Monday, August 31, 2009

Boo...Facts!

Listening to the just the first 1/2 of the town-hall meeting today with Claire McCaskill made me a little sad at the state of people in my area.  McCaskill gave some pretty plain and easy to understand answers to the questions asked, but it amazes me that people are so against entertaining any healthcare reform of any sort.

Conservative people boo'ed McCaskill pretty much regardless of what she said.  Even at times that she was pointing out that the current system hid 'taxes' for other people's care inside the costs of the insurance the rest of us may purchase.  They boo'ed her when she said the bill in the Senate gives no money for abortions and no money for illegal immigrants.  They boo'ed her when she suggested they go to the House or the Senate's websites and read the bill for themselves.  One chap even suggested that the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution claims that we have no right to vote on any of this legislation, because they aren't powers granted by the Constitution.  Apparently he forgot to read the rest of it up to that point.  Crazy people.

Here is the full broadcast from the Gillioz Theater in Springfield, MO:
http://ozarksfirst.com/content/video/?watch=1&cid=181272


There is a lot of good information here if you can wade through all the ridiculous regurgitation of Fox News and the booing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Threats Against the President

In the midst of Sean Hannity saying that this isn't the America he was raised in, apparently other people have risen up in hate and vengeance to do more than just talk. Apparently death threats are up 400% against Obama since the inauguration, which is far beyond what the secret service has ever witnessed.

Even more ridiculous is this pastor, Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church, who preached these things at his church:

"And I'm going to tell you something. I hate Barack Obama. You say, well, you just mean you don't like what he stands for. No, I hate the person. Oh, you mean you just don't like his policies. No, I hate him."


"I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell."





Full transcript here:
http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/cspanjunkie/why-i-hate-barack-obama-pastor-steven

Is this the America we should hope for as people with hate try to take us back to whatever they insist has changed?  Ridiculous.

I have some friends that are going to hear Senator Claire McCaskill at a healthcare listening forum in Springfield. I hope better things happen there than the crap listed above. More info on that town-hall meeting:
http://mccaskill.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=317220&

Friday, August 28, 2009

Forgotten

There are things I've forgotten since Rochester. I remember them now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Did you know? Imagine.

Did you know? - 2008 Edition


Imagine Leadership


Earth 2030 - energy efficiency is a necessity. A bit of marketing, but good point to it.


USGS warning: Ozark aquifer could dry up by 2057
http://www.ky3.com/news/local/54737537.html

Friday, August 21, 2009

GuildWars 2 Trailer

I've been playing GuildWars for years now, and have loved the rich, detailed world and really well thought-out gameplay.  I've been really longing for Guild Wars to be considered for a console like the PS3.  That wish isn't coming true, but they did just release a wonderful trailer for the next  rendition of the game, GuildWars 2.



GuildWars 2 Official Website

GuildWars Website...which you should check out the link for the free trial.

And by the way, GuildWars is NOT a pay-to-play like World of Warcraft. You buy the game, then online play is free.


Screenshot of a battle in GuildWars

More screenshots of GuildWars: Prophecies, Factions, Nightfall, and Eye of the North

Did God Send a Tornado to Warn the ELCA?

Below is a report of Greg Boyd's response to John Piper concerning Piper's claims that God sent a tornado against the Lutheran church.

Did God Send a Tornado to Warn The ELCA?
Greg Boyd
August 21st, 2009

On Wednesday, August 19, five small tornados formed in and around the Twin Cities. Included among the property damage was a broken church steeple. It just so happens that Central Lutheran Church was hosting the National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and that one of the issues they were discussing was their stance on homosexuality. According to John Piper, this is no coincidence.

In a blog that unfortunately managed to make it on the local evening news John offered “an interpretation of this Providence.” He claimed “[t]he tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.” You can read his blog here.

Now, I appreciate John as a brother in Christ and respect him as a pastor working for the Kingdom. And I have no quarrel with his view that homosexuality should not be affirmed as God’s ideal. But when he publicly claims to discern a divine warning behind the behavior of a particular tornado, I feel I need to offer a public response, if only to remind non-Christians that not all Christians think like this.

Here are six questions and objections I believe John would need to address if his speculation about why a particular tornado struck a church was to be considered remotely plausible.

1. Why does John discern a divine motive behind a damaged church steeple but not behind any other damage this tornado caused? For example, the roof of the Minneapolis Convention Center was damaged by this same tornado. Was God sending a warning by having his judging tornado damage this building? Or what about the damage cause by the other four tornadoes that struck the Twin Cities area around the same time? A middle school in North Branch was badly damaged, for example. Was this school more affirming toward gays than other schools in the area?

2. According to the National Weather Service, the United States is hit by about 1300 tornados each year, on average. Does John discern a pattern that these tornados tend to strike places that are more pro-gay, or even just generally more sinful, than others? I did a little research, and it turns out that the place where tornados tend to strike the most frequently and do the most damage is in the Bible Belt, with Oklahoma topping the list. And, interestingly enough, it turns out that those states that have the most progressive stances toward gays (e.g. Massachusetts, Vermont, New York) are among the states that typically experience the least tornado damage. Doesn’t this fact by itself completely undermine John’s speculation as to why a Minneapolis church steeple was damaged?

I have an alternative interpretation of tornado behavior to offer. They have nothing to do with how pro-gay or how sinful people are and everything to do with where people happen to live. Tornadoes strike Oklahoma frequently because it’s located in a place where hot and cold air currents tend to collide frequently at certain times of the year. Much less frequently, the same thing happens in the Twin Cities. Why can’t we just leave it at that?

3. One has to wonder why God would single out the ELCA’s discussion of homosexuality as worthy of a tornado hit while by-passing so many other serious issues. To give one example, there are over 400 distinct passages encompassing over 3,000 verses in the Bible that address issues related to poverty. Compare this with homosexuality, a topic that is explicitly mentioned a total of two times in the Old Testament and three times in the New. On top of this, the most frequently mentioned reason God judged cities and nations in the Old Testament was because they failed to care for the needy. And, finally, if there’s any sin American churches fail to seriously confront, it’s this one.

In light of this, wouldn’t you assume that if God was going to send warnings and/or inflict punishment with tornados he’d strike some of the many American churches and denominations that condone, if not Christianize, greed and apathy toward the poor? Yet John would have us believe that God had his tornado skip past these churches (and a million other punishment-worthy locations, like child sex-slave houses) in order to damage the steeple of a church because the people inside were wrestling with issues related to homosexuality. If John is right, God’s priorities must have radically changed since biblical times.

4. If John is right and God seriously wants to “send messages” through things like destructive tornados, why doesn’t he speak a little more clearly? Why not take all the guess work out of it? Honestly, if there was a divine point to be found in the destructive behavior of tornados, why does he make it look like tornados form and move in complete accord with the laws of physics, striking whatever buildings and people who happen to be in their way? And why would God leverage whatever point he’s trying to make on the implausible speculations of certain individuals who dare to offer public guesses as to what he’s up to?

5. John justifies his interpretation by claiming “Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.” He supports this claim by quoting Mark 4:41 in which Jesus’ disciples ask; “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” What’s interesting to me is that the disciples make this remark in response to Jesus having just rebuked a threatening storm. If Jesus was already controlling all storms, as John claims, why on earth would he need to rebuke this one?

Even more interesting, Jesus “rebukes” the storm by commanding it to be “quiet.” The Greek term used here literally means “to muzzle” or “strangle,” and its the same word he sometimes used when confronting demons. The implication is that, far from suggesting that Jesus controls all storms, the passage actually suggests that at least some life-threatening storms have a demonic power behind them that resists God’s good purposes (for a fuller discussion on this, see Boyd, God at War [IVP, 1997]).

6. Finally, and most remarkably, John attempts to further justify his speculation about the damaged church steeple by alluding to Luke 13:4-5, which he summarizes by saying:

“When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.”

What’s amazing is that in this very passage Jesus specifically addresses the temptation of people to think God punishes people by sending disasters! In response to a tower in Siloam and fell on 18 people Jesus says, “do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!”

Far from supporting John’s speculation about why a tornado broke a church steeple, it seems to me this passage directly assails it! It makes me want to ask John, “do you think that the folks at Central Lutheran church are more guilty than you or any others living in the Twin Cities?” And the only answer this passage allows us to give is an unequivocal “no!” In the fallen world in which we live, towers sometimes randomly fall; bridges sometimes randomly collapse; and tornadoes sometimes randomly do property damage – even to churches. That’s all there is to be said about it.

Rather than speculating about how God is judging others through natural calamities, Jesus tells his audience they should be concerned with their own relationship with God. “Unless you repent,” Jesus said, ” you too will perish.” Jesus boldly confronts our tendency to find a speck in another’s eye and our temptation to assume God is involved in their misfortune as we overlook the two-by-four sticking out of our own eye (Mt. 7:1-3). Instead, we should follow Paul’s example and consider ourselves worse sinners than others (1 Tim. 1:15-16) and concern ourselves with the judgment we ourselves will receive if we don’t repent and throw ourselves on God’s mercy.

It’s a warning I think we all do well to adhere to.

Greg Boyd is the Senior Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN.

Monday, August 10, 2009

English Misuse

Misuse of the English language seems rampant these days.  I'm not referring to simply the use of slang...but rather to the common overuse, misuse, and misunderstanding of English in general.  I stumbled upon this radio broadcast on my trip back to Missouri from Iowa.  Patricia O'Conner is an expert on English.  Give this a listen:

The Exchange with Ben Kieffer, guest: word maven Patricia O'Conner

English misuse and some of the really ridiculous slang even inspires comedians.  Check out this sketch from Mad TV.  There is a bit of profanity...just FYI.

Mad TV:  Webster's Dictionary Announcement

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Single-Payer Healthcare

I have been humored in hearing people against healthcare reform talk about the mythical 'ObamaCare' program (Obama isn't writing any plans), about the imaginary 'we are going to euthanize the elderly' legislation, about the healthcare-rationing issue even though including rationing would kill the reform in the first place, about how you won't be able to choose your own doctor even though that is a requirement for any plan though, and the list goes on and on.

If competition in the insurance industry was going to correct anything, then the situation shouldn't have gotten worse over the past 25 years since the issue became really emergent during the Reagan Presidency. Yes, TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. If that industry is so able to govern itself...then healthcare costs shouldn't have exploded and the uninsured population grown.

I have wondered why the United States doesn't consider something that is more like a single-payer system, which excludes considering systems like the United Kingdom's. I'm not sure that the currently proposed plans will completely remedy the current situation, but at the very least the conservatives trying to kill everything about healthcare reform should first have a final piece of legislation to actually read and evaluate.

Anyway...The Cobert Report recently had Aaron Carroll on his show talking about the single-payer system.


















The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Aaron Carroll
www.colbertnation.com








Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTasers

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Everything is amazing and no one is happy

For all those people who take for granted Facebook, Tweets, texting, and even e-mail...here is a recent viral video that should act as a reality-check for everyone:



Personally, I think it is because most people commoditize relationships while spreading time and affections too thin, that makes them unhappy.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Technology Break

Recently I got into what I would consider a very big argument over an intant message session.  I let it go for a while, but later pleaded to shelf the conversation until we could talk about it face-to-face.  I had to ask three times in the conversation prior to their agreeing shelf the conversation.  Not that the conversation was actually 'shelved'...instead they declared themselves right and aborted the whole conversation, but that is another story.

The experience underscored the thought that had we been face to face, the other party wouldn't have taken every comment the same way that they did.  In other words, some comments I hoped to be a 'shocker' weren't responded to at all, and other comments meant to be positive were instead spun into something extremely negative.  These misinterpretations of conversational English probably wouldn't have happened had we been face-to-face.

If you have read my articles in the past or talked to me, it is no secret that I think online social networking is a detriment to people and relationships.  I think that they tend to spred effort put into relationships so thin that there really is little to no substance in what remains.  And they whittle conversation down to just shallow quips and speed comments, rather than having a developing conversation.

To attempt to avoid a lot of the poor relationships that are indicative of our fast-paced, enterprenurial, soul-mate, tweeting, poor English skills society...I've personally jumped off the Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. bandwagons.  A friend of mine in Vancouver, BC asked me if I was becoming a Luddite...and in the end perhaps he is correct about that.  Because here I am dropping another technology, at least for not on a trial basis...but I'm feeling a lot of freedom in this so far.  I'm dropping instant messaging services, such as Google Talk and AOL Instant Messenger, and of course Microsoft Communicator at work.

There is a degree of irony in communication now.  I've been carrying a cell-phone nearly 24/7 for years now.  But since I've bailed from Facebook and Twitter I have actually receive comments from people about how I'm difficult to get ahold of.  Did they suddenly forget that they have my number in their phone?  Now that I've jumped off of instant messenger people have again mentioned that I'm hard to reach.  Again...got the cell phone in my pocket!

So...I'm still just as available in the world.  I answer e-mails.  I answer phone calls.  I like when people drop by my house just because they wanted to see me.  I like getting snail-mail letters!  At that one you might go...argh...why?  I like these 'older' communication means because they require effort and intention.  Twitter and Facebook have made relience on convenience a reality, and have removed the intentional nature of maintaining relationships.  They have made keeping up with people into a non-active news-feed.

I would much rather see the person who is down the hall, or a 5-minute drive away...rather than be texting them or e-stalking their status.  I want people to drop be unannounced.  I want to hear their voice, and not just see 140 characters in a blurb.

The teaching pastor of the church I am going to is on vacation right now.  I had forgotten that he was going to do that and gave him a call.  On his message he said that he was away on vacation and he would not have phone-service, no Twitter, no Facebook, no texting, no instant messages, no e-mail, etc.  I found myself smiling at his message, and pleased that he would indeed choose to take a holiday and not be available.  I hope that people miss him and long for his return from sabbatical...because it becomes easy to take people's availability for granted with all the immediate access communication tools we abuse in this day and age.