Wednesday, November 08, 2006
As I wrapped up voting yesterday I overheard the following conversation between the poll worker and the woman who stepped into the booth next to me:
Poll worker: Have you used this new voting machine before?
Poll worker: It's not an interactive screen. You have to scroll using the wheel, and then hit the enter button.
Woman: It's not working! (as she hit the screen with her index finger).
Poll worker: It's not an interactive screen. You use the scroll wheel.
Woman: Really. So I don't touch the screen?
Isn't democracy great? Vox Populi.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Again, CSI has ended with inspired theological commentary by Grissom. Last week was great. This week a young pregnant woman is found crucified inside a Catholic church. Turns out she was going to leave her "boyfriend" for the young priest who was in love with her. He was going to leave the priesthood to marry her. Turns out her "boyfriend" was the priest's best friend, and in a jealous rage, he killed her. The very last scene has the murderer pass by the priest and Grissom in the hallway. Grissom turns to the priest and says:
Grissom: Can you forgive him?
Priest: That's Christ's mandate. You know what that means, don't you?
Grissom: You have no choice.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Ryan - care to comment???
Friday, October 13, 2006
I have often held the Nobel Peace Prize in low esteem – after all, they did give it to Yasser Arafat! But, as a Christian, I could not be prouder or feel better about this year’s award. Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the prize for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans, called microcredit, to lift millions out of poverty. Through Yunus's efforts poor people have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately needed to get ahead. He said he would use part of his share of the $1.4 million award money to create a company to make low-cost, high-nutrition food for the poor. The rest would go toward setting up an eye hospital for the poor in Bangladesh. Yunus said, “Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Development from below serves to advance democracy and human rights.”
Yunus’s Grameen Bank was the first lender to hand out “microcredit,” giving very small loans to the poor who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed and repayment is based on an honor system. The bank says it has a 99 percent repayment rate. Yunus said that his “eureka moment” came while chatting to a woman weaving bamboo stools with her fingers. He asked her how much she earned. She replied that she borrowed about nine cents from a middleman for the bamboo for each stool. All but two cents of that went back to the lender. ”I thought to myself, my God, for nine cents she has become a slave. I couldn't understand how she could be so poor when she was making such beautiful things.” The following day he discovered that 43 of the villagers owed a total of about $27. “I couldn't take it anymore. I put the $27 out there and told them they could liberate themselves and pay me back whenever they could.” They all paid him back, and his spur-of-the-moment generosity grew into a full-fledged business concept that came to fruition with the founding of Grameen Bank in 1983. The bank says it has lent $5.72 billion to more than 6 million people.
Soure: The Associated Press.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Those of us who have any dealings with banks know how the system works – you purchase a home or car, you have credit cards, and the bank charges you interest. Granted, some banks steal from you – 27% interest on a credit card is theft! But that’s how the system works. If you play smart, you can benefit. If you have no large debts, but you invest money, then you receive interest. I know, banking 101. However, Muslims cannot pay or receive interest. This is a big problem. So today I read that several banks in South Africa will be offering Shariah-compliant services. Under Shariah law, wealth must be generated through trade and investment in assets. The Shariah financial model works on the basis of risk sharing - the customer and the bank share the risk of any investment on agreed terms and divide any profit between them. A Shariah-compliant savings account will earn the person an agreed upon “dividend” based on their annual deposits. When it comes to loans on cars, a figure that includes the profit to be made by the bank is worked out upfront. That profit plus the capital amount is then divided by the number of months it will take to repay. In this way the borrower knows exactly what amount they will be paying. Interest on deposits is similarly replaced by a dividend from the bank. When purchasing a home the bank buys the property in partnership with the client. The bank annually sells portions of its share of equity to the client at an agreed price, so that over the period of financing the client purchases the entire share held by the bank.
Confused? Will there be separate “queues” for Muslims? Will there be Muslim-only ATM’s? I know this is how the free market works – business creates ways to meet the needs of it’s customers, but this doesn’t feel right, sound right, or smell right. Will this ever happen in the US? Probably not anytime soon. However, in a couple of months everyone at the mall will greet you with the really asinine “Happy Holidays” greeting rather than “Merry Christmas.” This is why I thank God every day that we have a wall of separation between the church and the state, and our government is bound to be religiously neutral.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
As you probably heard, the Pope made some interesting comments last week about Islam. He quoted an obscure 14th century Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of Muhammed as "evil and inhuman." The usual response - protests and violence all over the Muslim world. In Nablus (Israel) a Greek Orthodox church - not affiliated with the Pope - was firebombed. In a phone call to The Associated Press, an Islamic group calling itself the "Lions of Monotheism" claimed responsibility. The caller said the attacks were carried out to protest the pope's remarks linking Islam and violence. Go figure that one!
Friday, September 15, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
Look at these three pictures - all of me. The first one was taken Christmas of 1980. I was only 6 years old. My uncle Alan had just been to America, and he came home with gifts (including that flag) and stories about the promised land! From that moment all I wanted was to go to America. No, I wanted to be an American. I put American flags on everything I owned, I used American words, I memorized American maps, I spent time with Americans living in South Africa, I used American spelling in school - which drove my English teachers nuts because these were real English teachers! One teacher told me, "There's no such thing as 'American English' - it's just wrong!
The second one was taken on February 16, 1994, just one day after I arrived in the USA from South Africa. Man was I "fresh off the boat!" A friend of mine in the movie industry in LA calls this my own personal Tommy Hillfiger ad. I was a 19-year-old kid with a head full of big ideas and a heart full of dreams as high as the stars. I had a visitors visa that was only valid for 6 months and only $230 to my name. But it didn't matter - I was finally in America (well, I was in Van Horn, TX which is still technically in America). Anything was possible.
The third picture is my official "preacher pose" for the church directory, taken in 2004. Here I am fully assimilated - as American as apple pie, as I like to say. My dream came true. I am an American! Now I need to work on making that $230 grow.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Okay, a couple of weeks ago Holly and I went to the fairly new Super WalMart here in Abilene. In the parking lot we saw an old run-down car with the "Boycot Walmart" bumpersticker. We laughed and laughed and laughed. Where's a camera when you need one? Anyway it got me thinking. What we do is much more important than what we say. You can't tell others to boycot WalMart when you're inside their store buying $5 shirts! This principle applies accross the board. This morning Mike Cope reflected in his blog about a new book by Shane Claiborne: Living as an ordinary radical. This line really caught my attention: "If we were to set out to establish a religion in polar opposition to the Beatitudes Jesus taught, it would look strikingly similar to the pop Christianity that has taken over the airwaves of North America." You know - a mile wide, but only an inch deep! We better be careful that our actions don't tell the world to "boycot Jesus."
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
This is the best Tour de France since 1989! So much is said and written about what the French call the "convicts of the road" - the mighty superhumans who race their machines day in and day out. I want to salute another cycling hero of mine - Phil Liggett. Phil Liggett is the voice of world cycling. The man who has provided commentary on every Tour in recent history. I actually met Phil in Cape Town in 1993 (when I was still good enough to be racing in events that Phil did TV commentary for). Anyway, I salute you, Phil, with these classic Liggettisms:
"And Armstrong is coming down the finishing straight like a grand prix motorcar!"
"An absolute beast of a man" Used in reference to Ulrich From 2004 TdF
"he's sitting at the back of the peleton nursing an injury. no word on the specifics of the injury but rumor is he has a boil on the you-know-what." 2004 TdF
"There's Armstrong. His face giving nothing away. He is in complete concentration but I imagine that his ears are twitched back just listening for the whistle of a tire on the pavement -- the sound of an attack." 2004 TdF
"Ullrich and Kloden are having a bit of conversation back there. I wonder if Lance understands any German?" 2004 TdF
"Oh my there's some rubbish in the road. it appears as if a mini tornado has been through here. and (unknown cyclist) behind him as if to find someone to blame well he's going to have to look to the heavens. 2004 TdF
"This is DESTRUCTION TIME."
"If there's one thing Cadel Evans has learned in his first Tour de France...it's how to hurt himself!"
" he would rip the bike in half if he had half the chance" Regarding Botero chasing Vino on the Galibier.
"well, are you coming or not and the answer is NOT!" Refers to "The Look": Armstrong looks straight into the eyes of Jan Ullrich.
(The Peloton passes a field with white cows) "The peloton is passing a field of white cows. This region of France is known for its bovine....(goes off on tangent)....Of course, none of that matters to any of the riders, except that they might like a nice steak at the end of day." - 03 TDF
"Tap tap tapping out a rhythm" - One of the many pedaling related quotes
"These riders know how to win in style."
"Hes' praying for the summit to come as soon as possible"
"he's soaked in talent" On Ulrich
"Ullrich is pumping those two pistons he calls legs."
"Now the boys are enjoying a nice slice of tailwind"
"Simoni has been reduced to a touring cadence." When Simoni got dropped from the leading group.
"The crowd is cheering for their Pin-up Boy!" Virenque nearing the finish
of stage 7.
"Armstrong has let them all have their chances and now he is reeling them
in like some great fisherman."
"...and Fabian Cancellara is riding to a high level of superbness..."
"...and there's Roberto Heras, the little boy in the blue jersey"
"He's lit the blue touchpaper" -- i.e., someone has attacked. Apparently another 'chiefly British' term. Blue touchpaper is evidently highly flammable paper used to lit fireworks and such.
Paul says something like "Look at Armstrong; what is that face saying?" and Phil says "It's says 'I'm going to win the Tour de France' Regarding 04 TdF; stage to La Mongie or Plateau de Beille when Armstrong was in a small group in the final climb to the summit.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Monday, July 10, 2006
What did I do last week? Where in the world was I? Holly and I had the most incredible week - pure rest and relaxation. Last Monday we drove down to San Antonio, and spent the night in the Palacia del Rio. Then we spent three days in New Braunfels. What did we do? Nothing! It was wonderful. I slept more last week than I have in the past month. We slept late, we took afternoon naps, we ate wonderful food, we drove around aimlessly, we kept the cell phones turned off, we hung around historic Gruene, we went antique shopping (that was Holly's idea), and . . . we went tubing down the Comal River (aka "toobing"). Just look at that picture. Wanna go?
When I preached my series on the 10 Commandments last month I really wrestled with the Sabbath commandment. Jesus was always in trouble for violating the Sabbath traditions of the Jews, and today any mention that we observe the Sabbath gets those Christians who think the OT doesn't apply to us all riled up. I think both extremes miss the point. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping is not about legalism or what you do on Saturday - it's about rest. Doing nothing. Chilling out. It's God's will.
Here's a wonderful observation I'm borrowing from Wade Hodges' blog: "Dualism brought in its wake an emphasis upon asceticism. This life-style, a stark departure from the Jewish norm in Scripture, is still present in varying forms in the Church today. Asceticism results in a debasement of life. The enjoyment of the physical is rejected in favor of the general mortification of the flesh. Physical appetites and pleasures are considered unworthy indulgences which foster entrapment, so the body must be policed by rules. Thus one must seek to restrict or restrain oneself from, to deny or give up, anything enjoyable which may prove a hindrance to the cultivation of one’s “spiritual” life. . . .Though rejected by Paul, the ascetic attitude of “Do no taste! Do not touch!” (Col. 2:21) remains deeply embedded in the history of Christian thought. At the time of the reformation, the Dutch scholar Erasmus noted that Christianity in his day had come to be defined not in loving one’s neighbor but in abstaining from cheese and butter for Lent. . . The overall thrust of Scripture , however, reflects a different emphasis. Though physical pleasure is not the highest good or the solitary goal of life, one should receive and affirm in with an attitude of grateful acceptance. . . .If we find enjoyment in the here and now we should not be surprised. We know this enjoyment comes from the hands of living Creator who brought us into being with our best interests at heart. Hence, the Jerusalem Talmud states that in the life to come a person must give an account of every good thing he might have enjoyed in this life but did not. In the rabbis view, not to enjoy every legitimate pleasure was in essence to be an ingrate before the Master of the Universe. The next time someone tries to make you feel guilty because you’re enjoying life too much just tell them that you’re getting ready for the Day of Judgement."
Saturday, July 01, 2006
I just got through watching the prologue time trial of this year's Tour de France. Game on! This is the first time since 1988 that no past winner has started the race. Until this morning I missed Lance - but now I'm so glad he's retired. This race will be very exciting. I hope Americans can get over this personality driven fad with the "Tour de Lance" (thank ESPN for that gem!) Lance is not the greatest Tour rider ever - Eddy Mercx is. And there are really great American riders who have been living in Lance's shadow for too long - Floyd Landis, Dave Zabriski, George Hincapie, Bobby Julich, Levi Leipheimer. What's the big deal about the TDF? It's the greatest show on earth! It's chess at 40 mph with the 189 fittest athletes in the world enacting pure drama for a solid three weeks! Watch the Tour this year. Let the bug bite you! Oh, by the way, the super-fast rider in the blue and red Supermanesque "skinsuit" in the picture is . . . Me! That was the 1994 University of Port Elizabeth Criterium series. Ryan and I knew how to bring it on faster than a speeding bullet!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Part of the reason why I've been so quiet recently has been my admission to the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min, pronounced "demon") at Abilene Christian University. The degree is designed for full-time practicing ministers who have had a Master of Divinity for at least three years. It's different from the Ph.D in that it is aimed at church leadership and practical theology in ministerial contexts. The degree is basically a series of 8 classes - all in the weeklong short-course format. That means reading 10-12 books before class, class from 8am to 5 pm Monday to Friday, and a fairly significant assignment once class gets out. I love this format. It's intense, but over quickly - kinda like ripping off a bandaid! After 24 hours of courses, the final 6 hours are a thesis. This week the class is "Theological Foundations of Ministry." The gist of the reading and discussions has been that ministers are not only skilled technical historical-critical interpreters of the Word in an intellectual vacuum, we are also interpreters of culture, we pass on folklore, we interpret and reinterpret symbols by shaping those symbols through liturgies and rituals, and we engage in pastoral care. For example, today we visisted 4 churches - 2 very different Churches of Christ, one Baptist, and Episcopal to take careful note of how each church uses "sacred space" and symbols to convey their understanding of God, worship, and community. This is a very sophisticated exercise, because even the austere free church buildings with no visible Christian symbols/icons are themselves symbols with theological significance. Part of the minister's task is to read and interpret every story, every narrative, every ritual, and every symbol.
Every teacher I have had in the Graduate School of Theology has been a godly Christian person dedicated to knowledge, truth, Christian community, and the process of shaping students and churches into the image of God. When you have a Ph.D from Harvard and you cry while teaching a doctoral-level class, your heart is probably in the right place. They are training us to minister to the church and our communities in postmodern, post-Christian, Seinfeld-watching America. The irony of this whole process is that you would think after 2 Masters degrees in religion and theology, and work on a doctorate, I may have a big head. Just the opposite is true. The more I learn, especially in theological disciplines, the more humble I am forced to become. God has done things and is doing things I cannot wrap my mind around - in English, Greek, or Hebrew!
Friday, June 09, 2006
The death of Jordanian-born terrorist Al-Zarqawi raises an interesting and significant question: Is it morally and theologically acceptable to hope anyone goes to hell? All day yesterday we (Americans) have been “rejoicing” over the death of this monster. (If you take issue with my characterization of Zarqawi as a monster, then find and watch a video of him decapitating someone. Turn the sound up. WARNING: You won’t sleep tonight if you do this.)
It seems to me that there are two extremes to avoid. Gloating and cracking jokes about burying him in a “bacon wrapped ham helmet” seems no better than Muslims handing out cake and candy to their kids on 9/11. The other extreme is also asinine – mourning equally over the loss of every human life – as if this man’s death is just as tragic as the death of an innocent he murdered. I really have been struggling with my thoughts and feelings on this. I’ve thought about three things: First, is there a hell? Can rational people believe in such a thing? We already know that rational people can’t believe in the 72 virgins reward, but what about the opposite? And, if there is a hell, does Zarqawi deserve to go there? Can any of us make such a judgment? And third, if there is a hell, is it acceptable to hope someone goes there?
So, does hell exist? People who pride themselves in being “sophisticated” think the notion of hell is absurd. And, since the idea is associated with conservative Christians, they feel particularly compelled to reject the concept. The belief that those who commit evil are punished after death is hardly restricted to Christianity though. One of the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish Faith as laid down by the codifier of Jewish law, Maimonides, is that God rewards the good and punishes the bad. If God is just, it is inconceivable that those who do evil and those who do good have identical fates. A just God must care about justice, and since there is little justice in this world, there has to be in the next.
The second question is easily answered. Thousands of people have had their lives destroyed or shattered by Zarqawi. This man has made nihilistic acts of cruelty routine, even respectable among some. He tried to create a society based on new forms of religious hatred and new expressions of barbarity. This man was Hitler in a headscarf. If, then, there is a just God, and Zarqawi was the evil human being described here, the answer to the third question is obvious. Just as any decent human being would want good people to be rewarded in whatever existence there is after this life, they would want the cruelest of people to be punished. So, yes, I hope Zarqawi is punished. It means that a just God rules the universe. If you think that is hard-hearted, consider the alternative, that one of the most corrupt and cruel human beings is resting in peace. Whoever isn't bothered by that is the one with the hard heart.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Next week is a very exciting time for me. Every May I get together with about 150 preachers in Austin and we sit at the feet of the very best biblical scholars in their field to create sermons. Yeah, I know - how geeky! So, for those of you who care, here's what I'll be up to all of next week:
Monday, May 22
6:30 Welcome and Worship
7:00 James Thompson - 1 Thessalonians
8:00 Paul Watson - Preaching the Stories of the Old Testament
8:50 Evening Prayer - Dan Rouse
Tuesday, May 23
8:00 Breakfast (provided by Parish Hermitage)
9:00 Tony Ash - Luke
10:00 Rick Marrs - Ecclesiastes
11:00 Thompson - 1 Thessalonians
Lunch Gary Holloway - The Spiritual Life of the Minister (part 1)
1:00 Allan McNicol - From Text to Sermon (Mt. 25:31-45)
7:00 Watson - Preaching the Stories of the Old Testament
8:00 Ash - Luke
8:50 Evening Prayer - Jim Martin
Wednesday, May 24
9:00 Ash - Luke
10:00 Marrs - Ecclesiastes
11:00 Thompson - 1 Thessalonians
Lunch Holloway - The Spiritual Life of the Minister (part 2)
1:00 Michael Weed - Preaching from Colossians (Room 114)
Jeff Peterson - Preaching Romans 14 in Churches of Christ
7:00 Worship at University Avenue - Holloway preaching
Thursday, May 25
9:00 Marrs - Ecclesiastes
10:00 Watson - Preaching the Stories of the Old Testament
10:50 Blessings and Sack Lunches
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I love A Few Good Men. Here's the Jack Nicholson rant from the end of the movie. Go on - do your best Jack voice and have a go at it!
You coerced the doctor! Colonel Jessep, did you order the Code Red?
You don't have to answer that.
You want answers!
I want the truth!
You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world with walls that must be guarded. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have more responsibility than you can fathom. You weep for Santiago and curse the Marines. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. Santiago's death, while tragic, saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque to you, saves lives! But deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. They're the backbone of our lives. You use them as a punchline! I haven't the time or inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the very blanket of freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd rather you just said, "thank you" and go on your way, or pick up a gun and stand a post. Either way I don't care what you think you are entitled to!
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Hagerty Collector Network, the country’s leading insurance company for collector vehicles, surveyed thousands of members nationwide to find out their top complaints about other drivers. Here are their “Top 10 Driving Peeves.” Share your frustrations, and confess which ones you’re guilty of.
1. Distracted drivers talking on cell phones (Motor Mouths)
2. Slow drivers in the fast lane (Turtle Racers)
3. Pushy drivers who tailgate (Piggybackers)
4. Drivers who weave through traffic to gain one or two car lengths (Wacky Weavers)
5. Obnoxious drivers who speed up to keep you from changing lanes (Gap Snatchers)
6. Hasty drivers who change lanes without signaling (Space Invaders)
7. Road Rage (Road Ragers)
8. Motorcyclists who race down the middle of a lane, between cars (Speed Racers)
9. Women applying makeup and men shaving (Driving Divas)
10. Drivers who leave their turn signal on for miles (Morse Coders).
Monday, May 15, 2006
Last week a London Court ruled on a case involving Apple Computer and the record label owned by the Beatles. BBC called Guy Kewney, the editor of Newswireless.net, to their studios to be interviewed about the court case. When a production flunky ran to the lobby to get Mr. Kewney for the interview he managed to grab a clueless cab driver instead. The poor cabbie, who could barely speak English, was slammed onto the set and suddenly he was being interviewed about a case he knew nothing about. You gotta give him credit. He was on his game, in spite of the look of absolute panic when he realized what was happening. Click on the link in the title where you can watch the interview. Nobody knows who the cabbie is. They're looking for him, and if they find him he'll be an instant Brit celebrity.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
A few days ago I visited with one of our church members who has two young children (ages 5 and 7). These kids had serious questions for me – the preacher man! They asked: Why does the church have Bible classes? Why do we have trees in the church building? Why do we give money to the church? Why am I afraid of going to heaven? Why do we get baptized? Why doesn’t every church “look” the same? Why did God send Jesus to die on the cross if it’s unfair? Why do I always do bad things? Why do people get married? And the best one, why do girls like flowers? I was impressed with these kids curiosity. In that sense they are more honest than many adults. Adults stop asking questions when they think they know the answers. Questions are good. Questions are the “anti-complacency.”
But how do we pass on the answers to deep questions? It hit me last July 4th (aka Independence Day). I was with the American mission and medical team on the banks of the
That’s true in the church as well. And in a sense,
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The Church of Christ is a cult
The Church of Christ is part of the Pentecostal movement
The Church of Christ hates and suppresses women
Matthew was abusing Mary (physically, mentally, emotionally)
Matthew was abusing the kids
Matthew threatened to shoot the neighbor's dog - therefore Matthew was a violent man
Women can't stand up to the pressure of being preacher's wives
Mary wanted a divorce, but the church wouldn't allow it
I heard all of these things (and more) on CNN, FOX, and MSNBC
But the best (and I actually mean worst) was displayed on the Nancy Grace program on CNN last night. (thanks to my buddy Travis for pointing me in the right direction on this.) Read this transcript:
GRACE: A well-respected and much beloved minister in the Church of Christ, Selmer, Tennessee, gunned down in his own home. His wife, according to many reports, has confessed to police. They say whodunnit is not the issue, it`s why she did it. That is the question.
I want to go to pastor Tom Rukala, joining us tonight, a special guest, a Baptist minister. I`ve been researching the Church of Christ. I don`t know that much about it. What can you tell me?
PASTOR TOM RUKALA, BAPTIST PASTOR: Well, the Church of Christ is a relatively new church. It was started about 150 years ago by Alexander Campbell (ph). And it`s, unfortunately, a very legalistic sect, and they tend to use methods of intimidation and pressure tactics. They claim that they are the only ones going to heaven, and all other people are condemned to hell. So in case...
GRACE: Uh-oh, I`m in trouble. But I already knew that.
GRACE: Now, wait a minute. What more can you tell me?
RUKALA: Well, they claim that if you`re not baptized by one of their ministers, that you`re doomed to hell, even if you`re a believer in Jesus Christ, which, of course, breaks completely from the traditional Christian view that all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved because we`re saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again. For the Church of Christ folks, that`s not enough. You have to be a member of their narrow sect. It`s a very exclusive group. And if you`re not a member of their sect, you`re condemned.
GRACE: You know, Pastor, you keep saying "sect." "Sect." You make it sound like a cult.
RUKALA: It kind of is a borderline cult, unfortunately. I don`t want to make it out to be some kind of Hare Krishna group, but it has cult-like characteristics and...
GRACE: In what sense?
RUKALA: Well, in the sense of the exclusivism, the attitude that they are the only ones who know the truth. The tactics that they use are sometimes just -- not only un-biblical but unethical, and they can be very ungracious, unfortunately.
So there you have it. I guess there is such a thing as bad publicity. Maybe fundamentalist Baptist preachers shouldn't throw stones though - you know, glass houses! This is a big problem with the 24-hr news networks. They report on things they have no clue about, especially religion. My advice? Watch the Colbert Report on Comedy Central. You'll get the same news, but at least you'll laugh about it.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
As I have studied the Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) and read commentaries on Exodus, it has become clear that Jewish values are a rejection of the values of ancient Egypt. Egyptian civilization was steeped in death. Its holy book was the Book of the Dead, and its greatest monuments, the pyramids, were gigantic tombs. One of God’s first tasks in molding the Hebrew people was to destroy the connection between religion and death. The Torah began this transformation by rejecting everything Egypt stood for. The ban on eating or even owning bread during the seven days of Passover, the holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt, was primarily a symbolic rejection of Egypt. The Egyptians invented bread as we know it. They discovered that allowing dough to ferment produced a light, expanded loaf, and they also developed baking ovens. Fermentation is likened to sin and death in both Jewish and Christian understandings of the Bible. The Torah also banned Jewish priests from coming into contact with dead bodies. I know of no other ancient religious system that banned its priests from any contact with the dead. Why? The role of the Hebrew priest was to consecrate life. The Torah's ban on sexual intercourse during menstruation is also a separation of that which represents life (intercourse) from that which represents death (menstruation). Biblically, it had nothing to do with women being “unclean.” “Touched by death” is a better translation than “unclean,” and it leads to a far better understanding of the text. The ban on eating meat together with milk is another example of separating life and death. Meat represents death; and milk, the life-giving food of mammals, represents life.
The biblical transformation of human thinking from death to life has been a staggering accomplishment. Many cultures around the world still have a death fetish. One of our duties as Christians (and Jews) is to proclaim life. What did Jesus say? “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Monday, March 06, 2006
1. Is the person your best friend?
If you cannot say that the person you are considering marrying has become or is becoming your best friend, you need to figure out why before you decide to marry. Over time, friendship is the greatest bond between a couple. If the person you marry does not become your best friend, you will either seek someone who will be or simply drift apart. What is a best friend? Someone you can tell just about everything to. Someone you want to be with as much as possible.
2. Do you enjoy spending time with each other?
This sounds small, but enjoying each other may actually be the single most important characteristic of a happy marriage.
3. Is there chemistry between the two of you?
As essential as being best friends and enjoying each other are, there should be a physical component to your relationship if it is going to survive.
4. How does the person treat others?
It should go without saying that if the person is not kind to you, quit while you can. But it is far from sufficient that the person you are considering marrying treats just you kindly. Watch how he or she treats waitresses, employees, family members and anyone else they come into contact with.
5. What problems do the two of you now have?
Here is a rule that is rarely broken: Whatever problems you have before the wedding day, you will have during your marriage. Do not think that marrying will solve any problem you have with the person. You therefore have three choices: Make peace with the problem, see if it can be solved before deciding to marry, or don't marry the person. It is imperative that you be ruthlessly honest with yourself. And that is very hard. Nothing in life is easier than denying problems when you are in love.
6. How often do you fight?
It may be normal for couples to fight, but it is usually a bad sign if you are doing so frequently while dating. If you do fight, do you quickly make up? Does he/she fight fairly and hear your side? Has either of you said, “I'm sorry” after a fight? Do you fight over the same issues with no resolution? These are important questions?
7. Do you share values?
Opposites only attract in the very beginning. People who are alike stay together for the long term. The more you share, especially religious and social values, the better your chances of a good marriage.
8. Do you miss the person when you are not together?
This is even true for men. Even though men are easily distracted by work, sports, computer games, and numerous other things it is not a good sign if you rarely miss her when not together. As for women, if you don't miss him, it is probably a really bad sign.
9. Is the person unhappy?
The importance of marrying an essentially happy person cannot be exaggerated. If you are basically happy, do not think that you can make an unhappy person happy by marrying them. On the contrary, the ability of the unhappy to make the happy unhappy is far greater than the ability of the happy to make the unhappy happy. In other words – misery seeks company.
10. What do people you respect think of the person you're marrying?
Young people are certain they know better than anyone else in the world what is good for them. So a lack of enthusiasm for the person you are considering for marriage on the part of family or friends may mean little or nothing. But if objections come from a parent you respect for reasons that are not easily dismissed, and if others you respect are unenthusiastic as well, you should take their objections seriously.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
I mention this because of something I heard on the radio a few weeks ago (the Dennis Prager show). Human beings all have what Dennis Prager calls moral bank accounts. Just like a real bank account into which we make deposits and also withdrawals, we make moral deposits into and moral withdrawals from our moral bank accounts based on the actions we engage in during our lifetime. Now some people make so many withdrawals – Hitler for example - that no imaginable good they can do will change the balance. People should be judged this way, rather than on the basis of every little thing they do. I started thinking this way last year when Bill Bennett was railed against because he gambled away large sums of money. The gambling paled in comparison to how much good Bennett has done with his books on moral character. We need moral perspective. If your spouse has been a good and loyal person and a good and loving father or mother for 20 or 30 years and had an unfaithful night on a business trip, do all those years of deposits into their moral bank account count for nothing?
Without the perspective a “moral bank account” gives us, we exaggerate the good done by bad people, and the bad done by good people. God is the ultimate judge of us all. But in the meantime, moral judgments must be made by us humans here on earth. Charles Ponzi heroically saved a woman's life at a great personal price. His money scheme was awful; but he was not. Oscar Schindler saved many Jews during the Holocaust while being unfaithful to his wife. Yet we regard Schindler as a moral hero. I am for moral clarity and calling good “good” and evil “evil.” But we lose the war against evil and the war for good when we lose moral perspective. We all have moral bank accounts, and it's good to make deposits because we all make withdrawals.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Monday, February 13, 2006
The vast majority of Germans living in the Nazi era were also peaceful; very few ever laid a hand on a Jew. The vast majority of Russians never killed anyone while 20-40 million of their fellow citizens were murdered by Stalin. The threat to civilization coming from within Islam is not negated by the fact that the great majority of Muslims are not violent. The “cartoon riots” provide evidence of this. Most of the people rioting and protesting have never seen the cartoons, and only took to the streets months after the cartoons were published because their Imams told them to do it. So it’s probably more accurate to say that Muslims are stupid dupes and puppets rather than violent or evil. Germany was a threat to civilization because Nazis and their ideology took over German society while the majority of Germans (the “peaceful Germans”) either supported Nazi ideals or did nothing. Russia was a threat to civilization because Communists took over the country, and the great majority of Russians either supported them out of fear or did nothing. Islamic society is becoming a threat to civilization because Islamic totalitarians and terrorists are taking over those societies while a majority of Muslims either support their ideals or do nothing. That is why it is meaningless and dishonest to deny the threat to civilization coming from various Muslim countries by noting that most Muslims are not violent. Only a handful of Saudis terrorized America on 9/11, but a large majority of Saudis support Osama bin Laden. Few Palestinians strap bombs onto their children's bodies, but the majority of them support such evil – they elected Hamas after all. At this moment, the dominant strain of Islamic thought is totalitarian, meaning that wherever possible, a government should be Islamic and govern according to a strict interpretation of the Sharia (Muslim religious law). Furthermore, the Islamists believe these religious laws should be imposed violently, as they were in the Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. In addition, the dominant ideological trend in much of Islamic society is hate-filled. Their peaceful lifestyle is not influencing the hateful trends in their religion.
So the fact that the majority of those living in Islamic countries are good people is of no consequence. Unless they do something to condemn and to isolate the totalitarians and terrorists in their midst, history will judge them as it has all the good Germans during the Holocaust – guilty!
Saturday, February 04, 2006
P.S. I used the word "Superbowl" 8 times in violation of NFL copyright laws.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I think the world can be divided into three groups with regards to Jews and Israel: Those who hate the Jews and want them dead, those who are indifferent to this hatred, and Americans (at least those Americans who support Israel). The first group consists mostly of Muslim societies. Muslim literature today is as anti-Semitic as Nazi literature was. Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is a best seller in the Middle East. Jews have been expelled from nearly every Arab country, and the deliberate killing of Jews is celebrated throughout the Muslim Middle East. And it’s not only the Middle East. There are some 32 million Muslims in Europe, many of them radical and, therefore, anti-Semitic. Virtually every day in the past month Jews and synagogues were attacked by Muslims in Europe. Because Europe fears its Muslim population, and because of its own deep-seated anti-Semitism, Europe is the primary supporter of those who wish another Jewish Holocaust. The rest of the world is either pro-Arab (e.g., Russia, China, and my old home, South Africa) or totally oblivious to Israel’s fate (most of Asia and Latin America). America is Israel's only defender. America does not merely tolerate Jews, it honors them. The United States has always defined itself as “Judeo-Christian.” Though Christians founded the United States, the Old Testament played a big role in shaping America's identity. Thomas Jefferson even suggested that the seal of the United States depict Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. However, given the number of Americans, including American Jews, who are willing to throw Israel under the bus because they believe that “Zionism” is the cause of terrorism, is frightening. Even George W. Bush said something today that made the hair on my neck bristle. In response to the overwhelming Hamas electoral victory, Mr. Bush said, “This reminds me of the power of democracy.” Yeah, and Hitler’s electoral victory in 1933 was another jewel in the crown of world democracy.
So here we are, so soon after nearly every Jew in Europe was murdered, and the remnant that remains in the New Jersey-sized state of Israel is threatened with extinction. Just like in 1938, the world now seems to be divided between those nations that were about to murder Jews and those that would let it happen. It is almost unbelievable – almost.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Here’s what I mean. I want to tell you about Tom and Sally – poor people just fighting for their very existence. Sally was an illegitimate child, born to a mother who was having an affair with a married man who threw her out. Eventually the child is born, and because of the mother’s reputation the child (Sally) is a pariah. And so history repeats itself. Sally falls in love with a man whose sister is the town prostitute – she wants to marry this man, but he doesn’t want anything to do with her. Now, along comes Tom – a pathetic guy. A real loser – as mean as a rabid dog. He was in love with a girl named Sarah. He asked Sarah, “Will you marry me?” And she said, “absolutely not, LOSER!” Tom then goes to the first woman he can find and marries her – it’s Sally. Eight months later (you do the math) a girl is born, and Tom insists that they name the little girl Sarah – after the woman he’s really in love with. Tom then gets it into his head that they have to move, and he wants to build their own house. But remember, Tom’s a lazy bum, so he only manages to put up three walls. So this poor family is now living in this crazy three-walled house with the rain and the snow coming in. Tom never finished the house. And then Sally gets pregnant again, and she gives birth to a boy and names the boy after the first loser she was in love with. Now Tom, who thought the boy wasn’t really his, wasn’t really friendly to this little boy. He worked the kid. I mean this was a battered kid. He worked the kid all day, he starved the kid, he whipped the poor boy. He was terrified of his father. Nothing he did was good enough for Tom. Sally, however, really loved her boy and told him, “The way out is through education.” So she taught him to read. The father disagreed. He said, “You gotta go out and work you worthless kid.” When the boy was 9, Sally died. What does Tom do? He just leaves – gone for a year. When people finally stumble on this crazy three-walled shack in the middle of nowhere the 2 kids are so emaciated, they’re just skin and bones – they had been foraging in the bushes for food! And then dad comes home – with a new wife – Sarah – the woman he always wanted to marry! And the beatings start all over again – the work and the beatings go on and on. The father slaps the kid in public, he humiliates him, and he goes on working him to the bone. Eventually, when the kid is 22, he leaves home to live in another town with nothing. He was emaciated, beaten, dirty, he was so poor he had no buttons on his shirt – he used thorns for buttons! He wandered into this town during a parade looking like a freak! But it wasn’t long until people were so impressed with how smart this kid was that they gave him a home and sent him to school. By the way, this guy never disciplined his own kids – they were wild. They would go into the office of their father’s business partner and just ransack the place, and they were never talked to or disciplined – he became the opposite of his father Tom. His wife made him name their own son after his father, Tom, which is why he never called his own son by his given name – he always used a nickname. He refused to say the name of his father. Years later, when he was famous, and people asked him why he was doing what he was doing, he said, “Because I relate. I know how bad slavery can be because of how my father – Thomas Lincoln treated me.”
You see, it is almost meaningless to memorize the Gettysburg Address or know that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation proclamation on January 1st 1863 if you do not know why, if you don’t know the personal background. I love history, don't you?
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Like most people, including preachers, I too get disillusioned and fed-up. Conservative Churches of Christ can be a tough place to work - people tend to get sqeaky about silly things! The line between tradition and doctrine tends to get blurred out when anti-sectarian sectarians rage against sectarianism and the traditions of denominational trappings and artificial structures with the sectarian weapons of tradition and artificial structures! Go ahead, wrap your head in duct tape! However, history has given me a whole new appreciation for what lies at the core of Churches of Christ - Christian unity. We are a unity movement - sometimes off course, sometimes confused, sometimes too uptight, sometimes too traditional - but our reason for being is Christian unity. That is noble. That's why I love Churches of Christ. That's why I preach for the Church of Christ. The early restoration leaders did not see restoration of NT Christianity as an end in itself, but rather as a vehicle for the goal of Christian unity.
For the past two weeks I've taught about Barton W. Stone. He preached for the Presbyterian Church in Cane Ridge, Kentucky from 1796-1804. In 1801 he and other Presbyterian ministers held a revival meeting. Between 20 and 30 thousand people came! For five days no one cared who was Presbyterian, who was Methodist, who was Baptist! Stone was inspired by this event. Of course the Presbyterian hierarchy was not, and, to make a long story short, he and 5 others left the Presbyterian Church in 1804. They simply called themselves "Christians," committed to the principle that if all Christians could agree on a few essentials, and ditch everything that caused division, we could at last honor Christ's plea for love and unity. What a goal! What an ideal! Two hundred years later that goal is still held up by some of us in the Restoration movement. Like Linda Ronstadt sang, "I don't know much, but I know I love you, and that may be all I need to know."
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
1) I am personally opposed to abortion. I think it is morally reprehensible - under all circumstances!
2) All polls indicate that the majority of Americans think abortion ought to remain legal - therefore I am in the minority on this issue.
3) Roe v Wade (1973) was a terrible decision - an abominable interpretation of the Constitution. Even liberal law professors (Lawrence Tribe of Harvard) admit this - therefore Roe v Wade ought to be overturned post haste, and no nominee to the Supreme Court ought to be afraid to say so.
4) Overturning Roe v Wade will have virtually zero effect on abortion in America. Roe v Wade simply incorporated the 14th Ammendement so that one state's allowing abortion applies to the other 49 states. If Roe is overturned all but about 5 of the 50 state legislatures will scurry to make abortion legal in their states.
5) Most Americans, including Senators, do not understand point number 4.
6) There is no right to abortion or privacy in the Constitution - there is, however, a right to own private property.
7) Therefore I am more concerned about overturning the recent (2005) Kilo v New London decision which gave local municipalities the right to confiscate private property and give it to developers if it expands their tax base.
So why can't Samuel Alito just say all that?