Wednesday, August 31, 2005
BARNES: But my problem with it is that, in some of these areas, like a below-sea-level city like New Orleans, they're not -- they want the rest of us to insure their risk. As people who live on the San Andreas Fault in California, where they know there are going to be earthquakes, people who live along the Mississippi River in these low farmland areas . . .
BARNES: . . . near the river, the floodplains. They know they're going to flood. And when these things happen, they want the taxpayers all over the country to pay, and they do.
Three things: 1) Most Americans don't just decide to live somewhere. Where one lives is largely determined by one's work and family situations. 2) Most regions of the country are vulnerable to some sort of natural disaster(s), whether hurricane, earthquake, drought, flooding, blizzard, or tornado. 3) The damage caused by Katrina is unprecedented.
I'm tired of the suggestion that, if someone can in any way be blamed or held responsible for his or her predicament, the community or nation or society should not be obligated to help that person. Frankly, this is an un-Christian attitude. Christ calls us to help others, even if they are entirely to blame for the dire circumstances they have found themselves in. Yes, we should encourage personal responsibility; yes, we should hold people accountable for their actions. But Jesus asks us to heal and forgive unconditionally.
I am especially bothered that Barnes suggests that the American taxpayer is somehow the forgotten victim of this unspeakable tragedy.
In Local News . . .
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Tomorrow Night At Belmont UMC
The Sacrifice Story You Don't Learn About in Sunday School
Then Jephthan came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child . . . . When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, "Alas my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow." . . . At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made (Judges 11:34-35, 39).
Anyone who went to Sunday school as a child knows the story of Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Of course, with Isaac bound to the altar and Abraham with knife in hand, God stops the pious father from sacrificing his son and provides a ram "caught in a thicket" as an alternative offering. Though no one (except the poor ram) dies, later Rabbinic tradition struggled with this text. Why would God ask someone to kill his son as a test of fidelity?
Jephthah's daughter is not as fortunate as Isaac. She dies nameless; according to the text her death is most significant because she dies an unmarried virgin. Poor girl. Where is her "ram in the thicket"?
Granted, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, while Jephthah sets his own terms for an offering of thanks to the LORD. (Jephthah possibly assumes that an animal will be the first to meet him in the courtyard of his home upon his return from battle.) Still, why doesn't God make acceptable an alternative sacrifice? For that matter, why doesn't Jephthah cry out, asking to be released from his vow, so that he won't have to kill his daughter?
Judges 11:29-40 is a tricky text and one the church doesn't like to deal with. How do we teach this story to our children and youth? How do we help our adults struggle with this difficult Scripture?
(Painting: "Abraham Sacrificing Isaac" by Laurent de la Hire, 1650; public domain.)
Monday, August 29, 2005
These are my initial impressions of Senator Kurita. Look for more as next year's primary nears.
Update: TV on the Fritz has more.
Update: Untied Methodist also mentions the show.
Of course, thousands of people were not able to evacuate, and I know that I cannot hope to understand the fear they are experiencing.
At times like this, I feel hopeless, selfish, blessed, and fortunate. Keep all of the people living on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi in your prayers.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
You can also subscribe to a Podcast of each week's show.
Guests this week were Mark Tooley, of the Institute on Religion and Democracy's United Methodist Action project and Rev. Troy Plummer of the Reconciling Ministries Network.
Cole, Joey, and I talked with our guests about the Lake Junaluska controversy in The United Methodist Church.
Yes, the sound quality is much better this week.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Pacman Jones, the Titan's corner selected sixth overall in this year's draft, has dominated the headlines here in Nashville. He actually did pretty well as a cornerback, but he dropped two punts, one of which was recovered by the Niners.
About Pacman: I noticed that his jersey reads "P. Jones." Since his given name is Adam, I can only assume that P stands for Pacman. Some analysts feel that Jones must earn the right to be called Pacman. Personally, I like the nickname, and I'm going to use it. But "P. Jones" seems unprecedented. I recall that Magic Johnson's Lakers jersey read "E. Johnson" (E for Earvin), not "M. Johnson." I could be wrong on this, but I'm not aware of any other major professional sports athletes (the XFL doesn't count) whose nicknames have been indicated on their jerseys.
Friday, August 26, 2005
The American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan will join other demonstrators at next weekend's Hearts of Fire Conference at Lake Junaluska in Western North Carolina. The event is being hosted by the Reconciling Ministries Network, an unofficial advocacy group for LGBT persons within The United Methodist Church.
August 21, 2005: Western North Carolina Bishop Addresses Lake Junaluska Controversy
August 23, 2005: IRD's Mark Tooley on the Lake J. Controversy
I think that people embrace congregations or faith traditions when they experience God through those churches or traditions. I'm sure that it's possible to experience God in a 30-second television spot; I'm just not sure that it happens very often.
(From The Los Angeles Times)
Recently, Fox News commentator John Loftus gave the home address of a supposed terrorist living in Orange County on the air. As it were, the supposed terrorist moved away from that address three years ago, and the family of five that now resides there is not pleased with the drive-by profanity, amateur photography, and vandalism they have been subject to as a result of Loftus's mistake.
Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first sentence by telephone.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. published his first novel, Player Piano.
Carole King released Tapestry.
Ringo Starr (the oldest Beatle) recorded The Beatles' final album, Abbey Road.
Michael Jordan won his second NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls.
Tim Duncan won his third NBA Championship and third NBA Finals MVP award with the San Antonio Spurs.
Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan Order (he actually may have been 28).
Siddhartha Gautama ("The Buddha") renounced the world and abandoned his family and possessions.
Personally, I am repulsed by chewing tobacco. I have vivid memories of guys in my college dorm "dippin' chaw." (Forgive me if I am unsing improper terminology.) They would carry around Coke bottles that they would slowly fill with black slobber. It was disgusting.
Still, I think that Attorney General Summers should cut Gretchen some slack. After all, as she proclaims, she's a "redneck woman"; she "ain't no high-class broad." Let me get a "hell yeah!"
I don't know much about the attorney general (except that he loves capital punishment), but I wonder whether policing country music shows is part of his job description. Apparently, Summers thinks that it is. In a letter he wrote to Gretchen Wilson yesterday, the attorney general says:
As the attorney general of the home state of country music I want to discuss my concerns of your promotion of smokeless products, particularly as it relates to the youth who attend your concerts and who listen to your music.
There you go, Paul Summers is the Attorney General of the Home State of Country Music. I hope Summers also takes seriously his duties at the Attorney General of the Home State of Cracker Barrell, Federal Express, Those Freaky Walking Horses, Several Protestant Churches, and (at least in part) Nuclear Bombs.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Homeless musicians in northern California have a gig every Wednesday at North Sacramento United Methodist. The church holds a weekly jam session for homeless and formerly homeless persons with musicial inclinations. Non-homeless church members also participate, forging relationships with their musician peers and, in some cases, transforming lives (both their own and those of their homeless guests).
The article was written by Nashville writer Ciona Rouse, whom I have the fortune of knowing through The United Methodist Church.
Anyway, Sax provides the following disturbing information:
In one carefully designed study, a surprisingly high percentage—35 percent—of "normal" college men said that they not only fantasized about rape, they would actually rape a woman if they were assured of not being punished. . . .
Even more troubling: for many teenage boys, the idea of inflicting pain on a woman is sexually arousing. Psychologist Neil Malamuth, who has specialized in studying the responses of "normal" college men to rape fantasies, has found that most young men experience greater sexual arousal when the imaginary rapist deliberately hurts the woman he is raping. The greater the victim's pain, the greater the sexual excitement. (pages 123, 124)
Goo! (For the record, I have never fantasized about rape or inflicting pain.)
Upon reading about these studies, I felt only shame toward my gender. While Sax's book was published this year, the studies he cites were done in 1981 and 1980, both by Neil Malamuth. I wonder if men have changed in the past 25 years—I hope we have changed for the better. But considering that the Internet and a new breed of video games have given men several more opportunities to be exposed to and to participate in rape fantasies, I can only assume the problem has gotten worse.
Check out Why Gender Matters. It's a fascinating read for anyone who has or works with kids. And most of it has nothing to do with rape.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Corna: The Universal Sign for Rock 'n' Roll
According to popular belief, the hand gesture is meant to emulate devil horns and pay homage to the dark lord, though in recent years many have ignored the sign's supposed satanic connotations and have taken it to simply mean "rock 'n' roll." (The popularity of the gesture surged in the nineties, largely due to the influence of Beavis and Butthead.)
Rocker Ronnie James Dio (who replaced Ozzy in Black Sabbath before forming Dio in 1983), claims to have popularized the gesture as a symbol for rock music when he joined Black Sabbath in 1979. According to Dio, he picked up the symbol from his Italian grandmother who used it to ward off evil spirits. Ronnie is unhappy that the symbol has become so common and that it is often done improperly.
Though I make the corna subconsciously, as though it flows from my being, the sign's presumed relation to Satan has always made me nervous. As a divinity school grad, I know that the image of Satan as a red-skinned, two-horned humanoid with a pointy beard is the product of centuries of Christian mythology and that the Bible is not even entirely clear as to who or what Satan is. As far I am concerned, horns in no way signify evil or darkness. Still, as a Christian who doesn't want to offend other Christians, I don't want anyone to look at my hand and think that I am mocking his or her faith or that I am disrespecting God. So, I have found myself adding the thumb, forming the American Sign Language sign for "I love you." This, Dio explains, is incorrect.
I don't want anyone to misinterpret me—when I mean "rock," I mean "RAWK!" not "I love you." (Of course, one sometimes rocks with loved ones, so I guess the thumb could be appropriate in certain situations). And I certainly don't want to disrepect Ronnie James Dio. So I have decided that I will use the corna, when appropriate, but I want to be clear that I ascribe no satanic meaning to the gesture and mean no offense to God or any faith tradition including my own.
Quoth The Features, "God save rock 'n' roll—woo!"
According to the advocacy group Trust for America's Health, CDC data suggests that, from the 2001-2003 statistical cycle to the 2002-2004 cycle, the obesity rate increased in every state except for Oregon. My home state, Tennessee, is one of the five fattest states in the nation. 25.6 percent of our population is obese, a 1.3 percent increase over the last statistical cycle. (Yes, I am overweight, but according to this body mass index calculator my BMI is less than 30, so I do not qualify as obese.)
Tennessee is only slightly fatter than the state where I grew up, Indiana (25.2 percent obesity rate). While Tennesseans have more opportunities for outdoor exercise than Hoosiers, the food in the Volunteer State is much better than the food in Indiana, so the small difference makes sense to me.
At any rate, I suppose we Tennesseans need to do something about our weight problem. I'll start thinking about an "Obesity Plan."
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Mark will be a guest this Sunday on Christian Dissent Live (6:00–8:00 a.m. CST on 98.9 WRFN, Radio Free Nashville), so I'll let you read the letter and save my questions and comments for the interview.
Related: Western North Carolina Bishop Addresses Lake Junaluska Controvery
Monday, August 22, 2005
In 1900, women did not have the right to vote. If Iraqis could develop a democracy that resembled America in the 1900s, I think we'd all be thrilled. I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there. I think they will be there. But I think we need to put this into perspective.
Actually, this gives me an idea: I have been reluctant to call for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq because of the potential consequences for the Iraqi people. Though I opposed going to war in the first place, I think that the U.S. is obliged to clean up some of the mess before we leave. But, if the Iraqi Parliament decides to institutionalize misogyny (regardless of any religious reasons for doing so), I think that we should pull our support without hesitation. Dying for freedom is tragic but noble; dying for discrimination is simply tragic.
Living Off the Land
All of the vegetables are about 1/3 the size of anything we would buy at the grocery store, but they (at least the onions and tomatoes) have been very tasty.
Meyer would be an excellent addition to any band that is looking for a unique look and sound. He is about 2'8" and plays standing up; he uses wooden spoons instead of conventional drumsticks. He periodically strays from his kit and picks up the beat by banging on couches, tables, people, and kitty cats. Though his style is unusual, Meyer has an excellent sense of rhythm and a lot of energy.
(Hopefully, we soon can provide some pictures of Meyer with his drum kit.)
ATHENS — A group of Georgia football fans took up a collection to pay for a Boise State player's father to fly from Baghdad to see his son play against the Bulldogs in Athens.
But the NCAA rule book got in the way.
Dan Miller, father of Broncos sophomore guard Tad Miller, is a retired police lieutenant who is training Iraqi police officers.
When Sam Hendrix of Signal Mountain, Tenn. — "suthndawg" to his fellow Georgia fans on the Dawgvent, an Internet message board — read a story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the Millers, he started an online movement to raise the $2,700 it will cost Dad to make it to Sanford Stadium to see his son play in the home opener Sept. 3.
But when Crowe checked with the two schools, he was told the UGA fans' generosity would be a violation of NCAA bylaws regarding extra benefits and expenses for student athletes and their families.
The NCAA is so vigilant about ensuring that student athletes—who generate millions of dollars for the NCAA and several large, state universities—are in no way compensated for their performance that it fails to see the silliness in its actions. Playing in Athens is huge for a school like Boise State, especially since they could legitmately pull an early season upset of the Dawgs. That Georgia alums and fans would raise money to fly in an opposing player's father is an extraordinary act of sportsmanship. Let Lt. Miller accept the gift and watch the game.
This is almost as silly as the 2004 case of Jeremy Bloom, a University of Colorado football player and Olympic-caliber skier. Bloom lost his NCAA football eligibility because he took skiing endorsements that were necessary to fund the travel and training essential to making the Olympic team. Skiing, of course, is not an NCAA sport.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
(Hat tip: Untied Methodist)
Related: Read this aricle about the national "No Fly" list by today's guest, John Graham.
I don't know if these trends have been observed in other metropolitan areas. But according to the Star-Tribune:
Many Americans also are switching the dial. While ratings for political talk radio typically drop the year after an election, experts around the country sense something else in the air. Many metro listeners are turning to local, often sports-oriented shows.
I can understand the switch from politics to sports. With sports, the stakes are always high, but ultimately nothing really matters. Sports rivalries can strengthen friendships; political rivalries can make them very awkward.
On the other hand, last week I took to the airwaves as the co-host of a radio show that deals with politics (on WRFN 98.9, Radio Free Nashville), so I hope that the public still has not given up completely on political discourse. Maybe I have bad timing, but I like to think that Christian Dissent Live is unique among political talk radio shows. Check us out, from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Sunday mornings.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
For context, see What Does The United Methodist Church Say About Divorce? (August 15).
I agree that students should have access to a "broad range of fact," but he implies that faith should be taught as science. As a person of faith, this frightens me. The intelligent design movement argues that current scientific evidence calls into question the validity of the theory of evolution, which has long been taken for granted by many scientists. OK. But if God or "faith" replaces or becomes a scientific alternative to evolution, what happens when future generations bring forth evidence that pokes holes in intelligent-design theory? Does the existence of God then become a matter of scientific debate? Is the mystery of God reduced to mere paleontology? I am comfortable with teaching scientific theories that challenge our conventional understanding of evolution, but teaching God as science puts limits on God's creativity and God's essence.
Back to Senator Frist: The cynic in me says that Frist is playing to popular opinion on every hot-button issue that makes the headlines in preparation for a 2008 presidential run; the pragmatist in me says that if Frist really wants to win the nomination or the presidency, he should do less talking; the Republican in me says that Frist, as a U.S. senator with presidential ambitions, should leave this issue alone because curriculum standards should be determined by state and local governments, school boards, and (ideally) educators themselves. The Federal Government should have nothing to do with it.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Better Jobs, Better Wages
Part I: Full Employment at a Living Wage Is Possible
Part II: Politics and Greed Keep Us From Having Jobs for All
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
The tension between progressives and conservatives isn't going away; but, as Christians, we should make a commitment to extend love, grace, and civility to those with whom we disagree. (OK, I wasn't brief. Sorry.)
I remember when people talked about themselves. At the dinner table and in the diner you heard about that sports car-from-a-kit your neighbor was building, about some lady's kidney tumor, about who was wooing another man's wife, and about the bear that was eating from someone's apple tree. These little stories added up to life. You got a sense of how people were actually managing. Now you hear what they're thinking. What a bore. Most of them can't think, and have never tried, and are just repeating what others think and adding their own misinterpretations and biases. I could care less, frankly. I'd rather hear about what somebody's doing to get rid of the bat infestation in their attic. But no, it's Washington, Washington, Washington, which is thousand of miles away from western Montana but has somehow convinced us it's right next door. Well, it's not. The neighbors are next door. But because they talk only about politics, I have no idea what their lives are like and they don't either for the most part, they don't either. They're trying to join the "national conversation" and meanwhile the bears are eating their apples.
Though I will remain, to some extent, a part of the problem, I agree entirely.
Franny and Zooey Prayer of the Day
By the Way
I don't really have an explanation for "Scrambies," either. I just decided that, because this site has become independent of Josh Tinley.com and does not have a Josh Tinley.com address, it should get its own name and identity. For no good reason, I picked Scrambies when I chose the URL six months ago, so I decided to stick with it.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
The Cindy Sheehan Situation
As usual, the best coverage of this event has come from The Daily Show, which led with the story Monday night.
(Video from Crooks and Liars)
I think the Transportation Security Administration needs to more carefully distinguish between potential "terrors" and potential "terrorists."
Monday, August 15, 2005
Pardon my cynicism, but our nation-building efforts in Iraq seem to be going just as war opponents had predicted.
I should say more: I applaud American forces for all the good they have done in Iraq. But I continue to be frustrated that the administration summarily dismissed criticisms and concerns about its plan (or lack thereof) to create a stable democratic government in post-Saddam Iraq. It was, and is, a noble goal, but the Bush administration never had a viable postwar plan and refused to answer critics who called them out on it. Now American, Coalition, and Iraqi forces, and especially the people of Iraq, are suffering for the administration's lack of foresight.
(Hat tip: Christian Dissent)
What Does The United Methodist Church Say About Divorce?
The following two paragraphs from the 2000 Book of Discipline were not included in the 2004 Book of Discipline (¶161D):
Although divorce publicly declares that a marriage no longer exists, other covenantal relationships resulting from the marriage remain, such as the nurture and support of children and extended family ties. We urge respectful negotiations in deciding the custody of minor children and support the consideration of either or both parents for this responsibility in that custody not be reduced to financial support, control, or manipulation and retaliation. The welfare of each child is the most important consideration.
Divorce does not preclude a new marriage. We encourage an intentional commitment of the Church and society to minister compassionately to those in the process of divorce, as well as members of divorced and remarried families, in a community of faith where God's grace is shared by all.
I personally think that these two paragraphs are important; sadly, nothing was added to replace them. Only a vote by the 2004 General Conference could have deleted this material from the Discipline. I have two questions:
1) Why was this material removed?
2) Why was there no coverage of this vote?
The UM News Service is silent regarding votes on the church's stance on divorce, choosing instead to focus on the ongoing homosexuality debate. I want to know what happened and why.
An Undead Mall?
I not crazy about a Wal-Mart going in across the street, but I'm excited about the outdoor plaza and "water feature." Then again, I lack faith in Bellevue Center's ability to successfully pull off a major redevelopment.
Mohler argues that couples who decide not to have children are morally irresponsible. "Though childlessness may be made possible by the contraceptive revolution," he writes, "it remains a form of rebellion against God's design and order." Mohler concludes, "The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children."
Yes, there are several examples of biblical couples who are called to have children and who are blessed through their children. (Some biblical heroes also had children with mulitple wives and with their wives' servants. I hope that Dr. Mohler does not endorse such behavior simply because it is biblical.) But I would argue that the Bible does not call for "adulthood to mean marriage." Paul, for example writes, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:8-9, NRSV). He also writes, "He who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better" (1 Corinthians 7:38, NRSV). We also have no evidence that Jesus married or had children; many consider the very suggestion offensive. We know that Peter was married (Matthew 8:14), but his wife is absent from the Gospels and Acts and there is no mention of Peter and his wife having children.
More importantly, Christians believe in a living God. For the ancient Israelites childlessness threatened their identity and existence as a people. They were a small nation among more populous and powerful empires, and they had to keep their numbers up. Christianity today is not nearly as vulnerable as Israel was. Moreover, more than 6 billion people live on this planet, and nearly half of them are dirt poor and involuntarily skipped a meal today. The church needs to be less concerned about producing more people and more concerned about caring for the people currently walking the earth.
The Bible certainly affirms strong family relationships (for example, see the Book of Ruth or consider that our relationship with God is described as a child-parent bond). But many types of families are represented and affirmed in the Bible, just as many types of families are represented in the church. I have no problem with couples having children. My wife and I have a child and cannot imagine life without him. Still, I feel no need to pressure other people to reproduce. Raising a child is a big commitment and one that should be made carefully.
There is no sense whatsoever to remain here. The settlers do not have a future in the Gaza Strip, because they cannot live as an isolated group of people 8,000-strong among a million-and-a-half Palestinians who live in poverty and protest and unemployment.
Related: "Palestinian Girl," The Adverbs (2003)
Evolution Wars and Flying Dinosaurs
I finally finished reading last week's Time cover story, "Evolution Wars," about the push to teach intelligent-design theory in school science classes. It's a good article that articulates the difference between traditional creationism and the growing intelligent-design movement. Because I recently addressed this subject, I'll spare you any further commentary on the article.
In a Time Forum printed alongside the intelligent design piece, four experts (all middle-aged white men) answer the question, "Can you believe in God and evolution?" One of the experts, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a self-avowed young-Earth creationist, says, "You cannot coherently affirm the Christian truth claim and the dominant model of evolutionary thoery at the same time. Meaning no disrespect to Dr. Mohler, but not having the energy to go into a lengthy explanation of why I disagree with him, I thought I'd recommend an article from Landover Baptist. It's an excellent piece of satire titled, "New Evidence Suggests Noah's Sons Rode Flying Dinosaurs."
Sunday, August 14, 2005
[Don] will share his experience as a prisoner of conscience, following his arrest for nonviolent protest in dissent over U.S. military policy at The School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The retired professor and director of field education at Vanderbilt University Divinity School was sentenced to six months in federal prison in Kentucky for his protest at the Fort Benning, Ga. installation that trains Latin American soldiers.
Ray Waddle, in the December 2004, Presbyterian Voice editorial, said that Beisswenger, a Presbyterian minister, went willingly to prison: “His politics and theology led him there – a commitment to make common cause with voiceless people, whether homeless people in the U.S. or citizens in Latin America who suffer, as he sees it, at the hands of U.S. foreign policy. Several SOA graduates have been implicated in killing of missionaries or torture. The Army says no courses there advocate torture or abuse.”
Cole, the beloved founder and leader of Christian Dissent Live, promises to have the kinks worked out by next week. Then you will be able to listen to the show at your leisure.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
According to the City Paper, several armadillos have made their way to Tennessee, and they keep coming. Apparently, armadillos can cause problems "because its fear response is jumping straight up, more often then not into be the undercarriage of passing cars."
I still haven't seen one, but I'll let you know when I do.
Friday, August 12, 2005
According to Truth Laid Bear, this site is the 4,374th most visisted blog that they track, with 57 unique visitors per day. (The chart to the right illustrates Daily Josh readership trends.) Woo! I had no idea I got that many hits. Thank you, readers.
Update: I think that the ranking is actually based on the number of unique links to The Daily Josh from other blogs tracked by Truth Laid Bear, and the number is now up to 63. They also rank blogs based on unique visitors, but I'll have to put a special counter on the page to be tracked. Still, I am now ranked 4,172 out of 34,466 blogs. That puts me in the 87th percentile. So I'm encouraged.
Justice Sunday II: Is It Really a Big Deal?
The original Justice Sunday was attacked by crazy religious liberals like myself because the event's speakers implied that those who take issue with the President's judicial nominees are not people of faith, and because my senator, Bill Frist, was one of those speakers. (Frist, since endorsing federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, is no longer on good terms with Dobson and Perkins.) This time around, people know what to expect, so this Sunday's speakers are unlikely to surprise or shock anyone.
My question is, Who are the organizers and distinguished guests of Justice Sunday II speaking for? I have not been able to locate a list of participating churches or a full list of featured speakers. (Neither is available on the official website.) From what I can gather, mainline Protestants are not represented at all. According to Mark Tooley, the head United Methodist at the Institute for Religion and Democracy (an advocacy group for social, political, and theological conservatives within mainline Protestantism), his organization is not involved. Good News, the most prominent organization for conservative United Methodists also will not be participating. Though many mainline Protestants sympathize with the political views of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, few (if any) are endorsing this event.
When I Googled "Justice Sunday II," I found that 11 of the first 20 links are to bloggers protesting the event. Only 2 link to bloggers supporting the event, both of whom have been invited to blog live from Two Rivers Baptist. The remaining links lead to news reports and press releases about Justice Sunday II.
Though Dobson, Perkins, and company claim to speak on behalf of the majority of American voters, I would argue that they don't speak for the majority of American Christians, the majority of Republicans, the majority of Republican Christians, or the majority of parents who look to Focus on the Family for information about movies, music, and so forth. I could be wrong, but I would advise people not to get too worked up about Justice Sunday II. I don't think these people have as much influence as they think they do.
More on Christian Dissent Live, this Sunday from 6:00–8:00 a.m. on Radio Free Nashville.
Given the goals of the video, I was disappointed. I don't care for music videos with excessive dialog and lengthy no-music sequences. Videos should not try to transcend the music itself. If artists really want to turn music videos into mini-movies, they need to show me something special. Unfortunately, Green Day and director Samuel Bayer fail to do so.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Gazing Into the Future, Ignoring the Present
I was tempted to analyze recent speculation and polling data regarding the next presidential election; then I remembered that it is more than three years away. We are only nine months removed from the last election, and some prospective presidential candidates have 2006 races to worry about.
Our culture seems to value candidates more for winning elections (or at least running good races) more than for what they actually do as elected officials. I don't care for President Bush, but he is our president and will be for another three years. Instead of wasting time speculating about who might replace Bush in a few years, I think my time would be better spent petitioning the president and my other elected representatives about issues that are important to me (even if they have never listened to me before). Policy is not made in elections but in the halls of government.
Unfortunately, many politicians seem more concerned about being re-elected or crafting their legacies than about doing what is best for their constituents. Ridiculous amendments are tacked onto bills that legislators will have to vote for for PR reasons. Our leaders are more concerned about how much money is spent on education, defense, and so forth than they are about how that money is spent. After all, responsible and effective use of resources is difficult to explain in a 30-second television spot.
Our elected representatives, whether we like them or not, do a very important job, even if we don't approve of how they are doing it; the rest of us need to remember that being involved in the political process is not limited to voting. We need to keep tabs on those who represent us and save campaigning for election years.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Wednesday Evening Reading
On how the UM Judicial Council's decision in the Beth Stroud case—expected to be issued in late October—will upset everyone, but for different reasons
Think Progress: In Romance With USA, Americans Play Hard to Get
An interesting assessment of recent polling data
Tiny Cat Pants: Unacceptable
About a government plan to reduce the cost of war by investigating for fraud veterans' claims of post-traumatic stress disorder
The Onion: Vehement Anti-Cell-Phone Guy Finally Caves In
"After calling the device "the item single-handedly responsible for the erosion of our nation's social and cultural foundation" for close to a decade, Jason Whiting gave in to social pressures this weekend and bought a cell phone."
The Defense Department is using money from its hideously large budget to hold the first annual "Freedom Walk" to commemorate 9/11. The walk will start at the Pentagon, go through Arlington National Cemetary, and end on the National Mall, where festivities will culminate in a Clint Black concert.
Clint Black? Were Alan Jackson and Brooks and Dunn unavailable? 9/11 was an American tragedy. But, as a white person living in the south, I am bothered that white southerners have gone to such lengths to claim 9/11 as our own. The terrorist attacks of four years ago affected the entire country, but particularly the eastern seaboard, and especially New York City. If the Defense Department must throw this celebration of freedom/exploitation of a national tragedy, I suggest finding a more suitable performer for the closing concert, like New York's own Jay-Z.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
My question: If we can tell that a boy will be gay years before he hits puberty, can we conclude that homosexuality is the result of genetic andor early-childhood developmental factors and is in no way a choice? Personally, I'm not sure that the answer matters; being gay or lesbian hurts no one.
I recently re-read Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity. When I first read the book, in the spring of last year, I wrote this review (though I never did anything with it). I looked over my old review tonight and have decided that I stand by what I wrote last year. So if you have read or are interested in reading The Heart of Christianity (and it is a worthwhile read), check out my review and let me know what you think.
Monday, August 08, 2005
If you've ever wondered why the heading on this blog says "Josh Tinley.com" (three times, no less), I should say that I didn't realize that people would ever find "scrambies.blogspot.com" without first going to Josh Tinley.com. But, from what I can tell, most people come directly here, which is good, because I update the blog daily. Most of the stuff on my main site is ancient andor not worth looking at.
I'd actually prefer that people come directly to the blog. But to clear up any confusion, I thought I should say that there is an actual Josh Tinley.com on the web and that I still update it semi-regularly.
And while I'm thinking about it, here's a new Meyer picture that I forgot to put up on his website.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
On the Air
In the meantime check out Nashville Is Talking. Cole was this weekend's guest blogger.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Watching VH1's Top 20 Countdown has become a part of the Tinleys' Saturday morning routine. For some reason, Meyer prefers it to SpongeBob SquarePants.
In recent weeks The Pussycat Dolls (featuring Busta Rhymes) have been near the top of the chart with "Don't Cha." ("Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?") VH1 often fails to mention (actually, I've never heard them mention) that "Don't Cha" is essentially a cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1988 classic "Swass." ("Don't you wish your boyfriend was swass like me?") To quote an Amazon.com review by Eric C. Baur of Owensboro, KY:
Unfortunately, many people have pigeon-holed Sir Mix-A-Lot as a "Weird Al" style rapper who busts rhymes about big butts and buttermilk biscuits. Sadly, this just isn't true. Swass is a pristine example of old-school rap that was just starting to become mainstream when this ablum was initally released. As well, Mix-A-Lot helped bring Seattle to the rap mainstream when most artists were based either in New York or L.A.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Biggest Signing in Predators History
Few question whether the church should help people obtain skills, find work, and meet their basic living needs. But United Methodists, and Christians as a whole, still disagree on whether the church should petition and pressure the government to pass legislation that protects workers and ensures laborers better compensation. I feel that the church should be involved in such advocacy efforts, but allow me to back up. I would like to suggest that churches use a three-tiered approach to help workers (both those currently employed and those looking for work). You can read that last sentence two different ways: that churches do use this approach, or that churches should start using this approach. I mean both. Anyway:
1) The church needs to help the working poor (and the poor in general) meet their basic needs. Many churches put significant effort and resources into providing needy persons food, shelter, clothing, and so forth. Congregations could more effectively meet these needs with financial and logistical support from local, state, and federal governments.
2) The church needs to help people move forward. Again, many congregations are already doing this. I know of several churches and church-affiliated programs in my area that offer job-training and job-counseling, English classes for immigrants, programs to rehabilitate criminals and prostitutes, programs to help people overcome addiction, and so forth. All of these efforts help people find work and take steps toward financial security. Here also, the more the government helps out, the better.
3) The church needs to be involved in advocacy. The idea that "those who work hard will be OK, and those who aren't OK aren't working hard" is silly. When I was in high school, making little more than minimum wage was great. I could bowl three games and get a malt at Steak 'n' Shake every night, and the money never ran out. I couldn't believe that anyone complained about money. Once I had graduated from college, making little more than minimum wage was not sufficient. I couldn't pay for basic living expenses without help from my parents, a luxury that many people don't have. And, of course, I didn't have benefits.
But this isn't about me. Millions of people are working hard (sometimes working multiple jobs) and not getting by. While we shouldn't rely on the government to solve all of our problems, the government (local, state, and federal) has a responsibility to provide for the common welfare. If affordable housing is lacking, the government needs to find ways to create more affordable housing units. If millions of people lack healthcare, the government needs to initiate programs to make sure that these people are taken care of. Today the minimum wage is ridiculously low, many people work full-time and live below the poverty line, and the disparity between the haves and have-nots continues to grow. The government must do something to increase wages.
Churches are called to minister to people in need, but churches simply do not have the resources to both meet people's basic needs and help people take the next step forward, especially when government policies ensure a continual flow of needy persons and families. Even while the church reaches out to the poor, the church must petition and pressure the government for legislation that will help solve the underlying problems of poverty. According to Jim Wallis, one out of every sixteen New Testament verses deals with poverty andor social justice; the ratio in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is one-in-ten; in Luke alone, it is one-in-seven. Poverty andor social justice is the second most prominent topic in the Old Testament. (Idolatry is first.) Clearly, effectively fighting poverty is a biblical imperative.
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Sweet Charity by Janet Poppendieck
God's Politics by Jim Wallis
The Fair Wage Plan
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Last night, I found the source of these little booklets. Jack Chick has been drawing them for forty years and has produced titles on a host of subjects. Before I raise the obvious objections, I'd like to commend Chick for two reasons:
1) I like that Chick tracts are strategically left in public places. It's a little creepy, but a good idea nonetheless. Before I got into websites, I seriously considered using this method to distribute essays and short stories. People are intrigued by what they find lying around.
2) Every time I read This Was Your Life! I spent time reflecting on my life and seriously evaluating my priorities. Though I think that Jack Chick's theology is dangerous, he definitely makes his readers think about their own beliefs.
Looking through the list of booklets, I was shocked by the number of anti-Catholic tracts. Chick considers Catholicism a false and idolatrous faith. I was less surprised to find that he preaches against homosexuals, Harry Potter, Palestinians, and teachers of evolution. He also caricatures heretics like me (who read Harry Potter, don't hate gay people, think that the theory of evolution has merit, and so on) as those who subversively use the public school system to attack Christianity.
Some of the Chick tracts are unintentionally humorous; some are frightening. At any rate, now I know where they come from.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
I am a Christian who has no problem with the theory of evolution. Evolution is an ongoing creation process, and I believe in a living God who continues to create. And I don't have a problem with intelligent design. I do, however, feel that this philosophical viewpoint should not be taught as science.
For one, intelligent design theory isn't entirely scientific. While the idea of irreducible complexity is intriguing, it and intelligent design in general rely heavily on gaps in evolutionary theory as evidence for a greater intelligence. In essence, intelligent design theorists fill in scientific holes with God. Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett in Evolution From Creation to New Creation point out the theological flaw in this reasoning:
The problem with this position is that by placing God within the gaps of our knowledge we run the risk that when science advances such that a natural explanation is found, the place of God disappears. . . . This confuses primary cause (divine action) and secondary causes (the law-like behavior of the universe).
I affirm the idea that a greater intelligence works through the laws of nature but don't think that one's belief in a divine creator should be reduced to science or taught in public-school science classes. Rather, churches should point to the natural world and the vast universe as products of God's magnificent creativity.
After protests from Philadelphia city officials and Philadelphia-area blogs, the mainstream media has finally picked up on the story of Latoyia Figueroa, a 24-year-old Hispanic woman who is five months pregnant and has been missing for two weeks. While Figueroa's story is similar to Laci Peterson's and seems at least as newsworthy as Natalee Holloway's (Figueroa is pregnant, after all), new outlets have given it little coverage. Even though CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC have all done stories on Latoyia, none has given the matter nearly as much attention as the Natalee Holloway story.
Unfortunately, missing persons are fairly common. While each case is tragic, only some can be covered. How do media outlets determine which to cover and how much ink or airtime each case gets? I can only assume that race consciously or subconsciously plays a role, especially considering the ubiquitous coverage of the Laci Peterson and Natalee Holloway disappearances and the sparse coverage of Latoyia Figueroa.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Having read the list, I am even more upset that the United States has never had a female president, that a woman has never run for president on a major party ticket, and that only one woman has run for vice president on a major party ticket. If Bangladesh and Latvia can have women as heads of state, why not the U.S., a nation known for equality and opportunity. (Of course, we've never had a minority president either.)
CNN.com also provides a list of organizations that are involved in the relief effort. I would like to add UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) to the list.
Monday, August 01, 2005
This weekend astronomers suggested that 2003UB313—a large, round, trans-Neptunian object (TNO) in the Kuiper belt—is our solar system's tenth planet.
2003UB313 is larger than Pluto, which argues for it gaining planet status. Personally, however, I'm not sure that Pluto should count as a true planet, but as a minor planet—one of many minor planets in the Kuiper belt. Its orbit is unlike that of any of the eight undisputed planets, and it is smaller than the earth's moon (as is 2003UB313). The only planet nearly as small as Pluto is Mercury, which is located close to the sun, where one expects to find smaller, rocky planets. (One other possibility is that Pluto and its moon, Charon, form a double planet.)
If we do consider Pluto a planet, then 2003UB313 must also be certified as a planet and given a name that is easier to remember. My fear is that astronomers will continue to find large objects in the Kuiper belt that argue for planet status. Before long, we will have dozens of planets in the solar system, and third grade science will suddenly become much more difficult.