7.29.2009

Office of Social Justice Fads

The CRC apparently has an "Office of Social Justice" which parrots leftist talking points and jumps to unfounded conclusions. In reference to the recent matter of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr being dumb, they say:
...pray that the reconciliation found in Christ would soon push us toward greater racial reconciliation. People of color are frequently falsely arrested because of their race. Regardless of the outcome of this event, pray for the church, confessing that racism still scars us and prevents us from living as the beloved community that God desires for us.
People of color are frequently falsely arrested because of their race, eh. Got any stats to back that up? Sure, we know that "people of color" are frequently arrested - moreso than Whites - but falsely arrested? And not just occasionally, but frequently? Certainly in the case of Professor Gates he was not falsely arrested. He was, in fact, violating an ordinance of the Cambridge, Massachussetts Municipal Code. A certain amount of racial profiling does occur, but when the culprit is described as a "young Black male" one hardly expects the cops to be pulling over a cross-section of people, including White males and Asian females ranging in age from 12 to 87. So, how about getting your facts straight instead of just buying into the claptrap fed you by CNN?

On the other hand, by all means, pray for reconciliation and an end to the racism (both Black and White) that still scars us and impedes the unity we ought to display as God's people.

The Office of Social Justice has its own web site touting the usual "issues" - mostly following the fads of the day. They've got stuff on Darfur, Afghanistan, fair-trade coffee (whatever that means), eating too much (you shouldn't - there are starving children somewhere), Palestine, Central & South America, and so on. Most of these are addressed in a fairly balanced manner, some are fairly lopsided, even knee-jerk treatments, but always and only they are driven by headlines and fads. Nowhere is there originality or discussion based on the CRC's specific experience and opportunities. Why not, for instance, address issues in play in Classis Red Mesa? What about Nigeria, or Ghana, or a few other places where we've had missionaries for years? What about China or Korea? Nope. Nothing. Even events in Honduras are covered not because we've been involved in evangelism and relief efforts there for decades, but because it has recently been on television.

Maybe they should be called the "Office of Social Justice Fads".

New CRC Chaplain in the US Army

I caught this story on the CRC's web site. Cornelius Muasa recently graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary and joined the Army Reserve as a chaplain. Good for him. The US military allows permanent residents to sign up and, after a certain term of service, among other benefits they are fast-tracked for full citizenship. This is as it should be. There may be some issues for him in regards to security clearance until he is a naturalized citizen, but that shouldn't affect him in the Reserves.

What I really liked about the story, though, is the last paragraph.
As for being the first black to serve as a military chaplain in the CRC, he said he had no idea that that was the case. Whether he is or isn’t doesn’t matter, though. He didn’t sign up because of race, but because this is the ministry into which God has called him, he says.
Amen and Amen. First Black, second Black, three hundred and twelfth Black - who cares? He is a man called, and he answered the call. What else is there? If I have anything to gripe about, it's that he went army. Navy, people. Navy.

Freedom to Disapprove

Here's a FoxNews article about a guy selling conservative t-shirts, bumperstickers and other paraphenelia in a mall in Concord, NC. The mall owners decided they'd rather not have that kind of stuff selling in their mall. The owner is talking censorship and such - free speech rights, etc.

No. The mall is owned by a private company. They have every right to decide they don't want certain things sold in their mall. If they don't want a KKK booth or an "adult" bookstore, they can exclude them. If they don't want overtly political bumper stickers and kitsch, regardless of it's particular leanings, it's their mall. But then, I think private companies or individuals who don't want to rent their apartments to non-married couples, homosexuals, or just people whose appearance they dislike ought to be allowed to do so.

By all means, publish their decision and let people make their choices with full information. If you think the mall is wrong, stop frequenting it and let them know why you're not shopping at their mall any longer. If enough people do it, they'll change. Same thing with renters - you have choices. You don't have to support these kinds of places. But private property rights must necessarily entail the right to do something with or on the property that others might not like, otherwise private property is just a polite (or impolite) fiction.

Newspeak Congress, Courtesy of Democrat Leadership

Let's see...I'm a powerful senator, chairman of the Banking committee. A financial institution offers me a sweetheart deal on a mortgage that nobody else can get. Naturally, I think they're just being friendly - courteous and helpful. They're not trying to get anything out of me or influence legislation that passes through my committee. No, not at all.

This is what Senator Chris Dodd wants you to believe. His buddy, Senator Kent Conrad (he's chairman of the Budget committee) says he "thought this was like a frequent-flier program." So, Senator, how often do you fly with this bank?


There are only two possibilities here. Either the senators are lying, or they are really quite stupid. Given that we're talking Dodd and Conrad here, that's a tough one to figure out.

In other news, Congressional Democrats are using their control of the Franking Commission - the folks that decide whether mail to constituents is appropriate or not - to censor Republican communications with their district. There have been several instances, including an attempt to stop a member from reporting a fact as a fact (they wanted him to call it an "opinion"), demanding they change "Democrat Party" to "majority party", and even banning a direct quote of the president culled from a recent town hall meeting that was nationally televised. Go read the article, and think about it. The Democrats in Congress want to silence Rush Limbaugh, Republican members of Congress, and Fox News in the name of "fairness." No, I think the word they want is "fascist."

7.28.2009

Obesity Epidemic????

I got news for the folks at FoxNews, the Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, and anyone else spouting this kind of nonsense. There's no such thing as an "obesity epidemic".

The CDC is wondering what to do about it. I'll tell you - nothing.

In the first place, obesity results from choices made in regards to food. There isn't anyone in America today over the age of 5 who can claim ignorance on food nutrition, balance, and dieting. We know - and we choose otherwise. And in this case, the people who make that choice largely bear the cost of that choice. Add to these considerations the fact that one cannot "do something" about obesity without regulating their diet and exercise in a way that must be noxious to a free people, and the answer must be clear.

But then, I think we should get rid of seat belt laws, lower the drinking age to 18, allow private individuals and businesses to decide for themselves whether they want to smoke or allow smoking on their property, and a whole host of things that place responsibility for personal choices on the person who makes the choice.

It is none of the government's business whether I eat twinkies, smoke cigars, and occasionally have nothing but cheesecake for dinner. My wife and mother may nag me about these things. I'll even put up with my children nagging me about it. But Barack Hussein Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the CDC can shut the h**l up.

What's That From?

I apparently have a gift for saying things in a way that makes people think they've heard it before. I will toss off a remark at home during dinner and my children typically respond with, "What's that from?"

These are often pithy little truisms, such as:

"Anyone who has to tell you he's in charge probably isn't,"

or a personal favorite:

"Say it with confidence and 90% of your audience will believe you."

I remember telling the folks in the S3 shop once, "The primary purpose of a plan is to have a base from which to deviate - and you will deviate." The response was, "Hey, that's a pretty good quote. Who said it?"

Uh, me. I just said it. But you may quote me if you wish.

I was speaking with a lady in our church about music, and starting with where people are and not telling them they have to like this or not like that. I agreed and said, "Yup. You can waste a lot of energy trying to force opera on a Johnny Cash crowd."

"I never heard that one before - I'm going to have to remember that one," she said. I bit my tongue. Of course you never heard that one before - I hadn't said it before.

So, if you come across one of these in my musings and you think, "what's that from?" I, your humble - well, OK, not quite so humble author happily take the credit. It's from me.

More on Hizb ut-Tahrir

I mentioned a few days ago the radical, anti-semitic, anti-Christian Islamic group that met in Chicago a little while ago to advance their jihad. Here's an article that describes a bit more of what that group is about and what went on at their conference.

I'm all for freedom of speech - and I'm also for making sure that we have access to what some violent nut jobs are saying some times. It's not just that these are conspiracy theorists par excellence. If that's all it was, they'd be as boring as the 9/11 and birth certificate "truthers". These guys want to kill us, and they actively recruit for terrorist organizations as well as likely funnelling money to them. A prudent people, interested in survival, is going to keep their eyes on groups like this.

Ink for Conspiracy Theorists

I got to thinking about the current hullaballoo over the President's birth. Why? I find him dangerous. I think he has a desire to implement socialist policies and utopian fairy tales which will ultimately sink this country. I think he is dishonest, brittle, naive, and a genuine true believer in the Marxist group-think on which he was raised. But then, lots of people are born and raised in the United States, fed on a steady diet of self-loathing so, if anything, this is rather good evidence that he ist a native-born citizen of the United States.

Furthermore, nobody has anywhere disputed the assertion that he was born to an American woman. Given that, even if he were born in Kenya instead of Hawaii, he would still be a native-born citizen of the United States. John McCain was born in Panama - his father was stationed there at the time with the US Navy. My brother was born in Japan, when our father was stationed there, also with the US Navy. Both are US citizens by birth. People used to spend years overseas and sometimes they would have children born to them during those sojourns. Such children have always been accepted as native-born US citizens.

So, again, what's all the hubbub, bub? No, not why are conspiracy theorists out there peddling this garbage - they're just part of the landscape, always larking about. They were there for the Kennedy assassination, Watergate (even more than was actually there - the missing 18 minutes of tape, etc.), Reagan and Nicaragua, Bush I and the Gulf War, Clinton and Vince Foster, Bush II and the so-called "truthers", and on it goes. I suspect a lot of them are just frustrated that nobody cares about Area 51 anymore.

I mean, why all the headlines, like this AP report? It's patently obvious that these birth-certificate "truthers" are heading off into la-la land, so why the commotion? Why waste all this time answering accusations from the manifestly idiotic? I know some folks gave a bit of unwarranted ink to Andrew Sullivan when he claimed Sarah Palin's youngest wasn't really hers and that Trig Palin was really formed of an incestuous union between her husband and her daughter (or something like that - I may have the details wrong), but leftists were patently embarrassed by the (formerly) acclaimed fool who made the charge. They shoved it under the rug as quickly as they could. Why not the same with these fools?

I can only think of one reason - because it allows AP and leftists to label conservatives as nut jobs. They never put Andrew Sullivan on TV to defend his ridiculous assertion and embarrass himself over the Palin bit, but they do put G. Gordon Liddy on TV to defend his stupidity on Obama's birth certificate. They then try to equate this guy with Jim DeMint or Mitch McConnell and force them to spend time dissociating themselves with the looney-tunes instead of pointing out the insanity of Obama's proposed legislation. It's interesting to see how, now that the press is talking about Gates and Crowley or this stupid birth certificate stuff, suddenly there are "deals" in the Senate and House on Obama's health care monstrosity. That's not a coincidence, folks. That's politics.

7.26.2009

Racist Harvard Prof - "Time to Move on"

According to this FoxNews report, anyway, Harvard Prof Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is using that classic lefty "Oops, I'm looking stupid" line. He says it's time to "move on". I should say so. In fact, I did - 3 days ago. In case you missed it, that post is here. It's been updated with a link to the police reports and to the Cambridge Municipal Code where you can find the ordinance Gates was arrested for violating.

Apparently Gates and Sgt. Crowley are going to have a beer with the President to settle it all. I highly doubt that it will be a pleasant experience for Crowley, but he has demonstrated bravery and dedication to duty before, and one does not refuse such an invitation from the President of the United States.

Gates (and the President) say they want to use this as a teachable moment. They have - they have shown that the primary source of racism in this country is rich Black people like Obama and Gates (and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in case you missed him during the campaign). They are supported by rich, White liberals, who also tend to be racist.

Most middle class and poor people have long since chucked it. That doesn't mean they're best buds with people who are different from them, just that race is rarely, if ever, a factor in their business dealings, general politeness, working relationships, or anything else of substance. Even when it comes to churches and marriage, the skin tone isn't the reason Black and White still tend to segregate - it's taste. One group tends to like one kind of thing and the other prefers something different, which is fine, and neither is condemning or berating the other for it - exept liberals who think that we should count colors now that color doesn't matter any more.

7.24.2009

New Jersey Corruption Photos & Religious Leadership

News Flash!!! Politicians in New Jersey are corrupt!!

Who'd a thunk it?

I'm glad the FBI is trying to stem the tide of this corruption. According to the AP report on Yahoo, all but one of the current office-holders arrested are Democrat. This is not surprising, given that Democrat machine politics have run that state since before Roosevelt. People that aren't much interested in anything but power and the money that comes from it are going to have to be Democrats in a state like New Jersey. Frankly, it's pretty much a given, almost boring as far as news events go. Then you see the photo used in the story.

I find it interesting that the photos used in the lede are the ones showing the bearded, orthodox-looking Jews. No, I don't think this is because the photographers or editors are anti-semitic. It's because people expect - and typically get - a higher standard of behavior from those who are overtly and loudly religious, whether they be priests, ministers, or rabbis. The sleazy hack politician or "businessman" like Tony Soprano we expect this from, but the Rabbi? The contrast between expectation and reality is more pronounced, and therefore more interesting - and the photos capture that.

Such things can, however, be used by those who are anti-semitic, just as the Catholic scandal involving priests and boys was used by the anti-Catholic and all of these are used by the anti-religious/atheist/anti-moral law people. They say with some regularity, "you're all a bunch of hypocrites." It's not true, but that's how it is used.

Which is why these gross, public sins are a kind of blasphemy. In a way others do not, rabbis, ministers, and priests in this country are considered as God's representatives among us and when we sin, particularly in such a public manner, we besmirch God's reputation.

I do not list Imams in that, because I do not think they are held in the same esteem or with the same expectations in the U.S. We've heard too many of these Imams calling for mass murder, jihad, kill all the Jews and other craziness, so we don't think of them as holy so much as nut jobs. Muslims in the U.S. might object to that characterization, but these are the Imams we see and it is incumbent upon those who lead and practice Islam to change that reputation if they really want it changed. I know there are Imams who are sane, peaceful, and as patriotic Americans as any - I've served with some in the military. They don't get a lot of press. The group that met in Chicago recently, openly advocating jihad against the United States and Israel, however, does get press - lots of press.

In ministry, it is not sufficient to simply do one's job. One must also be seen to do one's job. Muslims in this country should ask themselves, "How do we get to the point where it's as strange and worthy of highlighting when an Imam gets arrested as it is when a priest or a rabbi does?"

7.23.2009

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Should Shut Up

Professor Gates, I have some advice: shut up already.

Somebody reported a breaking & entering, called the cops. Cops get there, find somebody in the house - they don't know who the hell he is. They ask for ID. The guy goes off on the cop, calling him a racist and demanding his name (most cops I've met wear name tags, but maybe Cambridge, MA police are different).

The cop is doing his job, making sure of the facts. Once he ascertained that the professor was who he claimed to be and the legal resident of the home, he tried to leave. This professor follows the cop out, insisting he's a racist and hasn't heard the last of him blah blah blah. All this yelling and commotion going on, the cop warned him, warned him again, and then arrested him. There was a photo of the incident, too. Gates is obviously yelling, and there are three cops in the picture, one of them a Black man who doesn't seem to have much of a problem with the arrest.

But now the President of the United States is involved in it. Great. The President of the United States of America is getting himself involved in a simple disturbance of the peace in Cambridge, Massachussetts - after charges have already been dropped.

It ain't the cop who's being stupid here. And the only racist in this picture is Gates with his "it's cuz I'm Black" routine.

I remember the first time I ran into this as a young man. Some lady was in the line at the check-out. She decided to leave her cart there and go do some more shopping. When the person in front of her finished, I waited a little bit for her to get back and when she didn't, I went around and checked out myself. She came back just as this was getting started and began shoving her cart into me, accusing me of "cutting" in line, and telling me it was just because she was Black.

Bulls**t and other comments. I don't care if this woman or Gates were purple with pink polka dots, as white as a clean sheet of paper, as black as coal or striped like a zebra - color is not a license to be rude, inconsiderate or bellicose. Gates was rude, inconsiderate and bellicose, and under the circumstances described in the police report he would have been arrested if he were white, too.

Hey, if you're a crook in the Cambridge area, Gates' house is probably a pretty safe target now. I don't think the cops will be all that quick to respond, given this jerk's behavior. I'm sure they don't want to mess with him and risk the President of the United States dissing them on national TV again. I know I wouldn't want to be Gates the next time he actually needs the police.

I wonder, too, if this kind of nonsense might not be part of the explanation for significantly higher crime rates in Black neighborhoods around the country. Just asking.

UPDATE: Here are the police reports about the incident.

UPDATE II: If you go here, you can find the Cambridge, Massachussetts Municipal Code. Check out Title 9 (Public Peace, Morals and Welfare). Article 09.08.010 reads in full: "No person shall behave himself in a rude or disorderly manner, or use any indecent, profane or insulting language in any street or public place. No person shall make or cause to be made, any unnecessary noise or noises in any public street, private way or park, so as to cause any inconvenience or discomfort for the inhabitants of the City."

7.17.2009

Government Health Care

Check out this article. The House of Representatives legislation providing government health care will ban private, personal health insurance. After the bill becomes law (which one prays never happens), no one is permitted to purchase personal insurance.

Technically, Obama is correct - you can keep the insurance you have. But you cannot change it. You cannot upgrade it, alter it, switch carriers, or anything else. You've lost your job. You decide to use this as an opportunity to start a business. You cannot buy private insurance.

Welcome to Government Health care - guaranteed to cost more, be less effective, and deadlier.

7.14.2009

Obama's "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" Speech

Veronique de Rugy at NRO's Corner pointed this out and, ohhhh, it is precious. It is absolutely precious...

President Obama was speaking in Ghana the other day and said this:
This is about more than just holding elections. It's also about what happens between elections. Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves - or if police - if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end.
That's my emphasis, by the way. Go back and read that again. The current corporate tax rate in the United States is 35% and he wants to raise the capital gains tax back to 20% or more. Again and again and again he pledges to tax the wealthy so that marginal tax rates in states like NY or CA are pushing 75% or more. Yet the president knows that higher taxes on corporations kills off corporate investment and restricts business. Who hires people? Businesses. Corporations. And who is President Obama knowingly driving away by his policies? Businesses. Corporations.

Is it any wonder, then, that unemployment is at 9.5% and going higher?

Get that bit, too, about the rule of law giving way to bribery and brutality. This is the guy who threatened AIG executives with mob violence when they - in full accord with the law - received their salaries and bonuses. This is the guy whose justice department dropped charges of voter intimidation against people who were filmed outside a polling place in Pennsylvania intimidating voters after the prosecutor had won the case!! This is the guy who pushed legislation to fund ACORN (an organization indicted in at least 3 states, if not more, for voter fraud) and who had a regular plumber harrassed because of his impertinence.

Then there's that bit about people using the government to enrich themselves. For a guy who thinks like that, he sure has appointed an awful lot of people to cabinet and other administrative positions who have cheated on their taxes, not to mention the way TARP money seems to have been funneled into politically expedient channels, even making pay-offs (not that they'll ever be investigated) to spouses of prominent congressmen and senators.

Obama apparently knows full well that the policies he's advocating will turn this country into a basket case, much like those of Africa and elsewhere. So why is he doing it?

7.12.2009

Thugs in Charge

Here's a guy, probably a bit of a pain in the backside - obviously got a chip on his shoulder. OK. Lots of people like that. He feels he's being unfairly treated, so he files a lawsuit. Does it a couple different times on different issues. The second one ends up going to the Supreme Court, where the decision comes out in his favor. Basis of this suit is that his employer, the city of New Haven, CT, was wrong not to promote him and several others. The city administers a test for promotion in the fire department. No Black firefighters passed the test, so the city threw out the results and refused to promote anyone. In other words, we won't promote you because you're white. The Supreme Court agreed that this is a problem.

On the whole, it wouldn't be a bad thing, except that the suit went through Judge Sotomayor's court. This woman who thinks that just because she's a latino woman, she'll make better decisions, simply dismissed the case summarily. It would have died right there if another hispanic judge (also a Clinton appointee) hadn't objected. Even though the 2nd District voted en banc to dismiss, he wrote a sufficiently strong dissent from that decision that the Supreme Court decided to hear the case. This is embarrassing. The other judges on the Supreme Court decided a case that Sotomayor dismissed was worth a serious look. They then decided she and the lower court were both wrong in their understanding of the law. Ouch.

And the response of Sotomayor's people is? Attack the fireman. According to this FoxNews report, a bunch of left-leaning groups are urging people to dig into the fireman's past in order to discredit him.

These are the same people who went after a plumber because he pointed out the truth of Obama's politics.

These are the same people who threatened violence to employees of certain companies because they got paid a certain amount.

These are the same people who threatened exposure and possible violence to bond-holders of Chrysler Corporation.

These are the same people who, while claiming the children of liberal politicians are off limits, spare no efforts to humiliate, denigrate, insult, and even attack the daughters and even infant son of Sarah Palin.

These are the people who run this country right now. If you're not afraid, you should be.

7.10.2009

Synod Bouncing Bouncing Bouncing Bounc...

The editor of the CRC's magazine, The Banner, is excited about the recent Synod. He claims Synod's 188 delegates "slogged through 500 pages" of an agenda. Hardly. Most of it, they skimmed over, received for information, and passed without serious debate, reflection or discussion. Some guy from one of the agencies comes in, presents a dog & pony show demonstrating the wonderful work they're doing - tosses in a few "problem area" notes just to make sure they don't look too perfect - and then they vote on the budget. Maybe 50 of those 188 actually read the report and of those, maybe 2 read it with a critical eye. There are a few hot-button issues where most people read the report and ask questions (the reshuffling at the denominational offices, the Belhar, 3rd Wave Pentecostalism, etc.) but most of those 500 pages is RFI'd (Received For Information) and filed. The slogging on those was done by their respective boards, a few committees, and some unsung, unknown staffers who typed all that stuff for the record.

Don't get me wrong. Picking through the details of those 500 pages, asking serious questions and challenging the data is hard work. It was all but impossible when Synod used to meet for two weeks in the summer. Now that they're down to a single week, there's no way they could get through it if they didn't do things this way. Nor would the end result of the votes be much different than it is now, however much I might wish they would be. The pressure at these things, though, is to get through the agenda and go home, not to think through the agenda, however long it takes.

Rev. De Moor then goes on to say that Synod was composed of "Canadians, Americans, Koreans, and African-Americans..." That's interesting. I know we have a classis (Pacific Hanmi) comprised of Korean immigrants, but they're largely American citizens or resident aliens. We don't have a classis in Korea. Makes me wonder where the Korean delegates came from. And I never heard of African-America. Where is that? Are you sure none of them were African-Canadians? No Guatemalan or Mexican delegates? How about Irish or French? Any Japanese or Chinese or Lao or Thai? You sure all those yellow-skinned folks were from Korea?

Yes, I know it's mildly (or maybe even greatly) offensive to call them "yellow-skinned", but that's all the good Reverend was looking at - skin color. Fact is, they were Americans, and so were the Black people at Synod, and the delegates from Classis Red Mesa (at least three of whom were Navajo), and the guys from Arizona and California with the Spanish-sounding names. So why the break-out of these two groups - Koreans and "African-Americans" - from the other Americans with permanent tans? We will never get past the racism of our past until we stop identifying and defining people on the basis of pigmentation. And it's high time we stopped contorting ourselves in to pretzels of self-congratulation every time one of these tanned folks gets to Synod.

But then we get to his biggest thrill. Young people were at Synod!
So where do our younger members get to lend their voices to synod? Shouldn't we hear from them too? The apostle Paul told his colleague Timothy, a gifted evangelist, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Tim. 4:12). The church needed Timothy’s gifts.

This year, for the first time, synod invited six young adults to attend its meetings as official observers

But it’s only a first step. We need to hear from this generation. They are, and represent, not only the church of tomorrow but also the church of today. They should be given the floor so they can enter into synod’s discussions and debates. Their views matter. Their fresh perspectives and insights into a rapidly changing world can help us make better-informed, more savvy decisions. Their enthusiasm and love for the Lord and his kingdom are infectious and will encourage and energize us. And their involvement will better connect them to our churches.
Great. I've got no problem with young people who display sound character, fidelity to Scripture, and the other qualities described in that same letter to Timothy as befitting overseers of the Church, actually being selected as elders and going to Synod. But to take people just because they are young and send a half dozen of these as hand-picked "advisers," treating them as if they speak for an entire generation, or at least for the thousands of young people in our denomination, most of whom they do not and cannot know - I cannot imagine a more foolish, condescending, and bigoted thing to do.

Do you really believe that every 17-year-old thinks the same way? I guess so. Apparently he believes all women and all Blacks and all Koreans think alike, too - so much so that they need to be distinguished from "real" Americans.

So some kid, barely old enough to shave, who hasn't lived beyond the limits of a few youth group projects, high school outings, and a family vacation to Acapulco, is going to provide a valuable perspective? On what? Sure, you may get lucky and find the one who has actually given some serious thought to serious matters and who has a breadth of experience and learning to express it in coherent sentences without using the word "like", but such a young person probably has no interest in Synod. He's too busy thinking about serious things.

7.09.2009

"E-Word" Nonsense on Stilts

What is it with these people? Here's a piece in the CRC's BANNER complaining that, at least in church, "No one dares to use the 'e-word.' Most of our pulpits remain silent about the environment, our newsletters and other publications are quiet, and we drink our coffee—sometimes fair trade, often out of Styrofoam cups—without an inkling that these questions trouble us in the rest of our living."

The "e-word" by the way is "environment".

We just had the head of CRC ministries in Canada making a statement on oil sands (see this post). I know I've addressed it in sermons, and I'm not the only one (though I doubt the author of this little sniveling complaint would appreciate the way I addressed it). Check out the Contemporary Testimony: Our World Belongs to God, particularly the revised one, but articles 10, 17 and 52 in the old version. I don't know how often I've seen stuff in the BANNER on environmental issues, and it just popped up again in the WARC statement on John Calvin's birth (see here). I know it comes up in our Property Committee, and the folks managing our various small groups also promote materials discussing proper stewardship of the environment. Where have these people been? The end of the article even states that "many CRC congregations are already doing a great deal when it comes to creation care. The Banner would love to hear your stories!" So. It's happening. Shut up already.

They then go on to bemoan the fact that we don't darn our socks (seriously, they do) and that we pay $20 to replace a watch instead of $50 to fix it. They then say we need to talk about environmental concerns more. Excuse me, but I have had quite enough of "environmental concerns" talk. Ever since I was a teenager and we were destroying the planet by causing a new ice age (I don't know when it switched to "global warming" but I think it was during the first Bush presidency), I've had this kind of mad "we're destroying the planet" talk thrown at me. I'm sick of it. They suggest that we get together groups to express our concerns about the future. I'll tell you what concerns me about the future - boring yahoos like this who wield ballots and influence life-destroying "environmental" regulations.

Look, if you guys want to go back to nature, give up petroleum products, darn your socks, drive all over town to find somebody who'll fix your timex (difficult, since you've given up petroleum products), set out rain barrels instead of turning on the faucet, bath only once a month, buy only organic products and die at 52, go ahead. Me, I'm going to grab another soda out of the fridge, kick off my plastic shoes, put my feet up and see what's on TV. Heck, I may even order out pizza. I know he won't be driving a hybrid. I wonder if I can specify a styrofoam container for it? I may still die at 52, but at least I'll have enjoyed the ride.

Warped WARC

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is out with a statement on the anniversary of John Calvin's birth. You can read it here.

I've always thought it should be the World Alliance of Reformed and Presbetyrian Evangelical Denominations (WARPED) - but that's just me. Nevertheless, their statement lends itself to my own acronym rather than the real one. In that document, we get statements like this one:
In our world today, many are hurting because of injustice in the economy long before the current meltdown in the financial markets. This has indeed been further aggravated by the financial crisis and job losses in many countries while those who benefited from the system before continue to be bailed out. To this Calvin stated: “A fair distribution can become reality if the rich do not greedily swallow up whatsoever they can get together; if they do not rack up on every side what belongs to others to satisfy their greed…” (Calvin’s Commentary on Exodus 16:19.)
First, let's actually read Ex 16:19. "Then Moses said to them, 'No one is to keep any of it until morning.'" (NIV). OK. Now, Calvin was a smart guy and all that, but this is a bit of a stretch. The passage, by the way, is part of an extended discussion of manna and how the Israelites were to collect it - only enough for a day (except the day before the Sabbath), and only what they needed. So that's where the verse comes in. Then I read the actual commentary - I have a set, courtesy of my father-in-law - and this is what it says in my copy:

Now, although the case of the manna and the food of our ordinary nourishment is not altogether similar, yet the comparison holds to a certain extent, for it is so far lawful to keep our corn and wine laid up in granaries and cellars, as that all should still ask truly for their daily bread of God. And this will be, if the rich do not greedily swalow up whatsoever they can get together; if they do not avariciously scrape up here and there; if they do not gorge themselves upon the hunger of the poor; if they do not, as far as in them lies, withhold the blessing of God; in a word, if they do not immoderately accumulate large possessions, but are liberal out of their present abundance, are not too anxious as to the future, and are not troubled, if needs be, that their wealth should suffer diminution... (Calvins Commentaries, Vol II, A Harmony of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, Baker 1979)
Notice anything different? That's right - that bit "A fair distribution can become reality..." It's not in Calvin's commentary. By adding this, they've taken a fairly straightforward lesson stating that the rich should also trust God alone for their daily bread and not their wealth but should be generous with their abundance (not withhold the blessing of God), and turned it into a proto-marxist statement on fair distribution.

Their news release also highlights another portion of the statement.

In our world today where humanity is blatantly ignoring the environment and in fact destroying Gods [sic] creation, Calvin’s words can be instructive: “Whoever owns a piece of land, should harvest the fruits in such a way that the soil does not suffer and damage…as God’s stewards…If we follow this line, nobody will behave immoderately and destroy through misuse what God wishes to preserve.” (Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis 2.15)
Their premise is false. Humanity is blatantly NOT ignoring the environment. Whether it be this silly statement from WARC, Greenpeace, Cap & Trade legislation in Congress, Kyoto Accords, and a host of other things from cloth bags at supermarkets to hybrid cars, nothing other than the death of Michael Jackson gets more attention from humanity. In fact, we can't ignore our environment. If it's raining, we notice. If it's hot, we notice. If there are lots of trees or no trees, we notice. We are also not destroying God's creation. We did kill off dodo birds, and there are murders and such like things going on around the world. I'd like to see us kill off certain irritating insects, too, but we can't. For all of our efforts over many decades, mosquitos still exist. The atmosphere is still there, quite intact. So also are the earth, the animals, the plants, and all the rest that God has made us stewards of. Calvin may be instructive, but the idea that Calvin was a proto-environmentalist nut job is a bit off the mark. We'd better check that commentary, too.

Genesis 2:15 itself reads, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." So, already in the actual verse we get the notion that man is supposed to work the land - till it, fertilize it, plant, reap, that sort of thing. I'm not going to quote the whole paragraph Calvin writes on this verse, but here's the part they excerpted in the statement:
...custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition, that being content with a frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavour to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved. (Calvin's Commentaris, vol I, Genesis, Baker 1979)
Again, the WARC statement makes a slight change. Instead of "neither conduct himself dissolutely nor corrupt by abuse..." they say "nobody will behave immoderately and destroy through misuse" (emphasis added). Calvin's main point is that we're supposed to work, and that in the work we're supposed to take care of the land (or anything else) we might own. He sees two dangers - neglect and abuse. This is the ol' Protestant Work Ethic he's preaching. WARC makes wealth (immoderate behavior) the cause of destruction. Calvin also knows that properly tending to one's resources as a steward will better enable us to enjoy God's gifts and even cause prosperity, rightly understood ("may flourish among us"). WARC's warped statement wants us to believe that prosperity is the source of misuse, abuse and destruction - and that Calvin thought so, too.

Even more distressing than the misuse and somewhat disingenuous alteration of these statements from Calvin's Commentaries, is the fact that these are the things they quote. Calvin's Commentaries fill 22 volumes on my shelf. Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion are another two volumes. I also have his Reply to Sadoleto, some of his earlier theological writings, and a couple other books in which contemporaries quote him briefly. Calvin wrote extensively on salvation by grace, through faith, on the providentical care of God, on the saving work of Jesus Christ, on perserverance in the face of suffering, and on and on and on. Yet the World Alliance of Reformed Churches picks two rather obscure quotes, then twists them in order to justify leftist politics. These are the most important things Calvin has to say to us today, according to WARC - you should be a socialist and an environmentalist. Oh yes, they also say we should all get along, but they don't highlight that in the press-leader.

Sad, when you think about it.

7.05.2009

Palin Exits

So, Sarah Palin is resigning as governor of Alaska. I wish her well. Few public figures have been treated as horribly with as little reason. More particularly, few families of public figures have been so unjustly maligned as her daughters have been. The shameful treatment of Bristol, Willow, and her husband Todd is one of the most despicable extended episodes in the history of the American press.

The abuse of Alaska's ethics regulations has also been a sorry tale. Would that these paragons of virtue applied the same standards to her predecessors, or to Democrats like Obama, Rangel, Jefferson (of Louisiana), Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, Schumer, and a host of others who have used their public position to enrich themselves.

I hope that America hasn't seen the last of Sarah Palin or decent, regular people like her who heed the call to public service. But the treatment they've received does mean we will see fewer public servants of her caliber.

7.01.2009

CRCNA By the Numbers - They Don't Look Good.

This is going to be a lengthy post, and it'll have a lot of numbers in it, but bear with me.

A few interesting things about CRC membership statistics as tabulated by the CRC and available on their
web site. I was born in 1964, so we’ll start there.

1. In 1964, membership in the CRC was 263,178. According to the chart, membership in 2008 was 268,052 and if you grab the latest CRC Yearbook (2009) you'll find it’s 264,330. Membership peaked in 1992 at 316,415.

2. Non-professing membership in 1964 was at 126,129 (47.9% of membership) while according to the 2009 yearbook, it is 78,324 (29.6% of total membership).

3. Families numbered 57,736 in 1964 and 75,497 in 2009. In 1964, 7,188 children were baptized (one of whom, I’m happy to say, was me) compared to 3,795 in 2009.

4. If you look at total growth for 2008, you’ll find the number 10,858 – that’s baptized children, transfers in and evangelism. Total decline for that year is listed as 6,458 – deaths, transfers out and “reversions” (backsliders?). You’d think the CRC grew by 4,400 members then, right? But total membership reported in 2008 is 268,052 – 1,804 fewer than reported in 2007. According to the total membership column, in the 45 years since my birth, the CRC grew by 53,237 in the 28 years from 1964-92, and then shrunk by 52,085 during the next 17 years. Yet, if you compare the "Total Growth" column to the "Total Decline" column, there are only 7 years that report a net decline (1993-95, 1998-2000, and 2004) and the sum total of that decline amounts to a mere 3,098 members. In fact, if you were only looking at “Total Growth” and “Total Decline” from 1964-2009, you would think the denomination grew by just over 104,000 members. Instead our net growth was a paltry 1,152.


5. If you look back at old Acts and Agenda of Synod, checking the amount of money spent by Christian Reformed Home Missions, you will see that the least they've spent in any given year since FY94/95 is $7.7 million and most years it's $8.5-9.5 million. In all, from FY94/95 to FY08/09, Home Missions has spent $129 million in order to achieve this phenomenal net growth of 1,152 new members since 1964.

6. The number of churches in 1964 was 597. In 2009, it’s 1,059 – or 462 more congregations to service 1,152 additional members. That’s one new congregation for every 2½ new members. At peak membership in 1992, there were 981. The average number of members per congregation in 1964 was 441, in 1992 it was 323, and in 2009 it’s 249.

Conclusions:

The first and most obvious conclusion is that church folks aren’t that great with numbers.

The second, and equally obvious, conclusion is that the Christian Reformed Church is an incredibly small denomination – and it’s getting smaller. As a percentage of total population, we’re getting smaller very, very quickly. In July 2008, the total population of the US and Canada was around 337 million. Using our 2008 total membership number, that means we’re .08% – eight one hundredths of one percent – of the total population. The denomination might want to think about that the next time it sends off pretentious letters to the governments of these nations. It may be worthwhile to talk to state or provincial representatives and/or governments, but the vast majority of the people in the federal governments of the U.S. and Canada are going to ask themselves “Who the heck are these people?” just before they file our carefully worded missive.

A third conclusion one might draw from this is that Christian Reformed Home Missions is horribly ineffective and a huge waste of resources, particularly over the last 17 years. I didn’t find numbers on line for years prior to FY1994/95, but if one takes the lowest figure from the years 1994-2009 ($7.7 million) and extrapolates it back to FY1991/92 (i.e., three years) one gets $23.1 million plus the $129 million they’ve spent since FY1994/95 and you’ve got $152.1 million spent to lose a net 52,085 members over 17 years. In other words, Home Missions spent at least $2,290 per net member lost between 1992 and 2009.

Fourth, the Christian Reformed Church does not suffer so much from too few ministers as it does from too many congregations. Instead of having a shortage of around 300 ministers, we’d have a surplus of 100 or so if we had the same member/congregation ratio now as we did in 1964.

Fifth, we have fewer children and fewer of those we have are staying in the denomination.

These are the facts. Things can be done to check this decline, but instead our denomination is acting in a way to accelerate it. In about 20 years, we will essentially be looking at massive reductions in ministries, including the crown jewel that is Calvin College and Seminary or some other change that will effectively mean the end of the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Oh well. We believe in one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, but we have never believed this is coterminus with the CRCNA.