Thursday, November 30, 2006

Three wonderful books

Apart from the Bible, I'd tend to recommend three books for people to read to better understand Biblical economics and politics.

The first is Marvin Olasky's "The Tragedy of American Compassion," which demonstrates clearly that a permanent underclass did not occur until government started providing welfare assistance without a moral component. It should be required reading for all who want to get into politics, especially those who take Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, and "Sojourners" seriously. (for the uninitiated, these are the primary Christian advocates of more government involvement in charity)

The second is "The Millionaire Next Door," by Stanley and Danko. Those who believe that wealth is a result of "winning life's lottery" and advocate its confiscation via income or estate taxes desperately need to read this. Contrary to popular opinion, millionaires generally won't be found driving BMWs, sitting in a corner office, eating caviar or drinking $100 per bottle wine. Rather, you saw them in an older F150 on their way to fix someone's plumbing or electrical issues.

The third, and newest, is Arthur Brooks' "Who Really Cares; the Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism." Although it's (IMO) slightly misnamed--it's really about private, not public, initiative--it's valuable in that it makes the point that the religious, conservatives, and family men are the most likely to contribute to all kinds of charities. They are more likely to give time, money, blood, United Way and other contributions by statistically significant margins despite earning less money than their theologically, culturally, and politically liberal peers.

In other words, the old joke is true; a liberal is one who is generous with someone else's money.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oh, the horror!

Encouraged by my pastor's sermon on Romans 12 and hoping to implement God's command to let my mind be transformed, I went through my record and CD collection to remove objectionable music. Much to my horror, I was reminded that most of the musicians I listened to in my teens wore the dreaded poodle hair mullet--long permed hair, even longer in back.

Even scarier, they say that 1980s fashion is coming back. Friends, you might do well to get one of these to help a friend in need eliminate his poodle hair mullet.

Of course, "Poodle Hair Mullets" would, as Dave Barry says, make a great name for a band. But let's not go there right now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Moderns, mystery, and meditation

One of the myriad afflictions of coming from a modern--or postmodern for that matter--society is that we too often don't know how to simply contemplate something we don't completely understand. We might try and put things into a ten (or 12) step "how to" program, or we might give up altogether, but we seem to have lost the ability to simply meditate on these things.

Some examples? You betcha. What about the mystery of a wife--or husband, whichever is appropriate? Solomon notes it as a mystery in Proverbs, but we're happy to distill it down into a Myers-Briggs test, couch time, and a weekly date away from the kids. Postmoderns might add a little dose of changing the ground rules that Scriptures sets up for wedlock, I'd guess. In either case, we simply don't spend the time meditating that our forefathers used to.

Others? Well, what about the mystery of why Cain's offering wasn't accepted, or how it is that God so loved us that He gave His only Son for us?

I would submit that these things are not to be understood completely, but rather simply...appreciated.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Evangie-Tales"--baby steps to winning souls.

Like many others, my approach to evangelism has all too often been described as "punctuated terror"--silence through fear most of the time punctuated by the terror of actually being asked about my faith.

Thankfully, that's changing. My church began a "canvassing" effort on its own behalf and that of a church we're founding. Since my wife had frittered away my golf money on groceries, we decided to get a walk through town helping reach people for our churches.

The experience is wonderful. Fresh air, meeting people on the street, and lunch afterwards. For reference, it can be good to have your kids with you--they're a magnet for getting people to talk.

Only one odd or bad experience so far. An older, Garrison Keillor-like gentleman (I am not making this up) pulled into his driveway as I was approaching his door, looked at my pamphlet, and growled "we're Lutherans" and handed it back to me. I wished him a blessed day and walked on. I'll pray that he doesn't become prey to the Bilderbergers.

Many thanks, BTW, to brother and friend Steve Sanchez, for reminding me of my duty here.

A surreal ruling

...from Hennepin County judges. Minnesota's "shall issue" carry law (gun carry permits) allows private entities to exclude firearms in their buildings if they notify people on their properties of this policy, either with a sign or orally. Two churches (not Bible-believing ones, thankfully) have objected to this on the grounds that the state is somehow telling them how to communicate their policy to congregants.

Now, maybe I'm dense here, but if not orally or in writing, exactly how are they going to communicate their policy to visitors? Perhaps via ESP or facial gestures? Maybe slap them upside the head with one of John Spong's books? Or perhaps they can sing "give peace a chance" halfheartedly and off-key, and offer the permit holders a "dead fish" handshake?

Methinks the judge should have simply pointed out that as long as these churches have new visitors (hopefully not often, given their theology), there is no way they can enforce their policy other than to use the means provided for in the law. Unfortunately, logic and common sense do not appear to be prerequisites for a Hennepin County judgeship.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Some Excellent News

Eating nuts, especially oily ones like hazelnuts, is evidently good for heart health. Hazelnuts can be found in a really nice form in spreads such as Nutella.

To make matters even better, the chocolate found in Nutella is also known to be good for your heart. God is good!

What to do....

...about the reality that liberals now do more or less hold the levers of power? Walter Williams has an interesting point about what has happened to blacks--arguably the most impacted group by our governments (federal, state and local) over time.

Put gently, while adverse actions like slavery and Jim Crow discrimination (both in South and North) could not keep the black man from advancing, theoretically "affirmative" actions like the War on Poverty and Affirmative Action have.

So what do we do about possible liberal moves in government? As Professor Williams notes, the answers aren't in government. The answers lie in family life, the church, learning a profession, and real education. In other words, we counteract the malignant influence of the state by living like free men as much as we can.

Monday, November 13, 2006

To join, or not to join?

Given my political and religious views, as well as my work interests, I get all kinds of opportunities to join all kinds of organizations--and of course pay $20 annually for the privilege (or more), and of course to allow them to use me as a springboard for various actions more or less on my behalf.

Apart from my church, however, you won't find too many actual memberships. And why? Well, at one level, I'm not a joiner. At another, my resources are finite. And at a final level, well; there just aren't that many organizations with which I agree.

For example, I was almost ready to join a well known conservative/libertarian organization when I noticed something; the founder claimed that it didn't matter what specific theology one held as long as one was pledged to oppose Godlessness and a conspiracy.

At first glance, that sounds great--let's prevent a holocaust that would make Hitler and Stalin proud, right? But think about it; the Scriptures (Daniel and Revelation) seem to indicate that someone's conspiracy will eventually succeed. Our hope for avoiding it lies not in political action, but the Gospel. To fight this conspiracy actually means to consign more people to its atrocities because it means you're taking resources you could use to preach Christ and diverting them to stop the Bilderbergers.

Be careful what you join.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Political postmortem

It's intriguing to me that I only received two political mailings from liberals this year, neither of them directly from the Democrats. One was from a group called "Coloradans for Life", and attacked Marilyn Musgrave with false allegations. Another was from a group called "Faith and Family Values," and attacked the GOP in general with false allegations. In both cases, the real identity was hidden, and the allegations were misleading to downright false.

I'm sure that liberals can point to conservatives doing some of this, too. For my part, though, I'm going to do what I can to see if political debate can be brought a bit out of the gutter. I will remember the depths to which many will go in order to win.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another axiom

Whenever you visit a website, and the "gracious host" constantly accuses his opponents of lying, especially without providing independent evidence, you can generally assume that you know who's lying. The host, of course.

Apply this one especially to political websites like Daily Kos and "Internet Assasins".

A little ray of sunshine.. an otherwise gloomy election night for conservatives. Government sponsored race-based affirmative action is now officially dead, or at least on life support pending court action, in the state of Michigan.

Some will tell you that this means bad things for minorities, but the experience in California is telling. The statistics are clear; minorities (except for Asians) are less likely to get into elite universities (UCLA, Beserkeley), but more likely overall to graduate.

So ask yourself; would you be more willing to hire a Michigan or Berkeley dropout, or a Ferris State or Cal-Northridge graduate? This is some of the best news that minorities have had in years, even if many don't realize it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An axiom:

When someone tells you that "the debate is over" in any given area, you can generally assume that the person speaking is trying to gloss over the fact that the debate is very much alive.

Secondary axiom; the use of this phrase also tends to betray the fact that not only is the debate still ongoing, but the speaker's side is losing. Having lost in the arena of ideas, they're trying to win in the arena of public opinion.

Here's some information on global warming theory that demonstrates these axioms are operating quite well within the IPCC. Evidently, it turns out that those "historical" graphs of global temperature will generate the famous "hockey stick" graph even when fed noise for data.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good Bacon

On a politics' day eve, one might expect bloggers like me to post something about politics. No such luck here; I'm going to comment about something far more important; bacon!

Interestingly, "bacon" does not appear as a topic in my 1979 Encyclopaedia Brittanica. I guess it shows how much Mortimer Adler really knew, huh?

But down to business. Far too many people think that the water-cured stuff you get in the supermarket is real bacon--as it clogs your skillets with the remains of the sugar they pour in there to increase the weight, and the water remaining completely messes up the anti-stick properties of your 1945 Griswold.

No, real bacon is smoked in a smokehouse, and actually has very little water in it. It leaves very little residue in your skillet, and doesn't crinkle up, either. Oh, and the taste--did I mention that most makers of supermarket bacon don't actually smoke it, but use liquid smoke?

So get yourself down to the local butcher shop and get some of the real stuff. Your taste buds and your skillets will thank you....not to mention your wallet. Although the real stuff costs more ($4-5/lb instead of $2.50-$4/lb), you actually get more pure bacon goodness (little water remains) with the real item.

Try it with some Kaiserschmarrn or waffles.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Time spent working and achievement...

In response to the last post, Joe wondered about how we evaluate the use of one's gifts in either "sacred" or "secular" occupations--specifically how we respond to the investment of large amounts of time (say well over 80 hours per week) in one's occupation. My response is simple; virtually anyone makes a mistake to invest that much time in one's occupation: pastor, athlete, lawyer, or business executive. Here's why.

First of all, each of us has about 110 to 120 hours of waking time each week. If we spend 80 hours at work, 5 more eating lunch, and 10 more commuting, we necessarily push out other activities. To be fair, of course, it should be admitted that a typical man's time with his wife and kids (besides watching the idiot box) is better measured in minutes per week, not the 15 to 25 hours that even the 80 hrs/week worker still has left over.

More importantly, I'm not persuaded that long hours at work actually improve the quality of one's work. Thomas Edison does appear to be one counter-example, but think about it; Menlo Park went bankrupt a few times. Perhaps a bit of time off from the lab would have helped Edison get the perspective he needed to get his 1000 patents to market, and hire men to do even more good?

To use Joe's example of the athlete, I remember a marathoner named Alberto Salazar--in some ways the U.S.A.'s last great distance runner. (sorry Mark Plaatjes and others!) He won the NY Marathon in then world record time on a training schedule of about 80 miles per week--about eight hours at the pace he typically ran. Intoxicated by this, he then increased his mileage to 110-130 miles per week, if I remember correctly--and never again came close to his world record time. He more or less burned himself out, and admitted as much. In the same way, college football players are restricted to 20 hours per week of training--but they're bigger, faster, and as skilled as ever. (except for my Spartans this year...sigh!)

In other words, I seriously doubt that any man can really exercise either mind or body for 80 to 100 hours per week without putting one or both out of commission. We should keep that in mind, especially as we view our Commission.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What really matters....

Mercy Now appears to have supplanted Skeeter Joe (come on back bro!) as the cure for writer's block for now. A great point is raised; if we concentrate on work, don't we simultaneously choose that which does not matter over the real relationships which do?

And so a corrollary axiom comes up; we derive most joy not from activities for which we get paid, but rather from activities we perform gratis. In the same way, God receives His glory in great part for something He did gratis, didn't He?

What a nice turn as well; gratis, of course, comes from the root word gratia, and we celebrated the dawn of sola gratia last night. Not a bad deal at all.

Especially since nobody came by our house last night and the ice cream bars are all ours!