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8/21/2003

 

vote early and often, but bring rolaids



!

locdog quiero toilet paper




 

so who blew it, israel, or the terrorists?



imagine two rival school kids who got in a tussle being told by the teacher to sit and hold hands. the instigator decides he isn't satisfied and starts openly poking the other guy in the ribs, pulling his hair, kicking his shins, etc. all the while, the instigator insists he's being nice. the other guy waits for the teacher to put a stop to things, but the instigator's dad is actually the principal, and the teacher's hands are tied. so, he hauls off and belts the little punk right in the kisser, and, feigning outrage, the instigator jumps up, screams that the other guy broke the deal, and attacks.

if you get that, then you get what happened in palestine this morning, and what hamas is likely to do in response. about a day and a half ago, hamas blows up a busload of jewish kids, an action which would have precipitated an immediate military reprisal from israel in years past. but this time, israel waits. and waits. and waits. hamas talks--claims they are still honoring the truce, but get real. abbas talks. promises are made, condemanations, we'll-look-into-things...but nothing is done. hamas leaders are driving around the streets of palestine in the open. israel knows where they are--you think abbas doesn't? so what does sharon do? what can he do? what would any freely elected leader of any country on earth be required by his people to do in such a situation? he retaliates. he blows up a station wagon and kills three terrorists in a strike so clean that not even the tv footage coming out of palestine could find any collateral damage. and now, hamas says israel broke the truce.

the problem here is that abbas means well, but has no real power. and he won't until arafat is dead and/or gone--and you'd better believe that arafat was behind that last bus bombing. who else benefits from it? does abbas? does sharon? the only ones who benefit are those who want the status quo maintained--a bunch of traitors to the palestinian people who have devoted themselves to the irrational goal of destroying the jewish state next door rather than peaceful coexistence, and the cynical leader who's made a career of exploiting them.

i've said it before and i'll say it again: abbas can do nothing until arafat is gone. if sharon won't take arafat out (and no one else is going to) then there can be no peace. it isn't hamas that's the problem--well, it is. but since when do we expect scorpions not to sting? no, get rid of arafat, free the so-called palestinian authorities to do their job, and then we can move on down the road. in failing to live up to the responsibility to eliminate arafat, and in that sense only, israel is to blame. sharon knows better.

locdog's $0.02




8/20/2003

 

is it just me or...



is this beyond the pale?



ever ahead of the controversy curve, drudge has a brief story on an upcoming issue of GQ, in which new editor jim nelson seeks to make a name for himself in a hurry. the above image will accompany a story called "George W's Personal Jesus." according to drudge, this story, an analysis of bush's faith, begins with the line "In the beginning, there was the call..." evidently its prose will be as shamelessly irreverent as its artwork.

not much i can say about the article since it hasn't been published yet, but i'll go out on a limb and predict that it portrays bush as a crusading zealot whose actions are shaped by his unshakeable core of fringe fundamentalist beliefs rather than any meaningful understanding of issues domestic and geopolitical. now there's a novel approach.

as for the image itself, well, what can be said? if i were bush, i'd be outraged...but then, he has more important things to worry about than the clamoring of a new magazine editor desperate for attention. as a republican, i resent the media's ongoing attempt to portray bush as david koresh 2.0--i'm a republican fundamentalist Christian, and i don't personally think our invasion of iraq, for instance, had anything to do with the book of Revelations, nor do i think you'd need to have a direct line to the divine in order to consider the elimination of the hussein regime a good idea. as a Christian, i don't appreciate the image of my Lord and Savior being so cavalierly (vainly, even) mutilated. i think the only real solution here is for the editor to insist bush-Christ be either smeared with dung or dipped in urine. in either case he could cower behind artistic license and even be eligible for federal funding.

anyone can find problems, locdog finds solutions




8/18/2003

 

Christianity needs to get back to its secular roots



what's the number one cause of discord between america and the rest of the industrialized world? why have we, as a nation, abandoned intellectual pursuits? what one thing makes us more like the terrorists than anything else?

why, Christianity!

So this day [the Roman Catholics' Feast of the Assumption] is an opportunity to look at perhaps the most fundamental divide between America and the rest of the industrialized world: faith. Religion remains central to American life, and is getting more so, in a way that is true of no other industrialized country, with the possible exception of South Korea.

Americans believe, 58 percent to 40 percent, that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. In contrast, other developed countries overwhelmingly believe that it is not necessary. In France, only 13 percent agree with the U.S. view.

Jaroslav Pelikan, the great Yale historian and theologian, says in his book "Mary Through the Centuries" that the earliest references to Mary (like Mark's gospel, the first to be written, or Paul's letter to the Galatians) don't mention anything unusual about the conception of Jesus...Yet despite the lack of scientific or historical evidence, and despite the doubts of Biblical scholars, America is so pious that not only do 91 percent of Christians say they believe in the Virgin Birth, but so do an astonishing 47 percent of U.S. non-Christians.


excerpted--and as you can tell, this was from friday.

thanks, nick. couple of thoughts. first off, i'm highly dubious of these sort of "99% of americans believe Jesus walked on water!" polls. if america is in the midst of what kristof goes on to describe as another "Great Awakening," where's the proof? maybe half of the nation's non-Christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin (muslims do, as i understand, so their swelling ranks may make that number look more dramatic than it really is) but if you've turned on the fox network after 8, you'd probably think we were living in the last days of sodom. go to a shopping mall and look at the ways women dress--especially young girls. it's enough to make a harlot cross the street. it may be that evangelical denominations have been enjoying a surge in popularity lately, particularly when contrasted with foundering mainline protestantism, but tv, movies, music, fashion, even the attitudes and values i hear espoused on a daily basis, well, they all show that the church's influence is receding.

and it's not hard to see why. most people don't believe in truth--even many evangelical Christians. someone can look you in the eyes and tell you that, yes, they believe in the virgin birth, and in the next breath tell you that it's "only true for me, but it may not be true for you." studies have shown that that's especially true among the young (and when one considers the nonsense their boomer parents came out of the sixties believing, is it any wonder?) the Christian barna research center conducted a study of teen beliefs in 1999. the results were nothing short of shocking.

...less than two-thirds say that they are “religious” (64%). Only three out of every five call themselves “spiritual” (60%) and the same proportion say they are “committed Christians” (60%). These figures are equivalent to those among adults.

Survey respondents were classified as born again if they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life and if they believed that after they die they will go to Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Using this classification method just one out of every three teens (33%) is born again. Amazingly, less than half of the born again teenagers (44%) said that they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith – yet another harbinger of trouble for the future Church.


at first glance, these numbers are a contradictory mass of gibberish. being "born again" but not even "absolutely committed to the Christian faith"? no distinction between the stuffy "religious," the vague, new-agey "spiritual," and the stark "committed Christian"? it gets better.

70 percent of teens surveyed are active in some church youth group, and 82 percent identify themselves as Christians. Eighty percent believe that God created the universe; eight-four percent believe God is personally involved in people’s lives. Yet, in spite of those orthodox views, 63 percent also believe that Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and all other people pray to the same god, even though they use different names for God. Also, 87 percent of our kids believe Jesus was a real person who came to earth, and 78 percent believe He was born of a virgin. Yet nearly half (46 percent) believe He committed sins, and over half (51 percent) say He died but did not rise from the dead! Amazingly, 48 percent of teens believe that it doesn’t matter what faith you associate with because they all believe the same principles and truth; fifty-eight percent believe that all religious faiths teach equally valid truth...The majority of our young people are convinced that what is true and relevant is whatever works right now. Barna’s studies show that 72 percent of teens believe this.


that was Christian evangelist josh mcdowell discussing the same study. frankly, i wish the future for the church was as rosy as kristof fears, but this "Awakening" has all the earmarks of a fad: american idol is worshipped with more fervency.

and finally (of course) i take umbrage at kristof's comparison of faith in the virgin birth to faith in evolution. as if "faith" in a scientific theory ought to be the same as faith in a religious belief. i mean, it is the same--scientists believe in evolution every bit as dogmatically as the Christian believes in the virgin birth (and apparently more so)--but is that how it's supposed to be? i think not. ironically, Biblical faith in the virgin birth is not blind faith. the Christian faith is historic and evidential. it makes itself open to the investigations of the historian, the archeologist, and the philosopher by claiming that events like the virgin birth and the resurrection are every bit as real as the moon landing. but for the Christian, there is also "the evidence of things unseen." the scientist has no such evidence. back to kristof.

My grandfather was fairly typical of his generation: A devout and active Presbyterian elder, he nonetheless believed firmly in evolution and regarded the Virgin Birth as a pious legend. Those kinds of mainline Christians are vanishing, replaced by evangelicals. Since 1960, the number of Pentecostalists has increased fourfold, while the number of Episcopalians has dropped almost in half.


a "devout" elder in the church who thinks that the Virgin Birth was a "pious legend"? in God's name--and i mean that literally--why? if you are a theist, and not only that, but a (theoretically) Christian theist, don't you accept it as a possibility that God could have intervened in the normal course of affairs, temporarily making the impossible possible? david hume and bertrand russell didn't believe in miracles, but then, david hume and bertrand russell were atheists. mainline Christianity, which is evermore becoming the temple of secular humanism, has retreated to tepid deism--a philosophy at irreconcilable odds with the concerned, active God revealed on virtually every page of Scripture.

but you see where nick is going here, don't you? Christianity was never about believing in fairy stories. it's just a bunch of pleasant-sounding, well-meaning suggestions that can brighten up your sunday--but don't dare let it spill over into any other day of the week. oh, nick makes a half-hearted attempt at disproving the virgin birth (not in oldest accounts, contradictory versions, etc.) but it's clear that the history is beside the point: now that reactionary wackos are in the driver's seat, everything is going to pot. according to kristof, there's no bigger obstacle to peace and harmony with our neighbors than fundamentalist Christians. personally, i'd be a bit more concerned about the threat of fundamentalist muslims, but for some reason it's chauvinistic to bash any other faith. kristof does at least mention the specter of militant islam, but only insofar as to warn that "the Islamic world is in crisis today in large part because of a similar drift away from a rich intellectual tradition and toward the mystical." in other words, not only are fundamentalist Christians ruining ties with other nations, we're also ruining our own!

"But mostly, I'm troubled by the way the great intellectual traditions of Catholic and Protestant churches alike are withering, leaving the scholarly and religious worlds increasingly antagonistic," says kristof. "The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain."

the "great intellectual traditions" of the Christian church are rejecting the virgin birth and believing in evolution? i wonder if anyone ever bothered to mention that to st. augustine, st. thomas aquinas, soren kierkegaard, g. k. chesterton, c. s. lewis... i mean, since when did being an intellectual of any sort require what amounts to atheism--after all, one can be a theist in the hypothetical realm, but if God has never acted in our world, what's the point? at the very least, kristof's "intellectual tradition" is one of practical naturalism.

folks, i'll be the first to admit that there is a mean anti-intellectual streak in fundamentalist Christianity. that's one of the reasons i'm out here posting--not that i consider myself an "intellectual," whatever that is, or even particularly bright. but God did indeed give us brains as well as hearts, and we dishonor Him when we use one at the expense of the other. what's needed, however, isn't more (God help us) mainline Christian apathy. people know dead religion and empty pomp when they see it (there's a reason, nick, the episcopalians aren't doing so well...) what's needed is a return to the great faith of the apostles: true, historic, evidential Christianity. the faith that preached the virgin birth, and particularly the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as reasons to believe. for most fundamentalists, the very thought that one might request evidence is a damnable act of blasphemy. that's got to change, but let's find the solution in moderation, not in swinging from one extreme to the other.

and anyway, locdog believes the day all Christianity becomes mainline Christianity is the day Christianity dies