God in the Machine

Literally "God in the machine", Deus Ex Machina originally referred to Greek plays, where the "gods" would be lowered onto the stage with ropes in order to provide a quick resolution to the story. Today, Deus Ex Machina refers to any improbably and/or overly convenient character or mechanism that comes out of nowhere and saves the character(s).


"I don't get it, Big Dan..." -George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Monday, May 31, 2004

Let's all pause to remember the TRUE meaning of Memorial Day

The true meaning, you ask? Well, of course, it's to remember how brave men and women fought and died to give you the right to harrass old men for putting out American flags.

I mean, if you let folks start FLYING AMERICAN FLAGS on Memorial Day, the next thing you know, you have anarchy!

Attention, men!

Because I am your friend, I advise you NOT to click here.

Verdict Coming!

On Iron Blog's debate on use of torture.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Today's quote

"What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well." — Antoine Saint-Exupery

Please, God, let this be wrong.

The actor who plays Harry Potter predicts Harry will die.


I feel horrible today.

The tooth that needs root canaling is constantly painful now, not just when it hits hot or cold. No sleep means I'm a zombie. A grumpy, irritable zombie, and those are the worst kind.

Presuming the pain and fatigue don't make me accidentally say something I mean in the sermon today (a sure way to lose a pastor's job!), there will be less blogging this afternoon and more silent whimpering.

Carry on without me!

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Quote this

You miss 100% of the shots you never take. — Wayne Gretzky

The man may have offed himself, but at least they got the bird.

Um, I don't suggest you look here.

You think YOUR life is boring?

Be glad you're not one of the losers who need this for entertainment.

"Dude, I need more RAM! The paint drying is SO choppy today."

Friday, May 28, 2004

Quote of the Day

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
- General George S. Patton

The suspense is killing me!

Iron Blog's latest debate is nearing it's torture-filled conclusion!

Despite being in the difficult position of having to defend torture, the challenger is putting up a whale of a fight!

Stop the presses!

I may have found someone I can vote for.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Daily quote

The rest is silence.
William Shakespeare, "Hamlet", Act 5 scene 2

How to make everyone hate you: the abortion post!

MLAH has an interesting take on prostitution, that got me thinking about abortion.

As a pastor, a Baptist pastor no less, the main problem I have with this issue is that to enter the fray, you have to label yourself with a lie. (note that I am excluding those who justify killings to prevent abortions in the form of killing doctors, bombing clinics, etc. These folks are just idiots, and I refer to non-idiots only in this post).

My response to Mlah was semantic and refers to the first lie: The term pro-choice. People who say they are pro-choice don't really support your choice to vote against legalizing abortion, do they? They don't (usually) support drug use and prostitution, which both go straight to their argument that a woman should be free to do whatever she wants with her own body. Pro-choice as a term means "free to make the choice we want, not the one you want."

And, just so I make sure that EVERYONE hates me after this, let me point out also that the term "pro-life" is as equally insidious a lie. People who are pro-life are (generally speaking) usually also in favor of the death penalty, which similarly takes away a person's right to live. They favor invasions and wars. They favor guns, which, well, you know, kill people, except that they don't and people kill people and yadda yadda.

The point is that the terms are masks to gain unfair moral advantage. Suddenly we're not arguing about abortion, we're arguing about abstract terms like choice and life.

The bad news is that, as usual, the truth is somewhere in the grey areas in-between.

For instance, my own evolving views are firmly in the grey.

I believe that if you can't decide if a fetus is alive or dead, give it the benefit of the doubt. The logic here is that if you see me fallen in the street and bleeding, call an ambulance, not a mortitian. Please assume I'm alive if you don't know for sure.

It is clear, as Ann Coulter (the very mention of whose name just made about 1/3 of you immediately discount whatever comes next) says, that SOMETHING dies in an abortion. I'm just saying let's hang out on the abortions until we decide what that is, exactly.

I am also "pro-choice." That is, I believe a woman has the right to choose what to do with her own body and she makes that choice when she has sex, yes? When sperm and egg make fetus, THAT is someone else's body. The act of sex is, historically, the way we make babies, so if you don't want the babies, don't do the sex (or do it very carefully, or in other ways, or.. well, never mind).

So that also clears up the cases of rape and incest/abuse. In those cases the choice to have sex was taken away from the woman, so abortion is justified, especially since her life as she knows (and wants) it is over if she is forced to bring the child to term. If she chooses to do so anyway, God love her - the rapist/abusive uncle/whoever should pay the kid's way in the world.

This only leaves the issue of medical difficulty, where the doctor must choose between woman and child. Here, I turn uncharacteristically to French philosophy, which prefers actuality to potentiality. The woman on the table is a fully-realized human; not so the baby. Therefore, the choice to save the woman is justified and the woman's choice to give her life to save the baby is also justified.

Interestingly, and not at all related, this also solves the chicken or the egg riddle. The actual line is "actuality preceeds potentiality." So the chicken is an actual chicken while the egg is a potential chicken, meaning, of course, that you no longer care anymore and I've gone completely loony. Actually loony, that is.

Anyway, the correct answer, as is so often true in life, is "chicken."

Attention Men!

You do NOT want to date this woman.

Finally, a heated, passionate argument that MEANS something.

Well, not really, but Rosemary has a thread cooking about Fantasia, the American Idol winner, in which I and hopefully others SHOCKINGLY EXPOSE the true agenda behind, erm, well, I just realized I still don't care...

Good thread, though, Rose.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Tonight's the American Idol finale...

...and even though I am trying with all of my being, I cannot care even a little bit less than I do now.

Sometimes you feel like a quote...

If you're gonna be stupid you gotta be tough. — Joe Byrd

Say it ain't so...

Does anybody really think that if we elect John Kerry, suddenly the Al Queda threat goes away?

I'll grant you that Bush has been more aggressive than Gore would have been in response to 9/11. I'll even grant you that making a muddled mess of Iraq won't help our popularity rankings among that Al Queda faithful. I'll even grant you that Al Queda probably hates us a notch or two more since our actions in Iraq.

However, let us not believe the lie that Spain believes. The lie that any action we take will have an effect on how Al Queda views us. Maybe because we responded to 9/11 in Afghanistan and abused prisoners in Abu Ghraib they hate us on a scale of, say, 97 out of 100. What we forget is that they hated us 95 out of 100 to begin with. We didn't incite any particularly new hatred in Al Queda.

A Kerry victory means exactly this to Al Queda: "Good, now they won't be attacking us anymore as we plan our next terrorist activities."

They hated us when Clinton was President too, remember? The only difference is Bush did something about it. I'm not defending the war in Iraq, because I hate to support unwinnable arguments and I'm not in favor of it, but there it is.

The Left is trying to sell us on the idea that we can somehow reason with Al Queda (the religious zealots? the ones who behead Americans for entertainment? The ones who blew up American vessels when Clinton (democrat, right?) was President? Ring a bell?) if we have the right leader in office. THEN, they want us to believe that John Kerry is the right leader. Then again, maybe he is the right leader. Spain needed leadership that could change views at whim, and Kerry has proven he can do that.

All Spain did was delay the inevitable. If the time comes that Al Queda wins victories over the US and UK, Spain is still on their list, just cowed and humbled for now.

I take that back. The other thing Spain did was guarantee an attack inside the United States by Al Queda before the November election. Wonderful. Great to see you're safe, Spain.

And in spite of all that, I still don't know who I'm going to vote for in November. I suspect it won't be Bush or Kerry, unless I can get some compelling reason to vote for either of the lesser-of-two-evil candidates.

I toyed with voting for Nader, because I'm pro-environment and of course he's going to lose, but a vote is a sign of who you support, not an attempt to be on the winning team. But then I heard Nader speak and a crazy man who agrees with you on one topic is not who you want as Pres.

So my vote is still up for grabs. I suspect I will not vote for President, but will vote for the other offices. Not because I don't support the democratic process... I encourage everyone to get out and vote... but because by not voting for Bush or Kerry, it will be a vote of negative support for both of them, yes?

Refute any point you want, but the core message of this post remains true: Al Queda hates us by definition. Whoever leads America will lead the Great Satan of Al Queda thought. They will attack us because that's what terrorists do. Especially the crazy ones.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Polly wanna cracker? No? Then how about a CD-RW?

Maybe this is normal in Britain.

Finally, the breakthrough in urinal communications technology we've all been waiting for.

Here it is. Aim your browser straight ahead, please.

Bonus Quote of the Day

"It's 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses. Hit it." -Jake Blues, "The Blues Brothers"

Me Quote You Long Time

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
William Shakespeare, "Hamlet", Act 1 scene 5

Edit this, cross boy!

I ended the last post with the line "I'll be the one wearing the cross."

That's not, in the strictest sense of the word "truth," um, true at all. Actually, I don't wear crosses because I always worry that Jesus really will come back and, you know, see us all wearing crosses and what will he think about that?

It's kind of like if he had been scourged to death and came back in power to find us all wearing little cat o'nine tails pendants. Creepy.

Anyway, there it is. My lawyer will be in touch.

June 4 is getting closer!

Harry Potter! Harry Potter! Harry Potter!

What kind of paranoia does it take in this day and age to burn the only book in the last, say, 2 decades that actually made kids WANT to read??? (Note, interestingly, that the church here seems to support theft in the last paragraph. Interesting choice of sin. Apparantly the huge number of 9 year olds sacrificing their sisters to Satan after reading Potter books is enough to justify Christians to break at least two of the commandments. What's that? No kids are sacrificing their sisters? Hmmm.. well, at least this made-up enemy will give us something to shout about on Sundays instead of confronting the real sin in our own lives. See! Good is accomplished!)

Want a pair of books with more evil, witchcraft, sorcery and death than the harmless, good-always-triumphs Potter books? Ok, here's two: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (accepted by Christians everywhere) and, you guessed it, The Bible!

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of C.S. Lewis AND the Bible. The problem is, they got in the hands of the wrong people. It makes my job as a pastor (teaching people to love each other) harder when folks use the very tools God gave us to beat up on people instead of love on them. I saw a bumper sticker once that said "God, deliver me from your followers." You know what the trouble is? Humans. Whenever you have humans around, the potential for stupidity is never far away.

Regardless, I'm a big fan of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Harry should smooch Ginny, Snape should eat his hat and the book burners should grow up. Heck, if you see the movie, you'll see that even the kids look about 5 years older. They're growing like sprouts.

So why can't the church grow too?

Good thing you have me here to tell you why! Because fundamentalism, by definition, needs an enemy. In these enlightened times, enemies are harder to find, so they have to start making them up, and the non-presuming, frail-looking Harry Potter is as good a fictional character to bully as any.

Anyway, I'll be first in line. That'll be me, wearing the cross.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Gay climax achieved! Now, for the torture!

Speaking, of course, of the new topics for debate at Iron Blog.

Quote of the Day

How can we lose when we're so sincere? — Charlie Brown

My take on Michael Moore

This site inspired me to do some actual thinking about MM, who up to now I have viewed as mostly irrelevant, but in a large and well-known way. Thanks to Rosemary for pointing out the site.

Now, my take on filmmaker Michael Moore: I think he's a Puritan.

What? He's a what? Did Big Dan just call Michael Moore a Puritan?

Well, yes I did, and I mean it in this way:

When you're in high school and they ask you why the Puritans came to America from England, what do you say? You say "Religious Freedom," right?

Well, you're wrong. The Puritans were among the most religiously INTOLERANT, possessive, exclusive and stiff-necked people you've ever met. They thought they knew the Truth, and that they could therefore enforce that view of Truth under penalty of law. Many a religious man and woman were tarred and feathered, abandoned in the wilderness, or just plain killed because they disagreed with the Puritans on religious views.

What they wanted was religious freedom for themselves and nobody else.

Michael Moore is a Puritan.

He defends his biased, unfair, spiteful slander AND libel, guilty on both counts, by crying foul and "first amendment! first amendment!" at every turn. He insults and launches ad hominem attacks in cinematic form, then retreats to safety behind his "right to free speech." I happen to agree with some of what he has said about gun control, but to point to the NRA and blame all of society's ills on guns, then point to Bush and blame all of society's ills on Bush, etc and etc, is not only absurd but plain silly. The vile he does it with only adds to the fire.

So Moore says he's all about freedom of speech and he'll say what he damned well wants to and cry foul when, say, Disney wants to put away his potentially incendiary and ill-timed rhetoric in a dangerous time for our country.

But what happens when someone uses their right to freedom of speech to justifiably criticize Moore himself, on cinematic, thematic or other grounds?

This happens: "At one point in his speech, Moore suggested that the oil company should kill an employee for every soldier who dies in Iraq."

This happens: "Moore is the latest manifestation of what white liberalism means today. Until the white left becomes accountable to the oppressed they claim to represent, they will continue to mislead," Osayande charged during his presentation entitled, "With Allies Like These You Don't Need Enemies: Racism, War and the White Left."

And this happens, quoted at www.bcheights.com: "At the Michael Moore event, many Republicans and conservatives, including myself, were in attendance, despite the fact that we strongly disagreed with Mr. Moore's comments. Now, at this time, UGBC had hosted two high-profile speakers that did nothing but defame, insult, and spit on both our party and the values that we hold essential to life and government. When we raised our concerns about the one-sidedness of UGBC's speaker schedule, instead of supporting our calls for a more fair and balanced dialogue, The Heights (in the articles mentioned above) accused us of "complaining," "squawking," and "whining.""

In short, Moore and the Moorites are Puritans. They want freedom of speech, but not for everyone. Just for those who agree.

See? Puritans.

I'm fine with people who disagree with me, but this guy isn't even willing to "agree to disagree." That's what we call Puritanism. Another word for it is fundamentalism, and you don't often see it on the Left, but there it is.

Attack, attack, attack, then cry foul when anyone dares respond.

We break for this important interruption...

...no blogging for the afternoon. I'm off on a road trip to Rochester and will return this evening. Fare thee well, y'all.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The verdict is (finally!) in...

... over at Iron Blog.

Daily quotage

Clearly he had his own strange way of judging things. I suspect he acquired it from the gospels. — Les Miserables

Can I get another option over here?

I realized, sometime late this morning, something very sobering:

I don't have any idea who I'm going to vote for come November.

I like to think of myself as a conservative who strays from the party line on a few important issues, but reviewing Bush and Kerry (which, again, is like asking "Which Menendez brother is your favorite?"), I realize I can't pick out the lesser of two evils.

I don't even know what it's going to take for one of them to sway me to their side. I'm starting to wonder if not voting can be more than a sign of dis-interest in the democratic process. Maybe it can be a negative vote against both of the non-electable candidates they're offering up.

I really wonder what the difference is. Pick your poison. If the Dems had a decent challenger who actually stood for something, could pick a position, or hell, even a running mate, it would be no contest with all the amuck-running Bush has been doing. So, with the election their's to grab they give us: John Kerry. Kerry's election theme is, of course, "If I keep quiet, maybe nobody will notice until after I'm president." Kerry's only hope is to stay out of the public eye and let Bush LOSE the election, which might actually work this time around.

It's more and more possible that anyone who WANTS to be President and CAN become President is not someone you'd actually want to have guiding the nation. Which out-of-touch, multi-millionaire, beholden-to-special-interests candidate do you want? The one who believes things that are dangerous for the US or the one who you can't really figure out what he believes?

Somebody give me a reason to vote.

This is where I give more ammunition to the enemy.

Thanks to Daily Kos for pointing this one out. As always, I don't necessarily agree with the list, but I'll forgive anything for clever or funny:

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a lightbulb?
The Answer is SEVEN:

one to deny that a lightbulb needs to be replaced,

one to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the lightbulb,

one to blame the previous administration for the need of a new lightbulb,

one to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of lightbulbs,

one to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton Industries one million dollars for a lightbulb,

one to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the lightbulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag,

and finally one to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country.

Now, just 10 years of med school and...

it could happen.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Quote of the Day

"Stupidity is not a crime. So, you're free to go." -random bumper sticker I saw on the way to Panera Bread.


Having defeated (soundly, no less) the first 12 books in my "to be read" pile this summer, I am marching on. Next up is "Tricky Business" by Dave Barry.

File this under "fun and mindless." Dave Barry is this generation's Mark Twain, and this novel is his second attempt at fiction, his first being the hysterical "Big Trouble."

This one should take me about four hours, but still, a man can only read so much theology, yes?

Friday, May 21, 2004

Big gay climax building!

Rebuttals are in.. closing arguments coming at the Iron Blog!

EDIT: closing arguments are up! Verdict is pending!

When ya gotta go...

...ya gotta go.

And by go, we mean "leave."

Because you couldn't care less.. the Weight Watchers update!

I'm in the 210s!!! That's right, the two-tens! I weighed in this morning at 219, still about 30 over the goal WW has set for me, but respectable, considering I started last year at this time at a massive 285. I've almost lost a whole person so far.

How do I feel?

Well, mostly tired. I had high blood pressure (genetic, but the extra 90 pounds didn't help) and am on some pretty potent countermeasures. I think that, having lost 60+ pounds, my pressure has dropped so the pills put me in the "low blood pressure" range, which makes me dizzy and tired.

But the point is that this is a day for rejoicing! The TWO-TENS, I tell you!

I think I'll celebrate by eating 4 bags of Sour Patch Kids when Harry Potter comes out. Of course, at theater prices, 4 bags of candy comes to about $21, but it's worth it I say! Worth it!

So, in conclusion: yay, me.

Harry Potter countown!

The (most-recent) Southern Baptist freakout begins in two weeks! Watch for the hate speech near you on JUNE 4!

Of course, the nightmare-inducing, hyper-violent, Jew-bashing, R-rated "The Passion" is still just fine.

What? Now the snakes are out of hand? Release the wolves!

Indonesia is cool.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The countdown begins!

Get ready, Christians! Time for the most fundamentalist of us to make sure we're up and running in preparation for this years Harry Potter Over-Reaction Weekend! I can't wait!

Maybe this year, in an abortion clinic-esque move, we could picket theaters and holler to folks in line to see the Potter (hmmm.. I smell a marijuana connection) movie that they're casting themselves magically straight to Hell! AND they aren't waiting in line!

My understanding is that this year's Potter movie (aside from inspiring children to read, which is not necessary since the Mother Church does all our reading and interpreting for us, yes?) will contain even more Satan-powered magic. Even worse, the stars are nearing (gasp) PUBERTY! Sex, drugs and magic!

Sweet Jesus take us home! This HAS to be one of the signs of the last days!

And whatever you do, fellow fundies, make sure you ignore the fact that we active praise and promote the Godly "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" series, which has at least three times the magic, five times the violence and horrible death scenes. Remember, that's OK, since a Christian in high standing wrote that one!

Harry Potter - Magic bad. CS Lewis - Magic good.

It's so simple when you don't have to actually do any thinking!

The truth about life

Some days, all you can do is pull yourself up by your bootstraps, pack up your 266 dead parrots, and go home.

Quote of the day

May you live in interesting times. — Chinese Curse

That's a LOT of worried end-timers

Newsweek reported this week that the Left Behind books have sold over 62 MILLION copies. 62 million! Ye gads.

"Biblical Literalism" they call it. I call it fear tactics. Remember the old 70s movie where folks got raptured, and left behind and by the end kids were still wetting their pants in fear as they ran down the aisle for "salvation"? Same thing.

AND they're getting rich doing it. Even if it's a buck a book, which it's not....

When I was working part time at Barnes and Noble we joked that the books were called "Left Behind" because slow readers couldn't keep up with how often they were released one after the other.

Some of these readers must just be sci-fi fans, but I daresay most are Christians who are scared that the books calling themselves "Biblical Literalist" must depict how it will really go down. And so they spend, and spend again. Fear Tactics.

ASIDE: even if it is a LITERAL interpretation of the book of Revelation, let's remember that the first lines of the book itself let us know that it was all a dream, yes?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

GREAT ending

In a world of series finales where everyone hugs, or promises to write, or tearfully moves on, or gets their own series, the show Angel pulled off a tremendous series finale. Important people dead. Storylines closed. The heroes are being heroic right until the black screen. It actually felt like a final episode, rather than Friends- and Frazier-type "endings," which felt just like any other episode. I only watched them because I was in social settings with folks who cared.

And so, it has happened. With the demise of "Angel," so goes the last television show I felt I HAD to see each week. It started with the death of Farscape (crushing blow, that)then the X-Files, then Buffy. Que sera sera.

I guess I'll still look at Sportscenter and, of course, The Daily Show, but no "real" television, which will be a pleasant change. I guess I'm getting old, because everything else all seems like the same lame pile of nonsense.

Except for reality TV, which seems like the same rancid, lame pile of nonsense.

It's not Iraq! It's not gay marriage!

It's sports, and lots of it!

This link is to a sweet discussion on the greatest sports moment ever. Think the greatest moment ever was the Miracle on Ice? Well, you're right, in my book, but so few people check my book you'd better put in a vote here.

And I don't want to hear any nonsense about Michael Jordan or any dead horses.

I will entertain offers pertaining to Lance Armstong, however. I'd have gone with Lance, who recovered from cancer in exactly the way I did (if you don't count the being in shape thing - and really, who does?) except that his moment is a body of work, not a specific date with destiny or whatever.

Thanks to Sheila for the linkage.

Quote du jour


Our revels now are ended: these our actors
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yes, and all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a wrack behind: We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. –William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Can we please go home now?

Hey, you know what I need? More sickening, heartbreaking news from Iraq...

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Add this to your summer reading list

If you feel like thinking. Bill Bryson's one of my favorite authors, and he takes an excitingly (well, exciting for eggheads like me) scholastic turn in "A Short History of Nearly Everything."

Get a gander here.

Geek Boy alert!

How am I spending my summer, you ask? Vacation, travel, reading? Thoughtful mental exercises?

Well, here's what I'm doing with my valuable time.

I just flew in from Ogriss, and are my thumbs ever sore!

And the beat (down) goes on.

Try to find a blog out there today NOT talking WMDs or gay marriage. Shockingly, the conservative sites all say the single shell points to a larger WMD system AND that gay marriage is wrong. Equally amazing, the liberal sites all say, get this, EXACTLY the opposite.

Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A big deal only to me, and even that's a smaller deal than it used to be

I weighed in at 225 this morning. Still about 30 pounds more than I'd like, but much nicer than the 285 I was hauling around a year ago today. Yay, Weight Watchers!

Doctor finally gave me the green light to get rid of the excess baggage from when I was sick, and I'm taking full advantage!

Monday, May 17, 2004

Here's a take on gay marriage...

Me: Um, if gay marriage ends up to be legal, does that mean I'm gonna be REQUIRED to marry someone gay?

Them: No, don't be silly.

Me: Will my rights and tax breaks go away if gay marriage passes?

Them: No, don't be silly.

Me: Will the gays hurt me?

Them: No.

Me: Then why the hell should anyone try to STOP them from getting married?

The answer, of course, is the same answer at the root of any anti-gay legislation. The folks who make the laws (rich, white, millionaire) think they're icky.

I'll take Gay Bashing for 1000, Alex

Spirited debate on wedding day in Mass. here.

The Coming Attacks

Election Day is a lot closer than we might think, and Bush is doing everything he can to lose the election.

Kerry is playing it smart. He's not a particularly impressive candidate on any level, worse when you look down his voting record, and he's staying wisely under the radar for as long as possible. That's a strategy that might work in a lesser-of-two-evils election year.

When I played tennis, my strategy was to keep hitting the ball back, like a brick wall. I'd rarely go for any spectacular shots, and since I was in shape (way back then) I could sit back and wait for my opponent to make mistakes.

Kerry has been laying low, letting Bush bury himself on the Iraq mess, which now overshadows any other news story out there, even the potential gains in the economy. Bush's only chance is to get out of Iraq at the promised turn-over date, let them get back to killing each other after a pleasant vacation of killing Americans instead, and put the focus on Kerry.

This is why I cringe whenever I open the paper or turn on the news. I expect a full barrage of attack ads from the Bush side any day now. Kerry's hand will be forced then, but until that day, you can expect him to keep laying as low as possible. Being seen and heard aren't Kerry's best looks as a candidate, and since Bush seems to be attacking himself just fine right now, it seems best for Kerry to keep the cards close to his chest.

Quote of the Day

"What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well."—Antoine Saint-Exupery

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Long-lasting homosexual debate goodness...

The Iron Blogger website, dedicated to presenting surprisingly well thought-out debates in a web log format, has tackled gay marriage as this week's theme!

Not only should seeing the debate in print spark some of your own thoughts, it will be a nice break from seeing the word "Iraq" in print.

If this round is anywhere near as exciting as last week's "Battle Rumsfeld," you won't be able to keep your pants dry!

Because of who Jesus is

Quick hit.. I need a break from all the politics. You non-religious types feel free to skip this one if you want.

The sermon today came from John 5:1-16, the famous story of the pool near Beth-Zatha that would be "agitated" when an angel passed by and you could hop in the water and be healed, presumably if you were the first one in.

The story's central character had been by the pool for 38 years, invalid. Jesus came by and asked him if he wanted to be healed. "Do you want to be healed?" is the question that launched a thousand sermons, but today we concentrated on the man himself.

Soon after the healing he couldn't remember who healed him. Later, he fingered Jesus for healing on the sabbath. Hardly a hero of the faith, this guy.

I took the cue from Fred Craddock and concluded that the man was healed, not because he was deserving or had faith, not because of who HE was, but because of who JESUS was.

Why does it matter? Because we all have categories of "deserving poor/truly needy" and "undeserving poor." At the church we tend not to help those who constantly call for help, writing them off as leeches or scam artists.

We give to some charities but not others. We avoid the dirty poor, or those who differ from our ideas and pre-conceived notions of how those we choose to help should act. In short, we don't help those who don't deserve it.

Thank God we're not required to DESERVE it in God's eyes. Thank God it's not based on who I am. Before we start mocking the poor, the mentally unhealthy, minorities, on and on, maybe we should remember we're in the same boat they are.

Quote on, Quoter

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be. — Thomas a Kempis

Saturday, May 15, 2004

No media bias here...

THIS passes for political news over at the aptly-named Yahoo today...

John Kerry proved himself to be a decidedly heavy tipper in Little Rock, Ark., this week when he dropped by Does's Eats Place, a renowned, if decidedly downscale, local eatery.
Accompanied by retired Gen. Wesley Clark and former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Kerry entered to the applause of the 20 or so diners.
"I've been here 12 years since the early Clinton years," said manager Nick Rule. "As a matter of fact, the more trouble he got in, the busier we got."
The place is renowned for chili and tamales, and Kerry got several tamales and some chili to go. The tab came to $20.26, and Kerry paid with two $20 bills.
"Keep it," he told Katie Eldridge, whose family owns the place, as they started to get change.

Stop the presses!

And to think I was THIS CLOSE to voting for Bush. I see now what a fool I've been. How can you vote against a man who's such a good tipper?

The only thing the story missed was a closing line stating that "We at Yahoo are sure this had nothing to do with the election, and he probably would have tipped more if he wasn't embarrassed by all the unwanted media coverage."

I'm holding my breath for the next story which will no-doubt claim Bush once stiffed a pregnant waitress at the D.C. Denny's.

I'm just saying - vote for whomever you like, just play fair.


Today's Traffic Advisory and Weather Forecast

Cloudy, with a chance of turtles.

Must... Read... Book...

So I've been in seminary student mode (that is, reading four books a week) for the last 14-16 weeks. Suddenly, it's summer and I feel like Stallone's Rambo, trained to kill then dropped off in a peaceful world. I can't shake the feeling that I should be reading something.

So I have a large list of "to be read" books on my shelf, but I'm mowing them down at a startling pace. Anybody reading anything worth the time out there?

Right now, I'm reading "A Short History Of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson and "The Salmon of Doubt," which was culled from Douglas Adams' computers following his untimely death.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Got a good thing goin' on

I wanted to wait until the first contest was over to make sure I could recommend this site, but now it is and now I can.

The Iron Blogger has created a debate format blog that is a direct (sometimes painfully direct, always appropriately direct) parody of "Iron Chef" on the Food Network. It's fun fun fun, non-fat and includes in only its first debate ever an underpants gnomes reference! Woo Hoo!

The Internet... Have It Your Way!

I am, and I admit this with no small reluctance, the pastor of a Baptist church. Having done a year or three of formal Biblical training, I have a medium to fair grasp on some of the content of the Bible (interpreting it correctly is another matter).

Whenever someone in my church makes some kind of wacky claim and tries to prove it using Scripture (as Baptists are wont to do), I repeat the same line. By now, the church usually repeats it with me: "Anybody with a handful of Bible knowledge can make it say whatever they want."

Meaning, of course, that if you take verses out of context and out of the spirit of the text, you can find support for virtually any craziness you want to promote.

Welcome to the Internet, home of the suddenly hyper-popular political blogging system. I finally get it.

This very day I have seen "scientific" websites predicting a Kerry win over Bush by 10 points and another that gave Bush a 9 point win. I have seen vitriolic, raging, name-calling hatred on sites from both sides of the political spectrum.

I have even seen thoughtful, caring, reasoned insights on both sides.

THIS is the draw of the Internet. You can pick and choose, like a political buffet. You can jump into the pool, pick out what suits your taste/argument/desire/greed, and leave again.

The true Christian uses the Bible for support AND self-criticism. When the Bible disagrees with my particular selfish view of faith, I hope that I am strong enough to recognize its spirit and change me.

Maybe the true political student on the web visits with an open mind those places that make him/her intentionally uncomfortable. After all, aren't growing pains the only way to really know that we're doing just that: growing?

Quote of the day

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. — Napoleon Bonaparte

Still not able to leave comments?

Missing the fun?

Many of you have emailed me wanting to leave comments but not able to because you aren't signed up yet. It's easy and free to do and won't leave you with ANY junk email.

I joined this site (blogger.com) because it is free. They make their money in ad revenue on homepages you don't ever need to see if you don't want to. However, the tradeoff is you have to sign up for a free account (total time: 10 seconds or less) so they can tell advertisers how many folks they have on board.

So here's the simple process:

(1) go to blogger's homepage.
(2) "create your blog now" - of course, you don't have to use or maintain the blog, just have one so you can be counted and (more importantly) so you can leave comments on others' blogs.
(2.5) suddenly notice all the comments you weren't seeing before.
(3) um, that's it. You're done. We can talk, you can comment, God is in the Firmament, all is right with the universe, world without end, amen.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Oh, to be in India in the summertime...

In response to this breaking news from our friends at Yahoo.

It might be hard at first to tell who is better off because of their elections, India or the U.S. They have Gandhi and overpopulation, we have Fear Factor and a choice between the lesser of two evils. Tough choice, yes?

It's all so simple though, when you break it down scientifically. Let's take a look:

India: Count the votes. Whoever gets the most votes wins.
U.S.: The major networks call the election wrong, often BEFORE THE POLLS CLOSE, then whoever gets the fewest votes wins. Don't ask - it's a math thing.
Advantage: India

India: Concern for the needy poor in the country who got left behind in thetechnological/financial boom among the elite.
U.S.: Which multi-millionaire do you want by the red button and which one has the funniest commercials? Poor? We have poor folks in America?
Advantage: India

India: "We have given up office, but not our responsibility to serve the nation. Victory and defeat are a part of life, which are to be viewed with equanimity."
U.S.: Both sides, at various points on election night, claim the election was "stolen." The 2004 campaign's central theme? "Anyone but Bush!" Way to keep our focus on the issues!
Advantage: India

India: Gandhi's family and legacy
U.S.: Paris Hilton, Al Franken and the Olsen Twins.
Advantage: Dude, the Olsens are HOT. U.S.

The winner? India, 3-1. See? It's easy when you break down the numbers scientifically.

Come, let us reason together...

I guess when they start sawing off heads, killing Americans in brutal ways we don't even kill stray dogs, filming it for television distribution and promising more of the same, the whole "let's talk it out phase" is probably officially over.

Of course, we have our year-long bouts of closed-minded unreasonableness every election year. Nobody has been killed yet, but to hear conservatives and liberals talk about each other with more and more hateful rhetoric, I have to wonder how fine the line is. We've already gotten to the "let's blow up abortion clinics and kill doctors to prevent the murders they commit" phase, which is Step A on the road to vigilante justice. We saw the last step on that video from Iraq.

I'm still shaken by the thoughts that the press so kindly repeats every 1.3 minutes from that video. My first thoughts, of course, are unthinking vengeance. My anti-death penalty stance is quickly shaken at times like these.

When the trembling ends, my hands stop shaking and I get a cold diet Pepsi in me, more important questions emerge, like "Where was God in all this?" I may be wrong, but I can't believe God was cheering on the ones who were celebrating over the still-twitching body and still-blinking head while calling God's name in triumph. The most recent edition of Weavings was centered on vengeance and God's place in it. Maybe I'll have to re-read it now.

What Christian theologian are you?

Thanks to Alex for pointing this out. Tragically, I was Augustine. Next time, remind me to lie.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Today's Quote

Not all who wander are lost. – John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

The Power to Bless

I have heard an interesting argument surrounding the gay marriage debate twice in the recent past, both times from humans I admire and respect. The argument, though stated in different forms, centers on the concept of blessing.

There is a telling scene in the movie "The Mission," wherein Robert DeNiro's character, a priest about to return to his warring ways, asks the Jeremy Irons character for his blessing on the coming violence. Irons chooses, interestingly, to remove himself from the issue. He says something to the effect that "I can neither bless nor curse your choice. If God is on your side, you don't need MY blessing, and if God is against you, my blessing won't help."

This type of moral avoidance applies to Christian pastors (or in my case, Baptist pastors) in this way: (a) there is nothing in my tradition that has blessed gay marriage in the past, (b) there is no clear word from God on the issue, (c) there is no directive in the Bible telling pastors to do this sort of thing, therefore (d) I choose to neither bless nor curse gay marriage.

PLEASE NOTE that this is NOT my opinion, just a re-stating of the arguments I've heard. My own opinion is still up for grabs here, and I raise the topic, in part, to help me clarify my own thoughts. I would appreciate feedback that includes more reasoned thought than the typical "Gays are an abomination" responses.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Say "Cheese"

The wife and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary today!! I think year 8 is the cheese anniversary, so to be safe I bought her a nice romantic gouda, which I will unveil at a particularly romantic point in the evening.

How else are we celebrating? Mostly the usual.. choking back tears and trying not to think about abuse of prisoners and heads being sawed off... typical Tuesday night fare.

We WILL check out the new Dick Van Dyke episode tonight. I LOVED that show... it literally got me through 10 years of cancer. The worst part of cancer is the long horrible afternoons, and DVD re-runs kept me going. I bet he trips over the footrest at the intro.. here's hoping he doesn't break a hip.

UPDATE: The show was a humdinger, but he didn't go anywhere near the footrest. I struggled the entire night to try to name my favorite Dick Van Dyke show moment and couldn't come up with anything conclusive. Richie's birth, the walnuts, the wigs, the wedding...

So how about it? Any favorite Van Dyke moments from those of you over 25 out there who still remember the show?

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

This will replace the current personality testing the school does in short order, I'm sure.

2004 Voters' Guide: Who would Jesus vote for?

Who would Jesus vote for?

Like any other question, there are differences of opinion on both sides. Still, even the touchiest of topics can become simple when you break it down scientifically. We’ll go issue by issue:

Bush: We must free the good people of Iraq for democracy! Um, by killing them.
Kerry: I’m for the war! Wait, no, I’m against it! Ok… I’m for it again. Hang on... against it… NOW!! What do the polls say?
Advantage: Push.

Democrat: A woman should have the right to choose to do whatever she likes with her body! Um, except drugs! And prostitution! And church attendance!
Republican: Well, even if it isn’t fully realized, SOMETHING dies in an abortion. Abortion should be a no-no until we get the life thing sorted out. Unless, of course, the pregnant woman is a Bush daughter.
Advantage: Republican.

Republican: Everybody the wife and I know has fine health care.
Democrat: I’m a Democrat, duh.
Advantage: Democrat.

Kerry: I know a Bible verse. The Pope told me.
Bush: I know A LOT of Bible verses, and I’m going to beat the hell out of you with all of them.
Advantage: Push.

Bush: The economy is surging.
Kerry: No, it’s not.
Bush: Yes, it is.
Kerry: No, it’s not.
Bush: You’re a jerkface.
Kerry: No, you are, jerkface.
Advantage: Wal-Mart.

Democrat: Guns are ok, but let’s just be caref….
Republican: BANG!!
Advantage: Republican.

Republican: The what?
Democrat: Two words, dude… hemp!
Advantage: Democrat.

So, there you have it. Wasn’t that easy? Who would Jesus vote for? REPUBLICANS 2, DEMOCRATS 2. Just like in real life, nobody wins.

Bush or Kerry? It's like asking which Menendez brother you like better.

BIG NEWS from the theology world

The Legend of Getrudis

"It's amazing to hear that the breasts have had to be repaired many times because they're being worn out by too much touching."

-insert Anna Nichole joke here-

Why Am I Here?

Well, because this is as fair a place as any to keep the discussions going while school's out over the summer (and for some of us, not me but some of us, the rest of our lives - I could not be more jealous of graduates). Exams are still cooling, and I already miss almost all of you (mutters something that sounds like Dirk Raker and Eric Ravis).

So we'll pick topics - theology, politics, cooking, whatever - and argu.. er, discuss. Fun in theory anyway.

Additionally, if you have any particularly juicy links/discussion ideas/well-written papers, feel free to send them along and see them up in lights.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Happy Mother's Da... OH DEAR GOD!!!

Mom's acting a little mousey.

Wake up! Wake up! Vote for me!

Well, we knew they'd be home...

Always time for a joke

Three young women die and, as you might expect, go to heaven. Also as you might expect, St. Peter is there at the gates to greet them.

"Welcome to Heaven, ladies," Peter says. "Enjoy you eternity here. We only have one rule in Heaven: don't step on the ducks."

The women head into Heaven and sure enough, there are ducks everywhere - on the gold streets, on the lakes, in the trees, flying overhead. Before long the first woman has accidentally stepped on a duck.

St Peter, who doesn't miss much, appears immediately with the ugliest man you ever saw. He chains the man to the first woman and tells her that because she broke the only rule in Heaven, she'll be chained to this ugly man for all eternity.

The other two women are, needless to say, much more careful, but there are ducks EVERYWHERE. Ducks in the street, in homes, just piles and piles of heavenly ducks. Before long the second woman steps on a duck.

Immediately, St. Peter appears. With him is a man more grossly ugly even than the first. This man looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. This is not a pretty man. He looks like his face caught on fire and someone tried to put it out with an axe. Needless to say, Peter chains him to the second woman and leaves.

The third woman gets VERY careful. She sits when she can, avoids ducks at every turn and spends her waking hours consumed with NOT stepping on ducks. She does well, and makes it six whole months without stepping on a duck.

Suddenly, Peter appears with the most gorgeous man she's ever seen. He's tall, muscular and tan. This man looks like he came off the cover of a romance novel. Without a word, Peter chains the pair together.

"Wow," says the third woman, gazing up at the hunk of a man. "I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to YOU for all eternity."

"I don't know about you," the man says, "but I stepped on a duck."