Friday, January 31, 2003


Ok, how many time have you read an article that said, "which begs the question"? What the writer actually means is, "recognizing this particular point as true, it prompts us to raise this particular question." Nine times out of ten he does not actually mean "begs the question". Begging the question is a particular logical fallacy involving circular reasoning. It means you assume your desired conclusion by the question itself.

I know this is a losing battle, but I read the expression just once too often. And now I've done my part to purify the language of the tribe.


Remember back when those on tv weren't allowed to actually consume alchohol on camera? Well no more! The new 'hot' trend on tv?--liquor 'em up!
"In an increasing number of instances, alcohol seems to be used to loosen people's inhibitions," said Adam Buckman, TV writer for the New York Post.

The latest incident came during Sunday's post-Super Bowl premiere of Kimmel's talk show, when actor George Clooney passed around a bottle of vodka and an over-baked audience member had to leave after vomiting during a commercial break.

Well, you can't beat that for entertainment.

Buckman correctly observes, "It seems like the increase in alcohol use in TV goes hand-in-hand with an increase of profanity and the coarsening of TV. It's too bad TV can't help itself from getting sleazier and sleazier."

Nice to see the entertainment industry still moving in a positive direction...

Wednesday, January 29, 2003


Recently declassified surveillance photographs have led to exciting archaeological information in the ancient area of Babylon, modern day Iraq. A long lost ancient road system is discernible, giving a clearer understanding of ancient travel and perhaps clues to unknown sites:
Examining the pictures in detail, archaeologists have found sites of ancient settlements that had previously escaped detection. They have begun to map the vanished roads that stretched across the landscape 4,000 to 5,000 years ago....

Other pictures show the roads linking city to city over a vast network extending from ancient Aleppo in western Syria to Nineveh, near modern Mosul in northern Iraq. Previously, scholars supposed there was some kind of road system for long-distance travel and, in the absence of better observations, simply represented the roads as straight lines between major settlements. Now they can plot the true courses of many roads.

These would have been the roads of Abraham and so many others. Truly fascinating.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003


Having what amounts to a captive audience a couple of times a week can lead to various temptations. As a preacher/teacher your job is to pass along Biblical information along with your spiritual insight based on study, experience and contemplation. The problems start when you start to confuse your personal preferences with spiritual insight or even with the Bible itself. Hey--I'm on a raised platform and all these people are listening to me! That's why humility and self-effacing humor always come in handy. It's wise to remember you're never as brilliant as you think you are.

My sister Susanna comments on an Episcopal minister who confused his political preferences with prophetic utterance. He's against the upcoming war with Iraq. That's fine with me, but don't preach a sermon about it. Anyone who knows me knows I have very strong political views. I'll express them privately. I'll express them at theosebes if the occasion calls for it. I try very hard not to express them in a preaching or teaching context. Sure, sometimes I'll make an offhand comment or allusion. And sometimes I might speak on, say, abortion as a moral issue. I will not tell you to vote for (or against) Candidate X based on his abortion views. That's for you to decide. That's not to say that one should separate religious views from political views. That I'm very much against. But I'm not going to abuse a position of trust by trying to make my political preferences a Voice From On High. Be very wary of someone who does.

Saturday, January 25, 2003


A new study has found that children who grow up in single-parent homes are many times more likely to develop psychological problems:
The scientists found that children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia, to kill themselves or attempt suicide, and to develop an alcohol-related disease.

Girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.

The study found that financial status was not decisive.

Everyone understands that there are those who are forced to raise children alone due to the death of a spouse or abandonment. But in our Murphy Brown society where every effort is made to normalize the single-parent home and seemingly celebrate guilt-free divorce, the fact is that breaking out of God's plan for families leads to dire real world consequences. I guess Dan Quayle was right.

An honor guard at a veteran's cemetary has been fired because he said 'God bless you' at graveside flag presentations. Patrick Cubbage got the ax despite following military protocol because of fears he might offend someone:
He said he got the words from the Flag Presentation Protocol, given to him by the Department of Defense when he started his job. But when he followed the protocol, his supervisor, Iven Dumas, scolded him.

"He told me some of the other honor guards did not want to say God Bless and I said that I wanted to follow protocol," Cubbage said.

"First he said they might offend someone, and I said, ‘You're telling me that over a thousand veterans who fought for God and country are buried here and you're concerned about someone who might be offended?’"

Cubbage plans to sue to get his job back.

I keep wondering when this insanity will end--I don't think it's going to.

Friday, January 24, 2003


A federal judge has ruled that a display of the Ten Commandments in the Mercer County, Kentucky courthouse can remain, in a blow to the ACLU's attempt to have it removed:
U.S. District Judge Karl Forester's ruling Wednesday handed the ACLU its first defeat in its string of lawsuits challenging the postings of the Ten Commandments in government buildings in Kentucky.

Mercer County officials had posted the Ten Commandments, along with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and other texts of historical significance, in a display titled "Foundations of American Law and Government."

Forester said the display clearly has a legitimate secular purpose in acknowledging the historical influence of the Ten Commandments on the development of law in the United States.

Although I don't concede the federal courts should have any say in this, it is nice to see the ACLU get a spanking; they've bullied our nation for far too long. Congratulatons to the fine folks over in Mercer County!

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Where did birds come from? Well, I have a pretty good idea, but a new find has evolutionists in a frenzy about it. (That's one bad lookin' animal!)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003


1.3 million infants are killed every year in the USA by abortion. That's gone on legally for 30 years now. It is without question our national shame.

While Roe v. Wade is a joke as Constitutional Law (the same people who can find abortion in the Constitution can't seem to find capital punishment and the right to bear arms--guess which ones are specifically mentioned and which one isn't), it's not a court issue, it's a public morality issue. Abortion is legal not because the Supreme Court said it was, but because the American people have tolerated it. We have a nation 'without natural affection'. Changing that doesn't start with nine people in black robes; it starts in people's hearts.

Today, think about those millions of people who aren't at your job or at your church or in your child's school because they never had a chance to be born.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003


Scientists think they've made yet another major breakthrough in evolutionary theory. By examining the insect 'walking sticks', scientists argue that 'they evolved from winged to wingless and back again. Walking sticks made the shift four times.' This is important as previously scientists held to a 'use it or lose it' belief--if an animal didn't use a particular function it would disappear and disappear forever.

But despite the hype, why can't this finding be explained as simply an inherent hereditary characteristic become recessive and then re-emerging? It would be similar to a family having red hair, that trait disappearing for awhile and then reappearing generations later. The genetic code was always there, just not activated. Instead these scientists seem to assume that the ability of flight redevoloped from scratch each time, which is quite simply hard to swallow. As always, scientists are faced with the information creation conundrum--how did this complex DNA code simply emerge, disappear and re-emerge time and again? And, of course, a walking stick with wings or without is still a walking stick. It's not something else or about to be.

[Thanks to Steve for the link via Susanna.]

No one leader is sufficient to direct a congregation, George Barna asserts in his latest study. Barna finds four different type of leader, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, in both leadership style and personal character:
The Christian Leader Profile(tm) categorizes leaders into one of four types: Directing, Strategic, Team-Building or Operational, based on the notion that every leader is incomplete in his/her skills and abilities and must therefore partner with leaders who have complementary capabilities. The Profile data indicate that these different types of leaders also have different challenges in the area of character.

Barna found that generational differences was a strong difference maker when it came to the various leadership styles. Older leaders, for example (and unsurprisingly), show greater faith maturity.But ultimately each style is incomplete:
Directing leaders, who tend to be the "big picture," motivational leaders who focus people's attention on vision for the future, are most likely to exhibit biblical values. However, they are more likely than others to struggle with servanthood and exhibiting a loving heart. They are the rivers of the organization, but sometimes lose sight of the fact that their aggressiveness and zeal for the vision may hurt some of the very people they wish to help.

Strategic leaders are those who analyze information, evaluate options and recommend the most effective courses of action. They are the strongest types of leaders when it comes to faith maturity and exhibiting biblical wisdom. However, they are most prone to difficulties with their temper and speech. They become so passionate about the paths they have discovered that they may lose patience with people who hold different opinions or who fail to understand why the path the Strategic leader suggests makes the most sense.

Team-Building leaders focus on mobilizing people around the vision, using people's gifts and abilities to maximize productivity. While they do not outshine their fellow leaders in any particular character quality, they are most likely to have trouble teaching effectively. They are highly relational and able to get people excited about their role in pursuing the vision, but they are often ineffective communicators of transformational or strategic principles.

Operational leaders develop systems to facilitate the efficient and effective flow and continuity of the organization's activity. While these leaders did not emerge as having a particular strength, they were notably weaker than their colleagues in the areas of temper, godly demeanor (e.g., being pleasant and respectful), servanthood and teaching ability. It appears that their focus on making the process work sometimes causes them to become overtly frustrated with the efforts of others.

What this demonstrates is the wisdom of the Biblical leadership pattern of congregations being directed by a plurality of qualified elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-9) rather than by a single individual. The latter can lead to a dictatorship or a personality cult. As Barna shows, it will certainly lead to an imbalance in the leadership style. There is only One who can be the Shepherd; that's why each congregation must have its shepherds. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

Monday, January 20, 2003


Now I've felt like my phone company was Satan before, but Kentucky Mountain Bible College seems to have good reason. It seems the college's phone number prefix is an unwelcome 666:
"People say, 'You're a Bible college, and you have 666 in your phone number,'" said Carlene Light, an office worker at Kentucky Mountain Bible College. "It's the connotation. No one wants to be part of the mark of the beast."

The non-denominational Christian college on a hillside in Eastern Kentucky has been trying to convince a telephone company to change the number.

The phone company is co-operating, apparently, and quite frankly I'm surprised that prefix has even been issued. Like tall buildings that have no 13th floor, one would think phone companies would avoid those digits just to avoid upsetting the sensibilities of some folks. There's often a fixation on the inconsequential in religion--I think this certainly qualifies. It's as if God would see actual relevance in what your phone number might be.

The college doesn't seem to appreciate the ironic humor of it all.

Friday, January 17, 2003


A big hats off to "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Patricia Heaton who walked out of the American Music Awards because of the vulgarity being shown by the hosts The Osbournes (i.e. Ozzy's & family). Despite being a scheduled presenter for a video retrospective, the two time Emmy Award winner got up and left:
"I arrived a little late and was seated in the audience," Heaton said. "I was going to present what's called a video package - a look at 30 years of the American Music Awards. Well, what was passing for humor basically ranged from stupid to vulgar, and I just thought, 'I'm not going to be part of this.' So I walked out and said, 'Get me my car. I'm leaving.' "

It's nice to know at least a few people in entertainment have standards. I'll enjoy "Everybody Loves Raymond" just a little bit more now.

UPDATE: More reason to like Heaton. Thanks to Susanna for the link.
Do you think Satan is real? Jeffrey Collins thinks so--and he's right.

The Catholic Church is famously (notoriously, in the view of some) pro-life yet we constantly see Catholic politicians in the U.S. who take a pro-abortion stand. Folks such as Ted Kennedy and Geraldine Ferraro come to mind. At the same time they seem to maintain their status as 'good Catholics'. I'm not a Catholic, nor do I play one on tv, however I've always been annoyed by those who try to play both sides of it. These folks want the political benefits of being Catholic, plus they're generally Catholic by habit and culture. But they clearly are not Catholic by belief. (I'm not either, therefore I don't pretend to be one.)

The Vatican has now issued a statement challenging these folks to actually practice the faith they profess:
A new set of guidelines approved by Pope John Paul II for Catholic politicians said church opposition to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage was not up for negotiation.

Their release comes a week before major demonstrations planned in the United States by abortion rights and anti-abortion groups and amid continuing efforts, mainly in Europe, to legalize euthanasia and gay marriages.

Personal belief choices ought to have real life consequences. But we live in a society that somehow manages to separate the two. 'Religion is private' becomes the mantra for those who want to pretend to be religious on Sunday morning, but stash an intern under the desk the rest of the week. Such compartmentalization certainly is pragmatic, but it's hardly consistent or admirable.

As an example to Catholics in public life the Vatican has held up Sir Thomas More:
While not offering concrete examples of legislation for Catholic politicians to promote, the document proposed a model for them to emulate: St. Thomas More, the 16th-century lawyer and diplomat who refused to renounce the pope and recognize the king as head of the English church.

King Henry VIII had More beheaded for his positions. Two years ago, Pope John Paul II made More the patron saint for politicians.

"He taught by his life and his death that 'man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality,"' the document said.

Now that's a patron saint I can certainly understand--most politicians probably should be beheaded. But of course, preserving their own necks is the primary motivation for the lot of them.

Thursday, January 16, 2003


Most of you probably heard that Mel Gibson is producing a movie about the crucifixion of Jesus called The Passion. For authenticity purposes it is being shot using Aramaic and Latin only. I've been a little skeptical about it, but it could prove to be interesting as long as Mel doesn't let his Catholic theology get in the way of the Biblical text.

Now Mel is claiming that he's being targeted by Big Media for his efforts:
"Whenever you take up a subject like this it does bring out a lot of enemies," he said. His private life, his banking records, charities he supports, friends, business associates and family members have all undergone scrutiny in this investigation, he said.

Could it be true? It wouldn't surprise me a bit.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


News of the Jehoash Inscription has hit the national media. As with many antiquities, the inscription's provenance is sketchy making it more difficult to authenticate. With only two entities looking at it, there has not yet been a unanimity of opinion:
Gabriel Barkai, a biblical archaeologist, said the collector asked the Israel Museum to determine the authenticity of the inscription and was told the museum’s experts could not rule out a forgery. The Israel Museum declined comment Monday.

The collector then took the tablet to Israel’s Geological Institute, whose experts studied it over the past year. “Our findings show that it is authentic,” said Shimon Ilani, who performed geological tests on the inscription. Carbon dating confirms the writing goes back to the 9th century B.C., he said.

This sort of find needs critical investigation to authenticate it. It's an exciting find, but it doesn't do anyone any good to pretend a forgery isn't a forgery. But things look good for the inscription at this point.

Jehoash Inscription, AP Photo

Tuesday, January 14, 2003


In an earlier post I wrote about the recent findings on the medicinal benefits of regularly drinking alchohol. Doctors compared its benefits to those of regularly taking aspirin. My point was, that the dangers of drinking far outweigh the benefits considering the benefits of drinking alchohol can be replicated or improved upon through other means.

In my wife's latest Prevention Magazine (Feb. issue) there is a fascinating article on the health benefits of dark chocolate, specifically Dove dark chocolate. According to the article, eating an ounce of Dove dark chocolate a day 'packs more than twice the healthy antioxidant punch of red wine or other dark chocolates.' The article also states,
In the test tube, Cocoapro cocoa reduces blood clotting; it may also stabilize arterial plaque, making it less likely to travel and cause a stroke or heart attack. This effect is similar to that of aspirin.

In comparing the antioxidant contents of various foods, Dove Dark chocolate ranks at the top with 41 mg. of Catechins & Epicatechins (1.3 oz. of chocolate) compared to 20 mg. for regular dark chocolate, 16 for 4 oz. of red wine, 9 for a small raw apple with skin, and 5 mg. for 6 oz. of black tea.

So whether you're after antioxidants or blood-thinning, try their hot chocolate recipe (2 Dove Promises in a mug of hot 1% milk) instead of red wine. You'll be making the healthier choice, and you can still drive afterwards.

[Prevention did not have this article online, however there was a related news brief.]

In an article subtly titled 'Was Jesus a Stoner?' in the drug magazine High Times, Chris Bennett contends that Jesus and His disciples were users and purveyors of cannabis (i.e., marijuana, weed, etc.) according to a Guardian article:
Jesus was almost certainly a cannabis user and an early proponent of the medicinal properties of the drug, according to a study of scriptural texts published this month. The study suggests that Jesus and his disciples used the drug to carry out miraculous healings.
The anointing oil used by Jesus and his disciples contained an ingredient called kaneh-bosem which has since been identified as cannabis extract, according to an article by Chris Bennett in the drugs magazine, High Times, entitled Was Jesus a Stoner? The incense used by Jesus in ceremonies also contained a cannabis extract, suggests Mr Bennett, who quotes scholars to back his claims.

Did the anointing oil contain cannabis? I've not looked into, but I'll concede it. And certainly anointing oil was used medicinally in Biblical times (cf. James 5:14). It wouldn't be surprising if there was an herbal content that has actual medicinal benefits; it's regularly found that such traditional herbal medicines do. It's likely that it could have caused a lessening in pain, for example.

However, Bennett's assertion that the cannabis is responsible for Jesus' healing powers is a little hard to swallow:
Quoting the New Testament, Mr Bennett argues that Jesus anointed his disciples with the oil and encouraged them to do the same with other followers. This could have been responsible for healing eye and skin diseases referred to in the Gospels.

What was responsible for Jesus' healing power wasn't weed, but the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. Show me someone who has healed blindness from birth or leprosy with cannabis and maybe we'll talk. Then I'll ask you to show me someone who was raised from the dead.

A memorial at Columbine High School cannot contain any reference to God. Brian Rohrbough's son Danny was killed in the infamous school massacre; he wishes to make reference to God in their two four-inch tiles at a Columbine memorial. But the memorial is within the school and, well, we certainly don't want God in a school. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Rohrbough's appeal on the matter, effectively settling the case against him:
The school district had invited parents to create tiles as part of the renovation of the school after the attack. Officials said the tiles should not be a memorial, which would remind students of the killing. Ground rules included that none would carry a religious theme, observing the constitutional requirement that church and state remain separate.

Hmmm, I missed that Constitutional requirement. I'll have to go look again.

Of course, one hates to point out that perhaps the awful slayings at Columbine were a result of excluding God in the first place.

Monday, January 13, 2003


Experts have authenticated an inscription relating to the Solomonic temple from King Jehoash:
An inscription attributed to Jehoash, the king of Judea who ruled in Jerusalem at the end of the ninth century B.C.E., has been authenticated by experts from the National Infrastructure Ministry's Geological Survey of Israel following months of examination. The 10-line fragment, which was apparently found on the Temple Mount, is written in the first person on a black stone tablet in ancient Phoenician script. The inscription's description of Temple "house repairs" ordered by King Jehoash strongly resembles passages in the Second Book of Kings, chapter 12.

Dr. Gabriel Barkai, a leading Israeli archaeologist from Bar Ilan University's Land of Israel Studies Department, says that if the inscription proves to be authentic, the finding is a "sensation" of the greatest import. It could be, he says, the most significant archaeological finding yet in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. It would be a first-of-its kind piece of physical evidence describing events in a manner that adheres to the narrative in the Bible.

There are usual questions of authenticity, but the Geology Survey is insistent that it is authentic: 'It's inconceivable that such extensive testing would fail to reveal a forgery, they said.'

Of particular interest is the way the inscription relates to the Biblical text itself:
The inscription contains fragments from 2 Kings 12:15: "And they did not ask an accounting from the men into whose hands they delivered the money to pay out to the workmen; for they dealt honestly."

Although a different sort of discovery from the James Ossuary--and probably an item that can be more surely authenticated--the Jehoash Inscription helps make a powerful one-two punch of archaeological evidence proof of the Bible's authenticity. More to come, I'm sure.

[Thanks to Sean for the lead on this.]

I saw my 90+ great-aunt last weekend for the first time in quite awhile. Before I started school and after my Mom had gone back to teaching I spent days with my uncle and her, fond memories all. She now stays in an 'assisted care facility', i.e., an old folks home.

Although generally as happy as she could be in that situation, she mentioned to me her shock at the amount, 'extra-curricular activities' that go on there. 'You'd think old people would know how to behave,' she said. 'But I think they're worse than young people.' I doubt they're worse, it's just that she has regular exposure to it. But as I told her, I'd say that younger people who don't know how to behave themselves usually become older people who don't know how to behave themselves.
Sense From Scalia

One of the great myths of American political economy is the 'wall of separation' between church and state. The phrase is actually from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote, not from any founding document. Now certainly, the national government is prohibited from 'establishing' a church, as England had done. The words in our Bill of Rights is a clear statement of break from the practices of England. (It is historical fact that individual states could and did have established churches.)

Do I want the government involved in the church I attend? Most certainly not. Government attention that may begin in a benign way--e.g. 'faith-based initiatives'--really turn out to be Trojan Horses for government restriction and regulation.

But that does not translate into the exclusion of religion from public life, as many on the Left desire. Antonin Scalia, one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices and the greatest of the 21st Century, has weighed in publicly on the issue of God in public life. A model of judicial restraint, Scalia correctly contends that it is not the court's role to legislate from the bench:
"The sign back here which says `Get religion out of government' can be imposed on the whole country," Scalia said. "I have no problem with that philosophy being adopted democratically. If the gentleman holding the sign would persuade all of you of that, then we could eliminate `under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance. That could be democratically done."

Our nation is a country founded with godly principles in mind. Religion is a private matter, as many suggest. That does not mean it's a secret matter, that one should hide out of shame. The government should not establish a church, but that does not mean it should be anti-religious in its approach.

I shy away from calling any nation 'Christian', but God does judge the nations. I fear He would find ours wanting.

Saturday, January 11, 2003


I'm sure most have seen news of the study affirming that moderate, daily drinking significantly decreases the risk of heart attacks in men. (Worth noting however, the effect of even light drinking on women: "Studies have also found that women who have two or more drinks a day are 41 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not drink.")

Surely this is proof, one might say, that there's nothing 'wrong' with such drinking. Isn't this an obvious equivalence to Paul's instruction to Timothy to have a little wine for his stomach's sake and his 'frequent ailments' (i.e., for health reasons--1 Timothy 5:23). Perhaps. I think one gets on thin ice pretty fast when he argues that consumption of any alcohol is wrong per se. That being said, as Paul writes 'all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable' (1 Cor. 10:23) Drinking in Biblical times was very different from modern drinking. Our wines and spirits (especially hard liquors) are many times more potent than theirs. Drinking wine 'straight' in ancient times was virtually unheard of. It was almost always diluted with water, sometimes as much as 20:1. Wine was used to flavor water and as a sanitizing agent in a society that had to worry about potable water.

And modern doctors don't even prescribe starting drinking to prevent heart attacks. The other risks are too great:
“I don’t think any doctor would advise a patient to start drinking to prevent heart disease,” said Dr. Gary Francis, director of the coronary intensive care unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Although they're not entirely sure why alcohol seems to reduce heart attack risk, they do have some notion:
Mukamal speculated that regular, moderate drinking is beneficial because it helps keep the blood thinned.
“We think it may be much like people take aspirin every day or every other day. A little bit of alcohol on a regular basis helps keep the platelets from becoming sticky and prevents heart attacks,” he said.

So despite the hype, drinking has about the same benefit as taking a daily aspirin. Few homes have ever been destroyed or car accidents caused by someone taking a Bayer.

Responding to those who might consider Mohammed a terrorist, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said Jesus is one, too:
"The Christian Church overwhelmingly -- there are exceptions -- who choose to call Mohammed a terrorist. They could call Jesus a terrorist too," said Clark. "I mean, he was pretty tough on money lenders a time or two."

Hmmm, somehow throwing moneychangers out of the temple doesn't seem to have quite the same import as systematically putting cities to the sword, offering them death or conversion.

You be the judge.

Invoking the 'culture' aspect of theosebes weblog, I couldn't resist posting on this one.

Much to the dismay of consolidationists everywhere, a new Zogby poll shows that the majority (55%) of people find the Confederate battle flag as signifying 'heritage and history', while only one third saw it as reflecting 'oppression and racial division'. Despite 150 years of systematic demonization of everything the South actually stood for--essentially the inherited rights of Western Civilization in contradistinction to centralization and social levelling--only one-third of people are actually buying into it. This continuing reluctance of folks to simply cow to the centralizers causes great consternation among the powers-that-be. The Lott controversy, for example, wasn't about 'race', it was about Lott not lining up the right way. It was about unacceptable dissent agains the Leviathan state. So is the banning of the battle flag.

So wear your Dixie Outfitters shirt, don't believe everything the media tells you and pray to your Father in heaven.

T.S. Eliot wisely said, there's no such thing as a lost cause, because there's no such thing as a gained cause. Just so.

Thursday, January 09, 2003


Yesterday I posted about the new popularity of Buddhism. Another hot religion is the Jewish mystic sect, Kabbalah. Madonna was the first I heard about being involved with it. Jeannette Walls writes that the center that all the big stars (including Mick Jagger, Gwyneth Paltrow, Courtney Love, Sandra Bernhard and Barbra Streisand) are dealing with is interested in more than just their spiritual growth:
“It is not a traditional expression of either Judaism or the historic Kabbalah,” says critic Rick Ross. “The Kabbalah Center is a highly organized, highly profitable group which I consider to be the Berg family business.” Phillip Berg, a former insurance salesman, heads up the Kabbalah Center in the United States, which in addition to giving pricey courses, sells books, tapes, scents and expensive skincare products both at its centers and at

Not only that, but forget Dasani or Perrier, buy Kabbalah water:
The group also sells bottled Kabbalah water — which Madonna swears by. The water, according to the group’s site, is “dynamic ‘living’ water” with “a highly organized structure, crystalline formations and a fractal design.” Kabbalah water, the Center’s Yehuda Berg insists, is a tradition dating back centuries. “We charge the water with positive energy,” he tells the Scoop. “So that it has healing powers,” he says.

Uh, yeah. I think I know where to get my living water.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003


After only a couple of weeks of promising a report on the movie (and after all of you have seen it now) I thought I'd finally make a couple of comments. I've actually seen it twice and must say it's one of the most impressive examples of moviemaking ever. Peter Jackson has taken one of the greatest works of fiction and myth-making of the 20th Century and made movies worthy of it.

The movie is generally true to the flow of Tolkien's book, but where Jackson makes changes it's usually to the story's detriment. I understand that the movies are of necessity abridgments. I know why Tom Bombadil didn't make it to The Fellowship of the Ring. (WARNING: Potential plot spoilers if you've not seen the movie!) But two particular changes did upset me. One is the essential change in the Faramir character. What Jackson likes to do is infuse his characters with more ambiguity, more 21st Century angst. Tolkien shows Faramir as a complete break from his failed brother Boromir; Jackson equivocates. Of bigger consequence is the change in Aragorn, the man who will be king. Tolkien's Aragorn is a decisive, strong leader. He is simply biding his time until the events are right for him to assume his kingship. Jackson's Aragorn is ambivalent about it all. Though not quite a Hamlet, he's certainly no Henry V. Tolkien was deliberately creating epic and myth. Quite frankly it can't be improved upon.

The spiritual implications of Tolkien's fable are profound. It's a parable that can teach us all about the lure of wordly rings of power, and the virtues of triumphing over them even if it means our very lives. Go see the movie (probably best to leave the preteens at home) and please, read the books.

On what do you base your belief system? Apparently a number of folks look for spiritual insight and inspiration from Richard Gere and Tina Turner. Buddhism and other Eastern religions have been on the rise in large part because various celebrities have signed on. The value of celebrity adherents is evident with such kook 'religions' as Scientology, which has Tom Cruise, John Travolta and that model of stability, Priscilla Presley in its stable.

What these human philosophies have in common other than Hollywood star power is a promise of personal control over one's life. Now I'm in favor of personal responsibility and all, but what we see here is a desire to in charge, to be the center of the universe:
Gidget Hawkins of Kansas City, Mo., converted from Christianity more than a decade ago, inspired by her grandmother.

"She had read about Buddha, and all I can remember her saying was that chanting will bring whatever one wants in life," Hawkins said.

"What strongly attracted me to Buddhism was its teaching that we have the power to change our lives," she said. "I also liked the emphasis it placed on one taking personal responsibility of his or her life.

"I used to look upon other people, including my family, to steer my life. But Buddhism has taught me that I can determine my life direction."

The appeal of the gospel is that man is an utter failure in determining his 'life direction'. We need direction from Jesus Christ. That doesn't do a lot for man's vanity; the core of the Bible is humility before God, not 'self-actualization'. As Paul tells us 'that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many that no man may boast before God.'


I saw this headline during my morning online news swing. This was on a major news site, not or anything. I will not provide a link because I don't want you to go to it. I didn't go to it. Why on earth should I care? Why am I being encouraged to care?

Roc-a-fella Records--a 'hip-hop' label--will now 'encourage' their, um, 'artists' to include references to Armadale vodka in their, um, 'songs' after signing a product placement deal with the Scottish vodka producer. Damon Dash, CEO of the label, is going into it with eyes open:
Dash, 31, isn't naïve about the sway his label's musicians exercise over fans. In fact, he says he was inspired to make the deal after he noticed the buzz created by Jay-Z's mention of Belvedere vodka in one of his songs.

"We know what influence we have over our demographic, and we like to capitalize on every opportunity," Dash told the Journal. Officials at Roc-a-fella records did not return repeated calls for this story.

'Capitalize on every opportunity' means 'encourage young black males to become alcoholics'.

Noted conservative Russell Kirk once debated black activist Malcolm X. After the debate Malcolm X told Dr. Kirk that he didn't have a problem with conservatives, but rather the liberal who insisted on the benefit of having a liquor store on the corner in every black neighborhood. Mr. Little had some things right.

Saturday, January 04, 2003


That Christianity is on the decline and other religions like Islam are booming is a tacit assumption popularly. Certainly I've heard various preachers talk about all those who were baptized a generation ago compared to now--people just aren't responding to the gospel anymore.

But a Fox article reports that the facts show 'Christianity on the rise in places like South America, Asia and especially Africa.' What they report fits nicely with what various men I have been in contact with have expressed: in India, Africa, the Philippines (even the former Iron Curtain nations) we are again seeing the type of numbers turning to Christ that we saw here in the past. It's not the seed that has lost its power, its the American soil we sow it in that fails to produce much fruit. Decadence, luxury and materialism provide such a barrier domestically that there is no longer the same return for our labor as there once was. But the gospel was never revealed for the amusement of 20th & 21st Century Americans.

As we take the gospel into 'new' areas there is always the danger of American money and attitudes corrupting the process. We need to make sure that it is the gospel and not the promise of easy money from American churches who think they're helping out that leads to interest in the message. Americans need to take the gospel where we are able, but we need to get out as soon as possible and let natives run their own affairs. We want to see churches of Christ, not American churches, planted in these lands.

Trust the word, not ourselves.

So I'm watching the rather amazing 4th quarter and then double-overtime of the Miami-Ohio St. game last night (congrats to the Buckeyes!). And after the game they're giving out the very fancy and expensive hardware (a word that seems out of place considering those trophies). While going in and out of the room, I hear one of the Ohio St. players saying, 'I want to give God all the glory...' (very nice, I think)

'...and I want to thank the best d**n fans in college football!'


Thursday, January 02, 2003

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday season. As nice as it has been, I'm glad it's over and real life can resume. My family and I are driving home from Memphis today, potentially through some bad weather. Please pray for our safe arrival home. Tomorrow I'll have some actual theosebes content.