Monday, December 29, 2003


The wise heads who are called judges have struck down a New Hampshire parental notification law as unconstitutional:
A federal judge on Monday declared a New Hampshire law that would require parental notice (search) before a minor could get an abortion to be unconstitutional....

U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico said the law is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception to protect the minor's health.

Obviously this girl should have gotten an abortion instead of taken a Tylenol. That our government would have been proud of.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


New York Governor George Pataki has has posthumously pardoned "potty-mouthed" comic Lenny Bruce for some reason. Bruce was convicted 39 years ago on obscenity charges for a profanity laced stand-up routine. The New York Times put it well, however:
Being dead, Mr. Bruce is not expected to reap any immediate benefit from the pardon.

Theosebes suspects the move is in anticipation of the Democratic Presidential primary where the whole field appears to be potty mouthed. New York would hate to be forced to arrest the lot of them.

The President who called Islam a great faith is preparing to issue Kwanzaa message. But the success of Kwanzaa, the holiday that sprang full grown like (black) Athene from the head of Zeus (actually of Dr Maulana Karenga in 1966), has alarmed its own inventor and proponents:
Corporate America has caught on. For the duration of the holiday, from Dec 26 until Jan 1, stores will put on Kwanzaa displays, featuring African clothes, perhaps, and a kinara - the seven-branched candlestick at the centre of the festival.

You can buy your kinara from Avon, the catalogue giant. Hallmark sells Kwanzaa cards and wrapping paper, there are Kwanzaa cookbooks, and - from Paramount pictures - a "Rugrats" Kwanzaa cartoon.

Yet Dr Karenga - a former firebrand of the Black Power movement, now chairman of black studies at California State University - is far from happy.

Dr Karenga has denounced what he dubs "the corporate world's move to penetrate and dominate the Kwanzaa market"....

"Manipulating the language and symbols of Kwanzaa, they will seek not only to sell corporation-generated Kwanzaa items, but also to introduce a full range of corporate products as necessary for the practice of Kwanzaa," he said recently in a statement issued by the official Kwanzaa website.

Black people must build a "wall of resistance", and "refuse to co-operate with the corporate drive to dominate and redefine it and make it simply another holiday to maximise sales", Dr Karenga said.

You've got to love a holiday with an official website. I wonder if the leprechauns have one for St. Patrick's Day?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Don't want to serve on a jury? Just be a Christian:
Religious folk looking for a way to get out of jury duty may have been handed one by an unlikely ally in civic sloth: trial lawyers. According to a new guidebook for the plaintiff's bar, trial lawyers are advised to be wary of potential jurors with "extreme attitudes about personal responsibility." These jurors, the guidebook counsels, often reveal themselves by chatting up "traditional family values" — values that reflect "strong religious beliefs." If you want to get off the hook, chant a beatitude or two. That may well do the trick....

"It is helpful to divide the jurors into two groups: the personal responsibility group and compassion-altruistic group," Wenner writes in the guidebook. "Jurors who are extreme on the personal responsibility bias, or who have a high need for personal responsibility, will strongly favor the defendant. In contrast, jurors who are extreme on the compassionate-altruistic bias, or who have a high need for compassion, will strongly favor the plaintiff."

Religious in the USA need not apply.

The folks who put together the 'Cold Mountain' soundtrack (primarily T. Bone Burnett of 'O Brother' fame) have used Sacred Harp singers, giving the traditional singing style new exposure:
The music, also known as shape-note or fasola singing, has been waiting a long time for that attention. The style of singing, whose rudiments stretch back at least to Elizabethan England, flourished in Colonial New England and in its present form took deep root in the rural South, where it is still sung today in four-part harmony. But many of its practitioners — whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents sang it in little churches and town squares throughout the South — fear it could die out. So they are waiting eagerly to see whether the use of Sacred Harp music on the movie's soundtrack, released on Dec. 16, could do for their music what the soundtrack for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," the Coen brothers comedy, did for rural blues and bluegrass. (The "O Brother" album unexpectedly sold more than five million copies and won the album-of-the-year Grammy in 2002.)

It's an article worth reading, and likely a soundtrack worth picking up.*

But doesn't everyone's hymnals have shaped notes?!

* I highly recommend buying Tim O'Brien's CD 'Songs From the Mountain', which was put together before there was a 'Cold Mountain' movie. They should have just used this for the soundtrack.

Don't think things are upside down in our country? How about:
Burning the flag is considered free speech; erecting crosses as roadside memorials is not. The FCC allows the "F-word" on television, but thanking God at a high school graduation is a no-no. And some schools freely dispense condoms to kids, but pencils that read "Jesus loves little children" were confiscated from a first-grade class in Virginia.

And that about says it all.

Monday, December 22, 2003


Brad Edmonds believes he's found Satan, and it involves the BCS and pigskin.

A new New York Times/CBS poll has found strong opposition to homosexual 'marriage':
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found widespread support for an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban gay marriage. It also found unease about homosexual relations in general, making the issue a potentially divisive one for the Democrats and an opportunity for the Republicans in the 2004 election.

Support for a constitutional amendment extends across a wide swath of the public and includes a majority of people traditionally viewed as supportive of gay rights, including Democrats, women and people who live on the East Coast.

The nationwide poll found that 55 percent of Americans favored an amendment to the constitution that would allow marriage only between a man and a woman, while 40 percent opposed the idea.

I generally oppose nationalizing traditionally state issues, but I think it's time to strike while the iron is hot on this one. An amendment needs to be pushed now, and hard. There is a window of opportunity now, but I fear there will be no action until it's lost forever.

Friday, December 19, 2003


A panel of judges from the 6th US Circuit Court has ordered the Ten Commandments down in three Kentucky counties:
The Ten Commandments displayed in two Kentucky courthouses and in Harlan County schools must come down because the motive to hang them on the walls was "blatantly religious," not educational, a divided panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

The court said that after the displays met legal challenges from some residents and the American Civil Liberties Union, officials in McCreary, Pulaski and Harlan counties tried to cover up their religious motivations by adding other items, such as the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner, the text of the Declaration of Independence and a quote from Abraham Lincoln that "The Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man" into the mix.

That attempt was a sham, Judge Eric Clay wrote in his majority opinion.

Now when did a Kentucky county become "Congress" passing a law establishing a religion?

Thursday, December 18, 2003


In a poll of Brits, Jesus ranks second behind Mother Theresa and just above Princess Diana as the most compassionate person in history:
Mother Teresa is seen as more caring than Christ, a survey to identify the most compassionate person from history indicated today. Princess Diana has been ranked third, followed by Florence Nightingale. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Bob Geldof come joint fifth. Mr Tony Blair is at the bottom of the table, just below the Pope.

While the findings may signify no more than the ascendancy of the contemporary media over the power of the pulpit and a widespread ignorance of history, a spokeswoman for Crisis, a charity that commissioned the survey, said the results seemed to indicate a growing public-unease and confusion about the value of compassion.

And that goes a long way toward explaining where our culture is.

The pope has seen a special screening of Mel Gibson's 'Passion' film. Reports are he liked it:
Pope John Paul has seen Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion" about Christ's final hours and was moved by it, a Vatican source said on Thursday.

He said the pope saw the film with his long-time Polish secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, about 10 days ago.

The source also confirmed reports that the pope told his secretary after viewing the film: "It is as it was," meaning he considered it an authentic portrayal of Gospel accounts of the last hours in Christ's life.

The Vatican is also rejecting claims by some Jewish groups that the film is anti-semitic:
"I loved it and it is not anti-Semitic," Father Augustine Di Noia, a senior official in the Vatican's doctrinal department, told Reuters on Thursday.

Asked if the film was as violent as has been reported, Di Noia said: "It not just violent, it's brutal."

Which is as it was.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


A former biology (I'm not making that up) teacher has pleaded no contest to "disturbing the peace" after being arrested for prostitution. Now she wants back in the classroom:
Shannon Williams, 37, a former biology teacher who became a field-trip coordinator last year, was arrested in August in her Oakland apartment. Police say she agreed to have sex with an undercover cop for $250 an hour.

Williams has defended her moonlighting career as a prostitute, comparing herself to Martin Luther King Jr. in her fight to decriminalize the vocation.

"As a feminist, I believe in every woman's right to self-determination, and that includes sexually and economically,'' she told the San Jose Mercury News in August.

You see, she's really only interested in the life of the mind:
"I realized that doing this I could work one or two nights a week and really focus on my studies," she told the Mercury News.

Williams said that prior to her arrest, she carried out her work in a rented condo, earning enough to buy a vacation home in the mountains near Yosemite National Park.

"It pays well, and I like the work," she told the San Jose paper. "I consider it to be a healing profession, in line with therapy and bodywork, kind of a combination of the two."

Ah, of course. And now the head of the Alameda County PTA would like to see her back in the classroom, too:
the head of the California PTA for Alameda County, which includes Berkeley, said she personally might be open to Williams coming back.

"As long as she's not bringing it into the classroom, maybe it's not a problem," said Carol-Ann Kock-Weser, according to the Mercury News.

She emphasized, though, she was not speaking for the PTA.

I can't imagine how our public schools got in the shape they're in.

My favorite, though, is that Williams not only has a degree in biology (really, I'm not making that up), but also religious studies. *sigh*

Responding to the elevation of homosexual bishop Gene Robinson, a group of conservative bishops have founded a new network of churches:
hirteen Episcopal bishops opposed to their church's approval of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire plan to announce today that they are forming a rival network of dioceses and parishes, Bishop Robert W. Duncan of Pittsburgh said....

"We are called," the [group's] statement says, "to oppose assaults on the authority of the Scriptures."

While leaders of the new group insist they are not creating a schism, they are laying the groundwork for a confrontation that could test the authority of the leadership of the the Episcopal Church U.S.A., which has 100 dioceses in the United States.

In an interview, Bishop Duncan said that the network is not seceding from the Episcopal Church U.S.A.. Instead, he said the eventual goal is for the network to win recognition as the authentic Episcopal Church from Anglican bishops overseas and from Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox denominations that have already condemned the Episcopal Church for its actions.

And objections aside, without a doubt it is the beginning of open schism.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


After first refusing to display pictures of Jesus in an art show, the Meridan library's board of directors has voted to allow the paintings after all:
Directors voted unanimously Monday to allow artist Mary Morley to display her paintings of Jesus at the library as part of her exhibit.

Library director Marcia Trotta recently asked Morley to omit three paintings that included Jesus from her show, which included 14 other paintings and was titled, "Visions, Hopes and Dreams."

"Reviewing the facts of the matter in light of constitutional requirements as the board presently understands them, the board has decided to allow Ms. Morley to exhibit all of her submitted paintings, as has been the past practice with other individuals," read a prepared statement from the board.

"The Board hopes that Ms. Morley accepts that offer in the gracious spirit that we intend to extend it."

Morley, who did not attend the meeting, responded, "Amen to this."

The three paintings in question depicted the Crucifixion, the Nativity and Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary.

Trotta asked Morley last month to omit the three from the exhibit. But Trotta allowed two paintings of Jesus' face, as well as images of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a tribute to the World Trade Center, an image of Old Testament prophet Elijah and one of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

All of those were historical, Trotta argued at the time.

The phrase "in light of constitutional requirements" means our lawyers are telling us that this public, tax supported institution must--in this instance since everyone is looking--actually refrain from discriminating against those wishing to express a Christian faith. At least they did end up doing the right thing.

Monday, December 15, 2003


An Italian prisoner who was given a pass for good behavior has returned to jail early to escape from his wife:
An Italian prisoner who was given home leave for good behaviour asked to go back to his cell after spending less than a day with his wife.

The 40-year-old was given a 72 hour pass by the governor at Vigevano prison, near Pavia in northern Italy.

But within minutes of meeting his wife they had an argument and he called the prison asking to be taken back inside.

A spokesman at the jail said: "We got a call from him saying he couldn't stand being with his wife and was it possible to go back to his cell. He said he didn't want to spend another minute with her.

It's nice to see the Proverbs shown to be true! (Proverbs 21:9)

Grammy Award winning singer Lauryn Hill was invited to sing at a Vatican Christmas concert. She gave those in attendance more than they bargained for:
Hill read a statement criticizing the church and its leaders Saturday night during the concert, where she was a featured performer....

"I realize some of you may be offended by what I'm saying, but what do you say to the families who were betrayed by the people in whom they believed?" The newspaper La Repubblica quoted her as saying.

Hill was speaking out on the sex scandals the Catholic Church has been embroiled in. The attendees were none too pleased:
Stunned hierarchy in the front row at Saturday night's concert included one of the most senior figures in the Church, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who is head of the Italian bishops conference.

An aide to Ruini, Bishop Rino Fisichella, described the singer's speech as "a rash outburst. An uneducated act showing a lack of respect for the place she was a guest and for those who invited her."

Reports suggest her criticism will be excluded from the broadcast version.

Both Time and Newsweek pulled Jesus from their covers at the last minute replacing Him with Saddam Hussein:
Saddam Hussein upstaged Jesus and U.S. politics yesterday, wiping them off the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines, which stopped their presses to update the news. Both newsweeklies remade their covers and had their Baghdad correspondents prepare special reports after their editors learned that the ousted Iraqi leader had been captured.

They were likely more comfortable with the new choice anyway.

Saturday, December 13, 2003


Robert Cheeks has given us a fine review of my former teacher Clyde Wilson's new book, from Union to Empire:
For Clyde Wilson republicanism is not only an ideologly, it is the only political system that can guarantee the intrinsic needs of men: "liberty, order, and popular rule." He has studied America's republican founding, taught the subject to a phalanx of young men and women, arming them for the Jacobin wars, and defended the true republican history of this country. He is intimately aware that the nation has devolved into an effete social democracy where elitists, bureaucrats, job stockers, communists, and capitalists alike have all fastened themselves onto government like some parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the American people. And, before we grieve too much for the "American people," let us remember that it was Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation that gave us FDR, LBJ, and state sponsored socialism. Mencken was right: we truly do get the government we deserve!

My trinity of political influences consists of Russell Kirk, Wendell Berry and Clyde Wilson. You'll never go wrong reading anything by any of them.

Friday, December 12, 2003


A school counselor in North Carolina has been suspended for answering a student's question about what the Bible had to say on homosexuality:
A dropout-prevention counselor at a North Carolina high school has been suspended for reportedly sharing Scripture with a student who was struggling with homosexuality.

Beth Pinto, 38, was suspended with pay from Concord High School in Cabarrus County pending an investigation into whether she gave the student religious advice.

Citing sources familiar with the situation, the Independent Tribune reports a female student came to Pinto and said she was wrestling with the issue of homosexuality. The girl asked Pinto, who is active in First Baptist Church in Concord, N.C., for the Bible's take on the matter. Pinto reportedly responded by sharing specific Scripture with the girl.

According to the local paper, a third person caught wind of the conversation and tipped off a school administrator.

One imagines a Polonius behind the curtain, waiting to hear if the Bible is mentioned. Perhaps this "third party" should have suffered the same fate.

I wonder what would have been the reaction if the student had requested information about a group that promotes the homosexual lifestyle. Well, I think we don't have to wonder at all--of course that would be okay.

How would you like to hear J.R.R. Tolkien as Gollum, or experience how Arthur Conan Doyle would present Sherlock Holmes? Now, thanks to the British Library you can:
Hearing Tolkien's voices — his own and his characters' — is one of the delights of a new audio CD from the British Library's sound archives, "The Spoken Word: Children's Writers," which includes 10 children's-book authors, most of them contemporary. The CD follows two earlier, far more extraordinary discs released in April, "Spoken Word: Writers" and "Spoken Word: Poets," which include only authors born in the 19th century. Some are poets who barely made it into the age of recording (Tennyson) and others Modernists with a surprising streak of the actor (James Joyce).

Writers who seemed beyond our reach are suddenly in our ears, revealing the often startling distance between their voices and the ones we imagine while reading — not to mention the ones that grab us from a movie screen.

Elliot on Prufrock, Milnes on Pooh, Tennyson on the Light Brigade!Sounds like a wonderful gift for the literature lover. Now if we can just get them to release that recording of Faulkner.

[You can order it only from the British Library]

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Fliers from the YMCA have been banned in Bakersfield because they mention "Christian principles":
Not known as an overtly Christian organization, the YMCA has come under fire in Bakersfield, Calif., where a school district banned the organization's promotional fliers from its campuses.

The local Y can no longer send fliers home with children because a recent one happened to mention the organization puts "Christian principles into practice," reports the Bakersfield Californian.

YMCA officials are fuming, the paper reports, and the brouhaha could possibly affect other area school districts.

And I think we can all tell how well non-Christian principles are working in public schools.

PS Things may be looking up at the YWCA, too, after making a sensible decision regarding their recent president.

Long ago in Central America the Mayans left a written hieroglyphic legacy. The only problem has been that we didn't know how to read them. Now linguists have identified a still-spoken language as a linguistic descendant of Mayan:
Linguists have discovered a still-surviving version of the sacred religious language of the ancient Maya - the great pyramid-building civilisation that once dominated Central America.

For years some Maya hieroglyphic texts have defied interpretation - but now archaeologists and linguists have identified a little-known native Indian language as the descendant of the elite tongue spoken by rulers and religious leaders of the ancient Maya.

The language, Ch'orti - spoken today by just a few thousand Guatemalan Indians - will become a living "Rosetta Stone", a key to unravelling those aspects of Maya hieroglyphic writings which have so far not been properly understood. Over the next few years dozens of linguists and anthropologists are expected to start "mining" Ch'orti language and culture for words and expressions relating to everything from blood-letting to fasting.

What an amazing find.

[Link via LRC]

France once the home of Joan of Arc (not Joan of Arcadia) is taking strides to ban students from publicly practicing their religion:
A long-awaited report on church-state relations in France advised the government on Thursday to forbid school pupils to wear Muslim veils, Jewish skullcaps or large Christian crosses.

The report presented to President Jacques Chirac said wearing such “conspicuous signs of religion” was contrary to the strict secularism French law requires for state establishments.

Yes, it's always so much better when religion isn't conspicuous. Goddess Reason still seems to be the deity of choice amongst the frogs.

[Thanks to Jennifer B. who brought this issue to my attention]

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Radio icon Paul Harvey upset Muslim groups by stating that Islam "encourages killing". Now, Mr. Harvey tells us Islam is a "religion of peace".

Well, I guess that settles it.

Evangelical theologian and founder of Christianity Today magazine passed away Sunday at the age of 90. I found this recounted exchange wonderful:
Henry delighted in recounting a time when he sparred with theologian Karl Barth. Barth invited questions from a group of 200 religious leaders attending a luncheon in his honor. Henry rose and identified himself as "editor of Christianity Today" before asking Barth about his views on the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection. Barth retorted, "Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?" As the audience howled with laughter, Henry countered, "Yesterday, today, and forever."


Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Brad Edmonds, also writing from Alabama, argues that government is morally wrong. I would agree with many of the points he makes. But like the scientists in the post below, Edmonds leaves God out of the equation. Yes, politically and morally I have great problems with much of what (our) government does, however we must be careful not to argue that government qua government is an evil. In fact it is an institution endorsed by God:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves....[Government] is a minster of God to you for good. --Romans 13:1-4

Do governments abuse their positions? Most certainly. And we find throughout Scripture God judging and punishing nations. Do we in an (ostensibly) elective republic have the ability to alter the course our nation takes? Yes, if we are able. But can we condemn government outright? No, that is a step too far.

Rather than the libertarian position, much of which I find reasonable, instead we must turn to the position espoused by Russell Kirk echoing Edmund Burke that limited government is a good, a necessary institution that can provide us an ordered liberty. There we find a position more in keeping with Godly respect for government and a human desire for liberty.

Scientists are following clues to find out what makes humans human:
Most recently [scientists] have been investigating circuitry rather than specific locations, looking at pathways and connections that are central in creating social emotions, a moral sense, even the feeling of free will.

There are specialized neurons at work, as well — large, cigar-shaped cells called spindle cells....

The body, it turns out, is as important as the brain. Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neurologist at the University of Iowa Medical Center and the author of the book "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain," has pioneered the argument that emotions and feelings are linked to brain structures that map the body. From human social emotions, he said, both morality and reason have grown.

Findings such as this show us the glory and shame of science. Scientists can learn so much about the creation made in the image of God, yet they continue to embrace evolutionary ideas that insist morality is simply a human construct. Not only is the body and mind they explore created by God, but so is the morality they ultimately seek to undermine.

Monday, December 08, 2003


A parish priest in Germany has given out porn videos instead of a video promoting Christ:
A vicar has given his flock hardcore porn videos instead of a video about God's message at Christmas after a mix-up at a copying factory.

About 300 people ended up with the XXX-rated material in the German town of Lampoldshausen.

The evangelical congregation had hoped to spread the word about Jesus to those who did not enjoy reading - but churchgoers found themselves handed videos containing hardcore sex scenes instead.

Local parish priest Frithjof Schwesig said: "There was a mistake at the copying factory in Munich."

Yeah, some mistake.

Saturday, December 06, 2003


After seemingly bowing to public pressure, and pulling its Christmas 'group sex' catalog, Abercrombie & Fitch plans another porn catalog and will continue its tasteless ad campaign:
as the Field Guides were being pulled, the company announced it would feature its "infamous male and female greeters" on the day after Thanksgiving, the start of the Christmas shopping season.

"A dollar donation to Toys for Tots lets anyone snuggle up for a picture between two hunky, shirtless A&F guys," a news release said. "They'll make Santa think twice before he reaches for another slice of pumpkin pie."

Glad to see they have the spirit of Christmas there.

What did the Christmas catalog have that some found objectionable?
The 2003 Christmas issue, the slipcover says, offers "280 Pages of Moose, Ice Hockey, Chivalry, Group Sex & More … ."

One article says "a pleasant and supersafe alternative to [group sex] is group masturbation – sometimes called a circle jerk or Jack-and-Jill-Off."

Mark Millar, a comic book writer shares this thought: "My idea is you have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and this is the Final Testament. This is a thing about Jesus coming back as a 12-year-old kid … pontificating whether or not he should masturbate … ."

In another interview, Sari Locker, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sex," says: "College is the time when you have the greatest opportunity to have sex [and] the highest number of potential sexual partners … ."

And it goes on. Amidst all of this are disappointing numbers for A&F:
In October, for example, several chains - notably American Eagle and Abercrombie - showed double-digit declines in sales at stores open at least a year (American Eagle was off by 18 and Abercrombie by 14 percent) compared with a year earlier.

Not only that, but now 60 Minutes is investigating the store for 'lookism':
Two ex-managers for a clothing chain accused of discrimination say corporate representatives of the chain, Abercrombie & Fitch, routinely had them reduce the hours of less attractive salespeople.

A sad existence for a once venerable sporting goods company (think L.L. Bean).

A Belgian priest may get a coal in his stocking this year after objecting to a picture of Santa on a church poster:
A Belgian priest has demanded that his parish reprint posters advertising a Christmas carol concert because they include a picture of Santa Claus.

Priest Daniel Beernaert, who's 68, told Gazet van Antwerpen: "I'll never welcome Santa Claus in my church. He is a pagan symbol."

Father Daniel, of Saint Martin's Church in Koekelare, added: "At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ and not Santa Claus.

"The organisers even wanted a Santa Claus to walk around in the church during the concert.

"Santa Claus is a commercial symbol that has nothing to do with Christmas. If people want to join it, it's all right, but not in my church."

Points for the priest, but here's a question--does the Bible actually say anything about celebrating Christmas Day, either? Or might we say the entire practice is pagan in origin? Just curious.

Shoe tying is becoming a lost art among the younger set, and that's not a good thing:
The rise of the laceless shoe, typically a high-tech moccasin, and a youthful aversion to tying shoes, have become a matter of concern to some child development experts. Surely not a sign of a civilization in decline, they admit, but perhaps another unsettling step in the march of technology into children's lives.

The problem, according to Diane Levin, a professor of education at Wheelock College in Boston, begins in the crib with push-button toys to calm infants and proceeds with "talking books," "Baby Einstein" videos and other gadgets intended to make learning easier and more entertaining. The danger, Ms. Levin said, is that things are too automated and that children end up suffering from "problem-solving deficit disorder."

"The real issue is not that kids don't learn to tie their shoes," she said. "It's that they don't get engaged in the problem-solving process that shoe-tying is part of."

You mean it''s...better for children to think rather than simply push a button? Hmmmm....

Friday, December 05, 2003


Grinchy shop workers in Europe are demanding an end to carols:
Shop workers' anger at being forced to listen to hours of Christmas music during the festive period is spreading across Europe.

Dutch and German trade unions have now backed the demands by colleagues in Austria who said the combined effect of listening to endless hours of Jingle Bells made staff "aggressive and confrontational".

The Union of Dutch Workers has also opposed what it calls the "terror" of constant Christmas songs.

But what causes them to be "aggressive and confrontational" the rest of the year?

Want to shrink your brain size? It's easy--just try a few drinks :
Drinking alcohol does not just befuddle the brain, it may also cause it to shrink, according to a study.

Researchers found that just a few drinks every week could be enough to cause a decline in grey matter by middle age.

The study showed that moderate drinking did not reduce the risk of strokes, despite past findings to the contrary.

Heavy drinking is known to be linked to the loss of brain cells but the study links brain decline to moderate alcohol consumption as well.

What was that about the health benefits of drinking?

Thursday, December 04, 2003


The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about a student who was denied a scholarship because his chosen course of study was religious. One of the keys, however, is that the scholarship was denied based on the Washington's state constitution, which has a more restrictive church-state separation than does the U.S. Constitution.

While I've not looked closely at the state wording, I would point out that the Bill of Rights was written to restrict Congress. Now it's not intepreted that way, of course, but as a states-rights kind of guy I wouldn't think he would have legitimate recourse to the Federal constitution from a state restriction.

Having said all that, there's no question he's being descriminated against because of his religious beliefs and practices.

[Chicago Tribune article here.]

How do you identify your religious affiliation? More and more people are identifying themselves with 'none':
Kellee Hom was raised in the Roman Catholic Church but never imagined she'd become a religious none.

No, not "nun." That's "none," as in "none of the above."

Hom is among a growing number of Americans who simply answer "none" or "no religion" when pollsters ask them their religious affiliation. Some "nones" identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, but the vast majority believe in God, pray and often describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious."

"My sense of God transcends all the different religions,'' said Hom, a clinical supervisor at Asian American Recovery Services in San Francisco, which helps people with substance-abuse problems. "It's an energy."

Cool, man. I can feel it! I can feel it! Oh...sorry.

You see it's all about the karm, man. Just ask Bruce Meservey:
Meservey says he is definitely a religious none.

"I believe, but I don't know what -- just in the universe as an entity, " he said. "I don't know if I believe in heaven or hell. It's all so ambiguous.

"I believe in karma,'' he said after a pause. "Don't screw you neighbor. It will come back to you one way or another. I pray once in a while. I kind of believe in a supreme being, but if you start trying to pin me down ...

"We are all part of the same thing,'' he added. "We are all part of each other and the animals and the Earth -- all part of one big thing.''

What we need are plaques in every courthouse with the One Commandment of None: "Don't screw you neighbor."


The library in Meridan, Connecticut has banned certain images of Jesus for fear of "endorsing" Christianity:
The library rejected three of Mary Morley's pieces, Trotta said, though Tuesday the local artist said the library had asked her to exclude five.

Trotta did not object to the images of Christ in Morley's work, as much as her depictions of events, including the Crucifixion, Jesus carrying the cross and the Nativity, she said.....

"I believe that if we physically display it, we've taken responsibility for the message, even if her name is on it," Trotta said.

But some messages are acceptable:
Paintings the library would accept included a tribute to the victims of 9-11, and portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and President John F. Kennedy.

"Those are historical figures," Trotta said.

The library also accepted paintings of Biblical scenes, including Moses accepting the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. "He just looks like an old man. You would really have to know the whole story behind it," Trotta said.

The story behind Jesus is too well known, and more importantly, tied to Christianity, Trotta said.

So JFK and MLK are "historical figures", but Jesus isn't? But Moses is. But wasn't MLK a minister who (ostensibly) preached a Christian message? I'm so confused.

But the library isn't off the hook:
"This is just nonsense," said Louis J. Giovino, a spokesman for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a national organization based in New York City. "You're specifically censoring Christianity here."...

"In the name of protecting kids from seeing a portrait of Jesus, the censors are busy practicing intolerance. Perhaps they would have been more at home with a portrait of Lucifer," Catholic League President William Donohue said in the statement released Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Giovino criticized the library for refusing to install software on public computers that would block access to certain Internet sites, specifically those that include pornography.

"We can't," library Director of Community Affairs Victoria Navin said. "It's up to the parent. That's not for library officials to do. We'd be sued by the American Civil Liberties Union."

When it comes to a possible lawsuit from Morley, though, Navin referred to library policy.

A library policy that says "The library will not accept exhibits which are judged ‘inappropriate,' or ‘offensive' to any segment of the community." But that seems to mean as interpreted by the ACLU and not those who desire to limit easy access to pornography on taxpayer bought computers.

But the good Ms. Trotta could never live with herself if she were (gasp!) responsible for someone being offended by religious imagery:
"It may mean that individuals who see it are offended and may never ever walk into a library again, and I can't be responsible for that," Trotta said.

Oh, I think never walking into that library is a very, very good idea.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


An Iron Age chieftain buried with his chariot were found in a motorway excavation in northern England:
The find could provide a valuable insight into customs and social standings in pre-Roman northern England.

Carbon dating suggests the funeral took place between 400 and 500BC with evidence of a huge feast.

Chariot burial was reserved for people of high rank among the Parisii tribe, who lived in what is now east Yorkshire. They originated from northern France and gave the French capital its name.

Of course, it wasn't long before the bulldozers returned.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


My friend Jennifer Busick has penneda parable. Go thou, and read.

Dr. William Walker, Auburn University's current president (maybe not for long), had this to say in the aftermath of Auburn's football coach debacle:
"I don't think there's any question that we've made some progress in identifying some areas in which progress needs to be made."

I see.

A London clergywoman* is going after the police in Britain for failing to prosecute abortion doctors:
A clergywoman won the right Monday to take legal action against a police chief for failing to prosecute doctors who performed a late-term abortion of a fetus with a cleft lip and palate.

British law allows abortions after 24 weeks only if the child suffers a serious handicap. The Rev. Joanna Jepson, who has a deformed jaw, argued that facial deformity doesn't constitute such a handicap.

May she be successful.

*Samuel Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Reeling from its recent (and ongoing) sex scandals, the Catholic Church has reacted by fingerpinting volunteers and staff:
Theresa Mulvoy keeps track of sheet music, takes attendance and gives a vocal boost as a volunteer for the children's choir at St. Vincent Martyr Church here.

Soon she will also give her fingerprints.

Mrs. Mulvoy is one of thousands of volunteers and members of the staff and clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson who are expected to undergo criminal background checks in the coming months. The scrutiny is part of efforts by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to repair the damage from the clerical sexual abuse scandal and to reassure members that children are safe in the hands of the church.

How sad that it's come to this.

Archaeologists have found a rare thing, the ruins of a city dating from pre-homeric Troy:
The archaeologists say they have uncovered the stone foundations, cobbled streets and pottery of a well-preserved 4,500-year-old urban center, one of the few Early Bronze Age communities ever found on the Greek mainland.

Preliminary investigation at the prehistoric site, the researchers say, reveals that this was a prosperous town at the time pre-Homeric Troy enjoyed one of its richest periods. The new-found ruins yielded a tall cylindrical cup in the style of graceful cups known from Troy, suggesting a wider Trojan influence than previously established.

The existence of the city had, heretofore, been "unsuspected", it's name unknown. It was destroyed by earthquake during Plato's time. Amazing.

Monday, December 01, 2003


A Utah polygamist is citing the Supreme Court's homosexual sex ruling to defend his own actions:
A lawyer for a Utah man with five wives argued Monday that his polygamy convictions should be thrown out following a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex.

The nation's high court in June struck down a Texas sodomy law, ruling that what gay men and women do in the privacy of their homes is no business of government.

It's no different for polygamists, argued Tom Green's attorney, John Bucher, to the Utah Supreme Court.

"It doesn't bother anyone, (and with) no compelling state interest in what you do in your own home with consenting adults, you should be allowed to do so," Bucher said.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

A shopping mall in Oslo is saying that Jesus is the reason for the season by portraying Him with a halo that is, in fact, a CD:
The image, 11 meters (36 feet) high, hangs over the entrance to the capital's main downtown shopping center. The giant Christ welcomes shoppers with outstretched arms , and what appears to be a halo over his head.

"To be honest I didn't react to it so negatively at first glance. It is a reminder to shoppers about what Christmas is really about, namely, that God gave his son Jesus Christ to us all," said dean Olav Dag Hauge.

What he didn't notice the first time was that the halo shining behind Jesus' head is a compact disc. This week smaller poster versions of the image are being put up all over the city, and here one can read "CDs (NOK) 149,50 ($22)" over his head, with a CD still acting as a halo.

Yes, I believe that is what the season is all about--spend, spend, spend.

There's a not-bad article by Neil Swidey in the Boston Globe on religion in the Ivy League. But one wonders about it all when you read quotes like this:
"It's very chic to be a believer now," says Gomes. "In a place which is so dispassionate, so rational, and in many ways so conformist intellectually, if you want to break out of the pack, you say your prayers in public. It is the example of religious practice elsewhere that has emboldened American evangelicals to exercise their own practice."

Yes, public prayer as 'chic'. Just ask Daniel

And not only can you be a 'chic' Christian. You can also be 'educated':
But [Curtis] Chang says the incident exposes much bigger stakes, with the viability of what he calls "educated evangelicals" hanging in the balance. A native of Taiwan and 1990 graduate of Harvard, Chang says educated evangelicals feel at home in the university world and want to be considered full members. So they're quick to distance themselves from Bible-thumping, anti-intellectual fundamentalists. Instead, educated evangelicals stress their more progressive politics and nuanced theology.

Oh, to be chic and educated, too. If only I could have been a Christian in the Ivy League. Alas.

[Article via Instapundit via IM with Susanna]

Saturday, November 29, 2003


Not satisfied with trying to stop Mel Gibson's 'Passion' movie, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League has declared war on an A&W restaurant for posting Scripture references:
On a recent day, the billboard outside the restaurant read: "Chili cheese fries/onion rings/praise Jesus with thanks giving!/Isaiah 12:2." Inside, there are leaflets advertising the Messianic Jewish Christian religion, a movement commonly known as "Jews for Jesus."...

Patrons enter and exit beneath a plaque with Hebrew characters for the word "HaShem" or God, and the phrases "Psalm 1" and "Thank You."

Some people have complained to A&W headquarters about the religious overtones at the restaurant. The Anti-Defamation League stepped in, saying Messianic Jewish Christians "falsely claim that they are interested in Jewish practices when the real goal is to convert Jews to Christianity."

The ADL asked A&W to make sure the Scripture is no longer posted.

You'd think the Jewish organization might be more sensitive to limiting the freedom of others, but instead they're becoming Scripture nazis themselves by trying to intimidate YUM! foods with their ever ready charges of anti-Semitism and bully a mom & pop restaurant.

Dick Cheatham agrees: America's real First Thanksgiving was at Jamestown, not Plymouth. Just setting the record straight.

Friday, November 28, 2003


Scholars--God love 'em--are trying to figure out why Texans talk the way they do:
[It's] part of an ambitious National Geographic Society survey of Texas speech, with its "y'alls," "might-coulds" and "fixin' to's," are helping language investigators throw a scientific light on a mythologized and sometimes ridiculed mainstay of Americana: the Texas twang.

Among the unexpected findings, said Guy Bailey, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a leading scholar in the studies with his wife, Jan Tillery, is that in Texas more than elsewhere, how you talk says a lot about how you feel about your home state.

But doesn't everyone say 'fixin' to' and 'yall'? The unique thing about Texas speech seemed to me to be the inclusion of Spanish terms. Otherwise they generally talk like most normal people I know.

You have to appreciate Texans, though. My favorite was this:
Other idiosyncrasies have all but vanished over time. Texans for the most part no longer pray to the "Lard," replacing the "o" with an "a," or "warsh" their clothes. How the interloping "r" crept in remains an especially intriguing question, Dr. Bailey said. Trying to trace the peculiarity, he asked Texans to name the capital of the United States, often drawing the unhelpful answer "Austin."

Properly designed to drive a Yankee nuts.

This scholar's conclusion is that Texans talk fine. It's the Yankees that have the problem.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
--Psalm 100:4
NEVER LET IT BE SAID that I didn't do my part this Thanksgiving. I spent Thanksgiving Eve making cranberry sauce (hint: use orange juice instead of water) and--count 'em--four pies: a Derby, a pecan and two pumpkin pies. I think they said something about having turkey, too.

Yes you hear much about the proto-Yankee Pilgrims having the first Thanksgiving. But of course, the first American Thanksgivingwas in the South, first at Roanoke then in Jamestown. The Pilgrims were, in reality, quite late to the scene. So forget dour Pilgrims up in Plymouth this Thanksgiving, instead think about Cavaliers in Virginia.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Your humble correspondent made it to the theater to see Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World last night, along with the wife and frequent theosebes commenter Mitch and wife. The entire group gives the movie an enthusiastic thumbs up. The movie draws most of its plot from Patrick O'Brian's The Far Side of the World, but really is a mish-mash of O'Brianesque themes. I understand that for a movie that's trying to catch the mood of a series of twenty books.

It's nice to see Hollywood able to make a thoughtful period movie that shows no signs of political or cultural agenda. There are no steamy love scenes and bad language is so minimal as to hardly be worth mentioning. Of course, we are talking about a naval warfare movie, so be prepared for some bloody fight scenes. It's not one to take a pre-teenager to, I'd think. It's always a good idea to support Hollywood on those rare times when they get something right.

Yes, parking is never plentiful enough, but in Rome they're building a parking lot on top of Roman ruins:
ARCHAEOLOGISTS HAD TO put down their tools after exploring only a small slice of the 500-square-yard expanse of storehouses that once served as busy port when Roman traders and armies sailed the Mediterranean during the Imperial era.

While there’s money available to build parking spots in this car-choked metropolis, the coffers for archaeological exploration are practically bare.

But archaeologists expressed relief that they will at least be able to rescue three stunning mosaics from what could be thermal baths from the start of the 4th century.

And even folks you might think would be on the side of history don't really seem to be when it comes to parking:
It’s not the first time Romans’ hunger for more parking lots fared better than archaeologists’ thirst for more knowledge. A frescoed, 2nd century Imperial villa was razed on the Janiculum hill to make way for a multistory Vatican parking garage for its 2000 millennium celebrations.

History, who needs it?

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


As everyone is in a rush to remember JFK, some are pointing to C.S. Lewis as more enduring influence:
C.S. Lewis's death was overlooked on that November 22 in 1963, but historian Mark Summers of the University of Kentucky argues that today Lewis is more relevant to those who cannot answer the question "where were you when JFK was shot?" "In terms of how he's affected the kids of my generation and the rest, I have a feeling that C.S. Lewis may have affected them more than John Kennedy." Summers told The Louisville Courier-Journal.

Without question, Lewis is more deserving of having such influence.

And there was this nugget at the end:
In addition, there are rumors that Peter Jackson's company Weta Workshop has already begun working on the first of five film adaptations of Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. The project may be as big as The Lord of the Rings movies, and if so, the influence that C.S. Lewis has on culture will have only just begun.

Let's keep our fingers crossed on this one.

George Stewart was sifting through old boxes neglected for decades at Alabama's state archives when he found 1611 edition of the famed Geneva Bible:
The Bible, unboxed earlier this year, is now in one of the archives vaults, but people at least know it exists and where they can find it.

Many other books still sit boxed and uncataloged, though Stewart said he's taken quick glimpses through the boxes and has a general idea of what's in them.

Stewart, 59, retired director of the Birmingham Public Library, figures that as many as 10,000 books sat in boxes since probably the 1940s or 1950s before he started opening boxes three years ago. Nobody put them on shelves or listed them in a card catalog or computer record. They just sat.

"It is a treasure that was neglected. It's not anybody's fault. It's just that they (archives officials) never had money to have the staff to do it," Stewart said.

Of course 1611 was also the year that the King James translation was released.

Hmmm. I wonder if I looked through all my book boxes if I'd find something like that...

Monday, November 24, 2003


British turkeys need to learn to relax. Farmers are trying to help:
Turkey farmers are being sent "relaxation" CDs to play to their birds.

Anecdotal evidence from farmers suggests playing music to turkeys has a calming effect.

The National Farmers' Union has produced a CD with tracks ranging from the "dawn chorus" and "wind chimes" to "whale sounds" and "happy turkeys" which it is sending to 114 farmers.

This time of year I think I'd still be a little anxious.

The James ossuary (or bone box) shouldn't be dismissed scholars argued at a recent conference:
A purported first-century inscription naming Jesus may or may not be the real thing, but Israel's labeling of the find as a fake is premature, scientists and scholars said at a panel discussion Sunday....

''I don't know for sure whether this is a forged inscription, and I'm sort of cast as a defender of the inscription. I'm not,'' said moderator Hershel Shanks. ''What I do know is, Israeli authorities have badly managed the affair.''

The position of theosebes continues to be that it does no one any good to endorse a fake (Shroud of Turin anyone?), but neither should we allow skeptics with an agenda to undermine a potentially genuine artifact out of hand. The jury is still out on this one.

Update: There's a more detailed AP story here.

Sunday, November 23, 2003


Newsweek has a interesting article on the upcoming final episode of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The big disappointment: there will be no Scouring of the Shire. Otherwise, I'm not complaining (much).

Saturday, November 22, 2003


Joseph Sobran, a conservative Catholic commentator, ponders the implications of the TLaHaye "Left Behind" nonsense on our President:
In the case of President Bush, we don’t really know what he knows — or what, as a reader of the Bible, he thinks he knows. A foreign policy driven by a private interpretation of Scripture, never disclosed to the public, is as far from the republican standard as a foreign policy driven by bribery. It may be less sinful, but that’s beside the point. A man’s religion is his own business, but a ruler who thinks he has a divine mandate ought to tell the public about it. And there have been many intimations that Bush believes he has been specially anointed by Providence....

If Bush has succumbed to a sort of faith-based arrogance, he is getting plenty of encouragement. Miss Didion cites a “religious broadcaster” who had heard the president speak in Nashville: “It seems as if he is on an agenda from God. The Scriptures say God is the one who appoints leaders. If he truly knows God, that would give him a special anointing.” Another agreed: “At certain times, at certain hours in our country, God has had a certain man to hear His testimony.”

Yes, such are the dangers of antinomianism. And speaking to Catholics--and others, too--Sobran has wise words of caution:
With all due respect for religion, Catholics should be skeptical of any ruler who thinks he has been singled out this way, particularly if he feels that his anointment releases him from the ordinary obligations of natural law. Americans, with their Calvinist roots, are only too prone to see themselves in terms of the ancient Hebrews — as, in Lincoln’s phrase, “an almost chosen people,” destined to rule the earth. Many other earthlings are chafing at this idea, and not just the reviled French earthlings.

Just so. A President who truly believes in God can be a very good thing. One who believes God is ordering him to bring about the Millennium is not.

[Link via LRC]

...finds that a sizeable majority of Americans stand opposed to the idea:
According to a FOX News poll conducted in the days following the Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Massachusetts, 66 percent of Americans oppose and 25 percent favor same-sex marriage. These new results are similar to those from August 2003, as well as results from 1996, when 65 percent of the public said they opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry.

But while this may seem encouraging, not nearly as many are as opposed to the notion of homosexual civil-unions, i.e., "marriage" without calling it that:
Americans are more supportive on the issue of allowing gay and lesbian couples to form "civil unions that are not marriages." Today, 41 percent support and 48 percent oppose civil unions. These new poll results show a small increase in opposition to civil unions — two months ago 46 percent supported and 44 percent opposed (September 2003).

"It is interesting to note that a few years ago 'civil unions' were regarded as wildly controversial in states like Vermont," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Now the whole country is just about evenly divided on that notion, since they see it as an alternative to full marriage. Given the age patterns in the data, it is hard to see how some form of union won't be the national norm in the future."

Similar to the issue of same-sex marriages, Americans under age 30 are more accepting of civil unions (58 percent). Majorities of Democrats (53 percent) and those living in the Northeast (56 percent) also support allowing homosexual couples to form civil unions.

I'm afraid Gorman is right. The homosexual lobby has succeeded in redefining the issue. America--and the West--is fast using up its remaining reservoir of moral capital with nonsense like this.

Friday, November 21, 2003


An unusually early use of a Gospel verse, this from Luke, has been discovered on an ancient shrine to Simon the Just, a prophet who held the infant Jesus:
A barely legible clue -- the name "Simon" carved in Greek letters -- beckoned from high up on the weather-beaten facade of an ancient burial monument. Their curiosity piqued, two Jerusalem scholars uncovered six previously invisible lines of inscription: a Gospel verse — Luke 2:25....

The inscription declares that the 60-foot-high monument is the tomb of Simon, a devout Jew who the Bible says cradled the infant Jesus and recognized him as the Messiah.

It's actually unlikely Simon is buried there; the monument is one of several built for Jerusalem's aristocracy at the time of Jesus.

However, the inscription does back up what until now were scant references to a Byzantine-era belief that three biblical figures -- Simon, Zachariah and James, the brother of Jesus -- shared the same tomb.

I'm sure he's not buried there, of course, as these shrines were a dime a dozen to erect. They were early tourist traps in many respects. And, as the archaeologists note, the builders of the Simon shrine were by no means professional masons although they "knew their Greek and their Luke".

The anonymous AP drudge who wrote the piece did throw in a common misconception about Biblical texts, however:
The inscription says the monument is the tomb of "Simeon who was a very just man and a very devoted old (person) and waiting for the consolation of the people." Simeon is a Greek version of Simon.

The passage is identical to the Gospel verse Luke 2:25, as it appears in a 4th-century version of the Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, which was later revised extensively.

Now, I was previously unaware that the Codex Sinaiticus was ever "revised extensively." The articles author offers nothing to back up that off-hand charge, nor does he tell us in what way the texts were so revised. Who did this mysterious revising? Was it part of the Da Vinci Code plot? The fact is that despite textual differences between text families, there is little to no substantive disagreement among Biblical texts.

It's a fascinating discovery, but a gullible public will see references to Biblical revision and simply assume this is commonly accepted, thus further eroding the popular confidence in Scripture.

About a year ago theosebes looked at the theological position known as "Open Theism". Open Theism endorses the Biblical doctrine of free will against Calvinistic rejections of the doctrine. Last year, formal charges were brought against two of its leading proponents by the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), which finds the doctrine heretical:
Open Theism claims that God created human beings with complete free will, that in doing so he took on genuine risks, that because of human freedom the future is indeterminate, and that God cannot know the future precisely, but only with varying degrees of probability. Most members of the ETS believe such teaching not only departs from the overwhelming testimony of Christian thinkers through the ages, but also calls into question God's own accuracy in biblical prophecy. And if God can't be counted on to be accurate as he speaks through his prophets, how can such beliefs be reconciled with the ETS's commitment to biblical inerrancy?

This year the ETS seemed less hot to expel the two (Clark Pinnock and John Sanders), and in fact both escaped expulsion. Of course, the ETS is a private, voluntary organization and they can set up whatever creeds and rules they want to set up. And one must applaud their willingness actually to take their stated beliefs seriously. But the "Open Theism" position forces them to deal with issues of free will (did they really choose not to expel the two, or was it predetermined?).

Of course the "Open Theism" position also runs the risk of setting up a "system" just as Calvinism does. It makes wonderful sense as long as you live in the rarefied world of the system. But does it jibe with Biblical teaching? Open Theism does seem to have its problems as the investigation into John Sanders' beliefs pointed out:
Like Clark Pinnock, Sanders clarified and retracted certain things he had written in The God Who Risks. But the October 3 discussion centered on his belief that biblical prophecies were not certain (since God does not actually know the future), but were instead probabilistic.

Open Theism falls into the trap of insisting that free will cannot be compatible with God's foreknowledge. Yes, that might seem to make sense on a surface level to man's thinking. But God is in heaven and we are on earth, His ways are not our ways. Both Calvinism and Open Theism are guilty of trying to fill in all the gaps to man's satisfaction, which is not the purpose of Scripture. I trust that God can know the future absolutely if He so chooses. I also trust that He has made me a creature of free will, so that I can make the choice to serve or reject Him. I rest that faith on God's revealed word, what God has Himself chosen to reveal. But my own speculations can never take me beyond what God wants me to know. And that needs to be enough for me despite my curiosity to the contrary.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


is, physically speaking, bread, of course. But with the recent Atkins Diet craze US bakers are worried:
The growing craze for high protein, low carbohydrate slimming regimes such as the Atkins diet is threatening the market for one of the staple foods of the West - bread.

Consumption of bread plummeted in America in the past year with an estimated 40 per cent of Americans eating less than in 2002. The US bread industry is to hold a crisis "bread summit" tomorrow to discuss measures to curb falling sales. In Britain, the Federation of Bakers launched a promotional campaign last month to counter the Atkins effect. British Bread month was advertised with the slogan "Use your loaf, have another slice."

Ok, even I admit to cutting back on my bread consumption over the past couple of years. But if I go to a steak place I'm always as interested in how good the bread is (and how quickly the waiter replenishes it) as I am how accurately they fix my medium rare steak.

Not to panic, bakers--bread ye shall always have with thee. Atkins won't last forever.

[Link via Drudge. You know how to get there on your own.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Knowing how much everyone had been wanting a good James Ossuary post, we find that the debate continues. Recently a noted Jesuit scholar has endorsed the artifact:
An ancient Holy Land burial box with the controversial inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" may be authentic, according to Fr Joseph Fitzmyer, a noted Jesuit Scripture scholar.

Delivering a lecture at the University of Dallas, Fr Fitzmyer questioned a finding by the Israel Antiquities Authority, a government agency, that the inscription is fake. The Israeli agency known as the IAA has failed to settle the issue.

Fr Fitzmyer sided with Andre Lemaire, a Scripture scholar at the Sorbonne University in Paris, in disputing a conclusion by the antiquities authority that the inscription on the burial box, called an ossuary, is a fake.

Of course Fitzmeyer has baggage just as the Israel Antiquities Authority does. As I've said before, we don't want unquestioning acceptance of the James Ossuary. But at the same time, neither do we desire unwarranted skepticism.

A group in Washington state have founded a new kind of religion, the Beer Church:
"Be kind and giving, love one another" and drink beer. Those are the founding principles of the Beer Church.

The idea started six years ago when Kendall Jones and some college friends from Western Washington University got together every Friday to drink. They joked it was almost like going to church.

Since then, the Beer Church has gotten a Web site and 40,000 members in 26 countries.

But this is a group that's more than just a good time. They do good works, too. I don't think I've ever heard of a more needed charity:
Last weekend, the Beer Church hosted its fifth annual Turkey Bowl in the Seattle area. The event raised $2,300 for a group that provides prom gowns for low-income high school girls.

A six pack, a prom dress--now that's a positive combination...

[Thanks to Jennifer B. for the link.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


The People's Republic of Massachusetts' highest court has ruled that the state may not deny homosexual "marriage":
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same-sex couples are legally entitled to wed under the state Constitution, but stopped short of immediately allowing marriage licenses to be issued to the couples who challenged the law.

Massachusetts may not "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry," the court ruled, according to a posting on its Web site.

The court then orders the legislature to address the issue. Since when can courts order an elected legislature around?

The ruling is ridiculous, of course. Unless America decides to stand up and rein in this sort of rampant judicial tyranny it's going to get much worse with perhaps no chance of getting better.

Monday, November 17, 2003


Southerners have thwarted police voice recognition software because of their beautiful accents. But it's a "problem", you see:
The voice-recognition system asked people to name the person or department they wanted. More often than not, the system just didn’t understand, and they wound up at the wrong place, said Capt. John Dunn, who oversees police communications.

“In Louisiana, we have a problem with Southern drawl and what I call lazy mouth. Because of that, the system often doesn’t recognize what (callers) say,” he said.

Interim Chief Mike Campbell knows all too well how frustrating the voice recognition system can be.

“I can count on one hand when I have been transferred to where I’ve wanted to go, and I know the system. I can imagine how frustrating it would be for a citizen,” he said.

Well, it sounds like the interim chief is a "problem", too. I guess if we all talked like New Yorkers or Michiganders everything would be great. Or maybe they could design better software.

Long live the Southern drawl!

Steven Yates has written the best analysis I've seen of the Roy Moore situation:
A person is excommunicated if he is kicked out of a church, and our federal courts are behaving more and more like a national church – a national church of state-sponsored secular materialism. The new national church has had a lot of help from the postmodernist mindset. This mindset holds that language is always fluid, never means what it seems to mean, and so denies that words ever have definite referents in reality. This is a recipe for legal chaos – and judicial tyranny.

It's well worth your time.

In a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, police have investigated an English minister for saying homosexuals can reorient themselves:
An English cleric was investigated by police for suggesting that homosexuals should "reorient" themselves and convert to heterosexuals, reports London’s Daily Telegraph.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Forster, the bishop of Chester, suggested in a newspaper interview that gays should seek psychiatric help.

The comments drew the ire of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, which accused him of putting forward an "offensive" and "scandalous" argument. The group filed a complaint with the local police suggesting that his comments would incite people against homosexuals, which would violate a 1986 Public Order law.

After an investigation, police decided not to press charges.

This is the first time this has happened that I'm aware of. But don't be surprised when we see it in the US as well. Anyone critical of homosexual activity easily can be charged with "hate speech" and discrimination while freedom of speech and freedom of religion goes out the window.

The good folks at the The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (hah!) had this to say:
Martin Reynolds, the communication director of the LGCM, welcomed the investigation into what he described as "scandalous" views. "These are irresponsible remarks that could inflame latent homophobia," he said.

"I am sure that the bishop is a very gentle man and his views are sincere. But many people in history who are gentle and sincere have said things that are evil.

"If he wants to say that homosexuality is a sin then he is entitled to his views but to say it is a psychiatric disorder is wrong.

"What is particularly worrying is that this man has spent 18 months researching this issue. We welcome the police investigation."

You see the bishop had put 'forward an "offensive" and "scandalous" argument from a bygone age'. Well to the stocks with him! When he can change his religious beliefs and express them acceptably, then we'll allow him to have religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Saturday, November 15, 2003


Thought lost forever, Aeschylus' play Achilles now will enter the 21st Century:
A Greek play is to be staged for the first time in more than 2,050 years after fragments of the text were found in Egyptian mummy cases.
Cyprus's national theatre company, Thoc, plans to perform a modern take on Achilles, a Trojan war trilogy by the dramatist Aeschylus, known as the father of tragedy. It will be performed in Cyprus and Greece.

Scholars had believed his trilogy to be lost for ever when the Library of Alexandria burned down in 48BC.

"But in the last decades archaeologists found mummies in Egypt which were stuffed with papyrus, containing excerpts of the original plays of Aeschylus," said the director of Thoc, Andy Bargilly.

Aeschylus wrote about 90 plays, but few survive.

Drawing on references by other ancient playwrights and the recently found texts, Thoc and researchers believe that they have the closest possible adaptation.


[Link via LRC]

West Africans in Mauritania are hoping to start a new fad, camel cheese:
"If the Europeans buy that cheese, our milk production will skyrocket. We'll get the technology - better than the money - like the right medicines. Then our herds will really grow," says herder Tati Ould Mohamed, watching as an orange bucket filled with frothy milk.

But there's a problem because they can't sell it overseas yet. Why, you ask? Because it's not tested and pasteurized, you see. The herders don't meet government regulations! They have a sensible advocate, though:
Nancy Abeiderrahmane, the British founder of Tiviski, has waged a decades-long campaign to export the milk and cheese of camels - animals more associated with Bedouin herders than brie.

When Abeiderrahmane moved to Mauritania in 1970, many of the country's 2.9 million people lived as herdsmen, but were increasingly consuming imported milk and other processed foods.

"I thought it was absurd that they had all of these dairy animals and were importing all of this ultra-pasteurized milk," the 56-year-old Briton says. "I so missed fresh milk. And I love camel's milk; it's exquisite."

So, with $250,000, she launched her company in 1987. It started with packaged camel milk, then quickly branched into yogurt and creme fraiche.

"It all made perfect sense," Abeiderrahmane says.

Over the years, she grew intrigued by the idea of camel cheese.

Camel milk doesn't curdle naturally, making cheese production difficult. But by 1994, with the help of a French professor, Abeiderrahmane had developed a method for making camel cheese, which tastes similar to goat cheese, but spreads and looks more like brie or Camembert.

At first Abeiderrahmane had to get the EU to actually recognize that camel milk was, in fact, milk since EU regulations didn't actually state that the secretions of camels could be so recognized.

Sounds like good eatin' to me.

Friday, November 14, 2003


One of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League's point men criticizing the Mel Gibson "Passion" movie has resigned:
Eugene Korn, the ADL's director of interfaith affairs, told the Forward that his resignation last week represented a "mutual decision" resulting from his need for "a more reflective and contemplative environment." Korn's departure has some Jewish communal observers suggesting that a more diplomatic approach is needed in dealing with Gibson's upcoming film, "The Passion of Christ."

Though the organization's strong rebuke of Gibson and his film was hailed by officials at several Jewish organizations, it has been criticized as counterproductive by an increasing number of communal experts.

"We have to ask questions in the Jewish community about the approach taken to this film," said Elan Steinberg, the senior adviser to the World Jewish Congress. "Have we really examined the question of whether bringing greater publicity to the film, broad charges of antisemitism and perhaps disenchanting those who are our allies in many struggles should be done in such a cavalier way?"

I fear that no tears will be shed in this direction over his resignation.

[Link via Drudge]

The problem with the new Gospel of John movie will always be its source material. I mean, really, the Bible? If we're going to make a Jesus movie call Martin Scorcese to make the Last Temptation of Christ so we can really have fun by blaspheming. Quite frankly, anytime you see religion portrayed seriously on the big screen the critics will immediately denounce it--you can write it down.

Ann Hornaday gives us a cinematic critique of the new movie, and, well, she doesn't like it. She makes what could be some valid observations, however:
As well-meaning as "The Gospel of John" is, and with all the care and historical research that have obviously gone into its production, it still comes off like a stiffly moving diorama, with Jesus sporting perfectly white teeth and a British accent and every thread of every robe in perfect place. Strictly adhering to the Good News version of events, "The Gospel of John" brings no metaphorical or otherwise interpretive texture to its adaptation; instead, it's simply a live-action illustration.

Of course we all know Jesus was a blue-eyed Anglo who spoke English with an Eaton accent and not a darker skinned Jew from Galilee. Yes, I agree these would be problems with the movie. I suspect, however, that any movie that attempts to portray the Gospels seriously will never satisfy a "mainstream" movie critic.

[For further reading try this Telegraph article where the author loves Henry Ian Cusick (who plays Jesus), but can't quite seem to grasp a harmony between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John.]

The old '80s (so old, I remember them!) fashion accessory jelly bracelets have made a comeback as "sex bracelets":
A fashion accessory may have a lot more meaning than you realize for your teenager....

Madonna wore them in the '80s. Now, teen pop star Avril Lavigne has an armful, and singer Pink sports rainbow-colored rubber wear, and your little girl may have them, too.

Only this time these jelly bracelets have a new nickname: sex bracelets.

These bendable pieces of colorful rubber have a whole new unwholesome meaning: They're a sexual code to many teens, Paolello said.

Some colors mean different things, and people wear them for that reason....

In a game called snap, if a boy breaks a jelly bracelet off a girl's wrist, he gets a sexual coupon for that act.

It's become such a problem in some middle schools in Florida that districts started banning the bracelets.

You like to see this in middle school! But if you train children in sex from pre-school on at some point they're going to want to put all that hard earned knowledge to work. But "experts" have a solution:
But experts say it's a good opportunity for you to have an important conversation about sex, what you think is acceptable and what's best for your family.

"Now, honey, I don't think it's best for our family for you to wear those black bracelets right now. I'd prefer if you limit yourself to only two reds and three blues a week. If...if you think that's ok with you, because I'm not judging you. If you feel you're ready for black bracelets, you're eleven years old now and are certainly capable of making those decisions."

"Uh, whatever, dad."

Thank you experts, and thank you public schools.

Play around with this Church Sign Generator. A preacher can have way too much fun with that.

A federal court has ruled that Texas can keep its Ten Commandments monument:
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the state's position that the placement of the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds is not an unconstitutional attempt to establish state-sponsored religion.

Thomas Van Orden, a homeless man living in Austin, had sued to have the monument removed, calling it an endorsement of Judeo-Christian beliefs by the state government.

The state countered that the 6-foot tall red granite monument is more historical than religious, with key segments of law founded on the moral and cultural ethics provided by the commandments.

And a suggestion for Mr. Van Orden: perhaps finding employment and maintaining a home would provide enough of interest to keep you occupied instead of leaving you open to manipulation from liberals who care about you so deeply that they're willing to exploit you as the plaintiff in a test case.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been found guilty by the state ethics panel of defying a Federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of Alabama's judicial building. The panel has ordered him removed from his position as chief justice. An appeal is likely.

Update: You can read the FoxNews account.

And by the way, I have no sympathy for Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor's current attempt at Senate confirmation for a federal judgeship. May he linger in political limbo.

Just because I can, I wanted to plug the upcoming Peter Weir-Russell Crowe movie "Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World" based on the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Anne Thompson has written a nice preview of the movie that's worth looking at.

For fans of O'Brian, no it's not a perfect adaptation of the series' tenth book (annoyingly, the bad guys are French instead of Americans as the book has it), but I think it's going to be pretty close. Without a doubt it's the best version we'll ever see. And Hollywood proves the adage that even a blind hog can find an acorn every once in awhile.

Well, that's who I'd be if my parents, my wife's parents and then my wife and I had decided we should all combine surnames and hyphenate. Wouldn't that be cute? Yes, name combining is the hip thing for the liberated and sensitive among us:
In the latest departure from traditional marriage procedure, some American men are beginning to take their wives’ last names, either using the woman's name in addition to their own or nixing their given names completely....

Kelly Shubert-Coleman, 23, said her husband Jon, 29, chose to put his name before the hyphen because the Coleman often got left off.

“I actually wanted to combine them into one name, but hyphenating was enough for him."

The Shubert-Colemans decided to hyphenate because they wanted their kids to share their last name, and neither wanted to give up their individual identity.

Well, as someone who is "not up on modern marriages" as the article says, I would also point out this sort of nonsense is on the rise just as the institution of marriage itself is being eroded on every side. Not too surprising at all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the man who put the Ten Commandments on display and was suspended as a result, is having his hearing today to see if he will keep his job:
Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore's job hangs in the balance today as he goes on trial on ethics charges before the state Court of the Judiciary.

Attorney General Bill Pryor will argue that Moore has flagrantly violated the law by defying a federal court order and must be removed from office to protect the state judicial system and the public.

Moore's attorneys will argue that the judge violated no law when he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building rotunda and should be restored to his full duties as chief justice. Moore won't say whether he will take the witness stand.

Should be interesting.

Recently, I was discussing Christmas gifts for the Cornett younguns with a close female relative (who will remain nameless). She was telling me how smart my kids could be if only I would buy them a toy that lights up when you push a button. I disagreed, of course, much to her dismay. Why not get my daughter the battery run safari game that would teach her all fifty states? But she has a US map puzzle, I pointed out. A difference of approach, you see.

While poking around online about this issue, I found a wonderful press release from the Alliance for Childhood, which expresses my views on this quite well:
What these electronic toys will not encourage children to do is play. When children play, they take the lead themselves and generate their own creative activities to help them work through the issues, problems, or personal experiences that are most pressing in their own lives. The real magic wand for play is the child's own imagination, not expensive electronics.

"A good toy is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child," explains the Alliance"s Joan Almon. "It's the child's imagination that brings a good toy to life, not a battery or a chip embedded in it. Electronic toys and computer activities can easily overpower the child's own budding imagination. Simple toys are far more empowering, because it's so much easier to imagine turning them into one object after another."

A large cardboard box, for example, can be a cave, a boat, or a castle -- whatever the child chooses in the dramas she creates herself. Almon and other child advocates recommend simple, inexpensive toys over the latest high-tech (and high-priced) items in toy stores. They also recommend the all-time favorite gift for children: more time and personal attention from parents, grandparents, and the other important adults in children's lives.

The entire press release is well worth your time, especially as you plan to spend your cash on some little one somewhere. So instead of the latest robot, buy some of this instead.