Friday, January 31, 2003

The National Hockey League takes a break in order to play its All-Star Game on Sunday. Anyone think there is any relevance to the fact that this year's format is East vs. West, and not International vs. North America like it was last year? Are they looking at the America-bashing going on in the Axis of Weasels? Looking at the letter written by the United We Stand letter, written by eight European countries' Prime Ministers, I notice only one, Prime Minister Havel, of the Czech Republic, is from a country that produces a lot of players in the NHL. So move players from the green areas of this map onto the North American side, and we play vs. the players from the other areas. Nah, too complicated. Its East vs. West this year.

Speaking of hockey, Amy and I were at the Devils rout of the Flyers last night, and enjoyed it very much! At the All-Star break, the Devils are #1 in the Eastern Conference (on a pct basis, or points/games played)! My favorite Western conference team, the Dallas Stars, are #1 in the West!

UPDATE: Forgot to mention, link to the map courtesy of Glenn Reynolds, InstaPundit.

Richard Hall disagrees with the conclusion of my last post.

I'm going to let Pastor Hall have the last word on this topic, but I'd like to comment on one of his comments to his post. Why don't I make the same claim for Jews and Christians, after all don't they view God differently as well?

Well, to answer that, let me say this: A Jew can become a Christian and still remain a Jew, but a Muslim cannot become a Christian without renouncing his Muslim beliefs. I know that there are people who disagree with that, but basically it's their word vs. the word of those who have made that decision. Jesus' disciples were all Jewish, and I don't doubt they were Christians. Paul didn't renounce his Jewish heritage, though he did urge his GentiIe converts to not follow Jewish laws, as they were irrelevant to their salvation. I know people today who are Jewish and accept Jesus as the Messiah, and they have not renounced their Jewish faith; in fact, they seem to be more excited about it than ever before as they read the Hebrew scriptures and look for all the references to the coming Messiah that are mentioned there. They worship in synagogues with other Jews who also recognize Jesus as the Christ and this is a fairly widespread phenomenon. I don't see any similar movement of "Muslim Christians"; in fact, in countries dominated by Islam, a Muslim who converts to Christianity has committed a capital offense.

What about Jews who don't believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Well, I don't claim to know perfectly what constitutes believing in Jesus vs. rejecting Him. Old Testament people of faith, such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David, are most certainly recipients of God's grace, even though their only knowledge of Jesus' works was based on prophecy. Jesus said, "If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority." (John 7:17 NKJV) Based on that, I believe that if someone makes a willful decision to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, then God will show them what is necessary and true to complete His work of grace in their life.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Evangelism Antagonism
Sharing the Good News is not a hate crime.

I'd like to comment on a reader's comments contained in the article, who said "Since when are Muslims nonbelievers? Muslims do not need converting, because Christians and Muslims believe in and worship the same God. Why can't we recognize this simple fact and live and worship together in harmony?" The only way this statement could be considered to be true is if one believes in what we were discussing recently, a human Jesus who had some good ideas who died as a mere martyr two thousand years ago. That isn't a description of Christianity; what it actually describes is nineteenth-century classical Unitarianism, or modern-day Spongism.

The question of whether Christians and Muslims believe in and worship the same God depends on who God is, and one way to test this is to compare God's attributes in these two religious views. In Christianity God sent His Son to "give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45 NKJV). We are told by Jesus, speaking of Himself, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (John 6:29 NKJV) Also, "this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40 NKJV)

The following information on Islam is based on the book Unveiling Islam, by Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, which I consider to be an excellent reference by two brothers who converted from Islam to Christianity. In Islam, there is no concept of a Son of God, Allah shares glory with no one. There is no concept of fallen man, we are expected to keep the commandments of God through our own efforts, and there is no provision for redemption if we fail. Allah is said to be merciful, but there is no assurance in the Quran about how to obtain it. The creed for Islam is simple: There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet. It denies Jesus' status as Son of God, it denies His atonement, and it denies His resurrection, because they claim He never really died.

Christianity and Islam present two images of God which have different attributes, one claiming the eternal existence of God's Son, and the other denying it. The contradiction forces me to admit those two images of God cannot describe the same God.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

ok, another post, or rather, a link to a good one. Jeffrey Collins discussues the SOTU. (Read the following entries too)

Back from watching President Bush's State of the Union speech. Liked it overall, thought it was a good and inspiring evening. Just a couple of thoughts on the audience. Was that an 8-letter vulgarity (b***s***) lip-synced by Nancy Pelosi when the President said the average family would save $1100 on his tax cuts? Sure looked like it to me. When the President talked about military action, I noticed that his Joint Chiefs of Staff sat solemnly still, never applauding. A symbolic, yet real, sign of restraint, and of reluctance to yield military might rashly. Yet when the President lauded the efforts of the lower-ranking soldiers, everyone applauded enthusiastically, including the Joint Chiefs.

I was moved by the President's initiative on AIDS. I think this might be a cause most Americans are willing to support. I'm sure there will be unintended (and unwelcome) consequences (government spending for drugs drives up demand-hence inflation for AIDS drugs for example) but I'll think about them tomorrow. Similar thoughts on hydrogen-powered cars. They will come, as long as government doesn't regulate them faster than they can be developed.

More thoughts later, time to sleep.

Yesterday Glen Reynolds mentioned the anti-war group United for Peace and Justice. He says it "seems to be trying to set itself up as an alternative to the nasty looniness of A.N.S.W.E.R." I've looked at the site and its list of friends. I'm not as optimistic as Jim Henley.

IRD President Diane Knippers is one evangelical who is speaking out on Being Anti Anti-War

UPDATE: Jason Steffens has some excellent commentary on evangelicals' silence on the issue of war. Mark Byron also comments, adding that the evangelicals' silence is just due to the fact that the war is not a biblical core value.

To that let me add that the so-called "Religious Right" is not the monolithic power structure made out by its detractors. Ann Coulter noted this in her book "Scandal", that there is a lot more uniformity of thought on the left than on the right, where freedom of speech is more important than political correctness. Just her opinion of course, and mine too.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent post about truth.

Let me see if I can add anything of value to his fine thoughts.

Repeating Josh's first point, a common misperception about witnessing is that Christians are said to be judgmental and arrogant by their witnessing. But is this so? If the Bible is true, as Christians claim it to be, this truth is not subject to human will. It's true whether or not we wish it to be. One of the claims of the Bible is that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. If this is true, then it isn't arrogant at all to tell others about it; true arrogance would be in keeping silent, as Jonah tried to do when God commanded him to go to Ninevah. Jonah didn't want to go, not because of fear, but because of his prejudice against the Ninevites. Of course, Jonah wound up preaching to the Ninevites, they repented and were saved. Jonah's preaching actually saved many lives (and even then Jonah was pretty slow understanding God's mercy).

Now about the search for truth: I used to think of truth as a journey. I used to be in a religious background that believed that the journey existed for its own sake. After a while, that stopped making sense to me, kindof like driving around in the countryside with no destination in mind. That's fun sometimes, but if you're trying to get somewhere, it won't work. Why is that important? Because eventually, we're all trying to get somewhere. It's the same feeling I confronted before: why am I here? what do I want to do with my life? is there any purpose to it all? Eventually we get tired of aimless driving and seek a destination. It doesn't do any good to pretend that a destination doesn't exist. You know you want to go somewhere, the only questions you have to answer then is "where do I want to go and how do I get there?" Christianity has unique answers to those questions.

Another notion about truth is that the New Testament describes spiritual truths apart from physical reality. That is not the way the Gospel is presented however. The writers of the New Testament claimed to present direct eyewitness testimony of Jesus' resurrection. This testimony is true or false. If true, the New Testament describes a Man who claimed to be God's Son, sent from heaven to accomplish our salvation if we believe in Him, or to be condemned if we reject Him. If false, the whole message is a lie, and it is pointless to believe any of it. There is no value in believing that Jesus was a good man with good ideas which we can believe in whether he existed or not. We are told to believe in Him.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Religious Liberty

Advocacy Needed for Jordanian Widow

Urgent! Petitions are needed on behalf of a Jordanian Christian widow has been ordered to give up her children. IRD’s Religious Liberty Program asks you to take action through prayer and advocacy.

Please pray for Siham Qandah and her two children, and prayerfully consider speaking up for her to the Jordanian authorities.

Bishop to Gov. Davis: Choose Abortion or Communion

I like Mark Shea's comment on the bishop's authority.

Also, to answer Russ Lopez's comment, "Does the bishop want all Catholics to stop receiving Holy Communion? Who's going to be left in church?" There is a good reason to single Governor Davis out while ignoring the pro-life positions held by Catholics who do not hold any political office. The Governor is a special-case person because of his authority to influence abortion-related legislation. It is appropriate for someone holding political power to be held accountable for it.

Religion and Politics

I became aware, after becoming a board member of a UUA congregation many years ago, of a lot of political stuff going on which had nothing to do with religion. I was particularly distressed by the fact that we were adamantly opposed to any involvement of the church in politics. Well, apparently that just applied to those "radical religious right" folks. What kind of politics are we talking about here? Mostly anything having to do with promoting socialism and a bigger welfare state, with extreme environmentalism and pacifism thrown in for good measure. I'll use my dinner discussion group as a proxy for the congregation; what were the topics of discussion?
on President Bush's tax plan: the tax cuts are immoral, a give-away to the rich, Americans pay too little in taxes, and we should be more like those good-hearted Europeans, especially the French.
on the environment: no sacrifice is too great to fight global warming, economic development is bad for the Third World, we're running out of resources, we must provide funding for family planning groups which advocate abortion

Now this isn't just the UUA, there's a bunch of mainline denominations, represented pretty well by the National Council of Churches, who think that promoting this type of activism is promoting the gospel, forgetting about the difference between the food which perishes, and the food which endures to everlasting life. I hold no grudges against people who truly wish to help others, but I question how effective the help is when it is coming from government programs rather than genuine personal transformation.

Another issue is the anti-war movement. I noticed in my research yesterday that several churches, again including the NCC, were involved in peace marches last weekend. I was disappointed at first, but then I noticed something. They were all, except one, marching on Sunday, and had no mention in their iteneraries of any involvement in the Internation ANSWER hatefest. The one exception, which even proudly proclaimed their involvement with ANSWER on their Washington Office's website, was the UUA. So to all you other protestors who wanted to make your point, but didn't want to be associated with the World Worker's Party -- good for you!!!

Thursday, January 23, 2003

I haven't posted on the Planned Parenthood poster controversy. I'm not mad at blogs4god but I noted when I saw it that there are people close enough to me (remember I met and married Amy in a Unitarian Universalist Church, and her mom is still a member there, and the UUA is a strong PP supporter - draw your own conclusions), that relationships would be strained, not to mention blowing any chance of being a witness for Christ. My take on it is similar to overhearing a discussion I don't want to join; I'll walk away and talk elsewhere.

Eve Tushnet has a good post about abortion and compassion.

She asks why compassion has to be associated with state action. I agree; I wonder too. I wonder why people who give a lot of time and money to other people through private efforts, especially programs run by their churches, yet don't like to pay ever-increasing taxes for failing social programs, are labeled uncompassionate. When talking about all the money spent on acts of compassion, why does the liberal press consider only money spent by the government? Couldn't they at least give credit to those who give via the private sector, including mission work done by churches?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Good post by Mark Byron on the Second Cold War.

There is a lot I'd like to add to this, but any attempt to start a post turns into rambling, and I can't stay up too late. I'm going to return to this however, but just one quick point: The sympathy for socialism within liberal religion was a major kick in the pants for me to reconsider my Unitarian Universalist membership. Their involvement with last weekend's ANSWER anti-war protest was just another sign that I was right to leave.

Jonah Goldberg should see this. (link via Jeffrey Collins Joyful Christian)
More links on abortion

National Review Online's content on this subject is excellent, but my favorite column from their content today is this one by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Some interesting links on abortion

Rod Dreher writes on how the Religious Left celebrates Roe v. Wade.
I remember similar services at my former Unitarian Universalist congregation, including one right before election day 2000, when the minister made an impassioned plea to vote for "freedom of choice", and another member, during church announcements, literally begged everyone to save America from the dark ages; there was no need to say which party she was referring to -- the number of Republicans in that crowd could be counted on one hand -- and I got rebuked by her and several others for my publicly known position that I was voting for Gov. Bush. There is little diversity in the UUA, it seems, when it comes to diversity of thought.

Speaking of diversity, Peggy Noonan writes on the dearth of it within the Democratic party on the ideology behind abortion.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

President Bush has declared Sunday to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

The issue of abortion is one where I can be numbered among those who have changed their minds to a pro-life outlook. The argument that originally swayed me over was the human rights one, equating it to the practice of slavery which we ended in the nineteenth century. The notion that African-Americans were not truly human is similar to the argument that an unborn child cannot be considered to be a living person. Both beliefs were used to justify acts of violence, slavery and murder, against others.

I made my pro-life decision before becoming a Christian, though the decisions were not that far apart. If you consider Jefferson's words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" to be the raison d'etre of our country, it seems to me that the life of an unborn child is more important than any inconvenience a mother would face, since the right to life is explicitly stated in both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, and there is no mention of the right to kill others for ones own convenience. The pro-abortion lobby always loves to bring up the health of the mother, but that's just a red herring; they don't bother to mention that the courts have adopted a very loose standard for the health of the mother, and abortion is practically available as an alternate method of birth control during the entire term of pregnancy. I see no merit in the argument that late-term abortions are too rare to worry about restricting; there are abortionists who specialize in performing late-term abortions, so it must be done often enough to support their practice.

What bothers me about the rhetoric about abortion is how it has been elevated to a sacred human right, with no consideration of how other rights are being trampled upon to protect it. Pro-life messages are censored from our culture, people who hold pro-life views are barred (or were when the Democrats held the Senate) from serving in our judiciary, and the free speech rights of people protesting at abortion clinics are not respected. [NB: I do not endorse or support anyone who commits any act of violence in the cause of pro-life activism, including acts of violence against any other person or their property]

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Roger Clegg speaks truth to power in response to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/Push Wall Street Project.
Let's look at the NAACP response to President Bush's statement again. The NAACP says that the University of Michigan's admission program is not based on a quota system. They seem to be playing along with the notion that discriminatory quotas are wrong. Let's look at their website and see what they think of quotas. Here's a link to their Economic Reciprocity Initiative, and another one to their grading criteria.

Let's see now: they base their results on "performance in the areas of (1) employment, hiring and promotions, (2) procurement/vendor relations (3) advertising/marketing opportunities and expenditures, and (4) charitable/philanthropic activity." and "The criteria is based upon the percentage of the African-American population in the United States (13%)." This looks like a quota so far. Going on, looking at the table:

Needs Improvement(NI)
No Responce/No Points
Not Rated/No Points(NR/NP)
Not Applicable

Based on the table, any African-American participation greater than 14% is excellent. So using this methodology, I would be a model employer if I started a business and refused to hire anyone but African-Americans! Try substituting the word "whites" in the last sentence and ask yourself if that's not discrimination. Then ask if the grading criteria set up by the NAACP does not indeed define a system where it is ok to discriminate against people who are not African-Americans.

Now granted, I haven't proved whether the University of Michigan system is quota-based or not. It does seem to me however, that the NAACP endorses the use of quotas (while denying it), and their attack on the President's statement using the argument that the UM system is not a quota-system is disingenuous.
So, expanding on the previous post about Unitarian Universalists belief in God: can you believe in God without engaging in God-talk? Well, if ones faith is an inchoate set of principles based on words which can be redefined to suit any given day's notion of political correctness, I suppose one could worship a manufactured God, but this would be a God void of any personality, just as effective as worshipping a block of wood. What bothered me the most about the UUA when I was there was that no matter how hard I tried, it never came across as anything other than tearing down previously laid-down foundations. There was never any building up, no foundation, no professing of what was true.
The Unitarian Universalist Association's President comes out with a statement saying they need to profess a belief in God. No, wait, he says it isn't so! Here's a copy of a letter he sent to an email list concerning the report (thanks to the Conservative Forum of Unitarian Universalists):


I understand that there has been considerable discussion and distress over what was published in a newspaper article recently.

I am writing to share with you what happened, to address your concerns, and to assure you that I share many of the concerns you have expressed.

Here is what happened. This past Sunday (1/12) I preached a sermon entitled "The Language of Faith" at First Jefferson UU Church in Ft. Worth, Texas. I also addressed this issue in the column I wrote for the upcoming March-April issue of UU World; this article has been posted on our website at and I encourage you to read it.

Following the service, I did an interview with a reporter from the local newspaper, an interview which covered a number of issues including the
points about religious language I made in my sermon and magazine column.

The reporter published a story that reported things I did not say, and drew conclusions that I did not reach. In particular, the reporter's first sentence read, "A former atheist who is now president of the Unitarian Universalist Association will push to put the word 'God' into a new statement of principles."

Let me be very clear: I spoke of the need to periodically revisit-that is, to read and reflect upon-our foundational language. I did not call for the Principles to be rewritten. I spoke of the need for individuals to consider supplementing the language of the Principles with religious language in describing their own faith. I did not call for the inclusion of the word "God" in either the Principles or in anyone's individual descriptions of
their personal faith.

I understand the alarm and genuine distress that many of you felt on reading the news story and accounts of it. I would be similarly alarmed if any UUA president presumed to do what the story suggested I had done.

You need to know that I did not in fact make the statements reported in the Ft. Worth paper. Here is the text of what I said in my sermon at the Ft.
Worth church about God language and the Christian tradition:

But "religious language" doesn't have to mean "God talk." And I'm not suggesting that Unitarian Universalism return to traditional Christian language. But I do feel that we need some language that would allow us to capture the possibility of reverence, to name the holy, to talk about human agency in theological terms-the ability of humans to shape and frame our
world guided by what we find to be of ultimate importance.

I have learned from these events that I need to exercise greater care in addressing the broader world, including reporters, about Unitarian
Universalist language and beliefs. I mistakenly assumed that the reporter would understand my remarks with the same level of nuance and clarity that I had intended them. That did not happen, and on reflection I see that it was unlikely ever to happen. I should have better anticipated how someone not steeped in our tradition might easily draw the erroneous conclusions he drew.

That said, I still believe that it is time for us to have a conversation about our foundational language. Indeed, we have a bylaw requiring that the Board of Trustees review the Principles and Purposes every 15 years (see Article XIV, section C-14.1 of the UUA Bylaws, on the web at ). My hope is that both the sermon and the World column will serve as a stimulus to get this
conversation going.

I ask your help in moving past this misunderstanding, and I ask your further help in redirecting our energy to where it can do the most productive good.

If you speak with someone not on this e-mail list who is concerned about what they have heard, please forward this e-mail so that they can read what actually happened.

Unitarian Universalism today is strong and vibrant. We are increasingly claiming the Good News of our liberal faith. Let's use our energy to make Unitarian Universalism even stronger, and to share our Good News with a world that badly needs it. This incident has the potential to lead us into a rich discussion of who we are and how we describe ourselves. I welcome that discussion.

In faith,

William G. Sinkford

Back to the blog after a few days off: let's see... what's in the news today?

President Bush states his case opposing discrimination disguised as racial preferences, the NAACP and People For the American Way disagree.

Mark Byron has an excellent post on a speech by The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and its relevance to today's times.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

I've been thinking of Jenn Gray, and her ending of her blog girl on the right, and what I said in my last post. Thinking of it in terms of how blogging affects me, and how it is contributing to our zeitgeist.

First of all, as to how it affects the zeitgeist: I'm under no illusions that I'm going to sway public opinion. People who read my blog are either reading it because they agree (and like to read opinions they agree with) or they disagree (and are looking for opinions to attack). I do the same thing. In fact, its why I link to both National Review and Mother Jones below. I believe it's important to read both sides of an issue, and be aware of opinions contrary to ones own. It makes one better able to defend their own beliefs, as well as changing ones mind when they're wrong, as I have done in my own life. The most I think my blog will do is let people know of a news story they may not have heard otherwise (rarely), or to hear a defense of Christianity that goes against the secular worldview, or to hear of some activity or teaching of liberal religion that deserves to be confronted. If I contribute anything of value to anyone, I'm glad to have done so, but I'm under no illustion that I do this better than others. Linking to others' words is a great feature of html and the Internet.

Now, how does it affect me? Since I've started blogging, I sometimes feel the need to walk away from it for a few days. Or, a better way to put it is -- the people in my life who I see personally, such as in my church (but others as well), are much more important, and blogging takes time away from them, at least if done in excess. So I'm active in my church, both in the choir and other activities, we worship God (prayer & Bible study) with people from another church on a day of the week other than Sunday, and we're active in a non-church, non-work hobby (target-shooting - which I consider a patriotic exercise of my Second Amendment rights as well as a lot of fun). And we go to hockey games! And we're adopting, and will someday (within the next 16 months) have a child in our family!

So basically, I've decided to keep on blogging, but to give priority to other activities involving face-to-face interaction with other people. Of course, the points I talked about on New Year's Day are also true: the ultimate priority is to God: Love Him first with all you've got, and let that love flow through you to all those you know, and who you meet. Life is rich and wonderful when God is at the helm.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Mark Byron and girl on the right discuss the end of a blog (Jenn Gray, aka girl on the right, is moving on). I can relate to what Mark and Jess are saying. Blogging takes time, and I don't want to invest the time required to become rich or famous in this medium (I'm no Glenn Reynolds). Much of the time, what I'd like to say has already been said much better than others (I'm no Mark Byron either!). I experienced a little bit of blog burnout last month, stopping for Christmas, and then coming back into it very slowly, eventually deciding it was time to slow down with it, but not stop completely.
Credit Where Credit is Due Department: (link via Best of the Web)

Muslim stops synagogue torching

You're a good man, Mr. Ali!

I've been reading the comments on the Bush tax plan, and I've got mixed feelings about it. I'm pleased that corporate earnings will only be taxed once, regardless of whether they are paid out in the form of dividends or capital gains, but I am concerned about the new complexity of accounting required. In a world void of class warfare propaganda, I'd prefer that corporations not pay taxes on their earnings (the taxes are currently paid by stockholders when they receive cash distributions, either by dividends or capital gains), but try telling that to class-warriors. Governor McGreevey flooded the airwaves this last year here in New Jersey with anti-corporate spin. He accused big corporations (without naming any names) of paying no income taxes, conveniently neglecting to tell the whole truth: that investors pay taxes on corporate earnings in the form of capital gains taxes and taxes on dividends, which is where corporate profits wind up in the long run.

From Ramsey Clark Compares Jesus to Terrorist. Next time you feel the need to comment about Jesus' actions, Mr. Clark, you'd be wise to read the book first, so you can relate the event accurately. There is a huge difference between running some corrupt people out of the temple with a "whip of cords" vs. killing them via a Hamaside bombing. If I recall correctly, the only instance in the Bible of a suicide act intended to kill others was done by Samson.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

I'm adding cut on the bias to the blogroll. Several bloggers linked to susanna's posting related to freedom of speech and a review of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. Good reading and welcome to the blogroll!
From the Princeton Tory (my neighbors!) Brad Simmons '03 writes on The Christian Right. (It's on p.8 of the PDF file - Adobe Acrobat Reader required)

On campus, in society, in public office -- Christians have the right to speak out on political and cultural issues, just as everyone else does.

More on the What Would Jesus Drive issue from the Institute for Religion and Democracy:
Mark Tooley's original editorial comment
Response from The Rev. Ron Sider and Rev. Jim Ball
Mark Tooley's response to The Rev. Ron Sider and Rev. Jim Ball

My views are similar to Mr. Tooley's. I have no problem with individual Christians acting on their political beliefs. I have a problem when they try to get my denomination or congregation involved. If they don't speak for me, then they shouldn't claim to, nor should they use my money to fund their political activism.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Dennis Prager talks about talk radio, liberal media, and the search for a leftist Rush Limbaugh. Give it up, Democrats, you'll never find him (or her). Three words say why: Supply and Demand

The Foudation for Individual Rights in Education confronts Rutgers University (just down the turnpike from me!) for banning the InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship. Religious Cleansing on Campus

Joshua Claybourn talked about a similar situation at Harvard recently.

From today's OpinionJournal, The Family Way describes how fathers are an essential part of the family.

This issue is pertinent to me. Back when I was a Unitarian Universalist, I saw very little support for traditional family values. Opinions such as Mr. Wilson's were derided as rants from the "religious right", and attacked for advocating a patriarchal point of view. When I decided to start questioning UU-thinking, the family-values issue was among the first with which I disagreed with them. It seemed pretty obvious to me that the elements of society that are the worst off are the same ones that have a weak family foundation, and the correlation was too great to attribute to other causes such as racism alone. I started to wonder what type of foundation my family (just Amy and me when I was thinking about this) would have in the UUA. I didn't see much of one. I'd consider that the issue of family structure was a primary driver in my decision to become a Christian a year and a half ago.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

The Media Research Center's annual awards for the worst reporting are here. (link provided by NRO's The Corner).

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Amy and I saw The Two Towers again today. I'm going to assume that everybody who wanted to see it already has (you've also read the book), so I'm going to jump right in with my thoughts on it.

The movie is magnificent. It's been too long since I've read the book to know how consistent it is with the original (I will soon remedy that), so I have no complaints about plot changes. Though much of the movie is about war, I don't see the movie as glorifying war, I see it more as recognizing, as Sam said at the end, "there is good in this world, and it's something worth fighting for". I was moved by the scenes of the women and children of Rohan who would be killed if the men of arms failed in their defense of Helms Deep. It served to emphasize that they were not just fighting for their freedom or for a plot of land; they were fighting for their existence. If they had failed, Rohan would simply cease to exist altogether.

I was looking for some of the script to remember in this second viewing, just as Gandalf's line (my favorite scene) from Fellowship Of The Ring: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time we are given.". My favorite, next to Sam quoted above, is when Eowyn says "the women of this country learned long ago that those who do not bear swords may still die upon them." (a good slogan for the Second Amendment Sisters, with whom I agree).

The portrayal of Gollum (Smeagol) was excellent. The moral fight he had with his evil nature was important to see, given his corruption by the ring. I'm having trouble understanding, from the movie alone, what his motivation was for helping Frodo find the way into Mordor. Maybe a detail will emerge on the upcoming DVD, as was done for Fellowship Of The Ring.

My only gripe about the movie, maybe even Tolkien's original work, is that it seems to romanticize medieval life, and to demonize industry. When Saruman is shown building his army of Uruk-Hai, it seems to be presented as an indictment against science and technology, as if these were, by themselves, evil. I don't share that view. I think that science and technology have done much for good. We are much better off for having left our medieval history behind us. There is certainly the capacity for the moral abuse of technology, but that is a symptom of our sin nature, not of our intelligence.

Subjects to consider

I've been asked by a reader to expand on previous posts about Messianic Jews. I promise to do that, I even have a draft essay, but I also feel the need to talk to my friends who are members of a Messianic synagogue in Philadelphia. I'd like to convey their words rather than my own in order to report on it more accurately. For the moment, let it be known that there are people out there, many of them in fact, who, just like Peter, can say to Jesus "We have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (John 6:69), and who have not renounced their Jewish roots.

Much of the time, I will be posting on the "Religious Left", since it is the name of this blog, and what I originally wanted to address. I see two aspects to the Religious Left, those who intertwine liberal politics with religious belief, and those who corrupt orthodox doctrine. I will talk about the former much more often than the latter, however, my observation is that (seen from the eyes of an erstwhile Unitarian Universalist) the two groups have a very large overlap. This isn't absolutely true - there is a movement within evangelical Christianity to address environmental concerns, for instance. I'll be careful to distinguish them when the need arises.

It bears repeating that the reason I feel the need to confront the "Religious Left" is that no one in the media, or in the leftist zeitgeist, seems to recognize it. There is an old joke, popular among Unitarians, "the religious right is neither". I asked one of them what he thought of the "religious left". He couldn't answer the question. He couldn't even recognize that there could be such a thing. Isn't it obvious that religious fundamentalists are using religion to destroy American ideals of "separation of church and state"? Well, the truth is that the First Amendment of the Constitution uses different words to describe what is more accurately called "freedom of religion", and that nowhere does it say that people are entitled to a right of "freedom from religion", by which I mean that there is no recognized right to protect people from being exposed to religion (everyone is free, of course, to say "no" to religious belief). I have a right, freedom of speech, to talk about my religion in public life. I have a right, as a Christian (as do others of other faiths), to hold political office. Those who say that Christians are not qualified to hold public office (as was said about President Bush's recent appointments to the FDA, and about Attorney General John Ashcroft) are not telling the truth; the Constitution explicitly forbids such a religious test.
Meditations on knowing God
I have a Bible reading discipline that I keep very rigourously; it is a foundation of my life now since I've been following Christ for the last year and a half. Over this last Christmas time, I think God has been showing me something new however: that reading the Bible is no substitute for prayer, praise, and walking with Him. Over the last two weeks, I've often been pressed for time (even without blogging), and everyday things to do sometimes became a little frantic. Sometimes I had to choose between prayer and Bible study in the morning as I had to redefine priorities in order to get to work on time. My experience is that Bible study could be put off to the evening (I have some verses memorized anyway, so I can read in my head anytime), but prayer is an absolute first-thing-in-the-morning thing to do. Look at the opening verses of Psalm 18 - they are an expression of love and trust in God which are wonderful words to greet God with each day:

I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:1-2 (NKJV)

2003: Time to regroup, reevaluate, and start anew

During a considerable length of time away from blogging, I've thought about what I want to accomplish with this website, even if I should be continuing it. My primary purpose (in life, not just this blog) is to do God's will. Does this blog support that goal? If it serves to satisfy my pride, I don't think so; but on the other hand, if it serves to convey useful or inspirational information to others, and done in a proper state of mind, maybe it does. I've been told by some readers that it does that, but on the other hand, I've also discovered that blogging takes time away from other things. Most importantly, I've found that sometimes in a rush to get a thought developed, and written, I've sometimes put off something that is more important: either important prayer time, Bible study, reading a good or important book. With that in mind, I have for the moment decided to keep up the blogging, but with less frequency. Last year I committed to a four-time-per-week posting frequency, this year I'm going to reduce it to two times a week. Some weeks I will blog more often, but when I need to do more important things, or when I have nothing to say, I am not going to force myself to write. You won't be missing anything -- the writing I put out when I'm in such a position isn't worth as much as when I can write more thoughtfully.

Now that that is out of the way, allow me to welcome everyone back, and I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year!