Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Gay mole!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

So I bought The Unlikely Disciple, a new book by Kevin Roose about his semester at Liberty University. Not usually interesting, except that Roose is a liberal Ivy Leaguer from Brown. The result is intriguing, enlightening, and downright hilarious.

The biggest mix (for me) of sorrow and laughter comes from the rampant gay jokes that permeate the campus. At the end of the semester, Roose is on the verge of being found out by the local rebel (who happens to have a knack for recognizing other rebels). Here’s the exchange:

Joey glances up at the ceiling, then shoots me a suspicious, sideways glare. Oh no. I know that look. I’ve been afraid of that look since the day I got here. That’s the look of a guy who is putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Right now, Joey is thinking: student journalist . . . came to Liberty from secular school . . . scored an interview with Dr. Falwell . . . leaving after one semester . . .

“You know, Rooster,” he says, “I almost feel like you’re a mole, and when this semester’s over, you’re gonna go back and write an article in Rolling Stone about being different at Liberty.”

I laugh — an involuntary, nervous laugh — and stammer, “What do you mean . . . different?”

“You know,” Joey says. “Gay.”

This semester, Joey has called me gay approximately ten thousand times, but this time sounds different. . . 

“So . . . are you?” he asks.

“Gay?”

“Or a mole.”

We stare at each other for fifteen seconds, tension filling the space between us. Head spinning, gut churning, I spurt out the first thing that comes to mind.

“You got me Joey. I’m a gay mole. Actually, I work for Elton John. He sent me here to recruit innocent Christian kids for his army of homosexuals. He told me to become friends with the Liberty students who seemed like closeted gays, and I picked you. Want to join?”

Joey laughs. “Suck my balls.”

He turns back to our video game, chuckling, apparently convinced of my innocence for now. Five minutes later, he looks at me again, shaking his head.

“Man, Rooster, you are one weird bastard.”

Roose is, indeed, a “weird bastard,” but he gives an amazing outsider’s look at evangelical concepts of sin, perspectives on sex and dating, and culture wars (the “God Divide“). While we obviously disagree on core issues, it’s a great book. Buy it, borrow it, read it.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

It continues to amaze me how loosely most people deal with statistics, making up or inflating numbers to prove a point or make something seem more significant than it really is.

Exhibit A is an article on CNN today, about a really sad case where a boy shot himself with a gun that his parents had stored in a closet. Why it wasn’t locked up, and why it was loaded, I can’t say. But here’s the statistic in the article:

The CDC says three children per day, on average, died in accidental incidents in the United States from 2000 to 2005, the last year data are available.

The CDC has some really great data resources available, so I went to WISQARS and ran the report. Here’s what I selected, based on how the CNN article described the set:

  • Intent: Unintentional (that is, accidental) deaths
  • Mode: Firearm
  • Years: 2000 to 2005
  • Ages: Custom range from <1 to 17 (this should be what “children” means, yes?)
  • No age adjusting

The result returned was a total of 724 deaths for the six year period. Too many, yes, but three children per day? Hardly. More like one child every three days. The CNN number is inflated 9 times higher than the actual. That’s past lies and damned lies, that’s statistcal malpractice. (I sent a comment to CNN to see if they’ll correct it, but I don’t have high hopes.)

Long live Mark Twain

P.S. Here’s a great article from The Week entitled “When numbers deceive.” It looks at cancer rates and survivability and quizzes of doctors, and it’s some surprising stuff.

P.P.S. They actually corrected it, but the wording is horrendous:

The CDC says one child, on average, every three days died in accidental incidents in the United States from 2000 to 2005, the last year data are available.

And it turns out that I wasn’t the only one to catch it and write about it. The “Stormin Mormon” used this case to ponder again the limits of journalistic stupidity.

Corporate Inbreeding

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Nell Minow has an interesting commentary piece on CNN (“Boards are real culprits in AIG mess“) that looks at the equivalent of inbreeding among the boards of directors of the companies in the middle of the financial mess, and the effects of their serial failures. Turns out we’re really not focusing on the bodies that are supposed to provide effective oversight of corporate overstepping, and in the process to revamp, revise, and review corporate governance at failing companies, we tend to leave them in place.

Favorite quote:

People say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. In this case, insanity is allowing the same people to continue to serve on the board after massive failure and expecting them to produce a different result.

Now, tell me, why do we keep re-electing the losers in Congress?

Bobby Jindal and the Volcano

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

So I think Bobby Jindal is a boob. Let’s just get that out there. But this post really isn’t about Bobby Jindal. It’s about something he said in his Obama rebuttal speech on Tuesday.

CNN has an article about people fuming over Jindal’s volcano comment. Seems he pointed out $140 million in USGS volcano monitoring funds that were included in the economic stimulus bill, and called it wasteful. CNN has quotes from the USGS and a bunch of people living in the shadows of volcanoes about how important it is, and claiming Jindal doesn’t understand the danger because he doesn’t have a volcano in his backyard.

But here’s the rub for me: if the USGS really needed $140 million more (they already get funding) to do a good job monitoring volcanoes, why don’t we give it to them in a normal spending bill?  Why shove it into a rush-job eco-stim bill that nobody gets to read before it gets passed and signed into law?

Even good programs and wise spending are sullied by association with this dastardly bill. Everything any Democrat wanted for the past 20 years got shoved in, and we’ll be paying the price for it for another 40 years.

Why do we pay people not to work?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

So in pondering the rather large stimulus bill that is winding its way through Congress, and the long list of pet projects and crazy ideas that comprises the bill, I was wondering this: why do we pay people not to work?

The bill would extend unemployment benefits, and add a huge pot of money to the old-style welfare programs.  If these people want to work, but can’t find a job, why don’t we put them to work?

  • Unemployment: For those extra 13 weeks, why don’t we hire these people (for the same cost as unemployment) for a 3 days a week, with the extra 2 days for finding a job? What would they do? Tutoring students in the inner-city, anti-graffiti work, cleaning up parks and clearing paths, and repairing the homes of the elderly and poor. (Or this: senior centers are closing because they can’t afford to staff them. Anybody want to play bingo with old people and make them lunch?) Sure, you’d need supervision and materials, but isn’t it better to get something useful out of this money, rather than nothing?
  • Welfare: Many of the recipients are single parents with kids at home, so maybe it makes sense for them to stick around. But tell me why there should be any trash on their blocks or at their local parks? You want welfare?  Keep you block clean. (And then maybe you’ll stop your kids and your neighbors’ kids from throwing trash all over the place!) Volunteer in your kids’ schools. Make phone calls to parents of truant students.

I can’t be the only one who thinks this way. It seems to me to be common sense, that paying people to do nothing is a bad idea.  It discourages work, by letting people avoid the jobs they think are beneath them. It encourages laziness, by not requiring anything from those who are unemployed. Let’s have some responsibility and some accountability. If poverty and starvation were real risks, people would get off their asses, and the stuff that always needs doing, but nobody wants to do it, would start getting done.

Worldview Journalism

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I am not a fan of American evangelical media.  I think the movies, with few exceptions, are cheese; Christian comedy isn’t; and most magazines should turn in their presses to the local media police. Not that the secular versions of these are morally satisfying fare, but rather they don’t pretend to mediocrity — their quality is not judged secondarily to their worldview.

When it comes to journalism, I appreciate honesty and objectivity. I used to like the New York Times, but their super-liberal bias clouds their ability to effectively relate the facts, and they’ve lost the ability to be honest about what they believe and who they are. The Wall Street Journal doesn’t pretend, and while I see a great failure to answer many pressing social issues, and a total lack of journalistic compassion, at least the WSJ doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

I liked Newsweek, until the December 15, 2009, issue that declared “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.”  I’ve heard the same arguments before, but this article, and the editorial column that preceded it, claimed something that had heretofore not been part of the discussion: that those who believe otherwise are irrational, worthless fundamentalists who might as well give up.  “A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.”  All this in the guise of journalistic objectivity.  

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In the beginning, God…

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Forty years ago, the astronauts of Apollo 8 had embarked on a groundbreaking mission to become the first humans to orbit the moon.  They also found themselves the first humans to spend Christmas in space.  In a live television broadcast on Christmas Eve in 1968, the three astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders — suprised the world with a special message.

Anders: For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Lovell: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Borman: And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.

You can see the original broadcast on YouTube (there’s not much to watch though) or an edited video that presents it very nicely.  The photo above is called “Earthrise,” one of the most spectacular images ever captured on film.  It was photographed by Anders during Apollo 8’s orbit of the moon.  The U.S. Postal Service used the image on a stamp issued in 1969.

Evangelical synergism

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

I know, big words.  Synergism is a theological term that describes an understand of cooperation in the process of regeneration and salvation.  The idea that man’s holy inclination and God’s grace must cooperate to accomplish salvation.  This is a traditional Catholic and Eastern Orthodox view, but among Protestants is not generally accepted.

The argument against synergism for sola gratia, by grace alone, can be framed as a logical question, posed by John Hendryx.  If two persons receive grace and only one believes the gospel, why does one believe in Christ and not the other?  What makes the two persons to differ?  Jesus Christ or something else?  If it was the human response that determines the difference, than salvation required the cooperation of both man and God.

We “reformed” people get this concept.  We understand Ephesians 2:8-9, and state it clearly as doctrine and dogma.  But do we live it?  Do we preach it?  Is it practical?

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The Questions are Rigged

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Whether conservative or liberal, it seems that most people in this world, including journalists, writers, and “researchers,” have a hard time constructing objective questions and answers.

Not so long ago there was the story of the John Ziegler, who started a website and is putting together a “documentary” called “How Obama Got Elected.”  The interviews are certainly fascinating material, but I’m not really sure how much the questions, and the offered choices for an answer, actually reveal.  Did people who know certain things about Obama vote based on that knowledge, or do they know the info because of their pre-existing choice of candidate or news source?  Is it causal or just collateral coincedence?

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Taking the High Road

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

A group of atheists in Washington state asked for and received permission to post a sign near a traditional nativity display “celebrating the Winter Solstice.”  But if you read the text, there’s nothing about celebration there.

Some idiots stole the sign and it was quickly recovered and replaced — whatever my thoughts about the message, stealing is wrong and free speech is a decent right to protect.

[UPDATE: Turns out some people don’t like the baby Jesus either.  A life-size figure was stolen from a manger scene setup near Independence Hall.]

Dan Barker, a former pastor and co-founder of the atheist group, insists that the sign was never intended to attack anyone.  But in the same breath, he’s saying things like this:

“It’s not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest,” Barker said. “If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don’t bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views.”

“When people ask us, ‘Why are you hateful? Why are you putting up something critical of people’s holidays? — we respond that we kind of feel that the Christian message is the hate message,” he said. “On that Nativity scene, there is this threat of internal violence if we don’t submit to that master. Hate speech goes both ways.

Whatever your thoughts about Christianity or Christmas displays, is it reasonable to respond to what you think is (perceived) hate speech with more (self-admitted) hate speech?  I’m glad the un-emotional rationalists (“may reason prevail”) resort to name calling because they think Christians do it.  That sure is taking the high road.

As for the Nativity, I’m glad he gets the message — every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.  The incarnate Savior demands worship.