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.

Is there a dark side to TiVo? Apparently so--it turns you into even more of a compulsive tv watcher:
TIVO’S BIG SELLING POINT for many customers was the idea that they no longer needed to live their lives according to the TV schedule. What many failed to realize is the entertainment glut that is created by saving so many favorite programs.

“I love my TiVo and get separation anxiety when I spend too much time away from it,” said Cori Martinelli, an economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in San Francisco.

She catches herself worrying, “Gosh, did (the show) record OK? Is something being deleted before I can watch it?”

A couple of generations ago oodles of labor-saving devices were created with a great expansion of leisure time envisioned. What happened? We have all the latest labor saving devices, but are busier than ever before. TiVo actually seems like a pretty cool idea (I don't have one), but the article makes all too clear how in reality it creates the feeling of obligation to this machine of convenience.

One more reason to buy one fewer thing.

Xmas list:
Lobb shoes

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


A Welsh vicar has apologized after publishing offensive jokes in his church newsletter:
A vicar has apologised after parishioners criticised a church magazine for publishing offensive jokes.

Trouble flared after members of St Mary's Church in Mold, north Wales, saw the latest edition of the parish newsletter.

A number complained that the newsletter poked fun at the Irish and contained "smutty" jokes.

The publication, which has a circulation of around 350, contained a spoof "Irish Medical Dictionary" with joke definitions for medical terms.

One churchgoer described the jokes as tasteless and said they offended the Irish, and he believed they had upset a number of parishioners.

As the editor of a church bulletin one of the first rules is "Don't run offensive jokes." *sigh*

Monday, November 10, 2003


British children have told the BBC there's too much sex on TV:
It found a majority of children (two thirds) believed they had seen TV shows or videos with too much sexual content. Only 36% of those opted to stop watching.

Research director of the BSC Andrea Millwood Hargrave said: "They talk about being embarrassed and they talk about dad hiding behind the newspaper. But very few said their parents actually sent them out of the room."

It's time for parents (me included) to wake up.

A new study in Australia has discovered that school children are more likely to giggle at the mention of 'Jesus' than show respect:
When the teacher asked her class what came to mind when she mentioned Jesus Christ, she was greeted with smirks - a sign that for many young people, he may be better recognised as a swear word than as the son of God.

Ruth Powell, a researcher for the National Church Life Survey, said such a response was a remnant of major cultural changes in the 1960s, with baby boomers having left the church.

"This generation of school-age children is the first with no residual memory, no image of church that they are rejecting - they have no reference points at all," Dr Powell said.

The experience of the teacher, a religious education teacher at a state school, showed Jesus was "better known by her class as a profanity than a deity".

Although Australia is a more secularized culture than the US (more akin to the UK and Europe), I'm sure one would find similar results here. And as the story indicates, the problem is with the parents of these children, not with the children themselves. They simply don't know any better.

I think it also should help shake us out of common assumptions those of us with a church background often operate under. We are dealing with a more secularized culture, and we can't act as if others operate with the same Biblical background.

As E.M. Blaiklock stated, "Of all the centuries, the twentieth is most like the first." He said that because he hadn't seen the twenty-first yet.

Saturday, November 08, 2003


You've really got to wonder about a guy who is arrogant enough to vote on the parts of the Bible he likes. But that's what Marcus Borg does as a member of the nonsensical Jesus Seminar. The good Mr. Borg is speaking in Birmingham today (at $10-$25 a pop):
"I'm going to talk about two visions of the church in America," Borg said. "The earlier vision, dominant for the last 200 to 300 years, sees the Bible as a divine product. It tells us how God sees things. The emerging vision sees the Bible as a product of the way ancient Israel and the early Christian movement saw things. It's a human product. It tells us what they think, not what God thinks."

Slavery, women's ordination and now homosexuality have tested old interpretations of scripture, Borg said.

"It's no longer adequate to say, `That's what the Bible says,'" Borg said. "The Bible legitimates slavery. We worked through that one. The Bible read literally prevents women's ordination. We worked through that one 30 years ago in mainline denominations. We're now in the stage where the same recognition is being applied to the passages on homosexuality."

The new view on the Bible allows for changes in moral attitudes.

"We know some things those ancient communities didn't know," Borg said. "It's not that the word comes from God. The Bible doesn't come with footnotes saying `Interpret this literally.' Symbolic is not less than literal. To interpret literally is an interpretation."

No, we can't say 'That's what the Bible says'--apparently we have to say 'This is what a Jesus Seminar scholar says this is what the Bible means.'

As my old college professor used to tell us, we as a society have forgotten at least as much as we have learned. Borg can talk about how much more we know, but the conclusion is simply we know more than God does. I would suggest he read Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, but then I'm just simply accepting what the Bible says--Mr. Borg and his ilk have seemingly learned better.

Friday, November 07, 2003


Why is he radical? Because he's a sensible Anglican, that's why:
A bishop has sparked controversy by calling on gay people to seek psychiatric help.

The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, the Bishop for Chester, said some people who are primarily homosexual can reorientate themselves.

The amusing part is how the article portrays Forster's rather novel ideas on the family:
Bishop Forster, who is married with four children, also believes families should be made up of a traditional husband and wife.

He explained: "All the sociological evidence is that children fare better when raised in a traditional home by a man and a woman who have committed themselves to a life-long marriage."

Now where on earth would he get such odd notions?

Archaeologists have made exciting discoveris in a Tuscan village, revealing Etruscan art thousands of years old:
Etruscan art, made of strange demons and monsters, is emerging in a Tuscan village, in what could be one of the most important discoveries of recent times, according to scholars who have seen the paintings.

Lurking on the left wall of a 4th century B.C. tomb, the exceptionally preserved monsters have been unearthed during the ongoing excavation of the Pianacce necropolis in Sarteano, a village 50 miles from Siena, Italy.

"So far we have found some scenes of banquets, snake-like monsters, demons, a hyppocampus and a sarcophagus broken in many fragments, probably by tomb robbers. We are confident to find more art as the digging goes on," archaeologist Alessandra Minetti told Discovery News.

Why post about it? Because I love that kind of stuff.

[Link via LRC]

Thursday, November 06, 2003


When does life begin? Well Australia's Anglican Primate Peter Carnley has settled the issue; just ask him:
Life does not begin when sperm meets egg, but 14 days after, according to the head of the Anglican Church in Australia.

Primate Peter Carnley told the Fertility Society of Australia in Perth yesterday this meant objections to IVF, genetic testing and stem cell research should fall away.

Archbishop Carnley said that until it was implanted in a womb lining, a fertilised egg was not a human life but rather a genetically novel kind of cell.

The fertilised egg must also pass the point that it could split to become an identical twin, which was at about 14 days. After that, the embryo should be accorded the status of an individual human with rights to care, protection and life.

If only we'd had the good Primate to speak on this earlier it would have save a lot of trouble.

Tired of handing your daughter a Christina Aguilera doll? Then try something different:
American Girl is part Disney, part Barbie, part Nancy Drew and part Tipper Gore. Its great cause, other than making money, is the defense of girlish innocence. It presents its characters as wholesome alternatives to the trash-talking, navel-baring role models who dominate television and pop music.

"Girls are growing up too fast," said Ellen L. Brothers, president of Pleasant Company, American Girl's parent, which is in turn owned by the toy giant Mattel Inc. She described her products as "age appropriate" and "not for the 8-year-old who wants to be her 14-year-old sister."

We fathers of daughters are concerned about these things.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


Ah, good ol' Howard Dean knows how to reel-in those Southerners:
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean told a Tallahassee audience today that southerners have to quit basing their votes on "race, guns, God and gays."...

Dean said he hopes to reassemble a coalition of conservative
southern voters like President Franklin Roosevelt had in the "solid
South" 70 years ago. Although his opposition to the war in Iraq and his criticism of the Bush tax cuts do not score well in polls in the South, Dean said he hopes working families will support his call for improving education and health care.

Well, with statements like that Dean won't be able to beat the "conservative southern voters" off with a stick. (Of course, no Yankee liberal ever considers "race, guns, God and gays" when he/she/it casts a vote. Never ever.)

A look at recent tax returns has found that folks in Southern states--despite lower per capita income--are far more giving than their Yankee counterparts in wealthy places like New Hampshire and Rhode Island:
For the last three of five years, New Hampshire has been at the bottom of the "Generosity Index," which compares what residents of each state earn and how much they give. New Hampshire surrendered the miserly title to Rhode Island the other two years.

New Hampshire residents donated $462 million, an average of about $2,400 per taxpayer, according to The Catalogue for Philanthropy (search). That looks especially stingy considering the state's relative wealth. Its average income of $51,000 is eighth-highest in the country, while its average giving ranks 48th.

By comparison, Mississippi (search), the most generous state, had an average income of $34,000 -- the lowest in the country. But residents still gave enough to match the national average of $3,500 a person.

Why might this be?
New Hampshire's New England neighbors -- Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and Maine -- are all among the 20 least generous states.

By comparison, Bible Belt states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and South Carolina are all among the top 10.

The regional difference has been attributed to the Southern Christian practice of tithing -- giving a tenth of your income to the church.

Those mean ol' Southern Christians--actually giving of their means. Shocking, just shocking.


A thief with a conscience? Well, they have them in Romania:
A Romanian who robbed a church decided to turn himself in when he found a bible among the stolen goods.

The 26-year-old went to police and gave back all the things he took from the Christian Evangelical church in Braila.

He said he felt God's anger when he saw the sacred book among some clothes he took from the church in his night raid.

Ioan Bogoiu returned the goods to the church, accompanied by his mother and the police.

He still faces up to four years in prison, as he had been released from jail on probation, reports the National newspaper.

I love the fact that Mom was with him.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

BOB NOVAK says "No anti-Semitism in Gibson's 'Passion'":
As a journalist who has actually seen what the producers call ''a rough cut'' of the movie and not just read about it, I can report it is free of the anti-Semitism that its detractors claim.

And there you go.

[Link via LRC]

Scientists are more convinced than ever about the dangers of alchohol to unborn babies:
But in recent decades, scientists have discovered that alcohol can be remarkably toxic — more than any other abused drug — to developing fetuses. New research with imaging techniques is helping experts uncover which parts of the developing brain are damaged by alcohol exposure....

Further complicating matters is the question of how much alcohol it takes to cause harm. In the past few years, successive studies have shown an effect at increasingly lower levels. One study, published last year, found a small but significant effect on average in children born to women who consumed just a drink and a half a week.

"We were surprised by this," said the lead author, Dr. Nancy Day, a professor of psychiatry at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh. The women in the study were recruited from a prenatal clinic between May 1983 and July 1985.

"The children were in the normal range of growth," Dr. Day said, "but if you compare them to children whose mothers didn't drink at all, they weighed less, were shorter and had smaller head circumferences."

With the tobacco jihad of the last two decades the real dangers of alchohol have tended to be swept under the rug. Dr. James R. West sums it up for us:
"Alcohol is a dirty drug," Dr. West added. "It affects a number of different neurotransmitters, and all cells can take it up." Compare this with cocaine, Dr. West said, which is taken up by only one neurotransmitter.

Dirty and dangerous.

UPDATE: Jordana over at Curmudgeonry (one of the coolest named weblogs) throws a thought in about the reliability of studies such as the above. PS She's also added a permalink to theosebes--thanks!

Monday, November 03, 2003


During the first century a group of heretics called Gnostics appeared on the scene. Their name comes from their claim "to know" (gnosis), i.e., they had the inside scoop and you don't. The apostle John particular attacked this nonsense. His message: they don't know as much as they think they do. Those who have accepted Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the gospel message are really the ones who "know".(1 John 2:21) The New York Times gives us an overview of a modern day gnostic notion, that Jesus was married and somehow Da Vinci is involved. Yes, it's just as silly as it sounds. ABC has a new "edgy" documentary (it airs tonight) exploring the idea based on the bestselling thriller The Da Vinci Code:
Though set mostly in modern Europe, Mr. Brown's thriller centers on Leonardo da Vinci's role in maintaining a secret from biblical times. In pursuing what it calls the "claims" of Mr. Brown's fiction, the ABC special, which the group on the 22nd floor had seen before the meeting, bares Leonardo's so-called secret: Mary Magdalene, far from being a prostitute, was the rightful wife of Jesus; Mary and Jesus had a child and heirs; and finally, the heirs, whose existence threatened church dogma, were protected by a clandestine priory that counted Leonardo among its members.

It sounds like something you'd see on a tabloid cover in the grocery checkout. And that's about how much validity it has. If you want the inside scoop, I'd recommend reading a gospel tonight instead of wasting your time on ABC's "documentary".


"What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten..."

The Sudanese have learned what a Biblical-style plague is like, as
grasshoppers have swarmed over their land:
Eleven people died and thousands were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties after a swarm of grasshoppers invaded a town in central Sudan....

Resident Joseph Mogum in Wad Medani, about 176 km southeast of the capital Khartoum, said the grasshoppers gave off a strong smell which caused breathing problems.

Breathing problems are something I hadn't been aware was connected with locust swarms. It helps give us insight onto the Joel plague and the Egyptian plague of Exodus 10 visited upon the Egyptians. Fascinating.

And no, I'm not saying that God sent a locust plague on the Sudanese.

[Link via Drudge]

Saturday, November 01, 2003


It is always so encouraging when you see a politician "evolve". What this means is they jettison anything approaching traditional values and embrace the latest "progressive" issue du jour. The New York Times tells us how Mr. Gephardt's now openly homosexual daughter has helped bring him along:
Her transformation from a married social worker into an outspoken advocate for gay rights has been widely chronicled. But what is less commonly known is that her journey would have been far more difficult without her father's.

Mr. Gephardt's decision to turn the spotlight on his daughter underscores his own evolution in 27 years in Congress. In the early 1980's, he opposed abortion, school busing and federally financed legal services for gay men and lesbians.

Over the years, he has changed those positions and today is hailed by gay and lesbian rights groups for sponsoring legislation against hate crimes and discrimination and for being the first presidential hopeful to give a gay relative such a prominent and public platform.

"My dad is ever evolving," Ms. Gephardt likes to tell her audiences. "I'm working on him."

One of those areas is gay marriage, which she avidly supports and he does not.

Oh, just give him time. Or at least some favorable poll numbers. The Times shocks us with this admission:
The daughter's presence is not entirely free of calculation.

Really? You think?


Perhaps some of you have heard about the vulgarity U2 lead singer Bono uttered at the Golden Globe Awards when accepting an award. We shall not repeat the word in its fullness here, but it begins with an "f". Well, traditionally the FCC has held you can't say that on tv. Now we find you can, if you use it properly:
The FCC decided not to levy sanctions. In fact, the FCC decided to allow the word in question to be uttered on television without sanctions in the future. Here is the explanation, and I offer it at some length. The FCC used the actual word; it was my decision to add the asterisks:

“The word ‘f***ing may be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory activities or functions. Rather, the performer used the word f***ing as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation. Indeed, in similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory activity or organs is not within the scope of the Commission’s prohibition of indecent program content.”

So it was that the FCC decided to “reject the claims that this program content is indecent.”

In other words, it’s okay to say f*** on television if you’re not talking about f***ing.

I remember a decade ago or so when the word a** (to refer to the derriere) was allowed on tv. Suddenly everyone just had to say it on all the hep shows. These days you can hardly watch anything on television without hearing it repeatedly. Watch for the same with this. Actually, don't watch for it at all. Turn it off. Or I've found you can safely watch the various Discovery channels and the History channel.