Friday, September 30, 2005
I am a Jacksonian in the most pejorative sense of the word. Brash. Arrogant. Fiercely and (often) unnecessarily independent. Lord cure me of my pride. Make me humble.
I worry too much. I should not do that. The solutions are in all of the problems, and that makes me very, very glad. Peaceful, even.
You can agree or disagree with Eugene Peterson (I don't always agree), but I really appreciated this interview from a few months back
). I try to always remember this part:
"But the minute we start advertising the faith in terms of benefits, we're just exacerbating the self problem. "With Christ, you're better, stronger, more likeable, you enjoy some ecstasy." But it's just more self. Instead, we want to get people bored with themselves so they can start looking at Jesus.
We've all met a certain type of spiritual person. She's a wonderful person. She loves the Lord. She prays and reads the Bible all the time. But all she thinks about is herself. She's not a selfish person. But she's always at the center of everything she's doing. "How can I witness better? How can I do this better? How can I take care of this person's problem better?" It's me, me, me disguised in a way that is difficult to see because her spiritual talk disarms us."
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Here's a question for any classically-minded readers. Do any of you know of the best rendition of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion? And where might I find a copy? And what about good choral Christmas music?
On a completely unrelated note, let me just say that Coltrane live at the Village Vangaurd
is an amazing thing.
All four discs are incredible. I'm almost afraid that one day I'll put aside rock and roll forever in favor of this. I won't but...
I'm learning how to handle this delicate balance, to believe passionately in something and yet to accep that others believe in a different manner, though I may be vehemently convinced that they are wrong. Completely, objectively wrong. As a Christian, I believe in sovereignty but surely that doesn't mean that I don't care and believe that truth - objective truth - has a place in history, economics and the arts. And yet all around I see those with their heads in the clouds - blinders on the sides of their faces - pretending that nothing in this world is wrong. I can't accept that. I won't accept that.
I had a friend once who sang for a punk band. He was an agnostic to the best of my knowledge, though he may be an atheist. (Nick
, do you know?) The band always played this one particular song about my friend's uneasy relationship with some Christian believers in his own life and before each time, he would say the song was about people "whose eyes are on the heavens while the world around them is burning like a hell." I thought then, as I do now, that such an analysis was unfair in a general sense, but all too often it was accurate in many specific cases. I, however, won't apologize for looking to Heaven. For when I see Heaven, I see the Cross. And though I see, ultimately, the most significant portrayal of love imaginable in the Cross of Christ, I believe, like Bonhoffer, that the call to believe in this Love is a call to follow, a call to die. This love is not merely sappy or sentimental. The call to come and die is a call to sacrifice and sometimes even, as Bonhoffer sorrowfully demonstrated, a call to fight.
I can't be silent about moral decay in my culture. I don't mean MTV. I don't mean Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City. I mean the state of moral apathy that crassly suggests that this nothing worth dying for, that there is nothing worth sacrifice, that every system of values - whether religious, cultural, social or economic - is valid, equal and good. That doesn't mean we should ever hate or disdain others. But it does mean that even in my desire as a believer to be humble and merciful, I should not feel guilty for believing in a sense of truth and justice, knowing that standards do in fact exist, and the defense of objective truth is a worthy pursuit.
As an example, and I say this as one who loves living in a college town, I suppose I am simply tired of seeing college students (even believers) live as though nothing matters outside their own world. There is suffering in this world
. There is injustice in this world. Slavery still exists.
There are ways in which we can demonstrate mercy to all kinds of people
(first and foremost) and yes, in some cases, other living things
. Religious freedom is endangered around the world.
There is ample injustice in America, as well, though I would caution that trying to fix any economic problems in America or around the world, in, say, I don't know...Africa?, by tax and spend programs is like trying to fill a round hole with a square peg.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Found this quote at the Boar's Head
"For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."
— C.S. Lewis
One more, just because it's Tuesday:
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse."
- John Stuart Mill
Monday, September 26, 2005
Here's an editorial in last week's Crimson White
, the student newspaper at the University of Alabama, my alma mater and current school. The piece was written by a Christian.Here's a response in today's paper
written by someone who is not a believer.
I'll talk about it later.
Good. ness. Gray. Shush.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
There's been a lot of said over the last few years about the Christian worldview, its positives and its excesses. Let me offer this piece as a means of detailing where I agree and where I disagree with the prevailing worldview and its implications. The catalyst for this was this piece by the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer
. I'm not in total opposition to Spencer's viewpoint, but I want to offer my own slant on the topic.
To begin, let me offer this much: A great deal of the worldview thinking has gone overboard. I think the Worldview Weekend is lame. It goes to ridiculous lengths to endorse the GOP as God's Party. I'm not on board with that. I think Nancy Pearcey takes some absurd leaps when she tries to suggest that rock music is inappropriate for the Christian believer. While I respect Francis Schaeffer's work, I also think he drew some unnecessary philosophical lines that labeled lots of things as "dangerous" when they needn't be, i.e. anything influenced by Kirkegaard or Barth. I didn't say we had to agree with it, mind you, I'm just saying that those ideas aren't immediately dangerous in the way that Sartre or Camus are.
Having said that, and I hope to revisit my criticism of Pearcey soon enough, let me detail where I am on board with the notion that Biblical orthodoxy can lead to certain social, economic and political beliefs. It's true enough that there is no Scripture arguing for the creation of a capitalist state, but I can look at the Bible and see a basic endorsement of personal freedom, the right to private property, and the freedom to ply one's craft without any sort of major interference from an oppressive government. Scripture suggests that we should maintain communal bonds, caring for one another and those who cannot care for themselves. The New Testament doesn't go a long way in suggesting that we care for others by taxing ourselves and then practicing a generic redistribution of wealth. My point here is to suggest that some degree of free-market economics can easily be justified by Scripture. Can free market economics be abused? Absolutely, and I reject any idea that says the market rules above all. Christians in business and government must be fair and euitable in all their dealings.
Now as it relates to specific government proposals, of course the Bible doesn't offer an opinion on health care. But I can look at the problem of socialized health care and see that it leads to ridiculously high taxes, a lack of choice for the individial and, typically, a decrease in the quality of health care. That may not be explicitly Biblical, but it sure is common sense. We might call it natural law, no? And like Aquinas, I believe that natural law was instituted by God, and any government program that consistenly tries to kick against natural law and first principles just isn't going to work. And yes, we're fallen humans, so nothing is going to flourish forever, but there's a significant difference between an idea that has problems and an idea that is an unmitigated disaster.
So what then does the Christian think about tax policy and welfare? Specifically, I don't know that a believer could argue for the Reagan tax policy as opposed to the Bush policy. But given the intentions of the government, I do think one could make a case that the Reagan policy was better than the LBJ policy or that Margaret Thatcher's ideas were better than Tony Blair's. Why? Well, not to sound too pragmatic, but they worked. And I don't mean that God's on the side of the winner, but I mean that Thatcher and Reagan worked (while LBJ and Blair haven't) because they've adhered to first principles of natural law when developing their economic policies, believing that individuals and communities know best, that government should stay out of the way and that private charity is most effective. Is that the Christian position? I don't know. I don't want a sermon on it this Sunday, but at the same time, I don't want us to pretend that God hasn't laid down certain natural precepts that will lead to a smoother (not necessarily perfect - totally depravity and all that) flow in the economy. To suggest that a Christian can be for any old party is to suggest that those parties don't take a stance on these matters and that perhaps God doesn't either. That's just plain false.
If what I've endorsed sounds an awful lot like conservatism, well, so be it. The simple truth is that the major American conservatives of the last fifty years have, on the whole, been both orthodox Christians and Jews (with a few agnostic exceptions), meaning that they held to certains understandings of natural law that are easily extrapolated from Scripture. Likewise, a brief perusal of the Conservative Reader
shows a fair number of Christians, Lewis, Eliot and Muggeridge included, within its ranks. If that makes some people uncomfortable, then so be it. I don't want the church to wave the banner for the Republican party, but on this aspect of politics, I'm generally persuaded that the traditionally conservative position is the more defensible one for the Christian tradition.
Consider this part one of a series. I will return, hopefully tonight or tomorrow, with my thoughts on where the Christian worldview is perhaps off on matters of art and where, despite some terrible Evangelical public relations, is still pretty much right on matters of family and marriage.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Yes, give him the boot.
Let me offer some clarification about my earlier comments on T.S. Eliot. I like Eliot a great deal, as I've already mentioned. As it relates to my own criticism of "The Wasteland," I offer this: Perhaps the poem itself isn't overrated, but might it be possible that modernism is? After talking with an English professor whom I respect very much, I acknowledge that I had failed to place the poem in its proper context. That context, of course, is the school of modernism where Eliot is a giant, along with James Joyce and Ezra Pound.
My comments were not well-developed, as I confused my own opinions of modernism with a particular poem. Shame on me. That said, I do enjoy much of Eliot's work and I certainly enjoy what I've read of his social and cultural criticism. As both a conservative and a Christian, I acknowledge the vast contributions he made to the intellectual development of both frameworks during the twentieth century. His poetry is worth understanding, if for no other reason than it best represents the confusing tumult that encapsulated the Western world in the wake of World War I and all its vast social, cultural, technological and economic changes. My own prejudices to Yeats and Auden should not have obscured that fact. And while Eliot joins Pound as the most noted of all modernist poets, it is fair to say that his work stands on its own, regardless of whatever stylistic genre it helps to define.
Monday, September 19, 2005
A few nights ago I linked to a post by Dr. Al Mohler
on the topic of adults choosing to delay children. In a post today at the Boars Head Tavern
, Michael Spencer took issue with the piece, saying:
"Finally, The topics that relate to the Christian worldview never cease to amaze me. I mean, I get it, but where we are going here? If you don't get married and have babies quick...what? God is offended? The culture goes to the dogs? I'm just unclear."
I'll have more to say about Spencer's most recent critique of the current issues at work within the dogmatic framework of the "Christian worldview," but I'm at a loss to see why he has a problem here. Let me begin by saying I share his concern that Mohler's blogging and online commentary is often too political. Frankly, there are many more commentators doing a much better job at dealing with cultural issues. On top of that, Mohler's "blog" is often little more than a collection of links or summaries of other articles. Likewise I share the feeling with other bloggers that Mohler goes lots of scolding with little understanding. So my point here is not in defending Mohler, though like Spencer, I have a lot of respect for his work at Southern and within the theological community.
I've taken issue with Mohler before, most notably concerning the topic of delayed marriage. Yet I was not stating disagreement with Mohler's concern in this post
and this one
. I was then and am now bothered by his inability to understand the circumstances faced by my generation. To date, he has not yet shown a proper understanding. This might have something to do with speaking at seminaries and Christian colleges, instead of talking to students at, for lack of a better term, secular institutions.
Having said that, I think Mohler is basically right about the dangers in delaying both marriage and childbirth. Yes, I know there are plenty of good Christian twentysomethings delaying both of these things for purposes of ministry. There are also lots of good Christian twentysomethings having fun being single and living like a nineteen year old. I know plenty of them; up until about a year ago, I was really looking forward to being one of them. I guess my question for folks like Spencer is this: even if "early" marriage isn't a biblical position (like, say, tithing) it is certainly a practice that nearly every society in human history has decided to undertake. If we decide that it's a point that we can adhere to at our own whim, we are conceding to drastic cultural change. Mohler would likely suggest, as I do, that Christians should be slow to accept such change. This change is the result of technological and industrial advances; should the Church give up this ground?
A secondary point I would emphasize is that Mohler's position on this matter is by no means limited to evangelical Christians. Conservative Catholics often hold this position in places like National Review
and First Things
. Nonevangelicals take up the argument in the Weekly Standard
. Orthodox believers like John Mark Reynolds and Frederica Matthewes-Green do, as well. Stanley Kurtz has been making an essentially secular argument that says delaying marriage and children will ultimately be detrimental to our social order. So while folks like Al Mohler and James Dobson make an evangelical push - and again, I'm not entirely comfortable with their premises - there are many, many others who come to the same conclusions with slightly different arguments. These arguments are often more persuasive, in my opinion, but I worry that Spencer and others like him are ignoring important cultural matters because of an understandable problem with the way many evangelicals present the issue.
Good thoughts from Pastor Joe Thorn
"What I am thinking is that biblical fellowship will result in us hanging out without agenda. We’ll have times of teaching, instruction, ministry, etc. but we must also simply eat together, watch TV together, go out together. We must be friends. Isn’t that fellowship?"
Here's some links for your Monday morning.
To begin, former head football coach at the
University of Alabama Bill Curry has a fantastic article on former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel's work
in New Orleans at Desire Street Missions. I've always heard great things about Desire Street, and I have a newfound respect for Wuerffel. Read this one even if you're not a sports fan; it's that good.
Both of my parents have jobs that can be quite stressful, but we very often ate dinner as a family while growing up. They still do, though I no longer live at home. I was surprised to learn, once I arrived in college, how many peope don't do that. Of course some families can't for whatever reason, but a great many just...don't. Sad, I think, and so do a lot of other people
Here are two good blogs. First, John Mark Reynolds
is a philosophy professor at Biola University, an Easteran Orthodox believer and a challenging blogger. Reading his site is always a helpful exercise for me.Hugh Hewitt
has put together the One True God
blog, with scholars from a variety of Christian backgrounds. This should make for very interesting and fruitful reading as it develops.
Here's two thoughtful pieces on cultural matters from Al Mohler
; see this
Lastly, here's an insightful blog
by a Catholic convert, a friend of friends.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
After just the slightest bit of reflection, this is a good weekend:
Weddings. Italian food. Little kids. Football. Chocolate covered strawberries. Clear Alabama skies. Stars. A full moon. An early tinge of fall. A late summer sunset. Eating lunch outdoors. Friends and friends and friends. Of all ages, both old and new. A piano playing while this is being typed. Peach tea. Billie Holiday while doing homework. A 3-0 Alabama football team. Beards. Clear sinuses. Not so clear sinuses. Wedding cake. Ice cream. Encouragement. Peace. Blue skies. Blue eyes.
Yep. That's a good time.
This is not a true story. Just a thought. Here it goes:
To say that I found God is to suggest that I was a child. A very young child, wandering about in a store. I left my mother’s side and found a shelf full of toys and candy and games. I was entranced by the lights and the sounds; the bells and whistles and sparkles. There were samples of candy and soft drinks. I ate and drank my fill, my teeth sore with sugar. My eyes glazed over with envy at the sights of the glittering lights. My ears rang at the sound of toys and trains and fanciful music. My joy was immense until I remembered my mother.
Where was she? Did she leave me? Where did she go? Why was I alone?
I was scared. I was alone. I had my fill of toys and games and candy and Dr. Pepper but I was without my mother. I could not do without her. I wanted her more than I wanted another candy bar or a sip of soda or a chance to play with an electric train.
I wanted my mother. Tears streaming down my face, gasping for breath, I ran around the corner. At the end of the aisle, far away to my young perception, my mother stood looking at a new vacuum cleaner. I ran as fast my little legs could carry me and I jumped into her arms. I buried my face in her shoulder and clung to her arms. I was relieved, immensely grateful to be in her embrace. I no longer cared for the games and the candy. I was with my mother and I was safe.
But had I found her? No, for when I was older she recounted the story to me. She had seen me wander off, and hoping to teach me a lesson, she stayed a safe distance behind. She was keeping an eye out for strangers and wet floors and falling teddy bears. She knew when it dawned upon me that I was missing, alone and her heart broke at the sight of my frightened tears. She moved away only to keep up the illusion.
But our Lord makes no pretensions. There is no illusion with God. We wander away to the toy aisle and He stays right behind us. He is next to us all the while we carry on as though the sugar and the glitter will suffice while we leave Him behind. No, we do not find God. He appears new only because we have stayed away so long. He was never unaware of our position; He has his eye on us all the while.
Monday, September 12, 2005
"To the divine providence it has seemed good to prepare in the world to come for the righteous good things, which the unrighteous shall not enjoy; But as for the good things of this life, and its ills, God has willed that these should be common to both; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer."
- St. Augustine
I mentioned that I would say more about the hurricane, but someone beat me to the punch. This post at Theologica
, a World magazine blog, speaks well on the matter. Here's a nice quote:
"If it wasn't God's judgment, then what was it? It was a disaster - an unnatural disaster - caused by the fallen condition of the world. People, animals, and nature are other than they might have been because of the Fall. It is profitable to distinguish between "Sin" - a state or condition of people, nations, and nature - and "sins," which are specific manifestations of the reality of Sin. Hurricane Katrina was the result of Sin, but it was not a judgment on sins."
We've also been discussing the matter over at Stones Cry Out
. Read Tom's post, then read the comments.
I'm willing, on a basic level, to believe that God stills lays out specific judgements on places, people or institutions. In a way, I'm open to the idea that God could use someone to warn about the destruction. That said, given New Orleans' location, it's an easy prediction to make, and I would be cautious of such a claim, especially if the words "tv preacher" are anywhere on the person's resume.
Yet even if we choose to believe that God specifically sent the hurricane as a judgement against Mississippi's casinos and New Orleans' voodoo, strip clubs, drug trade and gambling, it serves absolutely no purpose at this stage to make such commentary. There are people who are homeless, starving, thirsty and naked. These folks do not need armchair theologians suggesting that God leveled their home because He was angry about the Gold Room's presence in the French Quarter. Maybe that's why it happened. I don't know. God's ways are not my ways and there are a lot of things I don't understand. And it's precisely because I don't understand that I'm going to keep my mouth closed, and do nothing but help. Offer food or clothes or money or time or housing or something. Certainly I'll offer my prayers. And yes, we should remind the hurting that God is real. He is not silent, even in the midst of such tragedy. We might even, at a point in the future, suggest that however much fun New Orleans can be (and it can be very
fun), the city would be better off without the rampant hedonism. Change will come to Tuscaloosa or San Francisco or New Orleans as the Holy Spirit changes hearts. We can open doors by our service and love; suggesting that God left thousands homeless doesn't help anyone, neither the suffering nor the church.
It's funny how we respond to growing up. We love acting "big." Last night we laughed at a little girl's joy over sitting in her own small chair. I thought it was cute (still do), but it wasn't until today that I realized I do the exact same thing. I already own several chairs, so I'm not thrilled over that. I am still a little boy, however, when I get excited about doing the sorts of things that only "grown ups" do. I fixed a car battery today. Cleaned the posts, fixed a connector, took out the battery and put in the new one. I had help from a lovely assistant, mind you, and we got it done. That's the sort of thing that I've never really had to do before, and at the risk of sounding like a child, it feels nice and grown up to take of your own business (or your girlfriend's, I suppose, since it was her car).
Now concerning T.S. Eliot, I think "The Four Quartets" is a fine work, as is "The Journey of the Magi," "Ash Wednesday" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." But the man is best known for "The Wasteland," and I do believe that poem is lot of modernist noise. It can be appreciated, but it's overrated. It has cultural significance, mind you, but it will never have the signifance of "In Memoriam" or "Sailing to Byzantium." In the canon of important English-speaking poets, he's just not that high on the list, however much I may appreciate some of his work. And believe me, I do.
I just got a promotional (i.e. free) copy of this book
in the mail. I'll read it and review it soon as I can.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Al Mohler revisits one of his favorite topics.My favorite misanthropic Brit takes down T.S. Eliot
. He was a great critic, and while I passionately love some
of his poetry, I'm slowly being persuaded that some of Eliot's work is vastly overrated. I do maintain that Yeats and Auden are the best Anglo-American poets of the last century, and Eliot does not hold a candle to Tennyson or any of the six major romantics.
It's September 11. That means three things.
First, it my mother's birthday. She is an incredible woman. Sweet, kind, gentle. She loves Jesus and taught me to do the same. She works hard and loves her family fiercely. She is also a terrific cook. I love you, Mom.
Second, it is the birthday of the greatest coach in college football history
. He was the best and no one will ever be better. Here's a good Coach Bryant quote:
"I'm just a simple plow hand from Arkansas, but I have learned over the years how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they've got one heartbeat, together, a team." Bryant, when asked why he was so successful as a coach."
Today is also the anniversary of September 11. I don't know that I could ever discuss the tragedy and outrage of that day better than Christopher Hitchens. Read this essay here.
Try this quote:
"This steely injunction is diluted by Ground Zero kitsch or by yellow-ribbon type events, which make the huge mistake of marking the event as a "tribute" of some sort to those who happened to die that day. One must be firm in insisting that these unfortunates, or rather their survivors, have no claim to ownership. They stand symbolically, as making the point that theocratic terrorism murders without distinction. But that's it. The time to commemorate the fallen is, or always has been, after the war is over. This war has barely begun. The printing of crayon daubs by upset schoolchildren and the tussle over who gets what from the compensation slush fund are strictly irrelevant and possibly distracting. Dry your eyes, sister. You, too, brother. Stiffen up."
I want to be careful here. I am not a warmonger, and I do not encourage wanton violence. I want to always maintain a Christ-like sense of charity and goodwill to my neighbors. And yet I hope with all sincerity that 9/11 never leaves our national conscience. It must always remain in our minds, not so that we harrass our neighbors, but so that we forever remain aware that there is evil in this world. Sometimes that evil must be defeated by strength of arms. Our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are not in vain. The fight for freedom against religious hatred in Iran is not in vain. These struggles, if made successful, will bear fruit - freedom for the citizens of those beleagured nations and security for our own. We must defend ourselves and we must, as much as we can, strive to provide freedom to millions who cannot defend themselves in nations like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea and the former Soviet states. I pray that our leaders exercise our power judiciously, but I pray that have the courage to use it when necessary. And I will always pray that the Church remain vigilant in spreading the Gospel, making known the glory of Christ and His supremacy in all things, demonstrating kindness and mercy to all men.
Friday, September 09, 2005
School has me bogged down, but read this
, the latter piece by John Piper.
I'll write more later this weekend. Something on September 11, no doubt, but also more on Katrina, for I am still not comfortable with the idea that this tragedy is solely the work of God's specific judgement on the casinos of Gulfport or the strip bars of the French Quarter.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
I just saw a commercial for ITT Technical Institute. The commercial was something of a testimonial, though it's anyone's guess about whether or not the story is real. The commercial revolves around a woman stating that she was a stay-at-home mom who wanted to give her kids everything they needed.
Let that sink in. She was a mother, at home for her children every day of the week, and she felt that her kids needed more. Now I understand that sometimes mothers need to work. My mom always has, and I still believe she's done a magnificent job raising me and my siblings. But let's not kid ourselves; there's an attitude in society that says kids need more gadgets, bells and whistles to be successful. But we don't. Not at all. We need our parents; moms and dads. We need extrended family. We need a neighborhood where we are safe and welcome. We don't have to have iPods and month-long vacations. I don't mean to sound harsh about this at all; families experience different things and I've grown up with my mom working. She has still been a wonderful mother and I love her very much. I'm just saying this idea in our society that kids need so much that both parents need to be out of the home...well, it's not healthy.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Next time you hear a talking (empty)head
blather on about how the federal government is to blame for everything wrong in New Orleans, remember this post from Rich Lowry at the Corner
. Here's a few highlights:
--“The mayor and the governor are negligent and incompetent. The administration has tried to smooth out the chain of command, but she won't do it. The constitution says that the governor is in charge of the Guard.” (The Washington Post wrote about this on Saturday--and KJL excerpted the relevant bit in here.)
--“None of those poor people were moved prior to the storm. They were told to go to the Superdome, but they had to walk there. Whose responsibility is that?”
-- “General Honore in one day got 20,000 people evacuated from the convention center with a ground and air evacuation. Have you heard about that in the media?”
--“There are no law enforcement problems in Mississippi. They have been acting there with the cooperation of the governor. In New Orleans, they don't have the same kind of cooperation from the governor or the mayor. It's not as stream-lined or as effective as it could be.”
--“The New Orleans police disintegrated. The national response plan calls for state and local to be the first on the scene. But the catastrophe wiped out the whole local infrastructure and the emergency communications. 80% of the police disintegrated and they are just not beginning to re-constitute.”
note: DHS = Department of Homeland Security
If faced with any temptation to blame the President for what's gone on in New Orleans, read this
For a really amazing interview concerning the Christan response to the disaster in New Orleans, go to Radioblogger
and scroll down to the post entitled "God-bloggers' reaction to Katrina." I think a lot of people want to blame the hurricane on a lot of things, and I won't really disagree, but here's some wise words from Dr. Al Mohler:
"Oh, absolutely. It went both ways. Job's wife wanted him to curse God, and Job's friends wanted to curse Job. And in reality...you know, Hugh, we're facing some pretty difficult issues here, but there are a couple of things I would want to warn us against. I hear out there in talk land, and in the community, and even among some Christians, some of them are ready to say I know exactly why this storm hit New Orleans. It was because of A or B or C. You know, that's exactly what God told Job's friends not to speculate about. And at the same time, I hear other people saying look. God's not even involved in this. God couldn't prevent this. And so, let's just curse God. Well, we know that that's not right, either. God is right in the midst of this. He is the soveriegn God, Creator of the universe, and He is the one right now who is holding the world together by the power of His word."
Mohler also had this to say about the proper Christian response:
"Well, I think the first thing we have to do is to weep with those who weep. And this is not a tragedy that is over. It continues to unfold. And so right now, there are people who do not know where their wives and husbands and children are. They have no idea what their future might be. They have no idea if there's even a home to which they can return. Some of them already know they have lost loved ones, and some of them have not even been recovered, in terms of bodies. So there's an appropriate Christian response to weep with those who weep. And then we have to be there to do what we possibly can do. To feed the hungry and to clothe those who are naked, and to give water, and all these things, by the way, are not just metaphorical needs. These are dramatic, physical needs of the present. And then we as Christians have to be there to speak, not so much on behalf of God like Job's friends, but to speak as Christians. To speak of the hope that is within us, and to speak to those who right now have no hope."
I haven't done much to help, really. A little money to the North American Mission Board and Samaritan's Purse. Some clothes to the Red Cross. I'll probably drop off some food at some point. But I've got friends who've spent time working hand in hand with those that are hurting. I'm so thankful for their contribution, and immeasurably proud that those I count as friends are working to help those in need. It's something that warms my heart in a particular way; my loved ones dedicating their lives to the aid of others.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Powerful words about sports and tragedy from one of the best sportswriters in the South
. Money quote to Alabama fans and to anyone else who has ears to ear:
"Alabama fans, and Alabamians at large, don’t need to be lectured. They don’t need to be reminded to help. I haven’t spoken with anyone this week without hearing expressions of concern and a willingness to contribute. Donations to the American Red Cross, which will be collecting on campus today, will be high.
My only suggestion would be this: When you see those images of Barry Krauss and George Teague and their Sugar Bowl heroics, remember where they were, and then emulate what they did, which was to dig deep, not for individual glory but for the good of an entire team."
I was supposed to go to New Orleans this weekend. It was supposed to be a fun Labor Day weekend; lots of book and record shopping. Spicy food. Jazz. Coffee and chicory. Beignets. We opted not to go a few weeks back, as the costs of graduate school and the reality of brutal New Orleans weather sunk in. We would wait. We would visit New Orleans when the heat had slightly subsided, sometime in November. The wind would be crisp off the river, and we’d sit at Café DuMonde and sip café au lait like there was no tomorrow.
Right now, in New Orleans, there is no tomorrow.
New Orleans is not my home, but I was born there. My father was born there. His parents were born there. When my paternal grandmother’s grandparents arrived in America from Sicily, they settled in the Crescent City. My roots there run deep. My immediate family has not lived in the city for over twenty years, but my father can still show me around the Quarter, the Garden District and the outskirts in Metarie, all the places he knew as a youngster, walking to the movies with his cousins and rummaging through Grandpa’s grocery store.
Where are these places now? What filth and rubbish has washed through Grandma’s house? Is it even standing? Has some looter - pathetic despite his sorrowful lot in life - ransacked that home? I pray not. I don’t often speak or hear from my family in New Orleans; they’re distant relatives and it’s hard to stay in touch. I trust that they are safe. A good friend’s brother was out of town when Katrina laid out her wrath. He knows that his apartment was not flooded, but he wonders when he can return home and what will remain when he returns.
But what of the others? The countless men and women and children wandering the streets knee deep in a vile stew of waste and water, hungry, thirsty, dehydrated. The depraved thugs looting not for survival but for pleasure. The bullies parading the city with AK-47s and sawed-off shotguns. The city can be unforgiving at times, brutally violent and overwhelming dangerous in certain areas. Bourbon Street can be filthy enough in the heat and humidity. It can reek of booze and fried food and grease and sex and every possible form of human waste. I can only imagine the awful stench when those elements float around in circles for days on end.
And yet New Orleans is full of decent, kind people. Every city has its vices, to be sure, and some more than others, but I cannot believe that there are not still men of good will who will return to rebuild the Crescent City from this ruin. Still the problems here are deep. The government of the state of Louisiana has been incompetent and corrupt for decades. The city government in New Orleans is no better. Race relations are abysmal by all accounts and while each man is culpable for his own sin, surely the leadership of the region could have done something to alleviate the suffering in the eastern wards of the city. I don’t ascribe to the naive liberal notion that the wrong thing is better than nothing, but surely in all this time something could be done to fix the mess that New Orleans has often been.
Well, we can point fingers later. We can assign blame and hope to see a change somewhere down the line. Right now we can open our wallets and fall to our knees, trusting - somehow - in the sovereignty of God. I can’t explain it, but I can trust in it, knowing that our Lord will work through this mess for His purposes. The sun will shine the clearer. Not today, not tomorrow, perhaps not even six months from now. But we shall see New Orleans again. We shall hear her music. We shall drink her dark coffee and soak in her oppressive heat. She will rise again, and we shall greet her with a happy face.