Friday, November 28, 2003

Occasionally Gay

Thinking about the previous item, I have a confession to make. Sometimes I'm gay. Yes, when I set aside my cares, when the sun is shining and the air is crisp and there's a happy song on my lips, I am gay. Not homosexual, gay.

If you are not familiar with that use of the word "gay," it is because the word has been hijacked to mean homosexual. Perhaps the selection of "gay" was intended to suggest that the homosexuality is a happy and carefree lifestyle. But be that as it may, it annoys me that we've lost the meaning of such a great word.

In a recent issue of Wired Magazine, evolutionist-athiest firebrand Richard Dawkins outlined his plan to ruin another word. He wants athiests to be called "brights." The logic, of course, is to suggest that athiests are intelligent, and, by extension, theists are dumb.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Homosexual Marriage

In thinking about the Massachusetts high court's ruling on homosexual marriage, one thing that is very unclear to me is what homosexuals hope to accomplish by such marriages. The arguments I've heard say that making homosexual relationships into marriage would solve problems with inheritance, would give the right for one partner to make critical medical decisions for another when the other is incapacitated, would provide partner health care, and so forth.

I'm afraid it's still unclear. I can leave all my worldly goods in trust for a goldfish if I want to and homosexuals can leave their possessions to whomever they please. What does that have to do with marriage? And as far the other difficulties homosexuals face, it seems they could all be settled by contractual arrangements. So I really don't understand the reasoning.

But for the sake of discussion, let's assume there are benefits to marriage that homosexuals could not otherwise obtain. And having assumed that, let's back off even further and ask ourselves why any couple should receive such benefits; heterosexual, homosexual, man and dog, whatever.

In other words, why should the government provide benefits for people just because they decide to live together? Good question.

I suggest that it is because the government has an interest in promoting marriage, and when the government has an interest in promoting some behavior, it often provides incentives to encourage that behavior. For example, the government may give you a tax break if you install a solar system on your house or buy a hybrid car. The reason is because it wants to promote alternative energy sources. Someone may argue that it isn't fair; that the government should also subsidize SUVs, but SUVs don't promote the government's goal of energy efficiency.

So, what is it that the government wishes to promote in male-female marriages? Despite all its problems, marriage provides a reasonably good environment in which to raise children into productive, healthy citizens, and the government has a huge interest in promoting productive, healthy citizens. Further, until recently, the difficulty in obtaining a divorce helped protect from poverty women who stepped out of the workforce to manage a household. Their husbands couldn't abandon them with impunity. Today, with more liberal divorce laws, the government attempts to provide this same protection, should marriage fail, by requiring alimony.

On the other hand, it is unclear why the government should promote homosexual unions. There isn't the slightest possibility they'll result in children. Though homosexual couples could adopt children, it is highly debatable that this is a healthy environment for children. Further, I'm guessing that in most cases, if a homosexual partnership breaks up, both partners simply continue working at their current jobs; one unemployable partner is not suddenly left in poverty.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Amish Airline Hijackers?

Some people hold to a a very ridiculous notion: that it's dangerous to believe something too strongly.

This is so silly! First of all, if this assertion is true, then the person who holds this position is dangerous. Why? Because if this person strongly believes that strongly believing is dangerous, then he (or she) is the dangerous person he is worried about. Look in the mirror, Joe!

But some people (I especially heard this right after 9/11) put a finer point on the argument. They say that strong religious belief is dangerous.

Well... it's still silly.

For example, Al Qaeda strongly believes it is right to kill people (at least if they're Americans), and the Amish strongly believe it is wrong to kill people. So, will anybody seriously suggest the Amish are as dangerous as Al Qaeda?

It's what you believe that's crucial. How strongly you believe it is secondary.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

A Big Rock

Can God make a rock so big that he can't lift it?

A Christian who was genuinely confused sent me an email with that question a while ago, and I was happy to try my best to respond.

But I suspect that most people who ask this question do it to show Christians that there is something their God cannot do. So nya, nya, nya! But frankly, methinks the critics exert themselves overly much. After all, they could just look at Hebrews 6:18, which says it is impossible for God to lie. There! Something God cannot do. Satisfied?

No, they'd rather ask one of those silly damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't questions, like, "Do you still beat your wife?" (I do, but only at foosball.)

So, for what little it's worth, let me try to answer the question.

God, by definition, is greater than anything else, so if God created a rock so heavy that he couldn't lift it, then he'd stop being God, because the rock would then be greater than him.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

The Second Coming

In my fellowship group a year or so ago, the topic of Jesus' second coming came up and a few people groaned. I understand the groans. There have been so many times when people have said that Jesus would come back in a few months or a year or two, and he didn't. So I think people were thinking about all these wrong predictions and don't want anything to do with the topic.

But I think about it a bit differently. I see those who get excited about Jesus coming back as similar to little kids at home with a babysitter. Every time a car goes by they run to the window because they're sure it's Mommy and Daddy. And, of course, so often it isn't. In the same way, these people often look at dramatic political events - particularly if they involve Israel - as signs of Jesus imminent return. Running to the window.

And actually, I find that kind of enthusiasm and belief so much more refreshing than the embarassment, the long-suffering sighing and cynical - though perhaps unstated - assumption that whatever is happening in the world, it almost certainly isn't connected with Jesus' return.

I confess to being a bit jaded too, but I sympathize with the kids who run to the window at the sound of every car, because I know that while they may be wrong about this particular car, someday they'll be right, and then I want to be at the window with them. Someday our Lord will come back, and looking at the state of the Middle East, it doesn't seem entirely unlikely that it could be soon.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Quotes from Hannah Whitall Smith

Here are a few quotes I liked from the book, The Unselfishness of God, which I mentioned earlier.

On Giving the Battle to the Lord

"Many hundreds of similar battles have been fought and won for me by the Captain of my Salvation, and the secret I learned then, of handing over the battle to the Lord, and leaving it in his hands, has never failed to work when I have acted upon it. It has been to me over and over a practical illustration of Christ's words, 'Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.' He has overcome it, not we; and He will always overcome it when we put the matter in His hands, and will stand aside and let Him fight."

On Old Age

"If it were not for Him, old age with its failing powers and many infirmities could not but be a sad and wearisome time; but, with God, our lovely and unselfish God, at the back of it, old age is simply a delightful resting place. To be seventy gives one permission to stand aloof from the stress of life, and to lay down all burden of responsibility for carrying on the work of the world; and I rejoice in my immunity."

On Giving Advice to the Young

"Advice we who are older may give, and the fruits of our experience, but we must be perfectly content to have our advice rejected by the younger generation, and our experience ignored. Were we willing to do this, I am convinced the young would much more often be glad to profit by what is called 'the wisdom of the old'; but, as it is, they are afraid to ask advice because they know they will be expected to follow it, whether it commends itself to them or not, and because they fear the old will feel hurt if they do not. Perfect freedom in asking advice can only exist along with perfect freedom not to follow that advice."

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Canned Church

I've been pondering lately what is necessary to have a church. By "church" I don't mean the universal Body of Christ, but the local gathering of believers.

If a few of us were to start a new church, what would we need? I think most of us would say we need a place to meet, someone to lead and preach, a musician or musical team, and someone to handle administrative tasks, such as putting money in the bank and paying bills.

But are all these things really necessary for cash-strapped little churches?

Well, I think every church - even small ones - need a place to meet, and someone to handle the administration, and a leader, but I'm not so sure about preaching and music.

In this age of electronics maybe you could replace live preaching with video tapes. There are a lot of good preachers out there, so why not use them? In fact, with video even the smallest church could learn from the greatest preachers in the world.

And I think the same might be said of music. Special singers at my church - which is large and has great live music - sometimes use recorded music as background, so why couldn't small churches use recorded music to which the congregation sings along? I know it sounds a little weird to sing along to a recording, but haven't you ever sung along to a song on a CD or on the radio?

Maybe a church service would look like this:

People enter the church, where there would be Christian songs or hymns playing in the background. The leader would get up, welcome people, open in prayer, invite people to greet one another, pray for prayer requests, then announce songs and play the music. After people had sung, the leader would announce the video or audio-taped message, and switch it on. At the end of the sermon, the leader would play another song or two and close in prayer.

I think great live preaching and great live music are always going to be best, but if they're not available - or are only available at a prohibitive price - then maybe canned preaching and music are the way to go. That way the whole church staff could be one dedicated but semi-skilled person working part time.