Sunday, August 30, 2009

Let's Talk Some Sense

In general, I am for health care reform. I don't think there's a person in the country who isn't. Health care is a mess. But two wrongs don't make a right. The issue is not the need to improve health care (or delivery of it equitably to all Americans who rightfully want it); the issue is whether this mess of a bill (in its various iterations no one understands) is the answer, which clearly it is not.

I am convinced that the people who are protesting "for" this bill don't have a clue what's in it; they are simply soft-hearted people who feel it's wrong for many poor people to be denied health care, or at least denied the quality that a middle or upper class person has. They are well-meaning, but reactionary. Because Obama is for it, they are for it. Because it's a government-based answer, it's right.

I am also convinced that some of the people protesting against the bill are just as clueless and reactionary if they scream and act the fool. It seems like a lot of elderly are there, fearful of Medicare cuts. But obviously, from my perspective, they at least have cause: not knowing what the hoopie is being proposed, really.

I also feel for the senators and Congressmen who have to go and listen to women tell their problems and fall into tears. I do wish women could talk without crying. Some women's feelings are just a millimeter below the service, and the tears come out at the slightest provocation. I know well enough that they have more control over those tears than they want to exhibit, and I also know women use tears for manipulation, shamelessly. There are tears and then there are tears.

Rachel Getting Married

I watched this wonderful movie on Friday. Why is it wonderful? Rarely have I been so caught up in a movie and felt its immediacy. Usually I can't fathom the "hand-held" technique but it worked here. The film was a moving experience, although I have to admit that at the end I'd had enough of that wedding reception. There's a limit to multiculturalism when you bring in Carnival girls. But until that point the acting was great. Why did I watch it in the first place? I think Anne Hathaway is beautiful, although she is not in this movie, and because Ebert and CT liked it. I also discovered RedBox--$1.00 a night per DVD can't be beat.

Worship Wars

Relevant quote about worship wars from that hero of the faith, Hank Hill. After listening to "Christian" rock music in an episode, he said, "That doesn't make Christianity better. It just makes rocknroll worse."

If I want to listen to rock, I'll listen to the real stuff, which is inherently about young lust, nostalgia, wildness, abandon, and questioning one's meaning and existence.

Young people don't appreciate the wealth of hymnody because their parents have given in to this cultural insistence that they have to have their own music, even in worship.

That being said, there are lots of good lyricists in contemporary Christian music. There are also some abysmal ones.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Calvinism: What's the Problem?

I am, slowly, reading Calvin's Institutes. I like it. It is a good translation, and the biography I read of Calvin said he more than anyone of his time set the standard for French. So the readability (rare for theological works) helps, and the content is quite invigorating. No holds barred reverence for God. I'm not far but motivated to read on; like the food on the cruise, though, it's quite rich and best taken in a couple of pages a day.

I'm reading it because of the 500th anniversary, but also because I resist being told about books and being expected to form an opinion without having read them myself, whether it's drivel like The Shack or something that matters like this book. I would hate people to dismiss my book because it has the "n" word in it and is about abortion until they read it in context.

To be honest, however, there is another reason for reading Calvin (other than I put it on my professional goals for school in relation to Humanities class). That other reason: the mania over Calvinism.

It amazes me how excited Christians, lay people usually, get over Calvinism, whatever they conceive that to be. They either enthuse over it because it puts God in His rightful place and is more worshipful, or embrace it because they think it relieves them of having to witness (which is bizarre), or get confused over it because they aren't taught it with any precision or Biblical basis, or get angry because it's associated with Reformed or covenant theology, or fear it because of the cultlike behavior of some of its weirder adherents. And in my opinion, all of these people are uninformed. They don't know Calvin, or Augustine, or Paul, they just know about tulips.

The issue is election, clearly taught in Romans 9 and elsewhere. Calvinism was not created, nor its five points, by Calvin. It was created the next century after his death by "followers" who were trying to create a systematic theology out of the Institutes, a Scholastic process Calvin himself would not have done because he eschewed the Scholastics. Read a good biography, like McGrath's, people.

It then got all wrapped up with covenant theology, replacement theology, tulips, state-sponsored religion, etc. Law of unintended consequences and the basic problem with publishing any book: it gets put out in the world to be discussed, dissected, dissed, dismissed, and disunderstood (sorry, I couldn't help that).

One fear that Baptists have about "Calvinism" is that it will dissuade the average Joe's from missions, service, and evangelism. Because I was taught the theology of election at the age of 20 by a professor who was also one of the most evangelistic people I've ever known, I've never understood that idea. We don't evangelize as if it depends on us. All our efforts to evangelize are meaningless if the Holy Spirit doesn't revive and regenerate anyway. Evangelism is an issue of obedience, not results. (I realize this would lead some to say, "Then you would be half-hearted about it," but I would argue that believing in evangelism without election will lead to unethical means and excess and an emphasis on numbers.)

My son has been going through the Calvinism thing; it rears its head every few years and it's an issue with some of the Southern Baptist seminaries, notably Southern in Louisville. My son doesn't like the idea; perhaps he is too secular and thinks humankind has more power over its destiny than it does. I reminded him that very little of our lives is really our choice anyway.

I think it's a stage everyone must go through. My attitude for many years has been, simply, election is God's business. I can no more figure it out than I can fly to the moon, and maybe we will get to understand it in eternity. To dismiss it ignores Scripture and to emphasize it ignores our real work on earth. It is like the second coming: to look only at the second coming and the final redemption of the earth can make us ignore that we are to live the gospel here fully, and that the gospel involves more than a prayer to ensure heaven.

We are to walk circumspectly. I think that means that we wisely avoid theological and practical extremes and yet appreciate the truths that the extremes started with but overemphasized.


The first week of classes has ended. I rise at 5:00, so I was tired by last night and made sure I got a good night's sleep. We are packed at Dalton State College--over 5800 students--and I have 145 of them in my classes (actually 140, since three of them are in two of my classes, unfortunately, and I would think with all the available classes they would have avoided that).
They seem like nice people, a lot of young people as opposed to nontrads, so I have no fears. I do have a few characters. One kid said "Mormons are whack" yesterday and I had to discourage that kind of talk. Some immaturely think that being in a speech class means they can just talk indiscriminately.

A friend and I were talking about how teaching has changed in the thirty years we've been doing it. We have to take an online class and test on sexual harassment policy in GA. Thirty years ago there was no "online" and no one knew what "sexual harassment" was, although plenty of it existed. We have so much stuff to do that is not classroom instruction; most of it is busy work to avoid some sort of litigation or the possibility of it. I work harder now than I did in 1980, mostly because I use a lot of technology and have expanded my horizons into so many areas. Technology has not made life easier; it has made it more intense and fast.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's Happening

Tomorrow my son goes back to college. I should be in there helping him pack--or maybe not. That's something he needs to get used to. Our classes start at Dalton State on Monday, and my main concern is the early start to the day for me this year, 8:00 class, which means leaving home at 7:00. A lot of our lives are affected by the fact that we live on the outer limits of the Eastern time zone, which means that our sunsets are later than say in Charlotte, NC, or Philadelphia. In high summer it's still twilight at 9:30, and only then does the sun come up at 6:00. So, school children always go to school in the dark in the winter, but it does make late golf possible in the summer.

I am working on a mentoring program at church; I hope I can add something to it. I doubt my winsomeness; all I can do is be myself and a good listener.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Homage with an Egg

Last night a friend and I went to see "Julie and Julia" (or is it the other way around)? Meryl Streep can do no wrong as an actress in my opinion, and her portrayal of Julia Child walks the line of eccentricity not becoming parody. We got a big kick out of it, and it was wonderful how post WWII Paris was recreated. I am not a fan of French cooking (prefer Italian) but I enjoyed the movie.

No movie is perfect though. I think it's wrong to diss a movie because it's not perfect; in this case, the Julie is annoying and the husbands are too nice; I really can't imagine a husband putting up with Julie's project, nor can I believe she retained her size 2 figure with all that butter and red meat and whipped cream. Maybe she cooked it but didn't eat it, like a relative of mine used to do.

It did inspire me to cook something this morning for breakfast I haven't had since childhood--a poached egg. I boiled a pan of water and gently cracked the egg (which was not fresh by any means, since I got it from WalMart four days ago). It diffused into the water, but did cook, more or less. I scooped it out and finished the job in the microwave! (Poached eggs almost always have runny whites, but I can't deal with that, or with runny yolks, so it's back to scrambled for me).

In one scene in the movie, Julia Child is making her own mayonnaise. Back then, that was a necessity, but to me life is too short to make your own mayonnaise, especially when I can buy Duke's (the best). When I first got married I made my own jelly/preserves. At least I can say I know how, but I'd rather spend time with people or books than canning jars. My tribute to good eating will be having my own garden, eating local produce, and minimizing meat consumption. My garden is now moving toward retirement right now, but we are planning for next year.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

Maybe it's just me (and I'm always generally careful to couch my opinions in opinion language rather than fact language) but whenever the government gets into something, we see wonderful examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences. The Cash for Clunkers program is one of these examples.

The intended consequences of the program is to stimulate the economy by upping the sales of new cars that are more fuel efficient and to get the gas guzzlers off the road. As someone who owns two Hondas and wouldn't touch an SUV with a ten-foot-pole, I should be good with that, right? People who turn in their old (there's a certain date and model requirement, I guess) cars get a $3-4,000 rebate off the price of a new car. So we are rewarding good behavior, right? And dealers are moving cars off the lots, right?

Sure, but.....
1. People who were conscious about gas mileage and did the right thing are being directly or indirectly punished. We don't get a rebate or any reward, and our pockets are being picked for this bailout.
2. People who bought gas guzzlers are being rewarded for past irresponsible behavior, and we have no proof of "repentance," that is, that they will buy a fuel efficient car the next time around.
3. Good cars that lower income people could buy (those who can't afford new cars or even late model used ones--those who are known as the working poor and who drive ten-year-old cars--I used to be one of these people) are now off the market. So what are these people going to drive?
4. I am just instinctively opposed to the government trying to engineer behavior. It can be incentivized by tax breaks, but not rewarded with handouts. This only makes us more and more dependent on government, Washington, the state, whatever you want to call it. The governments biblical job (Romans 14) is to punish evil doers and maintain law and order, not to make us righteous.

The recent movie Serendipity (from the TV show Firefly) deals with this subject in startling ways. Very good for popular science fiction. Like the main character, a part of me "aims to misbehave" in regard to this social engineering that rewards the poor victims of their own bad choices and punishes the hard working. As Dennis Miller (who I am not giving to quoting, believe me) says, "I don't mind helping the helpless. I do mind helping the clueless."

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Oh, My.

It's pretty bad when you don't remember it's your wedding anniversary until 10:30 in the morning. We have been married 28 years today (1981).

Home Again

My son and I got back two nights ago (Thursday) from our vacation. We took a cruise ship out of Mobile and visited Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico, on two separate ports-of-call. It took a day to travel both ways, so we were gone seven days. It is good to be home, even if I return to work full-time on Monday. It's time.

Cruises are very cheap right now, and the boat seemed to be pretty full, with at least a third of the passengers being children under 12. I would never take a child on a cruise, but that's me. Cruises have many advantages as vacations; I will take another some day, but probably not to the Carribean or Gulf.

To be educational, we visited some Mayan Ruins near Excambio and saw their salt flats. Here is my son sitting on a Mayan ruin.

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

During the Web Speech             One of the helpful suggestions from the business writers used for this appendix ...