Saturday, April 29, 2006

Beth Stroud Featured in Philadelphia Inquirer

United Methodist minister Beth Stroud, officially defrocked by a UM Judicial Council decision last fall, is the subject of a story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Some things about the life of Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud remain the same since she came out as a lesbian and was stripped of her ministerial credentials.

Stroud, of Mount Airy, still stands in the pulpit and preaches Sunday sermons at First United Methodist Church of Germantown. She still visits the sick and leads the youth group.

She does all those things, however, without the title of "the Reverend" next to her name. Her robes and colorful stoles hang in a closet. And she no longer presides when sacraments such as Communion and baptism are observed.

Stroud, 36, is fashioning a new role in between. It is one that includes a growing list of speaking engagements, thoughts of writing about her experiences - and motherhood. Stroud and her partner, Chris Paige, became the parents of a baby foster daughter within a month of the final decision in Stroud's case.

I, for one, am glad that First UMC Germantown (FUMCOG) continues to pay Beth Stroud a salary and continues to allow her to use her spiritual gifts as a congregational leader, preacher, and teacher. Such is the tragedy of the UMC's policy against ordaining "self-avowed practicing" homosexuals: One's gifts as a minister are determined by the type of person one is attracted to rather than how God is calling one to use his or her spiritual gifts. (I am very familiar with all of the counter arguments, so please spare me.)

I also think that Beth has been a model of grace and patience throughout this whole ordeal. She has received a great deal of media attention but has not brought it on herself. She has voiced her intent to remain a United Methodist and has wished no ill will on the denomination. Unfortunately, her story has sparked several vitriolic and fruitless debates on the place of homosexuals in the United Methodist Church. If only the rest of us could be as loving and gracious as Beth when sorting out our differences.

I've Let Myself Go

Nearly four days without new content. I haven't gone that long without updating this site since the fall of 2004. Work has been more stressful than ever, and outside of work and all of the extracurricular activities I've signed up for, I've spent most of my time bonding with Meyer, who seems to be getting some sense of what's going on in mommy's belly.

I'm also having doubts about my new "God blog," Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation. I want to draw attention to important and novel church-related stories, to help the church laugh or roll its eyes at itself when appropriate, and to distract people of faith from tired debates that have devolved into a waste of time and energy. But I think I'm too concerned about what people think of me and about getting along with everyone to be irreverent and ironic. I don't want to be misunderstood, and I don't want people to get mad at me over my attempts at sarcasm or satire; I'd rather they first read my clear and thoughtful personal reflections on a given issue then get mad at me. I'm not the person I was ten years ago, and the Josh who's nearly 30 isn't interested in picking virtual-fights.

I suppose the Josh who is nearly 30 is a Josh of self-doubt and misguided ambition.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Need You to Fill Out This Survey

Please, especially if you are under 35 and have some religious inclinations or curiosities, take a few minutes (and, I promise, it will only take as long) to fill out this survey. It will help The United Methodist Publishing House better understand and reach out to young adult Christians and seekers.

Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll

This Saturday, I'll be joining three of my former bandmates—Brian Fuzzell and Zach Collier (with me for many years in Pink Mongoose and Three Hit Combo) and David Dewese (who gracefully allowed me to be in his band, the Foxymorons, for a couple months)—to perform one song at Hillcrest United Methodist in Nashville. We'll be playing a song I wrote for a United Methodist Confirmation resource, called "Grace." (It explains John Wesley's theology of grace in four minutes of rock 'n' roll. I'll be on bass and backing vocals.)

To prepare, we ran through the song about a dozen times in Brian and David's basement and cooled off with a couple old Three Hit Combo songs. Brian and David, both of whom have been hitting the road with Jetpack and the Foxymorons, both seemed unfazed by the experience. David's voice (David is singing lead) was just as smooth and buttery at the end of practice as it was at the beginning; and Brian never once complained of arm soreness. Zach, until recently a member of Mostly Robot and Hail to the Keith, showed minor signs of wear, but nothing significant. As for me, my voice still has not fully recovered and my calves are still sore from standing in my rock stance for so long.

To be clear, I'm not a couch potato. I may be a bit chunky, but that is due to my love of food, not an aversion to exercise. I do 8-10 miles on the stationary elliptical machine every weekday, plus yard work and some weights. Rock 'n' roll just works a unique combination of muscles and joints; muscles and joints that gradually become stiff and useless starting at the age of 27 if one does not maintain a regular practice schedule. I'm almost 30, and, aside from my brief stint with the Foxymorons, I have been out of my rock 'n' roll routine for five-and-a-half years. Maybe I've reached a crossroads: Get busy rockin' or get busy dyin'.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Logical Flaw in Law Requiring English-Only License Exams

The Tennessee House today will continue debating a bill requiring that driver's license exams be taken in English only. The bill passed the Senate last week. The Tennessean has more.

Here's the problem: If we make it difficult for non-English speakers to get driver's licenses, these persons won't be able to legally drive to ESL classes. (And no city in Tennessee is renowned for its public transportation.) The way I see it, this bill will prevent people from learning English.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Deodorant on Drywall

Meyer's latest work:

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bumper Sticker Illustrates My Problem With a Two-Party System

I saw today, for the first time, the bumper sticker that says, "I'd rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than riding with Ted Kennedy."

My question is, Do we have to make a choice? Should we just excuse one person because his political opponent did something worse? Yes, Chappaquiddick was worse than Cheney's hunting accident, but it also happened 29 years ago, and it certainly isn't reason enough to let Cheney off the hook.

I know it's just a sticker, but the Cheney-Kennedy line is indicative of a larger practice in this country: one of the two recognized political parties or ideologies avoids addressing legitimate questions and concerns about its actions or policies by drawing attention to the shortcomings of the competing party or ideology. A politician doesn't have to demonstrate that he or she is worthy of our vote or support; he or she simply has to convince the public that he or she is not as bad as his or her opponent. (That last sentence would be much smoother if English had a gender-neutral third-person pronoun.)

You Can't Spell "Aspiring" Without "Aspirin®"

I just noticed that earlier today.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Safari for Mac OS X Is the Best Web Browser Ever!

Everything loads so fast and looks so smooth. Safari makes my new website, Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation, look spectacular. On Internet Explorer, by comparison, Corrupt Generation looks terribly average and must rely on its excellent content.

Click here for more on Safari.

Click here to visit Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation: God-Based News, Commentary, and Nonsense.

. . . And A-Wheezy As Little Buddha

I just learned that Alex Wiesendanger, Jesuit volunteer for the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing and two-time guest on Christian Dissent Live (my former radio show), starred as the title character in the 1993 movie Little Buddha. How about that?

Download the second of two Christian Dissent interviews with Alex.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

He Just Couldn't Wait to Get in the Tub

Read Meyer's explanation of this picture:

"Corrupt Generation" Celebrates One Year of Pope Ben 16 . . .

. . . by listing the best pope names he could have taken, but didn't. Read the list at

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Got Nothing Tonight

I'm a little depressed because Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation is down right now, and I don't have anything else interesting to talk about. Maybe tomorrow.

I also need to bug Meyer. He hasn't posted anything in almost two weeks. (And I don't raise slackers.)

Good night.

Kurtis Blow Is a Methodist

Legendary early-eighties rapper Kurtis Blow can now be found leading Thursday-night worship at an African Methodist Episcopal, Zion Church in Harlem. More at Corrupt Generation.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

History's 10 Days Lacks Women, Needs Different Title

I've enjoyed watching The History Channel's 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America this week, and would recommend the mini-series, but with reservation. For one, few of the ten one-hour short films live up to the name of the series. Each is about an important, and in some cases oft-overlooked, event in American history. But the films don't necessarily underscore the impact of a single day, nor do they all convince the viewer that the radical changes that ensued were entirely unexpected.

More significantly, I think, none of the events selected had a woman as a key player. For much of the nation's history women didn't have the right to vote, and only in recent decades have women been accepted in a variety of professions and leadership possessions. It is now common for an educated male professional to have a female boss or to make less money than his wife. What major events precipitated this sea change? The series looks at key moments in the history of workers, African Americans, Native Americans, and even adolescents. Why was History unable to identify such an event in the history of women in the United States?

Easter Sunday Priorities

Bayside Community Church in East Manatee, Florida will have the late Dale Earnhardt's number 3 Chevy available for viewing and photos on Easter Sunday. Fans have to sit through a worship service to get their picture taken with the car; they have to return for the following week's service if they want to pick up their 4 x 6 photograph. Lead Pastor Randy Bezet assures the public that using the car is not a gimmick but a fresh way "to communicate the ageless gospel."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation: God-Related News, Commentary, and Nonsense

From now on most of my God-related blogging will be done at my new website, Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation*: God-Related News, Commentary, and Nonsense ( My hope is that Corrupt Generation will be more than a blog; I hope to have columnists, recurring features, and (eventually) Podcasts and original music. But right now, it's pretty much just a blog (though, so far, I'm very happy with the content). Drop by Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation and let me know what you like or loathe.

*"Save yourselves from this corrupt generation" is taken from Acts 2:40.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

ATF Takes Care of Suspicious Ninja Activity at UGA Wesley Foundation

University of Georgia student Jeremiah Ransom was walking back from a "pirates vs. ninjas event" at the school's Wesley Foundation when he was apprehended and detained by Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents (see picture, left). Ransom was one of the ninjas. According to Red and Black, an independent student newspaper, "Ransom said he thought a friend was playing a joke before he realized officers had guns drawn and pointed at him." Apparently, all of the pirates avoided arrest.

ATF blunders aside, that a Wesley Foundation was hosting a "pirates vs. ninjas event" is yet another reason I am proud to be a United Methodist.

Rev. William Sloane Coffin Dies

Popular progressive minister, activist, and Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin died yesterday of congestive heart failure at his home in Vermont. He was 81.

From the Washington Post:

From the moment in 1958 when Mr. Coffin roared onto Yale's campus atop his motorcycle, he signaled that his presence would mean a distinctly radical approach to the social, political and moral upheaval that defined the next decade.

Mr. Coffin called himself a "Christian revolutionary" and believed that his outspoken activism sprang from the principles of his faith.

His 18-year tenure at Yale encompassed the civil rights struggle and the Vietnam War, each of which he confronted in bold and daring fashion.

Two days ago, I started reading Coffin's latest book, Letters to a Young Doubter. I should finish "Letters" later today. (It's a quick read.) I'll refrain from reviewing it, but I have dog-eared the pages that I've found especially inspiring and that might be the basis of future posts.

(Hat tip: Chuck Currie.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Kentucky College Expels Student for Being Gay

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

[Jason] Johnson, a sophomore majoring in theater arts, was expelled from the [University of the Cumberlands] Thursday because he declared online that he is gay. In a statement released last week, the university's president, Jim Taylor said students are held to a "higher standard" and that "students know the rules before they come to this institution."

I suppose that the university—a small, private, Baptist school in Kentucky—has the right to make its own policies; and a clause in the current student handbook says that a student "may be suspended or asked to withdraw" if he or she "engages in or promotes" homosexuality. However, this clause is a recent addition, and was not included in the handbook available to Johnson when he decided to attend.

Moreover, according to the handbook the punishment for being gay is possible suspension or expulsion. Thus Johnson got the maximum penalty, and he got it just weeks before the end of the term. That's just nasty. The university at least could have waited until the end of the semester. Johnson's classmate Renee Kuder says:

"They're being hypocritical, by Christian standards. If we love each other, accept each other for who we are, why are they kicking him out? I almost feel like they're trying to mold us, me, into a person that I wouldn't want to be.

"There's a letter in the student handbook that says everyone is a unique creation of God, you're special, we care about you. They didn't care if he didn't have a place to go. They could have pretty much ruined his life."

Needless to say, the on-campus drama generated by the expulsion isn't good for anyone's educational experience.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Twelve Scenes From Upcoming UCC Television Commercials

The following is taken from a still untidy project that I call "Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation":

The United Church of Christ's "Ejector Seat" commercial was rejected by the four major networks but nonetheless now appears regularly on CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, History, and several other basic cable networks. Time will tell whether the ad—in which a single mother, gay couple, Middle Eastern man, elderly man with a walker, and others are ejected from their church pews—is effective in bringing people to the church. In the meantime, the UCC is no doubt developing more controversial television spots. SYFTCG takes a look at twelve ideas that might be in the works:

  • A deacon turns up the heat in the sanctuary to spite the family of Eskimos sitting in the back.

  • A woman of ambiguous ethnicity waits at the door of the sanctuary while church security decides whether she is white enough to be allowed in.

  • A single mother and a flamboyant man are forcibly wed so that both are discouraged from pursuing a deviant lifestyle.

  • An usher takes a cane away from an elderly man, saying, “If you have enough faith, you won’t need this.”

  • An obviously poor man walks up to the church door and finds that he must purchase a ticket if he wants to come in and worship; the cheapest ticket is $10, but that only buys a seat in the last row of the balcony.

  • A child with Down’s Syndrome is tripped on his way to his seat by a preppy, teenage acolyte.

  • Visitors are given a 50-question Scantron test on their way into the sanctuary to determine whether they are holy enough to participate in worship.

  • The pastoral staff notices an olive-skinned family visiting their church and turns them in to the Department of Homeland Security (along with the congregation's one obviously gay member, for good measure).

  • Two lesbians walk up to take Holy Communion; the pastor responds by dripping a little cyanide into their wine.

  • “Heretical” Bible translations are confiscated at the door, burned, and replaced with leather-bound King James Bibles.

  • The church building committee installs an unusually narrow front door so that grossly overweight would-be worshipers cannot enter.

  • An elderly woman must submit to a physical exam before joining the church. The pastor tells her, “I spend half of my week making hospital visits. I don’t want any more sick old people in this church! ... And you better not be joining just to get a cheap funeral!”

Biology Teachers Beware

Creationist teens who are forced to attend heathen schools that teach the theory of evolution are fighting back, forcing their teachers at every turn to defend natural selection and the belief that the earth is celebrating its 4.6 billionth birthday. From the Los Angeles Times:

Monday morning, Room 207: First day of a unit on the origins of life. Veteran biology teacher Al Frisby of Liberty, Mo., switches on the overhead projector and braces himself.As his students rummage for their notebooks, Frisby introduces his central theme: Every creature on Earth has been shaped by random mutation and natural selection - in a word, by evolution.

The challenges begin at once.

"Isn't it true that mutations only make an animal weaker?" sophomore Chris Willett demands. "'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

Frisby tries to explain that evolution takes millions of years, but Willett isn't listening. "I feel a tail growing!" he calls to his friends, drawing laughter.

Nice. That's a burn.

Some of these kids are trained using resources from Answers in Genesis, one of the leading advocates of young-earth creationism. When you have time, visit the Answers in Genesis website. These guys have a thorough, scientific-sounding answer to just about any question. You'll be impressed.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Is the Gospel of Judas Worth the Hype?

Touting a newly discovered, newly published Gospel is a good way to sell magazines and attract viewers; it's also a good way to make an ancient document—in this case the Gospel of Judas—sound much more exciting than it really is. (Read a translation of Judas (PDF) here.) While the Gospel of Judas is an exciting archeological discovery, it is only one of several noncanonical Gospels. With the exception of the Gospel of Thomas, scholars widely agree that none of these texts contain historically reliable information about the life of Jesus (though they tell us a great deal about the communities that produced them) and that all were likely written in the second century or later. (Thomas isn't terribly popular among scholars, but a handful feel that it includes unique sayings that can be traced back to the historical Jesus. Reputable scholar John Dominic Crossan also believes that parts of the Gospel of Peter were taken from a document produced in the middle of the first century.) Many of these Gospels are written under a pseudonym and attributed to Jesus' closest followers (Peter, James, Philip, Mary Magdalene, and so on).

(My favorite noncanonical Gospel is the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, in which a bratty pre-pubescent Jesus curses and kills anyone who rubs him the wrong way before ultimately curing them or bringing them back to life.)

I am by no means an authority on the Gospel of Judas, but I guess that, like other extrabiblical Gospels, Judas tells us little or nothing about the life of Jesus. A cursory reading gives me the impression that the document is based on a tradition that did not originate among the first generations of Christians.

On the other hand, the Gospel of Judas was condemned as heresy by Irenaeus (a bishop and "church father") in the late second century. Documents are not deemed heretical (especially in antiquity) unless a large group of people consider them authoritative. Thus the idea that Judas was a good guy who did not realize that his actions would lead to Jesus' death must have been embraced by a relatively large group of people early in Christian history. In other words this document cannot teach us about Jesus, but it may provide valuable information about the early church.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Maggie Dixon, Army Women's Basketball Coach, Dies at 28

Maggie Dixon, first year coach of West Point's women's basketball team, died last night at the age of 28. Dixon, who took over as head coach one day before the start of the season, led Army to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and its first 20-win season since 1991.

Dixon was hospitalized Wednesday night "after suffering an 'arrhythmic episode to her heart.'"

"New Mexico" Thing Not That Funny

On further reflection, I've decided that my post, "Given Recent Events, Should the U.S. Allow a State to Call Itself New Mexico?" (below) was a weak attempt at satire.

Given Recent Events, Should the U.S. Allow a State to Call Itself New Mexico?

By allowing a state on our southern border to be called "New Mexico," the United States is practically inviting illegal immigrants from regular Mexico. Think of it this way: Sneaking across the border from Mexico to Texas seems dangerous, risky; but crossing the border from old Mexico to New Mexico seems as natural as downloading a newer version of one's web browser. And, frankly, considering our current immigration crisis and the ubiquity of activists who confuse Mexican nationalism and American patriotism, the name "New Mexico" is just unpatriotic. It's time for a change.

A logical new name for New Mexico would be "New America," but that would imply an "old America" and suggest that we are a nation divided. Still, renaming the 47th state is a welcome opportunity to come up with a state name that is not derived from a foreign language or the name of an Indian tribe. This time, we need something distincly American-sounding. New Mexico calls itself the "Land of Enchantment"; maybe we could officially rename it the "Land of Freedom" or the "Land of Native Citizens." Then again, we only have one state named after an American president. Apparently, naming states after our great American leaders isn't "politically correct." But we don't have to put up with political correctness: New Mexico could become "Reagan" or "Bush."

At any rate, New Mexico needs a new name soon if it wants to remain a part of the Union. Border security, after all, is as much a matter of psychology as it is a matter of policy or personnel. Right now New Mexico is a 120,000-square-mile welcome sign for illegal immigrants, and that has to change.

I think I'm supposed to put a satire disclaimer somewhere.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

AFA Is Angry at Wal-Mart for Selling Brokeback Mountain

Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the Mississippi-based American Family Association, says the movie -- despite winning three Academy Awards earlier this month -- is not "family-friendly." And it does not belong on the shelves of a store that has marketed itself to middle America, he adds.

Two questions:

1. Is Brokeback Mountain really the most offensive thing that Wal-Mart sells?

2. Am I allowed to shop at Target, or is Target still in trouble for declaring "War on Christmas"?

(Hat tip: John Wilks)

I Don't Think That Eric Pianka Really Advocates Genocide

University of Texas professor Eric Pianka ("The Lizard Man," right) has taken a lot of heat in recent days from bloggers and talk radio personalities who suggest that the professor advocates wiping out most of the human race. Intelligent design advocate William Dembski is so mad with Pianka that he reported the professor to the Department of Homeland Security (a move that, in my opinion, was just childish).

So what is Pianka saying that is causing such a fuss? From the Seguin (TX) Gazette-Enterprise:

AUSTIN - A University of Texas professor says the Earth would be better off with 90 percent of the human population dead. . . .

Pianka's words are part of what he calls his "doomsday talk" - a 45-minute presentation outlining humanity's ecological misdeeds and Pianka's predictions about how nature, or perhaps humans themselves, will exterminate all but a fraction of civilization. . . .

Indeed, his words deal, very literally, on a life-and-death scale, yet he smiles and jokes candidly throughout the lecture. Disseminating a message many would call morbid, Pianka's warnings are centered upon awareness rather than fear.

That Pianka is so giddy about his theory that disease will wipe out most of humanity is disturbing, but I can see how his morbid enthusiasm would appeal to college students. At any rate, I see no evidence that Pianka favors genocide, as some have suggested; he just thinks that the human population has gotten too large too quickly and is having devastating effects on the planet. Soon, he suggests, the natural world will get fed up and fight back, probably with a deadly virus. The smaller, surviving human population will then have a much better relationship with the rest of the biosphere. It isn't pleasant, but it's a theory.

(Actually, sending a disease to substantially reduce the human population for the long-term benefit of the whole of creation sounds like the work of an "intelligent designer." There's even a biblical precedent: Genesis 6–8.)

If you don't like Pianka's theory, then explain why it's wrong. Show scientifically that the human population isn't too big or why it will decrease gradually over thousands of years instead of being almost entirely wiped out by a pathogen. Don't condemn Pianka as a heretic and a terrorist just because you don't like his conclusions and the way he presents them—respond with science.

Amateur Plumbing

The water just wouldn't stop running, and conventional tools just weren't getting the job done; this is what I came up with:

Things Get Worse for the Duke Lacrosse Team

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Hours after an exotic dancer was allegedly raped by members of the Duke University lacrosse team, a player apparently sent an e-mail saying he wanted to invite more strippers to his dorm room, kill them and skin them. It was not clear whether the message was serious or a joke.

Read more.

College students have been known to get crazy with the e-mail after a long evening of hard partying, but this is just sick.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

We're at War . . . I Guess

A small, albeit loud and indignant, contingent of our brothers and sisters in Christ has decided that "liberals" and "secularists" have declared a War on Christians and that the soldiers of Christendom must set off on a new crusade. The Army of Christ's self-anointed officer core met last week at the first "War on Christians Conference" to discuss battle plans. More accurately, they got together to rant and whine about people who disagree with them and to raise money. People for the American Way has the details.

These crusaders feel that they have lost a battle in the War on Christians whenever school children are not reprimanded for forgetting to say "God bless you" to a classmate who sneezes. But what constitutes a win for the Religious Right? They took credit for the results the 2004 elections and have substantial influence over the federal government and several state governments, but they still complain incessantly about their elected leaders. They've convinced many Christians that same-sex relationships are more dangerous to our nation and world than poverty. They own universities, television channels, and publishers and have managed to attract a large audience. What else do these people want? Do we need to eliminate the judicial branch of government? place homosexuals in concentration camps? shut down all public school systems?

I'm sorry, but everything about the War on Christians strikes me as silly. I don't feel that my faith is threatened—I certainly don't feel like I am at war with the larger culture. And, frankly, I don't see how hurling insults at loosely defined groups of people (liberals, secularists, and the like) effectively builds up the Body of Christ.


The Rich Get Richer

They always do; but sometimes studies come out that verify the trend. Take, for example, this study done by the New York Times:

According to the study, taxpayers with incomes greater than $10 million reduced their investment tax bill by an average of about $500,000 in 2003, and their total tax savings, which included the two Bush tax cuts on compensation, nearly doubled, to slightly more than $1 million.

These taxpayers, whose average income was $26 million, paid about the same share of their income in income taxes as those making $200,000 to $500,000 because of the lowered rates on investment income.

Forgive me, but does someone with an income of $26 million really need to hold onto that $1 million that would otherwise be paid to the government? I'm not exactly a fan of the federal government, but Robin Leach has convinced me that even the federal government spends money more wisely than the average gozillionaire. (As a nation, we also have to pay for a war and do something about our record-setting budget deficits.)

Some would argue that, if the super-rich are allowed to keep more of their money, they'll create more jobs. Maybe. But I haven't been impressed by the number of jobs—particularly jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits—created in recent years.

Of course, as I have noted several times before, I am not an economist. But given all of the people who are struggling to get by, I have trouble feeling good about the richest Americans getting even wealthier.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tuesday Reading

  • "Does God Buy Off the Rack?: columnist Joseph C. Phillips challenges the wisdom and integrity of the prosperity gospel.

  • Faith of our fathers: The current Newsweek features an excerpt from Jon Meacham's new book American Gospel. Meacham writes, "Yet to claim that religion has only recently become a political force in the United States is uninformed and unhistorical; in practice, the "wall" of separation is not a very tall one. Equally wrongheaded is the tendency of conservative believers to portray the Founding Fathers as apostles in knee britches."

  • "Road to Westboro: The Wichita Eagle on Fred Phelps, his story, his beliefs, and his mission.

  • Nigerian soccer officials allowed to take bribes: According to Reuters, "Football referees in Nigeria can take bribes from clubs but should not allow them to influence their decisions on the pitch."

  • Discussions of God's gender are always fun: Join the party over at Wesley Daily.

  • He Isn't Really Narcoleptic . . .

    . . . he just refuses to take naps and ends up falling asleep in the strangest places.

    St. Is Too Common an Abbreviation; I Have a Solution

    St. is often used to abbreviate three unrelated words: "street," "state," and "saint." In my opinion, this is both confusing and lazy. Each of these independent concepts needs its own abbreviation.

    We have precedent for shortening words beginning with st (or containing an s and a t) with three-letter abbreviations. "Station" is sta., "strait" is str., and "suite" is ste. On the other hand, these existing short-hand forms complicate the task at hand. "Street," for example, cannot be abbreviated str. or ste., and "state" cannot be shortened to sta. or ste. Thus the only viable three-letter abbreviation for "street" or "state" is stt.

    I'm getting ahead of myself. Allow me to start with "saint." "Saint" should be abbreviated snt. Easy enough. Now the hard part: "Street," in my opinion, should retain the st. abbreviation, if only because changing the abbreviation for "street" would require replacing thousands of "street" signs at the tax payers' expense. "State," then, would get the abbreviation stt.

    Here is the rundown of Josh's st abbreviations:

    street = st.
    saint = snt.
    station = sta.
    suite = ste.
    strait = str.
    state = stt.

    I only hope that these small changes make casual, written English less confusing.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Study Finds Intercessory Prayer Ineffective

    I'm a couple days late on this one, but if you aren't familiar with the study in question, here's an article about it from Beliefnet. And here's a summary of the methodology:

    The latest study, released Thursday (March 30), was the most extensive. It involved 1,802 coronary artery bypass graft surgery patients from six hospitals who were divided into three groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after learning they might or might not be prayed for by others; 597 did not receive prayer after being told they might or might not receive it; 601 received intercessory prayer after learning they would receive it.

    Investigators found that complications occurred in 52 percent of the first group, 51 percent of the second group and 59 percent in the third group.

    While I question the sincerity of prayers that are mandated by a scientific study, I think that this study reveals problems not with the efficacy of intercessory prayer, but with the idea that intercessory prayer should lead to miraculous physical healing.

    During Lent Christians commemorate the life-giving power of Christ's death on the cross. While Christ is unique, all people necessarily die so that others might live. Humankind's unwillingness to die has led to overpopulation and a host of environmental problems that negatively affect the well-being of millions of people. The fight to keep people alive at all costs has stretched thin healthcare programs throughout the world and has left many people emotionally exhausted.

    In other words God would be doing humanity a disservice if God were to miraculously cure every seriously ill person who received enough prayers for his or her recovery. Such a view of intercession is also bad theology: If we believe that prayer—when offered by enough people, with enough sincerity—cures ailments and relieves people of other tangible burdens, then what do we say to people of faith who don't recover or whose homes aren't spared by the storm or whose parents get divorced anyway? Do these people have insufficient faith or too small a prayer chain?

    But I believe in intercessory prayer. Prayer may not be an effective way to send cancer into remission or to reverse a progressive illness (though on occasion it may work), but it can bring strength, courage, comfort, assurance, and an awareness of God's presence to both the person offering the prayer and the person being prayed for. God can provide courage and assurance without altering the delicate balance of life on earth (and throughout all of creation), and God does.