Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The first one hundred days under Obama

Many of my friends are excited by Barack Obama and his promise of hope and unity for our country. Lost in the enthusiasm, however, may be the policies that a President Obama would enact with the help of exapnded Democratic majorities in Congress. Despite his lofty rhetoric, Obama is still a Democrat, and he believes in Democratic priorities.

What, then, would the first one hundred days under an Obama administration look like? No one can know for sure, but I believe that an article from the respected political website, Real Clear Politics gives us a glimpse of how things would shape up from January 20, 2009 to April 30, 2009:

-- Rep. Barney Frank is calling for new tax hikes on the most successful and a 25 percent across-the-board slash in national defense spending.

-- Sen. John Kerry is talking up new and massive federal spending, a la FDR's New Deal.

-- Swift amnesty for 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens and a drive to make them citizens and register them, as in the Bill Clinton years. This will mean that Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona will soon move out of reach for GOP presidential candidates, as has California.

-- Border security will go on the backburner, and America will have a virtual open border with a Mexico of 110 million.

-- Taxes will be raised on the top 5 percent of wage-earners, who now carry 60 percent of the U.S. income tax burden, and tens of millions of checks will be sent out to the 40 percent of wage-earners who pay no federal income tax at all. Like the man said, redistribute the wealth, spread it around.

-- Social Security taxes will be raised on the most successful among us, and capital gains taxes will be raised from 15 percent to 20 percent. The Bush tax cuts will be repealed, and death taxes reimposed.

-- Two or three more liberal activists of the Ruth Bader Ginsberg-John Paul Stevens stripe will be named to the Supreme Court. U.S. district and appellate courts will be stacked with "progressives."

-- Special protections for homosexual persons will be written into all civil rights laws, and gays and lesbians in the military will be invited to come out of the closet. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dead.

-- The homosexual marriages that state judges have forced California, Massachusetts and Connecticut to recognize, an Obama Congress or Obama court will require all 50 states to recognize when it repeals the Defense of Marriage Act.

-- A "Freedom of Choice Act" [which failed in this Congress] nullifying all state restrictions on abortions will be enacted. America will become the most pro-abortion nation on earth.

-- Affirmative action -- hiring and promotions based on race, sex and sexual orientation until specified quotas are reached -- will be rigorously enforced throughout the U.S. government and private sector.

-- Universal health insurance will be enacted, covering legal and illegal immigrants, providing another powerful magnet for the world to come to America, if necessary by breaching her borders.

-- A federal bailout of states and municipalities to keep state and local governments spending up could come in December or early next year.

-- The first trillion-dollar deficit will be run in the first year of an Obama presidency. It will be the first of many.

The choice is stark. I know that some of my friends support policies like these, and that is their prerogative. I disagree that these policies would be good for the United States or her people, and I believe that many of my friends would find policies like these appalling.

When the question is framed as "change against more of the same," change may seem appealing. But when specific policies that constitute this "change" are mentioned, some may find that their enthusiasm for the junior Senator from Illinois may be quite misplaced.

FEELING: Anxious
LISTENING TO: My conscience

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Parable of the Expulsion and Re-Admission of the College Students

Once, when the Universe(ity) was first founded, there were only two students in the whole Universe(ity). The President of the Universe(ity) had brought the students into the Universe(ity) after He founded the Universe(ity), and the Universe(ity) was beautifully landscaped, immaculately prepared, and perfectly executed. There was food, lodging, and the students were invited to enjoy the whole of the Universe(ity), because the President loved His students and wanted them to be happy.

Eventually, after a time of learning and growing at the Universe(ity), the President would confer Degrees upon the students, and they would graduate from the Universe(ity) to go home with the President to live forever in the Presidential Mansion.

The President also wanted His students to love him in return. And so, in order to allow them to demonstrate their love, and in order that their love would not be coerced because of the President's power to enforce grades and expel the students from the Universe(ity) forever, the President gave the students one, single rule: "you can go anywhere on campus and eat anything -- only, do not use the vending machine in the break room at the Law School, or you will surely be expelled."

The President had given the students free reign of the Universe(ity), and He had provided elaborate banquets of endless variety at the Student Center and in the dining hall. The vending machine was ugly and brown, with cheap, unhealthy foods.

Into the Universe(ity) came a Teaching Assistant. But not just any Teaching Assistant. This TA had rebelled against the President, saying in his heart, "I will ascend to the Presidency, and I will seat myself at the President's Desk." The President had driven the TA out of his position, but He still allowed the TA to come into the Universe(ity).

The TA hated the President and all that the President loved, including the students. So the TA set out to destroy what the President had founded.

The TA came to the female student and said, "You should try that vending machine in the Law School."

The female student responded, "No, the President said that I should not use it. And besides, I have an amazing, exquisite buffet prepared by the President for me and the male student in the Student Center. The President has also said that if we eat of the vending machine, we will be expelled from the Universe(ity)."

"You shall not be expelled," laughed the TA. "The President knows that if you eat of the vending machine, you will become Presidents yourself."

And the female student saw light refract from the glass on the cover of the vending machine, she saw the subtle colors and bright packaging on the treats inside, and she saw that it looked good to eat.

Taking a shiny, golden coin from the TA, she put it into the vending machine and purchased a Nutty Buddy, with two candy bars: one for her and one for the male student.

As the TA watched with secret pleasure, the female student found the male student, opened the plastic wrapper, and took a bite of the the candy bar. She gave the other candy bar to the male student, who also took and ate.

The whole time, the President, who always kept an eye on the students to keep them safe, watched everything on the campus security system. As His students, whom He loved so much, ate the candy bars, His heart ached that His love for them had been so completely rejected. After all, he had only given them one rule: one way to prove that their love for Him was genuine, and they had violated that infinite, supreme love.

As soon as the students ate, the heard the President walking down tha hall of the Law School. The students ran and hid, not wanting the President to find them still with the chocolate from the Nutty Buddy on their hands and faces.

The President called out to them, asking where they were. Finally, he saw the male student and said, "Where is the female student?"

The male student replied, "Do I look like campus safety? I don't know where she is."

The President responded, "What's that on your face?"

Knowing he'd been caught, the male student stood mute for a moment. Then, inspiration hit him, and he said, "You know the female student that You admitted to the Universe(ity)? Well, she bought a Nutty Buddy out of the Law School vending machine and ate it with me."

Sadly, the President called the students together.

"Today, you have broken the one and only rule I had given you, and you rejected the love that worked so long to prepare for you. You will not graduate from the Universe(ity). Instead, you must withdraw from the Universe(ity) before your time, departing from this place with Incompletes on your transcript. And if you have children, they, as your legacies, will inherit your Incompletes."

"But there is hope," the President said. "Your legacy Son will one day ensure that the TA, who tempted you to use the vending machine, gets fired, but only after the TA hurts him."

And so the students were driven from the Universe(ity) by the Campus Security Guard.


Life outside the Universe(ity) was rough for the two students. They had to get hard jobs, not like those that had been prepared for them after graduation. They were not qualified for life as Interns in the Great Towers of Downtown, and they had to work long shifts doing back-breaking labor just to eat and have somewhere to live.

As the years passed, the students had children, and eventually, the children had children, and their children had children, and so on. Meanwhile, in the Student Records office, as each generation was born, they, too, inherited the Incompletes that their parents had earned.

The President did not abandon the students. He continued to go out among the children, disguised as an Admissions Officer, to the students and their children and their children's children, urging them to re-apply to the Universe(ity).

Some of the students' children would do so. They would read the Admissions Packet and ask the President what they needed to do (and for His help) to re-enter the Universe(ity). Some of the students' children were better at fulfilling the President's requests than others, but the President accepted each generation's attempts to apply as an actual application, whether they applied correctly or not -- the President didn't care whether the application was filled out perfectly, He simply wanted the children to take a step of faith by wholeheartedly trying to fill it out in the first place.


Eventually, the admissions standards got so muddled out in the world, despite the Admissions Officer's speaking to the children who got the application most correct, that the President decided pick a group of the students' descendants to be Honors Applicants to the Universe(ity).

The President wanted these children to be examples to the other children living outside the Universe(ity). At the same time, He didn't want the Honors Applicants to think that they were any different from the other children, since he wanted all the students' children to come back to the Universe(ity). So the President found some of the students' desecendants who had been put to work doing hard, manual labor for some of the more wealthy children.

He found a child who'd started out living near the River, and the President appeared to River Child in all his Academic Regalia. The President did not disguise himself, but spoke directly to River Child. He sent the River Child back to the Worker Children to convince the Wealthy Children to let them go and do as the President wanted.

The Wealthy Children didn't really want to listen, so the President gave the River Child some Experiments from the Universe(ity) biology and physics departments that the children could not deny came from the Universe(ity). Eventually, once the Campus Security Guard had been sent by the President to punish the Wealthy Children, the Wealthy Children let the Worker Children go.

The President sent some of the Campus Security Guards to go in front and behind the Wandering, Worker Children on police motorbikes, complete with flashing lights at night. The President promised the River Child that He was going to lead the Wandering Children to a Beautiful Campground near the Universe(ity) gates that they could call their own, so that they would never have to work for Wealthy Children again.

While the Wandering Children were on their way, the President decided to present the Admissions Standards to all the Wandering Children. But as He began to speak, in all his Academic Regalia, the Wandering Children were afraid. They had never seen such beautiful robes or such shining medallions. So they asked the President to give the Admissions Standards to the River Child so that the River Child could then give them to the Wandering Children.

The President took the River Child off by himself and gave the River Child a hardcopy of the Admissions Standards. But when the River Child got back, he found the Wandering Children had carved a mannequin that vaguely resembled the President, and they were talking to it like it as the President. They were even making up their own Admissions Standards and then saying that the mannequin told them what they themselves had made up.

The River Child was angry, and so was the President. The President decided to wash his hands of the Wandering Children, and start over with the River Child, but the River Child begged the President to stick with the Wandering Children. Moved by the River Child's request, the President agreed. But he decided that this generation of the Wandering Children would not be allowed to live by the Universe(ity) where the President had prepared the land.

Instead, the Wandering Children would have to wander until their own children would take over. Once the last rebellious Wandering Child was gone, all the Wandering Children would be led into the Beautiful Campground to take up residence close to the Universe(ity).

But again, the President did not abandon the children. He gave the River Child instructions and taught him how to make a Tent that looked like the Central Library in the heart of the Universe(ity), nearest to the President's Office. The President also set up Rules that would help the Wandering Children follow the Admissions Standards and gave them Things to Do that would help them practice filling out the Admissions Application each year.


Eventually, the President led the Wandering Children into the Beautiful Campground near the Universe(ity) gates. The Campground Children would wax and wane in their faithfulness to the Rules and the Things to Do that the President had given them on their way to the Campground. Sometimes, the Campground Children's leaders would be great at practicing for the Admissions Application and following the Admissions Standards, and one of these even built a very beautiful and elaborate Practice Tent that mimicked the Central Library. Other times, people would make fake applications or they'd try to carve up a "new President" and say that this "President" had revealed new Admission Standards.

After many years, the majority of the Campground Children decided to follow a leader who said it didn't matter whether the Campground Children listened to the One True President or one of the mannequin "Presidents" that some of the Campground Children had carved. The Campground Children who lived closest to the Central Library Practice Tent, where the children practiced filling out the Admissions Application, were the only ones who stayed faithful to the President.

The Campground Children who had strayed from the True President got so far from the President's instructions that they were teaching their children to do exactly the opposite of what the Admissions Standards said.

Finally, the President had enough, and he sent the Campus Security Guard to lead some of New Wealthy Children to tear down the Strayed Children's tents and scatter them far away from the Universe(ity) gates.

Only a few years later, the President had to do the same thing to the Campground Children who'd stayed closest to the Practice Tent when they, too, strayed from the Admissions Standards.

But even then, the President did not abandon the children.


The President continued to privately visit with certain Campground Children, whom he would deputize as Assistant Admissions Officers. The President would send these Assistants to the Campground Children, and try to remind them about the Admissions Standards.

The problem was, though, that the Campground Children had gotten so used to practicing for the Admissions Application in the Practice Tent that they didn't think they could practice unless they had the Tent.

After some time, the President let the Campground Children return to the campground, where they re-built the Practice Tent. People kept trying to take the Campground away from the Campground Children, and they would fight to keep their land.

Not long after the Campground Children had returned to the Campground and had begun practicing for the Admissions Application in the Practice Tent, some Newer Wealthy Children took over the Campground. This time, they didn't kick the Campground Children out of the Campground, but they did make the Campground Children pay them a "rental fee" once a year (and the Campground Children hated this).

These Newer Wealthy Children, like the New Wealthy Children and the Wealthy Children before them, had long ago decided not to listen to the True President about the Admissions Standards and instead made up hundreds of Vice Presidents whom they said controlled different parts of the Universe(ity) and had all sorts of different Admissions Standards.

Sometimes, the Newer Wealthy Children, who were now in charge of the Campground, would try to make the Campground Children follow some of these "Vice Presidents," but the Campground Children usually refused.

One day, the leader of the Newer Wealthy Children decided to see just how many of the students' descendants he was in charge of, so he sent out some of his followers to count them.

And it was then that the President decided to act again.


During the counting of all the children, the President decided to send His Son, who was heir to the Presidency and so both President and not-President, into the world to fill out the Admissions Application perfectly on behalf of all the students' children.

So the President-Son disguised Himself as one of the Campground Children, emptied Himself of all the Regalia of His Presidential Office, and invaded the world outside the Universe(ity) as the Son of a young Campground Girl. The President-Son live among the Campground Children. He followed the Admissions Standards to the letter.

Once he had lived a normal life among the Campground Children, following all the rules that the President had given the Campground Children in the time before they had even come to the Campground, the President-Son announced to anybody who would listen that the President was finally going to perfectly complete the Admissions Application not just for the Campground Children, but for all the students' descendants.

Almost immediately, some of the Campground Children began to hate the President-Son, because they were jealous of His ability to follow the Admissions Standards and because they had gotten used to the idea of practicing for the Admissions Application in the Practice Tent that their fathers had built.

Because the leaders of the Campground Children rejected him, the President-Son went to the children who had no hope: the children who weren't very good at practicing for the Admissions Application. A lot of these children were so bad at trying to fill out the Admissions Application, that the children who practiced every day at the Practice Tent ridiculed them, made fun of them, and excluded them from practicing unless they did extra things that the Campground Leaders said one had to do to really, really follow the Admissions Standards.

The President-Son didn't talk about the extra stuff, though. Neither did he condemn or make fun of the people who weren't very good at following the Admissions Standards. The President-Son also pointed out that the Campground Leaders made a big deal about following the Admission Standards in public, but in private, they were actually a lot worse at following them.

The President-Son also picked some of the Campground Children to be his Inner Circle. The President-Son told his Inner Circle that he wasn't just the son of a Campground Girl, but also the President's Son and heir to the Presidency.

The President-Son got so many followers that the Campground Leaders decided they had to stop Him from doing anything else. The Campground Leaders went to the Newer Wealthy Children who were in charge of the Campground and convinced them to kill the President-Son. They thought that would be the end of him.

But what the Campground Leaders didn't remember is what the President had promised the students right before he made them withdraw from the Universe(ity). They didn't remember that the President had promised that a Son would restore the students and their descendants to the Universe(ity). When the President-Son, who could have used the powers of the Presidency to call upon the entire Campus Security Force, decided to submit to the President's will, he comitted an infinite act of love that restored the love the students had first denied by eating from the vending machine.

The Campground Leaders had forgotten that the first Admission Standard was to love the President completely and utterly. When the President-Son was killed, his death perfectly completed the Admissions Application for every single child, including the original students. Despite all their centuries of practice, no one could have ever successfully complete the Application. But in his act of obedience, even to death, the President-Son did what no one could have done and successfully completed the Ultimate Application, signed in His own blood.

Once the President-Son had been obedient to the Admissions Standards, and perfectly loving the President, the President accepted and admitted the President-Son to the University.

There, because he was the son of one of the students' descendants, he picked up the legacy left by his student-parents, and He completed, on behalf of the students and all their children, the Incompletes that the students had left on the books in the Office of Student Records. Because he was also the President-Son, he knew all the answers to all the tests, and the President conferred upon Him the Degree -- the student's descendant had beaten the TA! -- and the first student Graduated from the Universe(ity). All this took only three days, and the President-Son was dead in the world outside the Universe(ity).

After the President-Son had completed his work, the President -- who had founded the Universe(ity) itself -- used his great powers to bring His Son back to life forever. The President-Son visited with his friends and followers, including the Inner Circle. The President-Son helped the followers, both Campground Children and Wealthy Children, to understand that the Admissions Application and the Standards used to fill it out aren't the goal. Instead, the goal is readmission to the Universe(ity) for Graduation, exactly like the President had intended when he founded it.

The President-Son eventually rejoined the President in the Universe(ity), but he didn't leave his Followers, now meeting in their own tents instead of the out-dated Practice Tent (after all, nobody needs to practice filling out the Application if the President-Son has filled it out perfectly for everyone), alone.

Instead, the President-Son disguises Himself as an Admissions Officer, and He comes to give all those who are willing to quit trying to fill out their own applications and use the one the President-Son filled out for them and signed in his blood, to show them where to send their Application and to prepare for their Admissions Interview.


Now, there are students at the Universe(ity) again! As each child takes a step of faith and mails in the Application given him by the Admissions Officer, the President accepts it, since it's singed by His Son, and marks that child Admitted.

But the children still have a choice to make before its time to start classes at the Universe(ity). Some of the children decide that they don't want to follow the President's Admission Standards, even the ones who've already sent their Signed-By-The-Son Applications in.

Sadly, these students write up new "Admissions Standards," live by them, and then send in a completed, flawed Application with a note that "this is my amended application -- please accept it." Because the President still loves all the children, and desires each to love him freely, he accepts these new, inadequate applications that serve to supercede the one submitted with the President-Son's signature.

If anyone tries to enter the Universe(ity) with this wrong Application, he is rejected at his Admissions Interview, and this time for good: because the President-Son suffered and died in order to perfectly and infititely complete the Application for all, so the punishment for that rejection of the eternal must also be eternal.

For those, however, who have sent in no application or a wrong application, the Admission Officer stands ready to give anyone who admits they were wrong and asks for a new application one of those filled out by the President-Son and signed in his blood.

The Admissions Standards, of course, haven't changed, but since the President sees his Son's name signed to the Application, he relies upon His Son's judgment and admits anyone for doesn't try to sign his own name.

Some of the children still outside the Universe(ity) are better at following the Admissions Standards than others, but this is only because the Admissions Officer has shown them how. The credit goes to Him, not the children themselves. After all, since both the standards and the gift of the instruction for following them, and the Application itself all come from the President, the President-Son, and the Admissions Officer, the child can't take any credit for himself at all.


Since the original students were forced to withdraw, there has been a deadline for the Admissions Application to reapply. The President has not told anyone the Application Deadline, because He knows how students like to procrastinate. One day, however, the application period will close, and then all those who haven't re-applied, using the Signed-By-The-Son Application, will be forever shut out of the Unvierse(ity).

But for those who are willing to submit to the President, and mail in the free gift that the President-Son is giving them through the Admission Officer, Admission to the University is guaranteed -- and Graduation and life forever with the President in the Presidential Mansion!

Editor's Note: I wrote this in answer to correspondence which I received from a good friend studying at Beeson Divinity School, in Birmingham, Ala., as part of an on-going theological discussion in which we are engaged.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If every man defines truth, then there is no truth

One of the great claims made by followers of Jesus Christ is that they know objective Truth -- not just statements that are objectively not-false, but also Truth as it is contained in the person of Yeshua Ben-Miryam, who lived, died, and was raised from the dead to reign at God's right hand.

This is one of the biggest difficulties that many people have with the Way of Christ: when there is Truth, it follows that there are also things that are not true. This runs counter to what most people believe today, that if you believe something sincerely, if something resonates, or if something helps you find your authentic self, then it's necessarily "true" for you.

Christianity stands firm against multiple, conflicting "truths" and holds up one Way, Truth, and Life: Jesus Christ, the revelation of the one, true, and Triune God.

That is the subject of a great book that just came out, discussing the "theological vision" of Pope Benedict XVI, as discerned from his writings and sermons.

Here is a particularly powerful excerpt:

"Nietzsche’s attack on Christianity’s 'slave morality' paved the way for modern rejection of objective standards of goodness, truth, and beauty. But by making ourselves the measure of everything, we have lost a shared measure of anything. Having shrugged off Christ’s yoke and with it our moorings to God’s truth and goodness, we know of no excellence for which to strive, only arbitrary tastes and their pointless pursuit: the 'escapist pleasure of the consumer economy' and the 'exploitation that increasingly marks human relationships.' What was to be our liberation has become our enslavement.

"But we need not remain slaves forever.

"As Benedict sees it, we can regain joy by participating in love—both giving and receiving. Thus, Benedict invites modern man to rediscover his lofty vocation as a beloved child of God, for 'one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved.' "This divine love cannot be a noble fiction meant to keep us from despair; as Benedict writes, 'Only when love and truth are in harmony can man know joy.' The question, then, is whether the gospel is true.

"From here Benedict launches his fight against the 'dictatorship of relativism.' While many commentators focus on relativism’s moral and political implications, Benedict probes its spiritual consequences. Modern scientific rationalism has so neutered reason that, though useful for solving technical questions, it is impotent to address major questions about life’s origins, meaning, or destiny. As Benedict puts it, '[K]nowledge of the functional aspect of the world … brings with it no understanding of the world and of being,' since what is immaterial 'cannot be approached with methods appropriate to what is material.' The scientific method can never establish or discredit Christianity, he argues, 'because the kind of experiment demanded -- pledging one’s life for this -- is of quite a different kind.'"

(Ryan T. Anderson, Christ our Joy: the theological vision of Pope Benedict XVI).

FEELING: Like I don't have enough time to read all the non-work-related books I'd like to read
LISTENING TO: The baroque channel on iTunes