Sunday, January 26, 2020

A day late

Normally I post this on Saturday, but better late than never, I guess. It also allows me to include a post or two from yesterday. Let's start with a Library Comic. If you aren't familiar with them, they are the replacement for Unshelved, which is now only posting reruns. I only wish I could access JSTOR through my local library!

Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog has moved. Unfortunately, his RSS feed doesn't seem to be working yet. But, his post on Christianity Tomorrow is worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

The problem, for far too many, Left and Right, is Locke’s trap or statism. It is not speaking prophetically to claim the mantle of the prophet only when it is a Left-leaner criticizing the GOP, nor is it prophetic if a Right-leaner criticizes the Democrats. That’s falling into Locke’s trap. It is little more than partisan criticism baptized by Christian language.
Yep. Don't get caught in equating the U.S. with the kingdom of heaven!

The Old Curmudgeon takes a look at truth in a posttruth age:

We're used to the idea of propaganda aimed at getting us to believe something in particular, that it is designed for linear goals-- we will get people to believe that a balanced breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so that they'll buy more cereal. By convincing people that X is true, we can get them to do Y. Our idea of good, traditional propaganda is that it is focused and on message. Repeat your main talking point. Chip away. (After a couple of decades of hearing it repeated, everyone will believe that US schools are failing.)

But in the information age, the era of computerized super-communication, we have Propaganda 2.0. We don't need you to believe X; we just want you to believe that you can't believe anything. We don't need to substitute our "truth" for the actual truth; we just have to convince you that the truth is unknowable, possibly non-existent. You have no hope of navigating this world on your own. Just give all your obedience to a strong boss; take all your navigation from Beloved Leader.

Does he contradict himself? Well, it may seem that way, but the truth is complicated and unknowable, so why should the truth he peddles feel any different. Does his truth seem to be contradicted by actual reality? That's only because you can't trust your own perception of reality.

Best summary of what's going on that I have seen yet. Read the rest for how to combat it.

How about a bit of satire (it is satire, isn't it?)? First, the worship wars:

EAU CLAIRE, WI – A church musician is under investigation for playing a song the congregation already knew. “I had no idea so many people had heard this song before,” said Brad Font, worship pastor at Living Waters Fellowship. “I sincerely regret the error.”

Font realized his mistake as soon as he began singing. “I heard a strange noise coming from the crowd. I squinted to see under the stage lights and discovered that more than half of the congregation was singing along,” he said.

Sadly, it seems only too true. But what if a university ran a polar expedition?
We are terribly honored to mark another year under the leadership of Captain Braithwaite, a 60-year-old man who served in Borneo and had never seen snow before this voyage. Many thanks as well to Mr. Arnold Barrington, who has shared many helpful “tidbits” learned during his forty years north of the Arctic Circle. We’ve never had a finer deck swab!
And it degenerates from there. Enough satire; life is deadly enough without it, as this article shows:
Researchers discover that neonicotinoid seed treatments are driving a dramatic increase in insecticide toxicity in U.S. agricultural landscapes, despite evidence that these treatments have little to no benefit in many crops.
But, hey, it's lining the pockets of the investors and driving the desire to find replacement pollinators in the form of drones, so what's the big deal? Well, according to recent research, we might be suffering from species loneliness:
species loneliness de­notes the way human beings have cut ourselves off from the nonhuman species inhabiting our world. In our desire for dominance and self-gratification we have put ourselves in solitary confinement, and in the worst cases become the tormenter of all things nonhuman. We have deprived ourselves of love relationships with nonhumans.

It is making us sick. We were never meant to operate as an autonomous and independent species. We desperately need the full cooperation of other species to survive, from large mammals that maintain a crucial balance within ecosystems to microbial communities in our own guts. As a result of our non-cooperation, interspecies disconnection is breaking down the systems humans depend on. This disconnection is deeper than the interdependence of biological systems; it is also theological.

Read it. It's not a tree-hugger piece, although I do find the final paragraph, quoting from a gnostic gospel to endorse a very nongnostic idea quite interesting. That sounds like something Roger Olson would think of, but instead, he's running nice series on theology. Why?
Why is theology necessary? Simply put—because the Bible is not always as clear as we wish it were.
Well put. Be sure to check out all his posts, especially this one on folk religion. Oh, back to the worship wars for a second. On Michael Bird's blog, two people posted on the old hymns. Read it! And what do same-sex leadership and same-sex marriage have in common? Turns out, a lot, at least according to Wade Burleson. He give five similarities, ending with this:
It's always more comfortable to be in control and to rule over others than it is to follow the Spirit and let Him lead. God's design is for men and women to marry and for gifted men and women to lead. To change behaviors, those comfortable living in same-sex union, as well as those comfortable living in same-sex leadership, must subdue personal desires to God's design.
Indeed! OK, time to tread lightly. First, why Trump is bad for prolife (HT: Jim E.). Read it. Second, Ron Sider asks what would happen if pro- and anti-Trump Christians would pray together.
It’s obvious that we are not doing that. Regularly, we have reports of Christian families intensely and painfully divided over politics. “Not-Trump!” and “Yes-Trump!” Christians too often say nasty things about each other. It seems very difficult (although we should keep trying) to do what I said in my last blog--namely gather discussion groups together with substantial numbers of Democrats, Republicans and Independents and listen respectfully and reflect together on the 2020 elections.

But what if we just came together to pray? What if all we did together was to pray, asking God to guide all Christians (and all American citizens) as they ponder how to vote this year?

Go for it! Revivals break out when people pray. And that's really what real Christians should really desire, isn't it? (Looking back at Scot's post on statism.)

Don't worry, I'm winding down here. Two last posts, the first on the cheapness of life if you are a bicyclist. Killed two, injured others in a clear case of inattentive driving. Gets off with a small fine. Now, I'm not into retributive justice, but this does send a clear message:

“My club isn’t like it was before,” Delacruz-Tuason said. “A lot of our club members don’t ride on the road anymore. We are trying to continue with our lives, but it’s hard. … It’s difficult to help others when I am still trying to keep it together for myself and my family.”

Moments like this are every cyclist’s worst nightmare, but are becoming increasingly commonplace, especially in Florida. Bicycling fatalities are higher in the Sunshine State than any other state, with the Orlando Sentinel calling it “a killing field for cyclists.” But despite that, there aren’t enough laws on the books to protect riders’ rights, said Miami attorney Eli Stiers who represents six of the victims.

Yep. Message: Cars rule, everybody else is a target (including motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians). I ride nearly two thousand miles a year (down from when I was bike commuting, but still a good number of miles), and Debbie and I walk about five miles a day. Since moving to Red Wing a little over two years ago, while walking we have nearly been hit by drivers three times. In each case, we clearly had the right of way. They just didn't see us because they weren't expecting to see a pedestrian. Bicycling here seems safer. I haven't had any close calls yet. But I'm always expecting them and I wear a high visibility yellow jersey and have a flashing taillight that is visible 1/2 mile away in daylight.

But, I'm not going to end on that sad note. Instead, read this one, on the state of the publishing industry. A very well-written essay worth pondering.

For the first time since 2011, when Borders shut down, or 2007, when Amazon launched the Kindle, or maybe 1455, when Johannes Gutenberg went bankrupt immediately upon printing his game-changing best seller The Bible, the news about book publishing has seemed less than dire.
Of course, there's far more to the essay than that, keep reading.

Until next weekend, enjoy! Meanwhile, I'm going to order my garden seeds. This year, the orders to go Fedco, Johnny's, and Baker Creek. What about you?

Update: I forgot to post it last week, and now I forgot this week, too. In sad news, Christopher Tolkien died at age 95. He really did a service to us all by editing his dad's notes and publishing them in twelve volumes, as well as the Silmarillion. Read the article to get an idea of how important his work is to his father's legacy.

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