Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Newsweek takes a look at the new debating trend among evangelicals:
When you believe the end of the world is coming, you learn to talk fast. On a Friday afternoon the debate team from Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's fundamentalist Baptist college, is madly rehearsing for the tournament about to begin. This year's topic: should the United States increase diplomatic and economic pressure on China. They may just be practicing, but you wouldn't know it from the menacing mosquito-buzz rising as all 20 debaters read their speeches at once, as fast as they can. Policy debate on the college level has become a rapid-fire verbal assault, an arguments-per-minute game, that sounds more like the guy at the end of the car commercial than an eloquent Oxford intellectual. There is tension and more than a little spittle in the air. The Liberty team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, above Harvard (14th) and all the other big names. But for the evangelicals, there's a lot more at stake than a trophy. Falwell and the religious right figure that if they can raise a generation that knows how to argue, they can stem the tide of sin in the country. Seventy-five percent of Liberty's debaters go on to be lawyers with an eye toward transforming society. "I think I can make an impact in the field of law on abortion and gay rights, to get back to Americans' godly heritage," says freshman debater Cole Bender.

The now infamous (at theosebes, anyway) Patrick Henry College (aka, Farris U.) also gets a plug.

And going with yesterday's post about Rolling Stone missing Sen. Brownback's 'fruits' reference, apparently Newsweek had a similar problem as revealed by this posted correction:
Correction: In the original version of this report, NEWSWEEK misquoted Falwell as referring to "assault ministry." In fact, Falwell was referring to "a salt ministry"—a reference to Matthew 5:13, where Jesus says "Ye are the salt of the earth." We regret the error.

Hmmm, an assault ministry....

Monday, January 30, 2006


Rolling Stone apparently had a difficult time grasping comments by Sen. Sam Browback on homosexual 'marriage':
It isn't every day you see the Bible quoted in Rolling Stone magazine, but Sen. Sam Brownback's reference to Jesus' words appears to have been misunderstood.

In an article titled "God's Senator," Rolling Stone quotes the Kansas Republican as lamenting the fate of countries that have legalized gay marriage.

"You'll know them by their fruits," Brownback said.

Rolling Stone's writer reports there was an awkward silence as it sounded to him like the senator was referring to gays as "fruits."

The Bible passage cited by Brownback actually warns that false prophets can be discerned by the results they produce.

Ah, the values of Biblical literacy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


The New York Times wonders why the rich can't stay married:
FOR Ronald O. Perelman, Forbes magazine's 34th-richest man in America, marriage would seem to be getting expensive: last week, he announced that he was divorcing his fourth wife, the actress Ellen Barkin, and would pay out the $20 million promised in their prenuptial pact — having paid $8 million, $80 million and $30 million, respectively, to Wives 1, 2 and 3.

While matchmakers among the ultrarich are already speculating about who will be wife No. 5, others might reasonably ask why Mr. Perelman and other serial grooms in his jet set don't take the actor George Clooney's "never again" approach: Date ferociously, but don't marry. As one prominent New York divorce lawyer said of an 85-year-old client now negotiating his fourth prenup, "Don't you think he would stop?"

"They marry people who listen to completely different music, who don't know who Joe McCarthy was," bemoaned the lawyer, who would not be quoted by name for fear of angering his clients. "They have less chance with every one that it's going to succeed."

So why do the ultrarich marry, and re-marry, and re-marry? For men who have cycled through what Harriet Newman Cohen, a New York divorce lawyer, called "very high powered, high ZIP code divorces," marriage, more than dating, fills old traditions of respectability, status and comfort. It might even be love, for a while. Plus, they can afford it.

The article mainly looks at the economic implications, but is right on with this observation:
Of course, marriage to a certain kind of woman — a movie star, a socialite — can also be about conquest, ambition, cachet.

"It's ego," said David Patrick Columbia, who writes NewYorkSocialDiary.com. "If you're a big deal, you've got to have ways of showing it. You've got the house, got the car, got the wife. They don't think much of marriage, they think much of possessing."

They can easily find women to agree — and typically it is the women who are, as divorce lawyers gently call it, "the non-moneyed."

Stanford G. Lotwin, a divorce lawyer in New York, said he tried to warn his serial clients about taking on serial wives.

"We tell these men, you cannot go anywhere without our card in your pocket," he said. "As soon as you have your second date, you have to call, and we'll remind you how expensive this is. He'll say, 'I repeat your name in my sleep, I promise you I'm not doing anything.' " But soon enough, Mr. Lotwin will be pulling out the box of tissues he uses to guide the man's new fiancée through the prenuptial process.

For many of the men, the prenuptial is simply part of the business deal that is marriage. "They see it like a hedge fund," said Ms. Cohen, the divorce lawyer. "Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't."

And it's just this attitude that makes divorce more likely. "They're used to having whatever they want," said Norman Sheresky, a New York divorce lawyer.

Sounds like a recipe for happiness to me.

Friday, January 27, 2006


An Italian atheist wants to see a Roman Catholic priest tried for asserting that Jesus existed:
An Italian judge heard arguments Friday on whether a small-town parish priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed.

The priest's atheist accuser, Luigi Cascioli, says the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people for 2,000 years with a fable that Christ existed, and that the Rev. Enrico Righi violated two Italian laws by reasserting the claim.

Lawyers for Righi and Cascioli, old schoolmates, made their arguments in a brief, closed-door hearing before Judge Gaetano Mautone in Viterbo, north of Rome. They said they expected the judge to decide quickly.

Cascioli filed a criminal complaint in 2002 after Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth.

Cascioli claims that Righi's assertion constituted two crimes under Italian law: so-called "abuse of popular belief," in which someone fraudulently deceives people; and "impersonation," in which someone gains by attributing a false name to a person.

"The point is not to establish whether Jesus existed or not, but if there is a question of possible fraud," Cascioli's attorney, Mauro Fonzo, told reporters before the hearing.

Cascioli says the church has been gaining financially by "impersonating" as Christ someone by the name of John of Gamala, the son of Judas from Gamala.

He has said he has little hope of the case succeeding in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, but that he is merely going through the necessary legal steps to reach the European Court of Human Rights, where he intends to accuse the church of what he calls "religious racism."

Righi, 76, has stressed substantial historical evidence — both Christian and non-Christian — of Jesus' existence.

Of course it's all silly. One might not believe that Jesus is divine--at one's own peril--but to believe that Jesus did not exist at all is, well, ridiculous. I recall a history professor when I was in grad school--I was a teaching assistant for him--dismissing any thought that Jesus didn't exist. This professor was by no means a Christian, either.

Now what might be interesting is to see whether this actually does get any traction in the European courts.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


A starving African woman tried it with poor results:
A starving Kenyan woman placed a powerful tribal curse on God, accusing him of sending famine, and died in her sleep, local newspapers said Thursday.

The woman from eastern Kenya's drought-ravaged Kangundo district decided to invoke a dreaded oath from the Kamba community, famed for its potent witchcraft, media reports said.

"Whoever brought this famine, let him perish," the woman chanted, striking a cooking pot with a stick.

"She accomplished the feat at 10 a.m. and waited for the results, but God's wrath struck at night. She died peacefully in her sleep," the Kenya Times newspaper said.

Memo to self: pray for rain instead.

(Thanks to theosebes reader Sean for the link.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Why do they always cancel the best shows? I'm not sure, but that has nothing to do with the well-deserved demiseof NBC's 'The Book of Daniel':
A new television show about a pill-popping priest who talks to Jesus has been pulled from the NBC schedule for igniting little faith from viewers after just three weeks on the air, network sources said on Tuesday.

"The Book of Daniel," starring Aidan Quinn as a conflicted Episcopal minister with a Vicodin habit, debuted to mediocre ratings January 6 and sank steadily in the Nielsens in its two subsequent broadcasts.

NBC has scheduled no further episodes beyond last Friday's telecast, and the drama, originally slated as an eight-part limited series, is not expected to return to the airwaves, network insiders said.

'Conflicted Episcopal'--isn't that redundant?

Daniel, we hardly knew ye.

If this guy doesn't scare the willies out of you just looking at him then look again. He's Mike Jeffries, the 61-year old (no, not a typo) CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, and this is his marketing philosophy:
For example, when I ask him how important sex and sexual attraction are in what he calls the "emotional experience" he creates for his customers, he says, "It's almost everything. That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that."

As far as Jeffries is concerned, America's unattractive, overweight or otherwise undesirable teens can shop elsewhere. "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," he says. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either."

And what does he have to say about such niceties as thong underwear with come hither sayings for young girls?
Our first bump came when I mentioned the 2002 uproar over the company's thongs for middle-school girls, which had "Eye Candy" and "Wink Wink" printed on their fronts. "That was a bunch of bullshit," he said, sweating profusely. "People said we were cynical, that we were sexualizing little girls. But you know what? I still think those are cute underwear for little girls. And I think anybody who gets on a bandwagon about thongs for little girls is crazy. Just crazy! There's so much craziness about sex in this country. It's nuts! I can see getting upset about letting your girl hang out with a bunch of old pervs, but why would you let your girl hang out with a bunch of old pervs?"

Who, indeed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


The new theosebes daughter, Claire Evelyn, was born yesterday (January 23, 2006) at 1:03 PM CST. She weighed in at 7 lbs, 10 oz, and is 21" long. Mother and baby are both doing well. Father slept like a log last night.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I don't know if the two events are related, but I've just finished making my arrangements to attend the Florida College lectures, and now this ruling:
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Let's get naked!
A federal judge struck down Daytona Beach's anti-nudity laws, saying they're unconstitutional.

Regulations prohibiting public nudity and nudity in places that sell alcohol violate the First and 14th amendments' protections of free speech and equal protection, the judge decided.

Daytona Beach also failed to prove its claim that adult nightclubs create secondary negative impacts on levels of crime, prostitution and illegal drug activity in neighborhoods, the judge wrote.

It's hard to imagine it's a coincidence.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Yes, I have lots of views on politics. And yes, I believe Christians have every right to be active in politics. I even talk about politics here from time to time as it relates to Biblical morality per se. But at the same time one needs to be careful about equating certain political positions, particularly when they are foreign policy positions with Biblical necessity. And please, keep it out of the pulpit. Charles Marsh at the NYT makes some good points along those lines:
Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.

Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." In an article carried by the convention's Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that "American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

As if working from a slate of evangelical talking points, both Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims. Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the hugely popular "Left Behind" series, spoke of Iraq as "a focal point of end-time events," whose special role in the earth's final days will become clear after invasion, conquest and reconstruction. For his part, Jerry Falwell boasted that "God is pro-war" in the title of an essay he wrote in 2004.

As a healthy antidote, Marsh points to the position of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant:
Such sentiments are a far cry from those expressed in the Lausanne Covenant of 1974. More than 2,300 evangelical leaders from 150 countries signed that statement, the most significant milestone in the movement's history. Convened by Billy Graham and led by John Stott, the revered Anglican evangelical priest and writer, the signatories affirmed the global character of the church of Jesus Christ and the belief that "the church is the community of God's people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology."

Now, I'm not endorser of big church-y conventions, either, but the sentiment is correct. We must be in the world, but we must not be of it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


The official Vatican newspaper has endorsed a judge's decision to remove Intelligent Design from the classroom:
The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another," Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

The article was not presented as an official church position. But in the subtle and purposely ambiguous world of the Vatican, the comments seemed notable, given their strength on a delicate question much debated under the new pope, Benedict XVI.

Advocates for teaching evolution hailed the article. "He is emphasizing that there is no need to see a contradiction between Catholic teachings and evolution," said Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, professor of biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest. "Good for him."

The Vatican has played footsie with evolution for some time now. This should really come as no great shock.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Theosebes is determined to keep up with the ever evolving religious pilgrimage of Britney Spears. We have seen her at an evangelical revival, studying Kabbalah and now moving even further East in her religious interests:
The singer — who was raised a Baptist and has famously studied Kabbalah, a branch of Jewish mysticism — now is apparently dabbling in Hinduism.

The “Oops, I Did It Again” crooner was spotted at a Hindu temple in Malibu, where she reportedly was getting a blessing for her baby son, Sean Preston.

What dastardly business would one have to be involved in to be condemned to reincarnation as Britney Spears?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


A Cincinnati judge has sentenced a man to attend a black church:
A judge has sentenced a suburban Cincinnati man to attend services for six weeks at a black church for threatening to punch a black cab driver and using racial slurs.

Judge William Mallory Jr. told 36-year-old Brett Haines, "It seems readily apparent to me that you don't like black people. That's OK with me. But you have to understand that you are at the whim and authority of a black judge."

Mallory let Haines choose between attending the black church for six Sundays or spending 30 days in jail. Haines said he'd try the church, although he doesn't usually worship on Sunday.

Mallory offered Haines the choice Friday after Haines was convicted of disorderly conduct. He was arrested in November after threatening cab driver David Wilson and Wilson's wife.

Mallory said he was concerned about maintaining the separation between church and state, so the judge asked Haines whether the option would offend him.

Haines said he would like to try it.

So it's okay to send guys to church now?

Monday, January 16, 2006


The new 'Bible Game' is Game Boy (and XBox and PS2) ready:
If the television show "Jeopardy" were written by Sunday school teachers, the result might be "The Bible Game," a new trivia game for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Game Boy Advance that casts players as contestants in a game show about the Old Testament.

While kids may not be tempted to reach for this disc on store shelves, this wholesome multiplayer title is ideal for the entire family -- and one video game mom and dad will endorse for a change.

Playable for up to four gamers on the same television, "The Bible Game" first asks that you choose a male or female character before meeting the other three contestants for the virtual television show, "Do Unto Others!"

Contestants not controlled by a human player will be handled by the game's artificial intelligence.

I may need to dust off the Game Boy.

Today is the official state observance of Robert E. Lee Day in Alabama. May you have a merry one.

Is it time to rehabilitate Judas Iscariot, the one about whom Jesus said it would have been better had he never been born? Apparently some high-ranking Catholics think so:
But it appears now that the Catholic Church may be, like Jesus, willing to turn the other cheek on a biblical stinker whose name is synonymous with treachery.

Think of it as a Judas makeover, two millennia after the fact.

The Times of London reported last week on a high-level scheme afoot to rehabilitate Judas, traditionally reviled as the traitor — a mole at the Last Supper — who finked out Jesus, fingering him for Roman soldiers.

One Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, appears to be spearheading the campaign, with the rumoured support of prominent Catholic scholars close to both Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II....

Yet, as Lewis points out, there has always been a thorny problem affixed to this scenario. "How could someone so close to Jesus have done something like that? And how could he not have seen it coming?''

As the Son of God, Jesus would have been able to see everything coming down the pipe. This reinforces the academic argument that Judas's betrayal was preordained; there would have been no crucifixion, thus no resurrection, no dying for everybody's sins, no promise of redemption and life everlasting. And Judas was not even the only Apostle who let down the side — Peter denied Jesus too, when push came to shove, and was forgiven.

"There's a sense that everybody played the role that was intended for them as part of some master plan,'' says Lewis. "Where do you really lay the blame — with Judas, with the Romans, with Jews? Is it even right to speak of blame if it was all a matter of predestination?''

For the record — and after two millennia of Christian-propelled anti-Semitism — the Vatican has declared that Jews were not responsible in the death of Jesus. It hadn't gone without notice that many depictions of Judas — in art and medieval plays — portrayed him with a hooked nose and exaggerated Semitic features.

Reportedly, improving Christian-Jewish relations — which Pope Benedict has made a priority of his pontificate — is also a factor in the proposed rehabilitation of Judas.

Well, of course Judas was fulfilling a necessary role, but that does not absolve him of personal responsibility nor does it mean he was compelled to act against his nature and inclinations. We know also, for example, that Judas was a thief who pilfered the apostles' money bag.

The goal is to come to a three-dimensional understanding of Judas rather than simply considering him as a cartoonish ogre. We must ask ourselves what his actions can teach us, how they can warn us about our own betrayals of the Jesus who died. Rewriting history and denying the ugly choice of sin doesn't help that at all.

Friday, January 13, 2006


I made it back home yesterday after a week in Colombia. You can read about some of the trip at the Colombian work blog, see particularly my latest post.

I enjoyed a couple of cups of excellent Colombian coffee this morning with beans from the Colombian Starbucks, Oma.

The picture is of the city of Ibague from my hotel balcony.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Back from the holidays, but not for long. I'm leaving in the morning for a week in Colombia. Those who are interested in keeping up with things might want to keep an eye at The Lord's Work in Colombia blog for posts by me and others. It should prove to be interesting.