Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nothing is Real...Insemination Rules Will Be Eased

     A front-page article in today's Davis Enterprise via the San Francisco Chronicle celebrates a new law that takes effect here in California on Tuesday:
     "That’s when a new law will take effect, making fertility services more accessible for Californians seeking to start a family through nontraditional means. Among those it will help are same-sex female couples, low-income women and single women.
     “It removes a lot of barriers so women can become pregnant using the sperm of the donor of their choice,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who introduced the legislation. It was co-sponsored by Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
     "The current law is designed to protect women without a traditional male partner from unknowingly ending up with a sexually transmitted disease by using, for example, a friend’s sperm and a turkey baster."
     Yet the 'couple' interviewed find this current law, that aims to give them at least some minimal common sense protection, to be "too costly and time-consuming."
     No, I'm not making this up--read it here!

 Let me take you down 
 ‘Cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields 
 Nothing is real  
And nothing to get hung about  
Strawberry Fields forever
Always, no sometimes, think it's me 
But you know I know when it's a dream  
I think I know I mean a yes 
But it's all wrong 
That is I think I disagree...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

How Do You Spell "Theodicy?"

    Saints, Martyrs, and murders in cathedrals are one thing, children are another.
     While he's lacking in "catholicity," Greg Boyd makes up for it, in my estimation, with his teaching abilities--specifically, with his explication of suffering by setting it in the context of spiritual warfare.  No matter how much I adore the Eucharist/Liturgy, and trust the Lord, the suffering of children needs an explanation, be it a tragedy from massacre, disease, tsunami, famine, etc.

     Here is an excerpt from the recent blog article by Boyd, "Grieving with the God who Pulled the Trigger":

     Lawrence Krause recently wrote a thought-provoking, soul-searching essay for "CNN Opinion" entitled, “Why must a nation grieve with God?” Krauss was disturbed by a comment made by President Obama at a memorial service for the victims of the tragedy at Newtown CT.  Commenting on Jesus’ statement to “Let the little children come to me,” Obama opined:  “God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on.”  Obama’s heart was certainly in the right place. But I confess I am sympathetic to Krauss’ discomfort with them. He wonders why it seems to be…
…a natural expectation that any such national tragedy will be accompanied by prayers, including from the president, to at least one version of the very God, who apparently in his infinite wisdom, decided to call 20 children between the age of 6 and 7 home by having them slaughtered by a deranged gunman in a school…?
      It’s a very good question! Unlike Krause, I am certainly not bothered by the impulse to turn to God in the face of tragedy. I rather believe calling on God in the face of tragedy is both natural and beneficial. But I am at least as nonplussed as Krauss as to why it is that people almost always turn to “at least one version” of a deity who was complicit in the very tragedy people are seeking solace for? The assumption that God is somehow behind such tragedies, carrying out his glorious divine plans, pervades not only church culture, but American culture, as is evidenced by the multitude of clich├ęs that people – including our president – utter in response to such tragedies. “God took them home.” “God is still on his throne.” “God’s time is always the right time.” “God’s ways are mysterious.”
     God’s ways may be “mysterious,” Krauss says, but, he adds, “for many people, to suggest there might be an intelligent deity who could rationally act in such a fashion and that that deity is worth praying to and thanking for ‘calling them home’ seems beyond the pale.” I could not agree more.

Read more here. And feel free to share other resources you think I should study.  I'm interested!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Recommendation: BET THE FARM: How Food Stopped Being Food

     Did you know that there is enough food in the world right now to feed at least 11 billion people, yet 1 billion people of the world's nearly 7 billion regularly go hungry?  17 million American families do not have enough to eat, but the rest of the nation remains unaware.  Actually, as documented in the book, our military and the CIA know all about the power of food and the effects of hunger, both at home and abroad!
     Bet the Farm is an excellent investigation into the complicated territory of food and world hunger. Beginning with a simple question—“Why can’t inexpensive, healthy, and delicious food be available to everyone?”--Frederick Kaufman journeys through the $36 billion per year pizza industry, and then into tomato fields, biotech labs, United Nations conference rooms, and commodities exchanges.  He discovers that while we produce enough food to feed nearly twice the world's population, it's priced too high for the world's poorest 1 billion people. The global food crisis can only be solved, according to Kaufman, if we get the bankers out of the system and begin to regulate the $648 trillion global-derivatives business that has made food into a speculative commodity.  (Yes, that figure is correct!)
    The chapter "Let Them Eat Cash," in which Kaufman exposes the fallacies of the World Food Program to Bill Gates in front of the Rome Hunger Conference in 2008, is alone worth the price of the book.  Food has long been used as a weapon of the powerful; now it's a financial toy as well.
     An excellent review and interview with Kaufman by Harper's can be found here.  I also posted an RT News interview with Kaufman in the preceding post.

Conversations with Great Minds - Frederick Kaufman - How Food Stopped Be...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Birth of Jesus as Told by the People of Modern Bethlehem

     Father David Chislett posted this video at his wonderful site, "Streams of the River",  a welcome antidote to the superficial consumerism of "the holiday season."  Guaranteed to get you thinking about the real Christmas spirit!  Please click here to enjoy it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oh Good, We Can Change Now Because the President Says So

"Main Street U.S.A.: The Problem of Evil":     

     "Could it not be – maybe?  conceivably?  – that politics and consolatory speeches and  clever laws need a foundation of realism, one which acknowledges human affairs as the huge mess they are: too big, too inexplicable for the combined power of President and Congress to 'change'
     "Just a few days lie between us and Christmas.  It was around this time, we hear, that the Son of God came to our rescue – not to perfect everything at that precise moment but to invite repentance and amendment of life, before offering his own life as a sacrifice.   Don’t believe a word of it?   The alternative is to believe another act of Congress will  bring us finally to that gun-controlled paradise where the evil, the murderous, and the frankly loony embrace the pure of heart.  It might happen in Heaven.  I wouldn’t count too much on watching as politicians throw open the gates."

 From an insightful article by William Murchison at "The Imaginative Conservative."  Read the entire article here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NDAA: Indefinite Detention of Anyone Reauthorized

     For anyone still doubting that the National Defense Authorization Act's indefinite detention without a trial clause applies to American citizens, watch here as Senator McCain flat out admits it.  By the time you read this, both houses of Congress will have voted to accept a closed door conference committee's recommendation to reinstate the indefinite detention clause in the NDAA.  Senator McCain proudly emphasizes  the word "anyone" in his statement.  The mainstream media is, of course, still focused elsewhere.
     The Bill of Rights is now a threat to American lives, it seems: Senator Paul and Senator McCain on indefinite detention or  here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named"

     Much like characters in the Harry Potter books who are so terrified of the arch-villain Voldemort that they can't even speak his name and instead reference him only in whispers as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," most Christian writers that I've been able to find in the blogosphere mirror the secular media in their complete avoidance of the word "evil" when writing about the Newtown massacre.  References to a supposedly miraculous political solution--gun control--are ubiquitous, along with the nearly universal assumption that mental illness was a dominant factor. How disappointing!
     Typically, everything with an Episcopalian label offers knee-jerk political action committee speeches, while the Orthodox seem to remain generally aloof. [Update: I did find one very good article from the Episcopal/Anglican world: John Richardson's "Confusion and Misplaced Blame Regarding Connecticut"]
     Meanwhile, information from a retired FBI-profiler at the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, Mary Ellen O'Toole, completely debunks the theory that the killer "just snapped;" in fact, he actually had "a high measure of control."  From hoarding ammunition to preloading the ammunition clips to sabotaging his computers to choosing victims least able to resist, his actions demonstrate that he was on a mission: "He wanted to accomplish maximum lethality."
      "It's time we stop putting out the mental health issue as an excuse that he didn't know what he was doing," she said.  See that article here.
     So which Christian sites have I found willing to name Voldemort?  Father Dwight Longenecker got off to a good start with "Where Was God at Sandy Hook?" , but he immediately dropped the subject and returned to safer scholastic subjects. Michael Brown's compelling article, "The Newton Massacre and the Pain of God" bravely addresses evil.  I  most highly recommend Greg Boyd's "When Free Will Meets Unfathomable Evil."  I don't agree with everything Dr. Boyd says or writes, but no one else faces the terror of our predicament in this fallen world with such honesty. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict

     Greg Boyd (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) is an Evangelical pastor and a proponent of "Open Theism."  Hardly an advocate of catholicity, I know, yet I'm drawn again to his book, God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict due to the most recent school massacre.
     I found his work when my youngest child, Della, was struck with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 14. Our interest in alternative medicine also began then, as the pediatric oncologists and surgeons nearly killed her twice. They were more of an immediate threat to her life than the cancer. Later, holistic alternative practitioners cured her in six weeks.
     Faced with this catastrophe, the first thing I needed to know was why a 'good' God could let such a thing happen to my daughter and to the many other children we met in pediatric oncology on the 7th floor at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.  I can testify that the most infuriating and insufferable thing a parent can hear is that the pain and suffering of your child is part of the mysterious "good" purposes of God.  Anyone who believes such a thing has lost all credibility with me.
     Boyd's work explains that the Bible from beginning to end presupposes spiritual beings who exist "between" humanity and God and whose behavior significantly affects human existence, for better or worse.  We are in the middle of a cosmic battle taking place primarily behind the scenes of physical reality.  Transcendent angelic beings can and do choose to disrupt God's plans.  This situation sounds incredibly bizarre to modern people, but after seeing the horrors of children afflicted with cancer, or hearing now of the Newton massacre, I find that it's the only explanation that can let me believe in a loving God.  Not every evil visited upon innocents is God's will, but God, with the angels and saints, works to bring some good out of everything.
   God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict


Quick Review: "The Hobbit" movie = Boring!!!

     My children went to a late morning showing of the "The Hobbit" movie today with a group of friends.  They all came over afterwards, clearly depressed.  "Nothing in it touched the heart," my youngest (17 yrs.) opined.  "You don't care if the dwarfs get their home back or not," said a friend.  Martin Freeman did a good job, they all agreed, but the three hour movie simply dragged on and on...
     Guess I'll wait for the DVD to rent.  Too bad!

P.S. I forgot, they said that there were so many graphic commercials before the movie for violent video games that one kid got so nauseous he almost left for the bathroom. See my previous post!

People Are Horrified by Real Violence While Drowning Their Children in Simulated Violence

     Many people complain about violence in our culture, as well as the test scores at our public schools (yes, the two are related), and then let their children have unlimited access to first-person shooter games like "Halo,"  "Call of Duty: Black Ops," etc. in which the goal and the fun are to make as many gory kills as you can!  I challenge you to volunteer at your local public school and watch the sociopathic behaviors for yourself.  Not up for that?  At least read this article by Mike Adams at "Natural News" and watch the trailer for one of the many new video games parents will buy/have bought their children for Christmas...and birthdays...or just to keep them out of their hair.  Also, research "Halo" (from the company of Mr. Education Reformer himself, Bill Gates) and "Black Ops."  See what you find on YouTube.  Start here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Video of Metropolitan Anthony Teaching on Prayer



     From "Streams of the River" blog, another important site I've found courtesy of Ms. Linsley at "Just Genesis", this video of  Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Ireland is slightly over an hour long.  For me, his "presence" is just as affecting, if not more so, than his words, and his words are brilliant.  As I watch the video, I get a great sense of peace, comfort, and strength from the man himself, even while sometimes forgetting exactly what he is talking about.  Although much of his message is about how we are all equally loved by God, I think he provides evidence that some spirits are nearer to God than others...very wonderful and very humbling.  Please click here to watch this video.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dr. Gary Null's Letter to Dr. Oz

"...This was unexpected as a person with your reputation and resources could easily have found the several hundred to several thousand peer-reviewed articles highlighting the dangers of consuming pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and genetically engineered foods, especially to those people most vulnerable to chemical toxicity or environmentally-induced illnesses, such as children. Also, you could have examined the 40 years of scientific and lay literature on the plight of farm workers who experienced the highest incidence of birth defects and other adverse health consequences as a result of working with toxins in the soil as well as the hundreds of studies confirming the damaging effects of modern commercial meat, poultry and fish production on our health the environment."  Read the entire letter here. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Landfill Harmonic

     A town on a landfill in Paraguay uses trash to build musical instruments!  I first heard of "Landfill Harmonic" through my cousin Julie's website, "Music Moves Mountains," which focuses on music therapy for autism, and just now saw it mentioned by Fr. Stephan on his blog, "Glory to God for All Things."  Thank you Ms. Linsley at "Just Genesis" for leading me to Fr. Stephan's blog.
     My words won't do these people justice; you simply have to see this video: "Landfill Harmonic," or a slighter longer version with more background here.

 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Knight of Middle Earth

     CERC has posted an article from "Columbia" magazine by Stratford Caldecott, "The Knight of Middle Earth," about Christian themes in J.R.R. Tolkien's writings.  The post coincides with the release of the film adaptation of Tolkien's "The Hobbit."  Keeping nicely with the theme of my previous post regarding a Gospel that takes evil seriously, Caldecott points out the many Christian themes in this action-adventure story.  Here are some excerpts:
     An important part of Catholic wisdom is the ethical tradition that rests on the natural laws of our nature, made in the image of God.  This tradition could be called "nobility of soul" or "spiritual chivalry."  We see both in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a learning process that Tolkien called "the ennoblement (or sanctification) of the humble," which he believed was an important theme of his writing as a whole.  In both novels, the hobbit heroes (Bilbo in the one, Frodo and Sam and their friends in the other) are lifted from the narrow, comfortable world of the Shire into a much vaster landscape to play key roles in battles that decide the fate of Middle-earth.  This was a process that Tolkien observed among the soldiers he fought beside in the Battle of the Somme, in the First World War...
     It is with these virtues that we are equipped to defend the truly important things, the little things, the domestic world of the free family, and the love that binds people together in fellowship...
      Aragorn exemplifies all of these virtues in the highest degree, but we see them develop in the hobbits, too, as they learn to submit to discipline and overcome their fear to achieve great deeds without hope of reward — just because it is the right thing to do.  This is Tolkien's challenge to us: to become, in our own way, the knights of Middle-earth.
Please read more here. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Dark Book for A Dark Universe

     Eureka!!! Finally, somebody has a clue!!!  The very reason I started this blog was because I couldn't find a church that would face the darkness and evil in the world.  In Touchstone Magazine's article, "Death of a Wild Thing: Russell D. Moore on Maurice Sendak & the Horror of a Domesticated Gospel" I've finally found someone who speaks to the concerns I've had for years now about American Christianity--in all denominations.  Here are some samples:
     It's one thing for psychiatrists to be fussy about such things, but I'm amazed when Christians are. Some wag their heads at books such as Wild Things. They complain about how "dark" books like these are. Of course they're "dark." Isn't that what the gospel is here to tell us? The universe is dark; dark enough to be overcome only by the Light of Galilee. Until we learn to communicate this to our children with winsomeness and gravity, Maurice Sendak will seem more realistic than Sunday school or catechism class.
      Too many of our Bible study and discipleship materials (whether for Baptist Vacation Bible School or Roman Catholic confirmation preparation or what have you) de-claw the Bible. They excise all the snakes and dragons and wildness. In so doing, they reduce the Bible to a set of ethical guidelines and a text on how gentle and kind Jesus is.
      The problem is, our kids know there are monsters out there. God put that awareness in them. They're looking for a sheep-herding dragon-slayer, for the One who can put all the wild things under his feet. Until we can address, with gospel honesty, what scares our children—and ourselves—we can never get to the joyous wild rumpus of gospel freedom.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Malala Yousafzai Inspires



I am a teacher at Natomas Middle School, an "inner-city" school in Sacramento, where I teach Literacy in mixed-grade classes to students who score below basic and far below basic on the state's standardized test, the CST.  Today we were reading a story about the women's suffrage movement in the U.S.; I explained that women in many places in the world at this very moment don't have what we consider to be basic rights, especially in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.  Surprisingly, or maybe it's not so surprising, my students had not heard about Malala Yousafzai.  Each Literacy class is a block of three periods; during lunch I asked a buddy who teaches social studies to help find resources about Malala.  He already had this link saved. As I did with my classes, I encourage you to take three minutes now to watch it, be inspired, and count your blessings!
Interviews with Malala from 2009 and 2011 here.   Other links are here, here, and here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dr. Oz Does a Flip-Flop for TIME Magazine

     Dr. Mehmet Oz, the man who until a few weeks ago, just before the November election, urged his "followers" to eat organic foods whenever possible, has now written a shameful editorial for TIME Magazine condemning organics.  (In fact, follow this link to watch a clip from his show as the flip-flopper promoted organics using random food tasters from his studio audience: here.) The Time article, instead of citing independent science, basically tells us to just shut up and eat our pesticides and GMOs.  The most telling statements Dr. Oz makes are:  "Organic food is great, it's just not very democratic," as if choosing organic is somehow an affront to America, and especially "You don't need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily," he says. In other words, keep sucking down more GMOs, pesticides, herbicides and chemicals, and you'll be a good little American food slave.
     Eat like the 1%?  How blatantly hypocritical can you get?  Please see my earlier posts "Organics for the Elite, GMOs for the Rest of Us" here and "Ann Romney Credits Organic Foods and Holistic Medicine for Her Recovery" here.
     Probably the best response that I've seen to the Oz article is from Charlotte Vallaeys at "The Cornucopia Institute."  Read it here.  It's articulate, well-reasoned and supported by evidence.  For example:

Of course, the scientific evidence has not changed since Dr. Oz told us to buy organic.  The study, for example, that showed statistically significant higher rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children with higher levels of dietary pesticide exposure has not disappeared, and is considered as scientifically sound and convincing today as it was when it was first published in 2010 and reported in media outlets including TIME.