Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Barack Obama Quote Generator

Now this is hilarious. Somebody just linked it on Doug Wilson's blog:

http://www.buttafly.com/content/obama-quote-1.php

Monday, August 25, 2008

Evangellyfish

For those who aren't up to speed, Doug Wilson has been publishing a new book online, called Evangellyfish. He publishes a new chapter each week (Monday, approximately), and he's on chapter seven. It drifts somewhere between the hilarious and the sadly true-to-life. Check it out, if you haven't, over here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Church International

I am currently watching the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing. With thousands in attendance, it is, like the opening ceremony, quite a spectacle. There is much to criticize in connection with the Olympics. But it should serve for every Christian as a reminder of what the Church is, and in a grander way should be in our day, not to mention what it will one day in its fullness be. It is and will be a body composed of those from every tribe, tongue, and nation. We American Christians can be so provincial, considering ourselves to be, like the self-righteous Pharisee, superior to the rest of the world. We need to remember that there is nothing good that we have that God hasn't given to us. For that matter, if we continue on our present path, He will no doubt be taking some of those things away from us, and giving them to those who show themselves to be faithful to Him. If the Chinese church continues to grow as it has been doing, it may well be receiving those blessings, and even become the center of Christendom.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today...

...is the first day of the rest of your life. Of course, so was yesterday.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Wasted Summer of ‘08: Some Read, but I Watch Movies

I’ve seen a few movies over the last few weeks since my last movie “review”, but haven’t taken the time to comment on them. Let me begin to do that now.

My last movie post was right after I had seen WALL-E and Hancock. A few days after that, I pulled another double at the theater, first seeing Journey to the Center of the Earth.

I knew nothing about the movie in advance. I knew it bore the title of the Jules Verne classic, and so I assumed it was based off of the book, though I thought maybe this film was the book done in a modern setting. As it turn out, this wasn’t exactly the case.

Here’s the gist of it. A seismologist (played by Brendan Fraser) is carrying on the legacy of his deceased brother, also a seismologist. During the visit of his brother’s son, he and his nephew end up traveling to an area of newly discovered seismic activity, meet a mountain guide who takes them to their desired location, where they fall into and find their way out of the center of the earth. Along the way it is learned that the deceased seismologist was a Vernian, one who believed that the center of the earth as portrayed by Verne in his famous book was actually true.

That’s the short of it, and it really deserves little explication beyond this. The movie was in 3-D, and when I visited my local theater, I was informed that they didn’t have 3-D capability. I had my mind set on seeing it, so I did, though after seeing it I wish I had just gone to a theater that was set up for 3-D. Much of the movie was set up to be a cinematic thrill ride, and without the 3-D, the thrill ride was more of a walk in the park.

So far as content goes, I might begin by saying that this movie was created by Walden Media, the same folks who brought us the horrible film renderings of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian. They didn’t do much better with Journey. Brendan Fraser, while I haven’t seen many of his movies, is an actor that I always find less than convincing. The first two Mummy movies were enjoyable, but not exactly high drama. The only movie he was in that I really enjoyed a lot was Looney Toons: Back in Action. (Maybe it’s just having grown up with Bugs Bunny & friends, but I could watch that movie over and over again.) Fraser was his typical character here, drifting between irresponsible goof and action hero. The other actors were unfamiliar to me. They were reasonably interesting, though they weren’t good enough to make the movie all that impressive.

Being from Walden Media, the film was touted as a family film. It was a clean film, though there were a couple of moments that I wish had been left out. As the seismologist and his nephew are hiking with their female mountain guide, the nephew pronounces, “I have dibbs on the mountain guide.” Fraser’s character responds, “I have dibbs on the mountain guide. You’re only thirteen. You don’t get dibbs on the mountain guide.” Later these statements are revealed to the woman, who responds, “Nobody gets dibbs on the mountain guide.” The fact that even the adult male protaganist in the movie is presented as one who would see a woman as something to “get dibbs on” is disturbing, and it doesn’t belong in a family film. But the presence of a woman requires some romance, of course. This comes about in a stereotypical scene in which Fraser’s character is about to risk his life to save his nephew, and the female character plants a good-bye kiss on him, for fear that she might never see again this man that she just met and barely knows. The two are shown embracing in the final scene of the movie, as if we are supposed to believe that they lived happily ever after. To say these present a faulty understanding of male-female relations and of courtship is to say the least, though I’ve come not to expect Walden Media to understand that.

Then there was the gradual undressing of the adult characters of the movie. The center of the earth gradually increases in temperature while they are there, and this results in the characters being nearly down to their skivies by the end of the thing. Now this is logical considering the plotline of the movie, and I don’t think that normally I would have noticed, had it not been for the scene in which Fraser’s character, protecting the life of the mountain guide, gets a sleeve of his shirt torn off by a giant man eating Venus Fly Trap. After defeating the plant and saving the woman, he responds by reaching up and tearing the other sleeve off, as if he couldn’t carry on with such asymmetry. It was so blatant as to be laughable. I’m sure somewhere in Fraser’s contract a clause was included that required the exposure of his biceps. Once again, this isn’t really necessary in a family film.

The only other Walden Media film I’ve seen was Amazing Grace which, though I praised it when it came out, had its own problems, particularly in the areas of theology and historical accuracy. But considering the ones from them I have seen, I am struck by a thread that runs between the group of them, and that is the subject of faith and unbelief. This is particularly present in how it relates to the subject of imagination. If one follows the gospel according to Walden Media, it would seem that any worldview will work, so long as you have faith. The Bible could be true, or, for that matter, so could Jules Verne’s book. Now maybe this hasn’t been Walden Media’s intention. But I find the similarities between the films striking, and it makes me wonder. It is a matter I’m still mulling over, so I can’t add any more thoughts to this, though I would encourage the reader to think about it. And I would welcome any thoughts from those who may have seen any of Walden Media’s other films, particularly the more recent ones like Bridge to Teribithia, The Water Horse, and Nim’s Island.

The CGI was good. And the plotline had potential. But the movie was all about action and little about characters. Even the scene that was supposed to make you feel personally for the characters, that of the finding and burial of the deceased seismologist’s body, while well done and touching for me, wasn’t enough to salvage the movie. Part of the problem is a common one, and that is that the movie was too short. Then again, it was supposed to be a family movie, and I guess one can’t expect too much from a film aimed at appealling to the ten year old boy and the forty year old mother. Too much character over too long a period of time, and the ten year old boy will be wanting to hit the video game machines outside the theater.

So would I recommend the film? At this point I’m not sure what to say. It wasn’t horrible. And not being a parent, I’m at a loss to some degree when it comes to what is appropriate for what children at what ages. If you have a solid understanding of male-female relations in your family, it is something you practice everyday, and you’re prepared to talk the above mentioned aspects of the film over with your children afterward, then I imagine you’ll be safe. If you aren’t willing to do these things, then you have larger questions in you life than whether or not to go to the theater today.

After Journey, I stayed at the theater and saw Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. I felt rather awkward going to see it, being a single adult male and going to see a movie I wouldn’t make my son endure, if I had a son. But it seemed like a clean movie, the sort of movie as a Christian I’d like to encourage Hollywood (via money) to make. And I knew someone who had seen it and liked it, so I wanted to check it out. It turned out to be little more exciting than Journey.

The protaganist, Kit Kittredge, is a young girl who lives in Cincinatti during the Great Depression. We witness her neighbors, and then her own family, go through financial hardship, and we see how they interact with others as a result of their trials. Kit’s father loses his job and goes to New York to earn money for the family, leaving his wife to care for Kit. Kit’s mother takes in borders to make ends meet, which borders turn out to be a hodge podge of characters from all walks of life. The climax of the movie comes when some of the borders turn out to be thieves, and Kit and her friends participate in the exposure and capture of the criminals.

The movie seems innocent on the face of it. But the viewer soon finds himself (and his daughter, presumably) assaulted with all sorts of pluralistic and politically Leftist agendas. It was only after seeing the movie that I learned that Julia Roberts was executive producer for it, a fact which would have prepared me for the propaganda, had I been aware of it in advance. I should have done more research.

First there is the guilt mongering on the middle class. The world of which Kit’s family is a part sees itself as better than the scapegoats of the society, the hobos. The hobos of Kit’s time were the poor, many of which we learn were once doctors and lawyers, just like us, only thrust into the life of the hobo by an economic downturn. Middle class people, you see, always think they are better than the poor, and are arrogant and greedy. Of course, those of the lower class are never responsible for their poverty - laziness has nothing to do with it. And how big is Julia Roberts’s house?

The one exception is Kit’s family, though this view of the poor isn’t completely absent from her household. Her family is presented as journeying from being on the edge of middle class snootiness, to escaping it due to its financial crisis. Of course, self-righteousness is always wrong, no matter who holds it. But the fact that the movie is projecting this onto today’s middle class is an inescapable conclusion, and it is inaccurate.

We are made aware early on that the family is living during the time of the Presidency of that great Socialist, Franklin D. Roosevelt. When one cynical uncle expresses doubt about the New Deal, Kit’s father counters with unwavering hope in FDR’s socialist agenda. Of course, no one questions whether it may have been socialism that created the mess in the first place, or whether said socialism may simply continue to create economic problems thereafter, which, of course, has been the case. But when you have the wealth of Hollywood but ignorance of simple economics, a little raising of the taxes doesn’t affect you.

Then there is the anti-masculinity and gender bending of the film. One of the sweet little innocent hobo children of the film (an African-American child, incidentally. Only white people are allowed in the middle class, you see.) poses as a little boy throughout the film, only to be discovered to be a little girl at the end of the film. Protected by a slightly older hobo boy after her father has died, she poses as a little boy for safety. Adult men, it seems, may harm her, as only men are evil. One father, who goes to a larger city to find work, ends up leaving his family for good. Only men, you see, are unfaithful to their marriage vows. And at the beginning of the film, Kit has four female friends who are a part of her secret all-girl club, which meets in her tree house. Two of the girls are forced to move away, but by the end of the film they are replaced, by the rather weak boy of the father who disappeared on his family, and by the gender-confusing African American girl. You see, we’re all one world - black, white, straight, gender non-specific. Why can’t we all just get along? And our world would be so much better if women (or little girls, apparently) were running the clubhouse.

As I mentioned, thievery takes place, as three of the borders are found to be part of a local as well as regional crime spree. At the heart of the movie is the middle class bias against hobos. The hobos are just innocent people, apparently, as the actual thieves are middle class people posing as hobos. We meet, once again, the myth of the noble savage at work again, only slightly modified. People aren’t born sinners, it seems. It is civilization, and, inherently, wealth, that corrupts, not the heart of man. The thieves are two men and a woman, which may initially make one think that my assessment of the film’s view of men is skewed. But as we reach the climax of the movie, we see the female thief “come to her senses” and aid in the capture of the other two thieves. Men, it seems, are incurable sinners, whereas women can actually change their ways when they are wrong.

The ending is a tear-jerking moment (though no tears were jerked from me) too closely akin to the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life to be legally permissible. Everybody “Comes Together” in an indiscriminatory pluralistic stew and celebrates as if they were Christians. Kit’s father, who has been away working in New York since early in the film, shows up at the door of the family’s home, his chistled, soap opera star face covered with a two day old beard (he’s been living poor in New York for weeks, and he’s only been unable to shave over the past two days?), and proclaims that he is home to stay, and that he will now find work in town. But as I recall, the reason he left for New York in the first place was that there was no work in town, and conditions haven’t changed. This is, of course, supposed to be a heart-warming “Daddy is home to stay” moment, and perfectly appropriate. In fact, one could draw plenty of Biblical analogies from it. But the logical inconsistencies with the plot are brazen, and while I suppose this wouldn’t be noticed by the little girl who is moved over the thought of Daddy being home, it is ridiculous to me. The writers could have cleaned this up much better. The result is sentimentalism triumphing over truth. But this is present throughout the film, so this scene, in that sense, is just consistent with the rest.

So the film ends where it begins, in transformative, Old Creation/New Creation, chiastic fashion, albeit a sentimentalistic, pluralistic chiastic fashion. It’s a classic case of pagans borrowing from Christians and then warping whatever they’ve borrowed. There are truths throughout the film that I would echo, even mixed in with the elements of the film I’ve highlighted. The problem is that they are marred by pagan thought, as I’ve also highlighted.

Aside from all of this, the film suffers, just like Journey, as a result of lack of depth. Once again, it is a children’s film, and this may have something to do with it. The acting is a little more convincing than some of what I’ve seen lately, and features an all-star cast. But it doesn’t make the film worth seeing.

So this should serve as a warning to Christians, especially Christian parents, everywhere. Just because a movie is “clean” (which usually means no sex, violence, profanity, drugs, or alcohol - as if these were the only sins in the world - thanks for nothing, Fundamentalism) doesn’t mean it’s good. Don’t waste your time or money on this one. Not only would it not be helpful to your children. I’d go so far as to say it would be harmful for them.

I’ve seen a couple of other movies since seeing these, but they’ll have to wait for another time.

Abortion and Civil Life

I am pro-life, and I am so because Holy Scripture forbids murder. The often overlooked aspect of the abortion debate is that it is part of a larger body of questions involving what human beings are. We bear the image of God in a way unique in all of creation. Because of this, we are called by God to treat all people, both the born and the unborn, with love.

In light of this, I am often amazed at how the key issues of civil life polarize people who, other than on the hot topics of the day, pretty much agree with one another on what is considered to be a permissible way to conduct one’s life. This is especially true in the area of sexual ethics. Take the issue of sex outside of marriage, for instance. It is common nowadays for people who are dating to live together. And yet the same people often will take a dogmatic stance against abortion. Often this is a result of growing up in a morally conservative environment which, here in the South, usually involves growing up in the church to some degree. Certainly, abortion is a much more serious issue than sleeping with someone to whom you aren’t married. But the root issue is the same. Both the woman who aborts her baby and the person who sleeps with someone to whom they aren’t married say, “I don’t care if it’s right or wrong. What I want is more important than whether it is good or evil.” Both sins violate the image of God in a person, seeing that person as an object to be used according to one’s own pleasure. It is only reasonable, then, that an abortion culture should grow out of a sexually immoral culture. The thing that the sexually immoral person doesn’t understand is that once you’ve headed down that road, you can’t stop the bus. You can’t say, “I only want this level of immorality to be allowed in society, but anything beyond this shouldn’t be allowed.” Sin is like the snowball rolling downhill - once it’s started rolling, you’ll eventually end up with an avalanche, unless you are able to stop the whole thing. And like an avalanche, it’s much easier to stop when it’s just a snowball.

Sasquatch claim wasn't worth squat

Well, it turns out the claims of a Bigfoot find were false. But it wasn't discovered until some Bigfoot hunters put up money to buy the "carcass". And the whereabouts of the finders of the "Bigfoot" are currently unknown. Not too surprising, huh? I found it hard to believe that someone would call a big news conference and make a false claim that they had found something like this. My naivete knows no bounds, I suppose. I have a tendency to forget that some people don't care about truth and integrity.

So what now? Will the liars live in the backwoods away from society for the rest of their lives, lest they get sued for every penny they have? Have they hopped a plane for another country? I'm not even sure what the legal situation is here. However they decided they would deal with things after the truth became known, I can't imagine they thought life would be enjoyable hereafter.

Monday, August 18, 2008

For those who saw the opening ceremony...

Do you remember those footprint-shaped fireworks that flashed across the sky during the opening ceremony of the Olympics? As it turns out, they were fake. They were actually computer-generated and added to the final cut before the ceremony, taped several hours earlier, was aired in the U.S. And you remember the excessively-cute little girl who sang the solo during the procession of the Chinese flag? She was actually lip syncing, and it wasn't even her voice on the recording. The little girl who actually sang the song didn't quite have the "cuteness" factor to represent China, it was decided. Some may not be bothered by such things, but I find it disappointing.

And by the way...

...can I say just how sick I am of hearing the name "Michael Phelps"? I mean, the guy is great, and I'm really glad for him, but enough is enough. I don't know, however, why I would expect anything different from the mainstream media coverage of the Olympics.

Scribblative Agincourting shutting down

Sadly, the Scribblative Agincourting blog is shutting down. And I just linked it in the sidebar a few weeks ago. I've barely spent any time there, so I guess I've got a lot of reading to do. If you haven't visited it, check it out while it's still up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Yet Another Yeti Sighting; Or, My, What Big Feet You Have!

The latest claims of a Bigfoot find. Am I skeptical? Of course - very skeptical. But if these guys are lying, they’re doing it in an awfully public way. And if they’re telling the truth, they’re going to have to provide some serious evidence, i. e., the body they claim they have. And if they don’t provide the body for scrutiny, they have a miserable, heckled life ahead of them.

And in Georgia, on top of it. If it’s real, I’ll be sad that Flannery O’Connor isn’t alive to see it.

HT: gilgal

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Socialised Gymnasts

During the women’s gymnastics events this evening, one of the NBC commentators made the statement that the Chinese women (at least, some of them) were taken from their parents when they were very young (as young as three) and sent away to schools where they immediately begin to train to be Olympic gymnasts. Realizing the possible reactions of any viewers that might have been paying attention to what he was saying, he immediately countered what he had just said by saying, “not that they were, you know, torn from their parents arms and taken away crying.” I’m sure, of course, he would have us to believe he has first hand experience of this. The truth of the matter, however, is that that is exactly how the average child would have been taken away in such a situation. But the Chinese system of dictating a child’s upbringing, while worse than the American system in the details, still works on the same principle as the American system, that of Socialism. We wouldn’t want our American sports commentators slipping up and criticizing American government education, even in a round about way, would we?

I found it interesting as I watched the interactions of the American female gymnasts with one another how they contrasted with the behaviour of the Chinese female gymnasts. The Americans were very affectionate with one another, quick to hug one another after they finished each event. The Chinese, on the other hand, rarely hugged one another, opting to “high five” each other instead. I think it can reasonably be argued that this is the detrimental result of living under a political system that sees all relationships as in competition with it, and which, as a result of seeing the deified State as the Highest Good, destroys families by separating them and removing children from the place where God intended them to learn a healthy sense of relationship and affection. Thankfully, our heritage has kept the incipient Socialism we deal with from creeping into our lives any more than it has, though it gains ground year after year.

Update: Berek, over on my Myspace blog, helpfully pointed out that hugging is not a standard means of friends expressing affection for one another in the Far East, and that therefore the absence of hugging didn't necessarily have anything to do with the affection felt between the gymnasts. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that this could be a mere cultural difference. Again, alas.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

China, Greece, and Providence

The Summer Olympics in Beijing have begun, and I love it. With all the televised coverage that’s taking place, it makes one want to quit his job just to see it all. Alas, the bills won’t pay themselves.

Many are boycotting the Olympics this year, due to China’s horrendous human rights record. The Free Tibet movement tends to be a focus, though China’s involvement in the abuses in the Sudan have been noted as well. But the issue of Tibet is a cause celebre. With the ongoing Western fascination with Tibetan culture, Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, yoga, Eastern meditative practices, etc., I have a hard time not being a bit skeptical. Rarely does one find a person in the media who is as interested in any civil unrest one might find in the West. And I understand the interest. There is much beauty in Eastern cultures. But I fear that what is at play here is really a subtle Western paternalism (no matter how much those with such interest would like to escape said paternalism) and the ongoing myth of the noble savage. I believe the West has done lots of wrong. But I don’t believe we’re to blame for everything that’s gone wrong in the world. Tibetans are sinners, too. And I also sympathize with those who would like to see Tibet free. I’m in favour of seccession in principle, when it is the will of the people. But my opposition of Western paternalism is wrapped up with my opposition of American interventionism. It isn’t our duty to solve the world’s problems. This, again, is a theological problem. If we were to believe in the doctrine of Providence again, to which our founding fathers referred with such regularity that the word still passes us by without a thought as we read them, then we would trust God to work out the world’s problems when it isn‘t any of our business. Ours is essentially a Pelagian foreign policy.

Those who call for our government to “do something” about China and Tibet are just asking for a different form of Socialism. As I recall, Socialism in China is the problem.

So I won’t be boycotting the Olympics. If I had been called upon, through business or some other means, to participate in them in a more active way, such as attending them, I don’t know what decision I would have made. But so long as my involvement lies in nothing more than turning on the TV, I don’t expect any “boycotting” on my part would effect a political revolution in China. That will take place through the faithfulness of an estimated 60 million Christians in China, who worship God mainly underground, and through our prayer for them, in addition to any missionary activities we can carry out in aid to them. As the West continues to crumble, it will only be a matter of time before the East becomes the center of Christendom once again.

Also, I can’t help but wonder if exposing those in China to so many Westerners through the Olympics won’t actually be a benefit. Certainly, there’s much in the West that I hope the East never adopts, though Japan, sadly, seems to have already done so. Still, there’s a certain effectiveness to killing with kindness. Maybe, in a world shaped by the dictator, the last thing China needs is for the West to be dictatorial.

On a different note, why is Shaun White’s HP commercial getting so much airplay during the Summer Olympics? He’s strictly Winter Olympics, isn’t he? Somebody help me out here.

Today, of course, was the Sabbath, and I was successful in resisting the temptation to waste away in front of the Olympics all day. As a Sabbatarian, one of my personal commitments is to stay away from commercial TV on the Lord’s Day (though I’ve never sworn any sort of oath along these lines). The commercial aspect, combined with the belief that the Lord’s Day should be preserved for worship, study, and rest, lead me to this practice. As early as last night, as I looked on the NBC website at the TV schedule, I began to wrestle with the decision of how to handle today. And I’m not joking when I say that the case of Eric Liddell came to mind. As popularized in Chariots of Fire, God honored Liddell when Liddell honored the Lord’s Day. But would God still have been honoring Liddell if He hadn’t let him win the Men’s 400 meter race? Yes, though one might get the impression from the movie that if we obey God that we’ll always come in first place in whatever we attempt in this world. God honored Liddell through a blessed career as a missionary in China, and the underground church in China is one way in which God has chosen to honor Eric Liddell. The blood of the martyrs is indeed the seed of the church.

So God honored me today with a three hour nap, which I needed much more than I needed to watch the Olympics. I did go out and take a brief walk around the neighborhood late this afternoon. Liddell (in the movie, at least) said he felt God’s pleasure when he ran. I wish I could say I felt God’s pleasure when I walked, but instead I only felt a pain in my right foot that wasn’t there when I started out the door. I trust the Lord was pleased with me nonetheless. After all, the reality of God’s blessing rarely consists in how one feels.

Those who missed the opening exercises of the Olympics missed a treat. The amount of time and money put into the display was well worth it, so far as the rest of the world goes. Here the boycotters of the Olympics, however, may have a point. “How much better would it be if that money were used for the needs of the poor throughout China?” they would say. Nonetheless, I am reminded of the occasions when two different women (this appears to have happened twice - see Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12) anointed Jesus with a very expensive flask of oil, and the disciples considered this to be a waste, as the ointment could have been sold and the money used to feed the poor. (In the case of Judas, in John 12, we are told that his real motivation was one of greed, though we are not told that this is the motivation of the other disciples.) Jesus’s answer is one of eschatology. “The poor,” He says, “you always have with you, but me you don’t. These women are anointing my body for burial.” But the question is, did these women know that’s what they were doing, or did they see their actions merely as an act of worship? It could be that they had listened to Jesus’s teaching so well that they knew He was about to die, and that this was their reason. If so, then we have a lot to learn from them about redemptive-historical hermeneutics - would that we were so understanding of Jesus’s teaching! Nonetheless, my assumption has always been that this was simply an act of worship on their part, as they were being led by the Spirit, and that God Providentially worked these things out to have eschatological significance.

I am also reminded of Jane Dempsey Douglass’s foreword to Paul Corby Finney’s book Seeing Beyond the Word: Visual Arts and the Calvinist Tradition. The book shows and discusses the tradition of the visual arts as they emerged out of the Calvinistic wing of the Protestant Reformation. Part of Calvin’s commitment to simplicity in worship, notes Douglass, is born out of his concern for good stewardship. It is inappropriate for the church to be ostentatious in its décor, thought Calvin, while the city is full of poor people. This was particularly felt in Geneva in Calvin’s day, a city that had its share of those who were poor. Douglass also seems to imply that part of the issue was the church’s image to those outside of her. If the church is “wasting” money on visual arts, while those right outside the church doors are starving, then why would those who don’t believe have any interest in knowing this God that the church purports to represent?

I haven’t actually read Calvin on this, so I am merely basing my thoughts off of Douglass’s words. And I’m not fully aware of the situation in Geneva at the time. Also, I don’t doubt the behaviour of the Roman Church at the time influenced Calvin’s thought to some degree (I am thinking particularly of the events surrounding the fundraising for and building of St. Peter‘s Basilica). But while I believe there is something to Calvin’s idea here, I think it may be a bit overstated. There are certainly those who are genuinely poor in the world, and it is the duty of the church to take care of those people. Nonetheless, many who are poor are so because of their own laziness. While those people may need some financial help, it is also the churches duty to exhort such people to repentance, and possibly to cut off help to them if they refuse to work (as Paul says that a man who doesn‘t work shouldn‘t eat). Also, while Jesus’s words point out the eschatological dimension of his anointing, His words still ring true that we will always have the poor with us. As with much of the international interventionism I mentioned earlier, both of the Left and the Right varieties, there is much utopianism in the thought of those who promote social welfare policies. Great strides can be made in the church being faithful to its calling, but if we think we’ll ever get it exactly right this side of the eschaton, we’re wrong. Also, as Doug Jones has pointed out in a number of his lectures, it is our tendency, being post-Enlightenment, to think that aesthetics lies on the periphery of life. But nothing could be further from the truth. We are visual beings, created in the image of a God who created an elaborately beautiful world for our enjoyment. It is only normal for us to want to imitate Him, particularly in our worship of Him.

In short, I think an argument can be made for ostentatious churches. As God commanded that both the Tabernacle and the Temple of the Old Testament be elaborate in their beauty, and as Christ’s body, which He spoke of as the Temple, was anointed with expensive ointment, I think it is appropriate that our churches in the New Covenant, which is called the better covenant, be clothed in beauty. Along the same lines, I think a good argument can be made for elaborate displays outside the church such as took place in Beijing this past Friday. Whether I’m right or wrong, I enjoyed the show anyway.

I found it strange that the “Summer” Olympics would be taking place so late in the summer. In my mind, Summer is almost over. The government school year, around which so much of my life and culture is based, and which is about to begin, still largely shapes my view of the calendar year. But it’s also a change in climate that directs my view of the seasons. The first hint of change from summer to autumn, though subtle, took place this past Thursday evening. I went out to my car for something late that night and felt the first cool breeze I had felt in months. Autumn is my favourite season, and so familiar sentimental feelings soon came upon me. One aspect of fall that quickly came to mind is one that is a late addition to my life, and that is the Greek Festival held every year here in Greensboro at The Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church. I first attended one evening several years ago with some friends, and that night I began to develop a fascination with Greek culture that carries on to today. By that point in my life I had developed a disgust with American “culture”, if you can call it culture. Meeting with Greek culture was a breath of fresh air like no other. Good food, dancing, music, and the beauty of the Greek Orthodox Church was overwhelming to me. I understand fully how this could influence Protestants to join the Greek Church, as I probably would have myself a long time ago, were it not for serious theological disagreements with Eastern Orthodoxy. If nothing else, I wish Americans would learn something on how to do culture from the Greeks. Until the American church learns something on how to do worship from the Greeks, however, I suppose this is a distant hope.

My memories of the Greek Festival left me longing for some Greek food. There are a couple of Greek delis that I’ve often thought of trying out but haven’t, and so when my hunger for Greek food started, I began contemplating when I could visit one of them. I ended up going to one of them on my way home from work Saturday night and grabbing a gyro with lamb and beef. Man, those Greeks know good food.

One thing I learned Friday night in watching the opening exercises of the Olympics was that the parade of the athletes always begins with the Olympians from Greece, since the Olympics originated in Ancient Greece. That’s appropriate. It wasn’t until after I had eaten some leftover Chinese food for lunch on Saturday and began thinking of getting Greek food for dinner that I began to realized the coincidental nature of my meals. China, Greece…Chinese food, Greek food… ah, life’s little Providences…

Friday, August 08, 2008

Power over justice

Fighting is going on between South Ossetia and Georgia, and Russia has chosen to side with South Ossetia. Of course, the conflict has been going on for some time, and the American media has just now chosen to begin to pay attention, no doubt because of Russia’s new involvement in the situation. Representatives of the U. S. government have urged the Russian government to withdraw troops from the region. And why? Because Georgia was on track to join NATO, and if that were to happen, the the U. S. would have a place in the region by which to gain advantage against Russia. Also, there is a major oil pipeline in the region. The most annoying thing is that this is being presented by our government as an issue of Georgia’s national sovereignty. What about South Ossetia’s national sovereignty? From our government’s perspective, this seems to me to be more about our trying to step outside the bounds of our national sovereignty to impose our wills on those who don’t actually have to answer to us. The years 1861 through 1865 loom large in the background.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Issues, Etc. Returns

A few months back I sadly noted that a select group of individuals in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod lost their minds and cancelled the fantastic LCMS-sponsored Issues, Etc. I just learned today that, while the select individuals never regained their minds, a group of private donors have enabled the show to return to the airwaves. Go listen to it, if you've never heard it. You'll find it at http://www.issuesetc.org/index.html.