Saturday, November 30, 2002

One big issue of the Religious Left is over-consumption, as described here in an Statement of Conscience of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Commission on Social Witness. This movement is trying to create a new "holiday", called Buy Nothing Day, where no one is to buy anything the day after Thanksgiving. I've got mixed feelings about this; I'm opposed to turning Christmas into a commercial gift-fest, however, on the other hand I'm opposed to the crass anti-capitalism the anti-consumerism movement is putting out, and there are ways to treat giving with respect. Giving gifts to family members and friends doesn't mean you're turning your back on the spiritual side of Christmas. Just be sure you emphasize the right thing - the birth of Jesus (which, by the way, the anti-consumer movement isn't doing either, as a look at a typical example of their rhetoric will show).

I like the idea of a simple Christmas. We're definitely below the average of $860 spent per family that was quoted on Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street last night. On the other hand, we do like to buy some gifts, we do take part in the gift-giving tradition. After reading the Buy Nothing rhetoric, I decided to do some early shopping this year, and bought some things on Friday. Buy Nothing Day is a holiday which is definitely worth NOT supporting.

The idea of overconsumption is deeply tied into the philosophy of Malthusianism, which believes that our worldwide economy is a zero-sum system with limited resources which are rapidly vanishing before our eyes. It's not really a zero-sum system, however. Human intelligence, innovation, and economic growth, all produce new inventions which allow more people to live on the planet. There is certainly a limit, somewhere, for how many people can live on the planet, but the idea that we will overspend the earth by more than 100% by the year 2050, as detailed in the WWF Living Planet Report is refutable. Population growth has measurably slowed in the last century, and appears to be heading to a point where we will reach a maximum population. The doomsday scenarios painted by Malthusiasts will never come about. There are good reasons to optimistic for the Earth's future.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Well that's all for tonight, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Here is the Thanksgiving Psalm at the dedication of the Temple.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

I just finished the WWJD? Protest Wal-Mart! article over at The Nation. The WWJD question is just a brief mention in the middle of the article - the title is just a tease to draw your attention to it. Kindof misleading.

However, since it's on my mind, let's think about this a little bit, extend the WWJD question a little bit. The preacher at the union rally in the church told the crowd that Jesus would be there protesting with the unionizers. Is that really true? Historically, the Israelites were expecting the Messiah to be a military and/or political leader, one who would obtain freedom and independence for Israel from their foreign oppressors. Jesus could have done that; it was within His power as Creator to destroy Rome with a word. But He didn't do it, because He was sent to earth to do a greater thing - to be the Saviour of the world.

People who try to draw Jesus into the latest political or social cause make the same mistake as the Jews of 33 A.D., expecting Jesus's message to be one of freedom of oppression, where the oppression is really just a symptom of a far deeper problem, the human race's alienation from God. When we expect Jesus to be organizing laborers into unions, we put Jesus into a box, saying "fix this! we're being exploited!" Jesus's reply will likely be different than what we expect. When 5000 people went looking for Jesus,
Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”John 6:26-29 ESV

I'm sure that I will be completely blown away by God's wisdom when I know His truth more completely in heaven (I believe the learning never stops either, even then). I expect we all will be. When I hear anyone say that their economic or political model is closer to God's way, my gut tendency is to walk away; our sin nature, combined with our reliance on human leadership, doom all man-made systems to failure. Which isn't to say we shouldn't try to make a better society. I just think that one which respects the lifes and liberties of its citizens is better than one that doesn't. I don't value economic equality as much because it cannot be attained, at least not in an absolute sense, without sacrificing liberty.

Advance post before Advent

This thought just entered my brain while writing the previous post, and since it's more related to Christmas decided to let it stand alone.

Speaking of WWJD, let's consider another question; one which the Religious Left pro-abortion crowd will never utter: What would Mary Do? Would she, an unwed teen-age mother, get an abortion? Planned Parenthood seems to think the concept is worthy of holiday sentiment in their egregious Choice on Earth card. God's will is sometimes different than what is merely convenient however. Mary did God's will and gave us Jesus, the Saviour of the world.

Arggh, can't resist blogging about this:

The Nation cites the question "What Would Jesus Do?" to justify a Wal-Mart protest!WWJD? Protest Wal-Mart! I have not read the article, since I cannot open .mhtml files on my office computer. I'll read it tonight and comment further if I feel the need to say any more.

It suddenly hit me what I don't like about this WWJD question being applied to issues like shopping and the car one drives. It's just another form of legalism. Good Christians are supposed to do this, avoid doing that. It's just more rules to follow, and all without asking God what He wants us to do. Just open your latest issue of The Nation, Mother Jones, or The Utne Reader, and they will all gladly tell us what Jesus would do if He were living here and now. And, get this, they do this while ridiculing people who actually read the Bible and endeavor to live by its wisdom!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Very busy lately, so blogging has been slower lately, but now that Thanksgiving is here, I wish everyone a happy and blessed time with their loved ones. There is so much to be thankful for.

What am I thankful for? First and foremost, I am grateful for the second, third, ... and n-th chances God has given me. There is a large twenty year gap in my life where I did not even pretend to be a Christian, after being pretty dedicated in my youth, or so I thought at the time. I got hung up on legalism; trying to be a better Christian, getting frustrated whenever I failed, and eventually walking away from God. Now I realize that it is God's strength and righteousness that sustains me, not my own. I also thank God for providing me with a good teacher, C.S. Lewis, who helped me to realize the truth in the previous sentence in his book Mere Christianity.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Blogging has its own little hazards. I sometimes get an urge to write something about an issue and find out I've already written about it. Or I formulate an opinion and find out someone has already said what I want to say, and I all can do is repeat it. Sometimes there is a phrase that just comes out harsh and is a sure setup for an out-of-context quotation. One thing I said recently, "After all, what's more important, world peace or making disciples?" has me asking myself Why did I ever say that?

Well, let me elaborate, and yes, after thinking about it, I've decided to stand by my words. There are two kinds of peace we can attain: a true lasting peace where people actually do appreciate each other and work together for their common prosperity, and there is another peace built on ceasefires and suppressed hostilities, a potential powder keg. I believe that with our sin nature, the former is only possible by a transformation of our nature and our submission to God's sovereignty. The latter is made of agreements printed on paper, only to be broken when an opportune moment, or the next dictator, comes around. The Oslo Accord was that type of peace, a temporary measure which now looks like outright treachery in hindsight. The violence in Israel has actually increased since that accord

While Jesus did say “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9 ESV), I believe He was talking about the kind of peace that comes from knowing God. He also told us in His last words before His ascension, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

It is important to note here that God doesn't give us contradictory commandments. If Jesus has commanded us to "make disciples of all nations", then that is what we are to do. Jeffrey Collins has some excellent words about evangelism and its importance, and how it has manifested itself with the murder of a missionary in Lebanon, and comments from several religious leaders on whether she should have been there in the first place.

One thing that bothers me about the "social gospel" that the NCC and other liberal groups are preaching, the one where it says that all we have to do is feed the poor, and be peacemakers, is that they never talk about Jesus, never tell anyone the purpose of His life, death, and resurrection. To hear the gospel this way, Jesus never even had to exist, never had to die on the cross, and His resurrection can simply be considered to be a metaphor for inspiration to live a more beautiful, more loving life, and everyone can go on believing whatever they want, because hey, God's just fine with that, we're all His children.

Today, in meditating about a parable, namely, the parable of The Prodigal Son, it suddenly hit me (sort of). The goal of the life of The Prodigal Son (you know the one where the son loses his inheritance and winds up feeding the pigs), was not to improve his working conditions, like a better wage or adequate sanitation. No, the goal was to get him to go home! Go home to your dad and be reconciled!

God surely wants all of us to be well-fed and to live in peace and safety, but this is expected to come as the result of our salvation and knowledge of the truth, as Paul says "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2: 1-4 ESV)

Thursday, November 21, 2002

NCC Launches Scathing Attack on Bush Administration (from the Institute for Religion and Democracy)
NCC 2002 General Assembly: Resolution "After September 11, 2001: Public Policy Considerations for the United States of America" (from the National Council of Churches)

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Titus 3:1-11 (ESV)

Let me try to respond to this resolution with the same grace shown by Paul in his epistle to Titus.

The President and others in the US government rhetorically divide nations and peoples into camps of “good and evil.” Demonizing adversaries or enemies denies their basic humanity and contradicts Christians’ beliefs in the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God. Moreover, such approaches to complex problems and difficult dilemmas risks breeding further insecurity, fear, hatred, violence among nations and peoples, conditions that could give rise to further acts of terrorism.

I disagree. "Demonizing adversaries" does not deny their basic humanity or contradict a belief in the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God, unless you are a bland Universalist who believes that everybody is just fine with God, we're not sinners, we're all good people and all we have to do is just get along (and give all those poor people over there a lot more money while you're at at, why don't you?). Jesus Himself divided the nations into two groups, in The Final Judgment.

Organizations that cherish civil rights have expressed deep concern that those arbitrarily detained and investigated are selected on the basis of racial profiling. As people are detained in secret, with no access to counsel or to trial and often no contact with their families, fundamental constitutional principles of habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, and due process have been undermined.

Sorry, but we're at war, and you don't win wars by respecting your enemies' civil rights. For those who deny we're at war because our Congress hasn't declared one, my reply is that there was indeed a declaration, a fatwa from Osama bin Laden. I don't like racial profiling either, but when you're at war with people who share certain characteristics, it serves the goal of winning when you look for your enemies primarily among people who have those characteristics.

The United States dominates the world militarily and increasingly attempts to do so politically. The NCCCUSA is especially concerned that in its objectives, the US is increasingly militaristic and unilateral in pursuing political and economic goals.

There's a good reason for having a unilateral foreign policy: We're the only country concerned about our own well-being. Or at least the man in the White House is, and the people who elected him.

Those killed on September 11, 2001 came from many different countries and faith communities. Yet those who attacked the United States on September 11 claimed to do so out of religious motivation. In the late 20th century and in the early 21st century, as in earlier eras, religion is used increasingly to legitimize violence, aggression, war, and terrorism. Now more than ever, the world needs for religious communities to work together for peace with justice. All religions provide a basis on which to build human communities where all can thrive, believers and non-believers alike.

Here's the moral equivalence argument again: all fundamentalists are inherently evil, and all we need to do is lay our differences down and work for world peace. I guess Jesus' words "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) will have to go. We can't risk offending those from other faiths now, can we? After all, what's more important, world peace or making disciples?

As citizens and residents of the United States of America, we give thanks to God for the rich blessings of this good and bounteous land and for our noble heritage of democracy, religious tolerance and freedom, and human rights. We hope, dream and work for the day when everyone in our nation will share fully in this prosperity and freedom. Our love of and dedication to our country require that we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to the highest standards and ideals of a democratic society where the well-being of each person is the concern of all. As Christians, we put our security in the hands of Jesus Christ and the biblical witness that says, “perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18a

I, too, thank God for the rich blessings of this land, and for my life as an American citizen. I'm under no illusions that this freedom is free, however. People died to give us this freedom, and people may have to die to keep it. If we do not defend this country and its liberties, I do not believe that our "heritage of democracy, religious tolerance and freedom, and human rights" will be safe, especially if our enemies, who have no such heritage, impose their will on us.

I also pray for peace for us and the world. I don't think that peace is always guaranteed to us, however, even if we strive for it, for life involves dealing with the complication of other people and other cultures, including violent ones who do not want peace.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Here's an item from Campus Watch on anti-divestment campaigns being conducted on several universities to urge their institutions to divest from Israeli companies or companies that do business with Israel, justifying it on the same grounds as divestment from South Africa because of apartheid. Campus Watch quotes the definition of apartheid from the United Nations and considers whether it should apply to Israel:
According to the United Nation's International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid:

"Apartheid consists of a set of state policies that meet the following criteria: (a) "Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups the right to liberty of person." (b) "Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or part." (c) "Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country -- in particular denying of members of a racial group basic human rights and freedoms." (d) "Any measures -- designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos -- [including] the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group."

Says Campus Watch managing editor, Jonathan Calt Harris, "It is clear that Israel, which offers its Arab citizens participation in the government, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and other rights only afforded by democracy, cannot be placed under this rubric."

Campus Watch monitors Middle East studies on campuses. I'm doing a similar thing with this blog with respect to religion and churches. In that spirit, I'd like to link to a speaker at this year's Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, by a group called UUs for Justice in the Middle East, The Requirements for Peace in Palestine. The link is to a pro-Palestinian propaganda speech by Dr. Hussein Ibish, Communications Director for the American - Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. His description of life in Israel claims to fit the definition of apartheid cited from the UN by Campus Watch, so apparently the Unitarian Universalist Association is in sympathy with the efforts to label Israel as an apartheid state.

Who is Dr. Hussein Ibish, in addition to his title, stated above? Here's an article from Daniel Pipes about him.

Monday, November 18, 2002

What Car Do You Drive is a religious question, according to the National Council of Churches.

Now this question can be taken seriously, it's each person's prerogative to do so. But to ask the question "What Would Jesus Drive?" and presume to know the answer is rather presumptuous. There are legitimate differences of opinion, even among Christians, about environmental issues such as the severity of global warming, the effects of over-population, and the depletion of natural resources. To say that it is wrong or sinful to question the standard environmentalist position is an underhanded way to stifle open debate.

Now that Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas are upon us, I am going to reduce my blogging activity in order to dedicate more time to church activities. Don't know by how much, but I think the four days per week I mentioned earlier cannot be maintained. God, family, and church come first; the blog is a good thing, but it isn't #1. I think I'll be able to get in four posts this week, but starting next week, I'm not going to try to keep that up. After Christmas everything should be back to normal.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Here's a Word of Contention for you: Systemic Change (well ok, its two words). Why bring this up? Because in the zeitgeist of the Religious Left, it isn't enough to do things that help other people, you've also got to change the system. For instance, it's not enough to be generous yourself, you've also got to pass laws that force other people to be generous too, like for instance, higher rates of taxation on those richer than you (for you're not one of those rich folks are you?). For that matter, it's not good enough that you don't smoke, you've got to make it as hard as possible for others to smoke too!

Here's two paragraphs from the Ben & Jerry's Foundation:
We do not offer grants to support basic or direct social service programs. We realize that there are many fine organizations that provide social services to people in need throughout the country. However, these types of programs do not fall within the scope of the Ben & Jerry's Foundation.

Funding Priorities

Although the Ben & Jerry's Foundation doesn't prioritize any particular issue area for funding, we do focus on the types of activities and strategies an organization uses for creating social change in any number of areas. The Foundation will only consider proposals from grassroots, constituent-led organizations that are organizing for systemic social change. We support programs and projects that are examples of creative problem-solving.

The point here is that it isn't good enough to do things that help other people. You've got to work to eliminate the system that oppressed these people in the first place. What's wrong with that you may ask? I'll answer in the form of another question: What's wrong with a government that tells people how they should live? For indeed, that is what systemic change implies, destroying the institutions that people currently use to implement their goals, in order that new state-imposed goals can be forced on the people against their will.

Well, I've taken several quizzes. I now know that I'm Alexander Hamilton (Founding Fathers), Augustine (theologian), a Lawful Good Half-Elf Ranger Cleric (why did I post that? I haven't played D&D in 20 years!). I haven't posted these but here they are: I'm Kermit the Frog and the city of Atlanta.

Dave (The Ice Axe) points me to this column by Michelle Malkin, one of my regularly-read columnists. I'm going to add some new info to this discussion. This is not just a secular phenomenon, there are religious institutions out there that are also promoting promiscuity. The former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association endorsed the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing -- a new progressive statement issued by SIECUS. By the way, I noticed while researching this that my company's proxy server classifies SIECUS as an adult entertainment site and blocks it.

Here's a quote from the declaration:
Our culture needs a sexuality ethic focused on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts. All persons have the right and the responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure. Grounded in respect for the body and for the vulnerability that intimacy brings, this ethic fosters physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.

As far as sex goes, this document is pretty much saying that if two people want to do it, then it is perfectly ok, no matter if they're married or not, adult or adolescent (or even a child - it's not limited!), gay or straight. The only thing missing here is doing it with animals, but hey, wait a few years, get some input from Peter Singer, and that could be fixed too.

I'd like to know how mutuality, commitment, and consent can apply to a relationship between an adult and a child. Of course, if you press the question, most individual UUs will say, "that's not what it means!" And of course, most individuals will not interpret it that way. But let's press on. If that's not what they mean, why didn't they say so? For there are activists, such as NAMBLA (whose existence the UUA does not seem to acknowledge), who want to remove the barrier of what they euphemistically call "intergenerational sex", and the endorsers of this document have no point at which to say "No! We draw the line here!" for they have defined a sexual ethic that has no borders.

Jeffrey Collins told me to read this about the Christian Right. It reflects my sentiments. My motivation for creating this blog was the view, typified by a post on Beliefnet, that "Christians should just shut up", to which I replied "so you want free speech for everyone but Christians? Doesn't sound so free to me"

Thank you, Susan (LilacRose Blog) for the link to this quiz!

"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience
of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."

You are Augustine!

You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them.
Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views, you even get things like "nice debating
with you." Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out. You're also
very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Earlier today, I posted on the origins of American Unitarianism. I'm now going to turn my attention to Universalism and its American origins.

Universalism is actually a general term for the belief that no one will be subject to condemnation, that we're all going to be saved. There are a couple of verses in the New Testament that are used to justify this belief, most notably Romans 5:18 (ESV) "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men." Now, by itself, this verse seems to justify Universalism, but there are others which don't, such as John 3:36 (ESV) "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." So a bit more study is required to reveal whether this doctrine has any real merit.

Universalism came to America from England in the person of John Murray, who came ashore due to his ship running aground in New Jersey in 1770, in present day Lanoka Harbor. John Murray met a local farmer named Thomas Potter (who just happened to hold Universalist beliefs, and had even built a church, but had no preacher to preach in it). Potter talked Murray into preaching at his church, which Murray reluctantly agreed to do. Murray was actually a preacher from England who had suffered huge personal tragedy in the loss of his wife and only child, and was coming to America to start over with a new career and life. He agreed to preach only if the weather prevented him from returning to the ship with provisions. The weather favored Potter, Murray preached, and a Universalist church was founded there.

The Universalist Church of America was esentially a one-doctrine denomination, which led to its decline as a spiritual organization. There just wasn't enough material to make for a fulfilling and growing career for its clergy. One notable Universalist, Thomas Starr King actually made a name for himself by being recognized as a Universalist and Unitarian minister. Over the last half of the nineteenth century, and going into the twentieth, the Universalists placed more and more emphasis on social and political causes, abandoning any pretense of Christian doctrine. There was little motivation for Christian conversion since it was considered unnecessary, as all were saved anyway. By the time of the merger with the American Unitarian Association in 1961, both organizations had become activists for social and political causes and had little spiritual content to offer.

The spending of money on "social justice" just highlights something I've said before: If the Church isn't spending its time and money on preaching the Gospel, it's most likely spending its time and money on political causes.

My apologies in advance: I'm a Methodist, but I've got to highlight this item.

How does the United Methodist Women spend $305,000? United Methodist Women's Division grants for 2000

Of all the organizations mentioned in this list, I can't find one doing actual Christian mission work with this money. Liberal religious types may say that it contributes to "social justice" but this money isn't doing anything supporting what Christ told the church to do: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations

What about compassion for the poor? Yeah right, like these activist organizations have compassion.
  • The National Council of Churches played a huge role in the Cuban propaganda which Janet Reno used to justify sending Elian Gonzales back to Cuba - yeah that's real compassionate, sending a six-year-old kid back to Cuba to grow up under Communism;
  • ACORN opposes welfare reform, which has been shown to benefit, not hurt, the poor;
  • Many of the organizations listed are active in gay-rights causes, which has nothing to do with compassion, and everything to do with subverting Christian morality (my position on homosexuality: it is appropriate to recognize equal and individual rights for gay and heterosexual people in our secular society, but it is not appropriate to pretend that the practice of homosexuality is compatible with Christian teaching on morality)
  • The Center for Economic Justice believes the West is rich at the expense of the Third World, and opposes free-trade policies which would benefit the Third World

There are many others, but I could not find a single organization in this list which is dedicated to either preaching the Gospel or showing true compassion for people in need.

Yesterday, Mark Byron wrote this post about the need to be alert for heterodoxy within the church. He closed with this statement:
Rewind the tape three-and-a-half centuries and that bunch is the Puritan Congregationalists of 1600s New England. Guys like Cotton Mather weren’t politically correct universalists; they were as much a Bible-thumper as Billy Graham. However, allow a little decay each generation, and the Bible-thumpers turn Unitarians in all but name within two centuries.

He's got a very good point, for he nails the origin of the Unitarian Universalist Association exactly, and the "all but name" can actually be replaced with the word "literally".

You see, the American Unitarian Association (one of the two organizations which formed the UUA) was actually formed from liberal congregations which left the Puritan Congregationalists. How did this happen? Congregational polity, combined with a general distaste for the evangelical movement that swept across America in the late eighteenth century, which led many New England religious intellectuals to move away from traditional Protestant doctrine. Congregations elected liberal pastors and slowly, one-by-one, became Unitarian.

In 1819, William Ellery Channing, preached an ordination sermon in Baltimore entitled "Unitarian Christianity". Channing claimed that liberals had claim to the title "Christian" even if they were Unitarian, and in addition to describing how he interpreted the Bible (rationally, with some parts more important than others, by which I think he meant he was free to disbelieve anything he wished) he listed six main differences between Unitarian and Trinitarian Christianity:
  • The unity of God and rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity,
  • The unity of Jesus (the controversy over His God-Man nature),
  • the moral perfection of God, where Channing all but declares Unitarianism to be Universalist in nature,
  • the rejection of the Atonement,
  • holiness as a personal quality, rather than of God

    Interested readers can read the whole thing, but I'll comment on one item: the rejection of the Atonement. Channing claims that it isn't in the Bible, but anyone who has actually read the New Testament knows that just isn't so. Paul's letter to the Romans, Chapter 5 explicitly says
    For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV, Romans 5:6-8)

    The only way to say that the Bible doesn't support the Atonement is to deny that Paul's letters belong in the Bible (as well as John's Gospel) and many other books. Of course, that is exactly the course that the scholars at The Jesus Seminar would take in the following century.

    More info on Unitarian history, from the UUA's website

    UPDATED: Corrected the date of the sermon, it was actually delivered in 1819. The American Unitarian Association was founded six years later by Channing and several other religious liberals.
    UPDATED AGAIN: Added some words after the word "holiness" in the list. I just felt funny leaving that word hanging all alone there.
  • Wednesday, November 13, 2002

    Excellent opinion piece by Yechiel Eckstein: A new definition of tolerance

    BEFORE WE can really begin relating to other views and ideologies, we ought to feel strong in our own traditions and beliefs. And, before we can do that, we must stand for something. For if there is nothing to stand for, there is nothing meaningful enough for us to die for. Without commitment to an absolute in a person's life there is no backbone to that life. It all becomes a mush of relative thinking, which, I believe, does not enable an ethical society to emerge. The United States has been burned by this definition of tolerance.

    Mark Byron discusses how the treatment of corporations affects us as individuals. Let me attempt to add some points, related to the issue of greed.

    For all the talk of corporate greed, a lot more good would actually be done if people stopped complaining about corporations and started investing in them instead. At one of my past Unitarian dinner discussions, someone was complaining about how the greedy insurance executives were hiking their insurance premiums in the wake of September 11. My reply? Sounds like an investment opportunity! Maybe you should check them out. They didn't appear to be amused. I guess they can justify their response by claiming to be socially concious investors, but the bottom line still is: the primary goal of investing is to make money, the same goal as those "greedy executives". If I was an investor in World Wide Wickets, I'd be happy if their CEO was considered a bit greedy by some people, as long as that greed benefited the company. There are limits to such behaviour of course, but in my view, these limits are enforced very well by the concept of a free market. When someone demands too much money for a good or a service, someone else will see an opportunity to move in and sell for less.

    Now there are some egregious examples of greed in the boardroom. Ken Lay (Enron) and Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco) come to mind. These guys were outed when their companies lost money and their salaries and perks were subjected to increased public scrutiny. Some people think we need to ensure that such things cannot happen again, but I don't think government regulation of executive salaries is appropriate. A government based on a free-market economy has no business telling people how much they can earn. While many people would applaud it, there would be serious negative consequences of a maximum wage law.

    Where do I draw the line? On the one hand, I'm a free-market capitalist, and basically believe that an unreined economy will be more prosperous. On the other hand, I've got to admit that there are real oppressors out there, who will take advantage of those who are unable to understand the complexities of our modern world. I think there are good arguments to be made for consumer protection laws and government agencies to help people avoid being ripped-off from fraud, and to punish those businesses who deploy fraud as a business practice. I just don't buy that excessive greed, in the absence of other factors, is grounds for government regulation.

    Links to note:

    The Onion has an article which, if it was based on real people, could be considered serious commentary. Thank you, Zorak, for the link.

    David Limbaugh: The stubborn arrogance of liberal Dems

    Dennis Prager: Why the Left Really Hates Israel

    Tuesday, November 12, 2002

    Let me get a little introspective now, change the tone a little bit. I'm also gonna write this kindof fast and off the top of my head - so no links. I've disclosed that I used to be a Unitarian Universalist and now I'm a Christian. How in the world did that happen? Aren't UUs supposed to be stubbornly skeptical of all things miraculous?

    To tell the truth, if Unitarian Universalism had remained the way it was when I first encountered it (a small congregation of very libertarian-minded individualists), I very likely would still be one today. But it changed on me. Sometime in the 90s, due either to a move to a larger congregation in a more liberal state (the previous one was in Texas), or becoming more bold with liberal ideas with a sympathetic political administration, the UUA became much more of an anti-capitalist organization. All talk of economics was like: "the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and that's the cause of all our economic troubles". I started thinking about that, and one day, I remember seeing an anti-communist bumper sticker that said something like "Communists are all equal because they're all poor!", and my reaction was "That's So True!!!". So I started thinking about it, and realized that no socialist country has ever been truly prosperous. Even the Scandinavian countries that everyone claims as a mystical "third way" are just dreary run-of-the-mill countries without anything great to say about them. (About a month or two over at Instapundit, it was reported and discussed that Sweden is about as poor as our poorest states in America, with a higher crime rate to boot) So I started questioning the wisdom of socialism and its capacity for improving the lot of an average person economically speaking. When I started taking that attitude, I found it much more difficult to relate to all those UU discussions on the merits of socialism. I was slowly but surely becoming an outsider.

    Out of time, but I'll be saying more on this thread in days to come....

    Am I ever late to this conversation, but it is the very type of thing I'm looking to expose via this blog: Bill Moyer's commentary on the election. Bill Moyers is the model citizen of the "Religious Left", using his Baptist credentials with his populist leanings in order to show how America, in Republican hands has become an evil empire. And it's all the "Religious Right's" fault too!

    Here's what Jenn Gray and Stephen F. Hayes say about Bill Moyer's piece:
    Jenn Gray
    Stephen F. Hayes

    I can't add anything original to these fine opinions. I decided to stop contributing to PBS last year when Frontline started preaching leftist values in news programs, specifically their criticism of the Boy Scouts of America and their policy on gay scoutmasters.

    Monday, November 11, 2002

    Thank you Veterans for all you've done to defend our country, along with the liberty we enjoy, but so often seem to take for granted.

    In our church yesterday, our pastor asked all our Veterans to stand, say their names, and where they served. He then asked all the parents with children less than a year old to stand as well. The message? Those men and women served their country so these children could grow up in a free country.

    Excellent bleat from James Lileks mentioning the Religious Right and Religious Left. One comment I especially like as it reflects the thinking that led me to leave the Unitarian Universalists is:
    The other day I was talking with a Democrat friend about the election. She’d remarked, with equal amounts of sarcasm and good-natured ribbing, that the GOP had two years to build utopia. I thought about that later while walking Jasper around the block, and thought, no; they’re not about building utopia. Personally, I’m interested in keeping other people from building Utopia, because the more your believe you can create heaven on earth the more likely you are to set up guillotines in the public square to hasten the process.

    And more....
    I’m not the first to note this, but: for some, politics has taken the place of religion. As usual, this basic observation has been inflated to cover entire groups, and lazy writers will say that the ENTIRE LEFT has replaced religion with politics. Nonsense. There is a religious left in this country - they’re the ones holding prayer vigils, asking God to keep the United States from removing Saddam. There are the religious liberals, who may take issue with the positions of their church, but are devout believers, and vote Democratic because they believe this is the best way to achieve a certain set of objectives; they are motivated by their conceptions of justice and compassion, and regard liberal policies not as the only way to achieve them, but the surest and the best. But with many there is a belief that liberalism itself is not just a superior method for achieving certain goals, but an idea that is inherently nobler, and bestows on the believer a moral advantage not available to people who believe otherwise.

    Read it all. I'm pretty much in agreement with Lileks here. I definitely see the relationship between how the Left mixes politics and religion in order to advance leftist values, using big government to force their values on an unwilling populace. The recent vote in Berkeley to force fair trade coffee is a good example.

    Sunday, November 10, 2002

    The Democrats problem is not that they failed to get their message out. Indeed, their message wass all too clear, based on their past votes and actions, that they wanted the country to go in a different direction than Bush's, and the country did not agree with them. When the Democrats lunge to the left, effectively merging with the Green party, by their election of Nancy Pelosi as their House Minority leader, they will be digging a deep hole for themselves. They would be wise to consider the famous red-blue map published after the 2000 election, and to recount the votes after the last census adjustment. The Red states have more votes in 2004. The best hope for Democrats as a party is to honestly reevaluate their platform, and find one that respects individual liberty while advancing economic opportunities for the most people. As individuals, the best hope is to honestly consider whether the leftist direction of the party is good for their career, and consider changing parties.

    Saturday, November 09, 2002

    Speaking of party switches, I'm looking for quite a few of them to come in the next two years, now that the Democrat and Green Parties are effectively merging by the Democrats' act of electing Nancy Pelosi as the House Minority Leader (it hasn't happened yet, but seems inevitable). There are probably many Democrats who will not be running as Democrats in 2004 after she takes the Democrat party further left.

    What are those Dems smoking?

    In my last post, I mentioned how Senate control went to the Democrats right after Senator Jeffords switched political parties. It really amazes me that the Democrats were allowed to jump on the committee chairmanships so quickly, after all Jeffords was elected as a Republican, so in a sense, the Senate Democrats were wresting control of the committees in a coup. In addition to voting for the man, the voters may also have been voting for the Republican party he represented. Here in New Jersey, I met lots of people who agreed with me and thought the Lautenberg deal was a dirty cheap shot, but who voted for him anyway, just because they didn't want the Senate to fall into Republican hands. Now, lets imagine that the election actually ended in a 51-49 split in favor of the Democrats, and Senator Lautenberg switched parties to the Republican side. Would he be serving the interests of New Jersey voters? Of course not - because there is clear evidence they voted for him only because he represented the Democratic party.

    Phil Gramm, the retiring Senator from Texas, switched parties back in the 80s (I lived in Dallas then and I remember this). Rather than just put a "D" after his name, he had the grace to resign from office altogether. There was a special election where he ran as a Republican and the voters reelected him as a Republican. That was an honorable thing to do -- put your job on the line for your convictions. The people of Texas clearly chose the man over the party there, and Phil Gramm served with honor.

    My opinion is that the behaviour exhibited by Phil Gramm is the only way to justify a complete turnover of party control in the Senate. The actions of Jim Jeffords were dishonorable. He may have been true to his own convictions, but he spit in the eye of every voter of Vermont who voted for him as a Republican, expecting him to serve the party.
    I don't know what to make of this article from If it's true, then Trent Lott does not deserve to become the Senate majority leader. There was no reason to make a deal with Tom Daschle about committees and chairmen. If the Republicans won the Senate, as they did, they deserve to control the Senate as rapidly as the Democrats did the day after the Jeffords defection. If the Republicans didn't win, well what did Daschle that he could be trusted to deliver? This is one thing that has disappointed me in Trent Lott's Republican leadership. When he's on top, he sells out and compromises. He trusts untrustworthy opponents. It's time for new Republican leadership in the Senate.

    Friday, November 08, 2002

    If I played Dungeons and Dragons, my character would be:

    I Am A: Lawful Good Half-Elf Ranger Cleric

    Lawful Good characters are the epitome of all that is just and good. They believe in order and governments that work for the benefit of all, and generally do not mind doing direct work to further their beliefs.

    Half-Elves are a cross between a human and an elf. They are smaller, like their elven ancestors, but have a much shorter lifespan. They are sometimes looked down upon as half-breeds, but this is rare. They have both the curious drive of humans and the patience of elves.

    Primary Class:
    Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

    Secondary Class:
    Clerics are the voices of their God/desses on Earth. They perform the work of their deity, but this doesn't mean that they preach to a congregation all their lives. If their deity needs something done, they will do it, and can call upon that deity's power to accomplish their goals.

    Mielikki is the Neutral Good goddess of the forest and autumn. She is also known as the Lady of the Forest, and is the Patron of Rangers. Her followers are devoted to nature, and believe in the positive and outreaching elements of it. They use light armor, and a variety of weapons suitable for hunting, which they are quite skilled at. Mielikki's symbol is a unicorn head.

    Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan (e-mail)

    Just what are Rights Anyway?

    Here is a reprint post. I wrote this back on July 22, 2000 for a message board: Conservative Forum for Unitarian Universalists. Don't worry - some of them didn't like it, and it's not something you will typically hear in UU circles today, unless you peek in on the Conservative Forum (but as I am a former UU, I don't post there anymore). At the time I wrote this, I was not a Christian. I was a disillusioned Unitarian Universalist who had just recently discovered Ayn Rand. Here's what I wrote back then:

    In a section of Tom Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense", the author describes the evolution of a simple society from a primitive state where people are concerned simply with survival, to a more complex state where people interact with trade, exchanging value for value, and necessitating a government to preserve certain characteristics of civil human life.

    In Ayn Rand's essay "Man's Rights", the author argues that rights flow from the simple law of identity, "A is A and Man is Man": "If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being, nature forbids him the irrational."

    She criticizes the reclassification of economic entitlements as human rights by asking the question "At whose expense?"

    Reading from the list of FDR's economic bill of rights (just a few examples for brevity):

    • 1. The right to a useful and remunerative job....
    • 2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing...
    • 5. The right of every family to a decent home...
    • 6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
    • 8. The right to a good education.

    Ayn Rand states, "A single question added to each of the above eight clauses would make the issue clear: 'At whose expense?' Jobs, food clothing, recreation (!), homes, medical care, education, etc., do not grow in nature. These are man-made values--goods and services produced by men. Who is to provide them? If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor."

    After reading these two great essays, imagine a conceptualization combining the two.

    Suppose you are on a cruise ship with six other people, like in "Gilligan's Island", and you all wind up a deserted island, without any hope of rescue, at least for a long time. Quite possibly the rest of your life will be spent here. You set up a simple little government, electing a leader, and passing simple laws based on our civil structure.

    Do you have the right to free speech? Of course. Religion? Yes, you do. A free press? Yes, even though your printing methods will be primitive. You will have to pay for (i.e. expend effort) to enforce these rights, but lack of this effort does not mean these rights do not exist. They exist simply because of your existence as rational human beings.

    Now, on the other hand:
    How about the right to an education? How? You might have a teacher in your group, but are they to be forced to teach the others, just because everyone has a right to an education? What if they are too busy with their own survival? Wouldn't forcing someone to provide a service involuntarily represent slavery, a violation of their rights? How about the right to a decent home? You'll have to build it first! You may agree with your friends to build homes together, but that involves work, and they won't help build your home if you're not willing to help them build theirs, unless they are fools who are willing to sell themselves into slavery for your sake. That's a lot different than you walking up to Life and saying "Give me my home - it's my right!!" And how about the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing? You're all going to be working your asses off saving your lives on a daily basis. You don't work, you don't eat, buddy!

    This example may be simple, but the principle is the same in larger groups. Anytime someone speaks of the right to an education, medical care, or a secure retirement, just ask "At whose expense?" Basically, anything that has to be paid for, an economic entity, cannot be considered a right, it must be considered an entitlement paid for by someone, either individuals via free trade, or the collective via taxation or slavery.

    Robert P. George speaks. No Time for Magnanimity No time for gloating, but it is time for determination and action in resolving the wrongs done in the last two years with respect to our judiciary.
    President Bush should revive the nomination of Priscilla Owen. Trent Lott should schedule a floor debate and vote on her nomination at the earliest possible moment. Let Teddy Kennedy and Barbara Boxer howl. Then defeat them. There is no need for further hearings. No one seriously doubts that that Justice Owen is highly qualified for the job. Everybody knows why left-wing Democrats wants to deprive her of it.

    It is time for Republicans to lay down a marker of our own: We must make clear our determination to secure the appointment of judges who will interpret the Constitution and laws faithfully.

    There should be no thought of compromising to appease left-wing Democrats. What we should do, rather, is learn from them. They are not timid about exercising political power when they come into possession of it. Nor should Republicans be.

    I agree completely. This was my major concern with the Democrat-controlled Senate, that the judicial confirmation was being held hostage to a pro-abortion ideology. Let's get this process going now Senators!

    Planned Parenthood requires children under 18 to get parental permission before submitting a poster for their "Roe at 30" artwork and poster contest. Yeah, that's a real significant life-event, submitting a poster to an artwork contest. What other life-events do you think parents might want to know about?
    (Thank you, Amy Welborn, for the link)

    Thursday, November 07, 2002

    The Ice Axe is the newest entry in my blog list on the left. Good site to read!
    Since there is some interest in America's Founding Fathers, and since I "am" Alexander Hamilton, I have added a link to The Federalist Papers over on the left.

    Berkeley measure for politically correct coffee likely to fail. City voters rejected an attempt to require all cups of coffee sold in the city to be "fair trade", shade-grown, or organic. Two quotes from the article:
    "I think the message this sends is that the public wants to choose their products,'' said Mark Inman, roast master at Taylor Maid Farms, which sells organic coffee. "They don't want to be told how to live or how to do their part, or how to help the world out."
    "In terms of raising awareness, we've already won. It has gotten international attention. People didn't even know what fair trade was,'' said Valerie Orth, an organizer for Global Exchange.
    Yes, we now know what fair trade is. We also know what type of government we'll have if these activists ever achieve political power. I know who I'm not going to vote for when the time comes.

    Take away everyones guns, and this happens. (link from Jonah Goldberg at The Corner) Oddly enough, I think this is the first time I've seen Reuters use the word "terror" without quotation marks! Are the people over at PETA going to pay for the squirrel's legal expenses?
    Added some new links and did some rearranging. New links for girl on the right, The Greatest Jeneration, and The Ben File. I'm slowly but surely putting up links to sites that link to me, occasionally rearranging the page so they are easy to find. One question I have to ask about each one is "is their message complementary to mine (or vice versa)?" i.e. do they follow a similar thread, filling in imcomplete points of view, shedding light and adding to my views or correcting me when I'm wrong? That merits a link for sure. David Heddle, Josh Claybourn, Jeffrey Collins, and Mark Byron get special billing as they are the first blogs I read regularly (other than Glenn Reynolds and National Review Online's The Corner).

    Wednesday, November 06, 2002

    Anyone remember the Paul Begala comments about Blue vs. Red America? Where he said that Red America was responsible for the murders of Matthew Shephard and James Byrd? I wrote back then in another website "What about Blue America, and its responsibility for the murder of Daniel Faulkner, how about the woman almost killed in Central Park many years ago?" Begala's argument is similar in tone to the last page of Animal Farm, where it says, painted on the wall of the barn: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others" The mentality of hate crimes says that some victims are more worthy than others. Some crimes are more egregious than others. The case in Kansas of Jonathan and Reginald Carr comes to mind as a particularly gruesome case. Was it a hate crime? Of course it was, just as all murders actually are, but since the victims were white it will never be mentioned as one. We can judge according to our laws, but when we start judging based on someones' merit as a member of a victim class, our legal system has lost its sense of justice. It's up to God to judge the hearts of man.

    I'm very glad that Walter Mondale lost in the Minnesota Senate race. I'm not saying anything new, but I'll say it anyway; the Democrats turned that into an ugly, demeaning circus. I don't know if Terry McAuliffe is right or not when he blames the heckling of the Republican attendees on the Wellstone sons, but I believe he is responsible for the culture that encourages it. I've heard his speeches - full of distortions, half-truths, and hate. According to Kathryn Lopez over at The Corner, Senator Lautenberg behaved similarly.
    Ok, I'm seeing lots of this, let's see who I am:

    Seems to fit - when I worked in New York City, I was more impressed by the rampant capitalism there than anything else people credit the city with. I know a bit about the differences between Hamilton's and Jefferson's philosophies and have to admit that Hamilton was more in touch with what would be more effective for more people, namely jobs and businesses in a growing urban setting. Jefferson valued the gentleman farmer lifestyle, also important, but obviously not for everyone.
    I was pretty quiet all through Election Day, having no idea what was going to happen, afraid to offer any predictions. I'm disappointed with what happened in New Jersey, the results here just confirm to me that this state is about as out of touch with America as it was back in 1864 when it cast its electoral votes for former U.S. General McClelland running against President-elect Abraham Lincoln.

    I am happy with the way the night went overall. This makes me pretty happy. But nothing for me makes me as happy as Katherine Harris's victory in Florida. Way to go to a very decent woman who deserved so much better treatment back in 2000 for her superb handling of certifying the election. I wrote, via e-mail, to her back then (unfortunately deleted when I rebuilt my computer), to say that I admired her integrity, and though I couldn't vote for her, I would dedicate all my future votes to candidates who stood up for the truth in the face of fierce opposition. I hope she doesn't mind, but I'm going to close this post with her reply, which I will keep forever.
    Thank you for your encouragement and support. I am deeply humbled by the compassionate communications we have received.

    Your kind words and generous advice have been an inspiration to the employees of the Florida Department of State and to me. We have worked diligently to execute our responsibilities for the citizens of our state with independence, deliberation and integrity.

    It is my sincerest hope that this great nation willl unite under the rule of law. Thank you again for your support and may God bless America.

    Monday, November 04, 2002

    Here's some moving testimony of the power of prayer, America's Sunday Best, from Opinion Journal.

    Saturday, November 02, 2002

    I'm pretty one-sided, Republican, when it comes to my political views, and since I'm from New Jersey, where we've almost made it a crime to win an election while Republican, you might think it's pretty easy to get angry about politics. True, but when I stop to think about it, why be upset? A preacher told me a long time ago: "God has everything under control".

    The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood,
    And the LORD sits as King forever.
    The LORD will give strength to His people;
    The LORD will bless His people with peace.
    Psalm 29: 10-11 NKJV

    I can't predict the future, so I don't know the details, but I do know that God is true, and He has told us the ending. We may have to go through trouble, maybe even war, but the end of the story is God giving peace to His people.
    International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is on November 10. link
    All days are good for praying for Christians around the world whose lives are on the line for their faith. We Christians here in America are very blessed to have the freedom to worship God according to each ones own conscience and free will. Please remember those around the world who have had that right taken away from them.