Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Polemical Theology, whether in written or verbal form, can quickly descend into some ungodly places.  Name calling, anger and refusing to listen to what another actually says are evidence of a lack of love.

Another form of “unfair” dispute is the use of the straw man argument.  Here is a good, quick definition:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

You can tell that Dr. Roger Nicole & J.I. Packer are such good friends.  At times their counsel is so similar.  How to engage in theological debate is one such area.  Dr. Nicole told us to read our opponents, not only second hand sources, so we might truly understand their arguments.

Dr. Packer inserts this wonderful little sentence in the midst of Keep In Step With the Spirit:

“But all positions should be judged by their best exponents.”

He applies this to the various proponents of the views of sanctification.  It is unfair to argue against something by using either a straw man (which doesn’t exist) or its worst example.  You may win the argument, but you defeated a foe that either didn’t exist or rarely exists.  It would be like beating the Bad News Bears, yet claiming to be MLB World Series champions.

I see these arguments regularly in books by authors who should know better.  Sometimes these arguments are used by men who place themselves in the bounds of either Reformed Theology or Calvinistic soteriology (they embrace the 5 points but not a covenantal view of Scripture or other distinctives of Reformed theology).

For instance, one book I read argued against contemporary worship songs.  It did this on the basis of the worst examples of contemporary worship songs.  It brought up the most pathetic, insipid, meaningless songs as if they were representative of contemporary worship songs.  This author may have convinced many people he was right, but he never dealt with the real deal.  Missing were interaction with the contemporary hymns of Townend and Getty, the songs of Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin or any other songs that seek to communicate biblical theology (Sovereign Grace or Indelible Grace would be other examples).

Another highly respected author attacked the charismatic movement on the basis of its worst excesses.  There was no interaction with sane, thoughtful charismatics who share his Calvinistic views like John Piper, Wayne Grudem or C.J. Mahaney.  All were lumped in the same heretical basket, ready to be tossed out &  burned up.

We who understand the doctrines of grace should be more humble & loving in our disputation.  We should argument against real people holding real positions.  And the best representatives of that position- not the Single A or college team.

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The wife and I enjoyed the new James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace.

quan-tum  (noun)

1. quantity or amount: the least quantum of evidence.
2. a particular amount.
3. a share or portion.
4. a large quantity; bulk.

The movie begins shortly after the end of Casino Royale, and is about Bond seeking a measure of solace after his betrayal by Vesper.  He has kidnapped the man directly responsible and is being chased by his hired men trying to retreive, or kill, him.  In the process, Bond discovers an underground network that has avoided detection by all the intelligence networks called Quantum (at least I think I heard that).  In the process, Bond draws the ire of the CIA, the PM of England as well as the front organization Greene Planet.  M is not sure if she can trust Bond.  She thinks he is just a loose cannon seeking revenge.  But in following the trail of those who blackmail Vesper, he uncovers a plot to overthrow a government or two, and more importantly to monopolize our most important resource- water.

Both of us give the movie a thumbs up.  It was filled with action.  The increase in violence has drawn disappoval by critics like Roger Ebert.  I think he fails to recognize that this is a Bond for the new times.  Connery and Moore were Bond during the Cold War.  Connery was more physical than Moore, and certainly more believable.  Roger Moore was a more sophisticated Bond.  Daniel Craig is more like Sean Connery- very physical.  He is a War on Terror kind of Bond.  His sense of urgency is much greater.  He must dole out his countries wrath.  Afterall, he is an assassin as well as a gatherer of intelligence.  This Bond is less of a womanizer.  He “only” bedded one woman in this movie.  So while there is more action/violence, there is less sexual immorality.  The former is not always a sin, the latter is.  The violence here is the attempts to stop evil people from perpetrating greater evil.  But his government doesn’t always approve of his actions.  Eventually they see that he is right, and they were very wrong, in his assessment of the situation.

Quantum is not as good as Casino Royale.  It suffers a tad from the Bourne-syndrome.  The action is filmed too tight, so you aren’t sure what is actually happening.  That catches the speed at which things can happen.  But if your wife asks you, “How did he kill him?”, it is happening TOO fast.  The movie could have stood to have a few slower scenes to develop the plot line.  It was under 2 hours, and it felt as if there were a few leaps in the plot line.  These shortcomings do not ruin Quantum of Solace, but we see Bond move on without exacting revenge as we, along with M, feared.  Bond is not out of control, but using the correct quantum of violence to meet the circumstances in which he finds himself.  I look forward to his return.

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During our pastors’ meeting to discuss Nehemiah 6, Tim Rice relayed this information from a discussion with a former CFO of Publix.  It is helpful to understand a large economy, the issues that face our nation, and therefore how to wisely choose a candidate (there are NO perfect candidates, sadly).  I am not savvy enough to reproduce the diagram, so I’ll wing it.

For Profit Business => Owners, employees & dependents => Not for Profits => NFP employees & dependents => Poor, unemployed & dependents

The foundation of an economy is For Profit Business (FPB).  Those profits support the owners, employees and their dependents.  I know in this day, the idea of making profits seems barbaric. But profits are how a business stays in business and therefore support all those dependent upon them. Those businesses and people provide the funding for NFPs, both public and private.  The government is the public NFP which is funded by taxes.  The public NFPs are churches and social agencies that are funded by donations.  The more profit generated by the FPB, the more resources that are available to the NFPs. A government that wants to see revenues increase, wants to see the NFPs do well, not stifle them. It is simply increasing the pie, so the slices of the NFPs increase as well.

There is an inverse relationship between the public and private NFPs.  The more the government takes in taxes, the less that private NFPs end up receiving.  The employees and their dependents are dependent on how well the NFPs do, which is a result of how well the economy (read For Profit Business) does.  The poor and unemployed (and their dependents) rely upon the NFPs until they work for either the FPBs or NFPs.


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You just have to love politics and how politicians of both stripes play loose with the truth.

A very interesting example arises as Barak Obama claims that his campaign experience gives him MORE executive experience than the Republican VP nominee.

“Well, my understanding is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We’ve got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years,” Obama said.

  1. It is interesting that Candidate Obama has finally gotten the memo that Sarah Palin is the Governor of Alaska.  Yet, he compares his experience to her experience … as mayor.
  2. He’s not running against Sarah Palin, but John McCain.  So why is he comparing himself to her?  This is a great example of lousy logic, not excellent leadership.
  3. He neglects facts that put him in a dimmer light in order to place himself in a better light.  He’s comparing himself favorably, in an unfair, deceptive manner.  Certainly not what I want in a President.  He does not mention the size of the government and budget of Alaska, which is larger than his campaign staff and budget.

“For Barack Obama to argue that he’s experienced enough to be president because he’s running for president is desperate circular logic and its laughable. It is a testament to Barack Obama’s inexperience and failing qualifications that he would stoop to passing off his candidacy as comparable to Governor Sarah Palin’s executive experience managing a budget of over $10 billion and more than 24,000 employees,” said spokesman Tucker Bounds.

I don’t find such sleight of tongue inspiring.  Once again Obama displays a lack of integrity that I find frightening.  And THIS is supposed to be an example of change he wants- selective truth.  If he wasn’t running for President, it would be funny.

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Barak Obama wants change, so he says.  He’s selling change, or so he says.

If he wants change why would one of his closest advisors be the Sr. Senator from Massachusetts- Edward Kennedy?  He has been firmly entrenched in DC for decades- an utter insider.

If he wants change why would he choose Senator Joe Biden from Delaware?  Joe has also been firmly entrenched in DC for decades.

Oddly, both have had voting records to the hard left, and ethical issues that have given them attention they haven’t wanted.

Obama is merely an incredibly charismatic version of John Kerry (I guess the charismatic part is the change).  He’s “so smart” we can’t understand his verbal gymnastics as he fails to clearly articulate a definitive answer to a question.

Change: a return to the far left policies and maintaining power despite breaches of ethical standards.

That is some interesting definition of change.  I’d rather not change, thanks.

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The hype on this movie was big.  And, quite frankly, The Dark Knight delivers.  Christopher Nolan, as writer, producer and director, has taken this series to a place no one ever dream Batman could go.  It exceeded my high expectations.

Think of the first go round.  In my opinion, the 1st and 3rd movies were the best ones.  Batman Returns was ruined by all the sexual talk of the Penguin.  It was just plain dark and dreary.  Val Kilmer was smart not to retun for the 4th installment which saw a retun of the campy feel of the TV show. 

Nolan restarted the series with the decidedly dark Batman Begins.  In The Dark Knight the story continues faster, louder and more dangerous.  In terms of continuity, most of the original cast returns.  There is a cameo by Scarecrow at the beginning, and Bruce Wayne still longs for childhood friend Rachel Dawes.  Batman and Lt. Gordon are close to shutting down the mob with the help of new DA Harvey Dent.  Bruce sees the day that he can retire the mask and Gotham can have a respectable hero in Dent.

This is when all Hades breaks lose in the person of the Joker.  He has been hired, he actually extorted them, to end the threat by putting an end to Batman.

The Joker is utterly diabolical; something of an anti-christ figure who unleashes chaos and destruction on Gotham.  Unlike the other villians, he has no origins we know about.  He appears mysteriously.  We never know who he really is, or why he is the way he is.  He even tells different stories about why he has the nasty smile-shaped scar on his face.  He does not have the usual motives- money or power.  He wants to destroy people, to test them and reveal that they can become evil if pushed to the edge.  He is the devil while Batman plays the role of Job in this theodicy without a God.

The Joker wants to corrupt Batman, and then Dent, not through seduction but through heartbreak.  He figures that if he pushes the right button they will reject their code of ethic.  He is downright scary.  Heath Ledger turns in a fantastic performance, somehow channeling both Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson yet giving him a completely unique personality.  His bent personality is matched by his bent body.  His head often hangs.  His perspective is just as bent.

Batman is not a true vigilante.  He tries to bring criminals to justice, rather than mete out justic himself.  And he displays an unusual respect for the dignity of human life.  He does not shoot criminals, or apprehend them using guns.  The guns he uses are typically used against inanimate objects.  He uses strength, technology and craftiness to defeat his opponents.  Sorry, this all dawned on me this morning.

 This version has many more explosions and gun shots, in addition to the hand-to-hand (the real meaning of mano a mano) combat.  The Joker is a violent psychopath who murders plenty of people.  He has no respect for human life.  He sees it all as a game between himself and Batman (the unstoppable force meets the immovable object).  Nolan creates an exciting, thoughtful story filled with one memorable character in the Joker, and a very hideous character in Two Face- the ‘converted’ Harvey Dent who was driven mad by Joker’s insideous plan.  He gives in to the notion of chaos and chance ruling the universe.

But Batman stands in contrast as the man who doesn’t forsake his ideals in the midst of terror.  Though tempted, he refuses to destroy even Joker.  But in the process, he becomes a scapegoat.  He bears the sins of Two Face to preserve Harvey Dent’s reputation lest the Joker win and the people lose hope.  Batman becomes something of a messianic figure to the Joker’s devil.

All this in one action-packed adventure story.  Chris Nolan has outdone himself- making more than a great super-hero movie, but a great movie, period.  This tale of good and evil is worth watching repeatedly.  Just not for kids.

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I expected more from American Gangster.  It stars two first-rate actors, and personal favorites, in Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.  It is directed by Ridley Scott.  The acting and direction were very good.  The story was interesting too.  So, I’m not quite sure why I’m not content, or as content, with this movie.  Perhaps my expectations were too high.  Perhaps it was that the story takes place over such a long period of time, but offers no time line to better understand its development.  And I thought it would have more action.

It is the story of 2 men whose lives intersect, and are very similar.  Denzel plays Frank Lucas, a body guard for a Harlem mob boss.  He watches his boss, and after his death decides to step into his shoes as the neighborhood’s beneficent dictator.  He must remove some competition, and convince the Italians that he is their equal.  His is a story of dogged determination and perseverence.  He had a good head for business, but decided to use his abilities for evil instead of good.  But he justifies it based on the good he does for his family (whom he’s brought up from NC to work for him) and the community.

Russell Crowe is Ritchie Roberts, a clean cop who also displays dogged determination and perseverence.  As head of a drug task force, he hunts Lucas for years.  In the meantime, he passes his bar exam.  He cares about his son, but has trouble relationally.  He’s a womanizer, so his wife left him.  One of the subplots is the fight for custody of his son.  Since he refuses to take any bribe money or steal evidence, he drives a beat up junker through most of the movie.  It is his conflict with his wife that opens up one of the most amazing lines of dialogue.

“Don’t punish me for being honest.  Don’t take my boy.”

“You don’t take money for one reason: to buy being dishonest about everything else. … You think you’re going to heaven because you’re honest, but you’re not.  You’re going to the same hell as the crooked cops you can’t stand!”

Wow!  What an apt description of how self-righteousness functions in our lives.  We narrow God’s law down to a few things- in this case being a clean cop.  As long as we do that- we are righteous in our own eyes.  We neglect the rest of God’s commands which would condemn us, and use the ones we keep to condemn others.  He blinds himself to just how messed up he really is, and feels a martyr for suffering for his one area of obedience.  This is a great window into our souls!

Those crooked cops stand between the men for years.  Lucas hates the fact that he has to pay them off.  In another great line of thought I couldn’t find again to copy- he compares their love of money to an addict.  The crooked cops (and the hangers on in his life) can’t get enough- they are just as addicted.  Another great window to our souls!  They also hinder Roberts’ efforts to bring Lucas down.  When Roberts get the goods on Lucas, he uses him to bring them down.

The movie ends with Lucas getting out of prison to be met by Roberts who is now his lawyer.  Oh, the irony of it all.  Roberts is essentially on the take as a defense attorney, but probably sees himself as defending men from the crooked cops.  He, too, is now addicted to money.

American Gangster is what you’d expect of a gangster movie- plenty of bad language, shocking violence and a bit of nudity.  But as a morality play, it does offer us some insight into human behavior.  As a morality play, it doesn’t offer us insight into how to change and be free of our self-centeredness and addictions.

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This movie won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.  Charlie Wilson was not a very upright guy.  He was conservative in his politics, and liberal in his personal ethics.  Okay, he was a womanizer, and some of those scenes display breasts and Tom Hanks aging buttocks (I don’t think they used a body double on that one).  He has a long term affair with a rich “Christian” lady, and was accused of using drugs during an investigation by Rudy Guliani.  There are enough F-bombs dropped to make a young Eddie Murphy uncomfortable.

Yet … it has a quirky sense of humor that I found hilarious (CavWife, not so much).  I really appreciated the interplay between Hanks and Hoffman.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was just plain over the top in his role as Gus, an old school CIA guy who is on the outs with the new (Carter era) regime).

Useless Rabbit Trails: At one point I wondered aloud about one character- She really reminds me of Amy Adams.  Good reason, it was Amy Adams.  CavWife was astounded at Julia Roberts’ daring bikini scene- daring because she was like 4 months pregnant at the time.  But she didn’t look 4 months pregnant, or even pregnant.

Back to the Real Deal: And it had a message need to heed, regardless of whether or not you think we should have gone into Iraq in the first place.  Charlie Wilson was able to sell the Afghan War as a great opportunity to “kill Russians” and further the cause of the Cold War.  He was the right guy in the right place at the right time to increase the funding necessary to help Afghanistan defend themselves from the USSR.  You also see that some of interest was generated from the humanitarian angle.  Wilson was won over after a trip to a refugee camp.  And so were other key people.

After the war, and subsequent fall of the USSR, Charlie Wilson tried to do the right thing: rebuild Afghanistan.  But he could get no money for schools, much less roads.  So, we helped destroy Afghanistan but left them to rebuild.  As he noted, there would be no NY Times to remind them that we had helped them defeat the USSR (actually, would the NY Times tell us that?).  With a population in which 50% of the people were under 14, they sorely needed education and attention from us.  But they didn’t, and the Taliban turned their hearts against us.  As the movie ends, there is an earthy quote from Charlie Wilson to the effect that we screwed up the end game.

And this is what some want us to do in Iraq- screw up the end game.  I’m not excited about dumping lots of money into Iraq.  But history teaches us that if we don’t try to help them, the next generation will be turned against us- not for removing Sadaam, but for not finishing the job.

I thought this an odd message from Hollywood.  I agree with the message, I was just surprised to hear it coming from  that source.

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The rather lengthy Gods and Generals (216 minutes) is part of an even lengthier trilogy of films about the Civil War (aka the War Between the States and the War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you went to school).  This first installment focuses on the life and role of Stonewall Jackson.  It concludes 2 months prior to the battle of Gettysburg with his death after taking friendly fire.

It focuses primarily on the Southern perspective of the war, though Lt. Colonel Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) provides a brief glimpse of a Northern perspective- and a far more philosophical one.  The Southern perspective was that the North sought to violate their land and oppress them.  Jackson’s allegience was to the State of Virginia, and what she decided he would do.  They neglect to mention anything about the initial aggression of the Confederates at Fort Sumter.  They think the Republicans as war profiteers, and Abraham Lincoln as a war monger who seeks to disrupt their civil, gentle lives.

Very surprising was an exchange between Jackson and his cook, a free African-American, after they prayed.  Mr. Lewis prayed for the freedom of the rest of his family.  Gen. Jackson told him many Conferate leaders wanted the slaves freed.  Hmmm.  So which state right were they fighting for?  Wasn’t it the right to maintain the enslavement of others?  The cook could see the contradiction.  The cook could see the gap in Stonewall Jackson’s piety.  But Stonewall couldn’t see it.

Chamberlain expressed these very sentiments.  The South saw itself as fighting a second war of independence.  But that freedom was limited to white citizens, what people like President Lincoln where trying to change.

Chamberlain talked about God periodically, but there was not glimpse into his personal piety.  Jackson would pray at the drop of a hat.  He had a very warm piety- but the acting of those scenes seemed outside the realm of my experience.  I just have to wonder if the writers and director were people of faith- because the way it was written & directed made it feel foreign to them.  Like a white guy trying to be black- it just doesn’t work.

The movie had 3 lengthy battle scenes: the battles of Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancelorsville.  They were not gory.  You certainly got the impression that the Union leaders had no concern for their men.  In battle men will die, but you should implement a strategy that gains victory at minimal cost of life.  They would march their men into strongly fortified killing fields.  God shall hold them accountable too.

If you are interested in a movie about the Civil War, there are better.  This was long, laborious and leaned toward propoganda.  I had to watch it in 3 sittings, and though some scenes were quite touching, overall it seemed too much like Gone with the Wind with flowerly language and bold statements.  Having said all that, I may now be forced to return north of the Mason-Dixon line.

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Tim Keller is coming out with another book, this one with the provocative title of The Prodigal God: Christianity Redefined Through the Parable of the Prodigal Sons.  I’m not sure how that makes God the prodigal, but I’d love to find out.  Keller’s work on the parable of the prodigal sons has been very helpful for me.  This will be a more exhaustive work on the subject.  From the WTS Books website.

This short book is meant to do no less than lay out the essentials of the Christian message, the gospel. It can therefore serve as an introduction to the Christian faith for those whoa re unfamiliar with it or who may have been away from it for some time.

This volume is not just for seekers, however. Many lifelong Christian believers feel they understand the basics of the Christian faith quite well and certainly don’t think they need a primer. Nevertheless, one of the signs that you don’t grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you think you do. Sometimes long-time church members find themselves so struck and turned around by a fresh apprehension of the Christian message of grace that they feel themselves to have been essentially “reconverted.” This book, then, is written to both curious outsiders and established insiders of the faith, to both the people jesus calls “younger” and “elder” brothers in his famous Parable of the Prodigal Son.

This is due out in October, so save your change!  (Update: the subtitle was changed to the Heart of the Christian Faith.) 

Due out much sooner, June, is John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life, part of his Theology of Lordship series.  I really like this series, and this would appear to be his course on ethics.  From the WTS Books website:

The third volume of Frame’s Theology of Lordship series, this book focuses on biblical ethics, presenting a method for ethical decision-making, an analysis of biblical ethical teaching focusing on the Ten Commandments, and a discussion of the relation of Christ to human culture.

“John Frame’s magnificent work on the Christian life fully endorses the authority of Scripture and practically addresses the need to consider the situations and people involved in ethical decisions.”
-Richard L. Pratt Jr., President of Third Millenium Ministries

Can’t get better than that!

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The defamation suit filed by Roger Clemens against Brian McNamee has resulted in some unintended consequences for the Rocket.  Lots of allegations against him regarding his personal life (which his suit claimed pointed to his sterling character).  You could see this coming, but it is still sad whether the allegations are true or not.  Roger issued a Giambi-like apology while denying the allegations.  My, that was helpful.  Either he has the worst lawyer ever, or he is the worst client ever.  This rivals the Seinfeld episodes with Kramer’s fast-talking lawyer to whom he never listened.

But another story caught my eye.  It took place in Nashua, NH.  This would be the small New England city in which I grew up.  It involved fans of the Red Sox and a Yankees fan.  And what unfolded was a pathetic testimony to how some people take this thing way too seriously.

I am an avid Red Sox fan.  I’ll admit I’ve had a few lively dialogues while attending games in Tampa (actually the Rays play in St. Pete which is an additional 45 minutes away).  Mostly that was challenging outrageous claims on omniscience on the part of Rays fans.  I once asked a guy if he was God since he seemed to know so much about the motivation of a man he never met.

The Yankees are our “arch enemy”.  I saw some ugly events as a child in Fenway sitting in the right field seats in the late 70’s.  Reggie Jackson was verbally abused continuously.  Yankees’ fans were also attacked verbally and with beverages.  I do not condone any of those actions, but detest them.  Some of my best friends are Yankees’ fans.  We have a playful rivalry, not one that is life and death.  I’ve even watched them play one another, in the playoffs, with some of my Yankee fan friends.

But, in Nashua things got ugly after a fist fight between 2 women (what are we coming to?).  One stomped off to her car and the crowd noticed the Yankees’ bumper sticker.  The taunts began.  [for the record, you may not like the Yankees, but they certainly do not stink or any related term.]  She responded by driving straight for the crowd.  Admittedly she had been drinking and her decision-making process somewhat impaired.  Theirs undoubtedly was too.  For she thought they’d move; and they thought she’d stop.  But she ran into the crowd killing a man.

Sports is no reason to kill a person.  Yet this happens all over the world, not just in Nashua, NH.  We will never be able to coexist as long as we gain our identity in someone or something other than Christ.  We will protect our idols, even if we have to kill.  This, folks, is who we are- all too often.

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Even the NYT gets it, finally.  Scientific studies indicate that when you consider the process of creating the biofuels, they produce more greenhouse gases than traditional fuels.  Hah!  Congress’ great hope for not drilling anywhere in the continental U.S. and ending our foreign oil dependence has a few holes in it.

“When you take this into account, most of the biofuel that people are using or planning to use would probably increase greenhouse gasses substantially,” said Timothy Searchinger, lead author of one of the studies and a researcher in environment and economics at Princeton University. “Previously there’s been an accounting error: land use change has been left out of prior analysis.”

Of course these scientists haven’t quite figured out that temperatures are dynamic, not static, and that the models just don’t fit reality.

Then there is the “unintended consequence”. 

For instance, if vegetable oil prices go up globally, as they have because of increased demand for biofuel crops, more new land is inevitably cleared as farmers in developing countries try to get in on the profits. So crops from old plantations go to Europe for biofuels, while new fields are cleared to feed people at home.

Likewise, Dr. Fargione said that the dedication of so much cropland in the United States to growing corn for bioethanol had caused indirect land use changes far away. Previously, Midwestern farmers had alternated corn with soy in their fields, one year to the next. Now many grow only corn, meaning that soy has to be grown elsewhere.

Increasingly, that elsewhere, Dr. Fargione said, is Brazil, on land that was previously forest or savanna. “Brazilian farmers are planting more of the world’s soybeans — and they’re deforesting the Amazon to do it,” he said.

Once again we run after the elaborate, seemingly attractive solution at the expense of the simplier solutions or really understanding if there really is a problem.  So, due to the radical environmentalists and global warming alarmists have tied our hands behind our backs.  As a result of their demands, we continue to export way too much oil, which drives down the dollar, increasing the price for gas, and all the things we ship using it, shift to alternative fuels further driving up the cost of grains and all other products that rely on grains … it is a vicious cycle. 

Yes, I’m sick of the stupidity.

HT: The Institute

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Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.  CavWife (CW) ran across this story today.  It comes from the Yale Daily News and is about a Yale art school senior.  It is sad, distressing and disgusting.

Her senior project is “a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.”

She says she did not design this for shock value or scandalize anyone.  Self-deceived or clueless, I’m not sure.  But any reasonable adult would realize that this would shock people.

Personally, I cannot believe someone would even consider doing this.  Art should make us think, but to the betterment of our souls.  It should not de-humanize us.  Due to our depravity, it is far too easy for us to show the ugly side of life.  But it requires far more work to show beauty, dignity and honor.  So, when we give our depravity free rein, it reveals the worst in us instead of the best in us.

Sinclair Ferguson touches on this sad reality.

Only by seeing our sin do we come to see the need for and wonder of grace. But exposing sin is not the same thing as unveiling and applying grace. We must be familiar with and exponents of its multifaceted power, and know how to apply it to a variety of spiritual conditions. Truth to tell, exposing sin is easier than applying grace; for, alas, we are more intimate with the former than we sometimes are with the latter. Therein lies our weakness.

    Sadly, both bad art and bad preaching fall into this trap.  Both express only our depravity, and neglect our dignity.  Both settle for sin rather than grasp for grace.

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I’m not talking about the movie.  I’m talking about the ruins left behind by ‘progressive’ ideas.  Two blog posts by Al Mohler illustrate.

One of Ronald Reagan’s greatest regrets, so I’ve heard, is signing the “No Fault Divorce” law as Governor of California.  A man who grew up a few blocks from the “Brady” house in California decided to check in with his friends from high school to see how the rapid increase in divorce among their parents affected them.  His Newsweek article shares some of the shocking stories.  The author is only 2 years older than me.  Although divorce was not quite as common in southern New Hampshire, I know I felt some of those fears as a child.

Despite his experiences, Mr. Jefferson states that he’d marry his partner if allowed to by law.  This leads us to the next topic Dr. Mohler addresses.  Many ‘progressives’ have a “not my kid” mentality about homosexuality.  These are people who willing and warmly embrace homosexuals (actually, many Christians do too), so they are not “homophobes”.  But they are conflicted when it comes to their own children.  And apparently their kids have caught on.  Homosexuals in Christian families report having an easier time telling their parents.  These of course are probably families that understand the gospel and practice unconditional love.  Why do I say this?  A family that “gets” the gospel understands that all of us are corrupt and prone toward evil.  Some of us just pursue “respectable” evils like gluttony, gossip and greed to name but a few.  You don’t have to approve or like your kids’ choices, but you are to love them like you love yourself. 

The ruins of ‘progressive’ thought (which exalts personal freedom over mutual obligation and personal responsibility) are broken families and uncertain kids.  Not only are kids uncertain if their parents will stay together, but if their parents will continue to love them if they knew the truth about them.  Afterall, isn’t that why some/many of their parents are divorcing- they couldn’t handle the truth about one another.  Obviously, sometimes it is one spouse’s unwillingness to change destructive behavior.  But this still undermines a child’s relational foundation.

My hope is not in “conservative values”.  I’m not into moralism though I have conservative values.  My hope is in the gospel, the power of God to save everyone who believes.  We can be saved not only penalty of sin, but the power of sin.  Communities that “get” the gospel will provide the relational stability necessary for children to grow up able to love others.

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Sometimes I think Hollywood thinks we have no imagination.  This would explain their apparent need to show us everything rather than letting our imagination take its course.

Latest case in point: The Take.  In promoting the movie, leading actress Rosie Perez was talking about how awkward it was to do the movie’s sex scene.  She has been in sex scenes before, such as in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.  What made this one awkward was her close relationship with John Leguizamo.  “I respect him so much and he respects me so much. I know his wife, he knew my husband and introduced me to my boyfriend. It was very awkward. Like brother and sister having to do a sex scene.”

What is unusual about this scene is that the characters are married.  Yes, Hollywood realized that married people have sex … with their spouses.  At least in most places.  But … we don’t need to see it.  I haven’t seen the movie (obviously since it has yet to be released) and don’t know if there is nudity or how graphic it may be.  But the fact that it was awkward indicates we probably ought to feel awkward, at the least, to watch it.  Which leads me to ask, “Why is it in there?”  I doubt it furthers the plot line.

If Hollywood believed in imagination, all they need to do is suggest they are about to enjoy the marriage bed.  A close embrace, a few lingering kisses, a word or two as they find a horizontal space.  Cut to next scene.

They no longer believe in imagination when they feel the need to show very graphic violence (unless that graphic violence is the point, like in Saving Private Ryan).  I am so thankful that Braveheart did not show William Wallace being drawn and quartered.  It is a brutal, ugly and vile way to kill someone.

What happens when we don’t leave things to the imagination is that we risk scarring the soul.  We see things we are not supposed to see apart from the proper context and we risk hardening our hearts.  With a generation of kids and young adults lacking relational connection, such exposure to sex can sow the seeds of or feed a sexual addiction.  Nor do we want hearts hardened by violence; hearts that revel in it rather than lament it.  Such hearts lose sight of the conflict between good and evil and glory in the gore.

As people made in God’s image, we do have the power of imagination.  It can be used for good, or evil.  When some act like we lack such power it increases the probability that we will use it for evil: to replay sexual or revenge fantasies in our minds as we continue to harden our hearts.  Respecting the imagination is much more difficult than feeding the fleshly desires.  Sadly, the art produced by our culture seems to have largely forgotten that. 

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Arlen Specter take note of this interview with 2-time Super Bowl winning coach Jimmy Johnson on reportedly on WFAN during Super Bowl week (he reiterates much of what he has said earlier on national TV, but apparently not everyone was listening).

Q: How about the spying thing Jimmy. You’re a coach does that bother you what Belichick did?

JJ: Oh please. I’ve said it on our show. Eighteen years ago a scout for the chiefs told me what they did, and he said what you need to do is just take your camera and you go and zoom in on the signal caller and that way you can sync it up. The problem is that if they’re not on the press box side you can’t do it from the press box, you have to do it from the sideline. This was 18 years ago.

Q: You think the NFL came down too hard on them?

JJ: No, no, I said it on the show. He was wrong for doing it for the simple reason that the league knew this was going on not just in New England but around the league. And the league sent out the memorandum to all of the teams saying you cannot do this. And so that’s when Bill Belichick was wrong. After he got the memorandum saying don’t do it any more, he did it.

Q: Did you ever steal signals?

JJ: Oh in a heartbeat, yeah. Yes I did.

Q: Via video, Jimmy? Or no?

JJ: Oh yeah, I did it with video and so did a lot of other teams in the league. Just to make sure that you could study it and take your time, because you’re going to play the other team the second time around. But a lot of coaches did it, this was commonplace.

Q: But did you do it by taping the signal caller?

JJ: Yeah.

Q: Oh you did.

JJ: That’s what I’m saying. I was saying one of Marty Schottenheimers scouts, Mark Hatley, who has passed away now, Mark told me that’s how they did it, and Howard Mudd their offensive line coach with Kansas City, who now coaches for Tony Dungy, he was the best in the entire league at stealing signals.

Q: Where’d you put your guy who was videotaping? Where was he?

JJ: My guy was up with my camera crew in the press box. So you’d just put an extra camera up with your camera crew in the press box who zoomed in on the signal callers. That’s the best way to do it, but anyway you can’t always do that because the press box camera crew might be on the same side as the opposing team. If they’re on the same side as the opposing team that’s when you need to do it from the sideline.

It is time for Specter, and some former NFL players to put all their righteous indignation aside.  This practice has been going on for years, and was done by many, if not most teams.  It doesn’t make it right, but let’s get this notion that ONLY the Patriots did it to rest.  Perhaps this is why Specter feels “stonewalled” by the Patriots, Jets and other teams.  Most teams of have done this, and it really is a league matter.  It does not involve the health of our youth, but league rules.  The league therefore determines the proper penalties.  I still don’t understand why Specter feels the need to stick his nose in this, aside from his perspective of a private citizen who is an Eagles fan.  He should not abuse his political power in such a matter.

Now, if it is proven the Patriots taped the Rams last practice (and that would be the Patriots, not Matt Walsh doing his own thing and taping it), which means there is a tape of the practice, and documentation that the organization or a superior had prior knowledge and consent, then the NFL should impose additional penalties.  Here we are dealing with something more than the actions of an individual, but an organizational conspiracy that must be proven.  The existence of a tape does not prove that the Patriots’ coaching staff told him to do it, or used it in preparation for the Super Bowl.

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Like the Steroid hearings, this baby just won’t go away.  Some new tidbit stirs up the dust again.  Apparently former Patriots’ videotaping assistant Matt Walsh thinks he holds the key.  The question might be, is it authentic or a counterfeit?

Walsh wants immunity and protection from lawsuits (understandable since he would have in his possession materials that don’t belong to him).  Okay, that makes sense.  But he and the NFL can’t agree.  He wants protection from lawsuits even if he is not truthful.

“Michael Levy, Walsh’s Washington, D.C.-based attorney, said his client has videotapes. But before releasing them to investigators, he wants protection against being sued.

“The two sides traded proposals last week but have yet to reach a resolution. The league’s proposal offered Walsh protection on two conditions. According to commissioner Roger Goodell: “(He) has to tell the truth and he has to return anything he took improperly.”

“Levy doesn’t believe the agreement offers enough protection, particularly if Walsh is accused of being untruthful.

“Under our proposal, Mr. Walsh is only protected if he is in good faith truthful,” Levy said. “And he will be.”

“The NFL wants the same thing, and in a statement from one of its attorneys, questioned Levy’s contention.

“Eric Holder, a partner in Covington and Burling, the NFL’s outside law firm, said: “No responsible investigator would offer blanket immunity to a potential witness without a commitment that the witness will be truthful. Any witness who refuses to make that commitment doesn’t deserve immunity.””

Sounds to a reasonable person that Matt Walsh wants freedom to lie without consequences.  Sorry, but he does sound like a bitter former employee who sees an opportunity to make a name for himself.  If I know I’m telling the truth, all I would need would be freedom from violating my non-disclosure contract.  That is it.  He wants more, and continues to drag this whole question of whether or not the Patriots taped the Rams’ walkthru in 2002.  The Patriots can’t prove they didn’t.  Walsh is the only one who claims he can, but he isn’t.

This is similar to the Steroid mess.  Clemens can’t prove he didn’t take steroids.  But McNamee has provided evidence he has- at great risk to himself.  McNamee goes to jail if he lies.  This, and the coorboration of Andy & Chuck, make him a despicable though credible witness.  He admits previous lies he told to others (when he was not under oath).  Roger talks in circles hoping no one realizes that he isn’t answering the question.

The Patriots have answered the question.  No evidence has been provided.  The only guy who claims to have evidence wants to remove the only thing that would grant him any credibility- penalties for lying.  See, though similar these 2 cases have a significant difference.  I can’t believe Roger at this point, and neither can I believe Walsh.

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I was watching C-SPAN last night, partaking of the Comedic Caper that took place on Capitol Hill yesterday.  Here are my thoughts:

1. McNamee seemed more believable to me.  He admitted to his lies to reporters, and the process by which he was essentially caught and had to tell the truth.  Apparently Congressman Burton can’t understand the distinction between lying to reporters in 2005 and lying to Congress under oath in 2008.

2. Roger can’t answer a question to save his life, and he was in way over his head intellectually (which is surprising considering how dumb most of the Republicans looked).  He couldn’t understand that 2 conversastions with McNamee about injecting his wife with HGH qualify as conversations about HGH with McNamee, which he repeatedly denied having earlier in his deposition.  If my wife was having a reaction to an injection to HGH, I’d certainly call my doctor and study up on HGH fast.  Yet, Roger claims he knows next to nothing about HGH.  Mind boggling how goofy this guy comes across.  Great pitcher, but the IQ of a turnip.  He was caught in a number of inconsistencies, and offered no reasonable explanation for them.  His abuse of the English language was comical.

3. Sadly this was politicized.  By and large the Republicans went after McNamee.  Souder, who was burned by Palmeiro in 2005, was the exception.  I guess his autograph parade through the offices last week paid off (Souder again declined).  The Democrats, who did look far more prepared than the Republicans, pretty much went after Clemens.  Congressman Mica of Florida, aka Master of the Obvious, was doing his best Forrest Gump imitation, seeming entirely clueless.

4. Lost in the comedic caper, by most of the participants, was the testimony of Pettite & Knobloch.  Hmmm, Andy increased the number of times he admits taking HGH.  Why can’t McNamee remember more accurately over time?  But in those instances McNamee told the truth.  Why would he be lying with regard to Roger?  Roger never explained that.  Roger tried to throw Andy under the bus with his wife and agents by saying he “misremembered” Roger.  Andy’s conversations with Roger show that Roger intended to lie (or had deceived himself).  Could Roger come up with any compelling reason for Andy to say this?  No.

5. The Nanny Gate aspect is interesting, though not conclusive.  She does not remember a party, but did remember the whole family, including Roger, getting a tour of Jose’s home.  She thinks that Roger played golf with Jose.  This does not mean much regarding McNamee’s testimony, but the fact that Clemens himself met with her prior to her deposition is disconcerting.  His lawyers?  Yes, that would be normal.  But Roger should not have been there- it could easily be considered intimidation.  And intimidation is Roger’s bread and butter as a pitcher.  This also seems to be the way he has gone about defending himself.  I missed this part, but apparently Roger admitted he may have been at the party. 

“After all the denials, Clemens basically said, ‘Well, yeah, it’s possible I could have stopped by Canseco’s house, maybe dropped off the family, swung by after golf and before going to the ballpark….’ Hmmm. How did Davis follow up on that admission? Well, he didn’t.””

Last night I caught the end of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry won’t admit to watching Melrose Place to a woman he was dating.  He faced a lie detector test, since she was a policewoman and smelled a lie.  He asked George how to beat the test.  “If you believe it, (pregnant pause) it’s not a lie.”  As I’ve said in other posts, I think Roger really believes he’s telling the truth, but he’s not.

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Hats off to Patriots’ great Andre Tippett- he’s in the Hall of Fame.  He was a monster linebacker when I was a kid.  He’s the Patriots’ all-time leader in sacks.  Injuries kept him from being even more of a force.  It was a long time coming for Andre, and Patriots nation celebrates with him.

Definitely not a hats off to the story that ran yesterday in the Boston Herald, and is now being run to death by ESPN.  It really disturbs me when you have scandals based on unnamed sources who produce NO evidence.  As was once said, “the media is a hungry dog- feed it or it will eat you.”  As if the historic march to 19-0 was not enough (maybe since so few think the Giants can stop them) this has to rear its ugly head.

Both the Patriots & NFL have denied there is any substance to these accusations.  Sounds like someone with an axe to grind, or they’d offer their identity (like McNamee) and/or some actual evidence.  So ESPN is sending Fish to pester Matt Walsh, who sadly perpetuates the speculation by neither denying or affirming the accusation.  ESPN is spinning this as he’s got something to hide.  Maybe he just doesn’t know anything, because there is nothing to know.  Now Arlen Spector is sure to press this issue.  I’m growing weary of the endless need to have hearings and probes into every suspected wrongdoing.  We are navel gazing while big problems that will affect us, our kids and grandkids are continually ignored by politicians.

Something like this would throw off any team, except maybe the Patriots who seem to thrive on stuff like this.  This may not bode well for the Giants.

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We figured this day would come, and it has.  Today Eli may have figured out he is not going back to the orphanage and his nanny.  It was a very long afternoon as he spent most of it crying.  First he was sad, and then it was an angry cry.  CavWife would appreciate prayer that the travel day would not be filled with crying- that would make a monstrously long day even longer.

There have been lots of storms north of them (one family’s flight took off just before the airport closed), and it has been unseasonably cold.  She did not prepare for this when packing clothes for him.  So they haven’t been going to all the local sights or shopping trips.  Tomorrow they don’t have to actually go to the consulate, just be available if there are questions.  The guides will bring the paperwork.  At least they won’t have to sit in an office forever.

Update:  It was a pretty quiet day on the home front.  I took a big nap while the Celtics lost on national TV.  No KG, and the Magic barely beat them.  I can take that.  The little girl got out the hair cutting kit and told me Mema had to cut my hair.  I told her to wait until her mom came home.  Then she wanted hers cut.  I told her I had a feeling that she’d be going to get it cut soon.

She has a mild peanut allergy (hives) and we aren’t sure about other nuts.  So after I realized she had almond bread, I was not sure what to think.  I went off to Family Group, teaching on 1 Peter 2:1-3.  When I got home she was still up.  Her lower lip was bigger than usual.  My in-laws couldn’t find the Benedryl (surely CavWife didn’t bring it all to China.  Yes, she had).  They weren’t sure if she accidently got hit by one of the neighborhood kids, but I couldn’t see any teeth marks on the inside of the lip.  But she seemed fine and we got her off to bed.  Meanwhile, my fever hit with a vengeance and I could feel the sinus pressure under one eye and my teeth hurt on that side.  So I lay on the couch under the covers and watched SuperBowl 38 (Patriots-Panthers).  Why did they put the World Broadcast on there????  Surely most of the fans will be Americans and not be able to calculate from kilograms to pounds on the fly.  That and all the annoying little explanations of the game.  I guess that may help when the CavKids watch it when they are younger. 

Then I finished up the Vince Flynn novel.  Great read … but I found it tapped into that part of me that wants vengeance here and now instead of remember that it is the Lord’s to repay- and He will in due time (Rom. 12).  Of course, Mitch Rapp is the “sword” of the government in the story, so … (obviously he has personal motives in addition to executing justice on the part of the government).  What I do like is how justice is not lost in politics and legal rules, in the end.  I’d better stop here, it is a discussion for a different forum.

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