Friday, November 21, 2014

Much belated on music.....

....I have been, as time permits, reviewing the book of Psalms to see a little bit more of what I'd discussed earlier; that it seems that the Psalms utilize more complex thoughts than even most hymns, and that they tend to lead with the "facts on the ground" about God's provision, nature, and such, and then let emotion flow from that.  Just the opposite of what one would figure reading "Vertical Church" by a friend of Mark Driscoll's, really.  We can also infer a little bit about what Temple music would look like from modern interpretations in Hebrew, infer a beat and physical movement with music from some of the Psalms, and even remember that strictly speaking, music is not worship.

To learn what it is, however--besides the obvious category of "praise" that one would infer from all of those Halleluiahs (praise y'all the Lord) in the Psalms and elsewhere--let's  take a look at Ephesians 5:19. 

addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Notice here that we are to address, or speak to, one another in three (?) types of music.  OK, so we're not bound to just the Psalms, and whatever we do, we "speak" to one another.  Some kind of information is being imparted, and hence I would affirm that the song ought to (a) contain some theological information  and (b) ought to convey it clearly--no coffee shop mumbling or heavy metal screaming a la Hillary Clinton Brian Johnson, please. 

We can infer from the second phrase of Ephesians 5:19 that believers ought to join in the singing, and that the melody ought to be somehow in our hearts.  Hopefully this is not too much of a stretch, but a "melody in our hearts" can imply both that the Scripture resonates in our hearts, and that the way the song is formulated is winsome--it is poetically and musically good.  It ought to have some discerning marks in meter, rhyme, alliteration and the like, it ought to have a decent tune (no amelodic hymns, please), and the presentation of the song (hymn, Psalm) ought to be appropriate and memorable. 

What seems very clear is that James MacDonald's prescriptions for music are pretty much dead wrong.  It should convey theological content, is not as a rule repetitive or simple, there is no restriction on the grammatical person therein, and in light of the range of topics presented in Psalms, it doesn't as a rule need to lend it self to physical movement.  Imagine, for example, trying to dance to "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."  It is, like many of the Psalms and Lamentations on the fall of Jerusalem, solemn. 

Or, to address the final part of MacDonald's "Vertical Church" prescriptions for music, "When I Survey" builds its emotional value off the horror and awe that we ought to see when we consider ourselves in the shadow of the Cross--and does not need to be "emotive" in its wording because it is already powerful in its content. 

In short, I would argue that those who would write, or perform, music in the church can do little better than to--beyond learning the Scriptures and possibly even hearing or reciting the Psalms in the original Hebrew--learn the depth and breadth of good music and poetry, including secular sources.  Read Ben Johnson, the Bard, Frost, and others to get a "feel" for powerful poetry.  Listen to a variety of music to get a "feel" for powerful music--concentrate especially on the music which is notable enough to be remembered on the "oldies" stations and such.  You may quickly see what dreck is being pushed on us from many of the sources you may be hearing at church and elsewhere.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A thought regarding the Obama immigration usurpation....

.....or a couple.  For starters, this move by the President is in a way only doing what the INS/ICE and previous Presidents have been doing for decades; ignoring the problem.  The only real innovation is that he is going to illegally hand out work permits.

But that said, I reckon that if I told my employer that I was not only not going to do my job, but was going to prevent my coworkers from doing theirs, my manager would promptly let me know that I was welcome to resign my position or be fired.  I'll be sending such a note to the President, as well as my Senators and representative.  I am, as a citizen and taxpayer, their employer, and if they're not going to do their job, they are welcome to resign or be fired.

Regarding the specifics of the plan, Hugh Hewitt makes some guesses, and (as is typical for the President), it turns out that his plan will hurt those who are not here legally.  The trick is that the fraudulent documents Mr. Obama plans to hand out to illegals will.....

.....clearly identify them as what they are.  As such, employers who don't want a hassle from angry neighbors for hiring illegals won't hire them, and illegals won't want a clear paper trail to exist when (God willing) we get a law-abiding President in 2017.

In other words, President Obama is about to do for the Constitution and the immigration issue what he's done for the rule of law in taxes and healthcare.  God help us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Regarding the Gruber/HIDA scandal

One question that comes to mind regarding Jonathan Gruber's "paid to obfuscate" testimony regarding the Health Insurance Deform Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare", is what consequences Gruber and his minions and cronies ought to face for more or less deceiving the public to get HIDA passed.

For my part, it is my opinion that tenure ought to protect the right of professors to investigate unpopular areas and propagate their sincerely held views, but that it ought not protect those who use their credentials to lie for political gain.  There is a place for ethics requirements in academia, and there ought not be a place in academia for liars like Jonathan Gruber.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Good and bad news

Well, the good news is that it's extremely unlikely that my Spartans will be humiliated in the NCAA playoff this season.  :^)  Well done, Buckeyes.

The bad news is that activists in Ferguson, MO, have released a list of 19 demands that, if agreed to, will make the situation a lot more dangerous when the grand jury conclusion in the Michael Brown case (all but expected to exonerate the police officer) is released.  Here's the list for reference.

What's wrong with it?  Here you go:
  • Demand #3 is that advance notice will be given--OK, 48 hours to prepare for a riot.  What could possibly go wrong?
  • Demand #4 is that the rioters be informed of the police chain of command--"Hey Honey, have a nice time while I'm at work.  By the way, the rioters know who and where you are."
  • Demands #7 and #8 are that the police not wear riot gear, use rubber bullets or tear gas, or use crowd control equipment.  OK, if I'm an officer and do not have crowd/riot control equipment, and I'm faced with a possibly lethal situation, what tool on my belt do I use?  Hint; it's not the nightstick, the flashlight, or the Taser.
  • Demand #9 is that the police not interfere with the communications of the protesters--because it's not like rioters have ever coordinated to create a much more dangerous result, is it?
  • Demand #10 is for individual arrests and not bulk arrests.  Because apparently the police have never faced a situation that became more dangerous because people refused to disperse, which is a crime.
  • Demand #11 is for "safe houses" so the rioting leaders can run the riots without interference from the police.  Um, say what?
  • Demand #15 is for police to tolerate "minor lawbreaking" like throwing water bottles.  Because a bottle filled with an unknown liquid has never been used as a weapon, of course.
Put bluntly, if I wanted to get a bunch of these protesters killed, I don't know that I could do any better than to release these recommendations.  Are we sure it was civil rights protesters, and not a local KKK chapter, that came up with this?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Election predictions

Now as much as I hope that Harry Reid gives up his position, and as much as I think it's likely today, here is my somewhat pessimistic prediction for the outcome of the elections today at the national level.  Whether the GOP wins the Senate or not, the President is a consummate politician with the media in his back pocket and guarding him well.   As others have noted, if only the Secret Service were that good.

Hence, my prediction is that whatever gains are made, they will be stymied by Mr. Obama.  The Democrats will stymie attempts to vote on repealing Obamacare, as there is little chance the GOP will take a filibuster-proof majority there, and even if a vote is taken, the bill will be vetoed by the President. 

The most I am hoping for is a slowing in the rate of growth of government, and perhaps a slight roadblock for the worst of Mr. Obama's judicial and other nominees.  Real progress will have to wait for national repentance for the debacle of Barry Soetoro and 2016.

Monday, October 27, 2014


I just gotta say that I love Coach Hoke.  Michigan should keep him for a long, long time if he keeps this up.  Spartans for Hoke!  And Buckeyes! And Gophers!  And....Scarlet Knights?   If it keeps going this way, they're going to be playing the Little Giants again soon.

OK, seriously, lest I be accused of total Schadenfreude, let it be noted that Rich Rodriguez is 6-1 at Arizona this year.  He's doing great with a school that hasn't traditionally been first tier in the PAC-10, and this raises the question of whether someone has "put a spike" into the University of Michigan's ability to put a good football team on the field.   Is that je ne sais quoi lost?

And I've also got to admit that, looking at the game pictures, many of the MSU players are true physical specimens.  I am hoping that this indicates great recruiting and great training, and not the kind of steroid nonsense that the George Perles teams that Tony Mandarich played on were known for. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paging "Urban Dictionary"

Apparently Monica Lewinsky has found her mission in life; having been hurt greatly by "cyberbullying" in the 1998 scandal for which she is rightly infamous, she is going to campaign to stop the same.

My prediction is that within a few weeks, "Urban Dictionary" adds a new definition for the term corresponding to the actual reason she suffered, and count on comedy shows to feature sleazy guys telling ladies of dubious character "you can cyberbully me anytime."

Prediction #2; Miss Lewinsky will not learn the real lesson of scandal, which is to apologize for your part in it and move on with life.  Just like her former boss, I guess.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In "honor" of Oregon's first "lady"....

....or "first stoner", I guess.  Enjoy.

For the uninitiated, the live-in lover of Oregon Governor Kitzhaber has apparently not only fraudulently married an illegal immigrant (to give him legal status), but has also invested in an illegal marijuana growing operation.   And yes, if you're curious, Kitzhaber is a Democrat. 

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of banning "funny weed", but I've got to admit that if a couple more people had been arrested for using it--specifically Barack Obama and this Ms. Hayes--this world just might be a much better place.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day

I will confess that there are things that make it somewhat difficult to celebrate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.  Things like his mistakes in navigation, his enslavement of natives, and the bringing of European diseases to the Americas, among other things, come to mind.  History is rarely a simple endorsement in full of everything anyone did.  It's like we're all sinners or something. 

And then, quite frankly, I do a little bit of thinking, and I remember that many of the "natives" were engaged in constant warfare and human sacrifice (e.g. Aztecs, Mayas, Pawnee, Incas), and that those diseases were going to come to the Americas sooner or later, as the English did find the Grand Banks off eastern Canada for fishing not long after Columbus--which was why Samoset was able to be kidnapped by them and develop a taste for beer while a slave. 

And so, with the coming of true religion to this hemisphere and the end of constant wars to feed human sacrifice, I have to say something very politically incorrect; a lot of the natives had it far better under Spanish rule.

Along the same lines, a Christian was recently rejected for a position with Amaruk Wilderness Corp. in part because of her faith, and the managers who rejected her appear to be endorsing traditional Norse religion as superior to Christianity.

Now that's their right if they like, and therefore it's my right--being descended mostly from the tribes victimized by the pre-Christian Norsemen--to point out that we're really a lot better off since the Vikings stopped worshipping Thor, Odin, and the like.  So if you're thinking of taking a trip with Amaruk, maybe consider what those ViQueens did when the party got out of hand, eh?

Happy Columbus Day.  Happy end of legal human sacrifice in the Americas!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A thought on the Secret Service scandals

Now I will grant that there are numerous issues with the Secret Service--failures to do background checks of those who will be near the President, failing to stop a White House intruder, failing to keep the front door closed and watch the White House lawn, etc..--but it struck me that reports are claiming that the first agent who failed to make a tackle once the intruder was in the White House was female.

Now I will grant, cheerfully, that there are likely many places for female agents.  Attending female members of the President's family comes to mind, and it also occurs that there are many places where the best intelligence can be gleaned by a woman.  There are probably a lot of other great places for women in the Secret Service.

However, I would also hope that we could agree that the most important duty of the Secret Service is to make sure the most likely perpetrator--say a large, athletic male--does not get close enough to the President or his family to injure them or worse.  And as such, I would hope that we would agree that a key qualification for those closest to the President and his family is to be able to block or tackle a 250 lb, athletic man.

And, like it or not, with all due respect for former East German swimmers, I believe that the job description will all but read "only large, healthy, athletic males need apply."    Just like in the NBA, and just like in the Marines, sometimes physical ability matters.  Hopefully we get some people in the Secret Service who understand this before someone gets hurt.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Speed trap in Waldo, FL

I posted earlier about what I thought a speed trap means to visitors--more or less, don't do business here because we'll take advantage of you--and today I got somewhat unexpected confirmation that the city of Waldo, Florida was losing its police department due to declining property tax and ticket revenues.  It's especially worth noting because Waldo lies about ten miles from Gainesville (Go Gators) and should therefore benefit somewhat from the U. of Florida. 

However, I would guess that thousands of former students whose rent money was taken by the speed trap on their way home to Jacksonville decided, for some odd reason, that they'd start their business or live elsewhere, and the city is now finding out that a speed trap can be a very, very expensive way to raise revenue.  It was striking, when looking at the town's pictures on Google maps, how barren a town right at the intersection of two four lane highways can be in a state without an income tax.

Serves you right, Waldo.  Now elect a mayor who understands how to treat visitors.  Things might get better in a hurry.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A dilemma

At this point, I am torn on whether my favorite Michigan football coach is Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke.  RichRod had the advantage until last weekend's shellacking by the Gophers, so now I'm warming up to Hoke.

And not that my heritage of being born south of Columbus and having matriculated from Michigan State have anything to do with this, but if this pattern keeps up, I'm one of Hoke's biggest fans. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

In Praise of Harvest Bible Chapel

This will probably not be the type of praise Mr. MacDonald wants, but it's worth noting that his teaching on music is something of a "Rosetta Stone" in deciphering the problems with modern music.  Let's go back to what Challies notes;  that MacDonald notes that music ought to be addressed to God, not about God, that it ought to be simple and repetitive, and that it ought to be emotionally driven--and finally express itself physically.

Now, let's apply this to the text of Psalm 1.  Does God follow the formula MacDonald prescribes?

Answer; not by a long shot.  Psalm 1 is about the relationship of man to God and does not use the 1st or 2nd person at all.  Like many Psalms, it's all in the third person.  Moreover, its six verses are similar in complexity to the hymns so disdained by MacDonald, and there is no repetition at all.  In fact, apart from refrains, few if any of the Psalms utilize much repetition.  Finally, the Psalm--like most Psalms--is not emotionally driven.  The emotion--comfort, gratitude, etc..--is supposed to flow from the circumstances and acts of God described in the Psalm.  And an incitation to movement?  Not at all.  If we are blessed, that invites repose.

Now an interesting fact is that, whether influenced by MacDonald or not, or possibly vice versa, most modern church music, including a great portion of revivalist camp songs, more or less follows MacDonald's model.  Simple, emotive, repetitive, and a tremendous use of the 1st and 2nd person, and an outright invitation to move. 

And so it would seem that, whatever God intended by His example in Psalms, most modern Christian composers are missing it.  And if that lesson is important, we're quite a bit poorer for it.

Now since God does not give specific commands in music, there is presumably some wiggle room here, but going forward, I'm going to attempt some thoughts on what is truly important in music to be used in the church.

Monday, September 08, 2014

An addendum on the debate about church music

In my comments about the debate between traditional and modern music in the church, I've tried my best to abstain from using one of the oldest arguments in the book; that modern music is too often doctrinally shallow and emotionally driven.  More or less, I've seen it as a cheap shot.

Well, as a rule, I'll still hold off from using it, but it is worth noting that James MacDonald all but admits it in his book, "Vertical Church", as reviewed by Tim Challies.   Keep it simple, repetitive, and emotionally driven, because all that doctrine of old hymns is like drinking from the fire hose.

OK, let's test that hypothesis by looking at the first verse of one of my favorites, "Amazing Grace."
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
 Now I can confess that we need to define grace, wretch, lost, found, blind, and seeing, and perhaps poetic language is a bit difficult in our prose-heavy society that considers Executive Order 13423 to be an essential part of learning literature, but for someone who can read at a 6th grade level, this should not be an insuperable challenge.  It certainly does not require the gift of glossolalia.

In short, what we have here is a music ministry designed for people with at best a 4th grade reading level (Chicago Public Schools graduates I guess), and a preaching ministry that will not help congregants to understand these concepts.  In other words, it's a church model designed to keep congregants in spiritual infancy--if even that. 

So if your church is using Harvest Bible Chapel products to guide music or other ministries, you may want to ask some serious questions. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lord of the Sabbath

My family and I were reading through Joshua 6 yesterday, and it struck us that it was on the seventh day, presumably the Shabbat, when Israel marched around Jericho seven times (presumably a bit longer than the Pharisees' Sabbath walk) and conquered Jericho. 

In other words, as Jesus told us, the Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath, and He is Lord of the Sabbath.