Monday, February 28, 2005

To Drew or Not to Drew

Recently the Buffalo Bills released Drew Bledsoe and handed the reigns over to an untested 2nd year guy, J.P. Losman. It was foolish in my opinion at the time. This is the fifth year in the current rebuilding project and this is when we need to be trying to win a superbowl, not starting from scratch with a new kid on the block.

The last time we handed the team over to a second year quarterback, his name was Todd Collins from Michigan, a second round pick. I'm not sure how many ways you can spell disaster, but that that season was one of the many ways. The ineptness and atrocity of that season peaked with a 6-3 monday night victory over the hapless colts.

But here we are again handing the team over to a second year unproven quarterback again. I've modified my objection somewhat. I was upset that we removed a veteran with an unproved rookie. But the point of having a veteran is poise in the big game. Drew Bledsoe can do many things for you, but you can't count on him to deliver in the big games. he is choke city. So in that sense, maybe there really isn't that much of an advantage with him. My problem is that we still have to face Bill Belachik twice a year with his tricky defensive schemes. And then we have to face Herm Edwards of the Jets, also the defensive minded twice a year. Nick Saban is now in Miami and is defensive guy, but so was Wannstedt, and we still smacked Miami around. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that as long as we are better than Miami, I am satisfied.

Where is the Rapture in the Book of Revelations?

I should come clean about my feelings about the Rapture. I really do think it is going to happen. Where I disagree with the Rapture folks is the timing. Actually, the real debate is about timing and qualifications and less about if it will happen.

One thing I have always found interesting is that the book of Revelations is very ambiguous about the Rapture, in my mind, anyway.

The Rapture teaching comes primarily from two New Testament verses:

13: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15: For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18: Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18

and then 1 Corinthians 15:51-58

51: Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53: For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54: So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56: The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57: But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Now, if you are anything akin to a Bible literalist, as I am somewhat, it is very difficult to dismiss this double witness. In addition to that, throw Mt 24: 37-42

37: But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38: For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39: And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40: Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41: Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

42: Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

Okay, so there are three quite explicit scriptures from Paul and Matthew, but wither John, of Apocalypse fame?

There are three candidates for scriptures in Revelations that support the Rapture.

The first is Rev. 12:1-17. Note verses 6 and 14.

1: And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3: And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5: And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6: And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.[3 1/2 years]
7: And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8: And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9: And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10: And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11: And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12: Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13: And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14: And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
15: And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16: And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
17: And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The problem is that verses 6 and verses 14 are two separate events. But the key indication that these do not point to rapture is verse 17. Verse 17 occurs after the dragon is angry at the woman and has tried to kill her unsuccesfully, then he turns to make life hell for "her seed." Now this is where the timing issue comes to play. The fundamentalists believe that the point of the rapture is so that believers do not have to suffer the reign of the anti-Christ. So for then Rev 12 can have no rapture event because believers would be among those left behind. On the other hand, they could very well argue that these "rest of her seed" are Catholics and other "nominal Christians" who are left behind and get rapture letters and by virtue of the Rapture, realize the error of our ways.

Then there's Rev. 14: 5-16

5: And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
6: And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
7: Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
8: And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
9: And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10: The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
12: Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
13: And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
14: And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
15: And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
16: And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

Rev. 14 is far less likely to be the Rapture, especially since it comes after the reign of the anti-Christ, but that phrase "the earth was reaped" could signify another Rapture for those of us left behind, or it could be code for we all get martyed or something.

So the three candidates we have are Rev. 12:6 which specifies the three and a half years, then there's Rev 12:14 and Rev. 14:6. Of course, it all hinges on the fact that the woman in Rev 12 represents the Church.

My vote goes to Rev. 12:14.

Why would anyone be searching for

Sexy Pentecostalists

John Kerry for President 2008

Here's Support Kerry 08 site I came across today. I have no idea who is behind it. Doesn't matter, they have the right idea.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

JCecil on an Abortion Legislation Compromise

Joe Cecil of In Today's News has a post on a compromise to the abortion issue. I was typing up a response in his comment box, but then it was getting too long, so I decided to put my thoughts here.

I'm not responding to everything in the post, or making a statement on my position on the issue. I am pro-choice, I think the later the abortion the higher the burden of availability and that to effectively and truthfully even begin to address the issue, you have to approach it from the demand-side, i.e, why are women having abortions in the first place.

But in regard to Joe's post, go read it first, and here are a couple of points that I note:

Pro Choicers are not necessarily basing their arguments in favor of choice on the issue of personhood as Joe appears to assume. That may be the argument for some, but many others are well aware that there is a person in there. The fact is that everyone knows that at some point in the equation the fetus is a person, any statement to the contrary by anyone is just quibbles. So the issue is not so linear as to when we can all agree on when personhood is achieved. The issue is not about justifying or advocating abortion, but about having the freedom to make that tragic choice when all options have been considered. So my point is that Pro choicers are not saying abortion is good, but that sometimes people are reduced or forced into that choice and it is a tragic choice because they are aware that a human being's life is being ended.

I remember in my fervent pro-life days, five of us enlightened guys were debating the issue with two unelightened ladies. One point they kept making over and over was what if you can't care for the child and it is going to suffer? To which we replied, "So you want to kill the child because you can't care for it?" Their answer in unison was an emphatic, "Yes"!

Now that threw me off kilter majorly. One of our arguments in the pro-life thing was that the only reason that people could support choice was that they dehumanized the unborn child or that if they didn't then they were cold heart evil people. Well we all knew these ladies very well that they were normal good, grade A egg types. So much for that argument. From then on, something bothered me, and it was that they were seeing something that I wasn't. For one, they did not view the issue as involving a monadic abstract "life" distinct from everything and everyone else. This brings me to another issue.

The other issue is that this whole debate has ceased to be about "life" itself. The term effectively means nothing anymore. There is no such thing as "life." There are living organism, living persons, etc, but no such thing as life, except of course, when we start speaking in the spiritual sense of God's zoe "In Him was life (zoe)." There is no life there are only people.

One significant contribution of Gaudium et Spes in Vatican II was that it refurbished the definition of what it meant to be human and made in God's image from the traditional staid viewpoint. Traditionally, as human beings, we said that we are made in God's image because we have a will and intellect. GS agreed with that but added a third characteristic that is no less important.

But God did not create man as a solitary, for from the beginning "male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Their companionship produces the primary form of interpersonal communion. For by his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential. [GS 12]

The public and social dimension of our existence is not simply a cultural accident, it is essential to be being human is. The individual attributes of being human are no more important than the social dimensions of our nature. The whole discussion of "life" issues has been reduced to an abstract and incomplete notion of human beings. Thus, it becomes then about fighting for malnourished principles and definitions and less about fighting for persons.

The aforementioned lively discussion with the ladies opened my eyes to the fact that their notion of life hinged, not on mere existence, but on human dignity defined in fuller terms of living with dignity as a human. The pro-life movement is concerned primarily and solely about simple physical existence. It is enough that a baby is born, that's pro-life. It matters little, if at all, that the child is born into abject poverty, has nothing to look forward to but being sexually abused, extreme hunger, disease, drugs, etc. That's a separate issue for pro-lifers. Those are issues that can be turned over to the social justic committee. But these ladies brought home to me the fact that life is more than simply existing.

My experience with those ladies also highligthed a key turing point for me. In my days in the pro-life movement and it is the case now, the boilerplate context is that choice is about convenience. That is, a woman wakes up some morning, has coffee and bagels with friends, decides that she is no longer interested in her baby, gets an abortion at 2 pm in time to make the movies by 5:30 pm. It was then I realized that people who advocate choice are not doing this because they enjoy seeing babies die. It first hit me then that these people care and are doing what they do because they believe it is the right and caring thing to do. These ladies said they would have an abortion if they felt that hope was lacking for their baby. That was not concvenience, that was love from their veiwpoint.

Now, I know about all that "where there is life there is hope" plattitude stuff and everyone has examples of how people rise from impossible situations to a life of dignity. That is not the point. Such heart warming stories mean nothing to the millions of children who go to bed extremely hungry and cold every night; or to those born into slavery, servitued, or faminine, or war, etc. For every heart warming story of success, there are a million tragic stories of people whose lives were hell. (One reason why I like the book of Ecclesiastes, it doesn't mince words about the fundamental absurdity and injustice of existence in this world. Say all you want, in the final analysis, "vanity of vanity all is vanity" or in other words, crap.) As much as like to hope so, "it" doesn't always work out.

The pro-life movement thrives on a few key things, one such thing is the abstraction of "life" and an abstract stripped idea of personhood, i.e, "life" is simply physically existing. The pro-choice movement counters with a concrete realism, i.e, that abortion is a tragedy, but the fact is that to respect what it means to be human, there are a lot of moving parts that have to move in unison. That is more complicated task and one that the pro-life movement has shown no interest in.

Florida Bishops on Terri Schaivo

I found this link through HMS blog a collection of statements from the Florida Bishops Conference on Terri Schaivo. I didn't expect anything useful but I read the most recent one, Feb 15, 2005 and I thought it was excellent. Of course, because it resonates with my take on the issue:

1. Lament Confusion as to Her Condition

We lament that there remains – in the eyes of many – confusion as to Terri Schiavo’s actual condition and prospects for her treatment. We have continually requested that parties involved seek greater resolution in this regard.

What I find particularly unfair as far as her state goes is that the one video shot of her mother talking to her is used as "proof" that she is responsive. That is absolute nonsense. People in a persistent vegitative state appear to be responsive, but the fact is that they aren't. Now, it is possible that the parents have seen things otherwise, but that video has been used as proof and that is just pure propaganda at this time. That video is one of the primary reasons that I became very suspicious of the whole thing. I felt that it was an unfair attempt at propaganda and manipulation. Now, of course, if I was one of her parents, hey, I'd use any and everything if I was trying to keep my daughter alive, nonetheless, it is what it is, propaganda.

2. Presumption for Nutrition and Hydration

The Catholic community begins discussions regarding the withdrawal and withholding of artificial nutrition and hydration with a presumption in favor of their provision. However, when the burdens exceed the benefits of providing them, they may be withdrawn or withheld. We note that what is too burdensome for one person may not be too burdensome for another.

Baseline, hydrate and nutrate, however, there is a subject burdensone threshold, at which point hydration and nutrition may be withdrawn.

3. Need for Health Care Advance Directives

That Terri Schiavo left no written instructions as to whom should make such decisions in her absence (a healthcare surrogate), or what criteria ought to be used to make such determinations has contributed to the difficulty of this case. This is not rare. Studies indicate that approximately 20% of adults have completed such tools. We urge all adults to utilize written directives, and we offer a Catholic Declaration on Life and Death, which can be found on the website.

This is the crux of the issue, who then speaks for Terri. The question is not what does the Church want, or what should a Catholic do? The question is what would Terri have wanted? The husband claims she would not have wanted to persist in this state. I wouldn't want to persist in that state. I suspect more Americans than not would.

4. Need for Ethical Decision-making

It is also important to note that such health care surrogates and medical directions can never “trump” or override appropriate moral considerations. In this regard, Catholic teaching notes that the proxy may not deliberately cause a patient’s death or refuse ordinary and normal treatment, even if he or she believes a patient would have made such a decision.

This was a bone thrown to the Schindler supports to avoid a crap storm if such a statement hadn't been made. As I said earlier moral considerations are not the issue. This is not about proving a point. The issues is what would Terri have wanted? Not what the Catholic Church wants. I want my plug pulled, period.

But even this statement pans out in favor of Michael Schaivo. What it is saying is that if leaving the hydration and nutrition are not a burden on him in particular, but his intention is to kill her then that is wrong. So it doesn't even apply to him, because if he states that the burden is to high for him, then according to the previous point, he can withdraw hydration and nutrition.

5. Presume Best Intentions

We urge people to refrain from excessive rhetoric and misguided zeal, against which Pope Pius XI cautioned. There are many unanswered questions in this case, and it is necessary to presume upon the best intentions of all involved until shown otherwise.

No one has ever accused the pro-life movement of presuming best intentions. The mindset is full throttle demonization of anyone agnostic or on the other side of the issue. This is the little slap on the wrist for the pro-life crowd. Basically, shut with this, murderous killer executioner adulterous husband with illegitimate bastard children, foolishness.

6. Opposition to Euthanasia

We oppose euthanasia. While withdrawal of Terri Schiavo’s nutrition and hydration will lead to her death, if this is being done because its provision would be too burdensome for her, it could be acceptable. If it is being done to intentionally cause her death, this would be wrong.

This restates my earlier point. Basically, he's got a green light and no one is in a position to stop him even based on Catholic teaching. The only valid red light is if we can tell that his intention is to cause her death, i.e, not the burden issue. And no one can do that because no one is in Michael Schaivo's mind.

7. Join in Prayer for Terri Schiavo and Family

We continue to ask all people of good will to join us in prayer for Terri Schiavo, whose spiritual needs are being met by clergy of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and for all involved in this difficult case, especially her husband, parents and siblings.

We can all agree on this, I think.

This looks like a tacit green light from the Florida Bishops. I am no friend of the Bishops, but I say I don't disagree with much in this statement.

Hyperlexia and Science Fiction

Natasha at Pacific Views speaks of her experiences as a hyperlexic:

I've never been anywhere near as hampered in communication as that, but I can very much relate to her descriptions of shifts in her own consciousness after happening into a frameshift that finally let her order her perceptions of the world. I was sort of hyperlexic when I was young, and you can surely still pick up the traces of it, but it ended up being a very good mask for the fact that I often had no idea what was going on around me.

There were a lot of words I knew how to say, but in addition to not understanding nonverbal cues from others very well, my sense of time was messed up in ways I can't quite explain even now. I had an arbitrarily shaky grasp of the order certain events had occurred and where or with whom a given memory was properly connected up until I was a preteen, at which point this gradually began to resolve itself. Things I read would stay clear, and there were times when there was no disorientation at all. Then sometimes it would all just get jumbled up horribly, but based on how people in my family reacted, the inconsistency seemed to give more of an impression of selective and perhaps purposeful inattention.

That's possibly what made my arcane personal rituals so relaxing to me. (Monk is one of the few screen characters that I particularly identify with.) They were something I could focus on, done at my own pace, and they sorted my days into manageable blocks. I still lose track of time very easily, and will probably never be rigorously punctual, but the sense of disorientation is pretty much gone now.

What it seems finally helped me sort out a frame to relate to the world was the science fiction and fantasy books I read obsessively from as soon as I discovered them. Because they're set in an imaginary place for which only the author has a frame of reference, the rules of social structure, organization and strictures on personal interactions have to be explicitly spelled out at some early point. You aren't left guessing what things mean because the author assumes in the beginning that, of course, the reader can't interpret these things in relation to a place no one has ever been.

Obviously, the authors of fiction novels usually build on something in the world of their experience, but the lack of explanation made much of that inaccessible. I didn't know what I was missing out on seeing, and my assumption would be that most people assumed I was just deliberately ignoring signals that were perfectly clear to everyone else. I lived in a world where things happened for no reason that I could see, and you can't build a useful internal model of how things work based on unexplained gibberish.

Through these unintentional parables, the rest of the world slowly began making more sense. I still enjoy fiction, but I no longer cling to it like it's a roadmap through hostile territory.

Good to know that writing science fiction can serve the dual role of hobby and community service.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

"He shall give his angels charge over thee"

Anne of Our Homeschool blog, had her stillborn baby. All our prayers . . .

Ps 91:11-12

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12: They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Malachi 4:2

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

Andrew Sullivan Agrees with me on the Pope

Andrew Sullivan has this to say on the Pope's present condition and he agrees with me.

THE POPE'S LIFE: We have been informed that the pontiff's current suffering and persistence against multiple illnesses and debilities is sending a message about the dignity of suffering and the importance of life. There is indeed a great truth to that. But there is also a point at which clinging to life itself becomes a little odd for a Christian, no? Isn't the fundamental point about Christianity that our life on earth is but a blink in the eye of our real existence, which begins at death and lasts for eternity in God's loving presence? Why is the Pope sending a signal that we should cling to life at all costs - and that this clinging represents some kind of moral achievement? Isn't there a moment at which the proper Christian approach to death is to let it come and be glad? Or put it another way: if the Pope is this desperate to stay alive, what hope is there for the rest of us?

My point is that the pro-life thing has gone far out of whack, where everyone is to straggle and grapple and clasp onto every last ounce of physical existence until it is forced away from you, freeing you from any intent to desire death or to alleviate suffering.

Death is okay, it is natural and when it comes, let it.

Biggest Night of Sci Fi Ever 2/25/05

Stargate SG-1
Stargate Atlantis
Battlestar Gallactica

Stargate SG-1

The Replicators have begun a full scale onslaught of the gouaould (bad guys) and the system lords in a bid to take over the universe. The Replicators are a machine borg-like type species led by a clone of Col Samantha Carter. There is only one weapon that can stop them and the replicators are on their way to destroy.

Yet again, the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance and SG 1 will have to save the universe once more. A side story is that the Jafar rebellion, the Jafar are a race of warriors who worship the gouaould, thinking they are really gods, is well on its way and they have recaptured the most sacred temple and through it they'll be able to show their fellow Jafars that the gouaould are really not gods. Ah, but Annubis the big bad gouaould was expecting them and has ordered his fleet back from engaging the replicators to crush the Jafar rebellion once and for all.

To be continued next week.

It was a good episode. Here's something funny, Issac Hayes, the voice of the Shaft song, made an appearance as part of the Jaffar rebellion. You almost expected him to burst out with a "can you dig it?"

I'm never quite sure what to think about the whole black race is mysterious thing. In sci fi shows when you have a race that is a warrior race and about honor and bravery and loyalty and stuff, they tend to cast blacks in those roles. There's the Jafar and of course, the Klingons. The Klingons were are interesting blend of technological advancement and barbarism and everything in between. With the exception of Star Trek Voyager's Tuvok, you don't find too many black Vulcans. The Vulcans are a self controlled intellectual race that thrive on logic and eschew emotions. Even then, Tuvok is depected as controlling untold rage within and in a sad story line, the series finale had him in committed in a mental instiution as a raving lunatic. They'd never have done that with Spock, a white Vulcan.

This, black is mysterious, is a staple of movies: Green Mile, Bagger Vance, (the Queen latifah/steve martin movie), and it goes on and on. Black people are portrayed as the mystic mysterious magical figures who make things right for others. Even children's animated stories buy into this. The Little People are popular characters for kids. Each Little People character has their "thing." Michael, the black kid, his thing is magic.

Going back to sci fi, Commander Sisko of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, was very mystically inclined and ended up a monk or something like that. Mr LaForge of Star Trek Next Generation, who had no vision and wore that visor thing, which gave him that mystical edge. Both were the primary black characters in their respective series. Well, Wharf, the Klingon, of course, was a main character in both, but he again is as described earlier.

The stereotype is being taken too far, but it does tap into a sense of the symbolism of blackness. For some reason I think black peoples tend to embrace a vibrant "black" mysticism and are more culturally attuned to spiritual world. I was at a conference of black scripture scholars and theologians and there was not shortage of "everyone in the bible is black" rhetoric. A speaker then came up and joked that we know that Moses was not Black, because only a white person would see a bush burning like that and then say, "let me go up and see what is going on." A black person would say, "get me the hell out of here!"

In Christian mysticism there is a couple of mystical traditions defined by the way God is portrayed. There is the apophatic tradition in which God is definied in a positve way, it's a "way of light," happy, clear, etc. Then there is the cataphatic mysticism which is dark and characterized by negation. The higher into God you ascend, the darker it gets until you arrive at divine blackness in which God is best revealed. It is a way of negation: God is not a lion, God is not wind, God is not light, God is beyond all these and by sticking such titles on him it takes away from what he is. This divine blackness I think captures something of the cultural mystical blackness of black peoples: searching, vibrant, undefined, joy intermingled with pain, hope, power, etc. BTW, even the world famous Anselmian ontological argument for God's existence has that cataphatic twist to it: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. That's pure positive negation. You name something and God is greater. In fact, there nothing you can name that God is not greater than.

Okay, I'm not even sure how I got here, I was talking about the biggest night of scifi ever. Alright, back to the shows.

Then there was Stargate Atlantis. Last week they found a frozen version of Dr Wier who is the leader of the expedition to Atlantis. Apparently, the first time around on the expedition things went horribly, but they stumbled on a time machined and she was thrown back in time to the time of the Ancients. One of the Ancients then configured things so that when the humans arrived (again), things would go well for them. To keep things going, Dr Wier was frozen for 10,000 years, 3.000 years at a time to adjust controls and stuff. So of we have two Dr Wiers. Anyway, she reveals that there are a few much needed power sources scattered around the galaxy and so this episode was about the search for one of those.

Good episode, nothing earth shattering. For once, the fate of the entire galaxy did not depend on them. They eventually find one of the power sources, called a ZPM (zero point module), but their efforts are thwarted by trickery as one of the ladies who helped them seized the ZPM and in the tradition of her ancestors has taken it for safe keeping until the Ancients return. One the side, a Wraith ship found Atlantis and broke through their defenses, scanned the structure and sent a long range transmission deep into space and then self destructed. So now the Wraith know where they are. The Wraith are these nasty hungry humanoid creatures with three rows of shark-like teeth. They were the reason that the Ancients fled Atlantis. So they are very bad news.

Battlestar Gallactica. They find cylon on board and Lt STarbuck is sent to interrogate it. She delves into torture since she believes it to not be a human but a machine. At the same time, this thing plays games with her head and her faith. Eventually, it is ordered thrown out into space to die. In a separate development, one of the crew belives that she may be a cylon infiltrator and goes to the on board scientist to see if he can test her. This guy has hallucinations (it's bizzare and stupid) and he has this blonde lady who does not believe in clothes follow him everywhere and whisper stuff in his ear. I suppose she is suppose to be eye candy for the cadre of nerds who watch the show, but she is downright annoying. Anyway, scientist guy tests her and it reveals that she is a cylon but he is afraid to tell her. So that is where we are.

BTW, Battlestar Gallactica doesn't have any main black characters, in fact, I have seen absolutely NO black characters. Stargate Atlantis has no major black characters either. Oh well, why burden a good show with equal opportunity.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Buy Now!

According to Blogshares my blog is worth $7,939.00 per share. I know that's a lot but it's not going to get any cheaper. This blog is hot and on the up and up. So, not to push my own stuff or anything, but buy now and get in on the ground floor.

This 5 Questions Business-thingie

Steve did a 5 question interview thing for Alexa and a few others did the 5 question interview. I didn't participate because the problem for me is that I just don't quite have answers, at least nothing interesting that is worth blog space or anyone's time.

For instance, I tried to answer the questions Steve gave Talmida:

1 - What is your favorite outdoor activity?

I don't know! I have absolutely no idea. In fact, I don't much like outdoors. So that answer won't have been much fun.

2 - If you had to move outside Canada, what country would you choose, and why?

That wouldn't apply to me, but in terms of moving . . . I have absolutely no idea where I'd like to go if I wasn't where I am. I figure if and when I move, I'd love it. See, no fun answer there either.

3 - What is your favorite food?

I swear, I don't have one.

4 - What is the furthest place you traveled from home?

Okay, this may be the only interesting answer I have. My life started in San Francisco, then Nigeria, then Washington DC, then Buffalo, then Marlyand and there has been a trip to England, so I'll leave you to calculate the distances.

5 - When you look back on your life, what are you most pleased about?

I dunno. I am married to the sexiest, most intelligent, most beautiful, spiritual and understanding woman alive and have the world's two most adorable kids, is that an answer or a cop out? I have to be pleased I guess about being in the PhD pipeline I suppose. Okay, so maybe I had a decent answer there. But two out of five is a terrible interview, which is why I don't do these things.

Okay, how about Steve's questions for Todd

1 - If you could take a family vacation for a week, and go anywhere, where would you go and why?

I wouldn't mind staying home and catching up on sleep.

2 - What did you listen to on the way to work this morning?

The Tony Kornheiser show. How lame is that? (Okay, I can see how that may be mildly interesting)

3 - Which musical instrument, that you don't play now, would you most like to learn?

The piano. Boh-ring. For Todd it was the Oboe. To make this even worth while, I need to have answer like that or the Timpani or glou . . . whatever, or harp.

4 - Name three famous people you would most like to have over for dinner.

There is no one I'd like to have over for dinner that is famous. Why would I? First, it would be a pain getting everything ready. And then we'll need to keep the conversation muted because our girls would be in bed by 7-7:30 ish, and it would be just too much "So what's your favorite_____." My wife's been trying to teach me small talk, "Wasn't the weather wonderful today?" Her rule is follow up with two questions or statments and absolutely eschew the single word answer. I normally answer, yes, no, maybe, I don't know, leaving the other participant the burden of continuing the conversation. A Paulist friend of mine noted that when we first met at Catholic U. and he introduced himself, that I rudely gave the shortest description of the Bachelor of Sacred Theology that he had ever heard and promptly moved on. I insist that his recollections are inaccurate and that I wouldn't have promptly walked off. I probably sauntered off. But it does speak to my inability and disdain for small talk which is why I wouldn't be interested in hosting a famous person for dinner.

5 - What do you like most about the town you live in?

I don't know. I live in Waldorf, MD which my wife describes as a "concrete jungle" with no character. We have slightly different views of character. She likes the Annapolis, MD, cobble stones, old colonial style houses character. I tend to like being around water and for me I like it when the people in the area have been connected to the land for hundreds of years. Southern MD is awash in history and that I love. We have the first ever Jesuit parish in the United States and many of the parishes in the area are history and hundreds of years old. That didn't quite answer the question.

Okay, maybe I would've done a little better with the second set of questions, but overall, I am just not that interesting and I don't have interesting answers that's why I'm not doing the 5 question thing. Sorry.

Long Live the Pope!

On D. Bettenelli's site (the guy makes my skin crawl) he has a pretty interesting and useful summary of what happens if the Pope dies.

Of particular interest/amusement was this comment:

First, I think the Pope is amazingly strong and will probably get better and be with us a few more years.

But, I just had a passing thought. If he is seriously ill and actually dying, I’d guess that he’ll die on Good Friday.

Don’t mean to be morbid or even remotely call this a prediction --- it’s just something that ocurred to me.

I pray he recovers soon

I found it amusing because on Brown eye blog yesterday I saw the following post:

i suspect the end may not be imminent, but near. and on catholic radio and ewtn, everyone is praying that the pope get well "so that he can lead us for many years to come." frankly, i find that to be a ridiculous statement. JPII is old. he's not been in a good health for quite some time. he barely looks like he's functioning. how many more years can he lead us???? can we be realistic here? please, fellow catholics, please. can we just be real for two minutes?

Clearly, the end is near, very near for His Holiness and there is absolutely nothing wrong in acknowledging that he just may pass away any day now. I think the whole pro-life thing makes people want wish people indefinite extension of life and never look for them to die, because that would be wishing they die.

Pope John Paul II has served his generation and his Church well and his time has come. Death is not a bad or evil thing. The man has been excruciatingly lonely for decades now, death would be a wonderful thing for him.

It's okay folks, we can wish him a happy death. He's earned it.

"Between you and me" Violating Privacy with Impunity

I noticed this entry by Greg Popcack on his right wing HMS Blog in which he fires of a letter to Joe Feueherd of the National Catholic Reporter criticizing his article last week.

Joe replies and send him an email that begins with:

Thanks for your note. And, between you and me, I agree that it wasn’t my best work.

So, of course, what does Mr Popcack do? He plasters this private email on his website. I'm not sure what part of "between you and me" is that vague. Even between idealogical opponents, some courtesies need to be established.

I Want to Believe

Peter Jennings did an ABC Prime Time Special on UFO's last nite. I was glad to see someone with his stature and journalistic credibility give the issue some coverage.

As you probably can see from my sci fi novel in the side bar (hint) I am a believer in the whole nine yards. I believe that there is life and civilizations out there. I have been agnostic about if they exist among us. Sometimes, I feel that way, other times, I'm not so sure. Well, after last nite's show, I am convinced that we have them among us and that they have infiltrated our government.

One of the eye openers was that the Air Force did numerous investigations and finally concluded that there were UFOs and not from our world, but the Pentegon repeatedly killed the investigations and finally shut them up for good. There are folks in the military and in the government who know the truth. I just wonder how they can in good faith participate in such a deception for so long.

Here in Waldorf, in Southern Maryland, last year there was a UFO sighting. Waldorf is 20 minutes from Andrews Airforce Base and a couple of F-16s were seen chasing this UFO. It was reported on the news and in the Washington Post. I never really followed up though.

Tonight's the Greatest Night of SciFi Ever, with our regular full complement of Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis and Battlestar Gallactica. In light of that I was dissapointed that Jennings did not investigate if there is a Stargate, any alien artifacts, or techonological repositories by the Ancients, in the possession of the U.S. Air Force. All he had to do was ask them up front and make then categorically deny it. Speaking of denials, they showed how the Air Force keeps issuing "case-closed" reports on Roswell, denying that any UFO thing happened there. Now they say it was some secret military aircraft project called "mogul" that crashed. Yeah right. I understand that they want to keep alien technology out of the hands of the Russians and the Chinese, but enough is enough, we need the truth and we want it now.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Point of Christianity

I am obsessed with this notion of the point of Christianity. I have some thoughts that I hope to put down in book form. But there are the verses that guide me:

Ecclesiastes 12:13,14

13: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14: For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

And then there's this in James 1:26,27

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Simple and straightforward, isn't it. This is why I sometimes scoff at that Church's mascinations because the point is not to be good Catholics, but good Christians as defined by these verses. I respect the Church's religious impulse, but when they become more important than the point of Christianity itself, "Houston, we have a problem."

To cap those verse off, here is how an angel summarizes the point of our existence:

Revelations 19: 9,10

9: And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
10: And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

and then Revelations 22: 8,9

8: And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. 9: Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

And then here's what Newman has to say:

In this, then, consists our whole duty, first in contemplating Almighty God, as in Heaven, so in our hearts and souls; and next, while we contemplate Him, in acting towards and for Him in the works of every day; in viewing by faith His glory without and within us, and in acknowledging it by our obedience. Thus we shall unite conceptions the most lofty concerning His majesty and bounty towards us, with the most lowly, minute, and unostentatious service to Him.

Does Newman nail it or what?

"They shall not tasted death till they see the kingdom of God"

27: For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
28: Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Matthew 16: 27,28

These verses has always been a difficult one for Christians. It is often said that the early Church expected Christ to come in their time and as such we sense the urgency in Paul's letters and throughout the New Testament. This notion of Christians not seeing death before the completion of the "these things" comes out also in I Thessalonians 4 where Paul speaks of the Rapture.

Many theologians and Scripture Scholars have concluded that, (Lord, not my words, don't strike me!) Jesus was not wrong when he predicted the end, but he was mistaken. It grates me to even think the thought.

The Rapture folks are greatly dependent on this verse because they've been assured that the generation that sees these things happening, i.e, the restoration of Israel and the temple and all that stuff, will see the Rapture. Of course, if God presses the pause button on the Rapture, there's is going to be a major crises of faith for a whole bunch of Christians.

I bring all this up because I ran into the following statement by John Henry Newman:

He said to His Apostles, "I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Kingdom of God." Then, "after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them. And as He prayed the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistening. And His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light ... And behold there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias, who appeared in glory ... But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were awake, they saw His glory."

For Newman, the Transfiguration fufilled Jesus' prophecy that some shall not see death till the they see the Kingdom of God. I like it. It fits better, it makes much more sense. (I'm not interested in the interpretation that the Church is the Kingdom of God, that sense of Kingdom of God is to prosaic to match the force of Christ's words.)

It's a done deal

2004 Koufax Award Winners

The Koufax awards are blog awards for the lefty blogpshere. Check it out. There are some very interesting blogs out there. What I like about lefty blogspher is that there is very intelligent discussion by world class experts out there in many fields.

It is called the Koufax awards because of the baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax who was left-handed, get it? A Lefty?

I hope some enterprising progressive Christian blogger does one for mod/left Christian/Catholic blogsphere. It can be called The Switch Awards, you know, switch hitter, sometimes left, sometimes right, get it? (don't worry, my stand up career is currently on hold)

One reason I hope someone does this is that you get a sense of what's out there and you find many neat blogs that you otherwise would never have ventured near. Also it encourages people to do what they like to do. For instance, if a certain blogger likes to write about Christian philosophy but sees that another blogger's posts on Christian finances is getting more traction, s/he may then try to change their style to achieve a similar result. But when you recognize someone for what they do, then they feel confident remaining in their own blogging skin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Interracial Marriage Stats

I was wandering through the US Census Bureau stats on race and interracial marriages. A lot of interesting numbers there, but I found it interesting that white men/black women marriages have exploded in the past 15 years. In 1980 (I'm going with raw numbers not percentages here), there were 45,000 white men/black women marriages in the sample size of 49 million. As of 1999, there were 120,000 such marriages in a sample size of 55 million, a three-fold increase.

In the case of Black men/White men interracial marriages, same sample sizes as in earlier paragraph, in 1980 there we 120,000 and in 1999 it was 210,000, which is close to a two fold increase. Clearly, something happened with white men and black women that black men and white women missed. I realize that the white men/black women relationships are just now catching up as far as breaking social taboos. I still do something of a double take with white men/black women couples. I'm just not as used to seeing that.

1993/94 is particularly interesting. In 1993, there's 60,000 white men/black women marriages and then in 1994, that number jumps to 100,000!!! Although, in general, black white intermarriage is at a relatively low percentage for races that have coexisted for centuries. That should tell us something about issues that need to be worked out.

BTW, if you google "interracial," make sure you are not at work or no kids around, the results are downright offensive, until after the first couple of pages.

Pope Says Gay Marriage is Evil: Statement is Part of Secret Plan to Rid Catholic Chruch of Liberals

Via Bad Catholic

Pope calls gay marriage 'ideology of evil'

Homosexual marriages are part of "a new ideology of evil" that is insidiously threatening society, Pope John Paul has said in a new book.

In 'Memory and Identity', the Pope also calls abortion a "legal extermination" comparable to the Holocaust.

He also reveals that he is convinced the Turkish gunman who shot him in 1981 did not act alone and suggests that the former Communist Bloc may have been behind the plot to kill him.

The 84-year-old Pontiff's book, a highly philosophical and intricate work on the nature of good and evil, is based on conversations with philosopher friends in 1993 and later with some of his aides.

In one section about the role of lawmakers, the Pope takes another swipe at gay marriages when he refers to "pressures" on the European Parliament to allow them.

"It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man," he writes.

The Pope's fifth book for mass circulation, issued by Italian publisher Rizzoli, sparked controversy in Germany and elsewhere after Jewish groups protested against leaked excerpts comparing the Holocaust to abortion.

In at least two sections of the book, the Pope talks about the Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews and the wholesale slaughter of political opponents by Communist regimes after World War Two.

In following paragraphs he says that legally elected parliaments in formerly totalitarian countries were today allowing what he called new forms of evil and new exterminations.

"There is still, however a legal extermination of human beings who have been conceived but not yet born," he writes.

"And this time we are talking about an extermination which has been allowed by nothing less than democratically elected parliaments where one normally hears appeals for the civil progress of society and all humanity," he writes.

In Germany, a leader of the country's Central Council of Jews called the comparison unacceptable.

At a news conference presenting the book, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's top doctrinal official, dismissed the Jewish charges.

Ratzinger said the Pope "was not trying to put the Holocaust and abortion on the same plane" but only warning that evil lurked everywhere, "even in liberal political systems".

Okay, I'll tread lightly here, I won't call him names or unleash a bubbling stream of profanity his way, out of respect for the office. Obviously I disagree with the Pope. Not only do I disagree with him, I think he is wrong and misguided on this issue. But, not only that, it displays poor pastoral judgment, but wait! There's more. This may be the final straw.

Final straw?! Yes. This is certainly a gauntlet statement. Obviously, knowing liberals, I don't think His Holiness expects that we would drop our tails between our legs and go sit in the corner awaiting instructiions. So obviously, he is pushing liberals to make a choice, stay in the Church or get out.

I think there are three ways liberals will respond.

There are people like me who are liberal Catholics, who could care less what anyone if the Catholic hierarchy says, being that it has absolutely no bearing on our spiritual lives. So we remain unaffected by this further confirmation that our souls have been given over to evil idealogies. So to stay or not to stay remains unaffected by this event.

Then there are those liberals, God bless their souls, saints all of them, who will recognize that this is not an infallible declaration and will seek to remain in dialog with moderates and conservatives. Leaving is not an option for them.

Then there those liberals who will simply up and leave. (Yeah! The conservatives cheer.)

So His Holiness will get his wish for say 5-25% of liberals. This then leaves the remaining 75% of liberals in a very weakened position, especially since the 10% of liberals like me don't care, the dialog liberals will whither down to 65%, almost half strength. It is actually a quite clever plan to rid the Church of liberals.

The Pope's last years have been very interesting, it is almost as though he wants to repudiate the first half of his legacy which was liberal and progressive and establish his latter iron fisted conservative legacy. It is his legacy, so he certainly can do what he wants with it, it is just very difficult to understand what he is trying to accomplish by making such statements as have been reported in this book (of course, besides trying to rid the Church of liberals--sorry, I had my tin foil hat off for a second there).

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Pro-Life? What's the Point--More Schaivo

In the past few days I've become fascinated with the Schaivo case and also Anne's case who is having an pre-mature induction of a non viable baby (and is being accused by some pro-lifers of being an abortionist).


I saw this Amy Welbon thread about the Schaivo issue and of course, it is an open invitation to pile on the Bishops, etc.

I will say up front that I was surprised that some commenters on Welborn's thread refused the invitation to pile on and took the other side. Good for them. It's not that there should be sides in this issue. It is a tragic issue, but the insertion of red hot politics in this has forced everyone who considers the issue to take sides, unwittingly.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am appalled, but not surprised at the pro-life frame of the issue in which the "adulterous," "murderous husband," seeks to kill wife so that he can shack up with girlfriend and spend wife's settlement money. How on earth does it come to this? First off, I never believe the pro-life side. When they say someone is evil, muderous, killer, etc, what that means is that the killer is nothing of the sort, they just simply have an opposing viewpoint. I can, and other Catholic pro-choice Democrats can, tell you some of the hate mail and choice words we have heard from pro-lifers. Besides emails and blogs, I have had people come up to me in a quasi-Demonic rage to tell me that I am an evil abortionist baby killer and they are glad I lost my job, etc. The political pro-life movement has moved predictably to demonize anyone in this situation who does not support their view and Michael Schaivo is Satan right now.

More importantly, I think this has become less about the principals and more about the issues. Again, the difference between competing partisan philosophies, people v issues. For instance Welborn says:

However, this is a very high-profile case dealing with end-of-life ethics, and one which a lot of people are watching and learning from. What the bishops have said so far is not bad nor untrue, but I just keep wondering if there is more instruction to be done re/the case, knowing that all eyes are on it, and figuring how to deal with their own situations in light of it.

Basically, let's use this as a good teaching moment, let's make a point. Unfortunately for the people involved, this is not a teaching moment, this involves a person. I've come to realize through these issues that I value choice, privacy and personal freedom more that I realized I did. I strongly feel that at the point of decision, after all the debate, we need to recede and let the principals come to terms with their decisions, whether they are right or wrong. But even moreso in a case in which we know how it is going to end, we have to simply learn to deal with it. Let people live their lives and let us deal with it. This situation is sad enough as it is. Michael Schaivo ordinarily would have to deal with the extreme sadness of pulling the plug in the first place, now there is the national attention and murderous charge on him from the millions. This is not a teaching moment. No personal tragedy ever is. If we want to do case studies after the fact, then so be it, but for God's sake, not in the heat of the tragedy.

Another thing in my view, what does it say about the primacy of sacramental marriage when for the sake of the political pro-life cause, parents all of a sudden become more important than the spouse? Anyone who is married with kids has a sense of the parent v spouse tension. As a parent you have made decisions and guided your child all her life and then you are forced to hand her over to someone else who will then supercede you in his union with her, so to speak. But that is the biblical teaching on marriage, that a "man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves unto his wife and the two shall become one."

Now, because it is to the purpose of the pro-life movement, they have decided that the parents trump the spouse. Again, I don't dismiss the anguish of the parents. Spouses can always go on and do go on with their lives and find someone else. However, parents can't "go on." A dead child is a dead child. There is more of a sense of desparation for the parents and perhaps unwillingness to let go. I wouldn't and pray that I never find myself in that situation. But I think the thing to have done here is to recognize the spousal sacramental perogative, but work it out between the parties so that everyone can get closure in their time. That's one thing that the Church could have done, it could have mediated between parties. If there is need for a spirituality to contextualize this, then use the Blessed Virgin Mary. She's an example of a parent who had to give her only son over to death.

Again, I speak from the view of point that I don't condemn Euthanasia, so I am of the viewpoint that if she had expressed a desire to not live in a vegetative state then her husband can and should follow her wishes. I think these type of issues are personal and ultimately have to be settled within the consciences of people involved. I think it is shame that Fr Pavone and the political pro-life movement have decided to use this as a point-making issue. I will say, granted, it is not all darkness on the pro-life side and light with the other side, I just haven't been privy to what's going on politically on the other side. I will say in touring liberal blogsphere today, there has been barely a peep, so it isn't like nationally it is being used to make a Right-to-Die point.

Truth is I am sad for Terri Schaivo and her husband. Any moment like this is a very sad moment and people should be preparing to grieve and not dealing with all this.

On a different front, Anne at Our Homeschool blog who has decided to go along with an early induction had this to say:

I knew that some people would disagree with our decision. I knew that they would think it was better to carry the baby to term. It never occurred to me that people would think that I was having an abortion. That I was responsible for my baby's death if I did this, and not the complete malformation of her brain. It has shocked me that people have come here calling me a "wolf in sheep's clothing" saying that it's easy for me to kill my baby because I've done it before (referring to my abortion at age 17 which still brings me pain and for which I have confessed and received absolution). . .

My husband are wondering where this leaves us. Should we still be Catholic? It's a question I refuse to answer right now. I have enough to think about. But we are not hypocrites. I have never believed that an early induction for a baby with fatal prognosis was wrong. Nor have I ever stated so.

The highlighted question, to be or not to be Catholic, stunned me. This is why I think the pro-life movement needs to do some serious soul searching. When you badger a woman going through the worst days of her life to the point that she is considering leaving a faith that brought her joy, something is not right.

You always have to ask, what is the point of what we are doing? Are we just trying to make a point? Again, this is the conservative "issues" vs the liberal "people." I clearly fall on the liberal side, which says that it is all about people. There are times when you have made your point and then it is up to the people and you then have to decide how to deal with it. What is God thinking in her case this moment? He certainly does not have a casuitry manual and is not watching to see how many conditions she's met for full intent to kick in, nor is he holding catalog of punishments to administer. For those of us who are parents, we know how we feel about our children and most of all how we feel when they hurt. This woman is hurting and she is God's child. What is the response of the pro-life movement to her? You are evil? you are wrong? Go ahead but we will never let you forget about this? You've let us down? Or should it be, "We understand your pain, we respect your decision and we will be there for you regardless of what you decide"?

I don't know if the pro-life movment was ever on track. I was a serious part of it at one time. But it certainly has lost its way. Until it remembers that the point of all we do as Christians and humans is "people" and not "issues" it'll keep wandering, lost.

End Times

The Rapture Index is at 151, That is the "fasten your seat belt" mode, "heavy prophetic activity." It is no where near its all time high but it is hovering at 2005 high levels. However there have been drops because "liberalism (a precursor to the anti-Christ) is taking a beating" and Walmart's plans for a universal barcode are facing setbacks. The barcodes are precursors to the Mark of the Beast.

I saw Jack Van Impe on TBN last night and he was really going on and on about this EU thing and that everything is falling place for the Anti-Christ as the EU is set to become the final empire of Daniel 7.

Well there you have it. I'm not sure what we should do though. I think the Rapture Index people have it wrong. They give the impression that the higher the index gets, the nearer the Rapture, but we know from Scripture that it'll be at a time when no one is expecting and people will be at "rest" and there's seeming peace. So I think we should be concerned when the index starts plummeting.

For those of us who will be left behind, I am concerned that there may not be enough literature and instructions for us as to what to do. I'm also very concerned about the problem of unmanned vehicles, including planes and trains at the moment of the rapture.

But there is hope. Check out Revelations 13:4

4: And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

That'll be a dead give away, when those of us who are left behind start singing, "Who is like unto the beast." But what if it is in another language and we don't realize it? I hope those who are saved leave us different possible translations of that song just so we know. I do wonder, though, what the melody would be like. I think it'd go well with a melody like "O Tannebaum" but the "hark the Herald" Melody seems like a winner. I think it'll be a Christmas type melody that'd make it seem benign.

Anyway, these are rough times for those of us who will be left behind. We just have to keep watching that index and wait for stuff to happen. May God have mercy on our souls.

Via Praktike's Place

Monday, February 21, 2005

Blockbuster No Late Fees Sham Scam

By now, you have no doubt heard of Blockbuster's No Late Fees promotion. They have these huges signs proclaiming "No Late Fees." Also, they have these glorious TV spots showing the demise of late fees. But what's really going on here?

I rented two movies recently. Of course at the check out I was told, "These movies are due back _____, it's okay if you need an extra day or two." Well, forget you and your "extra day or two." There are no late fees and I'll damn well return these movies when I'm done with them.

Well, seven days after the due date, I got the second of two automated calls saying that if the movie was not returned by the next day, I would have to buy the movie less the movie rental price! I said to myself, "Self, you heard that wrong." But then I watched a local reporter, Liz Crenshaw do an expose of Blockbuster. She took hidden cameras into four different Blockbusters and only at one place did they make it clear that after seven days, your credit card is charged the selling price less rental for the movie. If the movie is returned after the credit card has been charged, they'll refund the charge for up to a month, less the stocking fee. After a month, you are SOL. (Oh, I think after the credit card charge, you only get refunded if you physically take the movie into the store to return it, dropping it in the bin will not work.)

How dishonest is that? All they are doing is giving 7 extra days and then an even larger fee than their previous late fees. I think it is time to consider Netflicks.

I've Recently Been Inspired to

write a short non-fiction book. I have a few non-fiction projects on the back burner and there they'll stay because dissertation is the priority. But in the past couple of days, I've feel a push to pen something real quick on thanksgiving.

The issue of thanksgiving is interesting. Thanksgiving is and should be an essential part of the Christian life. One problem is that we are conditioned to think of thanksgiving as a response to a favorable action by someone else. But not only favorable, it has to be satisfactory or we have to see a certain threshhold of effort in order to show and express gratitude. This is a problem because for the things that God does for us, we see them as easy for Him, or we don't even pay attention to them and thus fail to give him thanks when we should.

It sort of like when you eat a good dish the first time, you'll rate it a ten, but if you eat that same meal repeatedly over time, your rating for that same meal diminishes, because its excellence gradually becomes the new standard or average. Same thing with God. In spite of the myriad of things God does for us, we tend to forget or let them drift into the background and then expect these things done without the requisite gratitude. This is why, then, we encounter difficulties, because they snap us back into reality and we can refocus on the things that God has done for us which we have taken for granted.

When does it become a private matter?

In the past couple of days, I have stumbled on a debate that's been raging(?) on St blogs about this lady blogger who is inducing early because her unborn 5 month old has been said to be un-viable outside the womb. I'm simplifying here.

What I find troubling is that she has made her decision to go ahead and induce and it would seem to me appropriate that at this point, everyone should melt away and let her, her family and friends, deal with this issue privately. I understand that there are those who want to make their point that they think she is wrong or that they want to make plain that the Church's position does not support her actions. Point taken, but not now.

Again, with this whole pro-life v pro-choice thing, it often comes down to issues versus people. Those of us who are pro-choice have reconciled with the fact that regardless of your broad principles, when it comes down to it, you are dealing individual human beings and it is a little more complex that a boiler plate solution.

I hope this all dies down soon and this lady does not have to read around Catholic blogsphere how she went against the Church, etc. There are times that we simply have to make peace with other people's decision and then respect and pray for them.

The Pro-life Movement is a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Republican Party

I have always maintain and continue to do so, that the Pro-life movement is simply about the Republican Party and not about life issues. Here's a post on Amy Welborn's site. Basically, the sham connundrum is whether to support Santorum, Republican or Casey Jr, Democrat in the upcoming PA Senate race.

I wish the Pro-life movement would come clean, they're really about putting Republicans in power, not about "life" issues. When a Pro-choice Democrats runs, s/he is the Devil incarnate. When it is a "Pro-life" Democrat, s/he is Judas Iscariot.

Let me predict what'll happen, conservative Catholics will pretend to "objectively" consider the pros and cons of either candidate, but at the end of the day, "Oh, we'll just stick with our Party." The truth is that it is not about life issues but about Party platform.

So, if you want smart, effective, effecient and compassionate government, you pick the Democrats.

If you want hypocrites, liars, fiscally irresponsible stewards, the destruction of social security, unfunding of education, tax cuts for the wealthy, increased environmental polution, increased poverty, evaporating health insurance coverage, economic mismanagement, and a legacy of torture, unjust wars, emasculated international cooperation that will distabilize the world, then you are ripe for the Republican Party.

As Joshua said, "Choose ye this day, whom ye shall serve, as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord [who is a Democrat]."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Biggest Night of Sci Fi Ever

Stargate SC-1
Stargate Atlantis
Battlestar Galactica


This had to be one of the funniest episodes ever. It was about a barber who bought a strange looking rock at a garage sale six years ago and then began to have visions of the SG-1 operation. He began to tell these "stories" to his family and friends and eventually everyone thought he was nuts and his life was destroyed. But, of course, it was all true.

One clever part of the episode was that this guy had mailed these stories to hundreds of magazines and publishers but they were all rejected. However, someone stole his idea and create a sci fi show called "Worm Hole Extreme" which the writers presented as a spoof of SG-1. So in the episode there is such a show, of course they have no idea that they are based on a reality. Therein lies the joke, the current SG-1 is a stolen idea and mimicry of a real stargate situation in the United States and as we live, eat and breathe, Annubis and his Jafar and gouaould are battling stargate in Antarctica to save the planet.

It was SG-1 taking itself lightly and mocking the whole thing. The guy represented us fans who take Stargate a touch too seriously. I think I can related. I tried to explain the difference between the gouaould and the jafar to my wife and it was like pulling teeth. Who wouldn't want to know the difference between the Jafar and the gouaould?

Our first movie date experience was the original Stargate movie. I thought I was all cool and displaying my breadth of movie tastes but selecting intelligent science fiction. Oh well, it was through a friend of hers that I found out that she wasn't with it. I think it was Kurt Russell and James Spader. But she's come around and will watch SG-1 with me.

Stargate Atlantis. This show is still hit or miss with me. I think I like the basic characters now, so I'll keep watching. Last week was a good one, where they met up with one of the venerated ancients. This week they find a 10,000 year old woman frozen in a stasis chamber as they explore Atlantis. It turns out that this woman is Dr Weir, who is the leader of the expedition. Yep, you guessed it. Time travel. So she had been transported back in time, the first time around and she met up with the Ancients and was able to program things in Atlantis so that when the expedition came from earth this time, things would work out better. So of course, there were two Dr. Wiers talking to each other.

It was an okay episode. They acted like they'd never heard of time travel before. Come on people, you are in a sci fi show! I certainly got my fill of time travel loops in Star Trek Voyager and they handled them pretty well I thought. I think SG Atlantis did not quite do anything unique with the time travel thing. I understand that time travel is all played out, but there are things that can be done. I recall once that SG-1 had a time travel thing where there were two Samanthas and they had a newish spin on it, I was quite impressed. There was another pretty funny episode where Col. O'Neill and Teal'c were trapped in a time loop and it work out quite well. I appreciate the difficulty of time travel scripts because I am writing a sci fi novel with time travel and there's the exasperation of "it's-all-been-done-before!"

One thing that both SG-1 and Atlantis have succeeded in doing is to establish an enemy that strikes fear in the heart of views, much like the borg did until Janeway began to kick their butts left, right and center. Annubis, the Jafar and the Gouaould and now the replicators(?) for Sg-1 and then for Atlantis, the arch foe is a race called the Wraith. They are ugly, with sharp teeth and voracious appetite. The like to eat humans and other species.

Battlestar Gallactica. Good stuff. My only problem is that they are oversexing the show. They are going to risque and for no reason. Their audience is already hooked. Anyway, summary, the cylons are making progress, nuff said. My thing was that Dr scientist guy was accused of treason, but then exonerated, however, he is treasonous, so stay tuned. Oh, and the oriental lady may have been exposed for the cylon that she is. That's a development to watch.

Star Trek Enterprise is being or has been cancelled. Good move. The show was atrociouis. I watched two episodes, took an asprin and said, "never again." So the grade is as follows.

Star Trek Original A+ (You can't beat the original)
Star Trek Next Generation A (Performed very ably)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine C (Stupid)
Star Trek Voyager A- (Good show, good characters, captured the spirit)
Star Trek Enterprise i=square root of -1, the badness is of the charts, we have to use an imaginary number to indicate its worth

So what next in the Star Trek saga? I can't imagine

BTW, whatever happened to Earth Final Conflict? I tried to keep up with the show but they kept changing the times.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Undue notions of self-importance

“There exists a great deal of infirmity and foolishness even in the better sort of men. This is not to be wondered at, considering the original corrupt state of their nature, however it is to be deplored, repented of, and corrected. Good men are, like Elijah, ‘jealous for the Lord God of hosts,’ and rightly solicitous to see His tokens around them, the pledges of His unchangeable just government; but then they mix with such great feeling undue notions of self-importance, of which they are not aware."

John Henry Newman

Judah Ben Hur, Let Me Die!

"We keep you alive to serve this ship, so row well and live."

This is from Ben Hur when the centurion on the boat that Ben Hur was a galley slave on, sunk and both men were marooned on a raft and thought the Romans had lost the battle. The centurion then sought to take his life, but Ben Hur stopped him.

I watched ER on Thursday and it was about a 35 year old woman who had a stroke and part of the show was from her perspective and thoughts. Halfway through the show it occured to me that there was a Terri Schaivo element to the show. Her stroke was caused by a brain blood clot and there was a risky proceedure that could reverse the stroke by removing the clot. At one point the doctors were talking to her husband about the options, they could either do this proceedure with its major life-threatening risks or they could leave her as is. To leave her in her state, she could live indefinitely.

As they related the choices to her, in her mind she screamed repeatedly "I consent! I consent!" (to the risky proceedure) and also that she did not want to live like this. Eventually her husband agreed and the surgery was succesfully done. Ah, nothing like a neat end to a TV one hour show.

I have avoided the Terri Schaivo issue like the plague because I've found the politicization of the entire issue sickening. However, the one thing that has gotten under my skin more than anything has been the demonization of Terri Schaivo's husband. He has been portrayed as someone who wants to pull the plug so that he can get on with his life and new woman. I find that characterization just plain cruel.

Husband v parents on this issue is as difficult as it gets and it will happen that there will be disagreements like these. Which is why the one lesson here is that we all need to have living wills or give explicit directions for what you want done. I have absolutely no interest in hanging around. I've told my wife that as soon as she feels she can let go, let me go.

Unlike most Catholics I have no blanket opposition to euthanasia. I think its fine if not abused. For me, death is very much a part of life. We have to move away from this notion that death must be avoided at all cost, or that embrace of death is anti-life. We live to die. Every second draws us closer to our death. Death is a tragic separation and rupture in the context of our present lives, but the power of Christianity and religion is that our horizons are opened and we know that death is not the last word. Overcoming our existential angst about death i think is crucial for us as a society. Death really isn't an end, but a beginning. This doesn't take away the pain of death, but it is rather hope that gives death meaning. Remember, Paul in 1 corinthians 15 chastizes the Corinthians for forgetting about the power of the resurrection and the hope it brings.

When it is time to die, it is time. We can extend living, but embracing the event of death is just as natural. Not knowing much at all about the Terri Schaivo case, i come down on the side that if she had expressed a desire to be let go prior to her condition, then let her go. There is a "natural" (loose usage) end to life and that has to be respected. I've worked as a nurses aide before and watched many people die. I've seen them gradually stop eating and then slowly lose consciousness and then in time, they pass. It was always sad, always so final, but you knew that it is the moment spoken of in Qoheleth 12:6,7:

6: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
7: Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

But it is not the final word as Job says, "I know that my redeemer liveth and he shall stand at a latter day upon this earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." We will all rise again and all quibbling in this time will look petty in the face of risen eternity. I should say that my view of life and death is very much influenced by the book of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) which I read over and over and over again as a young teenager. I was fascinated by its stark realism and the seeming vanity of life. But as fascinated as I was by this book, I was equally enthralled by 1 corinthians 15 and the book of Revelations and the angels of God of whom we are told that we shall be like.

Respeting life is not about extending physical functions, but about respecting the person.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Campaign is in full swing

Papal wannabe, Cardinal Arinze: Pro-abortion politicians should be refused communion.

Vatican Cardinal Ends Debate: No Communion for Pro-Abortion Politicians or Rainbow Sashers
Says "Are we going to change Divine Law, how God made us?"
VATICAN CITY, February 16, 2005 ( – Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, the top Vatican Cardinal in charge of the sacraments of the Catholic Church has made it plain in an on-camera interview with EWTN that pro-abortion politicians may not be admitted to Holy Communion.

A February 11 EWTN broadcast of the news program, World Over Live, with host Raymond Arroyo, featured an interview with Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The interview covered a wide range of topics, including female altar servers, Latin in the Mass, abortion and the rainbow sash movement.

Arroyo questioned the Vatican Cardinal saying: “Last year, you were asked at a press conference whether a politician, a Catholic politician who supports abortion publicly should be permitted to the Communion rail, should be permitted to receive Communion publicly. What is your response to that?”

Cardinal Arinze responded, “The answer is clear. If a person says I am in favour of killing unborn babies whether they be four thousand or five thousand, I have been in favour of killing them. I will be in favour of killing them tomorrow and next week and next year. So, unborn babies, too bad for you. I am in favour that you should be killed, then the person turn around and say I want to receive Holy Communion. Do you need any Cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?

Laughing, Arroyo responded, “It should be pretty transparent.” To which the Cardinal concluded, “Simple, ask the children for First Communion, they'll give you the answer.”

Similarly, Cardinal Arinze ruled out Communion for homosexual activists.

Arroyo noted that while some US bishops have refused Communion to Rainbow Sash activists, others such as Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis - St. Paul have not. Flynn, after meeting with Cardinal Arinze in Rome recently, suggested that the Cardinal was open to allowing communion for Rainbow Sash activists.

Arroyo first confirmed the meeting with Archbishop Flynn took place. “Did such a conversation take place between you and this archbishop?,” asked Arroyo, to which Cardinal Arinze responded, “Yes.”

Arroyo followed with “And were you open to allowing this group to receive Communion as he inferred in some of the newspapers.”

The Vatican Cardinal responded, “No, no. You see, let's get it clear. These rainbow sash people, are they really saying we are homosexuals, we intend to remain so and we want to receive Holy Communion. The question arises; take the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It says it is not condemning a person for having homosexual tendency. We don't condemn anybody for that. But a person stands condemned for acting on it.”

On homosexuality the Cardinal was clear. “The Catholic Church has never accepted homosexuality as normal. You read the scripture. It's very clear. What exactly are we examining? Are we going to change Divine Law, how God made us?”

He made a distinction between active homosexuals and those with homosexual tendencies. “Quite another matter if a person had just the tendencies and is making (an) effort to live the Divine Law, then that's fine. So, we respect persons but be clear on the truth,” he said.

With all due respect, His Eminence is full of crap.

For someone in his position to say, Cardinal Arinze responded, “The answer is clear. If a person says I am in favour of killing unborn babies whether they be four thousand or five thousand, I have been in favour of killing them. I will be in favour of killing them tomorrow and next week and next year. So, unborn babies, too bad for you. I am in favour that you should be killed, then the person turn around and say I want to receive Holy Communion. Do you need any Cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?

He is either extremely dishonest or an idiot.

What is meant by faith?

"It is to feel in good earnest that we are creatures of God; it is a practical perception of the unseen world; it is to understand that this world is not enough for our happiness, to look beyond it on towards God, to realize His presence, to wait upon Him, to endeavour to learn and to do His will, and to seek our good from Him. It is not a mere temporary strong act or impetuous feeling of the mind, an impression of a view coming upon it, but it is a habit, a state of mind, lasting and consistent. To have faith in God is to surrender one’s self to God, humbly to put one’s interest, or to wish to be allowed to put them into His hands who is the Sovereign Giver of all good."

John Henry Newman

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Expanding Horizons

BTW "Horizons" is one of those dream scrabble words that you want to get on a tripple word score and get the "H" on the double letter score to the left. H=4 and z=10, so that's 24 x 3=72 + 50 (for using all 7 letters)=122 (Wow! In my dreams).

Most bizzare out-of-the-blue scrabble word I heard off was "Atalaya." Now that's skill. 4 A's is a killer, but to transform that hand in to a seven letter premium is simply genius.

Anyway, the "expanding horizons" refers to my blogging experience in the past month. Ever since Nathan of Fides, Spes, Caritas started the Alliance of Progressive and Moderate Blogs, I've ventured out of my usual blogging circles and have been very pleased to discover a lot of very interesting Christian blogs. It's been an eye-opening, horizon-expanding, (enter your cliche here), experience.

I am particularly fascinated by the preachers and their discussion of preparing and delivering their sermons. It is refreshing to get away from the stilted Catholic environment where preaching has been relegated to a function of the hierarchy independent of the promptings of the Holy Spirit and as a tool of dogmatic conformity. I did some, not much, preaching back in my day as a minister, and it was a different dynamic than what I am seeing on the web. It usually occured during evening service and often it was impromptu, so there wasn't time for the detailed preparation that you see in the traditional setting.

A quick aside. In Black churches, the reason why preachers and musicians flourish is because the Church is a safe haven and youngsters and the inexperienced are encouraged to dabble during services. Usually an established minister or pastor would preach in the morning, but during other services, especially evening services, there was plenty of opportunity for preachers and musicians to try and fail and learn. This is inconceivable in the Catholic setting and many traditional settings. Most Black musicians who started in Church did not start out perfect. They got up and fumbled around with the encouragement of everyone until they became proficient. Anyway . . .

Visiting other Christian sites beyond my regular circuit has been great especially just knowing that there are quite a few progressive Christian blogs out there. That's defintely worth the price of admission.

Morality Matrix Test: My Results

Via Bene Diction. I took the morality matrix test and here are my results:


Your Score

Your scored -1 on the Moral Order axis and 1.5 on the Moral Rules axis.


The following items best match your score:

System: Socialism
Variation: Moderate Socialism
Ideologies: Social Democratism
US Parties: No match.
Presidents: Jimmy Carter (85.18%)
2004 Election Candidates: John Kerry (82.18%), Ralph Nader (77.79%), George W. Bush (60.91%)

Of the 34925 people who took the test:

0.9% had the same score as you.
22.7% were above you on the chart.
70.1% were below you on the chart.
40.1% were to your right on the chart.
52.2% were to your left on the chart.

Distribution for the United States

Distribution for United States

The chart on the right shows the distribution for all respondents for that country only. For a list of all countries, see below. Of the 25,367 respondents:

20.94% preferred Socialism.
4.48% preferred Authoritarianism.
23.55% preferred Conservatism.
29.41% preferred Liberalism.
21.61% straddled multiple political systems.

The average score (red bar) was in the Capital Democratism ideology(ies).

Moral Order: -0.83
Moral Rules: -1.53
Most Popular

The most popular short test score (green bar) was in the Capital Democratism ideology(ies).

Moral Order: -2
Moral Rules: -2

The most popular long test score (grey bar) was in the Social Democratism, Social Republicanism, Capital Republicanism, Capital Democratism ideology(ies).

Moral Order: 0
Moral Rules: 0

Private Drug Use Okay But Not in This Case

So says Andrew Sullivan:

As many of you know, I'm a libertarian when it comes to recreational drug use (and what consenting adults do in private). But I draw the line at this drug [crystal meth]. It's evil, potent beyond belief, it's destroying people's minds, careers, lives and souls.

Talk about not making any sense. Why draw the line at this drug and not others? Because it is public health risk? Even the phrase "recreational" drug use never quite made sense to me. I remember being at the doctor's office and a med student/intern (whatever) was asking questions and she asked, "Have you used any drugs recently?" The doctor walked in as she asked and he laughed. He said, "Let me rephrase that, have you used any recreational drugs lately?"

Maybe someday, I'll eat my words, or maybe this issue requires more thought than I am prepared to give it, but the suggestion that mind or state altering drugs can and should be recreational is bothersome to say the least. We need a different frame for the issue. How about "destructive mind altering substances"?

Again, I haven't given the issue of drug use much thought because I'm against it, pot and all. However, I simply speak in reference to our society. I am aware that in times past, in different places, at various and sundry seasons, drugs have been used in relgious ceremonies and for various other purposes. Nonetheless, in those cases, they serve a function beyond simple recreation. Medical marijuana? Yeah, sure, go for it! Recreational marijuana? No, not a good thing for people and society. (Please don't email me about pot, I don't know what I am talking about and do not wish to know. I am happy in my ignorance of its blissfulness.)