Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

If you want to know about the Christmas spirit, read this by Rod Dreher. An excerpt:
For some years now, it has been a Christmas Eve tradition in my family for my mother and my sister Ruthie to go to the Starhill Cemetery, the country graveyard near our family home, and light a candle on each grave. A time-consuming task, but a labor of love and communal memory (because they lit a candle on each and every grave, not just the graves of family members) by Mama and Ruthie. I’ve never seen this with my own eyes, because it has been many years since I’ve been here on Christmas Eve, but I could easily imagine how beautiful it was, given the deep night blanketing the graves so far from the lights of town. 
This year, Ruthie lies in the graveyard, having died from cancer in September. My mother was too sad to honor the dead this Christmas Eve, given that her own daughter was now among them. The tradition was to end.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dying as you Live

In his excellent blog, The Bloggers of the Round Table, Simon Parke writes about the dying of Philip Gould. Unknown to us Americans, Philip Gould was a pollster of much renown who found fame in his use of focus groups. Tony Blair cited him as central to the rise of New Labour. Yesterday he died of cancer and Mr. Parke pulls out this quote, "he'd not have wanted to die the person he was before the cancer."

What wonderful and chilling words. Wonderful, because he had the time and space to realize who he was. Chilling, because as he lived he was not ready to die. The statement invariably turns to a question for me. Would be satisfied to die as the man I am? Do I really live how I want to live? Or do I play the game and say, tomorrow I'll do what I should today. Clean my room, love my neighbor, all that can wait until tomorrow. I have dollars to win and accomplishments to accomplish. Small things like love and sacrifice and simple kindness can wait until tomorrow.

May I be a man who can die today.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Western Civ and Christianity

In a comment to the last post CZF (owner of the excellent blog The Relative Comment) asks in response to DT's post:
Earlier in that post DT says that one of the issues is that Christianity is now a minority position in western world. Would you agree with this statement? I think i understand the sentiment, but can think of nothing that could possibly have replaced Christianity as the majority position in the west, and certainly not in the US? Maybe it is leading in a plurality of options a la Bill Clinton, but I struggle to see it as a minority position.
To which I replied:
I think you are right. It is one of many. And perhaps the biggest of any distinct ideology/point of view/worldview. At the same time the thrust of the western world is strongly anti-christian. I don't mean this in a political sense or moral sense. Rather, the values of the western world--money, power, easy living--are much more in line with Greek and Roman thought than Christian thought. The church, in its weakness, falls prey to the idols of the west. In that sense Christianity is a definite minority...often among Christians.
I do this not to just highlight the excellent comment, but to expand upon my point of an inherent tension in the Western World.

Christianity has a unique place and role in the creation of Western Civilization. Unlike the other great civilizations of the world, Western Civ's primary religion (Christianity) has always stood in tension with it's primary cultural roots (Roman/Greek/and a bit of German). Christianity's ideals and way of life are antithetical to the Greek and Roman understanding of the world. Though Christianity became dominant the Roman and Greek way did not disappear, but became subsumed into the culture. Compare this to India, where Hinduism was part an parcel of the growth Indian civilization. Christianity was (and is) foreign to the Greeks, whereas Hinduism was native to India. (Please note, I understand that this is gross oversimplification.)

This "foreignness" has caused problems for the Church. Too often in an effort to be relevant, the Church has given up its Kingdom building mission and done what it could for power and money and easy living. Even today the Church too often let's itself be and succumbs to easy answers and a narrowing mission. In America this means the church focuses on things it feels confident about, usually some sort of moral issue. But it does not ask the difficult questions that may tip apple cart, such as question our economic system, justice, etc...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Feeling Awkward

Ms. Redhead in Rapid and I like different television shows. We can agree on mysteries and some law procedurals and a few comedies. But she enjoys watching shows with a more human interest element. Anything from the "Super Nanny" to tv specials detailing the interesting life of someone. Me, not so much. Instead, I just feel awkward. I get uncomfortable and have trouble being in the same room. I feel bad for the people.

I bring this up in relation to Daniel Taylor's recent post, A Word on Hell. He discusses why HELL has become such a hot topic. I won't give a recap (well worth the read) but I'm struck by the last lines:
Now [people] often worry about saving God’s image. People want God to be all love, mercy, and fairness. The traditional doctrine of hell violates their own sense of love, mercy, and fairness, and so they feel pressured to explain hell in a way that gets God off the hook. I know there’s a lot more to it, but that’s going on too and it is a significant shift. I tend to think God can handle himself. [emphasis mine]
In other words people feel awkward for God. We feel bad that He has been misunderstood. We feel bad that He really didn't know what he wanted when he talked about hell. It's like its 7th grade again and I tell my friend that she didn't REALLY mean that... you're cool... who cares what some stupid girl thinks anyway. If only God could handle social situations better a lot more people would like Him.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Vikings are Dead

It's October 3 and alas, it has already been a tough year for the Vikings and their fans. 0 and 4. Three losses when we were leading at halftime. And then losing to one of the worst teams in football. At least I don't live in Vikings territory, so I'm not tempted to watch. My Sunday afternoons are free from the pain.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Death of Mr. Davis

Two days ago Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia for the killing of a Savannah police officer. No murder weapon was ever found, seven of nine witnesses had recanted, yet despite concerns of the verdict the sentence proceeded. Outside the jail, people protested hoping that the inevitable would be delayed. The police officer's family stated that they were grimly satisfied--justice had been done.

I'm opposed to the death plenty on moral and legal grounds (though here is the best defense of the death penalty I've seen in a while). But this case strikes at something deeper than the death of a potentially innocent man.

Our judicial system is broken. Judges are over-taxed and underpaid, defense attorneys have too many clients, and prosecutors want to a guilty verdict no matter what. The incentives are wrong. If you are poor and unlucky you'll probably be stuck with a poor defense. And once you are guilty you'll be sent to the hell of prison, where we'll turn you into a real criminal.

Our system gets worse the farther along you go. Too often prisons are run for the prison guards. Violence and rape and all sorts of horrors are endemic. We send people to hell, hoping that they'll be angels when they get out. And once they are out we leave them on the street, hoping that they won't steal or commit a crime, but not providing any opportunity for success.

Justice is not being served.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Waiting for Godot, if Godot was an HR Manager

As I've mentioned before I'm currently one of the millions of underemployed Americans. This situation has its pluses--more soccer watching, hanging out with the kid--but I do need a full-time job. So I'm going through the job hunting process. I network, search for jobs online, send in very wonderful cover letters and a fine resume, wait, get a phone interview, and wait some, and if it doesn't work out, REPEAT.

It's a very frustrating process because I get no real feedback. I have no idea if I'm getting closer to a job until I get the job. Godot is not here until he is here. I work and I wait. The work I do may be the steps to a job, but I don't know until I have the job. If you think too much about it, then it starts messing with your mind. So I try not to think about it, but I do, so...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interview Today

Sorry for the light posting. Lots of work and getting ready for an interview.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I have little to say. Nothing substantial or momentous. It was a day that changed the course of American and Iraqi and Afghanistan history.  For better and worse we are a different nation 10 years on. Our understanding of the world and ourselves has changed. We've gone to war and many soldiers have sacrificed their lives and livelihoods. Let us remember.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Minnesota American History

Since we are on this Civil War theme, let us remember sacrifice of the Minnesota Volunteers. Nearly half the eligible male population in Minnesota fought in the Civil War. It was the first state to send volunteers. All regiments performed heroically at times, but one should never forget on the 1st Minnesota Volunteers.

During the second day of fighting at Gettysburg the 1st Minnesota Regiment was ordered to charge the the advancing Confederates in order to provide more time for reinforcements to arrive. If the Confederates were successful, the Union line would be broken and the battle won. Greatly outnumbered the 262 men charged. As it says on the memorial at Gettysburg:
The order was instantly repeated by Col Wm Colvill. And the charge as instantly made down the slope at full speed through the concentrated fire of the two brigades breaking with the bayonet the enemy's front line as it was crossing the small brook in the low ground there the remnant of the eight companies, nearly surrounded by the enemy held its entire force at bay for a considerable time & till it retired on the approach of the reserve the charge successfully accomplished its object. It saved this position & probably the battlefield. The loss of the eight companies in the charge was 215 killed & wounded. More than 83% percent. 47 men were still in line & no man missing. In self sacrificing desperate valor this charge has no parallel in any war.
The 83% casualty rate is the largest loss by any surviving unit  in American History.

American History Continued

The Civil War was not a tragedy, anymore than the Revolutionary War was tragedy. Rather it was a necessary completion of that first war of rebellion. We as a people had proclaimed freedom in 1776 and that freedom could not be denied in 1861 or 1961. Yet we remember the Civil War as this sad tale of woe, as if it could've been avoided if only people were more reasonable. Let's thank the Lord that they were not more reasonable. Because reasonable people maintained the legal selling of children. Reasonable people thought it necessary (if unsatisfactory) to take a man who had gained his freedom and sell him south. Reasonable people wanted everyone to get along, no matter the number of lashes given.

President Lincoln did not want war. But to his great credit he did not shirk from war.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

American History

Once again Ta-Nehisi Coates is bringing the knowledge to the intertubes. In these years of remembering the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Coates has done an admirable job of reminding his readers about the true cause of the Civil War (slavery), and the horrors of this peculiar institution. In one of his latest posts he helps define the slave society in the Antebellum South. In the first half of the 19th Century everything in the south was defined and shaped by slavery--the economy, people's sense of self, politics, the Mexican-American War, and much else.

It is cliche to state that Americans don't know their history. This is true. But this problem goes much deeper when it comes to remember the Civil War. We don't so much forget as we mis-remember. We mention slavery, but do not try to understand what that actually meant to the nation. We create stories of southern bravery and lost causes and skate over what that "cause" was for.

On some level, I'm hoping to stimulate an intellectual conversation about American History. But on another level, I am hoping to make this portion of our history more concrete, and less abstract. I believe the discussion should be respectful. I do not believe it should be antiseptic or dispassionate.  
When we talk about the Confederacy, we should always be clear that we are talking about a rebellion incited for the purpose of purchasing and selling children. When we talk about Pickett's Charge, Robert E. Lee, or whatever, we should always remember that it was valor in the service of trafficking. Perhaps that sounds too harsh. I don't know. I don't really want to be emotionally distant from this.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Psalm 136

It is common to talk about the vengeance and wrath of the Old Testament God. The God of Israel is often portrayed as a smiter and rule giver, waiting, oh so happily waiting for someone to cross the line so HE can do some smiting. This obvious caricature has some truth in it. There are many difficult passages in the Old Testament where God supposedly acts so unseemingly. Yet, this is only a partisan picture of YHWH. And it is not the way He is seen by the Israelites (in fact, they often want more smiting).

In Psalm 136 the psalmist reminds us of God's wonders. He is the one who made the heavens, spread the water, and set the sun on its path, and gave us light by the moon. It is God who saved Israel and divided the Red Sea and led His people through the wilderness. God, the psalmist declares, remembered Israel in its low estate, protecting them from their foes. Why? God's Love.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever. 
O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures for ever. 
O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures for ever;

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Learning and Voice Control

I have daughter. She is about 6 months and every day she is learning. And when she discovers something new she likes to repeat it. Again and again. For example, about a two weeks ago she learned that she has wrists that can move in all sorts of ways. So when she grabs things--her toy, a piece of a paper, three pieces of grass--she holds it up and moves her wrist up and down, left and right, in a circle to great satisfaction. She then proceeds to put the object in her mouth.

About a week ago she learned how to 'happy' scream. It first happened in Target. Mrs. Redhead in Rapid was about 3 aisles over with the little one when I heard, "YEEE!!!" breath "YEEEE!!!!" She had found her voice. And she keeps finding it. Yesterday, Mrs. RiR had a scream off with the little one. I scream, you scream. Again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Question of Fairness

In my last post I bemoaned the lack of honesty within the GOP establishment when it comes to taxes. I noted that though many complain that half of the populace do not pay income tax, everyone pays some tax.  We've always debated taxes in this country and we are gong to keep debating taxes until the end. The unspoken issue in all the debates is this slippery word--FAIRNESS.

People and pundits like to talk about the economic reasons for certain tax rates and types. They argue that this tax is the best policy because of its economic and social benefits. But I believe, deep down in the heart of the pundit, the question they ask, is it far?

Now it is true that taxes have broad economic and social consequences and that some types of taxes and tax rates are better than others. Nevertheless, when people are debating taxes they are debating fairness. For example, conservatives like to point to the total dollar amounts that taxpayers pay. They say, we can't increase taxes, because the (super) rich already pay the lions share. Liberals, on the other hand, note that as a percentage of income the rich pay much less than the poor. Sure the (super) rich pay a massive dollar amount, but that is because they make a more massive amount from the US economy.

Of course, both are right. The highest 1% of taxpayers pay more than their share of income tax. And yes, the (middle class) poor, on average, pay the highest percentage of their income on taxes. It is just not usually income tax, but sales tax, property tax, excise, gas, and numerous other taxes.

What ruffles my feathers is that lack of honesty in the debate and the recognition that that the real question being debated is fairness.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Broadening the Tax Base

I feel that I'm a charitable fellow. I'm willing to give folks the benefit of the doubt. I even try to understand politicians and am sympathetic to the competing interests they must serve. Alas, my sympathies cannot extend to complete idiocy.

In the latest round of foolishness parts of the Republican Party are attempting to make the case that we need to broaden the tax base. They are upset that only 53% pay income tax. To quote Bachmann:
Part of the problem is today, only 53 percent pay any federal income tax at all; 47 percent pay nothing. We need to broaden the base so that everybody pays something.
I'm all about broadening the tax base. I believe that all citizens of any republic need to have skin in the game. The problem with this line is that the poor already pay a lot in taxes. They may not pay income tax, but they pay sales tax, payroll tax (what a crappy tax), gas tax, and a whole slew of other taxes.

It is this sloppiness of thinking that bothers me. The Republicans are obsessing over one part of the tax code and missing all the rest. We need tax reform in this country. Our tax code is inefficient, out of date, and harmful to our economy. But to do that we need to have an honest look at the whole tax pie. We can't just fight over marginal income tax rates or look at capital gains taxes, while ignoring payroll tax (oh how I loathe it), sales tax, and state taxes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Better Said

On this blog I ramble and write and tell myself I should edit that before I post it, but never do. Fortunately the internets is pretty big, so folks more eloquent than me will say what I'm trying to say in a much better fashion. Today in the Wall Street Journal, John Wilson (of Books and Culture) writes:
But an alarm should sound whenever the word "literal" is used in this context, whether as a badge of pride ("I just believe in reading the Bible literally") or as a hint that low-browed fundamentalists are lurking nearby. No one—no one—reads the Bible literally. But some readers are more attentive, more faithful, more imaginative and more persuasive than others.
Go read it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding a Job

With my recent move to Indiana I have the pleasure of finding a new job. I'm in this position by choice, but that doesn't mean I'm enjoying the process. It is a strange roller coaster in the sense that all can seemingly be going well--networking meetings, setting up interview, finding a job to apply for--but it doesn't matter unless I get a job. The sense of movement is great, but if it only means I'm taking the scenic route, then not much good is coming from it.

For me, so far, so good. I do have a sense of movement and I've applied and gotten positive feedback from some jobs. I just don't have a job yet.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Psalms 105 and 106

Asking, what is your story, is a way of asking, who are you? How did you get here? And therefore, where are you going?

Humans, as it has been often pointed out, are obsessed with story and narrative. We watch baseball and over a season a story starts taking shape. It may be a team overcoming adversary or falling to that common vice of pride or reaching beyond themselves. The stat geeks fight against the story, talking about fip and ops and regression to the mean and the role of chance over any seven game series. We may nod in agreement, but despite our knowledge of chance we still find the story in the smallest things.

Now those smarter than us will state that we are evolutionary inclined to story and meaning. That we need to face facts and deal with the randomness of it all; to recognize that our lives do not have an arc or much of a purpose. Our stories are only self told, meant to delude us into action.

Perhaps this is true. Perhaps we tell lives so that we live as we ought too. If so, I wonder what we should make of Psalms 105 and 106. These psalms, probably written in the late Kingdom or during exile tell Israel's story. They remind the Israelites of their story--how they were slaves in Egypt and brought out by their God's might and power. The Psalms specify what happened to Israel, their ups and downs, their sins and glory. The Psalms remind the current Israelites who they are and that they have a purpose and that they are connected to a God greater than their suffering. This story, as told in Psalms 105 and 106, remind Israel that they are a people called by God, who need Yahweh to find their way.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

China is Coming! China is Coming!

We in the United States are living in the time of the great China scare. Politicians and Generals and Pundits use China as the great bogeyman of our age. Politicians fear its economy and bemoan its currency. Generals fear its potential military might and interference with the way things are. And pundits just like to talk.

Some food for thought:
Whereas goods labeled “Made in China” make up 2.7% of U.S. consumer spending, only 1.2% actually reflects the cost of the imported goods. Thus, on average, of every dollar spent on an item labeled “Made in China,” 55 cents go for services produced in the United States. In other words, the U.S. content of “Made in China” is about 55%.
For those not math inclined, 1% isn’t that big.

From a military standpoint you may have heard that China has just put to sea trials its first aircraft carrier. Parts of the military establishment are in a tizzy and use this as a sign for more military expenditures and the end of American dominance. To put things in perspective:
  • Number of aircraft carriers in China—1. Age—25 years.
  • Number of aircraft carriers in Thailand—1. Age—15 years.
For a good read on the situation check out Information Dissemination.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Psalm 103

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
   nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
   so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
   so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
   so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
   he remembers that we are dust.

Good news for us today. The Lord knows who and what we are. He knows that we are weak and tired. He knows that we sin. He knows that we are dust.

True Literalism

Words get bandied about with no care for shades of meaning. In the Evangelical Christian subculture folks seek to defend their interpretation of the Bible by saying that it is the "literal" reading of the Bible. What they want you to hear is, "I'm just telling you what the Bible says and nothing more, like following directions, it says turn right, so I say, turn right." To say you are "literally" reading the Bible is to convey that you are honest with what the text means.

The problem with this degraded literalism is that context and language gets stripped away. In this literalism we start making connections or points that were not intended by the author (or miss the connections that were intended). We forget the poetry and nuance in language and try to read it all in our post-enlightenment mindset. So the story of Adam and Eve becomes simply a story of "what happened in the beginning" losing the sense of God's purpose in our world. Or we see Jesus' words in Mark 13 applying to only the end times when Jesus was referencing the ancient fall of Babylon and the future fall of Jesus. 

Bad literalism gets us into awkward places, contorting our theology and thought. True literalism helps us experience the Bible in all it's glory and craziness.

More on Trees and a Forest OR Straining the Simile

What I was trying to say in my last post is not just that we miss the forest for the trees, but that we build our Christianity on one particular type of tree. We go into the forest and find the tree most to our liking and then say, "this is the tree of the forest. All trees will be compared to this." We focus on that particular tree and ignore anything else.

Alright. I'm done with that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Trees and a Forest or "Follow Me"

The forest and the trees. Let me tell you something about them. Sometime you see one, but not the other. And other times you see the other, but not the one. Well, you know how that goes, just pick one or the other.

I thought of the forest and the trees as I was reading Matthew, chapters 18 and 19. Like much of the Bible these chapters are full of "wait a minutes" and "uh-ohs" and "yeps" and "ehhs." In a couple of verses (particular when Jesus is about) the Bible has a tendency to have you nodding, "Jesus goes after the one lost sheep, awesome" and awkwardly swallowing "wait a minute, I'm suppose to point out a sin in my fellow church member?".

If you hang around church long enough you'll hear sermons on these different trees. Often the awkward ones will be avoided, but they will be mentioned. Slowly, as you understand more and more trees you think that you understand the forest. Christianity becomes about the sum of the smaller parts.

That, however, is a distorted view. Christianity is much more than the sum of the parts (though the trees matter). We, or should I say, I focus on the trees. I argue with others over the different trees, disagreeing on the shade of brown or the bent of the limb. I stay at the level of the trees because I want to avoid the forest. The trees are interesting, but are small enough to fit into my point of view. I can survey a tree and handle it.

The forest is wild. It is unwieldy. We don't like talking about the forest, because we can't grasp the forest. We can't fit the forest into our horizon. It goes beyond.

Jesus says, "follow me." Pick up your cross, sell your possessions, and follow me. Worry not about the world or the thoughts of your neighbor, but follow me. Do not be afraid, he says, follow me.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I now live in Indiana. I'm still at heart a redhead in Rapid City, but the good Lord has put me in Indiana. I really can't believe it. I'm more surprised than if I was living in St. Petersburg. But it should be fun.

Finding a Church

On July 31 my family and I headed east from Rapid City back to the country of my kin... Indiana. Now I don't know if I have any family left in Indiana, but the story goes that my dad's grandfather was from Indiana. I'm not sure how long they stayed, but somewhere back when a Taylor I'm related to lived and perhaps died in Indiana.

We are here so that my wife can attend Purdue University. As part of that move we need to find a church to call home. Once again, we are participating in that vulgar American tradition: church shopping. We don't belong to any denomination in particular, except that we are Protestant. We've done this before, but it is a distasteful adventure, because you start finding faults. You focus on how you the "consumer" weren't properly served and satisfied. You focus on what you see and experience in a few visits. And what you experience in a few visits is inherently insubstantial.

What defines a church, the soul so to speak, cannot be ascertained by a few visits or a perusal of a website or a proper list of beliefs. Church is where people (warts and all) gather to worship and follow Jesus. In church you find the Holy Spirit working and moving in unexpected ways. Attending church is not just about assenting to right doctrine (though doctrine does matter) or finding people just like you. It is about participating together with God and his people in his Kingdom. A good church challenges and encourages in unexpected ways. Church should surprise you not serve you.

I need to keep these things in mind as we seek to find a church.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Right now, in your mouth, in your gut, on your skin, you are carrying about 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells."
-Robert Krulwich

Wading Into That Which I Don't Know or Really Care

This last Tuesday I saw X-Men: First Class. It was a well acted, though slow movie, with a few too many characters. Matthew Yglesias has pointed out that Magneto was Right and really right. He says, "if you restrict your attention to what’s actually in the text Magneto is clearly in the right and Xavier’s X-Men are a bunch of dupes." And goes on to say:
Magneto’s mutant pride attitude is in every way more admirable than Xavier’s preference for the closet, and Xavier’s political view that mutants and humans can coexist peacefully if mutants avoid provocations is directly contradicted by the events at the end of the film. When Xavier is trying to convince Magneto (and the audience) that Magneto’s more militant methods will cost innocent life he literally says—to a Holocaust survivor!—that “they were only following orders” and therefore their sins are forgivable.

The mutant pride message is a radical one. It’s too radical for those whose WASP male privilege in their non-mutant lives makes them instinctively want to identify with existing power structures. But a mutant who’s also a Jew, or a woman, or a racial minority, or has had blue or red skin all of his or her life doesn’t suffer from that kind of false consciousness and gets ahead of the curve.
Not surprisingly I don't really agree with this analysis. I see the point he is trying to make and it is an allowable reading of the movie, but it misses out on the methods that Magneto wants to use to meet his end of Mutant Pride and his mistaken view of what it means to be human.

The problem is that for Magneto, mutant is a separate species and category than human. He's not addressing the issue as a minority normally would be, "I am part of society and am fully human." Instead Magneto argues that mutants are beyond super human, are a new species, and thus should dominate the world. Sure Xavier is naive, but he wants to see the humanness in mutants and wants humans to see mutants as humans. I don't know why that's a bad thing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Preaching Day...

Today I had the opportunity to preach at Hope Christian Reformed. For the scripture I selected 1 Peter 3:13-18, focusing on the line,  "if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” The funny thing about Christian Hope is that it is such a back/forward expectation. It's like how light behaves as understood by quantum physics--it is both a wave and a particle. Measure it one way and you get a nice wave of light, but measured another, you get little packets of information. 

With Christian Hope the resurrection of Jesus and our future resurrection happens at the same time. You can't separate them without breaking the thing itself. We look back to the Jesus' resurrection and look forward to our resurrection because of what Jesus has done. A funny little hopeful thing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

All Ain't Bad...

Cause Parks and Recreation is the best show on television.

Gotta love Tom.

Bad Economic News of the Day

Well we know that the economy is not improving nearly as well as we hoped, particularly 3 years on. Unfortunately, it's getting worse, or is worse then they say. From Henry Blodget:

The way the government calculates real GDP is to start with nominal GDP--the actual change in the output of the economy as measured by adding up all the actual sales prices ("nominal")--and then "deflating" this number by subtracting an estimated inflation rate. Thus, the government backs into the real GDP growth number, starting with nominal prices and then adjusting for inflation.
Well, the "GDP deflater" the government is using right now--the estimated rate of inflation--is only 1.9%. As anyone who has been to a supermarket of gas station recently can attest, this assumption is preposterously low. But the effect on "GDP growth" of using a very low inflation estimate is helpful, in that it makes real GDP growth look bigger.
So what would Q1 GDP have looked like if the government had used the government's own estimate of inflation for Q1 (5.7%), instead of 1.9%?
Q1 GDP would have been -1.82%.
Not good.

Where is your hope?

Hey folks, I get to preach this Sunday and will be talking about our Christian Hope (1 Peter 3:14-17). I'm wondering, where is your hope? Christian or otherwise?

Back at it... Barely

The kid has come and is getting bigger every day. I should be back blogging, so I am. I'm hoping to get two posts completed each week. I think the best way to celebrate is a double rainbow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I read me some "Retribution"

I read me some Retribution: The Battle for Japan by Max Hastings. Retribution, similar to its counterpart Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, traces the last year of WWII in the Pacific. With the United States ascendent the conclusion of the war in the Pacific was a foregone conclusion to all save the Japanese and their leaders. Unfortunately, the last year brought untold pain and agony to millions throughout Asia and the Pacific. Millions perished as the Japanese clung to their empire and decided that what they couldn't hold they would kill.

The military battles in the Pacific have been well rehearsed by Spector and others, but few have attempted to encompass in one volume the full sweep of the Asian Theater, from the islands of the Pacific to SE Asia to the British slog through Burma to the Japanese victories in China to the last frenzied two week of the Russian invasion of Manchuria. Hastings does this and more, giving full weight to the horrors of the war.

And horror is what one comes away with after reading about the disasters in the Pacific. The Nazis are rightfully remembered for their inhumanity, but we forget the disdain for life that the Japanese demonstrated year after year, country after country. They raped, starved, and pillaged their way across Asia. They showed disdain for POWs (one statistic of note, 2.7% of POWs perished in German hands, while 37% of POWs died in Japanese hands) and for the life of their fellow countryman.

Hastings does an excellent job of helping the reader understand why the atomic was dropped. It is easy 66 years later to assume that there was another way, but as Hastings notes the Japanese leadership was in complete denial and would only agree to peace on their terms. Even after the a-bombs were dropped, significant number of Japanese officers wanted to fight until the bitter end.

This is a horrific book, but one all should read.