Saturday, August 30

Adoption as Plan-A

There is a renewed interest in adoption among Evangelical Christians--not just as a Plan-B fallback in cases of fertility, but as a wholistic application of the Biblical worldview. This is no small matter--indeed, the Evangelical groundswell has attracted the attention of the Wall Street Journal. Naomi Schaefer Riley explains that adoption is now a "hot topic in the Evangelical community" as Christians begin to understand adoption to be a theological issue, a sanctity-of-human-life issue, a mercy, justice, and humility issue.

Page 69 Test

Have you ever tried the Page 69 Test? I learned of this interesting theory about how to decide if a book is actually worth reading while following the footnote trail--or more accurately, the hyperlink trail--from 43 Folders, to the Christian Science Monitor, to the London Guardian, and then finally to the Page 69 Test itself. Quite an informative journey—and a fascinating exercise. Now, I'm going to try to track down the original Marshall McLuhan source.

Friday, August 29

Hentoff on Palin

This past spring, Nat Hentoff recommended the little known governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as perhaps the best choice John McCain could make for his running mate. No one paid much attention to Hentoff's Washington Times op-ed piece or to his recommendation. No one except John McCain that is.

Faith and Science

Are faith and science compatible. "Yes, absolutely," says P.J. O'Rourke in his hilarious opinion piece in Search Magazine.


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Wednesday, August 27

The March on Washington

The 1963 March on Washington attracted an estimated 250,000 people for a peaceful demonstration to promote Civil Rights and economic equality for African Americans. Participants walked down Constitution and Independence Avenues, and then—a century after the Emancipation Proclamation—gathered before the Lincoln Memorial for speeches, songs, and prayer.

Televised live to an audience of millions, the march provided a number of dramatic moments—but the most memorable of all was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s stirring I Have a Dream speech. Far larger than any other previous demonstration for any other cause, the march had an obvious and immediate impact, both on the passage of Civil Rights legislation and on nationwide public opinion. It proved the power of mass appeal and inspired imitators in the Anti-War, Pro-Life, and Environmental movements.

As early as 1941 Philip Randolph—international president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, president of the Negro American Labor Council, and vice president of the AFL-CIO—had discussed the possibility of such a march. Thus, he was seen as the chief organizer. But because the march was also sponsored by five of the largest civil rights organizations in the United States, planning was complicated by dissention among the groups. Known in the press as "the big six," the leaders included Randolph and King as well as Whitney Young, president of the National Urban League, Roy Wilkins, president of the NAACP, James Farmer, founder and president of the Congress of Racial Equality, and John Lewis, president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In the end though, they were able to iron out their differences.

On August 27, the marchers began arriving. They came in chartered buses and private cars, on trains and planes—one man even roller-skated to Washington from Chicago. By mid-day on the 28th, more than 200,000 had gathered by the Washington Monument, where the march was to begin. It was a diverse crowd: black and white, rich and poor, young and old, Hollywood stars and everyday people. Despite the fears that had prompted extraordinary precautions—including pre-signed executive orders authorizing military intervention in the case of rioting—the marchers walked peacefully to the Lincoln Monument.

Dr. King, the last speaker of the day, was introduced by Randolph as "the moral leader of our nation." His speech, eloquent on the page, was electrifying. With the passionate, poetic style he had honed in the pulpit, King stirred the audience and built to a extemporaneous crescendo, "I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

As marchers returned home, the organizers met with the president, who encouraged them to continue their work. By all counts, the march was a success. But just three weeks later, the bombing of the Sixteenth St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama—which killed four young girls—reminded all Americans that the dream had yet to be realized.

Past and Present

"Ask counsel of both times—of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest." Francis Bacon

The Past As Future Orientation

"The recollection of the past is only useful by way of provision for the future." Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, August 26

On the Nightstand

Truths that Transform

A talk I gave a few years ago, Muslims in Our Neighborhood, will be rebroadcast nationwide in September by Truths That Transform, one of the radio outreaches of Coral Ridge Ministries. The audio files of this very down-to-the-brass-tacks evangelistic message will also be streamed directly on the Coral Ridge website on Thursday, September 11 and Friday, September 12.

McCain, Biden, and Leno

Jay Leno last night: "You know, John McCain is an older, white-haired man who has been in the senate over 20 years, voted for the Iraq war, and said Barack Obama did not have the experience to be President. Oh wait, I’m sorry, that's our intro for next week when Joe Biden is on. I’m sorry, I got confused."

Monday, August 25

To the Uttermost

The modern missionary movement was launched on this day in 1732, when several men from Count Zinzindorf’s Herrnhut community agreed to serve as missionaries in the far flung fields of Greenland and the Caribbean. Christian David, a Moravian carpenter volunteered to go to Greenland while David Nitschmann and Hans Dober volunteered to serve in St. Thomas.

Sunday, August 24

The End of the World

”It is not necessary to imagine
The world ending in fire or ice.
There are two other possibilities:
One is paperwork,
And the other is nostalgia.”
Frank Zappa

Saturday, August 23

In the Arena

“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, August 22

Often Affliction

“Often the same thing that makes one person bitter makes another better.” J.C. Ryle

“God often digs wells of joy with spades of affliction.” Isaac Watts

“To scale great heights, we must come out of the lowermost depths. The way to heaven all too often leads through hell.” Herman Melville

“Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.” C.S. Lewis

Monday, August 18

On Editorials

"All editorial writers ever do is come down from the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded." Robert Byrnes

On Journalism

"The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read." Oscar Wilde

Saturday, August 16

iMac @ 10

Ten years ago Apple debuted its revolutionary iMac. The colorful all-in-one computer--with its sleek gumdrop design, obsessive attention to aesthetic details, careful focus on ergonomics, simple user interface, integrated software, and built-in modem, USB, and Ethernet connections--ushered in the modern era of internet-ready computing.

The iMac was the first major new product from the company following the return of co-founder Steve Jobs. It proved so successful that while Apple lost $878 million in 1997, by the end of 1998, it had turned a profit of $414 million. The company has never looked back--the iMac itself has become a cultural icon and Apple an undoubted industry leader in innovation, product design, and software innovation.

The computer has since undergone a number of revisions, such as a switch to a lamp-like configuration in 2002 (still my favorite because of the infinitely adjustable screen), followed by a flat, rectangular shape in 2004. Apple has also switched from PowerPC chips to Intel processors, and ditched much of the plastic once used in preference of aluminum and glass. Operating systems have progressed through many versions, from Mac OS 8.5 to Mac OS X 10.5, and rumors hint that future iMacs may soon incorporate touchscreens.

I was an original Mac user--back in the paleolithic era of desktop computing. I loved my first few Macs but eventually I became a very reluctant convert to the PC/Windows world when compatibility issues forced my hand. But with the return of Jobs, the debut of the iMac, and the advent of OS X, those issues were erased. I was delighted to be able to return Apple. My current MacBookPro and iPhone combo provides the most incredible working environment I've ever seen--bar none.

Wednesday, August 13

Foreign Policy Wisdom

When the esteemed Senate Majority Leader of the Senate, Henry Cabot Lodge, addressed his colleagues on this day in 1919, the nation was already in the midst of a “Great Debate” over its future foreign policy. What was then called the Great War--what we call the First World War--had just ended. Should the country now join the new League of Nations that President Woodrow Wilson had hammered into shape at the Versailles Peace Conference, or should the nation retain its traditional commitment to neutrality--as articulated in Washington’s hallowed Farewell Address?

Utilizing carefully measured phrases and appealing to the mood of the audience Lodge’s speech somehow bridged the gap between the two positions and unleashed a storm of applause from the packed galleries. A group of Marines, just returned from France, pounded their helmets enthusiastically against the gallery railing; men and women cheered, whistled, waved handkerchiefs and hats. It was minutes before order could be restored, and when a Democratic Senator attempted to reply to Lodge’s arguments, his remarks were greeted with boos and hisses.

Lodge argued against any possible infringement of America’s sovereignty, “I object in the strongest possible way to having the United States agree, directly or indirectly, to be controlled by a league which may at any time, and perfectly lawfully and in accordance with the terms of the covenant, be drawn in to deal with internal conflicts in other countries, no matter what those conflicts may be. We should never permit the United States to be involved in any internal conflict in another country, except by the will of her people expressed through the Congress which represents them.”

Likewise, he argued for a strong moral stance regarding the horrors of war while at the same time ringing the bell of patriotism, “In the Great War we were called upon to rescue the civilized world. Did we fail? On the contrary, we succeeded, succeeded largely and nobly, and we did it without any command from any league of nations. When the emergency came, we met it, and we were able to meet it because we had built up on this continent the greatest and most powerful nation in the world, built it up under our own polices, in our own way, and one great element of our strength was the fact that we had held aloof and had not thrust ourselves into European quarrels; that we had no selfish interest to serve. We made great sacrifices. We have done splendid work. I believe that we do not require to be told by foreign nations when we shall do work which freedom and civilization require. I think we can move to victory much better under our own command than under the command of others.”

His logic, resounding with the moral fervor of his dear friend Teddy Roosevelt, won the day. In the end, the League of Nations treaty was defeated and the policy Lodge elaborated became the foundation of all American foreign relations for the next half century.

Alas, such wisdom is now long-forgotten by virtually all those who wield power in Washington--and by virtually all those who aspire to wield it. Oh, that we might have another Lodge for these perilous times in which we live!

Wednesday, August 6

What's Wrong with the Modern Church

The most recent World Magazine cover story about "NextGen Worship" nearly caused a violent reaction in me. Thankfully, it actually did cause a violent reaction in Julie R. Neidlinger, editor of the Lone Prairie online magazine. The end result was her article, Why I Walked Out of Church. I am so glad my friend Bing Davis sent me the link. It is spot on! I blogged on the article--as well as the reaction and the longing that provoked it--at my Parish Life site.

Sunday, August 3

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

The death of Nobel Prize winning novelist, essayist, and historian, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn marks the end of an age. Along with Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Vaclev Havel, William Buckley, and Lech Walensa, he was one of a handful of unflinching that stood steadfast against the madness of International Socialism and its Liberal supporters around the world throughout most of the twentieth century.

A prominent founding member of the Samzat movement, an underground resistance to Communist rule organized by artists and writers, Solzhenitsyn was the author of a host of brilliant, literary, evocative, and powerful books exposing the horrors of Soviet tyranny. Needless to say, the books proved to be very embarrassing to the Kremlin and the Politburo and ultimately earned him twenty years of bitter exile—but also wealth, fame, and influence.

His books, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago, Cancer Ward, Full Circle, The Oaken Calf, and August 1914 are undeniable classics. After his exile in 1974, he briefly became a media darling in the West. But then in 1978, he created a firestorm of controversy when in a commencement address at Harvard, he indicted Liberals in the West with the same politically-correct tendencies to impose tyranny-in-the-name-of-freedom as his former Soviet masters in the Gulag. He had the courage to criticize Western culture for what he considered its weakness and decadence.

Upon his return to Russia in 1990, he devoted himself to the cause of freedom in his beloved homeland, the reformation of Russian culture, and the completion of his cycle of books about the Bolshevik Revolution.

He was a bold and prescient prophet:

“It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.”

“Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence.”

“Life organized legalistically has shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.”

“I can't say that I wrote my books in order to open the eyes of the West to what had been going on in the East. Above all, I wrote all my books for the benefit of my own people, for the Russians, because we ourselves don't know our own history.”

“I never doubted that communism was doomed to collapse, but I was always afraid of how Russia would emerge from that communism and at what price. I know I am coming back to a worn-out, discouraged, shell-shocked, Russia which has changed beyond recognition and is wandering about in search of itself.”

On the Nightstand

Fact and Fiction

Separating fact from fiction, exactitude from nostalgia, and actuality from myth in early American history is often more than a little difficult. Though it is perhaps unwise to have anything like an idealized perception of that great epoch, nevertheless it is difficult to dismiss the breadth and depth of the fledgling colonial culture and by the substantive character of the people who populated it. Living in a day when genuine heroes are few and far between—at best—those pioneers and the times they vivified provide a startling contrast.

The fact is colonial America produced an extraordinary number of prodigiously gifted men. From William Byrd and George Wythe to Peyton Randolph and Patrick Henry, from Samuel Adams and John Hancock to Benjamin Franklin and George Washington the legacy of the seventeenth-century's native-born geniuses remains unmatched. Their accomplishments—literary, scientific, economic, political, and cultural—are staggering to consider. According to historian Paul Johnson, "Never before has one place and one time given rise to so many great men."

There are very few things that modern historians can agree on. But when it comes to God and His heroes, there is sudden consensus. The long-held notion that history is His story is fiercely resisted in our day. The once dominant view that history is not merely the record of what happened in the past but that it is a kind of moral philosophy worked out by great men and women of vision has been replaced by the odd assertions and assumptions by a handful of experts. It is too easy for us to forget—or to try to ignore—the fact that the doings of man are on the knees of an inscrutable and sovereign God. It is too easy for us to forget that the record of the ages is actually philosophy teaching by example.

Because the past is ever present, giving shape and focus to all our lives, it is not what was, but whatever seems to have been, simply because the past, like the future, is part and parcel of the faith.

King's Mountain

As men from the Over-Mountain Scotch-Irish communities of North Carolina (now part of East Tennessee) gathered at Sycamore Shoals beginning on September 26, 1780 to prepare for battle against the British loyalist forces, which would occur two weeks later at King’s Mountain, the Rev. Samuel Doak, a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian minister who founded the first church west of the Allegheny Mountains, preached a sermon to the ragtag army of Patriot farmers and frontiersmen to remind them of what they were fighting for:

My countrymen, you are about to set out on an expedition which is full of hardships and dangers, but one in which the Almighty will attend you. The Mother Country has her hands upon you, these American colonies, and takes that for which our fathers planted their homes in the wilderness--OUR LIBERTY.

Taxation without representation and the quartering of soldiers in the homes of our people without their consent are evidence that the Crown of England would take from its American subjects the last vestige of freedom. Your brethren across the mountains are crying like Macedonia unto your help. God forbid that you shall refuse to hear and answer their call – but the call of your brethren is not all. The enemy is marching hither to destroy your homes.

Brave men, you are not unacquainted with battle. Your hands have already been taught to war and your fingers to fight. You have wrested these beautiful valleys of the Holston and Watauga from the savage hand. Will you tarry now until the other enemy carries fire and sword to your very doors? NO, it shall not be. Go forth then in the strength of your manhood to the aid of your brethren, the defense of your liberty and the protection of your homes. And may the God of justice be with you and give you victory.

Let us pray: Almighty and gracious God! Thou hast been the refuge and strength of Thy people in all ages. In time of sorest need we have learned to come to Thee – our Rock and our Fortress. Thou knowest the dangers and snares that surround us on march and in battle. Thou knowest the dangers that constantly threaten the humble, but well beloved homes, which Thy servants have left behind them.

O, in Thine infinite mercy, save us from the cruel hand of the savage, and of tyrant. Save the unprotected homes while fathers and husbands and sons are far away fighting for freedom and helping the oppressed. Thou, who promised to protect the sparrow in its flight, keep ceaseless watch, by day and by night, over our loved ones. The helpless woman and little children, we commit to Thy care. Thou wilt not leave them or forsake them in times of loneliness and anxiety and terror.

O, God of Battle, arise in Thy might. Avenge the slaughter of Thy people. Confound those who plot for our destruction. Crown this mighty effort with victory, and smite those who exalt themselves against liberty and justice and truth. Help us as good soldiers to wield the SWORD OF THE LORD AND GIDEON. Amen.