Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Right vs. Left

Mark Steyn writes in The Corner on Nat'l. Review Online:
Right vs. Left

Driving, that is. Over in the Nordlingistan province of the NR caliphate, Jay writes:

Can I tell you something odd about St. Thomas? It’s in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the license plates say “America’s Paradise” — but they drive on the left side of the road. As it did not take me long to discover.

But that's only the half of it: Generally, countries that drive on the left (Britain) have right-hand drive vehicles, just as countries that drive on the right (America) have left-hand drive vehicles. St Thomas drives on the British side of the road but in American vehicles. Whose wacky idea was that? I only noticed when my taxi driver attempted to pass a school bus on a winding mountain road and pulled out with no clue what was oncoming. Fantastic! It's the nearest I've come to the old (and deplorably racist) joke about Ireland switching over to driving on the right but phasing it in initially with east-bound traffic only.

I'd always assumed driving on the right was some federal thing. But, if St Thomas can drive on the left, I might get it introduced in New Hampshire just to mess with Massachusetts heads.

Brings back memories of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"The War on Christmas"

As my long-suffering family knows, I have a perennial gripe about the secularization of Christmas - somewhat odd for a member of a church which does not formally acknowledge the Christmas holiday, the small-c church of Christ. (More on that below.)

Possibly the silliest politically-correct excision of Christ from Christmas of all time was the decision by my beloved Chicago city government (said with tongue planted firmly in cheek) to ban a loop from the movie "The Nativity Story" from being shown at the annual Christkindlmarket on the grounds that it might offend non-Christians. I guess these touchy folks were undeterred by the festival being named for the Christ child (in German, it's true, but the name is still kinda prominent there), and managed to swallow the life sized Nativity scene, but the movie was just too much.

My main complaint has been the lack of actual Christmas carols in the Christmas music/muzak tapes in stores and on the "Holiday Favorites" radio stations. One time I actually bothered to keep track for a while - I quit counting at 22 consecutive secular Christmas songs. I guess "Silent Night" was worn out from overuse while "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is still fresh and new?

Well, the worm may have turned. I have noticed a recent trend, or so it seems to me, back towards religious Christmas music and use of the word "Christmas". Last year the "Holiday Favorites" radio station included noticeably more carols in their rotation, including my favorite of all, "What Child Is This?", and it seems like the word Christmas is more prominent than it has been for some time in the stores -- I've seen signs for "Christmas" where in the past they had "Holiday" or "Seasonal".

About the church of Christ and religious holidays: the pattern for worship in the bible neither commands nor implies a special annual celebration of any of the events of Christ's life. This is significant in that the old law of Moses did have a roster of annual observances; it is therefore logical to believe that if the new pattern of worship instituted by Christ was to have annual observances, this would be specifically commanded. Another problem is that December 25th is not the date of Christ's birth, by all the evidence: the details of the story, with the flocks in the field, etc., seem to point to a date in March or April. In the case of Easter we do know the date is correct since Christ was crucified during the Passover; but in the church, Christ's crucifiction, burial, and resurrection is remembered every first day of the week, not especially at Easter.
Therefore, many members of the church are strange bedfellows with the secular PC crowd on keeping their "holiday" activities strictly non-religious.

Needless to say, I am not of the keep Christ out of Christmas crowd. I think since there is no prohibition on celebrating/remembering Jesus' birth outside of formal worship, then there is nothing wrong with it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Accurate Prediction

This analyst, Peter Schiff, was right on the money predicting the economic meltdown two years before the fact. Quite amazing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


My dad sent along a recommendation for this Cal Thomas essay (click here). Thomas's theme is one seen frequently, especially since the election, and I guess I would summarize it thus: "Christian conservatives, give it up. You tried to influence society through politics, and you failed. Acknowledge defeat and move on. Go back to church, practice what you preach, re-learn humility, and quit trying to impose your views on society; preach by example, and you will have much more success in winning converts to your point of view."

It is a powerful argument, and absolutely correct, as far as it goes. Far too many Christian conservatives have become enmeshed in the worldly struggle for political power and forgotten the example of Christ. I share Thomas's distaste for "radio and TV preachers and activists". I am in full agreement that "Scripture teaches that God’s power ... is made perfect in weakness. He speaks of the tiny mustard seed, the seemingly worthless widow’s mite, of taking the last place at the table and the humbling of one’s self, the washing of feet and similar acts and attitudes; the still, small voice."
I am as disgusted and appalled as anyone at marchers with signs reading "God Hates Fags" or scenes of screaming protesters verbally assaulting staff and patients at abortion clinics.

And yet I feel that Thomas and other commentators who take this line are fundamentally mistaken in a couple of important ways. In the first place, it is not an either/or situation: either try to influence society through political means or set an example by living out your Christian ideals. In logic, this is known as the fallacy of the false dichotomy. The two avenues of action are presented as being mutually exclusive, but they are not. Why may not I demonstrate love for my gay friends and yet oppose legalization of same-sex marriage? Is the only way to show love by acquiescing in sin? Scripture has a lot to say on that score, too. Christ's example was not just meekness. He never failed to call sin by its right name and He became very angry when, for instance, he saw the corruption of the money-changers in the temple.

But a bigger flaw in this argument is found in passages such as these:

"... sought moral improvement through legislation and court rulings ..."
"... relied mainly on political power to enforce ..."
"... trying to use government to ... transform culture ..."
"... mistake political power for influence ..."
"... imposing a moral code ... on others ..."

The common theme in these phrases is that evangelicals are engaged in attempting to force changes in morality on others by law. They imply an offensive effort to change what is in place, when in truth social conservatives are engaged in a defensive action to preserve understandings already codified in law and informed by 2000 years of Western civilization. Take marriage. Our language and structure of society are predicated on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage is the new thing that is being attempted to be foisted on the rest of us. Jerry Falwell did not come along in 1979 with a newly invented right to "opposite-sex marriage" and try to impose it on an unwilling public.

Liberalism is engaged in a constant struggle to tear down the institutions of society and replace them with new ones (a struggle which cannot ultimately be successful, since as soon as an institution becomes established, it too becomes a target). Very often this is a good thing. Where injustice and oppression have become insitutionalized, as with slavery, then it is right and good for those institutions to be torn down. And it is always good to maintain an open mind towards change and new solutions.

But not all established institutions are bad. The ill effects on society of the erosion of traditional concepts of marriage and the family are plain to see all around in the high dropout rates and crime rates among the underclass where two-parent families are almost non-existent.

The founders of our nation devised a political system in which changes and ideas could be debated and tried out without destroying the fabric of society. Not even the Civil War, a time of far greater partisan division than today, could ultimately bring down the Constitution. The legislatures, executive offices, and courts are where the structure and shape of our society are formed. Conservative Christian ideals have every bit as much of a place in that process as any others. We should not unilaterally withdraw from participation just because we don't always prevail.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Three Forms of Leftist Religion

The secular left disdains the "superstition" of organized religion, yet there is a powerful human drive for religious observations. So they have replaced traditional religion with some new forms of their own. For example:

1. Evangelical Atheism --
Objects of Worship: Random Mutation and Natural Selection, the twin gods of creation
Sacred texts: On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
Prophet: Charles Darwin
Saints: John Scopes, Stephen Gould
High priests: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, Sam Harris.
Holy relics: Bones of Australopithecus afarensis
Rites: Setting up and knocking down straw men, branding believers child abusers, competing to produce the most profane and juvenile mockery of religion.
A strong emphasis is placed on martyrdom for the cause (see Mirecki, Paul)

2. Environmentalism --
Objects of Worship: Gaia
High Priest: Al Gore
Prophet: Paul Ehrlich
Sacred texts: Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
Holy relics: The hockey-stick graph
Rites: Cherry-picking data, extrapolating trends, foretelling the end times, strict dietary rules, ritual recycling
Notable sects: Greenpeace, PETA

3. Obamaism --
Objects of Worship: Hope and Change
Prophet: the Obamassiah
High Priests: The DNC, the "Mainstream" Media, Jeremiah Wright (excommunicated), Bill Ayers (excommunicated), Tony Rezko (excommunicated)
Sacred texts: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, by the Obamassiah
Rites: Redistributing the wealth, healing the planet
The Obamassiah is said to have the power to turn back the seas

Monday, November 3, 2008

The 2008 Campaign

The big events of the 2007-2008 campaign season:

1. John McCain clinches the Repuplican nomination. In November of 2007, McCain was in last place and had been all but written off. Two months later, he was in the lead. In rapid succession, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney dropped out, leaving McCain and Mike Huckabee in the race until McCain won Super Tuesday.

2. The Democratic primaries turned out to be among the hardest-fought ever, with two history-making candidates slugging it out - Hillary Clinton, who would be the first female major-party nominee, and Barack Obama, who would be the first African-American major party nominee. In the end, Hillary staged a late rally but came up just short of the nomination. Much of the speculation and punditry centered around the Democrats excessively complicated nomination process, with proportionally allocated delegates keeping the delegate race tight and the unelected "super delegates" (party big-shots) waiting in the wings. In theory, the super delegates could have stepped in and overruled the primary voters and caucus goers if they nominated a candidate too far outside the mainstream. In practice, had the super delegates actually overruled the rank-and-file, there is no telling what kind of of fratracidal war might have resulted, but it would have been bloody.

3. Press bias - as it happened, in spite of the super-delegate safety fuse, the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, was and is very far from the mainstream of American politics. But you would never know this from the coverage of any of the major TV networks, large daily newspapers, or two of the three cable news outlets. Only cable TV's Fox News regularly featured critical reports on Obama.

[to be continued]