Tuesday, March 29, 2005


The Colorado Supreme Court has thrown out a death sentence because the jury consulted the Bible
The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a "higher authority."

"The judicial system works very hard to emphasize the rarified, solemn and sequestered nature of jury deliberations," the majority said in a 3-to-2 decision by a panel of the Colorado Supreme Court. "Jurors must deliberate in that atmosphere without the aid or distraction of extraneous texts."

But the jury was, in fact, just following orders:
After Mr. Harlan's conviction, the judge in the case - as Colorado law requires - sent the jury off to deliberate about the death penalty with an instruction to think beyond the narrow confines of the law. Each juror, the judge told the panel, must make an "individual moral assessment," [italics mine, ac] in deciding whether Mr. Harlan should live.

The jurors voted unanimously for death. The State Supreme Court's decision changes that sentence to life in prison without parole.

In the decision on Monday, the dissenting judges said the majority had confused the internal codes of right and wrong that juries are expected to possess in such weighty moral matters with the outside influences that are always to be avoided, like newspaper articles or television programs about the case. The jurors consulted Bibles, the minority said, not to look for facts or alternative legal interpretations, but for wisdom.

"The biblical passages the jurors discussed constituted either a part of the jurors' moral and religious precepts or their general knowledge, and thus were relevant to their court-sanctioned moral assessment," the minority wrote.

So we can have morals as long as they don't come from the Bible, which is an extraneous text and an improper "higher authority." I think I've got it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Twice a year the major news magazines will write skeptical articles about Jesus and Christianity: Easter and Christmas. This year's version is Newsweek's look, "From Jesus to Christ".

(Don't forget to "Live Vote" on whether you think Jesus rose from the dead!)

Well, probably, but English teacher Nathan Wilson has a a new theory:
The English instructor believes a medieval forger could have painted the image of a crucified man on a pane of glass, laid it on the linen, then left it outside in the sun to bleach the cloth for several days. As the linen lightened, the painted image of the man remained dark on the cloth, creating the equivalent of a photo negative.

Not so fast, says Dan Porter:
Shroud expert Dan Porter said that while Wilson's theory is ingenious, it does not produce images identical to those on the shroud.

"It is not adequate to produce something that looks like the shroud in two or three ways," said Porter, who lives in Bronxville, N.Y. "One must produce an image that meets all of the criteria."

Porter contends sun bleaching cannot have produced the image, which he and many others say is the result of chemical reactions on the cloth.

"A problem with Wilson's hypothesis is that sun bleaching merely accelerates bleaching that will occur naturally as the material is exposed to light," Porter wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Eventually, Wilson's sun bleach shroud image will fade into the background as exposure equalizes the bleaching."

Perhaps Wilson has just been watching too many movies:
Wilson said he wants to write a novel about his theory. The forger or perhaps forgers, Wilson theorizes, probably robbed a grave and pulled the aged shroud off a body, then crucified someone to obtain the blood and study the wounds of Jesus.

"Most likely it involved some real wicked people," Wilson said.

Knights Templar, no doubt.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Cheerleaders in Texas may soon be stopped from shakin' what they got:
The Friday night lights in Texas could soon be without bumpin' and grindin' cheerleaders. Legislation filed by Rep. Al Edwards would put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances at athletic events and other extracurricular competitions.

"It's just too sexually oriented, you know, the way they're shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down," said Edwards, a 26-year veteran of the Texas House. "And then we say to them, 'don't get involved in sex unless it's marriage or love, it's dangerous out there' and yet the teachers and directors are helping them go through those kind of gyrations."

Under Edwards' bill, if a school district knowingly permits such a performance, funds from the state would be reduced in an amount to be determined by the education commissioner.

J.M. Farias points out one true fact:
"I don't think this law would really shake the industry at all. In fact, it would give parents a better feeling, mostly dads and boyfriends, too," Farias said.

How some of these dads can let their little girls do what they do when the dads know what's going on in guys' heads is beyond me.

Peggy Noonan has words of warning to the GOP: let Peggy Schiavo live:
The supporters of Terri Schiavo's right to continue living have fought for her heroically, through the courts and through the legislatures. They're still fighting. They really mean it. And they have memories....

So politically this is a struggle between many serious people who really mean it and one, just one, strange-o. And the few bearded and depressed-looking academics he's drawn to his side.

It is not at all in the political interests of senators and congressmen to earn the wrath of the pro-Schiavo group and the gratitude of the anti-Schiavo husband, by doing nothing.

So let me write a sentence I never thought I'd write: Politicians, please, think of yourselves! Move to help Terri Schiavo, and no one will be mad at you, and you'll keep a human being alive. Do nothing and you reap bitterness and help someone die.

This isn't hard, is it?

No, one wouldn't think it's hard at all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


In a move sure to encouraged conspiratorially minded everywhere, Catholic Cardinal Bertone took a swipe at the The Da Vinci Code:
"Don't read it, and above all, don't even buy 'The Da Vinci Code,'" Bertone, the archbishop of Genoa, said on Vatican radio....

"Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice," he said.

"I ask myself if a similar book was written, full of lies about Buddha, Muhammed or ... if a novel came out which manipulated all the history of the Holocaust or of the Shoah, what would have happened?"

I don't usually take my marching orders from the Vatican, but I do agree with him about supporting garbage like that. I wanted a copy of the book recently, however, in view of addressing it in a sermon. My solution was to find one for a couple of bucks at a thrift store. I don't intend for Dan Brown to get any of my money.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


California may begin recognizing same sex marriages after a San Francisco judge decided he didn't like marriage as defined by society for millenia:
“The state’s protracted denial of equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional violation has become traditional,” Kramer wrote. “Simply put, same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before.”

But if we can throw out one man/one woman for one man/one man or one woman/one woman, why can't we throw out the "one", too. Aren't polygamists discriminated against just as much by the traditional definition of marriage? A family is just a bunch of people who love each other, after all.

So if marriage can't be defined by who is in it, how long it lasts (divorce on demand, you know) or how many people can be in it, does it have any definition at all? Is there such a thing as "marriage"? In this scenario there's not, other than as a means to gain financial benefits from businesses and the government.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Probably not. Scans reveal that Tut's death was more likely tied to a leg injury:
The results of a CT scan done on King Tut’s mummy indicate the boy king was not murdered, but may have suffered a badly broken leg shortly before his death at age 19 — a wound that could have become infected, Egypt’s top archaeologist said Tuesday.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced the results of the CT scan about two months after it was performed on Tut’s mummy.

Hawass said the remains of Tutankhamun, who ruled about 3,300 years ago, showed no signs that he had been murdered — dispelling a mystery that has long surrounded the pharaoh’s death.

“In answer to theories that Tutankhamun was murdered, the team found no evidence for a blow to the back of the head, and no other indication of foul play,” according to a statement released by Hawass’ office.

“They also found it extremely unlikely that he suffered an accident in which he crushed his chest.”

At least a violent death has been ruled out. Still, the case will remain forever open:
Hawass told The Associated Press that, despite ruling out the theory that Tut was killed violently, he had no idea how the king actually died.

“I have two theories — that he may have died from natural causes or that he was poisoned,” Hawass said. “We are going to look at his viscera to see if his organs show any signs, but it is virtually impossible to prove how he died.”

Hawass said some members of the Egyptian-led research team, which included two Italian experts and one from Switzerland, interpreted a fracture to Tut’s left thighbone as evidence that the king may have broken his leg badly just before he died.

“Although the break itself would not have been life-threatening, infection might have set in,” the statement said. “However, this part of the team believes it also possible, although less likely, that this fracture was caused by the embalmers.”

And to think of the time I spent watching those "Who Killed King Tut?" documentaries on the Discovery channel...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Horror and pornography writer Anne Rice has a book about Jesus in the works:
Rice, 63, of Kenner, La., said she's in the final stages of her latest book, "Christ the Lord," expected to be released Nov. 1, and it takes her down an entirely new path.

"It's set in first-century Palestine with Jesus as a child, beginning at age 7," Rice said.

She said the novel fills in the gap of Jesus' life before the Gospel accounts.

Rice said the book is a departure from the vampires and witches her fans have come to expect, but she sees it as part of her spiritual journey.

"They like supernatural heroes, and (Jesus) is one. They like outsiders, and he is one," she said. "I hope and pray they'll see the continuity, and they'll like it."


Thursday, March 03, 2005


As I prepare for a May trip to India I've been told that generally doctors are reliable. There are times, though, when you have second thoughts:
From constipation to cancer, diarrhea to diabetes, they offer to cure nearly everything -- with medicines made from cow urine. India's Hindu nationalists, who were ousted from power last May, have a new job: promoting cow products that many Indians believe have great therapeutic value.

A stall at the headquarters of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party showcases more than two dozen tonics, potions, pills and a line of cosmetics. The products are sold under the brand name Goratna, or ``jewels of the cow.''

Packing list:
1) medicine
2) clean underwear
3) socks...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


The James Ossuary is still making headlines with this update on the debate of whether it's a hoax:
This dispute largely pits paleographers, who study letter shapes and styles to date and authenticate ancient inscriptions, against chemists and geologists who have examined the artifacts.

[Biblical Archaeology Review] says that among leading paleographers who study this era, none has questioned the inscription, while the main doubter lacks a university appointment. It also cites conflicting testimony about claims that people have seen the box without the Jesus inscription.

Scientists' opinions are divided, and technical questions haven't been answered satisfactorily, the magazine continues.

The article does a good job giving an overview of the issues and the players. It's important to establish whether or not the ossuary is authentic or not. But at the same time, even if it is a hoax, it simply reflects the actions of a few desperate men. We already know the Bible rests on a solid historical foundation.