Wednesday, June 30, 2004


A motley looking crew at the Westvue church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on Saturday. Octogenarian Bob Bunting spoke on the needs and responsibilities of preachers. It was a wonderfully rich series of lectures, and demonstrated a great deal of personal will as bro. Bunting has not been well at all for some time. From left, Mitchell Stevens (my brother-in-law), yours truly, Bob Bunting, Rick Duggin (who preaches at Westvue). Posted by Hello

Rather than comply with a new statewide directive to distribute the "morning-after pills", nurses are quitting their jobs:
Alabama recently began requiring all of its state-funded public health clinics to hand out "morning-after pills" (search) to women who are worried they may be pregnant and inform patients of their availability.

Not surprisingly, the decision has been met with controversy in the state, with some Department of Public Health nurses quitting their jobs rather than participating in an effort that goes against their religious beliefs.

Alabama health officials say the initiative, which began in April, is in the public's interest and protects their $5 million in federal family planning grants.

It's odd to me that Alabama of all places would issue such a directive. But it all becomes clear when you see "protect...federal...grants".

The Christian Coalition is working with Rep. Robert Aderholt to stop the move:
Aderholt wrote the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for clarification and received a response saying that family planning projects must offer a "broad array" of contraceptive methods but do not have to provide "all available methods and services."

Aderholt said Wednesday he's getting a majority of Alabama's congressional delegation to sign a letter telling state health officer Don Williamson that the federal government does not require distributing the morning-after pill.

However, Public Health got a letter from Health and Human Services in January that said it "should consider the availability of emergency contraception the same as any other method which has been established as safe and effective."

Your tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


Take the Christian Science Monitor quiz and find out. Your humble weblogger was identified as an "Isolationist," which is probably about right.

[Link via LRC]

An icon of the American Right for a half century, William F. Buckley, Jr. is retiring from National Review:
In an interview, he said he planned to relinquish his shares [of National Review] today to a board of trustees he had selected. Among them are his son, the humorist Christopher Buckley; the magazine's president, Thomas L. Rhodes; and Austin Bramwell, a 2000 graduate of Yale and one of the magazine's youngest current contributors.

Mr. Buckley's exit from the stage of political journalism is sad to see. Granted, I've had mixed feelings about NR and WFB for some years as I believe both capitulated to a neoconservative element as National Review was purged of its Old Right sympathizers in favor of approved New York neocons.

But what Buckley accomplished with National Review was an amazing thing. Sometime take a few hours, find your local university library and turn through the pages of NR from the 1950s and 1960s. You'll be shocked by the audacity of the positions and the vibrancy of the prose. Indeed, in those early decades, National Review stood "athwart history, yelling 'Stop,'" with men such as Russell Kirk, James Burnham, Willmoore Kendall and Frank Meyer. None of them would have been allowed to darken the door of NR in the past decade.

A young Russell Kirk told the even younger William F. Buckley, Jr. not to locate the NR offices in New York City. The danger was too great for assimilation into the very establishment mentality that NR and its fellow travelers were fighting. Dr. Kirk suggested somewhere such as Chicago instead. Buckley went to NYC anyway and in the end proved Kirk right.

I had the good pleasure to meet Buckley in the National Review offices. I interviewed him in the magazine's library room for my undergraduate thesis, which looked at Buckley's and Kirk's role in the post-war Conservative movement. It was an exciting opportunity for a 21 year old. When I wrote to request the interview Mr. Buckley responded with a conditional "yes". Enclosed with the letter was a reading list to complete before the interview so I would ask sensible questions. It showed wisdom on his part, and likely reflected hard learned experience with past undergraduates!

I continued a correspondence with him for a time, and he was always gracious to answer my letters. His book God & Man at Yale, although written almost 40 years before my reading of it, was like a bolt out of the blue for me. Firing Line on PBS was unique among political television shows. There is much for which we can thank William F. Buckley, Jr. And it is no shock that he--like the rest of us--was not perfect. Still, as we often must do, we wonder what might have been.

Monday, June 28, 2004


Kept a secret for more than 50 years by land owner Waldo Wilcox, archaeologists have announced a stunning ancient Indian settlement:
For more than 50 years, rancher Waldo Wilcox kept most outsiders off his land and the secret under wraps: a string of ancient Indian settlements so remarkably well-preserved that arrowheads and beads are still lying out in the open.

Archaeologists are calling it one of the most spectacular finds in the West.

Hidden deep inside Utah’s nearly inaccessible Book Cliffs region, 130 miles (208 kilometers) from Salt Lake City, the prehistoric villages run for 12 miles (19 kilometers) and include hundreds of rock art panels, cliffside granaries, stone houses built halfway underground, rock shelters and the mummified remains of long-ago inhabitants.

The site was occupied for at least 3,000 years until it abandoned more than 1,000 years ago, when the Fremont people mysteriously vanished.

It's an amazing find, or revelation really. Wilcox did an amazing job as caretaker for a half-century. But I suspect none of those long dead Utah residents ever heard of Moroni.

Walking down the same path as the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA has elected a pro-homosexual leader:
A peace activist who supports the inclusion of gays in the ministry was elected Saturday to lead the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. for the next two years.

The selection of the activist, Rick Ufford-Chase, comes as the church prepares for a fresh round of debate at its annual convention this week on whether to repeal a ban on gay pastors.

One difference is that the Presbyterians have already fractured into various strains, many walking away from the modernism of the "mainline" version years ago. We won't see quite the drama here we've seen with the Episcopalians.

In the name of religion, these denominations continue to commit suicide.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Fashion gurus have declared it's time to cover up:
The nearly naked looks once favored by pop stars like Christina Aguilera and television shows like "Sex and the City" are giving way to more demure styles that feature far less skin, fashion executives say.
From the runways of Europe to the malls of America, shirts and skirts are getting longer and the waistband on jeans, which had been going south in a hurry, has begun to rise, these people said.

"People are tired of seeing so much skin," said Greg Scott, chief executive of Bebe, a 195-unit chain that is known for selling slinky tank tops and short skirts....

"That whole midriff-baring thing is completely over," Scott said.

Let's hope everyone gets the memo on that.

Well, if we go by language probably so. Kerry who (in)famously and calculatedly used the "f-word" in a Rolling Stone interview (earning the nickname "John F'ing Kerry") can now welcome Cheney into the foul language club:
Vice President Cheney cursed at Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy during a confrontation on the Senate floor while members were having their annual group picture taken earlier this week, Leahy and Senate sources said Thursday....

During their exchange, Leahy noted that Republicans had accused Democrats of being anti-Catholic because they are opposed to some of President Bush’s anti-abortion judges, the aides said.

Cheney then responded, “f--- off” or “f--- you,” two aides said, both speaking on condition of anonymity.

You like to see mature exchanges like that among our nation's leaders.

In Cheney's defense, at least he has the maturity to keep such language private (well, relatively) and not planted in hep cat magazines to appeal to the kids. But episodes like that make it a little hard to take the Bush-Cheney ticket too seriously when they make their pitch to the religious right.

A couple of ne'er-do-wells decided to rob a Chicago priest and soon wish they hadn't:
A tough Chicago priest foiled two would-be robbers who tried to steal money from the church collection box, keeping one of them in a headlock until the cops came.

St. Agnes' Church in the city's West Side had been robbed before, reports WBBM-TV, so video cameras were installed overlooking the collection box.

On Wednesday afternoon, church volunteers saw a man lay out tools and try to break into the box, which was holding about $300.

Father Matt Foley ran in and grabbed the man's tools, but the crook fought back, and the tussle wandered into the street, then a nearby alley.

Said the priest: "No one steals from God."

And what brought these two to the church?
[The] two men who had gotten free meals at the church were arrested.

You like to see that.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Those attending Esther's (that's Madonna for you nonsophisticates) concerts have been treated to some Hebrew on the screen, but it seems it may not quite be Hebrew:
Fans in New York and other cities have been scratching their heads, though, trying to figure out what the Hebrew letters that flash on a video screen during part of Madonna's show mean....

Thanks to our friends Seth and Gigi, who'd been in the mosh pit dancing up a sweat, we finally broke the code....

The Hebrew letters don't spell out Hebrew words, my friends. They spell out English words, which is quite bizarre.

Seth showed us his special bracelet that allowed him into the mosh pit. On it were three Hebrew letters that looked like they spelled out a Hebrew word. Then we realized the letters sounded out to read: "Love."

But lest you think, Esther isn't serious about her new faith you'll find she's even proudly displaying the message of Kabbalah on her t-shirt:
The rest of the Hebrew involved in the show also seemed to be gibberish, at best. But Madonna invoked Kabbalah and her superficial interest in Judaism several other times during the evening, besides wearing a T-shirt that read "Kabbalists Do It Better."

And there you have it. Faith for the new age.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


There's a new trend among dinosaur hunters, now some are out to prove the Bible
Countless dinosaur bones lie buried in the rocks of South Dakota but the Christians excavating one remote cliff-face were digging not just for reptilian vertebrae but for the hand of God.

With screwdrivers, hammers and shaving brushes for tools, the group was seeking and, as far as it was concerned, unearthed proof that the animals perished not millions of years ago but in Noah's Flood circa 2300 BC.

To these believers in the Bible's literal truth, they are not dinosaurs but "missionary lizards", which are powerful weapons in the battle for young American hearts and minds.

It's an interesting trend, and one that may in fact bear some useful fruit. I'm not completely sold on the Henry M. Morris view of things, but it's an effort to address the striking problems of the current Big Bang/Darwinian hegemony.

I accept the Biblical account of Creation, but one must be careful about dogmatically accepting one explanation of those events over another. Quite frankly, I believe the details of Creation will always be a mystery never fully explainable in this vale of tears.

To my mind, the approach of the Intelligent Design school is much more effective at countering Big Bang nonsense. That's not to say I agree with every position they take, but I doubt I would agree with any approach completely. And that's the issue we have to come to terms with. The Bible is revealed truth and cannot be in error. However, man's interpretation of it can be. As we suggest more and more details to "fill-in" the Biblical account we necessarily add man's wisdom. We have to be very careful that we don't become as attached to the "man's" part as we are to God's.

[Story link via Christianity Today's Weblog]

In the wake of the sex abuse scandal, the Boston diocese has sold off 65 churches to balance the budget. Not a few areupset at what they've become:
Boston Catholics grieving the loss off 65 diocesan churches are even more downhearted to learn that their former places of worship are being sold as luxury condominiums.

The Archdiocese of Boston last month announced it would sell off some of its churches in order to balance the budget.

Bernie McFarland and his father bought St. Peter and Paul's Church, one of the most venerable in Boston, to turn it into high-priced condos.

"We retained as much of the interior as we could to make a beautiful living space," said McFarland.

With the original plaster work, stained glass windows, arches, moldings and even the paint on the ceiling, these condos are selling for between $300,000 and $1 million.

While I am no fan of the Catholic church, at the same time it certainly is the sign of a decadent culture when 65 churches can simply be sold off, their doors shut forever. This in the face of booming population growth, of course. On the other hand, it must be recognized that it is also the result of the Catholic church's arrogance in dealing with their own charges.

On many levels, it is sad to see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


An ancient bronze sculpture of a young Apollo has landed in Cleveland:
The Cleveland Museum of Art has bought what it thinks is an ancient bronze sculpture of Apollo the Lizard Slayer by the classical Greek sculptor Praxiteles. If it is authentic, it will be one of the most important ancient bronzes in an American museum.

About five feet tall, the bronze Apollo originally depicted the young god pulling back a laurel sapling with his left hand while holding an arrow aimed at a lizard with his right. The image is known from two marble copies from the Roman period, in the Louvre and the Vatican.

Impressively, the statue is known to us from the writings of Pliny the Elder:
The Roman historian Pliny the Elder saw what he considered to be the original sculpture in the first century. "Although Praxiteles was more successful and therefore more famous for his marble sculptures, he nevertheless also created beautiful works in bronze," Pliny wrote. "He made a youthful Apollo called Sauroktonos (Lizard Slayer), waiting in ambush for a creeping lizard, close at hand, with an arrow."

If the work is Greek and of the classical period, it will be the only monumental Greek bronze sculpture attributed to any Greek master through literary sources.

Perhaps even more interesting than the Rock & Roll museum.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Blogger has added some new features and the place needed a fresh look anyway, so I've changed the template and tinkered with the sidebar a bit. There's now a Blogroll, which will gain some new additions as time goes on. I've taken off the Search the Bible feature because things were getting too cluttered. I've also added the built in comments feature Blogger has, which means the old Haloscan comments are relegated to the dustbin of history.

So, I hope you like it. If not, oh well. But thanks for visiting and come back when you can.

Faced with ever rising hemlines, Kesgrave High School in Suffolk, England has banned skirts altogether:
A secondary school in Suffolk has become the first in Britain to ban girls from wearing skirts and order them to switch to uniforms with long trousers.

The decision by Kesgrave High School, near Ipswich, was reached after warnings were ignored and hemlines crept up to "inappropriate" levels. The new policy will come into effect in September.

"These days girls wear very short skirts which is against the school uniform policy," explained Margaret Young, one of the governors.

"Two years ago we sent out letters to parents asking them to make sure skirts were regulation length, which is just above the knee. The impact was short-lived and it wasn't long before skirts were very short again.

Adds Ms. Young:
"We simply do not want our girls going outside with a 'come-hither look'.

The eternal refrain reappears: Where are these parents?

[Link via WorldNetDaily]

Now archaeologists think they know after finding their nearby remains:
Remains found near Stonehenge are almost certainly of an ancient people who built the monument, excited archaeologists have revealed.

Researchers investigating the origins of the seven 4,500 year-old skeletons found buried on Salisbury Plain last year have run chemical tests to trace their origins and age.

They have concluded they are of people from south-west Wales - the same region from where bluestones forming the world-famous iconic monument originate.

Scientists seem dismissive of my theory, however:
Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said: "In medieval times, people believed that the stones could only have been brought to Stonehenge by Merlin the Wizard.

I'll give it some thought.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


After making national headlines, the homosexual couple in Lexington, Kentucky who used produced quadruplets via a surrogate mother (and later a fifth child) have separated after charges of domestic violence:
The two Lexington gay men who made worldwide news by parenting quadruplets and then a fifth child have separated amid allegations of domestic violence that a judge dismissed, according to court records.

Lexington attorney Michael Meehan declined to comment yesterday on Fayette Circuit Family Court Judge Kim Bunnell's decision earlier this month to reject his petition for a domestic violence order against his former partner Thomas Dysarz.

Bunnell ruled on June 1 that there was "insufficient evidence" to issue a domestic violence order. Such an order would have put restrictions on Dysarz's interaction with Meehan. Court records show separate addresses for the men.

Meehan has custody of his biological children -- the quadruplets born to Meehan and surrogate mother Brooke Verity on July 26, 2002.

Dysarz, who has custody of his biological child, Brandon Lane Dysarz, born in January, declined to comment yesterday.

And I thought those kids might make it.

Saturday, June 19, 2004


Apparently Penn State University is being plagued by 'Too many' Christian groups
A Christian student club is suing Penn State University for rejecting it as a student organization after being told the school already has "too many" Christian clubs.

[W]hen DiscipleMakers Christian Fellowship applied for registered status in April 2004, a university official charged with reviewing religious student organizations refused to approve the group because there were “too many [Christian] groups anyway and they were beginning to compete."

Unlike secular school clubs, Penn State requires religious student organizations to undergo a separate review process, the Christian Legal Society says.

No, no hostility to Christianity on college campuses at all. Move along, nothing to see.

Friday, June 18, 2004


John Kerry's advisors are telling him justto shut up about "the communion thing":
The Rev. Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest who served in Congress during the 1970s, says he has advised the campaign to clamp down on religious rhetoric and "keep cool on the Communion thing" after four Catholic bishops either barred Mr. Kerry by name from taking Communion in their dioceses or said pro-choice Catholics should be denied the sacrament.

At the same time, Kerry seems to have decided to shut up about religion altogether, much to the chagrin of other campaign advisors:
[T]he Kerry campaign also has sidelined its new religion adviser, closing journalists' access to Mara Vanderslice and ignoring her advice on how to appeal effectively to religious voters.

"Every time something with religious language got sent up the flagpole, it got sent back down, stripped of religious language," a Kerry campaign source said of Miss Vanderslice's ideas on overcoming Mr. Kerry's secular image.

Although given Miss Vanderslice's resume, I'd probably ignore her, too:
Miss Vanderslice, 29, grew up Unitarian in Boulder, Colo., then attended Earlham College, a Quaker institution in Richmond, Ind.

She joined a college socialist group, majored in peace and global studies, and graduated in 1997. After interning for a year at Sojourners, a liberal evangelical magazine in the District, she joined the Jubilee USA Network, a D.C.-based group that campaigns for Third World debt relief.

A socialist Quaker advising a secular Catholic on religion in politics strikes me as a poor recipe for appealing to the religious mainstream. But that's just me.

At any rate, she seems to be the only person they have who does know anything about religion:
Plans were, said Miss [Amy] Sullivan, for the campaign to assemble a "people of faith" page for the Kerry Web site, at which point Miss Vanderslice was to be announced as the contact person.

But with Miss Vanderslice not being allowed near the press, "They have no one in their communications shop who is conversant in religion," she said.

At least it's amusing to watch.

David Klinghoffer says don't be fooled, America has its established religion:
For each element of Judeo-Christian faith, secularism has its counterpart. Like Christianity and Judaism, secularism promises eternal life — well, long life, which is the central point of the most common strain of secular faith and which explains the pop-cultural focus on moral commandments having to do with physical health: Thou shalt not smoke. Thou shalt not get fat. Thou shalt fight global warming by taking the bus to work. Indeed, thou shalt vote for public subsidies for mass transit. In secularist doctrine, a fat person isn't merely unhealthy; he is a sinner in need of salvation. To address his situation, one secular gospel preaches the good news of the South Beach Diet, another that of the apostle Atkins.

It's a religion quickly gaining full ascendancy.

Despite wide "concern" on the part of Mel Gibson's critics that his insistence of going ahead with his movie "The Passion of the Christ" would ruin his career, Forbes magazine has rated Gibson as the most powerful celebrity in the world taking the position from Jennifer Anniston:
The magazine said the "Christ" film helped Gibson earn an estimated $210 million during the past 12 months.

Although the film opened amid a firestorm of controversy in February, "Christ" has grossed $370 million domestically and more than $600 million worldwide.

Shocking. Following Hollywood's recipe for success wasn't the best choice.

[Link via Drudge]

The artist (well, work with me here) formerly known as Madonna will now be known as Esther. This new move is a reflection of her deeply held Kabbalah faith, a kind of Jewish mysticism. I'm sure Jews all over the world are thrilled.

A friend of ours, Matt Duggin, moved to St. Petersburg, Russia earlier this year to work with a small group of Christians there, and, of course, seek to expand their numbers. His plans are to stay five years. We've already known Russia has not been as inviting to those seeking to spread the gospel, but a new decision to ban Jehovah's Witnesses bodes ill:
Jehovah's Witnesses have long been a bellwether for religious freedom, in this country and around the world. Without the Jehovah's Witness court victories here in the U.S., for example, religious organizations might have to seek licenses to solicit aid or even to worship. Evangelists might be forced to pay fees to hand out Bibles and tracts—and might be taxed even for giving them away. And school children would be forced to pledge allegiance to whatever the government wished.

"The Jehovah's Witnesses," Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone once famously said, "ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties."

In this country, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been tremendously successful in expanding religious liberties. But in Russia, it's a different story. And as the state cracks down on the JWs, it looks like groups like the Baptists are next.

"Once you get a decision like this, it's open season," John Burns, the Canadian lawyer who represented the group at a Moscow appellate court, told The New York Times. He told the Associated Press, "Religious freedom has just turned back to where it was in Soviet times."

Putin is no friend of liberty, and I'd say the former KGB man is no friend of religion. I hope Matt is able to stay.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


As Fathers Day approaches the striking absence of fathers in American society becomes all the more apparent. Carey Roberts looks at the absent father trend and it's not very pretty:
Architects of the Great Society program went ahead and implemented eligibility requirements that cut off welfare benefits if the father resided with the mother – the so-called "man-in-the-house" rule. Now, low-income fathers found themselves pitted against government largesse to compete for the loyalty of poor mothers. A tragic mismatch, indeed.

As a result, the number of children who lived in fatherless homes mushroomed from 5.1 million in 1960 to 16.5 million in 1995. These policies were so devastating in their impact that involved, caring fathers all but disappeared from low-income, Black neighborhoods.

But do kids miss their dads?
[W]hen fathers are disenfranchised by misguided government programs, here’s the result:

Their children have a higher rate of asthma, headaches, anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.
Teenagers are at greater risk of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use, and suicide.
Adolescent girls are 3 times more likely to engage in sexual relations by the time they turn 15, and 5 times more likely to become a teen mother.
Amazing, isn’t it?

Dads, it seems, are a good idea after all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


The Vatican has released research showing the Spanish Inquisition wasn't so bad, but they're sorry about it anyway:
Torture, burnings at the stake and other punishments for Catholics condemned as witches or heretics by church tribunals during the Inquisition were not as widespread as commonly believed, the Vatican said Tuesday....

"The recourse to torture and the death sentence weren't so frequent as it long has been believed," said Agostino Borromeo, a professor at Rome's Sapienza University.

According to Borromeo the numbers are really quite low:
Borromeo, who oversaw the volume, said that although there were about 125,000 trials of suspected heretics in Spain, researchers found that about 1 percent of the defendants were executed.

Hmmm, let's see that's only about 1,250 folks. Good deal. No mention of how many tortured.

Oh, and they are sorry about it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Despite a request by seven EU nations and the pope, there will be no reference to Christianity in the new constitution of the European Union:
Seven nations, including Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, urged the EU to refer to the "Christian roots of Europe" and explicitly mention Christianity and God in the constitution currently being drafted. The Vatican also made clear it wants a reference to Christianity in the Constitution....

Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing prepared an initial draft of the Constitution that refers only to the "cultural, religious and humanist" traditions of Europe.

Well, there's been very little Christianity in Europe for some time.

British historian Andrew Chugg says it's not Mark at all, but someone else of great significance:
The mummified remains buried beneath the altar of St Mark's Basilica in fact belong to Alexander the Great, according to Andrew Chugg, a respected authority on the Macedonian conqueror.

His theory, a complex tale of medieval body-snatching, is already dividing the academic world. This week he will cause outrage among devout Catholics when, writing in the latest edition ofHistory Today, he says the saintly relics should be exhumed and subjected to genetic testing.

Locating the body's resting place has been rated as the holy grail of archaeology.

As no observer of relics, let's exhume (respectfully) and see. (We have Alexander's father Philip already.) Quite frankly I'd think odds are better for Alexander than John Mark. And all just in time for the movie.

[Link via LRC]

The Supreme Court remains seemingly agnostic on the issue of "under God" in the pledge as they toss the case out on a technicality:
All eight justices who took part in the case agreed that the federal appeals court in California ruled incorrectly last year when it held, in a lawsuit brought against a local school district by the atheist father of a kindergarten student, that the reference to God turned the daily recitation of the pledge into a religious exercise that violated the separation of church and state.

But in voting to overturn that decision, only three of the justices expressed a view on the merits of the case. With each providing a somewhat different analysis, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Justice Clarence Thomas all said the pledge as revised by Congress exactly 50 years ago was constitutional....

The other five justices, in an opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens, said that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit should not have decided the case because the plaintiff, Dr. Michael A. Newdow, lacked standing to bring it.

It's a symbolic issue, yes, but as my professor Clyde Wilson always says, symbolic issues in politics are the most important, the most telling.

Of course my real issue with the pledge is the "indivisible" part.

[Update: Susanna at cotb thinks the NYT has an agenda in its coverage of the Pledge case. I'm shocked! Shocked, I say!]

Monday, June 14, 2004


Stephen Lanzalotta is a baker and he's not going to take what the anti-bread Atkins diet craze is doing to his bakery business. He's fighting back with some common sense:
Lanzalotta argues that people have been eating bread for too long for it suddenly to be the reason everyone is fat.

“Human civilization and grain have ties that go way back. No municipal society evolved without grain, no matter what it was,” said Lanzalotta, who kneads his dough by hand like ancient breadmakers. “Not that I believe bread is one of the most sacred foods, but it is one of the most important things we can eat.”

He's also tapping into a fad of his own. His anti-Atkins is called The Da Vinci Diet:
The Da Vinci Diet is not published and is revealed primarily through the baker’s lectures. It consists mostly of Mediterranean foods — the foods ancient thinkers and artists ate. Fish, cheese, vegetables, meat, nuts and wine, in addition to bread — none are taboo at Da Vinci’s table.

In his diet, Lanzalotta uses a complicated formula he created that relies on the value of phi, a number discovered by ancient mathematics, used to build the pyramids, and featured prominently in Brown’s book.

Well, of course that's a little silly, but more power to him. Of course, it's a toss up which is more annoying between Atkins and Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.


The amazingly large and richly interesting Vatican library is going high-tech:
Dealing with bug infestations, normal wear and tear and even the occasional thief, keepers of the 15th-century Vatican Apostolic Library face an ever-challenging task. Their latest step to keep their invaluable collection intact has been to employ some 21st-century technology.

Officials have started implanting computer chips in the 1.6 million books in the Vatican's collection. The chips communicate via radio wave with hand-held monitors, so librarians can tell if a book is missing.

"That is no small thing, because a book that's out of place is as if the book is lost," deputy prefect Ambrogio Piazzoni says.

It's an amazing place, I'm sure. The problem is, no one really knows what all is in the place:
Today, the Vatican Library is known for its collection of about 65,000 manuscripts, the one-of-a-kind books that predate the printing press. One of the library's most important pieces is the Codex B, the oldest known complete Bible, which dates from about A.D. 325 and is thought to be one of the 50 bibles Emperor Constantine commissioned.

The library also is home to 300,000 medals and Roman-era coins....

Scholars also must know exactly what they're looking for, since the manuscript collection -- like those of other great libraries -- is not entirely cataloged. In fact, only about 15,000 to 20,000 manuscripts have been logged so far since the modern process began in 1902, Piazzoni says.

"Which means that if we continue with the same criteria of cataloging, we can assume that we'll finish in 31/2 centuries," he says.

After seeing that, I'll have to remind my wife that my meagre book holdings ain't so bad!

Sunday, June 13, 2004


As AIDS tears through Africa a shocking approach is dawning on those trying to stop the disease's spread, sexual faithfulness:
There is another way to reduce the spread of H.I.V. -- one that is increasingly recognized by public-health experts but that has been relegated, thus far, to an afterthought: fidelity -- either in marriage or in a committed relationship. As experts come to understand more about the African AIDS epidemic, it seems clear that regular sexual contact with more than one person is the key human behavior that enables the rapid spread of H.I.V. Since 2002, international organizations have promoted an approach called ''A.B.C.,'' which stands for abstain, be faithful, use condoms. But the ''be faithful'' part has largely fallen through the cracks, and that may well have undermined efforts to fight the epidemic.

Back in college I once wrote a newspaper column in the wake of the Magic Johnson HIV story. I pointed out that every case of AIDS was the result of someone's illicit behavior. In response to my 'insensitive' words about a hundred people showed up for a candlelight vigil to protest. I'm sure that bunch felt better about it all as their wicks burned down, but what I wrote was true then, and it's true now.

Don't want to get AIDS and other STDs? Then treat sex the way God intended. It'll work every time it's tried.

TIME magazine focuses on the issue of how religious we want our President to be. It's perhaps the biggest question in this year's Presidential race, with President Bush often wearing his faith on his sleeve, and John Kerry running the risk of being denied communion by Catholic bishops. TIME won't let you see the entire article unless you subscribe, by the way.

While you're over there, though, you can read all about weblogs. Apparently it's a trend that's sweeping the WWW. I may have to see if I can find one of those.

Friday, June 11, 2004


It's probably a shock to most theosebes readers, who find all the weblog they need right here, that there are other weblogs out there. I came across a new weblog, which has the good sense to link theosebes, called anastasis. Weblogger Chris seems to be mired in graduate education at a major Southern state university--a dicey proposition. He also seems to have Restorationist roots, and has a striking resemblance to David Lipscomb. It's one to keep an eye on.

From anastasis, I found The Scriptorium, by the Internet Monk. The iMonk is stationed, as fate would have it, at Oneida Baptist Institute, which is in the very same county (Clay) that your humble servant was raised. I have been on the OBI campus several times. From said iMonk, Michael Spencer, is a quote I can endorse completely:
I absolutely refuse to take anyone's theology more seriously than I take the text. Including my own. In the RCC discussion I am in on the forum, my RC friend has objected, naturally, to my citing Luther's words that popes have erred and councils have erred. WHICH ONES? She wants to know?

I'll tell you. All of them. Including Luther. And Calvin. And all who followed in their wake. They erred. But THE TEXT DOES NOT ERR. So may I be so bold as to suggest that clinging to the words of the text, and putting ALL theological labels and machinations UNDER THE TEXT is not an attempt at THIRD WAY. It is attempting Mere Christianity in practice. It is putting the Word of God and the Christ of the Word in the place where I can find them in my life, worship and work.

That is what we all must strive to do.

Well, certainly not what his mourners are:
Ronald Reagan was a formal man. He would step off Marine One in a finely tailored suit, tossing a wave and a smile. Even as he cut brush at his Santa Barbara ranch, his jean jacket seemed freshly pressed, his pompadour impeccable.

The same can't be said for many of his mourners, some of whom trundled past his flag-draped coffin yesterday wearing flip-flops, cargo shorts and T-shirts, their flabby midsections exposed. Some young women wore ultra-mini skirts and halter tops. Altogether, the sweaty masses clashed with the crisp honor guard in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, perhaps America's most sacred secular site.

Bobby Golike, 20, showed up to pay his respects to the 40th president in shorts, sock-less sneakers and a black T-shirt that read, "Slackers Unite! Tomorrow."

Slackers, indeed. See my earlier post below for my thoughts about it.

On a slightly lighter note, but which also helps make the point, I ran across this quote:
At afternoon funerals, wear a frock coat and top hat. Should the funeral be your own, the hat may be dispensed with.
--The Cynic's Rules of Conduct. 1905

Wise words.

On this day of President Reagan's funeral it is well to consider his relationship with Russell Kirk:
Reagan was known as the Great Communicator. Kirk was once described as "communicative as a turtle." Reagan lived in the glare and cameras of Hollywood. Kirk preferred a converted toy factory in rural Michigan....

Yet despite their differences, each had a profound respect for the other. And it is safe to say that conservatism as we know it would not have existed without the both of them.

Ronald Reagan, RIP.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


Darrell Bock has beaten Ben Witherington to the punch by being the first to release a book deflating Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (books debunking Brown are a good thing). The folks over at The Leadership Journal interview Bock about it:
The Da Vinci Code has been at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for weeks. Why is it so popular?

It's well written and kind of romantic. It's set in Paris and Edinburgh. There's mystery; there's the invoking of secret Gospels, which suggest that the book is revealing knowledge that has been suppressed.

He is working with elements of scholarship that have popularized some of the ideas surrounding the secret Gospels. This is an attempt to de-center the role of the Bible by suggesting there are other texts that say different things.

It's a novel! Will readers take those ideas as fact?

Basically yes. The real problem is that he's writing about areas that people don't know much about. The author suggests that he's researched it carefully, and you tend to trust him.
And that's why Brown can't simply be dismissed. He's positioned himself as an expert on the "real" Biblical history while providing cover when he needs it by claiming simply to be a novelist. It's good to see folks fighting back. Piling on, in this case, is also a good thing.

I spent late night watching the C-SPAN replay of the Reagan processional down Pennsylvania Avenue. I had caught just a few minutes of it live before I had to leave for church. The ceremony of it all is striking. And for all the faults of the military, they really stand as the repositors of American pomp and ceremony. The riderless horse with empty boots backwards in its stirrups following behind the casket is more moving than any of the words spoken in honor of the late President will be.

In striking contradistinction of the activity on Philadelphia Avenue and the draped casket in the rotunda were the throngs lining the street and streaming into the Capitol ostensibly to pay respects. Throughout the processional the crowd would begin to applaud as the casket passed by. Who are these people? You don't start clapping when you see a casket! Imagine how moving the scene would have been if as the casket passed you could have heard a pin drop as people truly showed respect. And when was the last time you wore a tank top and shorts to a wake? That seemed to be the dress code for those visiting the Capitol rotunda. This is respect for a fallen President? It would be instructive to see pictures of those who visited the rotunda when, perhaps, Lyndon Johnson laid in state a generation ago.

It is encouraging to see that our nation can still do pageantry. It is less so to see that the people have no clue how to react to it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Yes, the ancients laughed, too! Recent lectures have explained how ancient Egyptian humor was much like ours:
For satire, [Scott] Noegel explained that commoners would make fun of leaders by showing pharaohs in an unflattering manner. For example, some leaders were depicted unshaven or "especially effeminate."

Drawings of defecating hyenas and drunken, vomiting party guests are among the existing examples of scatological humor, while the sex-based jokes consisted of "innuendoes and outright erotica," he said.

Slapstick comedy included drawings that showed people suffering unfortunate accidents, such as hammers falling on heads, or passengers tipping out of boats.

The ancient Egyptians had a special fondness for animal humor, given the many examples of sketches on papyrus, paintings, and other drawings, according to Noegel.

He said, "(The images show) ducks pecking at someone's buttocks, baboons and cats out of control, animals riding on top of other unlikely animals, baboons playing instruments, and animals drinking and dining."

One papyrus shows a mouse pharaoh, gallantly posed in his chariot pulled by two dogs, speeding towards a group of feline warriors. Yet another papyrus depicts a lion and an antelope playing a board game. The lion lifts a game piece as though in victory, while the antelope falls back in his chair.

I'm sure with some of it you just had to be there. Which means, of course, that people are people wherever, or whenever, you go.

[Link via LRC]

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

My new weblog toy allows me to post pictures (I hope!). This is a photo of a reproduction of the Gutenberg Bible I took on a visit to a monastery in Oregon last fall. Posted by Hello

The ACLU continues to rewrite history and push religion from the public square:
Los Angeles County supervisors, faced with an ACLU lawsuit to remove a tiny gold cross from the county seal, have voted to remove the cross, but the Roman goddess Pomona will stay. County supervisors voted Tuesday (June 1) to remove the cross, which was incorporated into the seal's original 1957 design to represent the Catholic missions founded by Jesuit missionaries.

The seal, which appears on all county vehicles, meeting rooms and employee badges, also features a Spanish galleon, a tuna fish, a dairy cow, the Hollywood Bowl, engineering tools, oil derricks and Pomona, the goddess of gardens and fruit trees, to represent agriculture.

Hmmm. Pomona gets to stay. I wonder...

I was checking my tv listings the other night and ran across a documentary on Biblical David on The Discovery Channel. I'm a sucker for those sorts of things, although usually they just make me mad. This is from the write-up of the show, and gives you the tone:
However, closer examination of the Samuel account suggests that there was a lot more to David's rule than meets the eye. The Near East of 1000 BC was a lawless place and some Biblical academics are convinced that many of the explanations and alibis which appear in the ancient account of David's life indicate that he was a ruthless leader whose reign was riddled with assassinations, subterfuge and double-dealing. Even the famous battle with the great Philistine Goliath fails to stand up to closer scrutiny.

David, it appears, was not the naïve shepherd boy at the time of the infamous duel, but an experienced apprentice-warrior. His sling wasn't simply a tool for sheep herding but was also a deadly military weapon, the exocet of the ancient world. If Goliath was as tall as the Bible claims then he would probably have been suffering from the growth condition, pituitary Gigantism, which has debilitating side-effects including tunnel-vision. So perhaps David's victory wasn't quite so implausible after all. When the factors are taken into consideration it is increasingly likely that it was actually Goliath who was at a disadvantage.

David was undoubtedly a great leader, but recent evidence and analysis is providing far more complex interpretations of his life. This documentary reveals that by looking beyond the two-dimensional image of the tenacious shepherd boy who became king, we can now see a far more complicated, fascinating man; a fallible and sometimes ruthless pragmatist.

You get the idea. Of course, the problem is the shows are usually arguing against a straw man. That is, they point to a one-dimensional version of David they imagine the Bible portrays then say how silly that is. Of course, the person the Bible tells us about is quite complex.

Two amusing parts stood out. The documentary told us how the Bible account of David was really just a propaganda tool to promote David's version of events, his "spin" as they hiply called it. Except when it came to the account of Bathsheba when the Bible suddenly starts telling us how things really happened, only to return to the "spin" version with the account of Absalom. They never really explained the slip up with the whole Bathsheba story, but they spoke of it in very somber tones.

But the kicker was during the unbiased analysis by these Biblical historians they showed a map. A map of Israel and Judah, the Divided Kingdom. And they told us how David's challenge was to unite this divided Israel under one rule. Of course,the problem with that is that Israel and Judah were not split until about fifty years after the death of David, when his grandson Rehoboam (Solomon's son) caused the split due to his harsh rule, allowing Jeroboam to gain a foothold of power with the Northern tribes and lead Israel away. David's line continued to rule in Judah, the Southern Kingdom.

Somehow, I think I'll stick with the Biblical account despite these Bible "historians."

Monday, June 07, 2004


The former President will lie in state, with memorial services to be held at his library and a state funeral in Washington.

When I was growing up, the President was Ronald Reagan. I don't mean he happened to be President, but rather in my mind that's who the President was supposed to be. He was elected when I was 10 and left office when I was a freshman in college. My family was (is) strongly Republican, and all seemed right as far as the President was concerned. My politics have changed somewhat since that time (moving to the right--we'll not go into that here), but as I look at Reagan and the men who have held the office since then his stature only grows. Compare him with Ford and Carter and Bush I and Clinton in your mind and you'll see what I mean, I think.

In my lifetime, Reagan has been the only person I can think of who truly would qualify as a Great Man. He challenged many of our nation's socialist assumptions and stared the Soviet Union in the eyes, making them flinch. He always spoke of God in a relaxed manner. Despite his lack of of formal faith, he clearly did believe in God's power and was not ashamed to speak of it. By the sheer force of his personality and will he reinvigorated the Presidency.

I had the good pleasure of seeing Ronald Reagan once. It was during my freshman year of college, when he was campaigning for George Bush. The President came to Bowling Green, Kentucky and spoke at Western Kentucky University. I used my high level College Republican connections to secure tickets. It was the only time I've seen a sitting President.

Who knows when (if) we shall see his like in this decadent nation again.

The third Harry Potter movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, opened Friday to the tune of about $100 million. I've yet to read a bad review of it. The early concern of some about the Potter books/movies for religious reasons seems to have settled down. I made the trek to the theater with my wife, brother-in-law (our own comments' Mitch) and his wife on Friday. After seeing it, I will have to agree that it is the best of the movies. Of course, it has better material to work with as well. Harry is older, and clearly Rowling ratchets up the action and intensity.

I fall into the camp of those who are generally unconcerned by the "magic" portrayed in the Harry Potter books/movies. I just have a hard time believing kids are being led into the occult arts by the teenage wizard. If you feel otherwise, I understand, and would suggest not seeing the movie. For the rest of us--more popcorn, please!

The blockbuster movie "The Passion of the Christ" still has legs, but this time with a surprising audience:
The film's greatest impact, however, may be via pirated DVDs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia; and crowded theaters in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

"This film is generating so much interest in Jesus and the Scriptures," one missionary in the region said. "Every Christian we are talking to seems to have a story or two."

The film's undeserved reputation as anti-Semitic propaganda has piqued Muslim interest, according to Khaled Abdelrahman, an Iraqi former Muslim who directs a Christian apologetics website for Muslims. "Because [many Muslims] hate the Jews, they want to see the movie," Abdelrahman told CT.

The film depicts Jesus' crucifixion, which the Qur'an denies happened to Jesus. Islam regards Christ as a great prophet but not as the Son of God.

Even if they see it for ill motives, there is no group that needs the message of love, forgiveness and turning the other cheek more.

Friday, June 04, 2004


The modern myth-makers we affectionately call "scientists" have provided us with another one. You can simply call their discovery "Dad":
The earliest known ancestor of most animals may have been a minute creature shaped like a flattened helmet and barely visible to the naked eye, according to a new fossil discovery.

It's actually the ancestor to various underwater critters, not you, according to them. I guess everyone has to do something to justify their salary.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


Jewish Rabbi Schmuley Boteach isn't impressed with Madonna as a spokesman for the Jewish mystical movement, Kabbalah:
"Earth to Phillip Berg: Do us all a favor and dump Madonna as your principal spokesperson," Boteach wrote. "Sorry to be so crass, but Madonna is a slut. Yes, she may sing, and she may dance. But she is famous for being a slut. And no religion dare have a slut as its principal representative."

Continued Boteach: "[I]s the Kabbalah Center really so desperate that it is prepared to promote itself through a vulgarian whose main contribution to the culture is porn rock?"

The empress has no clothes, but then again, this one rarely does (which is his point anyway).

Well, not exactly. But scientists are working with the famous death mask declared to be Agamemnon's by Heinrich Schliemann to reconstruct the face behind it. They're also poking around with the DNA to gain insight into the time when Greek history began:
"These burials are unique in the Bronze Age," says Keri Brown of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. "These people seem to have cornered the market in gold, so how did they do this, who were they and how did they have this power?"

Working with the forensic science service, Brown and her team are turning to DNA fingerprints to solve the conundrum. Using genetic material painstakingly scraped from 3,500-year-old bones and teeth recovered from the graves, the scientists hope to establish whether the dozens of privileged individuals buried at Mycenae are part of the same family, or an unrelated collection of mercenary fighters. The answer will shine light on the social structure of one of the most influential periods in human history.

"If you like, this is where Greek history starts," says John Prag, an expert in Greek archaeology at the Manchester museum.

His group has already used facial reconstruction techniques to put flesh on the ancient bones and look for family resemblances, with some success. "We got a couple of pairs that were very clearly related but there comes a point where everybody's got two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth and we all look alike," Prag says.

It would be interesting if something similar might be done in the Bible lands in the future.

[Link via LRC]

Be glad you're not buying gas in England:
In Britain, the Automobile Association said the average cost of unleaded gasoline was about $5.79 a gallon Wednesday, an increase of 14 cents from Tuesday.

But some filling stations were charging more than $6.31 per gallon for unleaded fuel. Total Gas in west London was selling super unleaded for $7.93.

On the other hand, when the average car is about the size of a Matchbox they don't use as much!

Former Church of England head honcho George Carey sees no problem with England's Prince Charles and his longtime mistress, divorcee Camilla Parker Bowles, marrying sometime in the future:
"He is heir to the throne and he loves her," Carey, who led the world's Anglicans between 1992 and 2001, told The Times newspaper. "The natural thing is that they should get married."...

Carey said Christian faith "is all about forgiveness. We all make mistakes." "Failure is part of the human condition and there is no doubt that there has been a strong loving relationship, probably since they were very young, that has endured over the years," he added.

Of course, if they've had such a loving relationship "since they were very young" one might ask why they both married other people while apparently continuing their own relationship all the while. Well, we all make mistakes, and it's all about forgiveness anyway. Nothing to see here. Move along...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Readers of theosebes no doubt will have noticed my interest in things archaeological, especially when they concern the Bible. Prof. Keith N. Schoville compiled his own Top 10 list of Biblical archaeological discoveries in the 20th Century. Ferrell Jenkins has supplied pictures to go along.

I've been discussing with my high school class at church the need to give skeptics a reason to believe the Bible as we study through David Banning's Bible 101 workbook. In order to gain an entrance into the skeptical mind one must begin with common ground, that is we must give them a place where they must believe what the Bible says. Archaeology gives us those places, providing points of common ground with the skeptic. Starting with facts that can be physically seen we can move on to matters that must be apprehended by faith. And that's where the important things are.