Culture


07 Jul 2009

We’ve all attended a nominal Christian funeral. The Michael Jackson memorial service gives us a glimpse of how it works for the non-Christian celebrity service. Some things are the same as the nominal Christian funeral: vague uplift, religious bits-and-pieces, Hallmark-card spirituality. But there are differences: Barbara Walters shows up. If the celebrity is black, Al Sharpton attends too. There are lots of people onstage in very expensive-looking clothing, wearing expensive-looking glasses and hairdos. These people walk in higher circles than the Starbucks crowd.

Instead of a focus on God’s goodness and His glorious promises, we see a focus on helping our fellow man. The vague uplift is all about feeding the starving and caring for others. It’s about creating good vibes. It’s about making ourselves feel better with no basis in anything other than our wishes. The vertical dimension — man before the living God — is absent.

I don’t wish to minimize the pain of a family in mourning, but it is sad to see people finding such pathetic and empty comforts. These are mud pies in a slum instead of a holiday at the sea. When we fall back on ourselves after something so momentous as a death, it’s even clearer that there’s nothing there.

10 Jun 2009

We often hear the wish expressed that we could just get by all this “divisiveness about “gay marriage.” I heard Peter Schiff say this basic thing recently since he is contemplating a Senate run.

Now, there is no such thing as gay “marriage.” God cannot bless a union He calls an abomination. However, there’s nothing to stop Adam and Steve from tying the knot down at the local Metropolitan Community Church. For that matter, there’s nothing stopping a guy from exchanging rings with his dog out in the back yard. This isn’t a debate about what people can freely do in civil society. People believe in all kinds of heresies and abominations that do not involve the civil authorities.

Some libertarians and “moderates” are offended by the Biblical view, or they wish it would go away, and so they make the leap to supporting the “live and let live” side. However, they’ve taken the wrong side if they believe this. While the popular wisdom is that supporting gay marriage is the freedom-loving side, the exact opposite is the case. Politically, the pro-gay marriage side is all about forcing people to recognize (and pay for) something they do not want to recognize. If an employer finds it repugnant to offer health benefits to a homosexual’s partner because such a “marriage” is illegitimate, well, tough luck for him. He has to pay for it anyway. Similarly, government benefits will be handed out to gay “spouses.” Granted, government benefits are unconstitutional, divisive by nature, and should be eliminated completely, but the point is that while they exist people are forced to support that which they don’t want to support.

This is tolerance? It won’t stop there. Once gay marriage is 100% legal, we can expect legal actions taken against faithful churches that refuse to perform these phony marriages. It will be yet another avenue for persecution.

Gay marriage supporters are the intolerant ones. Shouldn’t this be clear since most of the people who support it also support government meddling in all other areas of our lives?

09 Jun 2009

We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street / Cause we like a livin’ right and bein’ free. -Merle Haggard

The late libertarian Harry Browne once called the Defense Department “the Post Office in battle fatigues.” I believe his point was that people often romanticize the military brass, but really these are just government bureaucrats.

After World War II, the Cold War arose, and conservative-minded folks became suspicious about opponents of war. Didn’t they want to fight communists? This divide deepened in the 1960s, when all the dopey hippies came along preaching free love and flying high. My late father, a WWII vet who fought under MacArthur, despised hippies. He rightly saw them as irresponsible cretins. When I was young in the 1970s, America was still fighting aggressive communism. Those who opposed the fight were distrusted, especially those who told us that if we were just nicer to dictator xyz, then they’d listen to reason and we’d all sing Kumbaya together (we see their descendants today who think Obama some sort of demigod). Middle American conservatives don’t like these people. They distrust those who oppose military involvement. They prefer Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

This was my own thinking on wars for a long time– I favored every war up until Iraq. It was then that my views started changing. I still can’t stand hippies, but I took a second look at the serious anti-war libertarians (as opposed to the liberal posers who’ve suddenly quieted down since their guy was elected). If we don’t trust the government in anything it does domestically, why should we trust its foreign policy wisdom? Perhaps the things they do there backfire. Perhaps they are motivated by non-altruistic concerns.

Consider these problems with wars:

  • People get killed. Our soldiers, their soldiers, and civilians. It sounds simple, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t instances where wars can save lives, but the fact that people are being killed should invite questions about the necessity of any war.
  • Wars waste a lot of money. The government spends huge amounts of money to create weapons. Then it uses those weapons to blow up bridges and buildings in other countries. Then it spends still more to rebuild all those homes and bridges. Where does this money come from? It is stolen from the private sector. Debt and inflation attack the savings that could have funded real investment. A labor force that could have produced useful items instead is diverted to produce things that will be blown up. (This gives lie to this idea that World War II “got us out of the Depression.” This conventional wisdom is a fallacy, as historians like Robert Higgs have pointed out.)
  • Wars divert resources from the private to the public sector. Any dollar moved from the private realm to the public realm enervates private society and strengthens the the public sector.
  • Government grows bigger and more powerful on the heels of popular support for wars. This leads to new laws that expand government and lessen social and economic freedom. The late conservative Paul Weyrich noted that one should never give to your friend power that your enemy might one day inherit. If Obama’s popularity persists, will anyone be surprised if its administration eventually use all the new security powers given it by the Bush Administration to persecute all you 2nd-Amendment “terrorists” out there with your guns, or you unpatriotic elements who won’t hire unrepentant homosexuals? It wouldn’t surprise me. As we continue toward a cashless society, it becomes easier to ensure that no transaction goes unnoticed. We usually are told it’s all about “national security.” I guess it’s all just a coincidence that it eases auditing and taxation, and eliminates privacy.
  • Randolph Bourne put it this way: “War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. … Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. Loyalty — or mystic devotion to the State — becomes the major imagined human value. Other values, such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.”
  • Empires are brought down by expensive wars. The US is, conservatively, $65-100 trillion in the hole now depending on which estimates you believe. Debt and inflation always accompany wars. The U.S. simply does not have the money to be blowing stuff up in Iraq or to be occupying bases across the globe. Necessity will eventually force many of these troops home in lickety-split fashion. Empire is the last stage before collapse.

I am not anti-war in blanket fashion, but I hate big government. I do not trust the state. Why should I?

Why should you, my conservative friends? I am not saying that all wars are evil. But be very skeptical.

12 May 2009

Here’s a thoughtful article on McDonalds, one of my favorite dining establishments. The article makes keen points about elitist snobbery and the moral aspects of capitalism. A sample:

One of the reasons that the elites loathe places like McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart, or Target, or any of these places that cater to Everyman – and you might suppose that the champions of the workers and peasants would love these places – is precisely their capacity to rob the rich of their distinctive social markers. One day it was a sign of class and distinction to drink a latte; the next day, every construction worker is doing it.

28 Nov 2008

Returning from a wonderfully pleasant Thanksgiving gathering, my lovely wife and I discussed something Peter Schiff wrote in his The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets. Namely, the basic uselessness of most college degrees. Liberal arts degrees are little more than an expensive job screening mechanism. A huge education bureaucracy benefits while countless middle class families take on a boatload of debt.

We lamented how much useless stuff was involved in our own education. The typing and computer classes were certainly useful, but we sure spent lots of time learning junk like social studies instead of dirty-fingernail things like home repair, construction, appliance repair, car repair, hunting, gardening, survivalism, etc. Why aren’t practical things considered part of education instead of just theoretical (and perhaps effeminate) pursuits? The practical stuff will prepare people for any economic environment, including a forthcoming depression that appears more likely with every massive Keynesian attempt to avoid it.

Schiff is blunt. As a liberal arts major, I have to say the “ouch” that one says when the truth hits close to home:

In the past 30 years or so, our government and business leaders collectively shot the U.S. economy in the foot by encouraging a major transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based one. Today, more than two-thirds of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is produced in the service sector.

Many U.S. residents see this as a good thing, and no wonder. A service economy has many lifestyle advantages for the people living in it. There are no smokestacks to interfere with the view from million-dollar-mortgaged homes, and no need to follow a demanding factory schedule. College graduates with useless humanities degrees can always find work pushing pencils in an accounting, legal, or financial firm. Best of all, no more calluses on hands or aching muscles from the physical labor many factory and agricultural jobs require. Plus production jobs are capital intensive, requiring major investments in plant and equipment; service sector jobs, by contrast, require relatively little in the way of capital– perfect for a nation devoid of savings. It sounds like a good deal, but there’s a basic problem. Just as an individual can’t survive by only consuming and never producing anything, so the United States in the global economy must produce as well as consume. The only way to do this is to export, and services, for the most part, can’t be exported.

… As Americans are forced to curtail their spending, demand will fall sharply for services like manicures, therapy sessions, and legal advice. p.189-191

During the years that the United States was dominated by a service economy, it didn’t really matter if students graduated with degrees in political science, communications, or other liberal arts. There was always some sort of clerical or administrative work to be found. With the service economy withering and the US. job market shrunken, those options will not longer exist by the time today’s students become graduates. For some, trade school might offer a more useful– and much less expensive– alternative. For others, a degree in a practical field such as engineering, geology, animal husbandry, or computer science will provide a fighting chance at a good job in the tough years to come. In addition, don’t neglect the foreign languages portion of your education. p. 202

29 Jul 2008

One rarely hears the word “harlot” today. We still hear the word “whore,” but mostly in a non-Biblical sense (“attention whore”). The implications of fornication and adultery are mostly gone. The decline from “sodomite” (Biblical term implying judgment) to “homosexual” (clinical term) to “gay” (phony euphemism) is now mirrored by the decline from whore/harlot (judgment) to today’s “prostitute” (clinical cf. the TNIV) to tomorrow’s euphemistic heir apparent: sex worker.

Sex worker. What a term! Norm MacDonald, whose vulgarity clouded clever satire, nailed the new morality back in 1997 (and yes, all but the punch line really happened):

In San Francisco last week, a birthday party for one of the area’s leading political figures, attended by the city’s Mayor, Sheriff, and members of the board of supervisors, culminated with a performance in which a dominatrix used a razor blade to carve a satanic star into the back of her male partner, then urinated on him, before finally sodomizing the man with a liquor bottle. After learning of the incident from press reports, San Franciscans expressed shock and outrage that the liquor bottle was not recycled.

Environmentalism is one thing, but the precincts of liberalism that glory in their irreverence and acceptance of degradation are way too precious to deal with anything implying condemnation. This gets the Tolerant crowd downright offended, angry, even violent. That’s not what they mean by free speech, pal. It turns out that the world has its own Puritan (impuritan?) streak.

“Sex worker” seems so bland, so inoffensive, so legal. And of course, the whole point is to muddy the waters and soften the blow. Consider:

How the faithful city has become a whore sex worker. -Isa. 1:21

“You have played the harlot sex worker with many lovers; and would you return to me?,” declares the Lord. -Jer 3:1

Not quite the same, eh?

Even we Christians cringe when hearing “harlot” and “whore” used in their Biblical sense. They aren’t meant for polite company any longer. But isn’t that another mark of our worldliness?

11 Jun 2008

Stories like this continue to surface stating that young evangelicals are peeling away from conservatism. It’s hard to tell how big of a movement this will be until the election (our liberal media has long indulged in wishful thinking in such matters), but it bears watching.

The reason given by these young evangelicals is that they aren’t “single issue” voters. They’re pro-life, but they also believe in “social justice.” What is social justice? Well, it’s pop-culture speak for the use of taxpayer money to “fight” poverty and AIDS, to “protect” the environment, etc. In other words, it’s the same old, tired liberalism. (To digress, I’m convinced that popular culture inculcates this propaganda more effectively than the usual suspects in the mainstream news media. It’s the subtle, liberal premise on MTV, VH-1, afternoon talk shows, movies, and Comedy Central that, with endless repetition over a period of years, work its magic on minds already untethered by discernment. This, along with churches no longer preaching the whole counsel of God and discipling the sheep, is what has led to the rapid acceptance of sodomy over the last 20 years. The shift in even the last 10 years has been incredible. What a damning lack of love we show by acting as if this is cultural advancement.)

I’m not a single-issue voter, either. I won’t vote for someone who is pro-abortion, but the role of government and the rule of law is also critically important. There’s a reason why a government that historically saw its main goal as providing for the common defense now regulates (via the EPA) the gallons-per-flush for your toilet. That particular power wasn’t enumerated in the constitution, but it didn’t come from nowhere either. It was an accretion on prior interventions in the market. Similarly, government funding of Planned Parenthood didn’t come out of the blue either. It was another layer of plaque buildup on top of prior unconstitutional prerogatives assumed by our government. If we get to the point in this country reached by a few European countries where it’s a “hate crime” to speak the whole counsel of God in matters of sexuality, you can be sure that that won’t come from nowhere either. It will follow other “plausible” and “sensible” government meddling in related matters.

Henry Hazlitt, whose Economics in One Lesson should be read by all, noted:

This is the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

That about says it all for liberalism. My late father defined a liberal as “someone who likes to spend someone else’s money.” Well, another definition might be: “Someone who always — always — overlooks secondary consequences.” (In Ohio now, we have a group pushing a ballot issue to force businesses with more than 25 employees to provide seven mandatory sick days. Now isn’t that a fine prescription for making Ohio, already one of the worst business climates in the country, more competitive, especially in this era of expanding inflation and high gas prices? Pity our small business owners.)

Here’s what I say to young, wavering evangelicals:

  • Barack Obama is another in a long line of empty-suit, vote-buying demagogues peddling phony hope for power. (McCain is a vote-buying demagogue too, but that’s a matter for another time.)
  • If you think abortion a negotiable issue — should a mother be allowed to kill her offspring? — then examine your heart. You’re out of line with what the church has always believed.
  • Liberal social justice is a violation of the eighth commandment. Sure, you spend a few trillion and you’re going to manage to help someone. But who’s really benefiting from it? Politicians, lawyers, and special interests, that’s who. And who’s paying the price? Taxpayers, the poor people who live around bums, drunks, and crackheads, and the bums, drunks, and crackheads themselves. African missionaries like David Wegener and my pastor can tell you the effects of foreign aid in Africa. A better answer is the exact opposite of what the social justice movement offers, namely property rights, the replacement of public “safety nets” that enable bad behavior with private charity, the return of vagrancy laws, discouragement of sodomy instead of handing out rubbers (Planned-Parenthood style), and, most of all, the gospel of Christ. The abortion movement is flat-out evil; liberal social justice is flat-out stupid and counterproductive (and that’s a charitable take).
  • Liberal social justice (and that includes the environmental movement) is an enemy of freedom. Value your freedom to live and worship. The government already takes half of our income on average, and there is some truth in the idea that every dollar spent by government is a dollar of our freedom. That’s one reason why, for example, many families don’t feel they can afford to have mom at home, because politicians in Washington — especially the ones who prattle on about “working families” — think they know how to spend our money better than we can. This arrogant attitude is well demonstrated by a U.S. senator in favor of a 1990s tax hike who said something to the effect of “well, if we don’t do it, people will just go out and buy more VCRs and TVs.”
  • The Christianized version of liberal social justice offered by the Rick Warrens isn’t a new reformation of Christianity; it’s the same candy-coated spirituality offered by the social gospel movements of the 19th and 20th centuries that decimated the mainline churches.
28 Apr 2008

McCoy: We were speculating. Is God really out there?
Kirk: Maybe he’s not out there, Bones. Maybe he’s right here. [points to his heart]
-from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Every few years, a book comes out that captures the world’s attention using the same basic New Age stew (and a big marketing budget). The latest deceiver is Eckhart Tolle. He’s being touted by Oprah Winfrey, who herself has a long track record of pushing falsehood. The book names may change, the endorsers may change as the decades go by (John Denver, Shirley MacLaine, Marianne Williamson), but the beliefs are pretty much the same vapid samplings of pantheism, paganism, gnosticism, and self-help.

Paul and John in particular warn against those pushing false knowledge of hidden things (e.g. the book of Colossians). The early church father Irenaeus meticulously chronicled the “absurd ideas” of gnostics like Valentinus. Compared to the complexities of the old heretics, the pop-culture smorgasbord tends to serve heretical appetizers (a little bit o’ this and a little bit o’ that) and junk food.

Given that, why would anyone waste time reading Oprah Winfrey’s latest guru instead of mining the Scripture? Well, for one, these false teachers tell itching ears (2 Tim 4:3) what they want to hear. They impart supposedly “secret” knowledge that turns out to be the same old lies: You are a good person with great potential, so look within and become a god (compare with Jeremiah 17:9…”The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”). And of course, they tell us not to worry about King Jesus. Jesus, to these false teachers, is a “demigod” or “spirit guide,” but not the only begotten Son of God who rules the nations (Psalm 2). He’s tame.

Also, these books prey on the ignorance of our Christian neighbors. This is the kind of stuff — along with all the other self-help, quasi-religious therapy of television talk shows — that forms people’s spiritual beliefs. Peter Brown, in his biography of Augustine, noted the time Augustine spent correcting and guarding his flock in letters marked by “an inspired fussiness, and by a heroic lack of measure when it came to the care of endangered souls… [They] catch the barely suppressed sigh of a tired old age, characterized by constant quiet acts of self-sacrifice as Augustine lent his pen, again and again, to the defence of his Church, at the expense of intellectual projects that engaged him more deeply.” (pgs 466 and 492, 2000 edition)

22 Apr 2008

Well, I saw Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. I hardly agree with its premise that academic freedom is the solution to persecution of those who believe in Intelligent Design. A better solution would be to tear down the evolutionist’s fort by abolishing state-funded education. Public schools — particularly universities — are largely sheltered from market forces and allow for the creation of intellectual fiefdoms. In other words, we’re free to disagree with Darwinists as long as we keep funding them. How about making these people get real jobs that aren’t based on government coercion? As a Christian, I would add that academic freedom means only so much if our wills are in bondage to sin.

Those caveats aside, one only need look at the absurdly negative reviews of Expelled to see that it’s touched a nerve (cf. universally positive reviews of this documentary). It’s the same nerve jangled when sodomy and abortion are discussed, a nerve inflamed by hatred for God and his church (aka. those inferior ‘religious nuts’).

It is well-made. It makes good points. You’ll have to see Expelled to hear some utterly absurd Darwinist theories about how life began. Also, David Berlinski– the guy had me laughing.

21 Apr 2008

More signs of the drift in evangelical youth. Where did people get the idea that there is virtue in living sinfully — indeed, flaunting it like Anna Karenina — as long as you’re honest about it? Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue. Authenticity must be the tribute that vice pays to vice.

04 Apr 2008

And they will say to you, Look, there! or Look, here! Do not go out or follow them. -Luke 17:23

You know, occasionally a blog comes along bringing satire that is almost inspiring. A friend sent this along. Don’t miss the conversion stories to the right.

20 Feb 2008

I like to poke at classic rock, but occasionally its old warhorses assert themselves. Apparently some video game has awakened interest in this song by Kansas. It was written by the band’s lead guitarist, Kerry Livgren, in the midst of a journey that led him to Christianity several years later. That journey is well-reflected in these Prodigal Son lyrics (cf. “The Wall” from Leftoverture). Equally notable here is the caliber of the music: great harmonies, songwriting, pinpoint accuracy, interesting parts galore, and the cohesiveness of a talented band at its creative peak. It’s amazing that they came anywhere close to recreating it without a tape machine, but here it is… live! Livgren is the blonde dude.

07 Dec 2007

If I had to pick a favorite Christmas CD, I’d go with Sinatra’s Jolly Christmas. This classic was recorded during his 1950s peak.

Sinatra’s version of Jingle Bells is the definitive one. The harmless if childish ditty just never sounds the same once you hear Frank’s version. Judy Garland did the definitive Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but Frank’s comes close. Then there’s one of my favorite (secular) songs, the splendid Christmas Waltz. Frank does two versions. The Nelson Riddle arrangement is OK, but the Gordon Jenkins effort is sublime. It’s one of the few times an arranger ever bested Mr. Riddle.

Perhaps most surprising about Jolly Christmas is just how good the sacred songs are. Oft-heard hymns like The First Noel and O Little Town of Bethlehem are moving and dignified. The arrangements are fantastic.

What’s your favorite Christmas CD?

03 Dec 2007

Recently I come across some old reruns of Let’s Make a Deal, the 60s and 70s game show where Monty Hall offered prize deals to a costumed studio audience. I remember wishing that I was in that ooh-ing and aah-ing group, competing for the wonderful merchandise.

The enjoyment of watching the shows now, 35 years removed, is that the prizes are so shabby and unappealing: A station wagon, a $400 encyclopedia set, nasty-looking furniture and carpeting, a camper, a refrigerator with an AM/FM dial, an 8-track unit, a 19″ tube TV. That which was new now looks so old. Once coveted, these items now litter junkyards across America. Doesn’t the same fate await the things in today’s Christmas ads?

Only Christ remains valuable and worthy.

06 Oct 2007

‘Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.

So says the evil Noah Cross in Chinatown. I think of that classic comment when I come across Hugh Hefner on TV. Once distastefully considered a libertine and pornographer, “Hef” is now just a campy, grandfatherly icon. Little shows the blatant depravity of men than a desire to be like him. How many see his idolatrous life as the American dream, a blessing among blessings? The truth is that such folly (Prov. 6:32-33, Rom. 1:28) proves one far more likely to be under God’s curse:

Prov 22:14 The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.

He with whom the Lord is angry… How’s that for plain talk? Matthew Henry comments:

Those who abandon themselves to that sin give proof that they are abandoned of God: it is a deep pit, which those fall into that are abhorred of the Lord, who leaves them to themselves to enter into that temptation, and takes off the bridle of his restraining grace, to punish them for other sins. Value not thyself upon thy being in favour with such women, when it proclaims thee under the wrath of God. It is seldom that they recover themselves, for it is a deep pit; it will be hard getting out of it, it so besots the mind and debauches the conscience, by pleasing the flesh.

01 Sep 2007

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, -Eph 6:17

In his latest post, Pastor Ron Gleason has a (sadly) witty anecdote:

More often than not a number of pragmatic reasons are put forward when it comes to choosing a local congregation for the family or individual. … Topping the list is almost invariably the statement that the music is great. … The music is loud, contemporary, upbeat, and cutting edge. Hands are raised and people sway back and forth with their eyes closed. I made a startling discovery at the Chattanooga, TN PCA General Assembly. You might not know this, so it is worth passing along for your spiritual edification. Here’s what I discovered: the Holy Spirit doesn’t move or work when you sing psalms. It is patently true. I was once a skeptic myself, but the GA that year removed all shadow of a doubt. I know empirically. Prior to our worship service one evening we sang a number of praise songs. Actually, the others sang, because I simply didn’t know them and I couldn’t keep up with when we were going to sing the same verse again — for the eighth time– and when we were going to sing the bridge, and…well, you get the point. As some of the people sang, eyes were closed, hands were raised, and there was a lot of swaying back and forth in near ecstasy. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not put off or out if people do that. But here’s where my discovery came —ich ben aufgeklärt!— when we finally got around to singing a psalm all the eyes opened, the hands when down, and the swaying ceased. I suppose that people thought that the Holy Spirit was watching and didn’t like what looked like dancing. After all, this was a gathering of Presbos.

So much for the Spirit working through the Word. This is a mystical age. We have all heard endlessly that faith isn’t mere assent. Right on. But if the three components of faith — knowledge, assent/agreement, and trust — form a three-legged stool, and you throw out the leg of knowledge… You’ll still end up on the floor.

25 Aug 2007

The theology isn’t perfect, but how can this not make you happy? There will never be another like Hank.

The young woman belting it out is of course the late great June Carter.

26 Jul 2007

This is Funny stuff. It reminded me of what we learned about Hillary Clinton in a breathless and unintentionally hilarious old Washingon Post profile (“Hillary Clinton’s Inner Politics,” May 6, 1993). The first line of the article is one of the great howlers of modern journalism:

It just happened, slipped out- from deep inside of her-in a quiet but stunning way.

I could lovingly quote the article’s comedy further, but to get to the point, Mrs. Clinton is eventually quoted thusly:

My politics are a real mixture… An amalgam. And I get so amused when these people try to characterize me: She is this, therefore she believes the following 25 things. … Nobody’s ever stopped to ask me or try to figure out the new sense of politics that Bill and a lot of us are trying to create. The labels are irrelevant. And yet, the political system and the reporting of it keep trying to force us back into the boxes because the boxes are so much easier to talk about. You don’t have to think. You can just fall back on the old, discredited Republican versus Democrat, liberal versus conservative mindsets.

By now I know what you’re thinking: “Put the pipe down, Hillary.” But seriously, the point is this: it pays to regard those who will not let themselves be defined concretely with much caution. It’s been my experience that those who claim to have moved beyond labels are up to no good.

Those who take issue with the Emergent Church Movement, which is mostly repackaged liberalism, are told that they just don’t get it. All attempts to clearly define terms are rebuffed (just like Arius).

I get the same “you don’t get it” vibe from the far more erudite Federal Vision folks. Every time someone tries to take them to the woodshed, they seem to get buried under an avalanche of theological gobbledegook (at least to my limited ears). It turns out that our best theologians in the OPC and the PCA don’t “get” it either. If they can’t get it, how is a ninny like me going to get it?

Uncle. A man must understand his limitations. I’ve yet to meet an actual proponent anyway.

18 Jul 2007

Lately I’ve noticed many cars bearing the bumper sticker “Who would Jesus bomb?” I assume it’s a slap at those Christians who support the Iraq war and yet wear their “What would Jesus do?” bracelets (though that fad has mostly run its course).

I share these protesters’ suspicion of overseas interventionism by our federal government. What I cannot share is their view of Jesus.

According to the fiction that enlivens this bumper sticker, Jesus isn’t an all-powerful king who will execute judgment (Psalm 2, Hebrews 1, etc.), but a peace-loving hippie with long hair and sandals. I’ve been reading straight through the Old Testament, and the the sheer amount of time Scripture warns of judgment (interspersed of course with promises for the remnant, the covenant sons of David whom God has sworn to uphold) is astounding. I’ve not done the math, but threats and promises of woe must make up 80% of what the prophets said. There are multitudes of explicit threats to strip the wrongdoers bare, to slaughter young and old, men and women without pity (Lam 2:21), to break old and young in pieces (Jer 51:22), and on and on and on it goes.

Jesus’s entire ministry was confrontational. He fed the 5000, then went across the Galilee and confounded a large crowd of people who were expecting bread, not calls to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6). He warned often about Hell. His parables weren’t Grimm’s Fairy Tales either. In the Revelation, as in the Psalms, we see the Conquering King who will war with the sword of His mouth (Rev 2:16) and rule with a rod of iron (Rev 2:27).

I look forward to the day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Is 2:4). Still, I’d prefer bombing to Hell. Who is that consuming fire?

01 Jul 2007

Those who have the world in their hearts lament the loss of great men more than the loss of good men. -Matthew Henry, comment on Ezek 26:17.

21 Jun 2007

Today is a sad day. Today I learned that Big Chuck is calling it quits.
Older Clevelanders remember Ghoulardi; I remember the Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show. In the 1970s, every Friday night after the late news came two goofy hosts showing a movie interspersed with classic “Certain Ethnic” skits and an unforgettable laugh track. The movies were great: Universal monster films one week, or perhaps Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, or a bad (in a good way) sci-fi flick. The end of the show was a freewheeling pile of (clean!) jokes and goofy sounds, with Peggy Lee crooning it to a close. The old clips are still funny.

This was appointment TV for an adolescent. It was cheap and unendingly clever. It was a blast. After Bob Wells left to enter Christian broadcasting, it was never quite the same, although “Little John” Rinaldi was a worthy and longtime replacement.

The Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show is my fondest TV memory. It was and always will be my favorite show, and Big Chuck will always be my favorite TV personality.

Godspeed, big guy!

10 Jun 2007

I normally listen to sports talk when mowing. Last week I decided to change things up and switch to FM. An old Boston song called Let Me Take You Home Tonight was playing on one station. It’s probably been 15 years since I’ve heard it. The passage of time lends new perspective to music, and folks, Let Me Take You Home Tonight is really vile:

Let me take you home tonight
Mamma now it’s all right
Let me take you home tonight
I’ll show you sweet delight

And then this fine bridge:

I don’t wanna make excuses
I don’t wanna lie
I just got to get loose
with you tonight

Delightful.

So the kicker is, this catchy, dumb song goes through my head for the next two days. Like a leaky faucet. Drip, drip, drip.

They say that the Arian heresy spread throughout Christendom via ditties. I can believe it.

01 Jun 2007

A Presbyterian pastor once told me that he wanted a church that welcomed Democrats. I’ve often recalled and mused on that comment. I should’ve asked him: what exactly does that mean in practice? Will he avoid using of the church pulpit to electioneer and instead focus on law and Gospel? Excellent! Or would he downplay God’s wrath against sins that many in our current culture are aggressively telling us are not sins? Perhaps he could attract Democrats by housing NARAL in his church basement, like a Columbus PCUSA church used to do. That’d attract the Democratic base.

Somehow there’s a conceit that being bipartisan is a good thing, that only those who are so are “open-minded.” “Moderate” is equated with “moderation,” as if conservatives cannot soberly evaluate things. In the last 20 years as a Christian, my views have changed on many topics, theological and political. My views on topics from environmentalism, the Fed, the Iraq War, social security, and public education aren’t Republican talking points (and Democrats would hate them more). Does such “open-mindedness” count, or only “open-mindedness” where one drifts leftward?

One thing hasn’t changed: my view of the modern Democratic party. It’s as rotten to the core as it was 20 years ago. The hardcore secularists and feminists who hate Christianity, the people at the forefront of excusing those who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9)… These folks know where their friends are. That is not to say that Tweedledee’s immorality makes Tweedledum a good boy; the Republican party believes good things that it doesn’t practice and it believes bad things that it does practice. The point is that members of a party built on blatantly unscriptural views aren’t folks we should be trying to attract unless we mean to eventually call them to repentance. (By the way, if Calvin were alive today, would he be pumped about the “hope” offered by the Obama campaign?)

Michael Horton once noted that people cry for balance whenever they do not want to take the time to think through their own position. That doesn’t stop them from “claiming moral superiority for having the grace, moderation and sophisticated detachment to stand above and outside the debate.” He’s right.

And what a phony sophistication it is. When I want to read people who’ve thought deeply about politics, I don’t read some dithering, non-partisan “religious leader” (an old congressman once told my dad that the only thing in the middle of the road is dead skunks). Moderates have this obnoxious idea that they think open and subtle thoughts — shades of gray! — while conservatives are ossified. My experience is the exact opposite: political moderates think shallow, dull, politicized thoughts without considering their implications. It’s the conservatives who have the quirky, vibrant minds that inform political thought. I don’t mean the Sean Hannity’s of the world, but the folks who aren’t on the airwaves: Howard Phillips, the reconstructionists, the folks over at mises.org (some of whom appear to be Christian), etc. You’ll gain sharper political insight from Malcolm Muggeridge, Samuel Johnson, Joe Sobran, and Solzhenitsyn than any “moderate” I can think of. And you’ll get big doses of withering wit while you’re at it.

16 May 2007

It’s interesting how many films, from Spiderman to 28 Days Later, have destruction as their context. Watching previews recently at a theater, I noted that every film involved it: Great monuments exploding, cities depopulated, and sandy ruins the only beacons of a once-great civilization. There is an unease in so much of our entertainment, a feeling that calamity awaits despite peace and serenity (of course, the wishful thinking, the lie, in all these films is that civilization will recover via the efforts of heroes).

For the history student, this preoccupation with calamity may be related to what Nock stated so hauntingly:

A dozen empires have already finished the course that ours began three centuries ago. The lion and the lizard keep the vestiges that attest their passage upon earth, vestiges of cities which in their day were as proud and powerful as ours – Tadmor, Persepolis, Luxor, Baalbek – some of them indeed forgotten for thousands of years and brought to memory again only by the excavator, like those of the Mayas, and those buried in the sands of the Gobi. The sites which now bear Narbonne and Marseilles have borne the habitat of four successive civilizations, each of them, as St. James says, even as a vapour which appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away. The course of all these civilizations was the same. Conquest, confiscation, the erection of the State; then the sequences which we have traced in the course of our own civilization; then the shock of some irruption [internal collapse] which the social structure was too far weakened to resist, and from which it was left too disorganized to recover; and then the end. -Our Enemy, the State, ch. 6, p.144

However, I don’t think most people are that interested in history. So why the preoccupation? Ecclesiastes 3 says that we have eternity in our hearts. I think our consciences are also stamped with a sense of pending judgment, the day of the Lord, and this is the real cause of the unease. The viewer may pass it off as harmless entertainment as he exits the theater, but our fairy tales and stories often speak to eternal truths moreso than the news (as Lewis put it in The Weight of Glory: “[T]he ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy”).

Reading the prophecies of Isaiah, it’s hard not to ponder the great glory and sudden ruin of empires.

Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate,and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller;as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. The wine mourns, the vine languishes,all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. -Isaiah 24:1-12

23 Apr 2007

Pastor Timmons ponders the empty gestures in today’s ceremony at Virginia Tech.

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