Sunday, October 30, 2005
There is very real evil in this world
. The sort that with which you cannot reason. The sort that you must be willing to confront, and perhaps confront with brutal, unforgiving force. Warning!
The link at the end is very, very
graphic. Not for those with a weak stomach, but important for those who want to understand what sort of hatred is brewing in certain parts of the world.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
This is a bit late, but Jeffrey Overstreet
points to a very sad development in the Chronicles of Narnia
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Over at Stones Cry Out
, I've been having a gay old time arguing against the nomination of Harriet Miers. If you think she's a worthy choice, read up on my comments. I stand opposed to her and hope the President does the sensible thing, allowing her to withdraw her nomination before the hearings begin.
I ain't holding my breath. You shouldn't either.
Allow me a moment of honesty. I am confused on a controversial issue. I simply no longer know what to think about evolution.
The matter came to me recently as I read Edward Larson's Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion
. The work is an examination of the Scopes Trial, demonstrating that the whole event was orchestrated by the town and manipulated by all parties. It's an interesting read whatever you believe, but if you believe that Inherit the Wind
tells the real story, go out of your way to read this book. It is that important.
My confusion arises over matters of science that, frankly, I have a hard time understanding. I believe this much: God created the world. How he did so is a different matter. I do not like the idea of a long evolutionary process that produced humanity out of a primordial ooze. I think the notion of a slowly evolved life cycle is somewhat disturbing, for if God did not make man free of all other constraints, how then is man unique? I cannot accept that science and religion are completely separate spheres. The Darwinism of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins leaves little room for Judeo-Christian faith, and those who suggest to the contrary are kidding themselves. Nietzsche realized this quite clearly, as should we.
What are we to make of plate techtonics? What about carbon dating that suggests the world is billions of years old? What about antrhopological data suggesting that some civilizations are over ten thousands of years old? These aren't conspiracies. No one decided to carbon-date fossils with the intent of destroying God. Many evangelicals assert that the earth is relatively young (around six thousand years) but few credible scientists take this line. I like the idea of intelligent design but frankly it's got a long way to go.
Of course I believe in micro-evolution. It is an indisputable fact. Yet I'm confused about the big stuff. Did creation take place in six calendar days? Really? Was the earth "old" when it was created? Or was it brand new? I wonder.
This is just me thinking out loud. For heaven's sake, I'm not advocating Darwinism in the least. I'm just asking a few questions. Maybe it's because science is difficult, but I get annoyed with agnostics who say that science answers every question man has. Likewise I get a tad perturbed with those who tell me that I must accept young earth creationism as an article of the Christian faith. And then of course I also get annoyed with those who believe in the Darwinism of Gould and Dawkins and yet still affirm that God is indeed "maker of Heaven and Earth." That can't possibly work, but some try nonetheless. What then do I believe and what do I do when I have children one day, preparing to learn science in the classroom?
Ugh. What a wild debate. I need some Advil.
At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon...I share a lot of these sentiments
Monday, October 24, 2005
Roll Tide, baby.
(Photo courtesy of the Tuscaloosa News
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Sitting in my car last night, I listened to a show on Alabama Public Radio
that plays unique, folksy music. The hosts played a few songs by Sufjan Stevens, an artist who is as open about his eccentricity as he is about his Christianity. Here was public radio playing music that is not preachy but is obvious in its acknowledgement of the Gospel. Christians love to see that the culture isn't clean enough. It's not family-friendly. It's not neat and clean. That may all be true, but if we quiet ourselves, dig deep and look closer
, we can find the Truth peeking out from behind the coulds in ways we don't often expect.
In today's column
, George F. Will continues, on conservative grounds, to oppose the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court of the United States. I join will in his opposition. I mean no ill will towards her; I just don't believe she's a decent candidate, and I think the President nominated her as an act of blind loyalty and lite affirmative action.
Hugh Hewitt takes particular exception to the following passage from Will's piece:
"Miers's advocates tried the incense defense: Miers is pious. But that is irrelevant to her aptitude for constitutional reasoning. The crude people who crudely invoked it probably were sending a crude signal to conservatives who, the invokers evidently believe, are so crudely obsessed with abortion that they have an anti-constitutional willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade with an unreasoned act of judicial willfulness as raw as the 1973 decision itself."
"But so do his missiles about "crude" people. Who are they? James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Jay Sekulow, Lino Graglia, Ken Starr? Four out of five are evangelicals. Does Will equate evangelical faith with crudeness?...And what, exactly, does "crudely obsessed with abortion" mean? Rod Dreher of NationalReview.com's The Corner thought this Will column quite devastating to Miers' nomination supporters. Does Rod agree that seriousness about abortion is "crude?" Does K-Lo? Does William F. Buckley?"
I do not believe for a second that Will finds evangelical Christianity to be crude. Yet he knows - it could not be more plain - that some evangelical leaders are championing a nominee that is blatantly unequalified, and yet they champion her because she shares the same theological conviction and the same, dare I say it, obsession with abortion. In a particular sense, that is certainly a crude position.
Let me make myself clear: abortion is a national shame. It is a horrendous, terrible procedure. Roe v. Wade
was a terrible judicial ruling, and scholars on the right and left concur on that point. However, the Supreme Court has other business besides overturning Roe
. Those of us conservatives who oppose Meirs do not oppose her because she is an evangelical or because she is rumored to have pro-life positions. We oppose her because we know nothing about how she might proceed on Constitutional matters. And for evangelicals to suggest that Meirs' faith is a qualification is to thereby make faith a question of all nominees to the federal bench. In our Republic, this ought not be so.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Two nights ago I had the pleasure of hearing a concert by the Tuscaloosa Community Singers. What a marvelous performance, a collection of pieces by Vaughn Williams, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Durufle, Faure, and Thompson. The interesting thing for me is that all of the works were sacred in their nature. The translated verses were beautiful renditions of Scripture, prayers to God in thanks and praise. I do not expect that this sort of music be present in church every Sunday, but I should be sad to see it depart from the cultural conscience of the modern Church. I am not attacking Christian music or modern worship tendencies in and of themselves, but if this great music of Mozart and Bach becomes something for old men with their pipes and cardigans, relics studied by professors and played only on NPR, then we are the worse for it.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
In the most recent issue of Spin
, there's an interview with Ian Mackaye of the punk band Fugazi. Fugazi has been one of my favorite bands for the last several years, so I'm not surprised by Mackaye's left-wing politics; anti-war, hesitant of capitalism if not outright opposed and a radical environmentalism that goes beyond what I consider reasonable. Yet in reading the interview I was struck by how often I agreed with Mackaye's commentary.
Mackaye sang, not so long ago, that "there is no around the corner anymore." True, that. At least in most cities, where we've given up on everything local and unique in favor of Target and Home Depot. Because it's more convenient. What about beauty? What about being unique? Throughout much of his career, Mackaye has attacked commodification. I can't blame him at all but I'm not sure about the answers. I can't make someone open a coffee shop. I can't make someone in Tuscaloosa open a new bookstore that isn't run by a huge corporation. I have to buy clothes somewhere and it's a lot more expensive to shop with a small clothing line than it is to bite the bullet and head to J. Crew. I don't like crass commercialization and commodification but I don't know about the alternatives. The usual, I suppose. As often as possible, shop local, buy local.
A closing quote. Let us remember:
"The fact to which we have got to cling, as to a lifebelt, is that it is possible to be a normal decent person and yet be fully alive." - George Orwell
Monday, October 17, 2005
How shall we define elitism?
It was a topic of discussion today at National Review, thanks in part to (surprise, surprise) another stupid remark on the part of Howard Dean
. The mention of merlot led to a mention of the movie Sideways
, as Kathryn Jean Lopez declares
that anyone who likes the movie must be an elitist. Rod Dreher
, as usual, is a voice of reason in this moronic debate.
I've spent the last two week defending "elite" conservatism against the likes of Hugh Hewitt and James Dobson, but this is out of hand. National Review is the most important opinion magazine of the last fifty years, but a magazine that regularly features reviews of operas and symphonies should never, under any circumstance, call out someone else as an elitist. This sort of nonsense is what hurts Beltway conservatives.
I've not yet seen Sideways, but I'm sitting about ten feet away from a copy. I might watch it tomorrow. Who knows? The point is that liking an independent movie or disliking bad Starbucks coffee does not make you an elitist. Having taste is never a bad thing, whether it refers to coffee, music, movies or food. The word "elitist" carries with it a certain implication: you think you're better than the guy drinking Maxwell House. But that's not true. I don't think I'm better than the next guy just because I can enjoy a foreign film or jazz. It's just a choice on my part, a choice I make because I think that some movies are better than others. And if a movie recieves critical praise, I reaize two things: First, that sometimes critics are self-serving. Second, critical praise occurs, more often than not, for good reasons. It is almost objectively agreed upon that North By Northwest
is a great movie, even better than the latest blockbuster. Even if that blockbuster is family friendly.
Why can't NR make this distinction?
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Ah, what a weekend.
I'm whipped but the highlights include Spot of Tea
, Carpe Diem
and the beach. I can't wait to get my pictures back, though I doubt I can get them on the site. Maybe I can. Who knows?
You know what's awesome? Alabama, Penn State and Notre Dame are in the Top Ten for the first time in a while. Throw in Texas and USC and you've got a wonderful return to tradition. I'm loving it.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
This is a masterful speech
. Read it in its entirety.
Nick, I agree with you about baseball. It's beauty is in its length, from April to October, from the first inning to the ninth. It stretches almost every facet of the American landscape; it is safe from no climate or geography. It's played by everyone, everywhere; blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians. Everyone loves baseball, and who can blame them? There is indeed a mystery about it, though I'm at a loss to explain it.
It remains the quintessential American sport, steroids and primadonnas notwithstanding.
Concerning football, let me say that it always shall remain my favorite sport. Perhaps because I remember those warm September afternoons at Legion Field. Those cold nights watching the Iron Bowl over a bowl of chili. Friday nights in Tuscaloosa with an atmosphere of anticipation and expectancy that the next day would bring battle and then triumph. What a marvelous game. I remember those images as a youngster of that lumbering old grizzly bear in the houndstooth standing beneath a gold post, and then later his Texas protege nodding firmly on the sideline as Alabama racked up victory after victory in the early and mid 1990s.
As a student I suffered along during two losing seasons, torn ACLs, probation, a corrupt NCAA, deadbeat coaches, lowlife coaches, inexperienced coaches. Last Saturday was something different. I had resolved that I am not the type to cheer and yell, but after seeing Brodie Croyle toss an 80-yard touchdown pass on the opening play, I grabbed my shaker and joined the drunken oaf next to me in loudly singing "Yea Alabama!" And so it went for four quarters, shouting and hollering with a jubilant throng of students who have waited six years to see this sort of thing. There was a gasp when Tyrone Prothro, the gutsiest player in recent Alabama history, went down with a horrifying leg injury. We were seated below the skyboxes, and I heard someone mutter that it looked ugly. We cheered when he rolled off the field, and the game resumed. The clock began to wind down and as the sun made its descent over the Black Warrior River, a joyous Crimson Tide football team rushed the field. Stout linemen grabbed Alabama flags from cheerleaders, waving them vigorously before planting a pole in the center of the field. A proud quarterback and his coach pumped their fists and tipped their hats to a raucous bunch of students, noisier than perhaps they have ever been. The team worked its way into the locker room but the students did not leave. The team reemerged from its tunnel to join in one last stanza of "Yea Alabama!" We waited a long time for this, and it felt good. I confess that I bit my lower lip just a little, almost tearing up, knowing that while there are indeed far more important things in the world, this one little thing, this thing that so many of us enjoy with our friends and families, was now fun again.
I was telling the lovely Lori just two nights ago that William F. Buckley, Jr. has been an enormous influence on me, both in terms of my writing style and my own socio-political viewpoints. Today, the President made this remarks
to Mr. Buckley at a White House lunch. Tonight, National Review will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in New York City. Would that I were priveleged to be at such an occasion. I am immensely grateful for the contributions Mr. Buckley has made to American life, and to my own, for without NR, it is likely that my ideas, humble though they may be, would be undeveloped and scatterbrained. Then again, such juvenile thinking could get me into the United States Senate with little or no effort.
Hats off to WFB for helping a whole host of us keep our sanity.WFB on NR's first issue
, and on the death of Russell Kirk
Today during lunch I caught a few moments of a special on ESPN entitled "Baseball Is..." What a wonderful documentary with commentators ranging from George F. Will to Ken Burns to Billy Bob Thornton. I will always hold college football as my favorite sport, but baseball is something special.
There was one segment that featured a host of famous people citing their favorite baseball moments. Former President Jimmy Carter recalled Sid Bream sliding into home in Game Seven of the 1992 NLCS to send the Braves to the World Series. What a great moment - one of my favorite sports memories.
The former President and I finally have something to agree upon.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
My friend Kathryn
poses the same question posed by Bob Dylan a generation ago:
Did Judas Iscariot have God on his side?
Let me rephrase the question and, in so doing, change the meaning. Was Judas Iscariot on God's side? I do not intend to be a legalist, but the goal of Christianity is not to have God on our side. It is to be on His side.
Speaking to the specific question of Judas, it should be clear to anyone that in that one instant of betrayal, God was not Judas' side. Not because of God's action, but because of Judas'. The point here should be that God is objective and He is constant. He does not change. He might surprise. He might reveal Himself to us in way that we do not expect. He mightis likely to rattle our social and cultural conventions. But God is not in the business of choosing sides. His will is what it is and if two sides compete against one another, the winner is the result of His sovereignty, not necessarily any choice or action on the part of the victor. Judas clearly sinned when he betrayed our Lord, but God's purposes - ordained before time began - were accomplished nonetheless. I can't explain it, but it is what it is. I believe that an adherence to God's commands as revealed in Scripture and an understanding of natural law as it is stamped, to one degree or another, in the heart of every man will bring about certain results. Yet it must be remembered that all of good behavior is nothing outside of God's grace, and whether we sin or do not (and we invariably will sin), everything in this universe is subject to the sovereignty of God.
So was God on Judas' side? Not in the moment of betrayal. Not at all. Was God on my side when I cut that guy off in traffic or expressed envy at the success of a friend? Nope. But neither instance took place because of God's action, but rather His inaction. He stayed right there, while I, like Judas and the prodigal son, wandered off, angry and bitter.
Let us be thankful that He welcomes us home in spite of ourselves.
Oh, this is just rich.
It's actually tragic and sad and sort of disgusting. The sign outside the Christian bookstore advertises the new book. I wonder if the publisher even noticed.
I remember when I moved to Tuscaloosa in January 2001. I noticed that everytime I got out of my car at night, there was a terrible smell of burning rubber. I was constantly worried that I had a flat tire. Then one night, walking home from the library, my nostrils began to burn and I realized that on humid nights, Tuscaloosa just smells like garbage.
That semester was interesting. I started spending time at this coffee shop right off campus. I thought it was the best thing ever. In the four years since that time I've gone through all sorts of things, both good and bad, but the coffee shop is still there. I would contend that it doesn't taste quite as good as it did back then but it's of no consequence. I hung around and hung around, eating chicken salad and drinking lattes. I spent more money than I could count, skipped class and stayed up late. I spent time with every single person in this town that I count as a friend. I met my girlfriend there. I wrote papers and poems and read book after book after book.
Why am I talking about this? I don't know. Perhaps because tonight I caught that obscene smell wafting across the Druid City, cockroaches chasing one another on the sidewalk. I walked in front of the library with my girlfriend, hand in hand, and I thought about how in all the time I've been here, there have been two physical, tangible constants: the putrid smell of burning rubber and the Crimson Cafe. I'm not sure how things would be I had not had them.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I'm currently taking a class on early modern political philosophy. There's no way to study this period - late 15th through early 18th century - without discussing Luther and the Reformation. So I've been reading a bit of this lately and I've got a few thoughts.
Of course we all recognize that Luther's main contention was that salvation did not arrive by merit, but was a gift of God by grace alone. Our works, though oft times helpful, will not save us. So far so good. Yet one criticism I've often heard about a lot of Christians today is that we're too often hit over the head with the notion that we must do X or Y in order to merit God's favor. I realize that some people do believe that, but even growing up Southern Baptist it wasn't an idea I heard too often.
But let me tell you what I did hear often. As a teenager, I never heard that God's love for me was dependant upon anything I said or did. Yet I was often told by youth speakers/evangelists and occasionally by my youth pastor that being a believer meant that certain things were expected of me. And this is true in a basic sense; I agree with Bonhoffer that the call to believe is the call to follow. Yet as immature teenagers we were often told that being a Christian meant automatic changes in behavior. Of course there were the big things: sex, pornography, drug use, alcohol and tobacco abuse, cussin'. Those sort of things. I also heard, on more than one occasion, that my faith in Christ would mean I never laughed at an off-color joke. Being a Christian meant that we wanted to witness to everyone and anyone, anytime and anywhere.
The problem with this thinking is that it never really, truly explains why. Why go on a mission trip? Why do this or stop doing that? We were told - usually by youth speakrs who tried desperately to appear cool - that being a Christian meant a lot in terms of behavior but rarely was it explained to us. Yes we had come to Christ and we were to live for Him (indeed, we wanted to), but we knew little about Him. These youth speakers were not great expository preachers. They did not know much in the way of theology. Many times our own youth pastors did not. And so we were left believing with a gap. Yes God loves us and Christ died for us and we believe in that. But before we make the leap to mission work and the Good Behavior club, we need something tangible to wrap our heads around, explaining why we should seek to glorify God and honor Him in all that we do.
Maybe I'm just a book nerd and I think this sort of thing helps me in my own walk, but I've got to imagine that it helps someone else, too. This is terrbily jumbled, I know, but I'll do more with it later.
I originally posted this over at Stones Cry Out
. It's rather political, but here goes:
I'll admit it. I trust the President.
With that out of the way, and with all due respect to Jim and his well-written post
, I have two words for anyone who'll support Harriet Miers simply because she's an evangelical:
It may turn out that Ms. Miers reveals herself to be such a wonderful justice and original constructionist that James Madison and Edmund Burke both rise up to pat her on the back. But if she doesn't, evangelicals will have no one but themselves to blame.
I've suggested before that evangelicals - as a body of people - have not yet, with clarity and consistency, articulated any clear political ideology. Evangelical votes have centered on two things: gay rights and reproductive/life issues (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning). When these points are gone, where does the evangelical leadership stand? Is James Dobson going to have a Justice Sunday rally to fight the Court's outrageous ruling on eminent domain? I doubt it, though it can be easily established that abusing eminent domain is a grave evil. It seems as though the evangelical grassroots can be pacified on the grounds that Ms. Meirs is "one of us," but the problem is that when abortion and gay rights aren't on the table, how will evangelicals vote?
Yes, the President knows and trusts Ms. Meirs, but then again his own conservatism is often dubious, as witnessed by his reckless spending, his disaster-in-waiting immigration policy, his refusal to veto the campaign finance reform bill and his basic belief that government should help instead of get out of the way.
I trust the President, but I don't trust politicians. And the simple truth is that evangelicals who cannot explicitly identify themselves as conservatives have now fully established themselves as the biggest interest group in the country. I'm sure the President understands the importance of the Court, but for my money, I care more about a nominee's judicial philosophy than where she goes to Church. I'll take David Frum
over Marvin Olasky any day of the week. And I'll take Ramesh Ponnuru.
And Ronald A. Cass
. And Randy Barnett
. Then there's this: Jay Sekulow is a team player
? Yuck. And Jonah nails the evangelical theory
If Dobson thinks I'm going to support Meirs because she's an evangelical, then he is mistaken. And he's in serious danger of becoming the Jesse Jackson of the Christian Right.
We should know better.
This is just the most touching story I've read in a long time.
Then again, as an Alabama fan, I can't help but cringe just a little bit every time I hear about Notre Dame passing to the tight end while deep in their own territory.