Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pat Downs

I'm sickened by the US Government right now. We are finally to the point where we force every single person who gets onto a plane to comply with a digital strip search prior to boarding.  Seriously.  If I decline the digital strip search, then some guy with two weeks training and a GED gets to pat my junk to make sure I didn't stuff my underwear with C4.  But he isn't checking to see if I shoved a stick of dynamite in any of my body cavities, so... guess what's coming next Thanksgiving.  If you don't comply with the digital strip search, some guy with two weeks training and a GED is going to brown finger you in front of grandma.  It's all for our safety folks.  And if you disagree, then you're either a criminal or a terrorist.  After all, privacy is only valuable if you have something to hide, right? 

See, the thing is, I get it.  We're at war and we need to protect ourselves.  But I'm not ok with protecting ourselves by patting down a half-naked boy in the middle of a crowded airport.  I'm appalled.  I'm outraged.  I'm sickened.  And there's nothing I can do.  There's nothing anyone can do.  We just have to sit back and watch our liberties erode away in the name of protecting freedom.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

LGBTQ Support

Tomorrow is national coming out day.  And I think that deserves some comment. 

Until very recently, I believed that my faith mandated opposition to alternative sexual orientations.  I have since been convinced that this interpretation is not in line with the broader truths I find in scripture and the traditions of the Christian faith, and I am in support of loving and accepting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer communities.  At the same time, I know that this newer interpretation of my Christian faith is something not shared by many fellow Christians.  Though I wish all Christians joined me in a new understanding regarding the appropriate Christian response to alternative sexual orientations, I know this is unlikely.

Though I wouldn't mind getting into a discussion about why I changed my mind, and why I now think that acceptance, love and compassion are the appropriate Christian responses to LGBTQ lifestyles, I think something needs to be said about why Christians disagree with the LGBTQ lifestyle.  All too often, Christians who are opposed to the LGBTQ lifestyle are painted with the same brush as bigots like Fred Jones.  Oddly enough, characterizing these Christians as bigots is often done out of ignorance and intolerance.

All too often, Christians who are opposed to LGBTQ lifestyles are torn about their position.  Opposition to these lifestyles is usually due to an interpretation of scripture, coupled with a commitment to obeying the authority of those scriptures.  In short, they have good, and dare I say, honorable reasons for their opposition.  The Bible does in fact state in a handful of places that homosexual orientations are not acceptable.  Christians who are committed to the authority of scripture are required to respond to these verses, and often conclude that these verses mandate that their opposition to LGBTQ orientations.  These Christians aren't bigots, they aren't judgemental, they aren't hateful and angry homophobes.  They are simply trying to have integrity in their belief that scripture is authoritative.  And, even though such opposition is regularly and emphatically frowned upon by the greater culture, many Christians remain opposed because they are committed to submitting to the authority of scripture.  Rather than demonizing them for being intolerant, judgmental and bigoted, I honestly think that such Christians deserve credit for trying to maintain integrity in their beliefs concerning the Bible, even though I think these beliefs are mistaken.

I disagree with their interpretation of scripture.  I could spend a lot more time talking about why I am no longer opposed to the LGBTQ lifestyle—why I still accept the authority of scripture, but no longer accept that scripture mandates my opposition to LGBTQ communities—but that's my point here.  My point here is not why Christians should accept the LGBTQ lifestyle, my point rather is that many Christians who are opposed to the LGBTQ lifestyles are trying to do what they think is the right thing.  As much as I wish they were more tolerant and understanding, I similarly wish that their interpretation was more widely understood and tolerated.  I wish we could see these people not as judgmental bigots, but as people trying to the right thing even when that means doing something deeply unpopular.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Selling on eBay

So, I recently sold some items on eBay, and I'm trying now to close my eBay account because the entire eBay experience is excruciatingly bad.  I'm not trying to be dramatic, I'm just disappointed that eBay doesn't get it, and I want to warn others before they make the mistake of trying to sell something on eBay.  Here's what you can expect when trying to sell something on eBay.

1.  You pay too much to post your auction.  This I actually get.  eBay has to make money some how, and this seems like a good way to do it.  But seriously... charging me for posting pictures of the items merely discourages me from taking detailed pictures of the items I'm going to sell.  Meaning a frustrating experience for me, and less information for the buyer.  Good job.  [Strike 1]

2.  You can't change the auction once it's posted.  I posted an auction, and realized afterward that I typed in the wrong name.  Can I change that?  No.  Ok, I get it, that way I can't bait and switch right?  But can I put a message anywhere on the thing alerting the people who are going to bid on it that there's a mistake?  Nope.  I have to tell eBay that there's a mistake, they will look at it and make the change.  But they need two weeks to do that.  Which makes sense, seeing as the longest you're allowed to have an auction go is ten days.  Seriously.  [Strike 2]

3.  You have to pay money because someone bought your item.  Not only do you have to pay to post the auction, you then have to pay eBay simply because the item sold.  And this payment is a percentage of the sale price.  Which means eBay penalizes you for selling things on eBay.  [Strike 3]  Hmm... I'm starting to get frustrated. 

4.  You can't control shipping prices.  Even though it cost me $6.00 to ship the items I was selling, I wasn't allowed to charge more than $4 for shipping because that was what other people were charging.  Uh... [Strike 4]

5.  You have to pay money to get your money.  Seriously.  If someone pays you via paypal, then you actually have to pay a fee for paypal to give you that money.  I'm not kidding.  If you want money in your paypal account transferred to your bank account, you get charged.  What kind of business fines you for getting what you've paid for?  Look at it like this:  I'm the seller.  And the person who buys from me is my customer.  As a seller, I'm technically eBay's customer.  Which means I'm paying them to auction my goods.  The product I am buying from eBay, is the price I'm getting for the item that I'm selling.  I pay eBay for the privilege of selling on their site, and if it works, I get fined if I want eBay to release that money to me.  Imagine, you pay $3 for a cheeseburger at McDonald's.  They make it and stick it on the counter and then tell you it'll be another dollar if you want them to release the cheeseburger to you.  Apparently that makes sense to eBay.  [Strike 5]

[It was getting so stupid that I actually started taking screen shots to prove I'm not making this stuff up.]


6.  Sellers can't leave negative feedback.  Because in eBay land, everyone is good, no one screws up, and no one out there is trying to shaft anyone.  I sold a game on eBay for $45.  The person who bought it sent me an email asking when I would ship it.  I told the person once the money was paid, I would ship the item.  They never paid.  I then had to wait a week, file a complaint with eBay, wait for eBay to try to fix it, and then after another week, I had to go in and close the complaint.  Which means eBay did nothing.  Thanks.  So, I try to warn other sellers that this buyer is trying to win auctions and have goods shipped without paying for them.

But surprise surprise, bad people don't exist, therefore it's actually impossible to leave negative feedback.  Seriously.  What's the point of feedback, if the only feedback that can be left is good feedback?  Who dreamed up this gem?  So, no warnings about poor customers.  Which means, you really should go on eBay and try to buy items and get someone to ship them to you without paying for them. Because apparently eBay will do nothing about it.  Sure, you screw someone over, but... eh.  eBay doesn't really care, because it literally does not believe that someone would do this.  Strike 6.

7.  Apparently, it's impossible to close your eBay account.  Frustrated with the experience I decided to pay my invoice to eBay and delete my account.  So I paid, and tried to delete my account.  But because I just made a payment on eBay, I have to wait 30 days to delete my account.  Ridiculous, but whatever.   So I wait thirty days.  Then, I get another invoice.  For zero dollars.   [Strike 7] 

 eBay actually bills me zero dollars.  I try to close my account, but I can't because I have an unpaid invoice.  [Strike 8]  So, it's dumb but whatever.  I'll pay eBay zero dollars.  So I pay them the zero dollar invoice [Strike 9] and try to close my account.  But I can't, because I just made a payment on eBay. [Strike 10]

So I have to wait another 30 days.  LOL.  [Strike 11]

 8.  There is no customer support.  Well, this is all so silly that I hit the "Contact Us" button.  Nope.  It goes to a search box where I can troll through their FAQs.  By "Contact Us" eBay really means, "Give up, we don't care."    [Strike 12]

So, I troll through the FAQ's and there's no answer to the whole zero dollar invoice thing.  So, I finally get to a screen where I can ask questions via chat.  SWEET!  I hit the button, and... I get a window telling me that I'm going to have to wait 30 minutes before someone can chat with me online.  [This is borderline comical now]

So, bye eBay.  I guess I'm not going to close my account, because apparently it's impossible. [Strike 14]  But hopefully, this post will keep one or two people from ever trying to open an account on eBay, or (God-forbid) try to sell something there.  Maybe they'll get this fixed, but I doubt it.  If you try to delete your account because you don't like the way eBay is structured, check out what they call a possible solution.

A.K.A. You don't like what we're doing?  Who cares. [Strike 15]

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Not Your Average Fantasy Football Predictions

Ok, to start: I basically know nothing about everything I'm about to say.

Fantasy Football predictions tend to be basically the same all around. Mostly, it's all just educated guesses, and no one is right about everything. Fortunately everyone forgets the wrong picks, but thinks those crazy picks that were right were brilliant. So, instead of re-warming the predictions that are already out there, I thought I'd put together a different sort of Fantasy Football prediction list. What follows is my prediction of what will be the absolute best Fantasy Football team possible—with one caveat: I'm not going to allow myself to pick any of the players who are widely regarded as the best players. Meaning, I can't pick Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson or Drew Brees etc... Mind you I'm not putting together a sleepers list (that comes at the end) this is a list of players who are NOT currently regarded as the top players, but who will be the highest scoring players at the end of the year (for non-PPR leagues). So, here goes:

QB: Tom Brady
Not because he's the best QB, but because he wants to win as badly as—if not more than—Brees, Rodgers and Manning. And yet, his defense is awful. As a result, he's going to have to go into a shootout each and every week. Read: points, points, points, points.

RB: Jerome Harrison
Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson are the easy choices. But I'm not allowed, so I'm going to go crazy here. The #1 scoring RB in the NFL this year will be... that's right... Jerome Harrison. Now, it's not just because I'm a Browns fan. (It's mostly because I can't pick Johnson or Peterson). The thing is, Cleveland has NO receivers—sorry Massaquoi. That means Delhomme won't be throwing the ball, because he's smarter than DA and Quinn and a thousand Rubik's Cubes combined. But just because Delhomme will be handing the ball off a lot doesn't mean Harrison is guaranteed a good season. And just because he had a crazy finish last year doesn't mean he's guaranteed a good season. He's going to be the #1 RB this year because of Alex Mack, Eric Steinbach, Joe Thomas and... (I'm hesitating) Shawn Lauvao. The Cleveland O-line is arguably in the top 5 this year, which means there will be holes for Harrison. He's shown he can work with the holes when they're there, so I'm predicting a HUGE breakout year.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald
Yes, I know Derek Anderson is throwing the ball in Arizona. The thing is, Anderson's a big enough idiot that he's going to toss the ball as hard as he can every time it touches his fingers. And Fitzgerald is hardcore enough to catch 'em all. So, Fitzgerald will be bringing in the most points among WRs. You heard it here first.

WR2: Miles Austin
Since both my leagues have one RB and two WRs, I'm going to go ahead and pick the second best WR this season. I'm basically throwing darts, so I'll just go ahead and say Miles Austin. The guy has just enough yards after catch to be explosive. Add it up all year long, and I think he's got a shot at the second highest scoring WR in the league this year. Of course, no one will agree with me on my picks here.

TE: Kellen Winslow
I guess the real answer here is Antonio Gates, (I kind of want to say Dallas Clark).Which is why I have to pick Kellen Winslow. Don't get me wrong—I HATE Winslow. But I have to admit, he can catch, and Tampa Bay's Offensive line is trash. So Freeman (who is Josh Freeman anyway?) will be dumping it off a lot. Since dumps can go to the TE a lot of the time, I have to take Kellen.

Flex: Chris Johnson
Seeing as no one should be using Johnson as they're flex player, I guess I'm allowed to use him here. Is that cheating? I don't care.

K: Robbie Gould
Here, no one cares. Robbie Gould. The bears suck, so they'll have to kick a lot, and he's crazy accurate. There you go.

TM: Jets
Sure, why not?

Now for the sleeper picks. These are the guys you should have picked up in the tenth round or so, because they won't be available on waivers, but they're going to blow it up at some point in the season.

QB: Kolb
(I want to say Ben Roethlisberger, but I hate him.) So, Kevin Kolb it is. His receivers last year had 25 touchdowns last season. He'll be throwing to DeSean Jackson, which is great for him, and Brent Celek is in the top 5 (or 8) tight ends in the league. That coupled with a top ten offensive line means he's going to be productive this year.

WR: Johnny Knox
My pick for biggest surprise this year goes to Johnny Knox. Largely because there is no one else to throw to in Chicago. (Sure there's Devin Hester, but let's not start confusing a punt returner with a wide receiver... Cleveland didn't.)

WR2: Dez Bryant
I guess I picked the top two starters, so I'll pick the top two sleepers as well. The second biggest sleeper pick among WRs will be... drum roll... stalling for time because I honestly have no idea... Dez Bryant. Let's give a rookie a shot at being amazing. Granted, wide receivers are almost always terrible their first year, but I had to pick someone so I picked the rookie with the most promise.

TE: Visanthe Shiancoe
Is there such a thing as a sleeper tight end? If I have to pick one, I'll say Visanthe Shiancoe. Dude had 11 TDs last year but I haven't seen him on anyone's radar.

Flex: D. J. Clark
Talk about a deep sleeper. I don't care that he's "technically" a defensive tackle. I don't care that he was cut from the Green Bay Packers and has little promise of actually making it on a team this year, or any year in the future. I predict he comes back to the NFL with the Rams as a starting Running Back, and goes on to help them win the super bowl with 4,000 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns. Seriously, pick this guy up.

TM: Browns
Ok, I admit. This is just because I'm a fan. But there is some reason to it: remember, they have a pretty soft schedule aside from our insanely difficult division. The Bengals will try to throw a lot, but won't be good at it. The Ravens will run too much, considering the sick talent they have receiving. The Steelers will be running Mendenhall's legs off the first 4 games, and since we play them on Ben's first week back, they'll be running a tired Mendenhall all day Sunday of sixth week. As a result, the games should move slowly and be lower scoring. Of course that means fewer sacks, but it could increase fumbles. Regardless, I'm going with my Brownies. (And we'll get some nice picks from Palmer.)

There you have it—something no one should read before drafting their Fantasy Teams. Good luck and GO BROWNS!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Terry Jones, Fred Phelps, et al.

I'm struggling lately with how I can respond to Terry Jones' planned Qur'an burning. Can I respond? I understand there's probably nothing I can do to stop it, but I still want to do something.

I ask myself the same questions about Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church—a hate-cult based in Topeka, Kansas. I hear about their protests and slogans, and it makes me angry, it makes me want to do something. But I quickly realize there is probably nothing I can do to fix Fred Phelps. And there's nothing I can do to change Terry Jones' mind.

Probably the most annoying thing about these kinds of people, is that they are fringe members of our society who don't really represent anyone. And yet, they get air time and publicity because of their sensationalism. They feed on that attention, leading them to be more and more sensational, which just hurts more people.

So what is the right response? I know they just want attention, so do I disappoint them, and ignore everything they say or do? Do I stop clicking on the links to stories about Fred Phelps and Terry Jones? Do I write CNN and FoxNews asking them to stop giving these guys the attention they want so badly? Maybe not. As much as my gut tells me that this is the logically acceptable response, perhaps there is value in putting these ugly people right where they want to be. Maybe some good that can come from plastering the ugly face of intolerance in America all over our TVs. There could be something beneficial about recognizing that these attitudes still exist, that these kinds of people can spring up in our own back yards. People like Terry Jones and Fred Phelps can help us evaluate who we are, where we are, and where we are going. I have to be honest, as much as I would like to pretend that the Qur'an burning has nothing to do with mainstream America, as much as I want to say this Terry Jones guy is an unimportant fringe member of Christianity, I have to admit—that's not necessarily true. And while I would like to pretend like America today is vastly different from the Taliban-controlled parts of the world—as much as I would like to pretend that we are immune from such radical and violent intolerance, people like Fred Phelps and Terry Jones serve as frightening reminders that we are much closer than I'd like to think. The Taliban might be a radical muslim organization on the other side of the world, but unless we admit that the same kind of organizations can spring up in Topeka Kansas, we won't be able to prevent people like Terry Jones and Fred Phelps from becoming movements. So, maybe we should keep right on giving them all the attention they want; and keep allowing their intolerance to appear as violent, as ugly, and as unappetizing as it really is.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project

*DISCLAIMER* This post is now linked at the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project's blog, so I thought I'd toss in a disclaimer. First of all, nothing I say here should be considered an official position of the project or anything like that. I wrote this post before starting the project, and some of the info may or may not be accurate. For instance, I'm not sure that the fortification wall actually fell down on the structure that housed the documents. (It may have, I don't know.) This post was basically written to friends and family trying to explain what I'm doing now, so don't take any of the info here to the bank.

About twenty five hundred years ago, a man walks through the desert with a donkey carrying figs. He enters the city of Persepolis and goes to the delivery building, near the town wall. He enters the building and unloads the donkey while a scribe picks up a handful of clay, and digs into it with his stylus. "A donkey-load of figs was brought into Persepolis by Bandaba and recieved by Nababa in the 21st year." The scribe writes. Nababa leaves with the figs, Bandaba goes back home, and the scribe deposits the receipt in the back room with all the others.

Fast-forward to 230 BCE. Alexander the Great, emperor of the Greeks, is on a military campaign when he comes to the town of Persepolis. His soldiers breach the wall and sack the city. In the commotion, part of the city is set on fire. The fire burns near the city wall baking the clay bricks until they are too brittle to support the wall's massive weight. The wall buckles, and falls. The collapsing wall slams down on a structure housing thousands of documents, reducing the building to rubble, and burying the documents beneath it for thousands of years.

Fast forward to the 1930's CE. Archaeologists from the University of Chicago are digging in Iran, and unearth the documents that have been buried under that building for 2,260 years. Not much is known about the language that they were written in, so the Iranian scholars send the tablets back to the University of Chicago where they can be housed and available for study. The documents reveal a lot of new information about the language that was spoken in Persepolis all that time ago, but unfortunately, most of them are mundane, and don't arouse much attention from scholars because they simply aren't very interesting to read.

Fast-foward to 1997. Five Americans are in a shopping mall while they tour Jerusalem. They exit a store and walk out into the middle lobby when a suitcase explodes. Glass shatters, bodies break, five American tourists are killed. A group funded by the Iranian government claims responsibility for the bombing, and the surviving family members of the American tourists decide to sue the Iranian government for the deaths of their relatives. They win the lawsuit, awarded $71 million dollars, but Iran won't pay. So, the relatives decide to go after the Iranian possessions that are held by US institutions. The University of Chicago is ordered to divide the collection of tablets unearthed at Persepolis and sell them on the private market.

Most of the documents the University is ordered to sell are unimportant and boring on their own. Their only real value is as an entire collection, where they can tell us about the development of the city, the history of the economy, and reveal more information about the language that was spoken at the time. But the University has been ordered to sell the documents on the private market, where the only people who will buy them will be novelty seekers wanting a piece of something very old.

The decision has been appealed, and the University of Chicago is now battling to keep the tablets. If U of C loses the appeal, they'll have to sell this treasure to novelty seekers and destroy the entire collection. If they win, they can continue to house the tablets and learn more about the city, ancient culture, ancient language, and maybe ancient economies. But because they could lose and be forced to sell the whole collection, the University is busy photographing all of the documents. That way, if they do have to sell them, they'll still have some kind of archive to look back on.

Unfortunately, these documents are all written in clay, and simply taking pictures of them is often not enough. The scribes wrote on all six sides of the tiny rectangles, and in order to read what is written on them, they have to be tilted and turned so that the light can hit them at different angles. It's not possible to simply take a picture and read the photo. There are two methods going to record the images. In one method the tablet is photographed, tilted, and photographed again generating anywhere from six to seventeen photos of the tablet. These are then placed together as an archive of the tablet. Another method places the tablet under a special hood with 32 lights on it. There is a camera at the top that takes pictures of the tablet being lit from all sorts of different angles. Those pictures are then stitched together into an image of the tablet that where someone can rotate the light around the tablet almost as if you were controlling the flashlight being used to read it. So, while the appeal is in the court, the project is moving at as fast as it can to create a digital recreation of every one of these thousands of tablets.

I've been trying to get in on the project for a few months now. Originally I heard that I could get in on it, and then I heard that there might not be enough room on the machines to help. I kept asking and today I got an email saying that I can start tomorrow. Which means that tomorrow morning at 8:00, I'll be walking into the Oriental Institute to start editing the photos of these documents hoping to help preserve the Persepolis Administrative Archives. Man, this is cool. I can't wait to start.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Anne Rice and Divorcing the Church

Anne Rice (who I didn't know existed until today) recently denounced Christianity. And to be honest, I completely understand why. In her words:

"In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and quit being Christian. Amen."

I understand the sentiment, but in my opinion, the solution is all wrong. Christianity is complicated animal to say the least. It has been used as a staging ground for some of the most horrific displays of violence in history. And it has been the source of some of the most beautiful acts of compassion in recent history. When the Church is beautiful, we all want a seat in the pews. But when the Church becomes ugly it is only natural to ask, "What can I do?" And increasingly, the Christian answer has become: "Leave."

We can't continue to do this.

Though I agree with Anne Rice in "denouncing the antis," I disagree whole-heartedly with her solution. We as Christians have to stop seeing the church as a club that we can leave when we choose, and start seeing it as a family. Anne Rice decided to renounce Chrisianity because she didn't want to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, or anti-Democrat. But Christianity is none of these things. Christians are these things. More specifically, some Christians are these things. Christianity itself is not anti-gay, anti-feminist, or anti-Democrat. Christianity is based on the one crazy notion that humankind is estranged from God, and the only way back is through the salvific force of Christ's death on the cross. Everything else is secondary.

The fact is, I think some Christians are crazy. And most of those Christians, think I am crazy. But we have to stop seeing each other as warring sides, and start seeing each other (as G. K. Chesterton suggested) as ugly protrusions on an unshapely rock.

So what is the answer? What do I think we should do when we start worrying that our reputations will be ruined by being members of this ugly organism? My answer is to understand. Try to understand why some Christians are anti-gay. Try to understand why some Christians are anti-NIV, why some Christians are anti-tolerance, and why are some Christians are anti-Church. It's not enough to simply see that some Christians are this way, and divorce ourselves from them. We have to start asking why they believe these things in order to see what it is we hold in common.

There are Christians who say that you have to read the King James version of the Bible. I have to start understanding why they are saying this. Perhaps, they recognize that the Bible holds truth, and don't want to dilute that truth by making the Bible say whatever we want it to say. I admit, it is all too easy to misinterpret the Bible. But I disagree that we can safeguard against this pitfall by only accepting one translation. Regardless, I have to admit that the desire to preserve the truths of the Bible is a goal I am struggling toward as well.

There are Christians who say that homosexuality is a sin. I disagree with them, but I have to start understanding why they are so vehemently opposed to homosexuality. It's all to easy to claim that they are homophobes who want to oppress gays. The truth is, they courageously holding strong to an unpopular belief that they find in the Bible. I disagree with their interpretation, but agree that we must continue to consult the Bible, tease the truths out of it, and live unflinchingly by those truths. And honestly, I admire the courage it takes to stand up and champion a view that is so socially repugnant. It takes a lot of courage to look the world in the face and say, I know you're going to call me a demon, but this is what I believe. I have to start seeing why they behave like they do, and try to model that courage in my own way.

I personally do not believe in a fire and brimstone Hell, or a seven day creation, or the historical reality of the flood, or the Exodus from Egypt. I am not even certain of the historical reality of the miracles Christ performed in the Gospels. Many, many Christians disagree with me. But rather than hearing that I believe this and divorcing yourself from me, I want Christians to know why I believe this. I want Christians to understand that I believe in a God who works and speaks through human beings, and that the Bible is a terribly difficult book to read and interpret. And most of all, I want Christians to know that I think everything (even the resurrection) is secondary to the salvific force of the cross. I believe that Christ's death cleansed us of sin, and anyone who wants to become a child of God can—and must—do so through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross.

I know my ideas are not popular among so-called "conservative Christians," and the ideas of some "conservative Christians" are not persuasive to me. But the fact remains, we are all members of the same body. We are all black-sheep. The sooner we start learning from each other instead of pretending that we aren't related, the sooner the world will start learning from us. The Church as a whole is a complicated collection of people holding strangely opposing views, but the one view we all agree on, the belief that Jesus' death on the cross is our only means of unification with God, is the strangest belief indeed. This one idea is so dramatically counter-intuitive to everything we know about the world, that the difference between sprinkling and dunking a baby pales in comparison. As G. K. Chesterton said, "This is knowing not only that the earth is round, but knowing exactly where it is flat."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Branden and Amy's Wedding

Branden and Amy got married this past weekend down in Cleveland so Norah and I took a trip out there. We rode the Megabus down, which was much, much better than I had anticipated. The bus felt brand new and Norah seemed to really enjoy herself. The ability to get up and walk around made it much better for her, even if we only walked to the bathroom. Now that I've taken the Megabus from Chicago to Cleveland, I'd have to say I honestly prefer it over flying. There's just so little stress involved, the people talk to each other, and you don't feel like a terrorist when you get up to use the bathroom.

My brother Jim picked me up in downtown Cleveland and I'm glad because it was really good to see him. I hung out with my brother Jeremy that night, and then drove my mom's car down to Canton for a bachelor party camping trip that was the creme de la creme of camping trips. I pitched my brother Jim's tent, which is probably the biggest tent ever made. It's a five bedroom six and a half bath sort of thing with three stories and a nice view of the river. That night we went and played just about the rowdiest game of golf I've ever played. We definitely would have been kicked off of just about any course for some of the antics that night. For some reason the grass growing out of the floorboards of the pontoon boat that was parked next to a couple rusted out golf carts made us all think it was okay to golf in tee shirts and flip flops with about a hundred beers stuffed in our bags. Basically, it was awesome. I shot just under a thousand so I was happy.

That night I played poker until five in the morning, went to bed, and got up at 9 because the sun decided to repay me for something mean I said in Junior High. We ate breakfast and then sat in our camping chairs wondering why we picked a camp site that had no shade trees. There was cornhole, and lots of water drinking, but basically the morning was a big game of "Try not to sit on each other's lap in the shade of that Honda Civic." Eventually we hung a tarp between a car and a sapling and played, "Try not to sit on each other's lap in the shade of that tarp."

Around three or so, we went down to the river to ride some kayaks. Holy cow. 1) I've never seen that many people on a river before in my life. 2) I've never seen that many coolers on a river before. 3) I can't believe I didn't witness a drowning. I'm thinking there were close to a thousand people on the river that day, everyone just floating down drinking beers and chasing kids who were squirting us with squirt guns. I don't know if it's always like that on the weekends there or if we managed to congregate on some strange vernal equinox of drunken river riding, but it was fabulous. We basically tucked our oars in, grabbed the nearest kayak, and just floated down river. Branden managed to score some free beer off of passers by because he told them he was on his bachelor party. The rest of just just got jealous and floated for a couple hours enjoying the cool river.

That night we sat at the campfire and ate hobo dinners. (Cut stuff. Toss stuff in tin foil. Add fat. Toss tin foil ball into fire. Eat.) I went to bed relatively early that night (around 1) and got up in the morning to cook breakfast, tear down camp and drive home. Norah got to spend the weekend with Grandma, Poppa, Jim, Jer and Char and finished her visit by spending the day at the farm park milking cows and riding horses. She's talked about it a good deal since we got home. Meanwhile, I drove to my folks house and we went to dinner for my birthday.

I then spent the next couple days in Cleveland with my folks before Branden picked Norah and me up to help out at the Dreniks' where Branden's wedding was going to be held. We helped build a deck there until about midnight, and the next day my friend Tammy picked me up and drove me down to Canton. There we ate some tacos (delicious!) and went for a quick jaunty to Tagarts. Then Babs, Ryan, Clay and I hung out at the fire pit in the driveway.

Babs and I went to the Dreniks' the next day for some grass cutting, deck building, posion ivy raking, beer drinking, pool playing and a poker tournament. We were in bed around four in the morning, and then ate brunch at Yours Truly. Which means we beat you at the game of "Who can eat the best brunch on Saturday, July 24, 2010."

The wedding itself was probably the most fitting ceremony I've ever been to. Branden and Amy walked down the isle together and Amy's dog followed wearing a blue dress. The ceremony was in the back yard under a great big shade tree and a blue grass band played on the newly constructed deck. After the ceremony, I followed B and Amy in the car while they drove off on his motorcycle, and Kristin hung out of the passanger windo taking pictures of them while they drove. We got back, packed up and headed off to the winery where I ate a lot of cheese and drank a good deal of vino. There was something about that night with all my Canton friends, laughing and drinking and eating lots of cheese that made me remember again just how much I love that community of people. I can't really express how much I miss them while I'm gone, all I can say is that honestly, when we get together, I don't want it to stop. Ever. It's like the most sappy unreaslistic lifetime made-for-TV-movie you've ever seen—minus the domestic violence, kidnapped children, and drug abuse.

On Sunday, we caught up with Heather and Ryan who were driving to Michigan, and decided to swap out driving partners. So I rode with Ryan and Rach rode with Heather all the way into Indiana. It was really great to spend that extra time with the Battles's because I didn't get to see anywhere near enough of anyone the whole time. The extra hours in the car were like dessert. We parted ways in Indiana and Rach, Norah and I got home in time to unpack, and play some video games until we went to bed. (Ok, Rach went to bed early. I played video games.)

So, basically, this past week and a bit was one of the best weeks I've had in a long, long, long, lots more longs, time. Thanks to B and Amy for the wedding and a deep-hearted "I miss you" to my family and all my Canton friends.

I wish I had taken more pictures, but I'm an idiot and forgot my camera in the bag for most of the time. The pictures I did take will be put up on Facebook later because, yes... I'm back on Facebook. I know, I know. I'm eating my hat.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I admit, I've never been a big follower of the NBA. After watching tonight's game, I've decided I won't watch the sport any more. I boycott baseball because the league is doing nothing to combat the drug problem or the money problem, and the game is not fair as a result. The NBA is doing nothing to govern it's staff. And that's a big problem.

Granted, the Cavs deserved to lose tonight. They did not play their hearts out like they needed to. They didn't even foul when they were down by nine with a minute left. You have to try. It's not the season at risk, it's the franchise. Do something.

But that's not the reason I'm boycotting the NBA. I'm boycotting because of the officiating. It was painfully biased tonight in favor of the Celtics, and there is nothing that will be done about it. The players have complained all season long and the only result is fines for complaining. What do you do when you KNOW the refs are betting on the games? In the NBA? Nothing. No review boards, nothing. It's a sham. Nothing will be done to fix it. Even if James stays in Cleveland next year, and he won't, there is no way I'm watching another NBA game unless they iron out the problems with their awful officiating.

Again, I'm not blaming the officials for the Cavs losing. The Celtics beat us. Rondo is an amazing player, and Boston deserved the win. Only one player is playing at any one time on the Cavs. (Andiy is always playing, but otherwise, everyone sits back and dumps it to the guy who's hot.) Shaq did nothing in the playoffs, and Jamison was probably the worst player on our team. James didn't even look like he was putting in a full effort. We deserved to lose, and I hope the players on the Cavs feel it. They played poorly.

I'm sorry we lost. It's one more let-down for a Cleveland fan. I'm certain James will be on the Knicks next year, and I wish him well. I hope the Cavs do well without him, but I won't be watching.

Go Browns.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Why I deleted my Facebook Account

When I logged into FB this morning, I got a message informing me that all the information I had posted on my FB page was going to be linked to different pages. Meaning that, like it or not, my profile was going to be linked all over FB's servers. Which makes this the third time I've had to hunt around FB's page to find out how to stop them from making my information public. It's not that I have something to hide from the public, it's really just that I don't want the whole advertising world knowing everything about my likes and dislikes. And this is the only reason I can assume FB wants to make my information public. So, today, I deleted my FB account. I know that there is no such thing as digital privacy, but FB has just been more aggressive about trying to make information public when I want to keep it private. So, I'm done with FB.

This whole thing has really made me wonder whether or not it's possible to go online with even a modicum of privacy. I guess not... so do I just stop going online?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Fantast Football Drafting Idea

I've been thinking about the NFL fantasy football draft for this year, and I think I have under-estimated the importance of the OL in my draft. It's easy to do, because almost nowhere do you see the OL stats tied to the individual player stats, but I think if you incorporate the OL stats into the stats for each position, you could really set up a solid drafting order. If I didn't have anything else to do, here's how I think it should be done, and why I think OL stats might be one of the most important factors for a player's draft value.

RB: If the OL is bad, then it doesn't matter how good the RB is. He's not going to get huge as often. Though a bad OL will mean lots of dumps to the RB, these dumps will usually be unplanned, and won't go for big yards.
WR: If the OL is bad, he won't have time to make his plays down field, meaning he's not going to get as many big point plays.
QB: Won't be able to throw to the WR because of pressure, so won't get huge yards.
Here a bad OL is good for the player's stats. A bad OL will mean more passes to the TE because he'll be midfield, in the QB's view, when the QB is under pressure.

So... drafting my QB, WR, or RB would be based on the following criteria, in order:

1. Start here. Assign points to teams based on negative rushes, sacks, and QB hits. The team with the fewest points wins. (I don't know yet how to factor in things such as the Jets loss of Alan Faneca...)

Now the criteria for drafting each position depends on (in order):

For QB:
1. Last year's TD's
2. Last year's OL score - low is good
3. Last year's yardage
4. This year's starting RB

For RB:
1. Last year's OL score - low is good
2. Number of yards last year
3. Number of TD's last year

For WR:
1. Last year's OL score - low is good
2. Number of yards last year
3. Number of times thrown to last year/number of drops
3. Number of TD's last year

For TE:
1. Last year's OL score - here high is good... a bad OL means more dumps to RB and TE.
2. Number of TDs last year
3. Number of drops last year

The best player in the league gets one point in each category. This point is multiplied by three if it is the most important stat, by 2 if it's the second most important stat, etc... When you're done, you should have a point value for every player in the league, which should mean you can rank every player in the league for the draft.

Now, am I going to go add up all of that data? Probably not. If I did though, and drafted accordingly, I'd have the best team in the league. No doubt. (I always have to pick one sleeper though...)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care Reform Predictions

I've been watching live coverage on the Health Care Reform debate in Congress all day today, and I just now went to CNN to read what was being said. What caught me (again) were the comments. I'm continually amazed at the way we disagree with one another online, but I've talked about that before, so I won't do it again.

Right now, I want to take a minute to put into writing some of the predictions that you can find online. I'll check back on these in a while to see if any of these came true. I'm just going to read through the comments on CNN's page, and write down the predictions as I find them (I had to reword some of them for the sake of space and/or coherence) I'll put them down in the order I find them, though they're separated into two categories:

Predictions Favorable to Health Care Reform:
  • allamer: Lives will be saved.
  • quaidbrown: Fewer people will die.
  • Angeles53: Americans who do not have health insurance will be able to get it.
  • sbath: Never again will a single parent have to let their child go without health care because they can't afford it.
  • irukandji: Republicans will be voted out next year.

Predictions Unfavorable to Health Care Reform:
  • mugabekills: Democracy will end. / We will all eat cat food.
  • rileyroad: Physicians will retire and/or close their doors/Pharmacies will no loner accept insurance.
  • Anothermuse: CFO's will meet across the US tomorrow and decide that it is cheaper to pay the fine per employee than it is to simply pay for Health Care, resulting in dropping health care coverage across the board.
  • samikep: President Obama will try to abolish Freedom of Speech.
  • sbath: Millions of people will waste tax-payer money.
  • Observer1234: Many states will block the bill because it is non-sense.
  • JimmyOlson: Thousands who cannot afford healthcare today will be fined tomorrow for not being able to afford healthcare.
  • Abloynes: The Democrats will rule us in the future "socialist" redistributive America. / Insurance industries will all fold and the US government will be the only Insurance company in America.
  • FKNA: The US will become a socialist nation.
  • eclemo42: You will have to pay a lot of money for a terrible plan, and be penalized on top of that.
  • df444: Democrats will be voted out next year.
  • Manc6267: The Federal Government will pay a lot of money for abortions.
  • STORYBURN: The top 2% of wealth will be dragged back into pre-Regan tax structures.
  • Ringostar123: We will have to pay all of the money we don't have.
  • globaldecay: We will become a fascist government.
I just realized I've only read through posts from the last 9 minutes. So, this isn't a picture of what everyone has to say, but I am really surprised by how sharply divided the nature of those predictions really are.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Epistolary Structure of Disagreeing with someone on the Internet

I was reading CNN today--like I do almost every day--and I accidentally started reading the comments again. I always do this. I get to the end of the article, and see that someone commented on it, and I'm curious about what they think. I think I might even half-way expect an informed response.

Inevitably, some guy named something like Starwhizard342 wrote something along the lines of: "I'm sorry, but everyone out there is a toolbucket. We should build robot-dogs and make them govern Somolia. If you disagree, you're a terrorist." I roll my eyes and move on to the next comment which is equally brilliant. Every now and then, I get so perturbed by Starwhizard342's complete disregard for logic that my brain falls out of my head and I start drafting a response. I pound the keys one finger at a time muttering to myself while I write out: "Dear Starwhizard342. I think you're wrong. And stupid." I then erase that and try to be cordial. So, I draft a forty line dissertation about the nuances of the socio-religious struggle in modern-day Somolia and why that means we shouldn't go in there and set up robot-dog police like Starwhizard recommended. Eventually, I realize that the only person who will actually read my comment is a person who actually knows something about the socio-religious struggle in modern-day Somolia. I admit to myself that I don't know what I'm talking about, and then I delete it.

Occasionally, I realize that I do, in fact, know what I'm talking about. We really shouldn't send robot dog police to Somolia. So, I reread and edit my response and hit "send" or whatever the button says, and sit back and wait for the comments to roll in. Usually, I'm fairly certain that what I've written down should fix every misconception held by each and every reader. So I'm always a little surprised when no one responds at all. Occasionally I'll get a "1 person likes this" which is almost more annoying than no response at all. And on the best of days, Starwhizard342 will respond by saying: "douche"

That's why I tend not to comment anymore. But today, I was so worked up that I really, really, really wanted to comment. But, because I knew that my comment was going to embody the very essence of futility, I managed to hold my tongue. Er, fingers...

After thinking about it (yes I thought about it... I know, there's something wrong.) I realized that I wasn't frustrated with the person's opinion, I was frustrated with the way the person argued. And I realized, there is a typical way of voicing disagreement on the Internet. It's almost an epistolary structure:

1 - Say that you're right.
1' - Claim that you are an expert in X.
2 - Say that everyone else is wrong.
2' - (Optional) Say that you love/hate America.
3 - Say that everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot.
4 - Remind everyone who disagrees with you that they are also the kind of person who rips puppies in half and drowns poor people. (Must type YOU in caps a lot.)
5 - Say how right you are again.

As I think about it, I'm not bothered by 1-3. It's really step 4 that gets to me for some reason. Why does everyone think that just because I disagree with you, it's because I'm the type of person who knocks over old people and pisses in their shoes? It's almost inevitable that when people disagree on the Internet, it's not enough to simply disagree, it's necessary to stifle the voice of all disagreement by saying that anyone who responds in disagreement is also a goat-headed-she-devil.

I know there's no fix to it. And I'm guessing that the social environment of the Internet will always be that way. Maybe it's some kind of commenter's road-rage. And even though I know it's impossible to fix it, I still find myself perturbed enough to respond from time to time. But, I think I've finally made up my mind. I will never again respond to a comment on CNN. Eventually, maybe I'll learn my lesson and ignore the comments section altogether.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese Experiment

I've looked online for some good macaroni and cheese recipes, and just can't seem to find anything that I think will taste like I want it. I'm looking for a really creamy, cheesy sauce that isn't oily and stringy. I'm also looking to get away from baking it, as I think that will reduce the creamy factor.

Seeing as I couldn't find anything online that I was enthused about, I figured I would try to make up a recipe. So, I'm going to document tonight's dinner experience and post about it later. (Probably tonight, but I do have work to do you know.)

Anyway, I also have an apple pie on the brain, so I have to get started. More to come...

Ok, so I did it. When I got started I realized that we had talked about trying to work more veggies into Norah's diet, so I started off by blending up a huge carrot and a zucchini. Toss that on to boil, and shredded some Cheddar, Gouda, and Fontinella cheese. Added that to the carrot/zucchini sauce and stir until melted. Then, I added some skim milk, and salt and pepper. Then, toss in a slurry (mix flour and water in a glass, then add it to the sauce.) Let the mixture simmer for a while. I then boiled up some shells and tossed them into the cheese sauce, and Norah ate it! WOW!!!!

I have pictures from the whole thing, but I have to do some homework so this will be a three-part post.

Oh, and I accidentally bought waaaaay too many apples, so I had to make two apple pies. Darn. ;)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

America's Test Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made the chocolate chip cookie recipe from America's Test Kitchen (A PBS Cooking Show that Rachel and I love to watch on Sunday afternoons.) The recipe is a bit more involved than the recipe on the back of the chocolate chips, but I think it's worth the extra effort. These were easily the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made. They were chewy, but not too soft, and had a hint of butterscotch flavor. Rach took some great pictures while we baked them, so I thought I'd post the recipe and the photos together.

10 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 granulated white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Step 1: Find the cutest helper you can find.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.

Step 3: Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a pot (NOT non-stick.) The butter will foam up, so if you swirl it in the pan, you'll be able to see to the milk solids. (They sink and will be under the foam.) Just when the milk solids start to brown, take the butter off the heat.

Step 4: Add 4 tablespoons butter to the melted butter and let it melt (without heating it anymore.)

Step 5: Pour the melted butter into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Step 6: Mix the sugar and butter mixture for thirty seconds or so, and let it sit for a minute. (If using a stand mixer, the lowest speed is fine.) Repeat three times. -- This step is important since letting the sugar sit for a minute in between mixing allows the sugars to melt, and caramelize before you cook it. This way the cookies come out with just the slightest hint of butterscotch flavor.) When finished the mixture should be glossy.

Step 7:
Add the eggs and mix for thirty seconds or so.

Here's a shot of the mixture at this stage:

Step 8: In a separate bowl mix the flour and baking soda together. (I switched to a whisk at this point because I thought I remembered the TV show saying they whisked the flour in... but I think you could stick with the handle to avoid creating too much gluten.)

Step 9: Add the flour/baking soda mixture to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated. (If using a stand mixer, you'll want to scrape the bowl half way in between.)

Step 10: Stir in chocolate chips.

Norah kept telling Rach that the mixer was "Daddy's." I thought it was funny, so I made a label.

Step 11: Use 1/4 c. measuring cup to put hockey-pucks of cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. (You can use parchment paper if you want. I didn't because my cookie sheet is really well seasoned.) If you then press the pucks a little flat, and use a spoon to create a tiny bit of a recess in the middle, they'll come out fairly uniformly cooked throughout.

Here's how I spaced the cookies out. Also, you'll want to cook one sheet at a time. Don't do two batches at once because the top batch will be over done, and the bottom will be under done. Because they cook so quickly, the time it takes to switch them in between will mess up the cooking process.

Sorry... no more cookie dough!

Step 12: Cook for 8 minutes or so. When the cookies are beginning to brown on the edges, and are still a little soft in the middle, take them out of the oven. They'll finish cooking while they cool for five minutes or so on the sheet. After they have cooled for a few minutes, let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

Step 13: Eat the best cookies you've ever eaten!!!

Hope you enjoy the recipe! And be sure to watch America's Test Kitchen... we love it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Warning!! School Work Posting!!!

The Code of Hammurabi is in the Louvre.
I have no idea why it is written sideways.

I've been knee deep in the Code of Hammurabi this quarter. (If you don't know, that's one of the earliest law "codes" that we have on record. I put "code" in quotes like that for reasons... but it's not worth going into here.)

Anyway, I'm really fascinated by what I'm doing, reading about soldiers and fisherman who loose their fields to another because they absented from their ilku service etc... (I know... BORING!) But to know that I am connected to these people who lived thousands of years ago, by reading their laws... its amazing. It's really, really amazing.

I get to learn what was important to them. The law codes deal a lot with slaves, and property and inheritance rules. I was surprised to see a law code in which the widow inherited a third of the father's land if he died and his boy was too young to inherit it. Which leads to questions like: why a third? How young is too young? What if he has no son? Etc...

I get to wonder whether or not people actually were put to death for all those things. A surprising number of the laws end with "iddak" meaning "He will be put to death." And, sometimes the penalties are strangely in favor of the wealthy. If you steal a boat from a palace, you have to pay back thirty boats. If you steal a boat from a commoner, you have to pay back ten boats. First of all, who has thirty boats? And why does the palace get a bigger recompense than the poor person? Oh, you don't have thirty boats? "iddak."

I get to ask questions about the practicality of the code. If a man's house is burning, and I am trying to put it out, and see something of his that I like, and take it... then they will throw me into that very fire. First of all, how often does this one happen that they took time to carve it into stone? Probably not that often... which leads us to guess that maybe these laws are supposed to explain really complicated circumstances, with the intention that easier cases can be judged based on them. If I steal something while putting out a fire in a guy's house (remember, that thing was going to get burned up if I hadn't come by) I get tossed into the fire. If I get killed for stealing something that was going to be destroyed anyway, then presumably, if I steal something from dude's house, when it isn't on fire... "iddak." But what about the fire? Remember, if I steal from dude's house while it's on fire... they will throw me into that very fire! Does that mean they had to keep the poor guy's house burning while someone fetched a judge to try the case in order for me to get tossed into that fire? Did the judge have to go check the stele to see what the law said before coming back to say, "Oh... toss him into the fire." It's odd how impractical some of the laws are, which leads me to think they were never intended to be real court guidelines. Yet, at the same time, some of them make perfect sense, and are likely to have served as real court case guidelines.

All in all, it's pretty dry stuff on the outside, but when you start picking it apart, and asking what does all of this tell you about society? You get to learn some pretty interesting stuff about how people lived and what they cared about several thousand years ago. And when you do that, you see that they were largely concerned about the same kinds of things we care about today. And that gives me a very eerie feeling of connection with people from thousands and thousands of years ago.

Well, I think it's neat anyway.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pat Robertson's Remarks about Haiti

I was offended by the remarks Pat Robertson made a few days ago about Haiti. (If you missed it: he claimed that they deserved the destruction of the earthquake because hundreds of years ago, they "made a pact with the devil.") I was horrified by what he said, and don't feel like I need to explain why.

But, because I was so offended, I went to the 700 club's website, and found a spot where they allow you to email Pat if you are seeking advice. So, I (a la Nathan) sent an email. I told him that I was guilt ridden over being judgmental. I asked what I should do if I said things that misrepresented Christ.

Today, I received an email in response. (I will include at the bottom of the post for anyone who wants to make sure I'm not taking things out of context.) In the email, Pat said:
"[...] All of us have times when we are offended by something. Sometimes we are right to be offended by someone's behavior, while other times we are not. [...] A good principle when someone sins against you is to go to that person privately, and let them know that you were offended. [...] If he or she repents, or if you find that you misunderstood him, then you have helped to mend that relationship. [...] If the person does not repent, then in some cases it may be helpful to take two or three spiritually mature Christians along with you to seek reconciliation. [...] Once you have followed through the complete process for attempting reconciliation with someone, if he or she still does not repent, then you are free to treat him or her as an unbeliever. [...]"
So, I emailed back saying that I was offended by what Pat Robertson said. According to this email, he's supposed to repent. If he doesn't, then I guess I'm supposed to get more people to ask him to repent. If he still doesn't, then (according to Pat) we can regard him as an unbeliever. So...

If you were offended by Pat Robertson's remarks, would you join me in emailing him? If enough Christians confront him about what he said, maybe he'll repent. If he doesn't, then I guess we can all regard him as an unbeliever. That's not my point of view mind you, it's his.

You can email Pat here: http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/BringItOn/askpat.aspx

And if you do, remind him of what he said. Tell him that if a fails to repent after being confronted, that person should be regarded as an unbeliever. Let's see if we can't get him to apologize for using his words to hurt the wounded, and for giving the world one more reason to hate Christians.

As promised, here's the full email. (Feel free to skip this if you want.)
"God bless you with His richest blessings today!

Forgiveness is a grace from God that we all need day by day. It is also a grace that we need to extend to others when they do something to offend us. All of us have times when we are offended by something. Sometimes we are right to be offended by someone's behavior, while other times we are not. Either way, God puts great emphasis on Christians resolving their conflicts with others, especially with other Christians. And we certainly need to let go of any bitterness, negative feelings, or grudge towards other people.

Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). When we love each other with Christian love, we will always want to resolve conflict in order to reconcile our relationships, instead of harboring a grudge against a brother or sister. We will want to remove any division between us, and bring healing to our relationships.

In Matthew 18:15-22 Jesus explained to His followers what to do when another Christian sinned against them. Today, individual churches may have different policies for handling offenses. You should check with your church leadership about this if someone in your church sins against you.

A good principle when someone sins against you is to go to that person privately, and let them know that you were offended (in some cases, it would not be wise to go to the person). You do not need to tell anyone else about the offense, (unless they are clearly at risk). You should go with a humble and loving attitude to the one who has offended you. Your desire is to win your brother or sister back, not to win an argument. Do not accuse the offender of wrong unless the offense was clearly sinful. If he or she repents, or if you find that you misunderstood him, then you have helped to mend that relationship. Once forgiveness has been extended, then do not bring up the offense again to anyone.

If the person does not repent, then in some cases it may be helpful to take two or three spiritually mature Christians along with you to seek reconciliation. However, keep in mind the policy of your organization for resolving disputes, whether you are in a church or a workplace.

Once you have followed through the complete process for attempting reconciliation with someone, if he or she still does not repent, then you are free to treat him or her as an unbeliever. In other words, you are not obligated to maintain Christian fellowship with that individual. You are not required in any way to extend trust to that person. On the other hand, you should not bear malice towards him or contemplate revenge (Romans 12:17-21). Release any anger you have and let the Lord heal you and set you free of the pain that anger can bring.

Forgiveness is crucial for the healing of relationships. It is also very important for our own health in a number of ways. Spiritually, we must forgive if we want God to forgive us. Jesus said, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men of their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15). Because we do not want anything to adversely affect our relationship with God, we should be quick to extend forgiveness to those who offend us.

When we forgive, we are positioning ourselves to enjoy the peace and joy Jesus came to give. We also experience more positive thinking patterns when we purpose to forgive. And, there are wonderful physical benefits when we decide to forgive. We become more relaxed, stress is reduced and we may even feel lighter and more energetic. All in all, forgiveness is good for us spiritually, emotionally and physically.

We encourage you to follow the way of forgiveness, and seek healing for any damaged relationships. As God has forgiven you, forgive others. The Lord bless you with peace and joy as you extend the grace of forgiveness to others."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monkey in a People Suit: David Hume "Natural History of Religion"


Forgive me for writing what will most certainly be a really boring Blog posting, but I think I might write a paper on this, so I thought I'd try it out first. If you're interested enough, tell me what you think!

David Hume

Philosophy is not funny. I understand that. But, I'm pretty sure something funny's going on in David Hume's "Natural History of Religion."

Before I read Hume's "Natural History of Religion" I liked the guy a lot. He had some interesting ideas about the limits of human understanding that really piqued my interest. (Pretend you're holding a ball and you're about to drop it. You know it's going to fall down right? Wrong. What you really know is that every time you've ever dropped something, it fell down. You assume that it will do the same thing again, and in all likelihood you're correct, but you can't know what will happen, you can only predict that what has always happened before will happen again.)

He opened my eyes to recognizing that what we so often mistake for Reason are really just beliefs. He taught me that even though some of the things I believe are impossible to prove with logic, that's okay. Because no one can prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt using nothing but logic. When I was introduced to Hume, suddenly the burden of being responsible for proving everything I thought melted away. I was allowed to believe things again. And it was good.

Then, I read his "Natural History of Religion" and I wanted to break up with him. The book explains what Hume believes is the historical development of religious ideas. While it might have been attractive to some of the people in his day, I thought he sounded a bit, well, priggish.

Consider the way in which he juxtaposes the philosopher against the non-philosopher. (i.e. you and me.)

[Concerning the philosopher:] "What a noble privilege is it of human reason to attain the knowledge of the supreme Being; and, from the visible works of nature, be enabled to infer so sublime a principle as its supreme Creator? [Concerning you and me:] But turn the reverse of the medal. Survey most nations and most ages. Examine the religious principles, which have, in fact, prevailed the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are any thing but sick men's dreams: Or perhaps will regard them more as the playsome whimsies of monkies in human shape, than the serious, positive, dogmatical asservations of a being, who dignifies himself with the name of rational."

Are you offended? Or are you okay with being called a monkey in a people-suit? You can see why I was so surprised by Hume. This is the same guy who let me off the hook on proving that God exists! Here he is claiming that nature proves that God exists! He and Kant almost single-handedly (ok, poor choice of words) taught me about the limits of human reason. It took a long time for me to come to grips with those limits, to accept that maybe I can't know things with as much certainty as I once thought I could. I finally found myself being comfortable with thinking that no one KNOWS that anything is true, that we just BELIEVE things to be true. I was finally starting to think like David Hume.

Then, he goes and calls me a monkey in a people-suit. Jerk.


But, then we discussed the book in class and my professor hinted that maybe we should read Hume as being ironic. Suddenly, lightbulbs starting going off in my brain. That's more like it. Suddenly "The Natural History of Religion" made sense again.

If he's being ironic, then when Hume talks about the vulgar, maybe he's really just parroting what the foundationalists (Enlightenment thinkers) would say about you and me. Maybe he's just letting them see how crazy it sounds when someone actually says what they think.

Consider when Hume said:
"Were men led into the apprehension of invisible, intelligent power by a contemplation of the works of nature, they could never possibly entertain any conception but of one single being, who bestowed existence and order on this vast machine, and adjusted all its parts according to one regular plan or connected system."

Basically, he's saying if we look at nature, we must conclude that a singular God set about making it. Why would Hume say this? Surely Hume recognizes that if we look at nature, we don't necessarily come to the belief that there is one single God. Looking at nature may lead some people to conclude that there is one God, but it makes others conclude that there is no God, and still others to conclude that there are multiple gods. Why doesn't Hume see this?

That's when I realized, Hume isn't being serious in this book. Well, he's being serious, but he's being at least a little funny.

You know how when you're in line at the grocery store, and that there's that annoying seven year old in line in front of you whining for a candy bar. His mom gets sick of hearing it and whines back at him "but I want the candy mom!" She's parroting him to show him how stupid he sounds.

That's what I think Hume is doing in "The Natural History." He's parroting the Foundationalists hoping that they'll see how weak their proofs really are.

When you read "The Natural History" in this way, it suddenly starts to make sense. He's not saying that people who base beliefs on experiences are monkeys in people-suits. What he's really saying is that the Foundationalist who thinks that all his beliefs rest on verifiable facts, is no better than the monkey in a people-suit whose beliefs rely on superstition and experience alone. So, you see, when Hume is railing against you and me, he's really railing against Foundationalists.

Only when you realize that the "Rational proofs" of the Foundationalists are on just as shakey ground as the things you and I believe do you realize that Hume is poking fun at them. In short, only when you start to think like David Hume do you realize how freaking funny this book really is.


René Decartes