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Showing posts from April, 2009

Liberals are Evil

Hey, did that get your attention?

Of course I don't believe that. It is my poor attempt at irony. Or do I?

There are liberals, and then there are liberals. I consider myself a classic liberal--of the 18th century! But not a liberal of the 20th or 21st. Ideas have consequences, and words mean something. Or do they? A modern liberal may disagree with that view; it's definitely "conservative," whatever that means.

Which is my point. These two terms, liberal and conservative, mean very little of substance any more; neither do left or right. I want to know specifics about policies, which will get us past these counterproductive labels.

Follow this through to theological terms. I just read an interview with Rob Bell, an emergent church pastor of a large congregation; therefore, he's pretty good at what he does, i.e, getting a lot of people to come to his church. For the life of me, he said a lot of double-talk, but it sounded passionate and compassionate. …

Fascism

I am reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. Interesting book--I would doubt some of it if I hadn't been reading some other scholarly works that say much the same thing--that the United States was much closer to become a fascist state in the early part of the 20th century than most people realize. That Mussolini was a hero to a lot of the "names" in political history of the '10s, '20s, and '30s. That our presidents were less freedom-loving than we would like to think. God was good and delivered us from this fate. Perhaps to facilitate evangelism. Perhaps to save the world politically. Perhaps . . . who knows. Perhaps to sell books, Goldberg overstates his case.

Unfortunately, I have found myself using the world. Our college is going to have a tobacco-free policy next year. A student asked me what I thought of it, and I said it was kind of fascist. I hope that doesn't get back to the president! I only meant that it's an overdone attem…

Festivals

Today a friend and I went to a small town within an hour from my home to attend that town's annual "festival." My friend works for a large local organization that cares for the disabled and was superintending a home of four high-functioning adult women clients; she wanted to take them on an outing and I agreed to go along to help.

The experience was heightened in that I used to work closely with the woman who was instrumental in starting the festival in the 1990s, and I used to go every year, but it had been at least six since my last time.

I am of the opinion that if you have been to one of these small-town festivals, you've been to all of them. That is unfair, but this one had not changed at all, from what I could tell, so nothing new was experienced. It was pretty hot and I got too much sun; either because of my heart problems or my fairness, I just don't do sun well. On top of that, there had to be 30,000 people there; the one thing that had changed was the pop…

Tempest in a Teapot

Have been working on grades this morning, but took a few minutes to check my favorite websites; one of them of course is Christianity Today, a website that allows me to avoid paying for a subscription and keep up with the news at the same time. Like most sites, it has some blogs, and one of the entries, or boards, or topics, or whatever they are called, concerns the Miss USA issue. Here it can be found. http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/2009/04/miss_california.html

Now, I don't really want to waste any more keystrokes than already have on this issue, but I can't help it, so here goes.

1. With all the Christians really contending for the faith on this planet, is this the woman we want to hold up as some sort of role model? I was shocked when Charles Colson suggested that yesterday on his radio program. She's in a beauty pageant, people!! The epitome of what we don't want our daughters to do. If she were building a house for Habitat, teaching in the inne…

Movie Response

At the recommendation of a colleague who teaches a cinema class, I finally watched No Country for Old Men. It's one I know I'll have to watch over and over. Yes, it's violent, probably one of the most violent I've ever seen, but there is almost no profanity or sexual violence, and even though women are killed, we don't really see that. It was an amazing movie that can be studied at several levels and defies genre-pigeonholing. I have only read one Cormac McCarthy novel, All the Pretty Horses. After I read it I despaired of my own writing; McCarthy is better, in my opinion, than Faulkner, but I'm probably not in a position to say that. Anyway, I felt like I didn't have any business trying to write literary fiction after reading Horses. The first ten minutes of No Country had all the feeling of Cormac McCarthy's writing for me.

Two observations: I'm not sure how to interpret Chigurh, but one scene says a lot more than I think people take it f…

Announcement

I am happy to say I received my promotion to Associate Professor. It's about time--not because of Dalton State, because of me. It should have happened twenty years ago, but I got sidetracked with having a baby, living in adjunct purgatory, and working in the wonderful world of the technical college system of Georgia, where everyone is an instructor, no matter what.

I'm tired. Teaching ten-hour overload this semester has been exhausting, and I feel like falling off the planet. But tomorrow I'm driving to Atlanta, Sunday I teach Bible class, three more weeks of classes, la, la, la.

I want to congratulate the many students who won awards at our honors convocation. The Foundation gives out a boatload of cash to hard-working students. Another reason I feel DSC is the best place I ever worked. Unlike most state colleges, it really takes students, most of them academically unprepared (woefully so), from all walks of life and transforms them into professionals. I wouldn'…

As long as

I think we could call this generation the "as long as" generation. As long as I don't have to pay more taxes, I'll vote for a change. As long as my life is not inconvenienced, I'll be socially-conscious. As long as I don't have to sacrifice anything, I'll serve God. As long as I'm controling the relationship, I'll be in one.

I think the tea parties are great. I wish I had time to hang out at one; I'm too busy earning a living to pay the taxes, which I could say is a government plot to keep us enslaved so we can't be in protests. That sounds like something a rightwingnutjob would say, and heaven knows we can't let anyone think that (as if the left needed any help with conspiracies).

But the only protests that really matter are the ones that take place on election days.

The Core

Everybody wants to know what the core of successful interpersonal communication. Last night my students presented a seminar on this subject and came back to such terms as emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empathy. All of these are important traits. Even Peter Drucker, the management guru, says that one must manage himself (or herself) before being able to manage employees. It is easy to limit good interpersonal communication to a list of techniques, but most experts recognize that it depends on a core of understanding of one's values, strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and goals.

The writer of Proverbs 4:23 figured it out long ago. "Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it come the issues of life." But in good Biblical fashion, this verse agrees with the gurus but turns their advice on its head. Yes, everything, including our speech, proceeds from the heart, which to the OT folks was not an emotional center but the thought and emotional center (not ma…

Interpersonal Comm 101

Suzette Elgin wrote a very interesting book in the 1970s called, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense. It offers a piece of communication advice that has stuck with me a long time. "Whenever you talk with someone, assume, at least temporarily, that he or she is telling the truth." (or perhaps, the truth as they know it). I think this advice is vital because:
1. They might be telling you the truth and you'll miss it;
2. The practice will improve your listening skills;
3. If you listen well, it will enhance your credibility;
4. This practice respects the humanity, if not the Imago Dei, in the other person;
5. Unless you listen well, how can you judge whether they are not telling the truth?
6. You can always make the call on the validity of their "talk" after all the facts are in instead of rushing to judgment, which seems to be pandemic in this culture.

A Long Walk

There are many Christian traditions, some associated with Easter. Since the early church, Christians have greeted each other with "Christ is risen," and "He is risen indeed" in response. We used to have a Sunday School teacher, a precious Greek man, who taught us to say it in Greek (any transliteration here would be a mess), but the Greek version is actually "of a truth He is risen," which I like better.

Another tradition I think we should start is to take a long walk talking about spiritual things on Easter afternoon, as Christ did with the two "fringe" disciples. I was privileged to spend Easter in England in 1997, where I attended Eden Baptist in Cambridge in the morning and a vespers service at St. Paul's Cathedral in the evening. That had to be the most memorable, aside from the Easter I was baptized, I have ever spent. Interestingly (not ironically--people use that word incorrectly, as they do "literally"), both sermons w…

In the meantime

We are all like the disciples. Their two-day wait is like our two-thousand-year wait. I've often wondered what really went through their heads that Sabbath day. They had to rest, the Bible says. They couldn't travel, as good Jews. But their physical inaction could not have been matched by psychological inaction. Did they expect anything to happen? They were supposed to, but I doubt that in the despair of seeing their leader not just killed, but barbarously tortured and executed, they were in a mental state to go back over all his teachings and figure it out. Maybe I'm wrong, but post-traumatic-stress was probably sitting in. Were they sleeping? Meeting with one another? drinking heavily? (we evangelicals don't want to think that, but I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of them didn't go on a drunk). Contemplating their career options, such as they were in the first century? Trying to find out what happened to Judas?

Or maybe they were just wait…

Changes

In the last three or four months, I have been struck by the feeling that the world as we knew it is ending. Primarily I feel that way as an American, and to some extent as a citizen of the world, but mostly as a Christian.

I am not the first person to think this. Imagine the disciples on this day. And as soon as they, perhaps, after a couple of days, got their minds and hearts around the fact that Jesus was dead, he goes and resurrects. What an inconvenience for the disciples!

Oh, I forgot, they didn't lived in an "it's all about me" society. They just did what any normal human being whose leader and friend appears after a violent death. They didn't believe it; they rejected the stories of their peers and of course those silly women they tolerated even while Jesus treated them like human beings. The disciples knew "dead is dead" (to quote the last title of LOST, probably not an accident that it came this week). It wasn't a matter of them wan…

Holy Week

I am a fan of N. T. Wright; here is a link to an interesting article on the Easter accounts by him and Craig Evans. I am struck by how behind I am in my reading. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/aprilweb-only/114-42.0.html

I was thinking today about the women at the tomb. Why did they go there this morning? They took spices to anoint the body, which means they didn't expect it to be resurrected. They expected it to be there. But how where they going to get to it? A rock and guards were in the way. Did they think the guards would move the rock? Why, since they were under orders not to? What were these women thinking?

Their actions don't make sense, really. But I don't conclude from that that the Biblical account is wrong. As N. T. Wright argues in the link above, women were considered to be entirely unreliable witnesses in the first century, so using them as verification of the accounts proves that the accounts were not polemical, or made up later to prove…

Arrogant Americans

Are we arrogant? There is an arrogance of "we can help you and will and are proud to do so" and an arrogance of "we are too good to help you." Yes, Americans can be arrogant, but it's of the first kind. We are in a position to help and often think we know better than we do, but the motive is good. I really think we are more condescending than arrogant.

Does President Obama not know the fallacies of composition and division? Just because there are arrogant Americans in the country does not make the country arrogant; just because our foreign policy might seem arrogant does not mean that every single one of us is. For example, I can say Dalton State College is an excellent college, but that doesn't mean that every professor and every student is an excellent professor or student. And just because most of the professors and students are excellent at what they do, that doesn't make the college excellent.

Finally, I would humbly question the wisdom of ov…
Isaiah 52:14: Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle (startle) many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;

Some translations translate the word as startle, some as sprinkle. From our perspective, there is absolutely no connection between the two words. Either way, it makes for an interesting reflection. "Sprinkle" alludes to the Levitical priesthood. Instead of penitent Jews being the recipients of sprinkling of sacrificial blood, "many nations" will, another prophetic reminder that the Jews were never to be considered the sole beneficiaries of divine blessings. "Startle" is my preference but only because I like the picture, not because I think it's a more correct rendering.

The ancients, other than the Jews, saw history as never-ending cycles. The Suffering Servant will slice into those never-ending circles and startle the Gentiles. …

Off Point but . . .

I wanted to post about spiritual things this week, but my predilection for movies is leading me astray. I saw two very funny movies that I should have already seen this weekend. Best in Show and This is Spinal Tap. Obviously, created by the same people, a little trashy, but incredibly clever and laugh out loud funny. The lyrics to those songs in Spinal Tap are too much. I bet a lot of people thought it was real when it first came out. Like all good satire--I'm thinking A Modest Proposal here--it tips its hand just enough to let the perceptive in on the joke, but is just as likely to leave the clueless in the dark thinking, "I never heard of this band" (or in the case of Swift, "how barbarian this guy is!"

Spokes in a Wheel

Isaiah 53 is an excellent meditation for passion week. It strikes me as a pivotal, central chapter in the whole Bible. While it probably doesn't have reference to every other book, it probably has a connection to most--definitively to the ceremonial law, to Genesis, to Davidic history, to other prophets, to the gospels, and to Revelation.

It begins in Isaiah 52:13. (No inspiration in those chapter and verse divisions, that's for sure) It can be divided into introduction, the human view, the reality view, and the interpretation.

The introduction key idea: He will startle the nations, and the kings will shut their mouths at Him.

The human view key idea: We hid as it were our faces from him. (What a wealth of thought and emotion is there--more tomorrow).

The reality view: He was wounded for our transgressions.

The interpretation: It pleased the LORD to bruise (crush) Him.

Passion Week Thoughts--Roots

Tomorrow I am supposed to teach Isaiah 53 in Sunday Bible Study. That is an impossible task. Impossible to do in 40 minutes, impossible to do in my human spiritual condition, impossible to do because of the depth of its root system--it reaches into just about every other book in the Bible. For example, it refer to Christ as the Root out of dry ground, a reference we see in Revelation 22:16, "The root of David."

So my lesson will be a feeble attempt. But it is an appropriate passage to start Passion Week, and I would challenge anyone who reads this to make it the focus of your preparation for Easter. As I wrote earlier, I observed Lent this year--not by giving up chocolate or liquor or cigarettes, ha, ha--but by giving up anger. And making that decision has been fruitful. I have not been so angry for the last few weeks, not in the deeply felt root of bitterness sense, just in the slightly aggravated sense (due to an overscheduled semester). Giving up anger for Lent ha…