Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why Mommy is a Moonbat

Detroit Pete sent me a link to this bit of leftist drek. At first I thought it was a spoof. But it seems not to be. Where to begin?

"Democrats make sure we share all our toys, just like Mommy does" - including the very special toys that we thought were just ours, because Democrats don't believe in owning personal property. Everything belongs to everybody, and that couple in the background (who look a bit like Al Franken and Teresa Kerry) should feel really bad about not sharing their cigar and poodle with the man sitting on the park bench.

"Democrats make sure we are always safe, just like Mommy does." Safe from elephants walking through the park, that is. But crazed madmen who want to kill you? Mommy will dialog with them, because after all, their worldview is just as valid as ours. We mustn't be judgemental like those naughty Republicans. After all, a suicide bomber is the poor man's cruise missile.

"Democrats make sure children can go to school, just like Mommy does." Yes. Mommy packs an apple and a carrot into Junior's bookbag, while in the background Mr. and Mrs. Franken celebrate the graduation of their son from a school with an admission fee of $160,000 while the man in the ball cap and trenchcoat from the park bench looks on wistfully. Of course, since here in FairyStoryLand the Democrats are running things, there's no guarantee that you'll learn anything in school, because the teacher's unions have removed all accountability. And there's little likelihood of you getting a job after graduation, since they've taxed small businesses out of existence.

Cheer up, dear. You can always move to Madison and write fairy tales

Monday, January 30, 2006

NT06 - Acts 6, in which deacons are selected and Stephen is arrested

Acts 6 is a very short chapter. The chapter divisions here chop up the narrative strangely, as Chapter 7 is Stephen's trial, speech, and stoning, and Chapter 8 begins with Saul's approval of the sentence. But in Acts 6 we see the effect of growing pains in the first mega-church. (The Jerusalem community of believers numbered several thousand at this point.) It's interesting that the number of Hellenic believers seems to outnumber the Semitic believers, as the first crop of deacons all have Greek names.

NT06: Acts 4-5, in which persecution begins but cooler heads prevail

In Acts 4 and 5, Peter and James suffer the consequences of healing the crippled beggar. It's interesting that the Sadducees are upset because Peter and James are preaching not just Jesus risen, but resurrection in general. (The Sadducess did not believe in a resurrection of the dead, as did the Pharisees.)

The end of 4 and the beginning of 5, where the early community of believers held goods in common, may describe the first commune. Marx thoroughly perverted "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Never underestimate the devil's ability to to twist good into evil. Likewise, never lose hope that God works all things for the good of those that love Him!

5:1-5 imples that Ananias represented the money he gave was the whole price he got from the sale. Verse 4 implies that since the money was his to do with as he pleased, he would have been perfectly justified in holding some of it back for personal use. The grave sin was in trying to "look good" while really holding out. Verse 5 says that great fear seized all who heard of this. Fear of what? One hopes, fear of lying about one's gifts, not fear of not giving.

I find it very interesting that it's Gamaliel who cautions the Sanhedrin about oppsing God's designs. it's widely thought that Gamaliel was the father of Hillel, who is widely oconsidered to be the father of Rabbinic Judaism. To this day, part of the Seder meal is eating a "Hillel Sandwich," a combination of matzoh, maror, and charoset (minus the Paschal lamb eaten in Hillel's time.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Doesn't look like me at all

According to the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz, I'm a Lamborghini Murcielago!

You're not subtle, but you don't want to be. Fast, loud, and dramatic, you want people to notice you, and then get out of the way. In a world full of sheep, you're a raging bull.

So they say.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Oh, too funny.

Don't click here if you don't "get" Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or if you don't know who Lileks and Hewitt are.

OTOH, if you do, make sure you've swallowed your beverage before clicking the link. For safety's sake, I implore you. James as Patsy... too much.

NT06 - Acts 1-3, In which orders and weapons are issued

Acts is really a continuation of Luke, so it makes sense to take a running start by reviewing the last chapter of Luke before diving into Acts 1. Go ahead, I'll wait.

In verses 1-10 you can see immediately the parallel with Mark 16. There are differences, too. Mark reports that the women were scared and didn't tell anyone, while Luke reconts that they told the disciples. Luke lists Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and some others. Mark lists the two Marys and Salome. Luke says they saw two men. Mark says they saw one man sitting on the right side. There's also Matthew's version and John's version.

Skeptics love to crow about these differences as "contradictions." How can all these different accounts possibly be true? You can decide for yourself. Read carefully and you'll see that John's account is the only one that's really divergent, but they're not mutually exclusive.

I'll save the details for Easter, though. :-) For now, lets continue on into Acts.

In Acts 1, Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until he sends the Holy Spirit. The disciples choose Matthias to replace Judas. He's not elected, but chosen by lot - to the Jews, a sacred method of making decisions.

In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descends as tongues of flame, and the apostles preach in the languages of their audience. Were they empowered to speak, or were the listeners empowered to hear? Doesn't matter. The Word gets out, and a community of believers begins to form.

In Acts 3, Peter heals a man unable to walk. The telling thing is that he does so not by his own power, but by the power of faith in the name of Jesus. Surely the lame man had been present a few weeks before when Jesus had cleared the merchants and moneychangers out of the courtyard. He may have heard the cries of "Give us Barabbas!" and "Crucify him!" echoing through the streets. And he may well have heard the strange whispers beginning to circulate that Jesus had been seen alive again.

Memo to Mahmoud

Iran Blames Bombings on U.S., Britain: Bombs went off inside a bank and outside an office building belonging to a state environmental agency. Iran's nutter of a president blames the US and UK.

Memo to Mahmoud - if the US or Britain decides to bomb Iran, the targets will not be a bank and an office building.

Friday, January 20, 2006

NT06 - Mark 16, in which we find something very disturbing

Many translations include a note that the most reliable, earliest manuscripts of Mark do not contain verses 9-20. What's stunning to me is that they DO contain verses 1-8. The earliest Gospel ends with the Empty Tomb. That's a real problem for skeptics.

Some skeptics claim that the resurrection story was borrowed from Mithraism, a secretive Roman "mystery cult" that featured a resurrected god-man. Mark was the first canonical gospel written. It was compiled about 50 years after Jesus' death, most likely from eyewitness recollections (Mk 14:51) and a couple of now-lost written collections of Jesus' words and deeds. Fifty years is a long time. winesses die, memories fade, stories can shift with retellings. But Paul's writings show that belief in the Resurrection as a literal, historical event was prevalent just 20 years after the event. And 20 years is not enough time for "legendary accretion" to override living memory.

Other skeptics argue that the Gospels are simply fiction. But as a work of fiction in that culture, Mark really messed up by making the witnesses women. At that time, women were not allowed to testify in court because they were considered unreliable. Besides, there's no description of the moment of resurrection itself. I mean, come on! That's the climax of the story! If you're making it up, you really should have someone there to describe it, right?

You can set aside the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy and look at the Gospel of Mark simply as an historical document. And even from that secular point of view, you're left staring into an empty tomb. Mark says that Mary, Mary, and Salome were trembling, bewildered, and afraid. Can't say as I blame them.

If I didn't know why the tomb was empty, I'd be pretty upset, too.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

He's baaack (maybe)

So old Osama seems to have released another tape.

He says that the lack of attacks in America is not due to increased security, but because "there are operations that need preparations." Such as, for example, funding from sources we've dried up, or planning by operatives we've captured and killed by the score? The tape also says, "...the operations are happening in Baghdad and you will see them here at home..." Hm. What "operations" are happening in Baghdad? Car bombs, suicide vests, and roadside IEDs, mostly against soft targets such people waiting in line and gatherings of children. Sometimes they even coordinate the timing of the attacks. How hard can it be to implement "operations" like that in the US? There are a LOT of soft targets in the US. The fact that they haven't hit them indicates that they can't. Doesn't mean they won't, of course. We don't want to let down our guard. (And as long as Bush is President, we won't, thank God.)

And ya gotta love the AP caption for bin Laden's picture (a file photo from 1998, showing the now-a-very-haggard-grey fugitive with dark hair). It calls him an "exiled Saudi dissident". Not "terrorist mastermind". Not "mass-murdering madman". "Exiled dissident".

NT06 - Getting caught up

According to the "Read through the New Testament in a year" plan, I'm up to Mark 15. I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the readings, but a poor job of blogging about it.

Mark 14 recounts the betrayal in the garden, and Mark 15 is the Crucifixion. It of course brings to mind Gibson's Passion of the Christ.

To me, verse 34 is the heart of history. When Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" he wasn't just quoting Psalm 22:1. He who had become sin on our behalf was experiencing the awesome eternal emptiness of separation from God. Jesus, the Son, who was with God from before the beginning of time, who referred to God as "Daddy", looked up to Heaven and saw his Father turn His back in disgust.

That's Hell. Forget your brimstone and pitchforks.

Chinook Diplomacy

A little late in noticing this - hat tip to the Paragraph Farmer.

It's a story of how the US provided massive amounts of aid to the victims of the Pakistan earthquake using the heavy-lift Chinook helicopters based in Afghanistan. I don't recall seeing this story reported in the major media - I wonder why?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NT06 - Mark 8, in which Jesus rebukes just about everyone

In this chapter, Jesus hammers on the Pharisees for demanding a sign. The disciples still don;t get it, and Jesus accuses Peter of being Satan.

Jesus also heals a blind man. Skeptics point to this healing and others in Mark where Jesus uses some physical means as evidence that the Jesus legend grew over time. "The original Jesus," they say, "wasn't a divine miracle worker, just a folk healer with delusions of grandeur." (Mark was the first Gospel to be written.)

That totally begs the question of the healings themselves, of course. Mark also contains stories of Jesus healing without physical contact, for example, the Gentile girl in the previous chapter and the paralytic in chapter 2. Perhaps Jesus knew that for this person to accept Jesus' ability to heal, He needed to provide some physical act.

God does a lot of things to help those of us whose faith is weak.

NT06 - Mark 7, in which Jesus reaches out to Gentiles

Jesus takes the Pharisees to task for focusing on the letter of the law rather than its spirit. (The practice of putting man-made rules on a level of or ahead of God's teaching was a major reason I left the Catholic church.) He points out that it's not what we put into our mouths that makes us clean or unclean, but rather what comes out.

Jesus also heals a Gentile girl based on her mother's faith, and heals a deaf-mute. (I wonder how this story resonates with modern American deaf persons. There's a movement in that community to be viewed not as disabled, but as differently-languaged.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

More ammo for the anti-ammo alliance

Judge Alito's wife discloses that the SCOTUS nominee is a crack shot with a shotgun.
"He's a great marksman – he can do double clays," she says, meaning he can hit two clay pigeon targets thrown simultaneously into the air before either hits the ground.
One presumes that the 2nd Amendment will be safe from radical reinterpretation with him on the Court.

NT06 - MArk 6, in which Jesus gets dissed, John loses his head, and a little goes a long way

A lot going on in this chapter. Jesus comes home to a less-than warm reception. We learn that he came from a fairly large family - I've long wondered how folks who claim that Jesus was an only child reconcile verse 3. It's also interesting that his neighbors admit that he has supernatural wisdom and miraculous healing power, but yet they take offense at him.

We learn the unpleasant fate of John the Baptist. I wonder if he will be one of the "martyrs under the altar" of Revelation 20.

Jesus tries to get his disciples a little break from the crowds, but the crowds follow. It gets late and there's no food. So Jesus has the disciples find a little something - a few loaves and fishes - blesses it, and everyone eats their fill. The novel The Robe suggests the possibility that this could have been a case of those in the crowd who had had the foresight to bring food sharing with those who had not. Maybe. But would that have been remembered and passed down? I don't think so.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

NT06: Mark 5, in which pigs fly and the dead live again

Jesus is clearly not a capitalist. Yes, I know, to the Jews, pigs are unclean. But still - 2,000 head of swine is SOMEBODY's livelihood, even if they are trefe-herding goyim. No wonder the people of the district begged him to go away. Interesting that nobody sued over the lost herd. I suppose they were sufficiently impressed by the healing of the madman that they figured they'd best not mess with this charismatic preacher - if he can send pigs over a cliff, what might he do to his enemies?

And then there's the very touching story of the rabbi's daughter. I've had a little girl sick, though not, thank God, unto death. I can only imagine the father's anguish.

Jesus raises her from the dead, and then tells the family to keep it quiet? I know I couldn't.

NT06 - Mark 4, in which seeds are planted

The parable of the Seeds and the Sower is probably my favorite parable.

It points out an essential truth about evangelism - the evangelist is not responsible for conversion. Just as the seed grows of its own accord, under the influence of the sun and rain provided by God and the miracle of the tiny life within the seed, the new believer is enabled to come to faith by the Holy Spirit.

But here's a question - if the sower is not blind, doesn't he or she have a responsibility to sow seed in good soil? Is it a waste to sow along the path, or among briars? IOW, as evangelists, should we "qualify our prospects" as they say in the sales business? Should we only attempt to share the Gospel with those who are receptive?

I think the Scripture is clear that we are to sow EVERYWHERE. While the seed is precious, it is not scarce (an interesting economic notion!) It's not our responsibility to only sow where we think seed might grow. God is, after all, in the miracle business.

That's a new observation for me, btw - the notion that we are to sow everywhere. Thank God for blogging - if not for this process of thinking aloud I might not have had that insight.

For years I've held dear another insight, though: Seed grows best in good soil. The Great Plains of the US are ancient prairie. For thousands of years grass has grown, died after a season, and returned to earth to add to the soil. The soil is deep and rich - roots go very deep. The first farmers in Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas had to use special "sodbuster" plows to break it up.

Some folks come from families with a tradition of faith going back generations. Great-great-grandpa was a believer who prayed for his progeny and who raised faithful sons and daughters. That's deep soil.

I don't have that to offer my children and grandchildren. My own soil is pretty thin. But I can do what I can do - pull weeds, remove stones, and shoo away birds.

The rest, as Scripture makes clear, is up to God.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Checks and balances work both ways

"The executive branch shall construe these sections in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."

The President's Statement on Signing of H.R. 2863, the "Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations to Address Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and Pandemic Influenza Act, 2006", makes it clear that this President understands his Constitutional authority, and will not be bullied by Congress.

NT06 - Mark 3: In which the rubber hits the road

The first part of this chapter, where Jesus heals the man with the shriveled hand, is a part of the Lord-of-the-Sabbath narrative of Ch 2. Jesus is declaring himself to be above the Law. To the Pharisees, this is blasphemy.

Then, Jesus' family is apparently called in to do an intervention. He spurns them, in favor of his disciples.

OK, time to stop.

Mark is the earliest Gospel to be written. According to scholars, it was written in the 80's, about 50 years after Jesus' ministry. It appears to be based on still-earlier, but now lost, textual or oral records of Jesus' teachings and deeds.

The earliest part of the earliest record we have of Jesus' acts and words show him to be - let's be charitably skeptical - a charismatic madman. He's traveling about the countryside, healing, casting out demons (for the skeptics: healing mental illnesses?), attracting crowds so dense you can't push your way through them, and claiming to have the authority to forgive sins and decide what the law of the Sabbath means. IOW, he says he's God.

Is this guy nuts? His family certainly seems to think so.

Or is he something more?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

NT06 - Mark 2: In which J-man cops a 'tude, dude!

Shortly after healing a leper and driving out a bunch of demons, Jesus returns home to Capernaum. (When did he move from Nazareth?) Crowds prevent a group of guys from getting their paralyzed bud close to him, so they come in through the roof.

Then Jesus whips out the big whammy - he doesn't just heal the guy, but makes a statement that borders strongly on blasphemy. People seem to be more amazed at the healing, though. Shortly thereafter, Levi takes early retirement from the RRS to join him.

In verses 21-22 (the "old wineskins" passage) Jesus seems to say that his ministry is a radical break from traditional Judaism. And on a Sabbath shortly thereafter, he allows his followers to gather grain in defiance of the legalists. (For the farmer's sake, one hopes it was just Jesus and the five disciples, rather than the hordes of followers.)

I'm curious if the disciples were ignorant of the strict interpretation of the law that forbade harvesting on the Sabbath - even plucking grains to eat out of hand - or if they had asked Jesus whether they could do so.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NT06 - Mark 1: We begin

Isaiah foretold a voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" Mark links John the Baptizer to this prophecy, with John's proclamation that one is coming after him whose sandals he is not fit to untie.

Conveniently, Jesus arrives on the scene and gets baptized. Mark records that coming out of the water, Jesus has a vision and hears a voice from Heaven. He then goes out and has a wilderness experience.

Coming back from the desert, He calls Simon, Andrew, James and John, who drop their nets and tag along with nary a goodbye. They go to Capernaum, where Jesus causes a local stir by casting out demons and healing a leper. He tries to keep them quiet about who he is, but rumors begin to circulate.

So far the picture we have of Jesus is of a poor, simple (albeit very charismatic) preacher and folk-healer - a hard act to follow, though that doesn't keep some from trying.

NT06 - Mea maxima culpa

So I signed up to read through the New Testament in '06, right? One chapter a day, following a handly little guide from Discipleship Journal. Just five days a week. Five minutes with the Word. Really QUITE doable, y'know?

I'm already behind. WHERE are my priorities?

Life after Europe?

(ht:HH) Odd how you can really enjoy reading something really depressing.

In this long piece for the WSJ online, the incomparable Mark Steyn explains how "tolerance," multiculturalist orthodoxy, declining European birthrates, increasing birthrates in the Muslim world, and Muslim immigration to the West combine to sound the death-knell for Western civilization in Europe.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fly like a girl

All-female tanker crew flies Afgan mission

Yet another reason to drill in ANWR

A big chunk of the world's oil supply is under the control of Islamic governments who are not exactly pro-American. Another big chunk is under the control of South American socialists who are notably anti-American.

Somebody explain to me again why it's a bad thing to produce more oil and gas domestically?


Hugh Hewitt's New Year's post reminds me of something that happened back in the early 90's. I was talking with a co-worker, remarking on the explosion of information available online. He said, "There's simply going to be too much information to handle yourself. People will sign up for points of view."