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In the mind of Americans, there are two kinds of wealthy people: Those who are blessed and a blessing, and those who are cursed. For every story of the healthy-minded wealthy person, you hear two about rich people who have great wealth that does not give them joy–those who are in fact being destroyed by their own actions as a result of their wealth.
“But I”, you say to yourself optimistically, “I will not be like that if I ever come into money. I will enjoy it and share it and not let it morph me into a greedy, angry, depressed, or destructive person”.
That’s our hope, anyway. Some of us live for that hope. And some of us despair of ever enjoying those kinds of benefits. And for others, it is an idol.
But what if you could have the blessings of this blessed (i.e. non-destructive) kind of wealthiness where you are, with the income you have* right now? You can. There are ways you can experience the goodness without using your financial resources. Here’s how:
Four Ways To Feel Rich (Without Spending Money)
When you think about the happy rich people, those who are enjoying the blessings of financial resources, what are they doing? Are they frantic? Are they overly busy? No, you picture them experiencing leisure time. Relaxing. Enjoying life. You see them feeling the blessing of substantial margins.
Do you know that you could enjoy this right now? You could turn off the computer and close your eyes and rest. Or read a good book. Or take a bath. Or talk to a friend or a family member that you like. And these are all activities that cost no (or almost no) money.
Now certainly you can do all of these things to excess, but I bet there are some of these that you haven’t done in too long of a time.
As you consider the wealthy and their home, there is one thing that might jump to your mind: Space. Mansions have open areas. They are not cramped.
Now think of where you spend most of your time at home. For no cost at all, you can make your life more like theirs by getting rid of stuff. By clearing away items on the floor and on any flat surface. Put it away, throw it away, sell it.
You may be thinking, “If I don’t have a knickknack on that decorative shelf, it’s a waste of that resource.” No. The best use for that for that decorative shelf (or coffee table, or counter) is to show that you have space.
And this one might actually save you money; the next time you’re at a shop and see something you think is cute–something that you’re tempted to buy and bring home and find the perfect place for–say to yourself: No, I don’t have a perfect place for this.
- Pray Before Meals
One thing the rich have: Easy meals. As you watch the upstairs people on Downton Abbey, it’s clear; they don’t have to shop for food, they don’t have to cook, they don’t have to do dishes. They just sit down, and the servants do it all for them. The modern-day rich go out to eat, and the restaurant staff brings their meals to them.
But you…you don’t have servants and you don’t have the resources to go out to eat as often as you’d like.
But every meal you ever eat, there is a moment – a moment where everything is prepared and on the table and you’re sitting down (maybe with your family) to eat it. At that moment, you’re just like the wealthy who have their food made for them and presented at the big dining table. Your food is ready to for you to enjoy it. And if you don’t stop to think about it, you miss this glorious moment. So stop. Pray. Give thanks. You have food. It’s ready for eat. Enjoy the moment.
- Seek to See Grace
I get the feeling that the wealthy people who are happy are the ones who feel lucky.
There’s a scene in “That Thing You Do”, the Tom Hanks movie about a 60’s pop band that goes from nothing to being famous over the course of the summer. Just as they are about the play their big song on the big nationally-broadcast television show, one of the band members asks another, “How did we get here?”
I’m pretty sure that’s how many of the healthy and joy-filled wealthy feel: How did I get here? I don’t feel like I’ve done much to merit this. The fact that I’m getting this is a gift that I have been given to enjoy and not take for granted. So I should enjoy it and not take it for granted!
And you can experience this. Some of you who are reading this experience chronic daily pain, but most of you do not. If you don’t, do you think about that and feel blessed?
Some of you are currently experiencing family crises, but many of you aren’t. If you aren’t, do you thank God that you have peace with your family right now?
Some of you are unemployed (or underemployed), but most of you are not. Do you think about that? Do you remember the day you got the job – the feeling of relief and joy? Feel that now.
There are people in the world who don’t even have a bed to sleep in. But you probably do. It’s probably as comfortable as what the rich sleep in. Neither the rich, nor you, deserve a bed more than those who don’t have one.
As I say, these (and many, many other things) are gifts from your Maker. They are works of grace on your behalf. Consider them, enjoy them, be thankful for them.
You could do that for hours; it might give you a lot of joy and peace and feelings of thankfulness for what you’ve been given, and it wouldn’t cost a penny.
Non-rich person, live in that spirit, and you won’t be troubled that you don’t have a mansion, a yacht or a limo.
* I believe that while almost all Americans are not poor by worldly standards, there is a non-zero set of authentically poor people in the US, and there are many who don’t have a good idea where the resources to pay for next month’s food or lodging is going to come from. I do not mean to belittle their experience in this essay.
When my dad married into my family when I was 12, he married into a family of musicians and singers. He was neither. Some might have described him as a bad singer, but he used to joke, more accurately, that he was a fine singer, he just had a very small range. In any case, his lack of vocal ability didn’t stop him from singing “Happy Birthday” in a non-timid way at my kids’ birthday parties. I really miss that, despite his inability to sing the song in tune. It added to the joy.
There are two kinds of bad singers: Those who know they sing poorly and those who don’t. This second kind are highlighted in comedy shows and the beginning of each season of American Idol. People chuckling knowingly as they watch: “He actually thinks he’s good!”
They are easily mockable, those ignorant of their out-of-tune-ness. But here’s the thing: I’ve worshiped at several churches, and I’ve never met one (a bad singer who didn’t know he was a bad singer) at any of them. The bad singers generally know they aren’t vocalists. Believe me, they know. Some of them would like to sing on the worship team or in the church choir, but they know that this isn’t their gift. God is not calling them to that ministry.
I further split this group of bad singers (those who know they are bad singers) into two more categories:
There are those who keep quiet. Muting oneself is understandable – no one wants to draw attention to one’s lesser gifts, and one might fear that he’ll ruin worship for those around him.
But then there are those who want to sing out. They don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to glorify God. They want to avail themselves of the opportunity to join into corporate worship. Let me go on record: I find this commendable.
Recently I found myself standing near one of these people, singing out strongly, and I felt honored. I thought, this man doesn’t sing perfectly, he knows it and still he’s willing to sing with strength. And he knows I’m within earshot. He doesn’t want to keep his love of his Heavenly Father a secret. He wants to worship. May God encourage him and those like him.
I have a video of one of my children being presented with a birthday cake, and you can hear our whole family singing to him. This video was filmed just before my Dad died and on it, you can hear him say, as the candles were being blown out, “This particular grandfather can’t sing worth a hill of beans.”
Maybe. But he still sang. He was still a part of the celebration. To his benefit and ours.
This Sunday, if you find yourself standing next to someone who is not a perfect singer but is still entering into worship, do this: Smile, sing with him or her, and thank God for that person’s courage and love of their Creator. And if you’re a less than ideal singer, sing loud, do your best to glorify God and thank him for the way He accepts imperfect gifts.
A while back I wrote a post over on my dad blog suggesting …
If you’re going to be in a situation with your kids where you’re afraid that they’re going to behave in a certain way, set them up for success – tell them what’s going to happen and what you expect from them.
I would recommend this as an action for any adult to do to themselves as they walk into a bad-behavior-provoking situation. Ask:
In this situation, what might I be tempted to do?
What should I do instead?
(Please see my post about Levels of Wrongness.)
I mentioned Andy Naselli in my last post. I regard him as an authority on the biblical view of the Conscience. He (and many other respected theologians) define Strong and Weak Christians this way:
Strong Christians: Those who feel that the Bible says a certain act is not sinful – and they are right.
Weak Christians: Those who feel that the Bible says a certain act is sinful – and they are wrong.
Note: Both the Strong and Weak Christian are attempting to live by the Bible – i.e. they aren’t disregarding what it says.
I agree with these definitions – but I think they yield imbalances in our thoughts about those who disagree with us.
Consider the following chart (click on it to see it bigger).
Please notice – nowhere in this grid do I think I’m a weak Christian. If I think an act is biblically sinful and you don’t, I think I’m right and the strong and weak paradigm doesn’t fit. So Romans 14 largely doesn’t apply.
Also note that, generally speaking, that is the only situation where I’m most likely to have negative emotions. If (1) we agree, then everything is fine, and if (2) I don’t think it’s sinful and you do, then that’s fine, you’re just more strict that me – go live your life like that, no big deal.
But if I think it’s sinful and you don’t, well, I might feel distrust, or fear – or I might feel threatened.
And obviously in both cases negative emotions are turned up if people start trying to enforce their different views.
But let’s think about a person’s views about what is sin compared to the Bible
Again, in none of these situation am I a weak Christian. This is because no one ever thinks they are a weak Christian. Either I’m a strong Christian, or I’m a biblically strict Christian, or I’m an unbiblical Christian (or a non-Christian). This is probably one reason why Paul spends most of his time speaking to strong Christians.
The third chart is about a person’s opinions and his actions.
One thing I’ll point out here is the uncertainty. I believe that very few physical acts are inherently sinful or unsinful. It doesn’t matter what your view of the biblical stance is on any issue, all acts can be done in a sinful way.
But in the grid above, the situation most fraught with danger is where you think an act is not sinful, and you do it – because there are so many situations where you can do harm with that act. This is almost certainly another reason why Paul spend so much of his writing dealing with this situation.
Let the actor beware.
I believe most division in a church over the rightness or wrongness of a certain activity is not due to disagreement over whether the act is right or wrong but (assuming that at least one person thinks it’s wrong), the extent of its wrongness.
Given this, I think there is some merit in being mindful of the many levels of wrongness that a person can attribute to a given act. And it just seemed to me that the following list might prove helpful.
How wrong do you think a certain act is?
A Loose, Incomplete Hierarchy
(From Least Wrong To Most)
Question: That act that you think is wrong – how wrong do you think it is?
Answer: I believe choosing to do Act X is unwise (wrong, inappropriate, sinful) to this level:
Act X is Unwise – at least for me (or my family) – in certain circumstances
Act X is Unwise – at least for me – in all circumstances
I should challenge close acquaintances to reconsider the wisdom of doing Act X
Act X is Unwise – for all people – in certain circumstances
Act X is Unwise – for all people – in all circumstances
I should advise close acquaintances not to do Act X
Act X is Sinful – at least for me – in certain circumstances
Act X is Sinful – at least for me – in all circumstances
I should advise all Christians not to do Act X
Act X is Sinful – for all people – in certain circumstances
My Pastor should speak out against doing Act X from the pulpit
Act X is Sinful – for all people – in all circumstances (It’s inherently sinful)
I should advise non-Christians not to do Act X
I think unrepentantly doing Act X is a sign that the person is not a Christian
Someone who does Act X is almost certainly not a Christian
Act X should be illegal – I’d vote for it to be illegal
Act X should be illegal – I’d campaign for it to be illegal
You aren’t a Christian if you aren’t actively campaigning for Act X to be illegal
I think a person who does Act X should be imprisoned for [1,5,20,50] years
I should kill a person to prevent them from doing Act X
With this hierarchy in mind, I have a recommended three step exercise for Christians reading this:
1. Consider where your conscience places certain acts on this hierarchy. Some acts (which you think are acceptable choices) may not land anywhere on the list.
For example – consider these:
Getting a tattoo
Wearing a bikini
Wearing jeans to church
Physical abuse of children
Bombing an orphanage
Wearing a tie to church
2. Now consider your thoughts about people who would place an act on a significantly different level in the hierarchy.
(For the record, many of these thoughts were inspired by the helpful teachings about the conscience from Andy Naselli, who’s teaching about 1 Corinthians in our adult Sunday School class right now.)
Also, please go read my newer post about the Absense of Weak Christians.
I’ve been aware of two good reasons to stop when you see the stop sign open out on the side of a bus:
1. You don’t want to hit kids.
2. You don’t want people to think you’re an over-rushed weasel.
3. Bus drivers have radios at their disposal with which they can call in your license plate number. And as you drive by them, they are not moving, making it very easy for them to do so.
After more than a year of writing, recording, mixing and mastering – we’ve finally finished the new set of songs.
Here’s our sample video (it’s bluegrass!)
Here’s the link to the Amazon page …
Here’s the link to the iTunes page …
And here’s the official description:
“This CD contains 39 helpful and encouraging songs – passages from fourteen books of the Bible.
Featuring the talents of 35 musicians (adults and children), the musical styles are varied, including folk, jazz, pop, blue grass, doo-wop, string quartet and even Gregorian chant. The arrangements are designed so that you will enjoy listening to them and will learn the songs quickly and easily.
Here are some of the familiar passages on this CD: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) — The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) — Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labor in vein (Psalm 127:1) — “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26) — Fear not, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:10) — “My Sheep hear my voice and I know them” (John 10:27-30).
Every Fighter VerseTM Songs CD includes word-for-word Bible passages (English Standard Version) set to music. These passages are specifically selected to help believers fight the fight of faith. The Fighter VerseTM Songs also coordinate with the Fighter VerseTM Bible memory program from Children Desiring God. Your children will memorize scripture without even trying-and so will you!”
There is a non-trivial subset of the population that experiences a temporary loss of peace and sanity (if only at a low level) if they have to eat food on a styrofoam plate. I recommend other materials for serving food to your guests.
If you are talking to someone, take off your sunglasses. Your eyes are valuable to the conversation.
Update: Hey, can I ask a favor? For some reason, lots of people are coming to this post. I find this odd because it’s so inconsequential.
It looks like people are coming from Google. If you’re one of them, can you tell me what you searched on to get here? Or … how else did you get here?
Update 2: Okay, thanks to the commenter netsurfer912 (if that’s his real name!), I get it now. You all clicked on the fourth image having googled ‘sunglasses’. Let me invite you – if you have a moment, take a look around the blog. I think you’ll like it.
I found this under the heading “Main Things” – in a document I wrote, dated 11/24/1998
Always do either what you should do or what you like doing. If possible, do things that are both, but never do things that are neither. . i.e. don’t do something you don’t enjoy just to avoid doing what you should do.
Whenever I compliment someone, and they say, “I’ll take that as a compliment”, it makes me nervous.
One of the sons of my former pastor wrote a book about what it’s like to be a pastor’s kid. It’s a good book. Here’s my review.
Let’s first get the negatives out of the way –
1. It’s a bit repetitive. I would have liked to have had a chance to edit this book.
2. It’s not clear how representative this book is. Barnabas says right up front that research and statistics is not his forte and that he wouldn’t be providing numerical data. This is too bad, because I’d really be interested to know how universal these issues are with PKs.
Not too harsh, I trust?
Here are some positives:
1. It’s illustrative.
If you’ve ever wanted a good description, filled with anecdotes, of what it’s like to be a Pastor’s kid, here you have it. This is a book who’s existence makes the world better, for that reason alone.
2. It’s not all negative.
A major aspect of this book is “These are the hard things that PKs have to deal with”. And they are hard. But I was grateful for the last chapter, in which Barnabas lists for us some of the upsides of being a PK. It was refreshing.
And being a Bethlehem Baptist Church member, I was happy to see the word “Forward by John Piper” on the cover. Because I assumed (correctly) that this meant that this wasn’t going to be an angry book of harsh stories. About the worst thing he has to say about Pastor John is that he always drives the speed limit.
3. It’s a book I would recommend to many people for different reasons.
– For all people in churches who are going to be ministering to (or otherwise dealing with) pastor’s kids (for example, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders and other kid’s parents) – I encourage them to get this book for chapters two and three which lists out the unrealistic expectations that many have for pastor’s kids.
– For all pastor’s kids, I would recommend that they read … well all of it – but chapter four “Identity Crisis” is especially helpful, challenging and perhaps hard to read, but is ultimately uplifting.
– For all pastors, I would recommend they read chapters six and seven which explains how their kids need them – with ideas like “Laugh, play, be affectionate”, and “have hobbies”.
– For all dads who are trying to parent in a strong Christian environment, I recommend chapter five and six. Many of the ideas apply to all dads (and all parents). One of the ideas I found most intriguing is that we should apologize to our children with specific sins (i.e. don’t just admit, “I’m a sinful dad”). It’s good stuff.
– For all church going people, the book provides many thoughts on what we should and should not expect of pastors and (directly and indirectly) their kids.
4. It delves into the Gospel.
Barnabas asks the question – what does a PK need? His answer is Grace.
“It is the grace of God that allows anyone to make headway in the struggles to overcome sin. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables followers of Jesus to make good decisions in the face of temptations, and the spirit lives in anyone who acknowledge Jesus as their Savior, as the one and only means to get right with God. The ultimate grace was the sacrifice of the perfect, sinless Jesus for the sake of all humanity to give up His heavenly glory, live a human life and agonizingly die on the grotesque cross so that we would not have to face eternal punishment of dishonoring the perfect God.”
Barnabas Piper says that a PK needs grace from his parents, his need grace from the church, he needs to show grace towards his family and his church and he ultimately and most importantly needs the eternal grace that only God can give him.
This rings true. For each PK and for all of us.
… Or more accurately – Here are five motivations that are less than optimal if they are your primary reason for reading God’s Word.
1. Looking for ways that you are better than others.
The Apostle Paul has several lists of bad behaviors in his epistles. Any human can look at those lists and say, “Well, I don’t do that, or that, or that” and “But I know my neighbor Bill does that, and that and that”. If the outcome of this reading is, “Wow, I’m pretty good. No need to change!” then you’re not reading it as the Holy Spirit wants you to. And I’m pretty sure Paul would not be pleased either.
2. Looking for ammunition for your theological debate.
Theological correctness is important. Using God’s word to define and clarify your theology is important. But if you are continually using your time in the Word to look for proof that you are right, you are not being God focused, you’re being people-focused (the people, in this case, being your theological enemy).
3. Thinking reading the Bible will save you.
“Well, I read my chapter for the day. That’s what good Christians do. This means I’m acceptable in God’s eyes. Now on to real life.”
4. Looking for errors.
This has already been done. And if you consider the errors one by one, with an unhateful eye, you’ll see that these errors are based on and sourced by biases, fears and personal predilections. And a strong hope that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. I suggest you consider the idea that the Bible is true and ask yourself, what is the real reason you want the Bible to be negligible? And, what would you have to do if the Bible is really God’s word?
5. Trying to impress people.
“Well, I read my chapter for the day. If I keep it up for another three weeks, I can casually mention this in my small group, or to my Pastor, or on my blog.
Again, No. Generally speaking, “then they will like me” is a bad reason to do anything. And again, this is people-focused.
Now, make no mistake, reading the Bible for bad reasons is better than not reading it all. Here’s a rule of mine: “If it’s a good activity, don’t stop doing it because you’re afraid you’re doing it for wrong reasons.”*
So, please don’t stop reading the Bible every day (if you aren’t reading it every day, then you should start) because of your less-than-perfect motivations. A great deal of good has happened as a result of people reading the Bible for bad reasons.
But do, with the help of the Holy Spirit and through prayer, start reading the Bible for better reasons.
And what are the better reasons?
This fall, for the ninth time, I’ll be leading a Wednesday night class of kindergarteners and first graders, and it uses a curriculum that teaches kids about the Bible. The description of this curriculum begins this way: “God, who is the most valuable Being in all the universe, reveals Himself with clarity and authority through His Word.”
And one of the first lessons is this – the Most Important Person in each story in the Bible is God.
So do read the Bible to learn about –
2. His Gospel,
3. His will for you, and
5. What He says are the important eternal realities of the universe.
And while you shouldn’t read God’s word to attain salvation, you should read it because it’s His will for you to do so. It pleases God when you do His will.
And pleasing God is always a good motivation.
Nicholas Kristof Op Ed Columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote this for his column: She Gets No Respect: Sexism Persists, Even Among the Enlightened
Researchers find that female-named hurricanes kill about twice as many people as similar male-named hurricanes because some people underestimate them. Americans expect male hurricanes to be violent and deadly, but they mistake female hurricanes as dainty or wimpish and don’t take adequate precautions.
He continues –
Likewise, research subjects were more willing to evacuate to avoid Hurricane Victor than when it was Hurricane Victoria. The more masculine the name, the more respect the hurricane drew. The researchers estimated that changing the name of a hurricane from Charley to Eloise could nearly triple the death toll.
Women were as likely as men to disrespect female hurricanes.
He concludes –
This deep bias is as elusive as it is pernicious, but a start is to confront and discuss it. Perhaps hurricanes, by catching us out, can help us face our own chauvinism.
1. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a month the press tells us, “That study was bogus! There’s no real difference in response to hurricane names. The statistics were twisted.” But the columnist is writing as if this is all true, so, just to make it clear –
2. If I ever say to you, “I think you’re less likely to kill me than that other guy,” I’m not disrespecting you.
3. It seems like the people who die from a hurricane because of the hurricane’s name should be considered for the Darwin Award.
“Okay, it’s getting a little windy, Lyle, should we head inside?”
“Well dang, Cliff, her name is Cindy! Isn’t that the youngest Brady girl? How bad could she be?”
4. So Americans harbor an inner and unconscious belief that women are less destructive and less dangerous. I just checked – 90% of murderers in the US are male. If this is bias, is it a false bias? Is it chauvinism if it’s based on fact?
5. Obviously the solution here is to create a nationwide campaign to encourage women to be more violent and murderous, so that people will start respecting female hurricanes.
6. Obviously the solution is NOT to encourage men to be less violent and murderous, because then people would stop protecting themselves from male hurricanes. And that would be disrespectful.
I’ll admit, I sometimes listen to National Public Radio. I’ve considered it to be a good source for news and current events. Recently though, church friends have challenged this practice as unwise – citing NPR’s leftward slant. I’ve withstood this challenge, suggesting that I’d like to think that the slant isn’t that substantial.
I’ll further confess this: Last Sunday morning, after I dropped off two of my sons at church for an early worship rehearsal, and as I was heading back to get the rest of my family, I dialed up NPR. Just, you know, to see what was happening in the world.
The story that started up, even as I was leaving the church parking lot, was this interesting piece from their “Sunday Conversation” series – “A Christian Climate Scientist’s Mission To Convert Nonbelievers.”
It was an interview with an atmospheric scientist who’s “also a devout Christian”. She’s “spent the last few years trying to convince other Christians that climate change is real.”
She described two anti-climate change arguments she’s heard from Christians-
One of the biggest issues I often get asked is if God is in control, how could this happen? Or to put it another way, doesn’t the idea that humans could change climate threaten the idea of the sovereignty of God? And the answer to that is actually pretty simple. It’s free will. God gave us the brains to make good choices, and there’s consequences to the choices that we make. And that’s what climate change is. It’s a consequence to the fact that we have an industrialized society that depends on coal and oil and gas for many of our resources.
And another argument that you hear a lot in Christian circles is, well, if the world is going to end anyways, why bother? In fact, won’t this just hasten the end of the world? And in that case, we can actually look directly to the book of Thessalonians where Paul wrote to people very strongly. And the apostle said, don’t just quit your job and lay around waiting for Christ to return. Go get a job, work, support your family and care for the poor. That’s what we’re intended to do, not just sit around and say, ah, it’s going to end anyways.
Comments to NPR:
So, is it your goal to be seen as having a liberal slant? Because this is the kind of piece that will do it. And it’s not primarily the story – it’s what’s in the subtext of the story.
Unspoken, but clearly conveyed were these ideas –
1. Generally speaking, devout Christians don’t believe in climate change (or if you’d like – A good percentage of climate-change-deniers are devout Christians). Katherine is shown here as an exception, fighting against the rule.
2. Those who don’t believe in climate change* are wrong.
And the ingenious attribute of subtext is that, since the underlying ideas are inherently understood to be true, the story writers don’t feel the need to give evidence to show they are true. The truth of the subtext is assumed.
But thoughtful people on either side of the issue can see through what you’re doing. And many non-Christians would disagree with both of these premises.
I might add another telling subtext of the story:
3. Conservative devout Christians merely lack understanding of the real issues and should be ‘converted”, “convinced”, and told that “each of us already has the values in our hearts that we need to care about this issue”
That seems just a little condescending.
In any case, this story (at the very least) could accurately be used as evidence of a left leaning slant in NPR programming.
Comments to Climate Change Advocates:
I’ve seen arguments from Christians (and non Christians) who don’t believe in climate change and they don’t use religious reasons as their defense. They are skeptical for logical, scientific and political reasons and they use logical, scientific and political debate methods to refute the ideas behind climate change.
You should deal with those issues. That’s the more honest approach. Strawmen don’t become you.
But I would commend Mrs. Hayhoe’s method here. It’s apparent that her approach is non-vitriolic and non-combative. And she’s trying to find common ground with those she’s debating. This is wise.
Comments to Christians:
I think one of the lessons from this NPR story is this – while debating political issues, especially when dealing with non-Christians (but even sometimes when dealing with Christians), be very hesitant to use arguments based on religion. Because if you use poor logic based on your understanding of God, or if it can be made to look foolish, it sure can be used against you.
In this story, the only two arguments the interviewee refuted were the above religious examples she cited in the beginning.
1. My God wouldn’t let climate change happen.
2. If it’s God’s will to end the world this way, nothing we can do can stop him.
I find myself wondering if these were the two least thoughtful comments she’s received in the years she’s made these presentations, and perhaps that’s why she’s using them on national radio. Because they are both very easy to dispatch**, and she does a pretty good job of it, too (even citing Thessalonians in her rebuttal – impressive, but I think she’s misrepresenting Paul’s words here).
If you’re arguing with a theologian, it’s wise to use theological reasoning. But if you’re arguing with a scientist, be more hesitant to use a God-based argument. And if you do, make good and sure it’s biblically thought out – not based on your general ideas of what God is like.
And everyone should take a cue from this devout Christian/environmental scientist. Finding common ground with those you are debating is always a good first step.
* I had ‘global warming’ here, but I just noticed that they don’t have ‘global warming’ anywhere in the story, so I changed all of my references to it to ‘climate change’
** I sure hope these arguments weren’t from the same Christian, because as anyone can see who thinks about them for more than a half minute, they are contradictory to each other.
[Bethel Choir People, please let me know if I got any of the details wrong]
In 1989, June 4th was a Sunday. So I went to church, along with the entire Bethel Choir. We were on Europe tour and June 4th was our last day in Moscow – in what was then the USSR.
While we had been in Moscow, we had been on outings to the Moscow Circus, the Kremlin and more than a few other places. On all of these other trips, our Russian tour guide, Nicholas, had gotten us two buses. For our trip to the church, we were only provided one. We were pretty sure that they didn’t want us to go a church and maybe they felt that having only one bus would deter our whole choir from going. But we all crammed on that one small bus. No big deal.
At the church, they greeted us warmly. They let us sing. They said we sounded like angels.
This is what I put in my journal: “We sang them four songs, including the spiritual [Not sure what this was. “Go tell it”?] to a full house of happy Christians. We sang with them “Crown Him [with many crowns]” and afterwards they hugged and kissed us. Nicholas then showed us quickly back on the bus.”
We were staying at the Hotel Ukraine. While in the rooms there, my friend Ace would say things like, “The black cat wants his crayons back.” You know, just in case the KGB was listening.
After lunch, Ace wanted to go on a tourist hunt for a Russian T-shirt. So the two of us walked towards the center of the city. And we walked and walked. We had no luck.
We walked all the way to the Kremlin (which if I have it correct on Google Maps is more than two miles).
If I knew then what I know now (after our trip to adopt our daughter Anna), we could have avoided the wandering and just headed to Arbat street. But I didn’t.
I noted in my journal that I spent a dollar to buy a Pepsi at the Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors.
In any case, by now we had been out for hours and Ace didn’t want to walk back. So we started looking for a Taxi. We found ourselves at the front door of a large hotel, and there were several taxi drivers. We asked one of them how much it would cost to get a ride back to our hotel. He told us twenty rubles, which at the rate we were supposed to use, would have been about forty dollars. This wasn’t acceptable to Ace, who then countered, “No, no. How about five American dollars,” holding up his hand to stress the number five. The taxi driver was very quick to take his offer.
Ace graciously paid for the ride and on the way he asked the driver if he knew where we could get any t-shirts. He responded, “Hotel Ukraeena?” Apparently he spoke very little English.
We made it back to the hotel and the rest of the choir. My journal states that after supper some of us threw paper airplanes out the window. Really?
And then we got on two buses and were driven to the train station, where we rode overnight to Ukraine. Apparently I talked with Kris B. and Tonia R. and we recited Frost poetry: “And that has made all the difference!”*
I also talked with Debbie, the girl to whom it would take more than five more years to marry.
All of that happened on one day – June 4th, 1989.
That Russian house of worship was the furthest church (from my home in Minnesota) that I’ve ever attended. A few days earlier, in St. Petersburg (sorry, Leningrad) the Russian host at our more secular concert stated to the audience, “It’s not the words that they sing that is important; it’s that they sing them so well.”
But in that gathering of Christians in Moscow, it was encouraging and a blessing to be with a group of people who were more like-minded. And when we were singing “Crown Him” together, it certainly didn’t matter that we were worshiping Jesus in two different languages.
* Trivia- Which poem is this?
If you want to read another 25 years ago Bethel Choir related story, here you go.
Disclaimer 1: For those of you with no interest in Vox – please feel free to skip.
Disclaimer 2: I have found that my memories of the distant past are often lacking in their accuracy.
Disclaimer 3: If you go to Vox’s website, beware … blah blah blah … racist and misogynistic … blah blah blah … hateful and coarse… blah blah blah … disagree with much that is over there. You’ve been warned.
Okay, now we can begin:
Vox Day And Me – Adult Years
I actually only saw Vox in person two more times.
The first time was at someone else’s high school graduation open house. Maybe this was after our freshman year of college. We talked for a few seconds. He did that grab-just-your-fingers thing when we shook hands. I don’t know if this was purposeful or not.
The last time I saw Vox in living color, I didn’t actually talk to him.
I was in line at a grocery store and he came in and headed around the checkout lanes and headed toward the bakery. When I say ‘in living color’ I mean this literally. His hair was multi-hued. This is really the primary way I recognized him, because I had recently seen an article about him and his video game company in the Star Tribune. It had reported that he was living in Mounds View, very close to our home.
This was, say, 1995-1996. He had a lady with him. Perhaps it was Space Bunny. I can’t say. I regret not saying something to him.
And then five years later I was talking with his brother at another high school graduation open house and found out that he had slightly changed his name and had written a fantasy book.
So I went out and bought it. And read it and liked it. So I found his site on the web and emailed him. He later told me that comments I made encouraged him to make changes in a character of his third Angel book.
I started reading his posts at World Net Daily around the time of 9/11 when he started writing more politically. And I’ve been reading his blog since very nearly the beginning.
And then one day I commented on his blog, snarkily disagreeing with him about public schools. Despite this fact (and the fact that he didn’t know it was me commenting), he didn’t flame me. I laughed when I looked at the title of his next post responding directly to me, and then emailed him to let him know it was me.
I continue to comment (at times snarkily) over at his blog. I give him credit for giving me the first big boost to my blog. And a few other times since.
And the rest is publicly available and searchable history. Okay, much of the rest of it is (see, for example). Most recently he responded to one of my comments with kind of Bizzaro ad hominem that was along the lines of “Jamsco, you’re a nice guy, so your point is disregardable.”*
A few more memories (going back to younger days):
– I remember making lego space ships with Vox in his living room – maybe sixth grade. He taught me about realistic space weaponry.
– I remember having breakfast at his home (just before heading out for a scout camping trip – perhaps seventh grade) in which the main course (if I remember correctly) was hamburger. It was quite good.
– I remember a Sunday when our family was invited by his parents to his home to watch a football game. It was on this day and from Vox that I learned about the first down. Up until that point I thought that that the offense got only four tries to get a touchdown. This was perhaps when we were in fifth or sixth grade so I was late in learning this. It was also here that I learned that some football fans, notably Vox, have a secondary favorite team. I think Vox’s second team was Dallas. I later (and somewhat temporarily) chose the Lions, largely based on a single really impressive touchdown run. My brother has repeatedly made fun of me for this.
Also going back a bit – here’s a picture dated July 1979 – from a boy scout canoeing trip (one of our first – this puts us just after our fifth grade) on the Namekagen River.
I’m pretty sure that’s Vox in the blue jacket being roughhoused by other scouts (my apologies for the lack of a clear view of his face). Obviously this was before his training or those three boys would be on the ground writhing in agony. Because finish everything.
In conclusion, I wish that Vox was less harsh on figures of authority, much less harsh on women and other races, swore less, talked more about his love of God and wrote more fiction. I wish he was a little less “Do unto others as they’ve done to you, only worse.” And I’d still like to hear his Becoming-A-Christian story.
But I think it would be fair to say I’m at least a little more libertarian because of his blog. And I appreciate what he says about Atheism, Tolkien, Lewis, the Vikings, home-schooling, his wife, and Jesus.
* Okay, more accurately, it was “You try to look like you’re a nice guy, so your point is disregardable” but I thought the original version was funnier and this more accurate version still doesn’t follow.
Update: I was going through old (some might say very old) papers today and the top page on the first stack I opened up was the Star Tribune article I mentioned above. So here’s the photo:
1. The dark line down the middle is the crease where it was folded. I haven’t kept it framed.
2. The dog at the bottom is the “good dog”. In the article, they call him the company mascot.
3. His hair isn’t colored in the picture, so I guess I recognized him by the mohawk.
4. The article is from Oct 1995, so 16 years after the first picture, and nearly 19 years ago.