Thursday, January 25, 2007

Freedom of Religion = Right to be Dumb?

Let's face it: politicians have been practicing this ever since politicians realized that it worked. It is the practice of publicly and boldly implying a half truth about your opponent. In this recent case Scientology is striking at psychiatry by implying that it, or its drugs, is responsible for crimes. The half-truth is that people who have a pattern of doing crazy things are given drugs in an attempt to either calm them down by suppressing certain mental patterns, or by increasing say the level of serotonin to keep said person smiling. When the drugs either fail to work as hoped, or are not taken as prescribed, they are blamed by another group of crazy people - Scientologists.

Is it any wonder that some people simply shake their head at religious people? Does religion abuse its rights, especially in this country, by saying things that are false but difficult to disprove? Cults, and those sects with cultic tendencies, make truth claims that are esoteric and difficult to disprove because of the element of truth that they embody. They take something that is either truth, or appears to be true, and twist it into a form that is both false and dangerous - and difficult or tricky to disprove. Take, for example, the fight over the Ten Commandments. Who wants to lead the fight against Church leaders who publicy proclaim that God is mad at America because we've removed the Ten Commandments from our public buildings. It's like fighting against God.

True, psychiatric drugs might be like mini nuclear bombs - area of effect rather than precision. And it is also true that the drugs themselves can cause problems. But they do tremendously for the many people who suffer from mental disorders that if left untreated can be life threatening. To suggest that these drugs are responsible is irresponsible and a throwback to a dangerous era where emotion and religion ruled over reason and truth. Scientology? They need to exercise their right to remain silent for a change.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Drowning in dumb

Well, actually the subject is on drowning in debt, but I like my title better. I'm talking about a recent 20/20 special on the subject of basically how dumb we Americans have gotten about our finances. (I hear my non-American readers chuckling in the background). The program aired last night (Friday Jan 20) and is entitled "Flat Broke: Begging And Borrowing In America". I'd highly recommend it.

Over the past year I've been researching and working on a web-based software to help manage cash flow and eliminate debt. An interesting experience got me thinking along these lines: several years ago the start up that I worked for was not doing well. They had already had three rounds of layoffs (etc - typical start up story). I decided we needed to be debt free. We didn't have much debt since we drove old/paid-for cars, but still had around $12k in credit card debt. So my wife would get one of the bills and ask how much to pay off. I'd generally just guestimate: "How much is it? 4000? Ya, pay half." One month I got a little too aggressive and we almost didn't have enough cash left for the next-month's rent. The difficulty, I found, was in aggressively paying off the debt while maintaining sufficient cash available to meet other short-term and longer-term requirements and goals. More on the software later.

The question I pose is this: given the many things that the Bible speaks regarding debt, and given the mental and spiritual torture that many experience while drowning in dumb, er, debt, is it wise to following the currently popular financial formula? If the borrower is slave to the lender (ah, priceless), then isn't the path to freedom obvious? Check out the 20/20 program and check out my friend Dave Ramsey while you're at it. In debt? This is the year for freedom.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Anti Anti Baptists?

It seems to me and a lot of other people that Baptists are just against everything. Now Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (yes, you heard that right) are joining forces to attempt to fix the image problem that Baptists have gained by being against everything.

"Regrettably, the word Baptist has become synonymous with an anti-everything posture. Anti-women, anti-public education, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Disney. The perception that the Southern Baptist Convention represents all Baptists is one reason we met in Atlanta to plan a celebratory gathering that will reshape public opinion about Baptists."
Yup. But the same is starting to be said for Evangelicals in general. With the narrow and staunch stance of the likes of Dobson and Robertson on abortion and homosexuality, it's no wonder we are known as a bunch of angry activists trying to force an agenda that many don't care about.

Ponder this: If Jesus said we'd be known by our Love, does this mean that we today are simply misunderstood or not what He intended?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy New Year

As that famous philosopher Yogi Berra quipped, "It's deja vu all over again." Of course, he's also credited with "When you see a fork in the road--take it" which provokes all sorts of deep thought and possibilities. But it's another new year again. It seems just yesterday that Libby and I were at a neighbor's New Year Eve's party watching the host working on her first hangover of the year. This year was much more tame as we and a small group of friends bemoaned how awful Dick Clark sounded for a guy who looks 27 still.

So what's this year going to bring? We've already discussed Pat Robertson's prediction, which prompted a "no duh" reaction from a friend. Terrorism? In 2007? Ya think? Tough call there Pat. But what else? Will the Democrats actually do something or just enjoy the Country Club membership like my party did? Will oil production peak (has it already?) or will hybrids save the day? Speaking of oil, will Americans finally start to understand the effects of a large nation who soaks up so much oil that it drives up the price and spews pollution into our already choked atmosphere? Yes, I'm talking about China and as they catch up to us and remind us of how we've been; will we finally start to take notice of the practice and change our wandering ways? Is this the year we dump the large SUV, not because we can't afford to drive it, but because we simply want to be more energy responsible?

Speaking of apathy, what about the average Seventh-day Adventist? Will this be the year that all the Adventists who know there is "something wrong" finally "search the scriptures to see if these things are so"? Those who who are too busy, comfortable or afraid: will they (you?) finally take a step back and look at the evidence that has been presented and decide once and for all what they should believe?

So, will this be a pivotal year of change, or will it simply be deja vu all over again? I guess that is up to us. One thing is clear: just like our oil will
eventually run out and our cars will sputter to the side of the road, ultimately we all will understand the truth about God clearly. Some possibilities?
  1. There is no god. We die and our life was all that we had. In this case the good and the bad we do leave their impact for better or for worse. (A happy, positive Christian with faith in a good God almost always impacts the world for better.) I'm not betting on this option, by the way. Update: Leaning this direction due to total lack of evidence and a strong case against religions of all type.
  2. Adventism is true. But in this case we have to define "Adventism". Is it what they believed from 1840-1855 or what they developed after 1855? Is it what was taught by Ellen White or simply what the church matured into and the current statement of belief? Is it the bland, watered down version modern Adventists adhere to or the sharp extremes "historicists" insist upon? If correct, it calls upon Adventists to dedicate 100% of their time and resources to warning the world with the "3 angels" messages. Living in the antitypical "Day of Atonement" has a price - a steep price.
  3. Adventism is false. Then it is dangerous to remain in it. Like the Mormons, though you may have many family members and friends who are Mormon, if your church is teaching a false gospel Paul insists that they are accursed. To remain is to continue to support, promote and breath deadly error that steals the soul of life-breathing oxygen of the truth in Christ.
I know many will look for other options relative to Adventism.
  • It's mostly true, but there are some problems.
  • It used to be more cult-like and had many errors, but we've steadily dropped them. (I'll check back with you in another 150 years and see how you're doing.)
  • No denomination is perfect - they all have their errors. I mean, what's with this "Left Behind" and double predestination stuff? (And speaking in tongues, praying to Mary, holy laughter, gems from heaven, and what's up with Benny Hill - er, Hin?) At least Adventists are not as bad as all that?
And it goes on. But the question in 2007 remains: What is truth? Specifically, are Adventisms unique truth-claims in fact true?
  • Must we keep the 7th-day Sabbath in order to avoid the mark of the beast?
  • Did Christ end the gospel dispensation, close the door to and leave the Holy Place in heaven and open the door to and enter the Most Holy Place in 1844?
  • Did 1844 begin the Day of Atonement? Are we currently living in it?
  • Was Ellen White in fact a prophet "just like Jeremiah"? Is she credible and to be believed and obeyed above my own judgment of scripture? Does her "borrowing", strange memory, strange early behavior matter?
  • Is Daniel 8:14 and Daniel 7 linked to Lev. 16 such that it teaches 1844 began the investigative judgment in heaven and the start of the Day of Atonement.
  • etc. etc. etc.
Is 2007 Deja Vu all over again? Or is this the year that Adventists decide to be honest with themselves and motivated to either fully understand and admit what Adventists believe and stand for, or discard the errors and walk more fully in the power of the true gospel?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Now *this* is scarey

No, I'm not talking about his predicted terrorist attack...I'm taking about him. He's fruit loops. A nutty bar. Kuku for cocopuffs. Yup. Monsieur Pat Robertson. (separated at birth?)

In one corner of the ring we have guys with bombs telling us god told them to blow stuff (Americans and Jews mostly) up. In the other Pat telling us god is telling him stuff like impending terrorist attacks and insightful tidbits about American foreign (feigned?) policy. The sad thing is that all his 70+ year old viewers are scared to death now of this year now.

I guess I had my fill of "god told me" growing up so when I hear this guy rambling I just yawn and shake my head...Some Christians are just disturbed...Did we not learn anything from William Miller and company? Or Chicken Little?

Update: Guess I'm not the only one cringing.