Politics

Owl Post 10-29-12

 

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What Am I Doing When I Vote?

I’m glad that TGC is coordinating a series of blogs about some “first principles” to consider when thinking about politics (e.g., BakerSmethurstForster). While I fully agree (and have often said from the pulpit) that the kingdom of God does not depend on elections and will not be ushered in by politicians, I believe Christian involvement in politics, or at least some understanding of the parties, the candidates, and the issues, is absolutely critical. Because we have all seen unthinking allegiance to a certain candidate or party, we can be overly reticent to talk about politics at all, let alone put forward a reasoned view on the political process. But political abdication and utter silence is not the right corrective to political idolatry, nor does it further the common good when Christians disengage for fear of being labeled with this wing or that.

J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy:

This is a book that does what Hamlet told the players they should do: hold the mirror up to nature. And nature isn’t pretty. Actually that needs to be qualified. Nature, as in the world in which we live, is beautiful. Stunning, really, and Rowling sings the beauty of the cool morning, the night sky, the hilltop view of the quaint township.

Tracing the Logic of Liberalism:

In the American context the labels liberal and conservative are used in an ahistorical way—more as terms of opprobrium than as accurate designations for what people actually believe about political life. Liberals and conservatives alike differ less on fundamental principles than on who can better claim custody over the same principles—the principles of, well, liberalism.

You Believe in Karma:

“Good people get good stuff. Bad people get bad stuff.” Or as the Beatles sang with their last gasp on Abbey Road, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Now I love John, Paul, George and Ringo, but I take issue with them here, and I know I am in the minority. After all, the world runs on retribution. “This for that” comes as naturally to us as breathing. Moralists interpret misfortune as the karmic result of misbehavior. This for that. “You failed to obey God, so He gave your child an illness.” Such rule-based economies of punishment and reward may be the default mode of the fallen human heart, but that doesn’t make them any less brutal!

THE BOOKSTORE BRAIN:

If you could create a bookstore, what would you put in it? What would you exclude? Would you specialize in any particular genre? Would your organizing principle be quantity or quality, or would you devise a way to have both?

Porn-Free Church: Sex, God, and the Gospel: Free Book

A life-with-porn versus a life-without-porn is a poor choice. If you set it up in these terms then you won’t produce lasting change. We need to set it up (as it truly is) as a choice between life-with-porn versus life-with-God. We need to show how God always offers more than porn.

The New iPad Has New Competition … Which It Will Destroy:

You may have heard that Apple dropped some science on us this morning, with the announcement of a boatload of new desktops, notebooks, and tablets. Under normal circumstances, we’d be focused entirely on the new iPad Mini, the new offering Apple has crafted to bust its way into the 7-inch tablet space. And if you take a gander at our front page, you’ll see that we’re giving the little guy more than its fair share of love. But there’s more news out there: the new, fourth generation iPad was also announced today, a full-size tablet some in the press have taken to calling the “iPad Maxi.”

Did Apple Really Just Screw Over iPad Owners?

Earlier this week, Apple held an event during which they announced several new and updated products, including a smaller iPadthinner and sleeker iMacs, and a new high-end laptop. Needless to say, these announcements got plenty of people excited, including yours truly, as the months — and even years — of anticipation, rumors, and analysis come to a head and revealed a slew of lovely new products.

Owl Post 10-22-12

 

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I Am Going to Vote:

Thoughts from John Piper on the election and voting.

Having read several articles by people who don’t plan to vote in the presidential election, my conclusion is: I’m going to vote.

It seems to me that the good that can be done, presumably by the protest of not voting, is mainly done by talking about not voting rather than by not voting. Then it also seems that this same good would be accomplished if those who thought they would not vote did all that talking, but then voted.

Too big to maintain?

Something to think about from George Will.

If in four weeks a president-elect Mitt Romney is seeking a Treasury secretary, he should look here, to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Candidate Romney can enhance his chance of having this choice to make by embracing a simple proposition from Fisher: Systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs), meaning too-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks, are “too dangerous to permit.”

Previously on Parenthood: I Thought I Could Do It All, but I Can’t …

This is a little tardy since the most recent episode of Parenthood (“There’s Something I Need to Tell You …”) aired over a week ago, but I—perhaps like many of you—typically watch shows online several days later. Nevertheless, this is a follow up to a recent post regarding new developments in the Braverman clan. I am really enjoying season 5 for all its insight into human nature (and relationships, and suffering, and grace…), and this time I want to highlight what is happening with the Julia Braverman-Graham, the hard charging lawyer in the family played by Erika Christensen.

Romney has the momentum:

We are at a turning point in the presidential race. For the first time today Mitt Romney leads in the RealClearPolitics electoral college averaging of polls by a 206-201 margin. In the Gallup 7-day tracking poll Romney went ahead by 7 points, suggesting that the vice presidential debate (Oct. 11) was, if anything, a positive for the GOP ticket. There is so far nothing to show that the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 slowed Romney down.

The ‘Cloud Atlas’ Question: When Is an ‘Unfilmable’ Book Actually Filmable?

There’s no telling why a great but straightforward book might become a lousy movie—or why a film version of a “difficult” novel might be a classic.

The 25 Most Devoted Fan Bases:

Not sure if I agree with the rankings; what do you think?

For most consumers of pop culture, fandom is a lower-case concern. They are “fans” in the sense that they may like a particular movie, TV show, band, or personality but don’t think much about it when not experiencing it firsthand. Capital-F Fandom is something else altogether. It goes beyond “like” or even “love” and straight to “devoted.” Their Fandom is all-consuming, a jumping-off point for a deep dive into fan fiction, convention-attending, recap-writing, role-playing, costume-making, language-learning, and more. There is a passion to this kind of Fandom that binds enthusiasts in the manner of people who share a secret — this secret just happens to be shared with millions of others.

My good friend Colin from Treknewsandviews was able to get a shout-out from Connor Trinneer of Star Trek Enterprise fame while he was at Destination Star Trek London.

Owl Post 10-5-12

Romney Soars, Obama Fumbles:

DENVER — The Romney camp began flooding into the post-debate spin room before the candidates had given their closing arguments. They couldn’t wait to start the gloating. “Governor Romney was the clear winner,” crowed his strategist Eric Fehrnstrom. “If this were a boxing match, it would have been called by the referee.” And: “Someone should check the heels on President Obama’s shoes. They’re probably pretty worn down, because he just spent 90 minutes back on them.”

At Least 5 Things Scripture Teaches Us About Governments:

Government is one of the facts of life in this world. All of human history has shown that we need to be governed. Not surprisingly, the Bible speaks to government. Here are five things the Bible teaches us.

Everything Is Not OK (on Parenthood)… the Bad Thing Is Already Happening:

Have you been watching the new season of Parenthood? This show continues to deliver the goods, which mostly come in the form of true-to-life suffering, chaos, loss, and grace, love, and peace amidst it all—very much in line with the Mockingbird conference last week in Charlottesville.

The most recent episode’s title says so much: “Everything Is Not OK.” It refers to the startling news that Kristina Braverman has received (I used to find Kristina’s character fairly annoying, but she has been endearing herself to me lately, mostly due to her present suffering), namely, that she has breast cancer. In this episode, her husband Adam Braverman’s relentless positivity is met with the reality of Kristina’s situation. The irony is his positivity only serves to make her feel worse, and thus she no longer wants to talk to him.

HOW TO CULTIVATE FRESH FAITH IN THE GOSPEL:

There are times old, memorized Bible promises just don’t help me trust Jesus. I recite them in the face of temptation, but nothing. No power, no belief, no victory. Is this because Jesus isn’t trustworthy? After all, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor. 1:20). Why aren’t they “amen-ed” in my heart in the face of temptation of despair? Is there something wrong with my Bible? Or maybe Jesus only occasionally makes good on his promises? That, of course, contradicts God’s Word, and we must always interpret the Bible in light of the rest of the Bible.

Defending the Free Market – Book Review:

Robert Sirico, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2012. 256 pp. $17.33.

Already this presidential race has provoked countless controversies. The party conventions exposed a diverse range of value systems, worldviews, and religious convictions regarding marriage, sexuality, sanctity of human life, and human dignity. Various factions clamor to define the future of our nation. And the ongoing jobs crisis perhaps makes economic debates more germane and inescapable than ever.

Owl Post 9-27-12

Links for Reviews and News for J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy:

J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy: We’ve Read It, Here’s What We Thought:

It’s not really possible to open The Casual Vacancy without a lot of expectations both high and low at the same time crashing around in your brain and distorting your vision. I don’t know if it’s possible or even desirable to avoid them. I know I had a lot of, let’s call them feelings when I opened the book (which happened on Saturday morning; don’t ask; I work for the military-industrial-entertainment complex, let’s just leave it at that). I have spent many, many hours reading Rowling’s work. I am a known Harry Potter fan.

J.K. Rowling’s debut novel for adults is a hard story that’s worth a read:

If you’re looking for what makes J.K. Rowling magical — emotion, heart — you will.

“The Casual Vacancy” is the first novel written for adults from Rowling, the successful-beyond-belief author behind the “Harry Potter” series about the young boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

Poverty Informs J.K. Rowling’s New Novel For Adults:

J.K. Rowling has a new novel. She’s moved away from Harry Potter, the boy wizard whose stories prompted millions of kids to obsess over books big enough to serve as doorstops. Having concluded that series, she’s written a novel for grown-ups called The Casual Vacancy, a story of troubled teenagers and their even more troubled parents.

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama:

Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can’t bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, and they’ll nod along. Say that you’d never vote for a politician caught using the ‘n’-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney’s flaws, which I’ve chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama.

The Days I Need the Gospel Least:

Preach the gospel to yourself! Preach the gospel to yourself every day! I think we are all growing accustomed to being told that Christians need to center their lives upon the gospel and that one of the keys to doing this is to be continually reminded of what is true by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. I’ve been hearing this for years now and to varying degrees have been practicing it. However, just last week I had a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking about it. (Though this is a breakthrough for me, it is may well be one of those things you have understood for years.)

Former Saviors Now Stumble:

At first glance, you might think they’ve done a fine job… look at an illustration by John Buscema realized in the form of James Purefoy, or a vintage Frank Frazetta drawing fleshed out by Taylor Kitsch. On a surface level, it might look like Solomon Kane and John Carter have been translated from their literary origins to the wonder of 21st century movie-making, characters created a little over or under a century ago finding new life in cinema. Problem is, whether you enjoyed, abhorred, or found yourself indifferent to the cinematic versions, these icons have nevertheless been significantly, and intentionally, tarnished.

A Free People’s Suicide:

Os Guinness has performed an act of social ecology. With A Free People’s Suicide, he questions whether the American way of life is sustainable. But when we talk about sustainability in this sense, the question is not whether America will keep its air clean, its water pure, or its forests lush. Guinness is interested in a deeper and more urgent question: Will American freedom continue to thrive, or will it unravel as a result of its abuses?

Owl Post 8-30-12

 

Fall Movie Preview: 20 Movies to See This Oscar Season:

It’s been a long, strange, explosion-filled ride, but another summer blockbuster season has come to an end. As August draws to a close, we put aside our threequels and superheroes—some for now and some for good (so long, Christian Bale’s Batman; see you in 2015, Avengers). But, happily, there’s no time in the cinematic calendar quite like autumn, when studios start eying Oscar nominations. If summer is a time for Abraham Lincoln to fight vampires, autumn is a time for Abraham Lincoln to give long, dignified speeches.

What Is Biblical Justice?

When I was professor at a theological seminary in the mid-eighties, one of my students was a young man named Mark Gornik. One day we were standing at the copier and he told me that he was about to move into Sandtown, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore. I remember being quite surprised. When I asked him why, he said simply, “To do justice.”

The Small Increments of Change:

A few years ago I read Paul Chamberlain’s Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly, a book that proposes ways that Christians can talk about difficult issues—issues like abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia—in a pluralistic society. The final chapter is a case study that features William Wilberforce as an example of a man who used his Christian convictions to bring about widespread cultural change. Wilberforce was a driving force behind the abolition of slavery within the British Empire. The results of his efforts are seen and celebrated in Western society to this day.

Adultescents and the Paralysis of Choice:

There is as much to be said about Sally Koslow’s Slouching Towards Adulthood as there is to be said about the entire cultural “issue” of emerging adults and its derivative platter of opinions. A mother of two adult boys who “have finally moved out,” Koslow speaks candidly and with humor about the parental experience of the adultescent, a term she defines as, “Americans twenty-two to thirty-five caught between adolescence and adulthood in an exploration that seems to go on forever, like the Rolling Stones.” Using her “adultescent” years and then her parenting years as a guide, she demarcates the differences between boomer and, ahem, blogger generations and sets out a very readable and well-researched analysis of what went wrong.

YOU ARE ACCEPTED:

Accepted. Isn’t that a great word? We all feel as if we don’t fit, as if we stick out. Whether it’s the person whose attention you want, or the law firm that doesn’t want you, or the mirror that lies to you, or the date who never called back, or the fraternity that didn’t invite you, or the voice in your head that says nobody cares about you, or the professor who makes you feel stupid, or the loneliness you experience, or the religious people who judged you—deep down, don’t we have a need to be accepted, one that is easily triggered by any sense of rejection?

‘Beam Us Up, Mr. Scott!': Why Misquotations Catch On:

“Misquotations are often stickier than actual quotes,” Abraham Lincoln once joked. He didn’t really, of course—but he’d be a great spokesperson of the sentiment, given how often his words have been misremembered, miscast, passed down from person to person in a way that little resembles any of his actual statements. (Actually, Mark Twain would be a better candidate for that one. Didn’t he say basically everything?)

A Journey to the 70 California State Parks in Danger of Closing

I want to share this with you because I think that it is so important. I am such a lover of nature and the beauty that God has created. I believe that it is important for us to take care of that nature and nurture it and cultivate it and be reminded that there is something bigger than human beings. God entrusted this earth to us;

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:28-31 ESV)

We are called by our creator to be good stewards of the earth so as Christian I am firmly behind the idea of State and National Parks that set aside land for the recreation of all and the preserving of wildlife. It is our call to do this. Ken Burns great documentary called National Parks, America’s best Idea. Now I am not sure if State and National Parks are the best idea America has, but I know that they are good and wonderful and worth preserving.

From The Atlantic

When they got the news that budget cuts would put 70 California parks out of commission, three documentary filmmakers decided to pile into a converted airport shuttle bus and visit all of them — in 120 days. They turned to Kickstarter and raised over $57,000, quickly exceeding their original goal of $35,500, to produce a full-length documentary, The First 70. Lauren Valentino, Jarratt Moody, and Cory Brown, collectively Heath Hen Films, spoke with activists and volunteers along the way, but they make a strong argument of their own by capturing the state’s gorgeous, sun-dappled landscapes on video. The film is currently on the festival circuit, and will be available viadownload and DVD. Meanwhile, the California State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that helped fund the documentary, has been working with donors to keep some parks open. They’re tracking their progress via a map on their site.

Valentino, the producer of the documentary, describes how the project came together and shares a behind-the-scenes clip in a short interview below. The three filmmakers seem to be living the dream, cruising up and down the California coast for months, but she assures us that production was hard work — “nothing about it was glamorous.”

There is a great interview on The Atlantic with the filmmakers, so click on over there and check it out. Also visit their site  thefirst70.com

Owl Post 7-18-12

The politics of polarization:

As his campaign threw out unsubstantiated charges that Mitt Romney might be guilty of afelony, and then mocked Romney’s off-key singing of “America the Beautiful,” President Obama took a moment to reflect on the sad state of America’s political tone. “Washington feels as broken as it did four years ago,” he explained. “And if you ask me what is the one thing that has frustrated me most over the last four years, it’s not the hard work. It’s not the enormity of the decisions. It’s not the pace. It is that I haven’t been able to change the atmosphere here in Washington to reflect the decency and common sense of ordinary people.”

5 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS ON REST:

In practical terms, how do we figure out how much time we need for Sabbath rest, and how do we spend that time? The following are a few suggestions or guidelines, by no means exhaustive.

When Christians Copy The World…

It’s not considered stealing?

I’ve often wondered why Christians think they can simply copy the world and slap a Christian logo on a product, and somehow get away with it.  In any other arena, they would be sued for copyright infringement on some of the Jesus Junk that hits the Christian world, but somewhere in the deep subconscious of the faith laden mind, they justify it as God’s will.  And I guess the corporations who design the real logos aren’t afraid this kind of obvious theft is any threat to sales.

Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency’

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” Most often I hear, “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible?”

How much would it cost to be Batman?

With The Dark Knight Rises hitting theaters in a few days, your desire to put on a cowl and get out there and bust some heads in the name of great justice will be renewed, like a mighty fire. But how would you go about becoming the Caped Crusader for real?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 5 Trailers