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Friday, August 24, 2007

The Ethic of Reciprocity: or Libertarians are Buddhists

Compare and contrast:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

For numerous other formulations go here.

The first one is Christian. It is presumably some translation of Luke 6:31 that I remember. The second one is everyone else, including the basis of Anglo-American Tort law.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Discussion about discussions

It looks like Arizona will get some national attention in 2008, if only for one of its House races. Rick Renzi will not be seeking re-election according to the Arizona Republic. Corruption and whatnot.

Thinking about Renzi reminded me of his particularly offensive ad campaign. Here is a bit of the script.
Over 100 Democratic elected officials are opposing Democrat trial lawyer Ellen Simon. Liberal Ellen Simon served as the president of the ACLU, a radical organization that defends hard-core criminals at the man/boy love association (North American Man/Boy Love Association), a national group that preys on our children. One Democratic mayor called Simon's actions 'utterly disgusting.' He's right. Ellen Simon: radical, liberal and wrong for Arizona.
Full analysis provided here.

Some facts are off in this, but basically he is saying that if you work for the ACLU you are aiding & abetting pedophiles.

Do I think this is wrong because I like the ACLU? Yes. But I also think it is wrong because it interferes with rational conversation. I hope that it doesn't bother me just because I like the ACLU. There are organizations I don't like that I think we should be honest about. For example, the Institute for Justice and Focus on the Family are a couple of groups I often disagree with. However, I hopefully do not unfairly demonize their positions for my rhetorical benefit.

On the other hand, I think it is okay to make David Duke explain his involvement in the KKK. So, am I fooling myself? Does this really just bother me because it's about a group I like?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


To review, we've had some sober advice to the various congregations of John's day. Then he started to talk about this vision or revelation he had. Jesus is there, and the kings of the world are there, and you and you. Anyway, Jesus starts unleashing bad stuff on the world by breaking the seven seals. The feeling of gathering doom is further emphasised when there is a pause to protect some of the chosen:

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
See Revelation 7:1-8.

So first, what does it say? It says that we have an angel protecting 12,000 members from each tribe of Israel. It doesn't say they earned the protection, other than by right of birth. It doesn't include any Anglo-Saxons.

Is it a large number or a small number? In a time when 40 meant a large number 144,000 seems like a super large number. On the other hand, God isn't protecting all of the Israelites, and that's new. You've got your 12 times 12 formulation which seems to indicate super holy as well.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Connected Christianity

To be honest, I was looking around for something to blog about when I happened upon this story on cnn.com: Today's David vs. Goliath, Faith Against Sex, Greed. I think he makes a good point about needing to talk about these issues in church. We do this all the time with high school kids. We want to make Sunday school or youth group relevant. I guess adults need church to be relevant also.

Which would be a more difficult topic: sex (pre- extra- and marital) OR spending within your means?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mel Gibson's The Passion

I watched The Passion last week. I know this isn't a timely viewing, but I wanted to comment on it anyway. I didn't much like it.

It was well acted and visually interesting. I was not upset by the violence at all. Not only did I think it was relatively tame when compared to other motion pictures billed as violent, I think it served the purpose of the the movie--showing the suffering of Jesus.

I thought the antisemitism was worse than I had heard. It seems that several additions to the biblical text were explicitly intended to make the Crucifixion seem less an act of the Romans and more an act of the Sanhedrin. Also, I didn't like the addition of Satan at Gethsemane, particularly because he was giving voice to a particular interpretation of events.

But these are really very minor criticisms. I loved JC Superstar and it took much greater liberty with the story. Indeed, separating Christians from Jews was certainly a goal of the Gospels, so I can hardly fault Gibson for highlighting that theme. (Even if it does have radically different connotations in our world than in 120 A.D.)

My biggest problem is that the movie did not move me. And that is surprising. As rational a thinker as I am, I am very sentimental. I cry at movies, often. I find both Godspell and JCSuperstar moving. In my church, there is a ceremony on Good Friday in which you light one candle as you read the Christmas story. Then you light a candle for calling each of the twelve disciples. Then you put out a candle for Judas. Then one for each of the scattered disciples. Then one for Peter when he denies Christ three times and finally the Christ candle. Meanwhile, you've lowered the lights in the sanctuary and the service ends in complete darkness and silence. I shudder just describing it.

The Passion was, well, passionless for me. Jesus was far away and not given any human dimensions. I even went in expecting to draw parallels to the suffering I've recently witnessed, but nothing.