Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sorry Tom

As someone who generally disapproves of the president's annual turkey pardon on the grounds that it is an indicator of the further wussification of American society and death of dignity as a positive virtue (Seriously, can you imagine George Washington pardoning a turkey? The man had too much gravitas, and too little patience with the tomfoolery of others.), this video and it's context tickles me to death (much like the turkeys, though I doubt the method of execution was actual tickling). One correction though. These turkeys aren't being slaughtered. Slaughtering is the process of killing the turkey. These turkeys are already dead, and are being drained of their blood.

Two more thoughts. First, despite the fact that I don't find anything wrong with this clip, Sarah Palin should fire whatever media person she had with her. She obviously couldn't see what was behind her, but her media relations folks should have the common sense to know that dead turkeys is not the proper backdrop for a PR event whose central event is a turkey pardon. Secondly, the turkey pardon is also a triumph of image over content (as is so much of modern American life). According to Snopes (I was there trying to determine who started this ridiculous tradition) the turkeys usually die soon after their pardon because, "Fast-growing, commercially raised turkeys tend to expire fairly quickly, as they grow too large for their body structure and are too susceptible to disease."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sin and Salvation

Here's a quick thought I've been milling about. Most modern churches are reluctant to preach the sort of fire and brimstone sermons that we associate with past eras of Christianity. There's really no 20th century equivalent to "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God". There are some good reasons for this. After all, the Scriptures are full of positive messages, and people are far more likely to listen if you tell them what you believe in, rather than just what you disapprove of. However, this reluctance can be taken too far.

Many modern preachers, especially those of the prosperity gospel variety, want to erase negative concepts like sin and hell entirely. They want to focus on all the pretty shiny things that Christianity offers, some real (like heaven), some made entirely out of whole cloth (Like financial prosperity. Remind me again, which disciple was it that got rich? Oh yeah, NONE OF THEM!). The problem with this extreme is twofold.

The first problem is that bad stuff happens. It always has, and it happens even to the best of believers. There's a reason that Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." It's because Christianity is a religion birthed and raised amidst persecution. 11 of the 12 disciples were executed, and John was exiled. Paul was beheaded. Stephen was stoned. The list goes on and on down to the present day. Christians are still being murdered for their faith around the world every year. Bad stuff happening to Christians is an undeniable fact of existence. When you promise people only good things for their faith, you do them the dual disservice of lying to them and robbing them of the intellectual equipment to deal with bad things when they do occur. Instead, the one inescapable conclusion they are forced to draw is that the bad things happened because their faith isn't sufficient. There is no evil event that can befall a person that won't be made worse by forcing them to accept unnecessary guilt. That's a perfect formula for creating Christians who can do nothing but fall away during hard times.

The second problem that arises from this sort of happy Christianity is that it renders the good meaningless. If there's no punishment for evil, where is the justice that Christians were denied on earth? If there is no hell, heaven cannot be appreciated, just as we would not appreciate our health in a world without sickness. Good cannot exist without evil, nor punishment without reward, nor sanctity without sin. Every good thing must have a negative counterpart in order to illustrate it's worth. Much as the modern practice of not keeping score in children's sports renders the competition meaningless, denying punishment and offering rewards to everyone equally makes the Christian life meaningless. Why be good if there's no real consequences for being bad?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Prop 8

Just keep repeating, "Prop 8 supporters are the bigots, Prop 8 opponents are the tolerant ones." It's also a sad commentary on the state of this country's faith that the Mormon church had to get out in front and take a hit that Christianity was unwilling to take.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Fair-Haired Boy of the Republican Party Strikes!

Bobby Jindal is proposing reform to Louisiana's system of low-income medical coverage. Obviously we'll have to see the details of the plan, but Bobby Jindal doesn't make junk.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cleansing the Palate

Anyone else glad this thing is over? For better or worse, it's off to the desert for conservatives. Let's make the most of it. I'll be taking a week off from following political news, or blogging about anything political in nature. Hopefully, I can use that time to post on some other topics. It's not out of discouragement or any such melodramatic wussiness. It's just that I'll have at least four years to gripe about all the dumb stuff that a President Obama will do. Why not give him a week off before I start? If I can't say anything nice, it's better to take a break. In the meantime, remember that win or lose, the battle is never over.

A Couple Of Election Notes

-I'm far from the first to point it out, but it matters that a man who, 50 years ago, would not have been allowed to eat at certain lunch counters, was elected president by voters of some of the same states who would have denied him that right.

-I'll repeat this again. Even with healthy margins in the House and Senate, President-elect Obama is going to have a rough couple of years. He needs prayer, whether you voted for him or not.

-Marriage won in all three states in which it was on the ballot. Even California passed it's amendment by what, at this hour, is a 12% margin. That's a more positive sign for this country's future than I would have hoped for.

-Partisan issues aside, it's a sick world in which Ted Stevens retains his seat and John Sununu gets booted out of office. Fortunately, it looks like only a matter of time before Stevens heads for jail and Governor Palin fills his seat.

-The Democratic party regained the House and Senate in these last two cycles largely by fielding centrist challengers like Jim Webb and Bob Casey. The ideological distance between these rookies and their party's leadership is vast. It will be interesting to see how that pans out, now that the Dems have sizable majorities and no veto threat.

-Is anyone else suddenly very concerned with the health of Justice Stevens? For the good of the nation, let's hope he stays in good shape for another four years.

-Lastly, read this. President Bush has been a very mixed bag, but he's leaving office with his honor intact. His reputation will only improve over time. Some may lay partial blame for this election at his feet, but I don't think that's fair. Congress and John McCain made their own beds.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Because Elections Aren't Everything...

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!! (After Halloween, I'm allowed to post all the Christmas songs I want, since Thankgiving doesn't have music.)

I love this song.

Embedding is disabled on this one, but you are NOT ALLOWED to have Christmas without Nat King Cole. Seriously. Not even in France.

And of course, Manheim Steamroller.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Random Pre-Election Thoughts

-I'm more sanguine than I've been in a few weeks about the election. I don't think McCain will be blown out, and I'm not entirely convinced anymore that he'll lose. Call it 60-40 for Obama at this point. I also think we'll keep the losses in the House and Senate to a minimum.

-The "Bradley Effect" seems to be a myth. There were excellent articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times on this recently, explaining that what was called "The Bradley Effect" was in actuality, a combination of an agressive new campaign by Deukmajian coupled with complacency among pollsters. Historically, there have been races in which black candidates significantly underperformed their polls, and other races in which they overperformed. Barack Obama himself is a perfect example of this. In his primary death march against Hillary, he overperformed in some races and underperformed in others. This would seem to indicate that the variances we automatically chalk up to race are probably far more complex. Something to remember, no matter what tomorrows results are.

-Good news for Palin and Obama fans. Obviously, by tomorrow night, one side or the other will be disappointed. But here's the good news. If nothing else, John McCain has helped to redefine our ideas about who is or isn't too old to run for the presidency. This means that both Governor Palin and Senator Obama have a long time to retool. Obama could serve the rest of his term in the senate, run for governor of Illinois in 2010, be elected to the office twice, run as his party's vice-presidential nominee in 2020, serve 8 years as vice-president, run for the presidency in 2028, and STILL be younger than John McCain. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin could finish out this term and a second one as Alaska's governor, run for the senate against whoever holds Ted Stevens' seat in 2014, serve two terms in the senate, run for the vice-presidency in 2028, serve in that office for 8 years, and still be the same age as John McCain if she ran for the presidency in 2036. All that is just to remind you...John McCain is REALLY REALLY OLD.

-Keep an eye on Norm Coleman and John Sununu. I have a feeling that they will be pretty good bellweathers in determining how the night will shake out for Republicans in legislative races.

-It's sad to say, but I think we'll see riots whether Obama wins or loses. If he loses, people will be furious, let-down, and convinced that only massive fraud can explain it. If he wins, well...

-As for McCain, keep an eye on New Hampshire results. McCain has long had a special relationship with that state, and if he really is down by 10 as the polls would seem to indicate, it's over. If he ends up unexpectedly close, then it might be a sign that the polls have been skewing in the wrong direction, as they did in 2004.

-Finally, no matter who wins, the new president will need a lot of help from day 1. He's inheriting a financial mess, a deeply divided and suspicious country, and the toughest job in the world. Remember to pray for him as often as possible.