Archive for April, 2007

Movie Plug: Happy Feet

April 30, 2007

Saw “Happy Feet” over at Brad’s house on Saturday. You have to see this movie. I was reeeaaaally skeptical going in, thinking that it was going to be a really cheesy “Fantasia”-like failure (NB: I like “Fantasia”). Who wants dancing penguins anyway, let alone 90 minutes of them?

Little did I know that there was a plot to the whole movie. And it was also refreshing that the movie was not about global warming. Rather, it’s about the effects of unregulated commercial fishing.

But kids and adults will really enjoy this movie. Music’s fun, the animation is dazzling, and the movie has depth.

Advertisements

All quiet

April 30, 2007

The wolves have slinked back to their dens, it seems. Haven’t gotten a hostile e-mail for coming on four days now, and it does feel nice.

But I hear now they’re carrying on with one of my friends, who, though he disagrees with my position on abortion, spoke up in my defense since he thought my public treatment on the e-mail list last week was uncalled for.

I have to say: I have an increased respect for Rick Santorum after having borne the blind liberal fury for several days. Santorum must have gotten death threats for the abortion legislation he championed. I thought someone was going to try to come after me, and I barely said anything. But Santorum, being the leader of the pro-life movement that he was in Congress, . . . it’s inevitable that some crazy liberal would have threatened his life. Excelsior, brother.

Witch Hunt

April 26, 2007

What a week. If you’ve ever been the victim of an e-mail listserv gang-up by about 10+ foul-mouthed, libelous liberals, you know how it’s been for me.

This is a fantastic story, which I won’t go into detail here . . . but a single question from myself led to more than ten thousand words in reply. Much of it was name-calling, side by side with some of the most fallacious argument you could ever care to see. Hypocrisy, sanctimony, platitudes, rallying cries, character assassination, dogmatic certainty founded on false assumptions . . . you name it.

Ask me about it sometime. I’ll send you the 26 pages of e-mails. Or just the paragraph of names they called me. It’ll blow your mind.

The moral of the story is that these are mini-versions of the people running most of the universities in this country today. I could go on and on, but too much adrenaline flow can’t be good for a man.

5,000 views

April 25, 2007

Big milestone for the Couch:

5000_views

And as of now, that Georgia post alone is responsible for 8% of all views (402) and 28% of all comments (48). The thing is absolutely anomalous!

Megachurch roundup: baptism

April 22, 2007

It’s kind of interesting to see how much, or how little, various Protestant megachurches have to say about baptism. They’re all huge, but it seems that almost none of them are hugely interested in the sacraments. Some of them don’t mention baptism (or the sacraments) at all on their websites, but the ones that do seem to agree that it’s just a symbol. Same for Communion (“Eucharist” doesn’t seem to be a popular term with megachurches. No Greek terms, thankee—well, except for “baptism”—got to keep it understandable for normal folk.)

My response to that is borrowed from Flannery O’Connor:

Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the “most portable” person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest is expendable.*

In what follows, I think I see two closely related trends: historical ignorance and disinterest in theology. Perhaps they don’t want to sound theological because they think of this as “churchy” and unappealing to the unwashed heathen they’re trying to get to come in, but perhaps it’s due in some cases to the simple fact that they don’t think theology is important: church for them is primarily (if not entirely) about community and emotions, not about the truth or falsehood of propositional statements.

Here is what various megachurch websites had to say about baptism.

T.D. Jakes, The Potter’s House (Dallas)

Water baptism by immersion soon after accepting Christ as personal Savior, is a testimony of death to sin and resurrection to a new life and the Lord’s Supper is a memorial service setting forth in sacred and symbolic manner the death of the Lord Jesus Christ; all true believers and only believers should share in it.

Robert Schuller, Crystal Cathedral (Garden Grove, CA):

We have two sacraments, instituted by Christ in the new covenant, or testament. They are baptism and the holy supper, or communion.

If you “still have questions” you can contact them. The website contact for promises that they’ll get back to you in 48 hours.

Actually, they do say a little more, but not much, on baptism elsewhere:

Children of church members are called “children of the covenant.” Their baptism is a sign and seal of this covenant relationship and of their membership in the Christian church.

Infant Baptism
Baptism is a public expression of the fact that your child belongs to God. It is their first step in growing a relationship with the God who loves them.

Creflo Dollar, World Changers Church International (Atlanta):

[We believe] in water baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Side note: World Changers Church says nothing about Communion on their site. They do, however, devote 36 words to their belief in tithing—I wonder where Creflo DOLLAR’s priorities lie?

Ross Parsley (former pastor was Ted Haggard), New Life Church (Colorado Springs):

Given at Pentecost, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father. It was sent by Jesus after His Ascension to empower the Church to preach the gospel throughout the whole earth (see Joel 2:28,29; Matt. 3:11; Mark 16:17; Acts 1:5; 2:1-4,17,38,39; 8:14-17; 10:38,44-47; 11:15-17; 19:1-6).

New Life Church is positively verbose when it comes to their beliefs: about 1,618 words for the whole thing. That’s 8 times longer than Joel Osteen’s (see below). And even though they don’t say much about baptism here, their use of the word “empower” comes as close as I’ve seen to a view of baptism that moves beyond the merely symbolic.

Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church (Houston):

WE BELIEVE…water baptism is a symbol of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ and a testimony to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church (Chicago):

Willow Creek Community Church offers the option of believers’ baptism in the modes of sprinkling and immersion on the basis of a sacramentarian view of the ordinances whereby their value lies in the symbolism they convey and in the faith of the participants rather than the nature or amount of the elements used, as bread and wine for communion, and water for baptism.

Willow Creek devotes 331 words to Baptism alone, whereas Osteen’s “What We Believe” page weighs in at a total of 206 words, with Baptism getting 26 words.

Rick Warren, Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA):

saddleback_baptism.png
saddleback_sacraments.png

But don’t despair yet—Saddleback Church has a sort of constellation of websites, and they do mention baptism over at SaddlebackFamily.com:

We do celebrate communion and believe it is one of the two ordinances Christ gave the church. Water baptism would be the other.
[. . .]
Jesus . . . gave the church two visible symbols (called “ordinances”) as reminders of his death. These two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is an object lesson that represents a great spiritual truth for believers.

Well, still nothing about baptism. But given what they say about the Lord’s Supper, it’s pretty safe to assume that baptism is purely a symbol for Rick Warren’s Saddleback Family. This is kind of sad . . . I saw him on Meet The Press and thought he was one of the more reflective of the megachurch pastors.

Eddie Long, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church (Lithonia, GA):

Nothing on this “Baptist” church’s site about baptism, but it mentions in passing that “Long was consecrated as the third presiding Bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.” Here’s what the Full Gospel website says about baptism:

We believe in water baptism and Holy Communion – The Lord’s Supper as the ordinances of the church to be observed as public declaration of salvation through Jesus Christ and the commemoration of His death, burial and resurrection in victory over satan, death, hell and the grave.

. . .

We believe in Jesus Christ as the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, who brings men and women at salvation into relationship with Himself and His Body, the Church. We further believe that it is the baptism of the Holy Ghost that places one into the Body of Christ. All believers have been baptized by Christ with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11 ; John 1:33 ; 1 Corinthians 12:13 ).

. . .

The baptism of the Holy Ghost occurs once and for all at salvation.

Whether Eddie Long’s church believes this is another question, but it sounds like the Full Gospel baptism has some power in it—not just a symbol. But I’m unclear on the exact meaning of their distinction between “water baptism” and baptism by the Holy Spirit. I would have to read up on their beliefs before commenting on this one.

And here are a few statements from people not affiliated with a church.

Joyce Meyer:

We believe in water baptism, as taught and demonstrated by Jesus, as the way for believers to identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Paul Crouch, Trinity Broadcasting Network:

No statement of beliefs on this site, but they do mention baptism a handful of times. I really want to see the biblical support for this view—I’m not saying none exists; just that it sounds kind of “made up.” Maybe it’s the CAPS?

The Lord honors our obedience to be baptized and He also commands us to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we may receive POWER and BOLDNESS to be HIS WITNESSES.


I wonder if the “megachurched” have any idea how little of real Christianity they are getting. The basic tenets are indeed simple enough for a child to understand, but there is so much more. For part of that “more,” check out the Roman Catholic Catechism’s article on Baptism. (About 4,729 words long, not counting about 83 footnotes.)

* Quoted from Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor, selected and edited by Sally Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), 124-25.

Supreme Court bans infanticide and brain vacuuming

April 18, 2007

Reading how matter-of-factly the Associated Press talks in this article, you’d think the topic was something mundane, like comparing the rainfall on two relatively unrainy days:

The procedure at issue involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman’s uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion.

Abortion opponents say the law will not reduce the number of abortions performed because an alternate method — dismembering the fetus in the uterus — is available and, indeed, much more common.

But in the world of partial-birth abortion, crushing babies’ skulls and sucking the brains out with a vacuum IS mundane. Nothing remarkable. And for the description of the procedure, note that it’s a “fetus” being removed from the uterus. I suppose that being only part-way outside the mother means it’s not yet a baby? Does an obstetrician deliver fetuses? If so, when does it become a “baby”? If you ask Barbara Boxer—as Rick Santorum did in 1999, in a chilling exchange that made it clear that Boxer believes that female empowerment mandates giving women the power of life and death over their offspring—Boxer would say that it becomes not only a baby, but a human being with rights “when you bring your baby home.” Read the transcript at the Library of Congress website. Here is an excerpt:

Mr. SANTORUM. But I would like to ask you this question. You agree, once the child is born, separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed? Do you agree with that?

Mrs. BOXER. I would make this statement. That this Constitution as it currently is—some want to amend it to say life begins at conception. I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born—and there is no such thing as partial-birth—the baby belongs to your family and has the rights. But I am not willing to amend the Constitution to say that a fetus is a person, which I know you would.

Boxer went on to say that not allowing women to kill their babies at the moment when they are seconds from full delivery was going to endanger the women’s life and health. This seems to me downright ludicrous. For there seem to be two reasons why crazy people like Boxer want partial-birth abortion: first, they say that it’s sometimes safer than regular abortion, which involves chopping up the baby’s body in utero, and involves inserting a blade, the creation of sharp bone fragments, and possibly other conditions that could harm the mother. Clearly, this is a bad idea all around, and not just for the baby who’s being cut up. Second, I believe they sometimes claim that PBA is necessary when the baby’s head is too big for the birth canal. But in cases like these, we have the Caesarean section procedure, which avoids scalpels, bone fragments, and the vacuuming of brains, and promotes the continued life of the child.

But back to the news article: Ginsburg called it “alarming” that women will no longer be able to legally vacuum their babies’ brains out at the point of birth. She also said that the decision “‘tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide” the puncturing of infants’ skulls with scissors and the sucking out of their brains, often resulting in decapitation (warning: links to graphic image), “a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

Whatever. She and those of like mind are interested in power and radical autonomy, not in protecting the “health” of innocent pregnant women. If they were interested in protecting the innocent, they wouldn’t be pushing for the ongoing legal genocide of the most innocent members of our society.

New words

April 16, 2007

I learned a couple of new words today.

teratology
1. A discourse or narrative concerning prodigies; a marvellous tale, or collection of such tales.
2. Biol. The study of monstrosities or abnormal formations in animals or plants.

pancalistic
This one isn’t in either my dictionary widget or the OED, but here’s the context (from Umberto Eco’s Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages:

As Genesis taught, ‘God saw all that he had made, and found it very good.’ And the Book of wisdom taught also that God created the world according to number, weight, and measure. As we shall see, these concepts were taken to be aesthetic as well as cosmological, and also as expressions of the Good, the metaphysical Bonum.
     It was the Scriptures, then, extended and amplified by the Fathers, which produced this pancalistic vision of the cosmos.

Any guesses? Here’s a hint: pan + cal + istic, and think Greek.

“Cal” is the same as the first part of “kaleidoscope” (a Greek word if ever there was one), and “pan” is in many of our words: e.g., pantheism, pan-American (but not pancake).

Click the link below to see the definition.

(more…)

Shameless church website intro

April 14, 2007

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, has one of the most vulgar website intros I’ve ever seen. No question. Makes church look like a spaceship from Galaga. Also puzzling is why the intro simply ends mid-music, abruptly. I’d think that after having put that much effort, bombast, and hubris into a project, I’d at least want it to appear finished.

UTC building

April 14, 2007

Taken at dusk. I thought it was somewhat captivating. The greenish lower part didn’t look green in person.

UTC

Jason Whitlock’s right on Imus & Duke

April 14, 2007

You may remember Karch’s piece on Jason Whitlock from 1994, in response to Whitlock’s claim that “we’re all racist” in America. Whatever the merits or deficiencies of Whitlock’s claims at that time, I think he’s absolutely right on the money in his assessment of the Don Imus and Duke Lacrosse cases. (Forgive him for calling it the Duke “soccer” team.)

Check out the video here.

The fact is that even though Imus was wrong to call the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos,” that very language was invented and popularized by black culture. Hip hop culture is probably the single biggest factor holding back African Americans. Rappers are constantly calling their women whores; maybe there’s a big outcry within their own community against that kind of demeaning language, but I don’t see Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson doing much about it.

By contrast, you can’t get away from Sharpton and Jackson in this Imus case; and last year when the Duke rape accusations came up, Jackson said his PUSH Coalition was going to pay the tuition of the woman who accused the lacrosse players of raping her. Now that it’s officially established that the case had no merit almost from the very beginning, and that Mike Nifong (the prosecutor) kept it alive in order for further his own political ambitions, are we going to see Jesse Jackson say anything about it? Perhaps, that he was wrong, and that he apologizes to the unjustly accused lacrosse players? Not likely.

Whitlock’s right: Sharpton and Jackson act like it’s 1965 and they are trying to bring black/white relations back to the 1940s and 1950s.