Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Questions of the Day

Long day of discussing (arguing) some things with a super hard core conservative.

Question 1:
What do you call the guy who backs out of the argument first?

The loser.

Question 2:
What's the point of believing the Bible is inerrant, infallible, etc. if you don't read the f@ck!ng thing?

F@ck if I know.

Tell me how it went.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Which Christian Nation?

I've been trying to explain to people why the United States is not a Christian nation. My focus in doing this is trying to convince people that many of the main figures of the Founding Fathers were not Christians, or not Evangelical Christians, or at least not the kind of Christians we have today. We do have wonderful Christian figures who have done great things throughout history such as William Wilberforce, but our country is no more a Christian nation than if you walk into a garage you are a Volkswagen.

In that vein, I found some quotations from our founding fathers and I did some research to check their validity. First is Thomas Jefferson. For the uninitiated, he actually wanted to see the end of the Christian faith and favored more of a universal moral gospel.

"Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man." Thomas Jefferson

This quotation is a paraphrase of the original here (emphasis mine):

"...those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy, the most sublime & benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man, endeavored to crush your well earnt, & well deserved fame." - Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, Washington, 21 March 1801

Religions are all alike -- founded upon fables and mythologies
The Christian God is a being of terrific character - cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust

Also: "But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." Thomas Jefferson

Next Ben Franklin. He was really a Deist, known by some as a champion of generic religion, and claimed by several denominations, he did not affirm some extremely vital tenets of faith in Jesus such as: salvation, hell, Jesus Christ’s divinity, and he believed in the goodness of man.

"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." Benjamin Franklin

And Finally John Adams.
This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it

"The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." John Adams (To be perfectly fair, this one is also credited to George Washington, so it may be one or both.)

The overriding principle here is that even if each and every one of the founders were born again evangelical Christians, the goals of the US as a country and the principles of the American Dream do not mesh with true Christian principles. We are promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and all these "freedoms" bandied about by the politicos of today. The Bible doesn't promise us any "freedoms." The Bible promises us death, imprisonment, and torture. So as you can see, our country was not founded solely on Christian principles and more importantly, it is not a Christian nation. We even have separation of church and state, something that not even Switzerland has. Our country was founded as a nation where there is freedom of religion, which may be somewhat of a Christian ideal, but Christianity functions best under persecution. But, freedom of religion does not equal Christian Nation. Nor is there anything in there about freedom from taxes, liberals, homosexuals, or Asian automobiles.

What has been done in the name of being a Christian nation by a self proclaimed born-again president has done incalculable damage not only to our country, but especially to the true faith of Jesus Christ. Wars started in the name of a god are the kind of thing done in Islam, not in true Christianity. Our politicians need not soil the name of God by proclaiming publicly that attacking a sovereign nation without just cause is "the will of God" because it is no such thing.

Please do some research. Faith's only worth is found in the object toward which it is directed. Faith in politicians who tell you what you want to hear is useless.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gleaning, Aliens and the Bible

In the story of Ruth (in the book of Ruth) we see Ruth doing something called "gleaning" which is collecting leftover crops from the fields after harvest. This was part of the Mosaic law and it was required that the harvesters of the crop not harvest the corners and edges of the field or pickup anything they had missed. This was done so that the poor and aliens in the land could come and glean the fields and get enough to survive.

How different it is today in this "Christian Nation."

Right here I'm not trying to take any particular side on the immigration debate. My simple solution would be to recall every US service person and piece of equipment and base and set them up along the boarders and coasts of the United States of America. Surely we could cut the military budget by like half and use that money for all sorts of things. The military personnel could be border guards as part of their training and practice. How many countries have military bases all over the world like we do. I'm not against a strong military, I just want it here, right here, and only right here. We are not world police and we don't need myriad bases in other countries. There are no German air bases on US soil are there?

But we need to treat immigrants better. They are among the protected classes that the Bible warns about caring for. The illegal immigration problem wouldn't be a problem if employers weren't breaking the law and hiring them in the first place. Think about it. Pedro says to Manuel "Hey vato, you wanna go up north?" To which Manuel replies "And do what, there ain't no trabajo no more." But instead we focus on getting the little guy. It's the wrong approach. It's like sitting on a lawn chair next to a light bulb at night and wondering why there are so many moths. Turn off the light. You can't control the moths, you can control the light, it's very simple. You can't control the immigrants, you can control the employers.

Simple enforcement, go to a construction site or job site or factory. Do some random citizenship checks. If you find an illegal, arrest the foreman, arrest the CEO shut down the operation. Do that about five times with major media coverage and you'll find the immigration problem quickly disappearing. But don't take it out on poor Pedro, he's a good hardworking guy, he just wants to support his family.

Controlling activity with government is done consistently wrong, especially by conservatives. If you want more efficient cars, don't tell the car manufacturers to make more efficient cars, raise the gas tax. If you want more efficient houses, raise the price of energy. Don't get all up in Manuel's business, arrest his illegal employer and make Manuel get a green card.

The problem is not illegal immigrants, it's illegal employers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Moses Doesn't Love Me

You may have seen this guy standing in a public place "preaching" at the top of his lungs at passing college students. You may have seen him at the University of Arkansas, the University of Central Arkansas, Oklahoma State University, or some other public place making a mockery of Jesus Christ and a fool of himself.

His name is Gary Bowman, but students often know him as Moses at the U of A or Preacher Bob at some other campuses. He seems to try to evangelize students and faculty, but let me deconstruct his intentions for you.

His primary purpose seems to be to incite anger and draw fodder for lawsuits. In fact, in 2003, the University of Arkansas had to pay him over $30,000, and there have been quite a number of different lawsuits over the years against a variety of organizations.

Secondly, his evangelism is really nothing more than the kind of thing you might hear from Westboro Baptist Church or some other inflammatory group. You see, when you talk to someone about Jesus or share your faith with them, you meet them on their level, you empathize with them and show that you care for and have love for them. On the other hand, what Mr. Bowman does is talk past you, over you, around you, and through you. He doesn't care about you. Just walk up to him and try to talk to him in a reasoned calm and compassionate way. He'll most likely continue preaching at the top of his lungs while you are still standing next to him.

He doesn't just ask you to follow Jesus, you have to follow Jesus in his way, and his "Jesus" isn't the same one the rest of us know. To be okay with Gary, you need to be a "tongue talker" a Pentecostal Holiness person, and you better not even occasionally drink or smoke. None of these things, of course, is biblical.

And definitely don't try to engage him in the same way he tries to engage you. You can find a YouTube video which clearly shows Mr. Bowman calling the cops on a student with a bullhorn. He knows his rights, he knows the system, and he will use every opportunity to use it against you while using it for his own purposes.

So what to do? Ignore him. Leave the nuts to argue with the nut. He wouldn't come back if he didn't get a rise out of people. He's not doing God's will, he's gratifying his own sick need for attention. Jesus wouldn't call you a whore.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God" by Francis Chan

I just finished reading (listening to) Francis Chan's Crazy Love. I downloaded the audio book read by the author from iTunes and it's a good listen at about four and a half hours. It cost about two bucks less than buying it, plus there wasn't the hassle of needing to leave the house or paying taxes or burning gas to go somewhere to pay too much for it at the local Christian bookstore (no names.)

The first three chapters of the book are kind of a foundation for what the whole book is about. I woke up a little sick this morning and decided to take a long hot bath as I often do when I'm sick. So between last night and the bath, I listened to about the first four or five chapters. Apparently I stayed too long in the bath because I got out and threw up all the grape juice I had been drinking. The first chapters left me with a feeling of "yes I know that." He was talking about how great God is and how much he loves us and how the story of the universe is really about him and not us. Very important stuff. One point that struck me was about our relationship with Jesus and how we should seek that first. He quotes statistics about how most Christians pray only a couple of minutes a day and watch TV for four hours.

But later on came the real good stuff. You know the kind of stuff that you sit and listen to (or read) and you know in your soul that what is being said is the truth and that all these years I have been making excuses for not taking certain parts of what Jesus said literally. I was sitting in the Civil Engineering lounge in Bell doing my homework and listening to the meat of the book and I started to cry. I have always lived in marginal houses and have always wanted to build my ultimate dream house, an earth sheltered ultra efficient super sustainable house that would have virtually no utility bills and would be the paragon of virtue in a green world. But I realized that if I were going to follow Jesus and give what he wants me to give, I don't think I'm ever gonna get my house. I'll never be able to fulfill many of the dreams I've had growing up the way I did. I already know I'm not going to be rich and I'm okay with that. But will I ever get to live in an efficient house? Will I ever ever get to own an electric car? Do I get to see my dreams come to fruition?

I want to be a Christian, I want to be a disciple of Jesus, but the question is, what will he ask of me? And when will I have to tell my wife about it? How much do I give? How much is enough? Can there be too much?

I want to do what is required of me, but I don't want to do the minimum. And my flesh tells me I certainly don't want to do the maximum. I don't want to go the Financial Peace way and simply save my way into financial security, that's not what Jesus calls us to do.

Francis goes through a near comprehensive list of what it is to be a lukewarm Christian. He says there won't be any lukewarm Christians in Heaven. I recently encountered a lukewarm Christian or two when they demanded that I prove my care for the poor by telling them everything I had done for the poor. And as he read through the list, I thought, I do more than all of those, I give more money, I give more time, I serve more, I'm less demanding, I'm less worldly, but in the end, what is enough? What on God's green earth am I supposed to do exactly? What do I do?

Much of the last half of the book I spent waiting for the punchline. I waited for Francis to tell me what it was that I was supposed to do to fulfill God's will. Was I supposed to sell my house? Am I supposed to give all my possessions to the poor? What do you want Francis, I'll do it!!! If you tell me to sell my house I'll do it. If you tell me to be a nominal Christian and give sparingly to missions, I'll do it, just tell me. Neither poverty nor riches, I'll do it. Do you want me to save up and retire early so I can be a volunteer at my church for the rest of my life? Do you want me to move into the city... never mind, I don't want to do that. But anything else Francis, I'll do it. How is my life supposed to be? I don't want to just do enough so I don't feel guilty anymore. I have enough guilt already.

However, in typical fashion in nearly all Christian books, Francis didn't tell me what to do. He did give me a few examples though, including Shane Claiborne and Rich Mullins (though I would like to remind everyone that Rich would probably still be with us if he'd been wearing his seat belt.) And they are great examples, even Shane is a real Christian Greenie like me, but he doesn't get to live in a super insulated house either. He lives in the city and plants trees in toxic waste sites and feeds poor people.

Lately I've been coming to the conclusion that I'm not supposed to be a goer, but a sender. I like that, it's comfortable, it's nice, it doesn't require me to step out on a limb or be adventurous or anything, and maybe I might get a foundation or a building or something named after me. WHAT THE HELL AM I SAYING?!? Actually, just skip the second sentence in this paragraph, it was entirely untrue and only said to make a point, I've never felt that way. But now, I'm wondering what I really am supposed to do. I'm left with the last thing God definitely told me to do and that was to become a Civil Engineer. He hasn't really told me anything since then, not that I haven't asked him to, but we haven't really been close lately in all honesty.

Am I supposed to live on my engineer's salary? Do I drive that electric car? Do I build that house? Do I do short term missions like my Hydraulics professor, you know the one I wanna be like when I grow up? The big question is, did God make me with the inborn desires that I have, the car, the house, the wind turbines, the third world water filters, or are these my way of trying to slip into the file cabinet of "just above mediocrity?" Should I really have been crying about not being able to have the house? And it's not just the house, do I really have to give up all that I want to do with my life? Should I sell my $110,000 house and buy a $55,000 house and give the rest to the poor? I already live in a house that's a square foot and a half bigger than exactly half the size of the average American house, how much further down do I need to go? Can I build a 600 square foot really efficient house to house my wife and future four to five children (two adopted?) Can I have an electric car or can I convert my 24 year old mini pickup to electric and use that? Or should I sell my cars and ride my bicycle the nine miles into town? Or should I sell my house and live in a 600 square foot apartment in town? Do I sell everything, give it to the poor, live in my truck and have my wife leave me? Am I supposed to keep blogging, can God use that?


Fantastic book, I give it 10/10. Read it, if it doesn't change your life, you should really think about shooting yourself because you're just wasting your time anyway. $5.95 on iTunes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Libertarianism in One Lesson by Mike Huben

Libertarianism in One Lesson by Mike Huben

One of the most attractive features of libertarianism is that it is basically a very simple ideology. Maybe even simpler than Marxism, since you don't have to learn foreign words like "proletariat".

This brief outline will give you most of the tools you need to hit the ground running as a freshly indoctrinated libertarian ideologue. Go forth and proselytize!


* In the beginning, man dwelt in a state of Nature, until the serpent Government tempted man into Initial Coercion.
* Government is the Great Satan. All Evil comes from Government, and all Good from the Market, according to the Ayatollah Rand.
* We must worship the Horatio Alger fantasy that the meritorious few will just happen to have the lucky breaks that make them rich. Libertarians happen to be the meritorious few by ideological correctness. The rest can go hang.
* Government cannot own things because only individuals can own things. Except for corporations, partnerships, joint ownership, marriage, and anything else we except but government.
* Parrot these arguments, and you too will be a singular, creative, reasoning individualist.
* Parents cannot choose a government for their children any more than they can choose language, residence, school, or religion.
* Taxation is theft because we have a right to squat in the US and benefit from defense, infrastructure, police, courts, etc. without obligation.
* Magic incantations can overturn society and bring about libertopia. Sovereign citizenry! The 16th Amendment is invalid! States rights!
* Objectivist/Neo-Tech Advantage #69i : The true measure of fully integrated honesty is whether the sucker has opened his wallet. Thus sayeth the Profit Wallace. Zonpower Rules Nerdspace!
* The great Zen riddle of libertarianism: minimal government is necessary and unnecessary. The answer is only to be found by individuals.


* Libertarians invented outrage over government waste, bureaucracy, injustice, etc. Nobody else thinks they are bad, knows they exist, or works to stop them.
* Enlightenment comes only through repetition of the sacred mantra "Government does not work" according to Guru Browne.
* Only government is force, no matter how many Indians were killed by settlers to acquire their property, no matter how many blacks were enslaved and sold by private companies, no matter how many heads of union members are broken by private police.
* Money that government touches spontaneously combusts, destroying the economy. Money retained by individuals grows the economy, even if literally burnt.
* Private education works, public education doesn't. The publicly educated masses that have grown the modern economies of the past 150 years are an illusion.
* Market failures, trusts, and oligopolies are lies spread by the evil economists serving the government as described in the "Protocols of the Elders of Statism".
* Central planning cannot work. Which is why all businesses internally are run like little markets, with no centralized leadership.
* Paternalism is the worst thing that can be inflicted upon people, as everyone knows that fathers are the most hated and reviled figures in the world.
* Government is like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearsome master. Therefore, we should avoid it entirely, as we do all forms of combustion.


* The FDA is solely responsible for any death or sickness where it might have prevented treatment by the latest unproven fad.
* Children, criminals, death cultists, and you all have the same inalienable right to own any weaponry: conventional, chemical, biological, or nuclear.
* All food, drugs, and medical treatments should be entirely unregulated: every industry should be able to kill 300,000 per year in the US like the tobacco industry.
* If you don't have a gun, you are not a libertarian. If you do have a gun, why don't you have even more powerful armament?
* Better to abolish all regulations, consider everything as property, and solve all controversy by civil lawsuit over damages. The US doesn't have enough lawyers, and people who can't afford to invest many thousands of dollars in lawsuits should shut up.

Libertarian Party

* The Libertarian Party is well on its way to dominating the political landscape, judging from its power base of 100+ elected dogcatchers and other important officials after 25 years of effort.
* The "Party of Oxymoron": "Individualists unite!"
* Flip answers are more powerful than the best reasoned arguments, which is why so many libertarians are in important government positions.
* It's time the new pro-freedom libertarian platform was implemented; child labor, orphanages, sweatshops, poorhouses, company towns, monopolies, trusts, cartels, blacklists, private goons, slumlords, etc.
* Libertarianism "rules" Internet political debate the same way US Communism "ruled" pamphleteering.
* No compromise from the "Party of Principle". Justice, happiness, liberty, guns, and other good stuff come only from rigidly adhering to inflexible dogmas.
* Minimal government is whatever we say it is, and we don't agree.
* Government is "moving steadily in a libertarian direction" with every change libertarians approve of; no matter if it takes one step forward and two steps backwards.
* Yes, the symbol of the Libertarian Party is a Big Government Statue. It's not supposed to be funny or ironic!

Political Debate Strategy

* Count only the benefits of libertarianism, count only the costs of government.
* Five of a factoid beats a full argument.
* All historical examples are tainted by statism, except when they favor libertarian claims.
* Spiritually baptize the deceased as libertarians because they cannot protest the anachronism: Locke, Smith, Paine, Jefferson, Spooner, etc.
* The most heavily armed libertarian has the biggest dick and thus the best argument.
* The best multi-party democratic republics should be equated to the worst dictatorships for the purposes of denouncing statism. It's only a matter of degree.
* Inviolate private property is the only true measure of freedom. Those without property have the freedom to try to acquire it. If they can't, let them find somebody else's property to complain on.
* Private ownership is the cure for all problems, despite the historical record of privately owned states such as Nazi Germany, Czarist and Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China.
* Require perfection as the only applicable standard to judge government: libertarianism, being imaginary, cannot be fairly judged to have flaws.
* Only libertarian economists' Nobel Prizes count: the other economists and Nobel Prize Committee are mistaken.
* Any exceptional case of private production proves that government ought not to be involved.

Yes, I know this is completely pejorative, but that's kind of the point. How can we properly criticize anything without a little bit of laughing at it? I know some libertarians, and I like most of them, but I'm not one. These were some funny reasons hidden in a bit of sarcasm, so don't get on my case too much, if you are a libertarian, attack the charge, not the messenger.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The Unfulfilled Life of a Blogger

Hello everyone, all five of you who read this blog regularly.

I don't know about you other bloggers, but this experience has left me a little bit frustrated. First of all, and not surprisingly, not that many people are interested in the same things I am. There are relatively few people out there who like composting toilets. There are some who like electric cars, but not many. There are plenty interested in politics, but few are both Christians and not conservatives.

To my dismay, the majority of hits on my blog are related to what is the most accurate Bible translation. Of course few people are looking for what is really the most accurate Bible translation, they just want to argue about it. The second most common subject is "The Shack" by Paul Young. This is not bad, I just wrote those posts years ago.

I have a confession to make. I got into a Facebook argument yesterday despite my previous abandonment of Facebook. It was mostly about the health care debate, but arguing with conservatives nearly always gets very messy. They don't play fair. They can be kind of mean. They make too many assumptions. One such assumption what that because I was for health care reform, that I was also pro abortion. So one guy went on this big fallacious post about how all I was doing was dancing across the skulls of dead babies. He reminded me very much of Sean Hannity who despite being disproven always keeps using the same arguments even when his facts are completely off. The same guy kept saying that I was part of the Emergent Church and a liberal which I am not. This serves to reinforce my belief in the exclusivity of the right. Either I'm one of them or I'm a bleeding heart liberal. Unfortunately I got in an argument with a person who could well be defined as a loudmouth. Arguments between loudmouths and knowitalls don't end well. I only hope she doesn't decide to pull a Sarah Palin and try to get me fired from my job (seriously.)

What I really want from this blogging experience is what I see on other blogs. There's a post, then comments with supporting and opposing views. There's some thoughtful discussion and some flaming too, but generally things go in some direction. But my position is just so unique. I'm a Christian, moderate, centrist, environmentalist, etc. etc. etc. But I get consistently labeled a liberal which bugs the crap out of me. I am always reminded that the right gets it wrong and the left doesn't get it. But people who get things wrong are much more virulent than the ones who don't get it. So it this point, it pretty much takes a super majority on any subject for liberals or progressives to get anything done. And though I'm not a liberal, years of republican filibustering and do nothing partisanship make me want to see the democrats get something done. They did win the election, they should get some results.

I just want people to be interested, is that too much to ask? They can like or hate it, but just somebody care! I'm kidding. No one said this would be easy. And yesterday was really hard. But oh well. I'll keep plugging on and no one caring. Maybe when I get to elected office my opponents can use this blog to claim I'm a flip flopper or a socialist or some other equally ludicrous nonsense.

Have fun.