Friday, January 25, 2013

The Infantry Woman Shortage

 Apparently there is a shortage of infantrywomen. How else to explain the announcement by the secretary of defense to remove restrictions on assignment of women in every military specialty?

Why is this not a woman? To ask the question is to answer it.

As a retired artillery officer, I assure you that is a bone-headed policy change. But the same time, it will not change anything very much. There are no infantrywomen now and there will not be any in the future. I do not foresee a time when women will be involuntarily assigned to infantry or the vast majority of other specialties putatively opened to them now. And believe me, women are absolutely not going to volunteer for them in any kind of significant numbers at all, leading them to again be closed to women (unofficially, but actually). Here is why:

Back in the early 1980s, the US Army opened artillery specialties to women except for cannon crewman, which is an incredibly physically-demanding job. A fair, but not great, number of women volunteered and most of them just as quickly volunteered out once they found out how hard it was.

By the mid-80s the Army officially closed artillery branch to women and retrained the two or so women who were still in it.

There are many jobs that women will naturally gravitate to and infantry and other direct-combat, extremely physically-demanding jobs simply are not among them. Civilian experience in the job market shows that this is true, and not just in physical jobs.

Case in point: my daughter is presently majoring in chemical engineering at an engineering university. In her entire class there are four other women with the same major but dozens of men. This is absolutely typical of the STEMs and is repeated from year to year. There is certainly no physical reason that women can't do the STEMs and obviously women as a class are no less intelligent as men as a class. Yet despite the fact that female engineering grads' starting salaries are typically significantly higher than men's, women simply do not major in the STEMs in significant numbers. (She is one of three women in her physics class this term, with 27 men.) 

So let the liberals have their orgy of self congratulation on how they've made the military so gloriously equal and gender neutral. It means nothing much as far as actual assignments of women in the force at large. You just cannot fool Mother Nature and the women who are joining the military know it. We may expect an initial rush of a few women who think of themselves as trailblazers or women who want the media frenzy over them to prepare the marketing environment for their book. There will follow not long afterward Congressional hearings because women won't start appearing in large numbers graduating from the Benning School for Boys (aka, the US Army Infantry School) - and then women will continue to stay away in droves. Why? Because they are not idiots.

Postscript: When I was the brigade fire support officer for 1st Brigade, 3d Armored Division, the brigade's tactical operations center (TOC) consisted of four armored, tracked command post vehicles (M577 by name). They were my vehicle plus one each for the operations section, the engineer section and the S2 Intelligence section. 

The S2 officer and all four section soldiers were females. Whenever we occupied a new position, it always took the S2 section about 15-20 minutes longer than the rest of us to get ready to fight because of the manual labor involved in setting up each section to make the TOC an integrated operation.

Understand, none of the women ever complained, none were slackers and all were self-disciplined soldiers who did a good job in their specialty. They were simply too bodily small and under-muscled to keep pace with the men of the other sections. Usually the operations and engineer troops would finish their setup and then help the S2 section.

That's just a fact and there is nothing all the liberals in the world are going to be able to do about it. So don't get the vapors, people. We are no more likely to see infantry women as we are to see women crewing crab boats on Deadliest Catch.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sugar makes you stupid

What sugar does to you:

Sugar makes you stupid, literally: High-carb diet is linked to early Alzheimer's. Carbohydrates are a complex form of sugar. In digestion carbs, whether complex carbs or simple carbs, are broken down chemically into sugars and then metabolized. More on the link with Alzheimer's here. The link is so strong that the NY Times asks, "Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?" But not just middle-aged and older adults should eschew sugar- and carb-rich diets. So should children since such diets are directly the cause of obesity and poor school performance because sugar makes you stupid. Also, see Science Daily on the subject. Now, order and read this book:

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Baptism of the Lord, and what it means for us

 Luke 3:15 17, 21-22:

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.

16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened

22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

John’s reputation is something of a wild man. After all, he lived in the desert, ate locusts and honey, and heaped scorn upon Herod, the meanest king east of the Mediterranean. John sure knew how to get people’s attention! He preached repentance. He called for a return to the fullness of the people’s covenant with God and the renewal of their life together as people of God. John spent a great deal of his ministry baptizing people in the Jordan River. 

So effective was John in his revivalism that many people wondered whether John was the expected deliverer, the Messiah. They wondered whether John was the Christ who would lead the people to freedom and righteousness and asked him. 

John simply replied, I’m not the one. The one you seek is yet to come and will be far more powerful than I. I only baptize you with water. But someone else is coming who will be far more powerful than me. I’m not even fit to untie his shoes. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

What John did was point to Christ, who was greater than he. That’s our job, too. Like John, we in the church should call people to righteousness. Like John, we would do well not to confuse the message with the messenger. In every program and building project and festival and pageant, we should point to Christ, not ourselves.   

It is not the church which saves. The church is a means of grace to the world and to its members, but the church is not the source of grace. Our salvation is from God. As the old hymn says, our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and righteousness.

Think for a moment what it means to follow Christ. 

  • we have discarded our illusion of autonomy and submitted ourselves to one who is greater than we are. Men and women still wrapped up in the world’s system don’t understand how we could do that. “What’s the matter?” they ask us. “Can’t you make it on your own?” If we are honest, we answer, “No,” because we can’t make it without God. We can’t make sense of who we are or why we are without God. We can’t make a good life for our families without God. We can’t face another sunrise unless we know we belong to God: "Because he lives," says the hymn, "I can face tomorrow." 
  • to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we admit to the world that we are sinful people. We are fallen and we can’t get up! That’s not what the world tells us. The world tells us we are good people, but the Scriptures flatly deny this notion. The world tells us that our basic problems stem from low self-esteem, but the Bible cautions us always to esteem others more highly than ourselves. The pop culture tells us, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay,” but it’s not true and we can’t settle for merely being okay, anyway. We are called to a higher way of life and righteousness. “Okay” doesn’t cut it for a Christian person. “Be perfect,” Jesus said, not be okay. 
  • we who follow Jesus cannot claim any merit in being called out from the world. God does not choose wise people, but foolish ones. God does not choose strong people, but weak ones. When we go with Christ along his way, we are admitting to everyone that we have no wisdom cherished by the world, no strength the world treasures. We are empty of all the things the world desires. 

We have no great title to call our own, no grand possessions to boast of. We are watchmen in the night with nothing but a light, but what a light it is! The high and mighty, the proud and boastful cannot intimidate us, for we know and follow one far greater: Jesus called the Christ, the true light of the world.

John said Jesus would separate the wheat from the chaff and throw the chaff into the fire. Does that make us grimace? Is it unpleasant to think of our Savior with a winnowing fork to gather wheat and burn the chaff?

We are much more comfortable thinking of Jesus as one who welcomes little children or as a shepherd bringing little, lost sheep home on his shoulders. We are sort of intuitively repelled by descriptions of a Jesus who would throw something into unquenchable fire.

The prophet Malachi wrote, 

“Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. “But who can endure the day of his coming? . . . For he will be like a refiner's fire. . .” (Mal 3:1 2). 

 The Bible also uses fire to describe God’s judgment on the unrepentant and wicked. But fire was the symbol of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Fire sometimes destroys, but it also purifies.

The call to repentance is no mere formality. Our response to the gospel of Jesus Christ counts for a great deal. If we of the church are to usher in the coming reign of God, then we have to be clear what it means to decline the call to follow Christ. 

We are already under judgment. God’s grace is judgment, and God’s judgment is graceful. The judgment of God is that we repent, be forgiven and turn back to God, a conversion which our baptism signifies and seals. We can try to hide our sin with the appearance of righteousness just as chaff grows with the wheat. But before God nothing is hidden. Before God’s Spirit, the chaff is blown away and the grain remains.

This is a hard teaching. Just as hard are Jesus’ own fierce warnings that there are no abstentions in the decision to follow Christ. Matthew tells us that we either work with Christ or work against him. No one can remain neutral. Personal merit, by human standards, counts for nothing in this judgment. Even if we are model servants, which we are not, Luke tells us we have only done the minimum required. 

So the warning is serious. We cannot duck it by appealing to some human idea of a kindly God-father who would never chastise his children. We presume to know too much when we say, “God wouldn’t do that.” 

On the other hand, the record of the entire Bible makes it clear that God is a partial judge. If God is completely impartial, we should despair. Thankfully, God is biased. God is biased toward the poor and the helpless. God is biased toward the weak and the unable. God is biased toward the humble and repentant. Most of all, God is biased toward mercy. In Christ God’s character is fully revealed: God’s purpose is not to condemn and destroy but to save and renew. In Christ God has taken the initiative welcome us back where we belong – in the family of God and the reign of God. 

There is chaff in our lives right now, all of us, as individuals, families and as a church. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves and have not heard the cry of the needy. We have not loved God with our whole heart. We have broken God’s law and rebelled against God’s love. Let us pray for God’s judgment on us! Let us pray that God will forgive us and winnow the chaff of sin from our lives. May God free us for joyful obedience through Jesus Christ our Lord and restore in us a clean heart for the love of God in the world.

Jesus came to John to be baptized. This is a curious thing which seems to have caused the gospel writers some embarrassment. Matthew says that John protested and asked Jesus to baptize him, but Jesus insisted on being baptized by John. John had been preaching for people to repent and be baptized, but why would the son of God need to repent? 

John had pointed to the Christ. Now the Christ was here. By submitting to baptism, Jesus endorsed and affirmed the ministry and prophecy of John, and confirmed the messianic title John had been announcing about him. 

We see in Jesus’ baptism the blessing of God on Jesus and the filling of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Here was something out of the Baptizer’s control. As a pastor, I can pour water on babies, children and adults from now until, well, until kingdom come, but I can’t make the Holy Spirit come down like a dove and rest on anyone. In our worship and ritual, in our liturgy and prayer, our religious experience is ultimately beyond our control. We can have a genuine call for repentance and a genuine commitment to God, but the encounter of God is something we can’t control, like the fire at Pentecost or the free flight of a dove at Jesus’ baptism. 

This is good news for the church, especially a heavily institutionalized church like the United Methodist Church. Order, control and proper procedure are the siren songs of institutionalism. These are not bad things in themselves; after all, it is not for nothing that the governing book of United Methodism is called the Discipline. But the spirit of God cannot be compartmentalized and tamed by the church.

The descent of the spirit like a dove tells us of the potential and reality of renewal in God’s care. Luke tells us that the spirit which announced Jesus as son of God is the same spirit which renews the church. 

This is God’s son, says the spirit, in whom God is well pleased. Christ is capable of getting the job done. In Christ and by Christ are we saved. In God’s spirit and by God’s spirit we are renewed and made fit for God’s purposes.

Why Gun Control Is Racist

It's usually a cold day in the devil's domain when I agree with Cornel West on much, but I have been saying this for a long time:
Cornel West recently expressed his belief that the concern Americans have about mass murder reflects a racist lack of concern with the real problem with murder, which is largely black on black.
I left my post below as comment on a post at Outside the Beltway several days ago. West's comments are a good hook to post it here:

If gun controllers were honest and familiar with the facts, they would admit that America does not have a “gun problem,” we have a gang problem.
America’s horrific murder rate is a result of the transformation of major American cities into Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda and El Salvador. Our murder rate now largely consists of criminals killing criminals.
As David Kennedy, the head of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control, put it, “The majority of homicide victims have extensive criminal histories. This is simply the way that the world of criminal homicide works. It’s a fact.”
The elephant in the room that almost no one on any side of guns issue will admit is that criminal gun use is a race-based issue. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see links listed at end), despite a fraction of the total population relative to whites, blacks kill one another in higher absolute, not just relative numbers. The homicide rate among American whites is almost the same as among Canadians. Ninety-four percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks (86 percent for whites, showing that interracial murder is pretty rare, for whatever that is worth.)
The gun problem in America today is almost exclusively about criminal use of firearms by (mainly) young men who illegally obtain firearms specifically to use in criminal acts. And the majority of of those criminal shootings are blacks shooting other blacks.
That is why I say that the gun control movement is not merely uninformed, it is also inherently racist because it’s only when white grade schoolers or theater goers or US Representatives are shot to pieces that the media and gun controllers get energetic. The two to three Sandy Hooks that occur every week among the black populations of America never draw a protest from the Left.
The entire purpose of the gun control movement is not to stop shootings generally. It is to stop shootings of white people. Not one single measure proposed by Sen. Feinstein or coming forth from VP Biden will have the slightest effect on the gun-homicide rate among blacks, as even Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has said:
However, McCarthy acknowledged aiming at assault weapons misses the mark when dealing with Chicago’s gang violence. The weapon used is generally a handgun and rarely is it purchased through legal channels. McCarthy wants to target straw purchasing, which is when legal gun buyers will purchase a weapon and then let it loose in the illegal market.
Straw purchasing, of course, is already illegal.
But the Left doesn't care what cops like McCarthy say. It’s only the "chocolate kids," as Cornel West puts it, getting killed. As long as it stays inside the inner cities it matters not. But when it takes place in white-bread Connecticut or Aurora, Colo., something must be done!
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Close Encounters of the Redneck Kind


'via Blog this'

Dying to win the lottery

The odds of winning the lottery are even worse than the math says in the long term.
(NEWSER) – The case of a Chicago man who died suddenly weeks after a big lottery win is now being treated as a murder, police say. Urooj Khan scored a $1 million scratchcard win in June and died the day after the check for his winnings was issued the following month, CNNreports. The medical examiner initially declared the death to be from natural causes but after a relative urged doctors to look into the case further, tests revealed that a lethal dose of cyanide had killed the 46-year-old.

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New Answer to Fermi's Paradox?

Radiation From Deep-Space Could Accelerate Alzheimer’s - Business Insider:

Physicist Enrico Fermi postulated that once a civilization attained even rudimentary space flight, it should be able to reach any point in the galaxy in only five million years. The Milky Way, however, is billions of years old.

"So," asked Fermi, "where is everybody?"

One original answer I have seen is that all the alien races we assume are out there are too busy overeating fast food and watching electronic porn to journey millions of light years through space for no good reason.

Now a more technical reason may be in the offing. Turns out that interstellar space flight probably will just plain kill you:


If you get radiation-induced Alzheimer's just going to Mars, it surely means death going to an enormously-farther star.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

The Professional Poor, the Idle Poor and the Poverty Traders

A Boston street scene from the early '80s:

She stood to the left of the entrance for part of the day and to the right for the remainder. You didn't know when she'd shift, but she always seemed to be in your path as you came out of the building. 
Going for some coffee? 
"Spare a quarta?" 
Going to lunch? 
"Spare a quarta?" ...
She got a quarter out of about every fifth person. I once estimated she made about $75 a day, tax free. That worked out to a take homeless of $18,750 a year in 1983. Not bad when you considered that she had zero overhead.
And so operate the Professional Poor, a class of people with whom I have, unfortunately, an intimate familiarity. The Professional Poor are people who make their careers and their incomes out of always being one rent payment away from eviction, one tank of gas away from not being at their dying mother's bedside, one meal away from starvation, one unfilled prescription away from deathly illness. Their vocation is begging. Their client base is anyone who looks likely, but especially pastors, church people and (I don't know how they can tell this, but they can) the guilty-feeling well to do.

The Professional Poor are not lazy. They work hard for their living. The Boston woman was on her feet with almost no break for probably 12 hours per day. I distinguish them from the Idle Poor, who are the welfare class, the people both indigent and indolent, the people being referred to these days are the Entitlement Class. (And I distinguish both from the true Working Poor, of whom I wrote in 2003.)

The Professional Poor plan their days and their calls or sales routes (for they are selling their poverty to you) as carefully as the most successful businessman. They are masters of timing, to wit:

Christmas Eve, 45 minutes before I begin the Christmas Eve service. Through the door by my office walks a haggard-looking woman of indeterminate age (anywhere from 45-75) whom I peg as one of the Professional Poor before she's taken two steps inside the door. They all have a look that gives their game away when you've been dealing with them as long as I have.

I must say that this woman, whose name I purposely don't recall but whom I'll call Clara, had an original beg. She wanted a place to stay with her husband overnight, being too poor to rent a hotel room. She wanted to stay in my home. Or the home of another church member. Or would one of us simply rent her a hotel room? Then they'd continue her journey in the morning. To her sick mother's house. In Wisconsin. (I live in middle Tennessee).

Of course, the Professional Poor can recognize the poor-weary as easily as we can recognize them, so it took her only halfway into her carefully-rehearsed pitch to understand she was dealing with a professional, too. So: time to take it to a higher level - out comes the Ziploc quart-size bag crammed full of prescription bottles and the earnest explanations that her sick husband in the car must have enough rest. And proof that they really are Wisconsin residents: here is my Wisconsin driver's license!

The hopeful light in her eyes dims when she hears my reply: "We do all of our direct charitable assistance through two local agencies. One is twenty-five miles away but the other is not even two miles down the street. However, I have no idea whether they are still open on Christmas Eve at this hour. I will be glad to give you directions."

The last thing the Professional Poor want to do is deal with a charity agency. Agencies  know every scam out there and even know the names of the Professional Poor who do them. Agency workers view the Professional Poor with all the compassion of a Swiss banker. 

Clara knows she's not making the sale. She makes a final, desperate push: "Oh, we don't have enough gas to make it that far." (So you intend to drive to Wisconsin how?)

I say nothing because there is nothing to say. Without a word she suddenly bags her props and walks out the door. Like any astute business woman, she knows when to cut her losses. On to the next client.
I once gave to all who asked. Now I give to none. Once a year I write checks to funds for widows and orphans of police, firemen, and soldiers killed in the line of duty. Beyond that, I find I can no longer spare a quarta. And when I hear, in the back of my mind, the old Depression anthem "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" I find that although I can spare it, I no longer want to give it. 
It has taken decades of ceaseless hectoring but at long last my compassion account in the Bank of Human Kindness is overdrawn. I'm tapped out. I still try to care but I find, if I am honest, I couldn't care less.
I still care for the truly beaten down, but I have no compassion for the Professional Poor. I never give to anyone who comes to my church asking for money; we do assist with utilities or grocery purchases, but never on a cash basis. And by never I mean, "never." (What part of "never" don't you understand?) There are countless businesses I do not patronize, so when the Professional Poor come to sell their edge-of-disaster poverty to me, my wallet stays put.

Not everyone agrees with me on this, including other Christians of devout faith and true compassion. Some have made a compelling case that we should give without inquiry or distrust and let God sort it out in his good time. I understand their point.

I reply with two points of my own. First I relate what happened in the late 1990s one county away. A small church there established a cash fund to give to people in need. There was a limit per recipient, about $40 or so, but whenever someone came by, the pastor (according to news reports) would take $40 from the file cabinet and hand it out.

One day a man came by and asked for money. "I will give you forty dollars," the pastor said. "I'll take it all," said the man, pulling out a gun. He murdered the pastor and took all the money.

So I never give money to beggars. They swap information about who is loose with a sawbuck and where. Actually, they usually sell the information to each other since they see each other as marks just as much as they see you. Any church or business that starts handing out cash or freebies one day will find double or triple the opportunities by the end of the week.

My second point is that if I had unlimited resources, then of course I could give everyone who came by everything they asked for. Heck, if I had unlimited resources, I could give them all a new Mercedes-Benz. But I don't. And every time I give to the Professional Poor, I have less to give to the truly needy. (The "truly needy" is of course a cliche now, but they really do exist and we are obligated to help them.)

At least, though, the Professional Poor are working for a living. I'll credit them that even if their living in the scam, the con, fraud and deceit.

Not so with the Idle Poor, who are described by Peter Cove, who, "a half a century ago ... dropped out of graduate school and enlisted as a foot soldier in America’s War on Poverty." 
Today, I’m still on the front lines, working to move people out of dependency and into employment. But with an important difference: I've become fed up with the useless policies that I once supported, and I’m trying to change the strategy of our bogged-down army. ...
[T]he government’s unprecedented expenditures failed to bring about the decline in poverty that Johnson had promised. Instead, they made things worse. Neither city hall nor I comprehended that the “community action” organizations on which we lavished taxpayer dollars would entrench dependency by urging people to get on the welfare rolls. War on Poverty funds paid for social workers, community activists, and lawyers to organize the poor, but these organizers, far from lifting poor people out of dependency, helped them sign up for more—and more expensive—welfare programs. For instance, the National Welfare Rights Organization urged single black mothers to protest the welfare system’s eligibility restrictions, and the organization’s goal was to flood the system with new clients. 
The activists succeeded beyond their wildest imagination. By the end of the 1960s, during a period of economic prosperity and low unemployment, one out of every seven New Yorkers was on the dole. By 1975, War on Poverty spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) had tripled, and the percentage of poor families’ income supplied by welfare had risen from 7.5 percent to 14.1 percent. Under the pressure of the advocates, government programs emphasized “welfare rights,” postponed self-sufficiency, supplied unproven and expensive services, and left most welfare clients out of the workforce. That’s perhaps the main reason that, as some pundits quipped, “in the War on Poverty, poverty won.”
The Idle Poor do not work for their largess. In fact, working is counterproductive to them because government dollars stop if they get a job. So their income is free and they act like it.
Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs — where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers, a Post investigation found. 
A database of 200 million Electronic Benefit Transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012, obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information request, showed welfare recipients using their EBT cards to make dozens of cash withdrawals at ATMs inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.
The Idle Poor are being played, too, and some may even know the scam for which they are the product, for they are being sold no less surely, though less harshly, than those on the block in 1840s Charleston. The Idle Poor are the sales merchandise of the Poverty Traders, the "social workers, community activists, and lawyers to organize the poor."

Poverty, you see, is big business. The federal government paid out almost $440 billion last year alone in welfare payments. Add to that just under $300 billion that Americans gave to charity privately. With that much money available to tap, con artists and scammers are inevitable.

Once we institutionalized poverty, we professionalized it. Creating poor people and keeping them poor is the deliberate policy of the Obama administration. You need consider only the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or "food stamps."
By the end of August 2012 (the most recent data), there were 47.1 million Americans on food stamps, a new all-time record high. ... 
Since Obama took office, the number of Americans enrolled in SNAP has risen by more than 45 percent.
For which this president will infinitely blame George W. Bush. The Poverty Professions are here to stay. Forever. By design.

Update, Jan. 2016: "High-Tech Homeless Man In Detroit Accepts Credit Card Donations On A Cell Phone"

Truer words were never spoken

"The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for."

"When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra."

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Secrets Your Pastor Can't Share in a Sermon

Secrets Your Pastor Can't Share in a Sermon:

UM Rev. Lee Stevenson, whom I have known for many years, posted the link to this on his FB page. Warning to lay people - it is potentially upsetting! But of the nine "secrets" the writer says your pastor won't share with you, I pretty much agree with eight. Sorry, I won't tell you which eight.

Read at your own risk.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Time to recover what fornication means

Touchstone Archives: Sexual Iconoclasm:

In his book Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers(Oxford University Press), sociologist Mark Regnerus shows that abstinence-pledge programs are most effective with younger adolescents, and that the "appeal of the pledge diminish[es] as the sex drive increases with age." Regnerus demonstrates that Evangelical Protestant teenagers aremorelikely to engage in sex while unmarried than their Mormon, Jewish, and even mainline liberal Protestant peers. 
Regnerus also demolishes the common notion that these virginity pledges are the driving force in what many of us have seen anecdotally for years—namely, Evangelical teenagers clinging to a "technical virginity" through sexual practices other than intercourse. Regnerus acknowledges that the "technical virginity" charade happens, but he says it has nothing to do with seeking to avoid some kind of religious guilt. It's instead a "future-oriented, self-focused (but not anti-family), risk-aversive, parent-driven (and subtly class-oriented)" middle-class morality. 
To put it bluntly, teenagers of whatever religious persuasion in contemporary America are more likely to delay intercourse and to substitute oral sex or some other form of gratification for intercourse because they are trying to avoid risks to their future economic well-being. They are "technical virgins" because they want to go to college rather than because they want not to go to hell. As conservative Evangelicals grow more socially and economically ascendant, Regnerus predicts, they will be more likely to adopt the same forms of sexually tolerant risk management focused on economic viability. 
This brings us back to language. The talk of "abstinence" and "waiting" shores up the implicit risk management behind the cultural milieu. It is not just in our public witness that we adopt the culture's grammar; we do so in our own churches and parishes. How often do we urge teenagers to maintain chastity to be consistent with their "values" and to avoid bad consequences to their health, their future marriages, or their walk with God? These consequences are no doubt real, but why would it seem so awkward to say what the Scripture says quite straightforwardly—that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10)? 
One does not have to be some sort of wild-eyed "hellfire and brimstone" revival preacher to recognize that the apostles and prophets seem insistent that sexual immorality brings upon itself the wrath of God (Rev. 21:8).
Read the whole thing.

"The Narcissism Epidemic"

Once upon a time, a wise man wrote the following advice:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility esteem others more than yourselves.
Well, that's gone the way of the dodo in America. BBC News - Does confidence really breed success?
About nine million young people have filled out the American Freshman Survey, since it began in 1966. 
It asks students to rate how they measure up to their peers in a number of basic skills areas - and over the past four decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being "above average" for academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability and self-confidence.
This was revealed in a new analysis of the survey data, by US psychologist Jean Twenge and colleagues.
Graphic showing how the the percentage of American students rating themselves as "above average" has gone up. Measures shown: Drive to achieve, social self-confidence, intellectual self-confidence, leadership ability and writing ability
Another study by Twenge suggested there has been a 30% tilt towards narcissistic attitudes in US students since 1979.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines narcissism as: "Excessive self-love or vanity; self-admiration, self-centredness."
In The Narcissism Epidemic, co-written with Keith Campbell, Twenge blames the growth of narcissistic attitudes on a range of trends - including parenting styles, celebrity culture, social media and access to easy credit, which allows people to appear more successful than they are.
"What's really become prevalent over the last two decades is the idea that being highly self-confident - loving yourself, believing in yourself - is the key to success.
"Now the interesting thing about that belief is it's widely held, it's very deeply held, and it's also untrue."

Am I a narcissist?

Close-up of a woman wearing red lipstick
The Narcissistic Personality Inventory asks 40 questions, then ranks you on a narcissism scale
I wonder how many test takers will see their scores and post on Facebook, "Look how well I did on the narcissism test!"

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dig Finds Evidence Of Another Bethlehem : NPR

Dig Finds Evidence Of Another Bethlehem : NPR:
Thousands of Christian pilgrims streamed into Bethlehem Monday night to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It's the major event of the year in that West Bank town. But Israeli archaeologists now say there is strong evidence that Christ was born in a different Bethlehem, a small village in the Galilee.

About 100 miles north of where the pilgrims gathered, shepherds still guide their flocks through green unspoiled hills, and few give notice to the tucked-away village with the odd sounding name: Bethlehem of the Galilee. But archaeologists who have excavated there say there is ample evidence that this Bethlehem is the Bethlehem of Christ's birth.

"I think the genuine site of the nativity is here rather than in the other Bethlehem near Jerusalem," says Aviram Oshri, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority which has excavated here extensively. He stands on the side of a road that now cuts through the entrance to the village. It was the construction of this road that led to the discovery of the first evidence that Bethlehem of the Galilee may have had a special place in history.

"It was inhabited by Jews. I know it was Jews because we found here remnants of an industry of stone vessels, and it was used only by Jews and only in the period of Jesus," Oshri says.

He also found artifacts which showed that a few centuries later the community had become Christians and had built a large and ornate church. He says there is significant evidence that in early Christianity this Bethlehem was celebrated as the birthplace of Christ. The emperor Justinian boasted of building a fortification wall around the village to protect it. The ruins of that wall, says Oshri, still circle parts of the Galilee village today.

He thinks many early scholars would have concluded that this Bethlehem was the birthplace of Christ.

"It makes much more sense that Mary rode on a donkey, while she was at the end of the pregnancy, from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Galilee which is only 7 kilometers rather then the other Bethlehem which is 150 kilometers," Oshri says.

He adds there is evidence the other Bethlehem in the West Bank, or what Israelis call Judea, was not even inhabited in the first century.

Paula Fredriksen, an American scholar of the historical Jesus, says that early Christianity only started to pay attention to the Judean Bethlehem in the fourth century, when the Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

According to the Old Testament, Judean Bethlehem was the City of David where the future messiah would be born. Fredriksen says that it would make sense for early Christianity to focus on that Bethlehem

"The Bethlehem that's the only Bethlehem that matters for the tradition is David's Bethlehem," Fredriksen says. "And David's Bethlehem quite specifically is in Judea."

Oshri draws similar conclusions. He says that for devout Christians, the story of Jesus and his birth is inextricably linked to the internationally known city of Bethlehem.

How does Oshri think Christians would react to finding out that Bethlehem that they thought about is wrong?

"I don't think it will have any influence," he says. "The tradition is one thing. People will go on believing. And I can understand it."
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Jesus is served

John 6.5-14 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people t...