Oh No!


Imagine my horror when I walked into my office this morning to find this disgusting crime scene. There’s nothing worse than nutcracker’s inhumanity (innutcrackerity?) to nutcracker. (Thanks to my staff — you know who you are).

A metric for media bias


Interesting new study on media bias. In this study at UCLA, the researchers quantified bias by looking at the number of time news articles referred to left-leaning organizations versus right-leaning organizations for quotes and such. Not surprisingly, most of the press other than Fox News was left-leaning. The most interesting thing was that the Wall Street Journal, in spite of its conservative editorial page, was the most liberal of all when reporting the news. Hat tip to instapundit.

Movie Review: Narnia

Night before last, my wife and I went to see The Lion, The Witch,and the Wardrobe. Mr Fuzzle has asked what I think about the movie and about Christian allegories in general.

First, about Christian allegories. I don’t have anything against them, but the mere fact that something expresses some Christian theme doesn’t make it a good tale. Frankly, I get a little tired of the overuse of Christ imagery and cheap use of substitutionary atonement as a deux ex machina. An example of this is the death of Neo in the Matrix trilogy. Nice graphics, crappy ending. On the other hand, Steinbeck’s Eastof Eden is a masterpiece — and his use of the story of Cain and Abel as a framework is brilliant. There’s a truism among writers that there are only 40 (or 7 or 10 or whatever) basic plots, and all novels use variations of these plots. It’s not surprising that some writers take their plots from classic literature that includes the Bible.

There are also allegories, of course, that do not use the Christian themes as a framework for new creation, but are more focused on using a new creation to present the Christian theme. East of Eden was not written, I believe, to introduce young people to the story of Cain and Abel. The Chronicles of Narnia, on the other hand, were not written to provide a new look at substitutionary atonement, it seems to me, but to introduce the ideas to youngsters. That’s a different chore.

The problem with it brings up the second point, for me — that of what I thought about the movie. I firmly believe that there are certain times in a person’s life where certain literature is important, but if read too early or too late, the work will seem stupid. The classic example, to me, is the writing of Herman Hesse. To me, Steppenwolf, The Glass Bead Game, etc. are pretty sophomoric. I remember picking up a copy of The Glass Bead Game when I was a kid, and I thought it was inpenetrable crap. Then I read it when Iwas a senior in high school and I thought it was brilliant. Then I read it when I was an older adult, and I though it was trivial crap. When I was in college and through medical school, I was a *big* fan of science fiction. Now, I think that 90% of the science fiction I pick up is drivel. I don’t think that science fiction has gotten any worse or better; I think that I have changed. It’s even worse for fantasy. I’ve seen way too much real violence in my life to get a kick out of sword and sorcery stuff any more.

And that’s the problem I had with The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. The graphics were incrementally better than the last ILM/Rhythm and Hues/etc. extravaganza. The acting was good. The plot was reasonable. But it was virtually impossible for me to suspend my disbelief. Some wimpy early adolescent boy who has never seen real violence in his life is going to become an expert in broadsword in a day and lead an army into battle? Sure. It may be a great kid’s movie. In fact I think it *is* a great kids movie. But I’m not a kid. Halfway through the flick, I was amusing myself looking for errors in continuity. Not a good sign.

I wish the flick had been made when I was twelve. I would have loved it.

On capital punishment

So, now it’s over. The circus surrounding the execution of Tookie Williams is done. Whenever one of these executions occurs is one of the few times I’m not pleased to be a conservative.

It always amazes me when people who claim to be Christians applaud the ritual killing of others. We, as Christians, are people whose fundamental symbol is the wrongful application of capital punishment. Yet so many conservative Christians are eager to embrace this atrocity.

The bottom line is that there is *no* justification in the New Testament for capital punishment. Quite the opposite. While a good argument can be made for self defense — Christ Himself told his disciples to carry swords for self defense — *every* principle in the New Testament requires that we abandon judicial execution.

There are, of course numerous examples of judicial execution in the New Testament. All of those that are successful are wrong — from the execution of Christ to the martyrdom of the Apostles. The only judicial execution that the Christ came upon he stopped and pardoned the condemned (the adulterous woman). And, of course, in every breath, Jesus condemns vengeance and retaliation killing.

Christian apologists for capital punishment use the numerous statements by Christ and Paul that we should respect the power of the state — but even those are belied by the fact that both Christ and the Apostles did not think twice about standing up to temporal powers when it came to matters of faith. The argument that Christians should uphold evil governmental policies without exercising moral judgement should be laughable on its face, yet Christian proponents of the death penalty are reduced to it. One commenter on the beatitudes notes that they are tactical advice to a subject people; any other action would result in genocide — as demonstrated by the disastrous rebellion shortly after the death of Jesus that resulted in the destruction of the Temple. But whether the beatitudes and the teachings on subjugation are tactical or basic divine principle, they do not justify complicity with evil.

Bereft of New Testament justification for these killings, pro-death Christians are forced to rely on Old Testament prooftexting. Unfortunately, that flies in the face of their own faith. These same Christians reject the law of Moses, yet end up quoting it as their guide in this and this only. And they would apply it selectively even here — would these Christians stone heretics, adulterors, etc.? I hope not.

No. A Christian perspective requires that one reject capital punishment.

There are secular justifications for capital punishment, but all have sand as a foundation. The deterrent value of capital punishment is uncertain. The argument from necessity to avoid inadvertent parole is simply specious. The argument from justice is a tautology.

It boils down to this. There are two reasons for capital punishment. Collective vengeance and revenge, and secular liturgy. Collective vengeance is not a matter of justice. It is a matter of revenge. We want to kill these people because it makes *us* feel good. And it does. To be honest, it *pleases* me way down deep when some scum gets a long fall from a short rope. That is my failing. More important, it is not a basis for enlightened jurisprudence. Otherwise we might as well start executing loud mouthed Democrats and people who drive slow in the left lane; they piss me off, too.

A greater argument can be made for the existence of a secular liturgy and sacrement. People who watch our courts a lot sometimes get a little cynical and note that it is as much theater as it is justice. And it is. But that’s OK, because that theater is a matter of ritual that serves the purpose of all such ritual — it establishes a cultural framework whereby we structure our social lives and collective identity. Such rituals are an important part of our shared conception of our society — along with the other rituals of going to the voting booth, of organized protests with stupid chants and silly signs, of dressing up like an idiot and drinking green beer until you vomit on Saint Patrick’s day, etc. These rituals are very important in creating the common experience of our culture. Ritual killing, to whatever gods, has been an important part of this in many cultures, and it is a hard habit to break.

But we, as Christians, have made a tradition of replacing old, bad customs and rituals with good Christ-centered customs and rituals. We have taken Yuletide and replaced it with Christmas, even if we keep the tree. We take the sacrifices to Ishtar and replace it with the worship of Easter, even if we keep the rabbit. And it’s about time we got rid of the last, and most heinous, tradition of ritual sacrifice to the gods of vengeance. The gallows and the cross have very different messages, and we should choose the latter.

On tolerance

Paula brings up a couple of points in her comment on my response to her claim that evangelicals are “intolerant” because they believe that Christianity is better than being pagan. People do use different definitions of tolerance. I am not a fan of dictionary wars, but I will note that there is a dictionary that describes the definition I use:

tolerant: Inclined to tolerate the beliefs, practices, or traits of others; forbearing.

tolerate, verb
1 digest, endure, stick_out, stomach, bear, stand, allow, permit
2 allow the presence of or allow (an activity) without opposing or prohibiting; “We don’t allow dogs here”; “Children are not permitted beyond this point”; “We cannot tolerate smoking in the hospital”olerate, support, brook, abide, suffer, put_up put up with something or somebody unpleasant;

Paula uses a different definition, that

2: unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs of intolerance:

She then notes that essentially any deeply held disagreement constitutes intolerance:

If I tell you that your way is wrong and mine right, that mine is better and will lead to better things and that you really should do things my way, I am certainly not showing a willingness to respect differences in opinions or beliefs now, am I?

In fact, you are. It is possible to strongly disagree with someone, to believe that they are wrong, o believe that you are right, and still respect their right to an opinion and be willing to respect those differences. Failing to recognize that makes all acts of persuasion acts of “intolerance.”

I had originally contrasted this difference as conservative versus liberal, where conservatives essentially use my definition and liberals use Paula’s.

And the difference in the result becomes important. Paula recognizes this. She notes:

I find it peculiar, to say the least, that some peeps seem to believe that it is always right and good to be tolerant–and not only that, but also if you happen to be intolerant of a thing generally regarded as bad, we can’t call it “intolerance.”

Her acceptance of intolerance as good is what I noted in my distinction between the conservative and liberal concepts of intolerance. To conservatives, deciding to be intolerant of something is an important decision because it means that one has decided to attempt to disallow it. Unless there is a good reason, such as serious victimization, one should be tolerant of another. To those for whom “intolerant” simply means exercising moral judgement, then being intolerant is not such a bad thing. Unfortunately, since the distinction between being “intolerant” in the sense of merely disagreeing with someone and being “intolerant” in the sense of disallowing something is not made, the slope between them becomes extraordinarly slippery (as demonstrated by the restrictions of speech that have become epidemic in “progressive” socialist states).

The slipperiness of that slope is demonstrated by the direction this conversation has taken. Paula originally used the term “intolerance” as a pejorative, complaining that evangelical Christians are intolerant. Now that she has broadened the definition to include any thinking person with firmly held convictions, suddenly intolerance is not such as bad thing. By her definition of intolerance, evangelicals certainly are intolerant, simply because they believe they are right and attempt to persuade others that they are right. But then, so is Paula. And so is anybody with a mind. The desire to use the term intolerant as a throwaway pejorative meaning essentially someone who exercises moral judgement with whom one disagrees makes it valueless.

To me, believing one is right and attempting to persuade others that I am right is not “intolerance.” Refusing to allow the discussion is. And, frankly, people who do (and who attempt to persuade others of their position) are either being inconsistent — or intolerant by their own definition.

I must be getting somewhere


I got back tonight from seeing Narnia, and found about 100 spam comments, so instead of writing an article tonight, I’m deleting comments. I guess there’s a silver lining — somebody thinks this little blog is worth spamming…

The weird thing is that the spam links don’t seem to make sense — the teaser “great girl-girl action,” and such then has an href to somethin like time or fark. Don’t get it.

Speaking of Tolerance

Apropos the discussion of tolerance in the comments to the previous post, two interesting articles have popped up.

Blogotional discusses a recent decision by the socialized medicine folk in the UK have decided to deny medical care to people who smoke, drink, or are obese on the grounds that their lifestyle decisions make them unworthy of therapy. Oddly, they did not decide to deny HIV therapy to homosexuals or those who engage in risky sex, hepatitis in drug addicts, orthopedic surgery on runners or football players who blow their knees, weightlifters who throw out their backs, hangliders who crash, swimmers who drown, mountain climbers who fall, racers who crash, etc.

It is a perfect example of the inevitable intrusiveness of the government into the most intimate aspects of our lives under socialist philosophy. If they are paying for your health care, then they deserve to run your life. Of course, since they are secular, they don’t frame it in terms of morality, but rather in terms of utility. It is a smoke screeen, however. As Alister McGrath noted in his book on the Twilight of Atheism, the great failing of atheism is that it pretends to offer liberty, but instead inevitably results in greater intolerance, intrusiveness, and oppression than any faith.

And, of course, this is necessitated by the fact that socialized medicine is a Ponzi scheme that cannot and will not work. Canadians with serious disease must look to the US for their medical care, and the second and third world is building an entire economy providing the health care that socialized systems cannot. The incremental socialist transformation in the US, first by inflating costs beyond reason through regulatory expense (the regulatory, litigation, and administrative cost of medicine makes up more than 70% of the cost of medical care in the US), followed by the further regulation due to the assumption of costs by third party payers, is moving the US down the path of the UK and Canada. When we look to them, we look to our future, particularly if Democrats have their way.

And, as an example of that, is the attempt to make socially unacceptable opinions a “mental illness,” under the new guidelines by the psychiatric establishment. The gross politicization of psychiatry is yet another step down the road of secular liberalism. I can remember as a medical student laughing at the old Soviet practice of making dissatisfaction with Soviet Communism a mental illness — clearly Soviet Communism is the perfect system and anybody who objects must be psychotic. I guess, with the politically correct medical establishment, the Soviets must have been right.

Welcome to the brave new world of the tyranny of health, where unapproved lifestyles mean that you should die, and unapproved opinions means you should be institutionalized.

On Public Christianity

One of the statements made at Tuesday’s Child is that Christians should not object to the suppression of public expression of religious faith during Christmas because “Christmas is a religious holiday and should be celebrated within the environs of one’s home and place of worship.” In other words, the respondent has bought into the secularist idea that we should be secretive and ashamed of our faith. After all, we don’t want to be out there and pushy like those awful evangelical Christians.

But what does Christ have to say about this? Christ was not afraid to speak out about his faith in public. Indeed, He got into a bit of trouble for it. Are we to be like Christ, and be open about our beliefs, or like Peter, and deny them when confronted? It was Peter who wept about his behavior; it was the Christ who brought us salvation.

Jollyblogger mentions a wonderful Puritan sermon in his discussion of the bizarre decision of some churches to not have services on Christmas. The sermon, called “Public Worship to be Preferred Before Private” is from the mid 17th century by David Clarkson , so it’s a little tough to read, but it makes some good points:

1) The Lord is more glorified when worshiped in public. Clarkson notes that Old Testament commands about worship were universally public, and the honor given to God is greater when made public.

I will add that in the New Testament that Jesus commands that we announce his truth in public, and not hide our faith. It’s a little hard to ” go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” without mentioning him in public. Certainly Paul was not ashamed to wear his faith out where people could see it:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

He points out

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

What would Jesus and Paul think about all these timid Christians who are so ashamed of their faith they are eager to be silenced, I wonder.

2. There is more of the Lord’s presence in public worship than in private. He is present with his people in the use of public ordinances in a more especial manner, more effectually, constantly, intimately.

But you will say, Is not the Lord present with his servants when they worship him in private? It is true; but so much of his presence is not vouchsafed, nor ordinarily enjoyed, in private as in public. If the experience of any find it otherwise, they have cause to fear the Lord is angry, they have given him some distaste, some offence; if they find him not most, where ordinarily he is most to be found, and this is in public ordinances, for the Lord is most there where he is most engaged to be, but he has engaged himself to be most there where most of his people are. The Lord has engaged to be with every particular saint, but when the particulars are joined in public worship, there are all the engagements united together. The Lord engages himself to let forth as it were, a stream of his comfortable, quickening presence to every particular person that fears him, but when many of these particulars join together to worship God, then these several streams are united and meet in one. So that the presence of God, which, enjoyed in private, is but a stream, in public becomes a river, a river that makes glad the city of God. The Lord has a dish for every particular soul that truly serves him; but when many particulars meet together, there is a variety, a confluence, a multitude of dishes. The presence of the Lord in public worship makes it a spiritual feast, and so it is expressed, Isa. xxv. 6. There is, you see, more of God’s presence in public worship, ergo public worship is to be preferred before private…

3. Here are the clearest manifestations of God. Here he manifests him. self more than in private, ergo public worship is to be preferred before private…

4. There is more spiritual advantage to be got in the use of public ordinances than in private, ergo they are to be preferred. Whatever spiritual benefit is to be found in private duties, that, and much more, may be expected from public ordinances’ when duly improved. There is more spiritual light and life, more strength and growth, more comfort and soul refreshment. When the spouse (the church) inquires of Christ where she might find comfort and soul nourishment, food and rest, he directs her to public ordinances: Cant. i. 7, 8, ‘Go by the footsteps of the flock,’ walk in the path of God’s ancient people. And feed the kids beside the shepherds’ tents. Shepherds are (in the phrase of the New Testament) pastors or teachers, those to whom the Lord has committed the administration of his public ordinances. To them is the church directed for food and rest, for spiritual comfort and nourishment; and it is commended to her as the known way of the whole flock, that flock whereof Christ is chief shepherd…

5. Public worship is more edifying than private, ergo, &c. In private you provide for your own good, but in public you do good both to yourselves and others. And that is a received rule, Bonum, quo communius, eo melius, that good is best which is most diffusive, most communicative. ..

6. Public ordinances are a better security against apostasy than private, and therefore to be preferred: an argument worthy our observation in these backsliding times…

I will also add that being public in one’s Christianity has the salutary effect of making one more aware that one’s life reflects not only on oneself, but on Christ. For many years I drifted from the church and from public acknowledgement of my faith. It was during those times that I was the least likely to be careful about my actions and my thoughts. After all, it was not as if there were people watching me and criticizing all Christianity based on their criticisms of me. Faith is like anything else, when you put yourself up for public view on a subject, then you are more aware of where you really stand. When you are open about your faith, you know you are representing Christ to the world, and it changes you.

7. Here the Lord works his greatest works; greater works than ordinarily he works by private means, ergo. The most wonderful things that are now done on earth are wrought in the public ordinances, though the commonness and spiritualness of them makes them seem less wonderful…

8. Public worship is the nearest resemblance of heaven, therefore to be preferred. In heaven, so far as the Scripture describes it to us, there is nothing done in private, nothing in secret, all the worship of that glorious company is public…

9. The examples of the most renowned servants of God, who have preferred public worship before private, is a sufficient argument. It was so in the judgment of those who were guided by an infallible Spirit, those who had most converse with God, and knew most of the mind of God; and those who had experience of both, and were in all respects the best, the most competent judges. If we appeal to them, this truth will quickly be put out of question…

10. Public worship is the most available for the procuring of the greatest mercies, and preventing and removing the greatest judgments. The greatest, i.e. those that are most extensive, of universal consequence to a whole nation or a whole church. It is most effectual for the obtaining public mercies, for diverting public calamities, therefore to be preferred before private worship…

11. The precious blood of Christ is most interested in public worship, and that must needs be most valuable which has most interest in that which is of infinite value. The blood of Christ has most influence upon public worship, more than on private; for the private duties of God’s worship, private prayers, meditation, and such like, had been required of, and performed by, Adam and his posterity, if he had continued in the state of innocency; they had been due by the light of nature, if Christ had never died, if life and immortality had never been brought to light by the gospel. But the public preaching of the gospel, and the administration of the federal seals, have a necessary dependence upon the death of Christ. As they are the representations, so they are the purchase of that precious blood; as Christ is hereby set forth as crucified before our eyes, so are they the purchase of Christ crucified, so are they the gifts of Christ triumphant…

12. The promises of God are more to public worship than to private. Those exceeding great and precious promises, wherever they are engaged, will turn the balance; but public worship has most interest in them, and therefore more to be valued than private…

To conclude this use, let me shew you the sinfulness of preferring private worship before public, in the fore-mentioned or other respects, by applying what has been delivered. To prefer private before public, or by not preferring public before private, in your judgment, affection, or practice, you neglect the glory of God, which is here most advanced; you slight the presence of God, which is here most vouchsafed, that presence which is the greatest happiness the people of God can expect, in heaven or on earth. You undervalue the manifestation of God, those blessed visions of life and peace, which are most evidently, most comfortably, here represented; those manifestations which are the dawnings of approaching glory, the first glimpses of the beatifical vision. You contemn those blessed soul advantages which are here more plentifully gained; you prefer a private supposed benefit before public edification; you expose yourselves to the danger of backsliding, which is here more effectually prevented; you contemn the Lord’s greatest works upon the souls of sinners, which are here ordinarily effected; you slight heaven, which is here in a more lively manner resembled; you disparage the judgment of the most renowned servants of God, who in all ages have confirmed this truth by their testimony or practice; you make yourselves less capable of procuring public mercies, or diverting public calamities, slighting the means most conducible to this end; you undervalue the blood of Christ, whose influence is here most powerful; you despise those great and precious promises of the gospel, which are more engaged for public worship than private. Oh, consider how heinous that sin is, which involves the soul in so much guilt, which is attended with so many provoking evils; bewail this sin, so far as thou art guilty of it, and let the sinfulness thereof engage thee to be watchful against it….

We should not be ashamed of our faith, especially not in public:

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”