’m tagging:

(I don't think four even read my blog to know they're tagged) Is this blogspam lite?

1. Vache Folle
3. Bruce Gerencser (Hungarian Luddite) - added March 7th

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Kitchen in the Dining Room

My posting rate has declined in the last two months. A major do-it-yourself kitchen remodel has taken much of my time. The fridge, minus ice maker, is in the dining room along with boxes of dishes and cooking items. Less blogging and a better kitchen... all to the delight of Mrs. Scott.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Power to the People

In response to my last post on the kindgom vs. the church, Vache Folle comments that the idea of the kingdom is revolutionary:

It seems to me that pastors, theologians and seminaries have vested interests in the church from which they derive sustenance and authority, whereas the idea of the kingdom undermines authority and is revolutionary.

The idea of the kingdom gives maximum freedom to individuals. It was for freedom, after all, that Christ set us free. We have the freedom to use our own gifts to the benefit of others, without permission from any clergy or self appointed overlord. We have the freedom of association, freedom to marry or make ourselves eunuchs, to have children, to read God's word, to interpret it for ourselves, to put it into action. We have a relationship to God that on one level is nobody else's business. Our marching orders come from Christ and are not mediated through human agents. If we acted on the authority already delegated us in Christ and didn't abdicate that authority to ecclesiocrats, they would disappear from the landscape.

Many, oh so many, Christians talk much about Christian liberty. If they only knew.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Where Was Saul of Tarsus?

About a year ago something struck me that I've never heard addressed by anybody. Where was Saul of Tarsus during Jesus' ministry and eventual crucifixion? The apostle-to-be was first introduced in Scripture as an affirming witness to Stephen's stoning at the end of Acts 7. I'm almost sure that this event occurred within only a few months of Christ's death, maybe a year.

Saul was a violent persecutor of the church, so he must have known much about Christ, and he had done great persecution to the saints in Jerusalem, yet he is not mentioned in the gospels or by Paul himself in the epistles. If he were in Jerusalem at the time of Christ and if he were a pharisee, would he have ever met Christ? He certainly would have been old enough.

This is pure speculation (and please don't start a cult with this), but I've wondered if he could have been the rich young ruler spoken of in the gospels. I wonder if we'll ever know about Saul's earlier days.

[Update: This topic is continued further here.]

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Last week I added a post to my blog with the unaccompanied title, "Merry Christmas." This day is in reference to Christ's birth. "Happy New Year" is also in reference to Christ's birth, the year 2006 being the approximate number of years since. Now, more of the world than ever, through using His birth as starting point for their calendar, is using Christ's life as the centerpoint of all history. That's because it is.