Sunday, December 28, 2008

By faith

On the promise of an heir to Abraham:
Abraham became old and Sarah was mocked in the land, and still he was God's chosen heir to the promise that in his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed. Would it not be better, then, were he not God's chosen? What is it to be God's chosen? Is it to be denied in youth one's youthful desire in order to have it fulfilled in great travail in old age? But Abraham believed and held firm to the promise. Had Abraham wavered he would have renounced it. He would have said to God: 'So perhaps after all it is not your will that it should happen: then I will give up my desire, it was my only desire, my blessed joy. My soul is upright, I bear no secret grudge because you refused it.' He would not have been forgotten, he would have saved many by his example, yet he would not have become the father of faith: for it it great to give up one's desire, but greater to stick to it after having given it up: it is great to grasp hold of the eternal but greater to stick to the temporal after having given it up.
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), pp. 51-52.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Soli Deo Gloria

Recently posted on BJU's website:
At Bob Jones University, Scripture is our final authority for faith and practice and it is our intent to have it govern all of our policies. It teaches that God created the human race as one race. History, reality and Scripture affirm that in that act of creation was the potential for great diversity, manifested today by the remarkable racial and cultural diversity of humanity. Scripture also teaches that this beautiful, God-caused and sustained diversity is divinely intended to incline mankind to seek the Lord and depend on Him for salvation from sin (Acts 17:24–28).

The true unity of humanity is found only through faith in Christ alone for salvation from sin—in contrast to the superficial unity found in humanistic philosophies or political points of view. For those made new in Christ, all sinful social, cultural and racial barriers are erased (Colossians 3:11), allowing the beauty of redeemed human unity in diversity to be demonstrated through the Church.

The Christian is set free by Christ’s redeeming grace to love God fully and to love his neighbor as himself, regardless of his neighbor’s race or culture. As believers, we demonstrate our love for others first by presenting Christ our Great Savior to every person, irrespective of race, culture, or national origin. This we do in obedience to Christ’s final command to proclaim the Gospel to all men (Matthew 28:19–20). As believers we are also committed to demonstrating the love of Christ daily in our relationships with others, disregarding the economic, cultural and racial divisions invented by sinful humanity (Luke 10:25–37; James 2:1–13).

Bob Jones University has existed since 1927 as a private Christian institution of higher learning for the purpose of helping young men and women cultivate a biblical worldview, represent Christ and His Gospel to others, and glorify God in every dimension of life.

BJU’s history has been chiefly characterized by striving to achieve those goals; but like any human institution, we have failures as well. For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.

On national television in March 2000, Bob Jones III, who was the university’s president until 2005, stated that BJU was wrong in not admitting African-American students before 1971, which sadly was a common practice of both public and private universities in the years prior to that time. On the same program, he announced the lifting of the University’s policy against interracial dating.

Our sincere desire is to exhibit a truly Christlike spirit and biblical position in these areas. Today, Bob Jones University enrolls students from all 50 states and nearly 50 countries, representing various ethnicities and cultures. The University solicits financial support for two scholarship funds for minority applicants, and the administration is committed to maintaining on the campus the racial and cultural diversity and harmony characteristic of the true Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Please Reconcile: What this is about

Joy McCarnan wrote the note I really wanted to write regarding the letter over at Rather than try to rewrite what she has already so eloquently said, I asked her if I could just copy her post here. The original is at her blog, karagraphy.

I rejoice and cringe at this excerpt from the 2006 Together for the Gospel statement of Affirmations and Denials (Article XVII). Thabiti Anyabwile cited these words in his T4G’08 sermon that I recently recommended, Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church:

We affirm that God calls his people to display his glory in the reconciliation of the nations within the Church, and that God’s pleasure in this reconciliation is evident in the gathering of believers from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. We acknowledge that the staggering magnitude of injustice against African-Americans in the name of the Gospel presents a special opportunity for displaying the repentance, forgiveness, and restoration promised in the Gospel. We further affirm that evangelical Christianity in America bears a unique responsibility to demonstrate this reconciliation with our African-American brothers and sisters.

We deny that any church can accept racial prejudice, discrimination, or division without betraying the Gospel.

http://www.please-reconcile.orgMy skeptical fellow-alumni who hold views similar to mine about the ungodliness that comprises racism, about the private interpretations and cruddy exegesis that spawn ungodly racist theology, and about the ungodly shame it is to "sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate"--those who hold these views in common with me, yet who refuse to have anything to do with this open letter soon to be presented to the administration of Bob Jones University--this note’s for you. (Some of you may've already read my verbose, if not so eloquent, signature.) Now I want to answer some questions I’ve been asked since I signed on. And then, I think you already know what ONE question I still am asking you--I’ll ask it again.

Please note that the site's FAQs page would be very helpful for those who still have questions.

1. You have asked me why a public letter is a legitimate approach. I have answered that, for years, members of the administration have been pled with and confronted privately by fellow-administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends --yet have apparently dismissed these attempts as insubstantial, anti-Scriptural, over-reactionary, disloyal, or unimportant. Whatever the rationale, previous efforts have gone unheeded. As an institution, BJU’s past racist posture and policies have become what put BJU on the map. The stories have had time to pass down a couple of generations and to wrap around the globe. To say that BJU’s reputation for sinful attitudes and actions against minority ethnicities is widely-known and even more widely rumored is to understate grossly the reality. The ramifications of this poor testimony (including its ongoing diminishing of the Gospel) are still on the rampage. Especially when news of the damage done is already so publicly published, the normal parameters of biblical "due process" (as seen within an ecclesiastical context in Matthew 5, Matthew 18, Galatians 6, etc.) become difficult to navigate in the context of a para-church organization whose leaders have subjected themselves to ecclesiastical accountability only in varying degrees and in varying relationships. Other approaches have been tried. The mess is a public one and no less messy for all the fuss it’s stirred up over the years. This, an open letter from a coalition of likeminded and loving alumni, IS the best next step.

2. You have asked me what possible good could come of alumni’s calling further attention to BJU’s past failures. A family’s dirty laundry is embarrassing, and it is never a fair or whole representation of the family itself. But it can’t go on hanging out forever, and the lingering stench of it prevents a permanent cover-up. Love covers a multitude of evils, but family members do one another injustice (and Christians do Christ’s Gospel an injustice) when we turn a blind eye to unrepented-of sin, including the sinfulness of refusing to acknowledge sin or to attempt to make amends. Some might argue that "it’s not my place" (as a plebeian nobody, as a woman, etc.). Others (pastors and so forth) "whose place it might be" may argue that they don’t want to abuse their positions of influence or speak on behalf of their congregations. But--like it or not, cognizant or not--I made a statement of individual assent when I chose to attend BJU. And I made a promise of individual responsibility when I left BJU with my degrees in hand. It is my duty to say something. The pledge we made upon graduation is actually one thing that very much compels me to get behind what some have called a "disrespectful" and "pointless" cause. The pledge was NOT to keep BJU from changing per se; in fact, part of the pledge was that we would do the best within our power to confront the university when we find it to be in known error, and that we would do our best either to see error righted OR else to see to it that the university shuts its doors! An interpretation of that pledge as merely preventive of change is in itself an egregious misunderstanding of the point for which the pledge exists. I can completely identify with the sadness you might feel and the regret that people we love and admire (godly people!) may be disappointed or hurt by this letter. But the letter was written truthfully and faithfully and lovingly--with an overarching commitment to God and God's people in mind. Better are the wounds of a faithful friend than the embrace of an enemy.

3. You have asked me (seeing as I’m so enthusiastically on board the “racial reconciliation” bandwagon now) how I went to BJU in good conscience and how it could be that I said nothing at the time. Personally, I can plead “ignorant white girl” to some extent because I was largely unaware of what had gone on and what was still going on during my years at BJU. I was not cool enough to be looped into the circles of the “elite” during my undergrad years, and I had few occasions to mingle with the few minority “poster children” because everybody wanted a piece of them. They were popular novelties, and I wasn’t therefore privy to their more private stories of the prices they paid, the remarks that scathed, the emotions they felt as they endured the reconstruction of their cultural backgrounds and watched their unique identities forcibly lumped into differentness/discrimination or melted into sameness/assimilation. For non-minority ethnicities to generalize that "racism wasn't that bad when I was there" or "racism's not happening now" or "everybody's blowing this out of proportion" is poor reasoning and presumptuous thinking! How can Caucasians pontificate about what life was like behind the scenes or in the P.O. boxes of the "others"? This is where our liberal arts education ought to come in handy--thinking through what we say, recognizing and dismissing false syllogisms and groupthink ideologies. What little racism I did hear about, I failed to recognize for what it was. I never researched or verified. I pooh-poohed. I procrastinated. I dismissed. I skeptically speculated about the motives behind complaints. And I would have to say that my understanding of the Gospel has morphed dramatically in the last ten years to the point where I am only now beginning to see how gravely it’s been trampled upon. Tim and Rebecca and Jon and Beth and others who helped to draft this letter have gifts of articulation that many of us do not. They have compiled the documentation. They have collated the thoughts of countless alumni (since we know that those of you who think this way must number far more than 500). I wish I had been on the bandwagon sooner, but the fact that I am only just now getting on doesn’t invalidate the cause of racial reconciliation.

4. You have asked me whether I have time to pour into defending and promoting and praying over this campaign. Frankly, I don’t; and neither did anyone else involved. The few hours I have invested in it will not be enough, but I don’t regret what I and others have spent. It should’ve been more; it may’ve been more if more of you had taken time out to read and consider more seriously, earlier on. I regret that I didn’t have more time, and I regret that more of us didn’t use the time we had.

5. You have asked me how a public statement of apology and resolve from BJU could possibly NOT be received as too little, too late. For one thing, I’ll reiterate that the end--whatever comes of this--does not determine the validity of the cause, and a projected negative outcome could not absolve me of the responsibility to join the effort that the folks who put together initiated. The Gospel has been publicly undermined, and this is a chance to broadcast a just-as-public declaration of genuine regret for the past and God-focused, others-conscious resolve for the future. The media’s/public-access perception of the reality (whether real or perceived reality) is precisely what this plea for a counteractive statement is all about. The media’s/public-access documentation of how the university currently stands (if indeed it has moved positions and would refute racist attitudes now) and of why it currently stand there (if indeed the previous rationale has been vanquished) ought to be just as public in scope and just as accessible as the public documentation available to the contrary. Sure, it may very well be "too little, too late." A public statement of apology could never begin to make literal amends for the wrongs done. But "too little, too late" does not amount to a legitimate reason to continue skirting the issue. It is pretty literally clear in the Bible that racism and racist transgressions against people are blatantly AGAINST God’s Word to us, and that calling for demonstrations of humility and grace and love and faithfulness is calling for something far more in tune with God's character and commands. For the university’s administration to put itself forward in an act of willing vulnerability and humility to say "we were wrong; please forgive us" would do only good for the testimony of Jesus Christ, would do only good for the testimony of the university, and would do only good for the Church. I can’t think of one bad thing it would accomplish!

Again: Racist principles supposedly derived from God’s Word, no matter how faithfully desired or sincerely held, are indefensible when they tread all over God's glory and God's people and God's agenda as laid out clearly in black and white in God’s Word! Our allegiance to those latter causes--God's clear self-revelations of His own character, God's clear mandates for how to treat one another, especially one another in the household of faith!--ought to take precedence over lesser allegiances. I am profoundly grateful for my alma mater, but I do not "stand firm with the university" across the board. This is definitely an instance where the university is best served by alumni who are willing to be faithful to causes greater than the university.

So, yeah. That one question I have for those who still doubt that lasting good could possibly come of a plea like the one detailed on, here goes: Have you ever actually, personally, thoughtfully read the contents of that website?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First cast out the beam.

This morning I visited a church here in the west suburbs and heard a sermon that really jarred me. The preacher spoke on original sin, from Romans 5:12-14.

He pointed out that when we are confronted with the evilness of human nature, we tend to shy away from it. We don’t want to be confronted with it. It makes us uncomfortable. We even attack people who bring it to our attention. When victims of atrocities come forward, they are often shunned for making accusations—we don’t want to hear these things, they don’t concern us. Either we blame the victim, or we try to distance ourselves from the situation (They’re the perpetrators—I have nothing to do with this!). Neither of these reactions admits the basic flaw that philosophy has suffered from for centuries (since Genesis 3?): We are evil. Not they, not our surroundings. We.

And I recognized something. I’ve been involved in an effort to draft a letter to my alma mater in support of a statement that their policies and (more importantly) their teachings on race were wrong. God has blessed this effort. Through prayer and contemplation, and a lot of input from many different people, a letter was drafted that I really believe reflects the sincere support, gratitude, and conviction we wanted to convey. Almost 500 students and alumni have signed it.

While I’ve been involved in this effort, I have had a lot of occasions to be confronted with evil. Some of the words and actions that evidenced racism at the university were truly hateful and hard to reconcile with respect for another being created in the image of God. While some of the people who have written us to oppose this letter on various grounds are sincere and kind, others have attacked us with a viciousness that surprised me. Some believe the university was right in its stand against integration. Others just label us “worldly liberals,” or assume we are disrespectful punks looking for trouble. And among those who both oppose and support the letter, I have seen heartbreaking ignorance, bitterness, anger, and fear.

In each of these scenarios, my reaction has been to either blame the victim, or to distance myself from the evil. They are racist. They taught error. They have an axe to grind. They are proud. They fear man more than God. Can you hear the self-righteousness?

At Notre Dame we had this cheer we would do at football games: The whole stadium would chant over and over in unison, “WE ARE ND!” You know what? We are Bob Jones University. All of us who are there, went there, taught there, worked there. When people ask me how I could go to a school that stands for something so repugnant as racism, and I answer, “I didn’t know. It wasn’t a big deal. I never saw it,” that’s a cop-out. I am BJU. I was a part of what went on there. I didn’t speak out, I didn’t even see it, even though it was happening to people I knew. I was afraid. I was ignorant. I was angry. It didn’t concern me. When I sign that letter, asking for a statement that BJU was wrong, I am asking for a statement that I was wrong. Well, here it is:

I was wrong.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stepping back a few feet

A good friend of mine gave me a book recently and wanted to know my reaction to it. The book is Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh. From the inside cover flap: "Written with the perfect blend of amusement and respect, Rapture Ready! is an insightful, entertaining, and deeply weird journey through the often hidden world of Christian pop culture. This vast and influential subculture--a $7 billion industry and growing--can no longer be ignored by those who want to understand the social, spiritual, and political aspirations of evangelical Christians."

The book delivers on that promise. Each chapter describes the author's exploration of a different facet of American Christian culture, from Christian bookstores to CCM to Christian theme parks. Radosh, a self-identified liberal New York Humanistic Jew, is self-aware enough to acknowledge that there are nuances of this world that he simply cannot "get" as an outsider, but his insight is often painfully keen:
"The largest subset of Christian gifts is apparel. Christian T-shirts are the uniform in which evangelicals under thirty suit up for battle, and the companies that make them are constantly scrambling to come up with slogans and designs that appeal to today's youth, generally to embarrassing effect: 'God is my DJ'; 'Jesus has skills'; 'I'm like totally saved.' The marginally more ambitious shirts attempt to impart a lesson: 'Life would be so easy if everyone read the manual'; 'Friends don't let friends go to hell'; 'Modest is hottest.' The tangled rationale of that last one--we can persuade girls to dress in a way that does not attract sexual attention by telling them that doing so will attract sexual attention, especially if they wear this form-fitting shirt--begins to hint at the tension in bending Christian messages to pop-culture forms." p. 12.
Radosh raises an obvious question that Christians themselves seem to be too close to see: What is the relationship between the gospel and the medium? Where does one end and the other begin? Is there even a line between them?

I don't know the answer to those questions, but I have to wonder whether in the context of the gospel, distinctions between message and medium are irrelevant, or at least futile. I'm no rhetorician (and some of my friends are, so I have to tread lightly here), but it makes sense to me that a "message" addressing fundamental world-view carries with it so many basic assumptions even about media that its very expression begs questions it seeks to answer. I know that sounds vague, but I'm not sure I understand it precisely enough to describe it better. Maybe it can be likened to cross-cultural communication barriers: two people speaking the same language from different backgrounds and with different life experiences attach different assumptions and nuances to words, so that they can carry on a whole conversation and each come away thinking that they understood each other, but have entirely different ideas of what the conversation was about.

The conversation Christians are trying to have with nonchristians, and vice versa, is just like this--the proverbial two ships passing in the night. Radosh starts to see the distance between the ships when he chats with a fan at a Frank Peretti book-signing:
"'What do you think of the villains in his books?' I braced myself for a blast of vitriol.

'I think he has a little bit of mercy towards them. He doesn't really paint them as totally evil.'


'It's the perspective he brings,' Terri explained. 'They just, you know, are pawns. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers.'

I had been reading Peretti through secular eyes. To a Christian, the dastardly liberals are not so much villains as victims. It's not their fault they're possessed by demons. But if I felt a slight diminishing of hostility, I also saw any hope of mutual accommodation go up in a blast of sulfurous smoke. It may shock Peretti, but these days, much of what liberals really anguish about behind closed doors is how to find common ground with people of faith. And now I realized that for at least some people, common ground will never be possible because they don't object to specific ideas that can be reframed or adjusted. They object to Satan, whose bidding we are doing. They may not hate us--they may believe they love us--but they hate him, and they won't negotiate with him either. We want to persuade them, reason with them, listen to them, and accommodate them. They want to save us. It's not even the same playing field." p. 110-111.
If you've ever wondered what "we" look like to "them," this book is my number one recommendation. If you haven't, well, you should. You might learn something.

HT to Eric G. for the book. Thanks a ton. So far I think it's spot-on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Grab a paddle.

From WNDU:

New all time records were set for rainfall this weekend in Michiana:

Friday rain: 0.23"

Saturday rain: 6.58" (all-time record....the rainiest day ever!)

Sunday rain: 4.07" (record for the date)

3 Day total: 10.88" (this beats the rainiest month 3 days!)

September rain so far: 13.65" (record for any month...the rainiest month ever)

The old monthly record for South Bend was June of 1993 when we had 10.86" of rain. We have now obliterated that number in the first 14 days of September, 2008. But, the incredible part is that we beat the old record in only 3 days...Sept. 12, 13, 14, 2008.

Props to the Fighting Irish for pulling off a very exciting win over Michigan in what turned out to be half a football game and half a mud-wrestling match. You guys are troopers!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Welcome to Itasca

This weekend was the Weekend of Paint. Buckle your seatbelt for a virtual tour:

The kitchen is no longer an eye-crossing blend of white walls and off-white cabinets and counters. We went for a color called "nutmeg" that we saw in a paint brochure and fell for at first sight. It makes me want to eat something.
The entry hallway no longer looks like the entrance to a sanitarium. Eventually we'll break up that very brown wall with a mirror. The thing on the left wall there is a mail holder Gena picked up in Kyrgyzstan.

The living and dining rooms are mostly sunflower yellow with a dark brown accent wall. I was afraid it would turn out looking like a butterfinger, but it's actually not bad. As a bonus, the brown wall manages to make the very unattractive wall unit air conditioner less conspicuous.

My room is mostly "parchment" with an accent wall in "oatmeal." The cooler tones work well with the Asian theme.
Also I found the perfect frame for this lovely wedding picture of my great-grandparents that I acquired at the recent family reunion. You can't tell from this resolution, but they were a handsome couple. Athena moped through the weekend. She had to get some booster vaccinations on Saturday, and so she was sore and sleepy and just generally miserable. I think she's back up to speed today, judging by the way she was tearing around the house this morning.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Study Aids for the Desperate

My Evidence prof showed this in class to introduce this particular class of hearsay exceptions. Laugh away, but this is actually the only reason I can remember them. So if you see me singing during the bar exam, you know I'm on a hearsay question.

Andrew Lloyd Webber - Requiem concert - Part 4

This has been my latest study music of choice. Couldn't tell you why. I'm especially fond of the Hosanna, beginning at about 3:00. Who puts a drumset in a Requiem, honestly? (Um... Andrew Lloyd Webber? Who else?) But it works. There's a joyful abandon to it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pie Jesu

Pie Jesu, qui tollis peccata mundi
dona eis requiem.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi
dona eis requiem sempiternam.

(Merciful Jesus, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them rest.

O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
grant them eternal rest.)

Share the Road

Bikes are a great way to get around, but South Bend and the surrounding areas could do more to make it less hazardous. Yesterday I biked to Osceola, about 9 miles from my apartment, and encountered not a single bike lane. I'm not above riding on a sidewalk if one is provided and the road is narrow and busy enough, but even the few sidewalks I encountered were in such bad shape I was better off on the road.

Last week a South Bend man on a bike was injured in a hit and run on Cleveland Rd. He died from the injuries on Monday, leaving a wife and four young children.

I hope his death wakes up locals to the need for better bike infrastructure, since it is a fairly popular form of transportation around here. Meanwhile, I think it's time I stop putting off the purchase of a helmet.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fun with herbs

One of my favorite things about not winter is fresh herbs, particularly basil. Basil leaves make an excellent garnish on everything from fried eggplant (which I made last Friday) to corn from the frozen veggie section (a regular in my apartment). Once you get used to the full, sweet flavor of the fresh stuff, it's hard to feel the same way about dried basil. The problem with basil, though, is that 40 degrees and a strong breeze will kill it; it doesn't do winters (or even late falls) very well. This summer my basil plant is growing spectacularly (thanks to daily waterings and plenty of full sun), and I was trying to find a way to preserve some of that bounty for the winter. [That's the basil AFTER I cut off about a third of it. Also a zinnia--ain't it cute?] Here's one excellent method I came across:

Gather 3-5 branches of basil, 2-4 stems of fresh mint, a few sprigs of parsley, and a small handful of fresh oregano. Rinse them all,shake dry, and de-stem. Dump all the leaves in a blender and blend on high. Add chopped or crushed garlic to taste. Add extra virgin olive oil and blend until it turns into a paste. Add grated Parmesan cheese and continue to blend. You'll need a lot of cheese-probably at least a cup, and you may need to add some more oil to keep the consistency. I also added a bit of garlic salt, but I think I wouldn't next time. Some people also like pine nuts or other kinds of nuts, but I didn't have any. I'm sure it's good. I've also heard of adding lemon juice.[clockwise from top: parsley, catnip, thyme, oregano, garlic chives]

The resulting pesto is excellent over pasta or on just about any form of carbohydrate you can think of. I mixed mine with some vermicelli and topped it with a few of the cherry tomatoes off my tomato plant. It made an excellent side for the broiled salmon. I poured the leftover pesto into an ice tray. When it's frozen I'll remove it to a freezer bag and in the winter I can just add a cube to a pot of pasta for a taste of fresh summer! I can't wait for my basil plant to regrow so I can make another batch![To the left of the tomato plant is the mint that has crept in from the neighbor's yard. I'm not complaining.]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pretty pictures

Go treat your eyes to the pictures at Light and high beauty, Brendan's photoblog. Seriously, it's good stuff.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Best Advocate

I've taken to listening Tim Keller's sermons in the car and at the gym sometimes. Unfortunately they have to be purchased, but they are well worth the money. Lately I've been listening to Keller's series on Hebrews. This excerpt is one I listen to over and over again. I don't think it will ever get old:
When I first became a Christian, I heard of this, that Jesus Christ intercedes for us before the Father, and it was of no comfort to me at all, and one of the reasons was it sounded bizarre. And it was also of no comfort to me, partly because, I think, of some of the ways in which I had seen lawyers profiled in court. And because of what I saw in some of those high profile trials, I really misunderstood what this was all about. And here’s what I thought was happening, and here’s why it wasn’t any comfort to me:

I figured every day Jesus came before the Father with a kind of case load. And He’ll pull out a folder, “Keller.” So He looks up and He says, “Ah, yes, Father, You know all these promises he says he’s made to change and change, and he’s doing it again anyway… But please give him a break. For My sake… Give him one more chance. I know he means well. This one more time, this could be it, and You owe me—I went to Earth and all those things. So, pretty please, I ask for mercy for my client. I throw myself on the mercy of the court.”

And then I expected, I guess, that the Father would say, “Well, all right.”

And here’s the reason why that was of no comfort to me: Because I understood that what Jesus was doing—if that’s the intercessory work of Jesus Christ—spinning to get mercy out of the Father, I thought to myself, how long can He keep that up? Because why wouldn’t one day finally the Father—there’s no particular reason why one day the Father couldn’t just say, “Look, he’s a minister now! It’s too late. I’ve had it—he can’t keep doing things like this.”

But that’s not at all the kind of advocate Jesus is. You see, an effective attorney doesn’t just wheedle and cajole and emotionally manipulate the jury and the judge—sometimes that might work, but actually, frankly, how long can you keep that up? An effective attorney has a case. And according to this passage [Hebrew 7], Jesus Christ is not up there asking for mercy. When you ask for mercy, that means you’ve lost the case. Do you know what He’s up there doing? Look, verse 27 and 28: "Unlike the other high priests who does not need to offer sacrifices day after day first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people, rather, He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.”

This is what Jesus is saying, as it were (it’s metaphorical, but I’ll get to that in a second): “Father, You demand justice. You are a just God. And my friends here, the people on whose behalf I’m speaking, are guilty. But I have made payment—there is my blood—and it would be unjust to get two payments for the same debt. Therefore because I’ve made payment for this debt, I am not here asking for mercy for my brothers and sisters. I am not here asking for mercy—I demand justice. Your very justice, Your very righteousness demands Your complete embrace and acceptance of them throughout eternity.”

That’s an infallible case! The book of Isaiah says that righteousness and justice, the divine justice and righteousness of God is inexorable so that the mountains are like dust in a scale by comparison.

Why she's named Athena

I have a new kitten. I have been told that it isn't quite appropriate to name such a cute little fuzzhead for the goddess of war. Ha! I'm sure Puck has a few thoughts on the subject.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Beginning with the July 08 bar examination, applicants may not use or have in their possession or at or near their testing seats pens, pencils, or other writing instruments, including highlighters and markers, OTHER THAN the pens and pencils distributed by the Board at the time of the examination. All other pens, pencils, and writing instruments must be placed away from applicants in the space designated by proctors at the front of the test room, along with purses, bags, backpacks, study materials and other personal possessions that are permitted in the test room. On Tuesday, each applicant will receive 2 pens for answering the essay portions of the exam; if both pens fail, replacements will be provided. On Wednesday, each applicant will receive 2 pencils for answering the MBE. Manual sharpeners will be available at the proctor table, and replacement pencils will be available as well.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Class, culture, and love. And good journalism.

This morning I got lost in a powerful piece of journalism that is both profound and horrifying. In a Plain Dealer (Cleveland) issue, Joanna Connors tells in raw prose the story of her rape. If the article stopped there, it would be sad, terrible, and perhaps a bit cathartic, but it doesn't stop there. It's really a story about her search for the meaning of it all--who her assailant was, why, and what the intersection of their lives reflects in American (and human) society.

The whole story is long, and several parts of it brought me to tears, but the following passage from is one of the most poignant. The writer had learned that her assailant died in prison, and she tracked down his sister to meet her. She had just explained who she was and why she was looking for him, and the sister reacted:
"I know what rape is," she finally said. "I was raped myself. But I asked for it, because I was on drugs and I was prostituting. It was just me, being stupid."

She said she never reported it to the police because, hey, what the hell, you're prostituting, what do you think you're supposed to get? Besides, the first time, the rapist was a white guy, and she knew the cops would never go after a white guy for raping a black prostitute. And the second time, she was trying to get crack.

"I asked for it," she said.

It was like a script from the hot-line training I'd done at the Rape Crisis Center.

"No, Charlene," I said. "You didn't ask for it. It was not your fault."

She shook her head, tears rolling down her face. "If I hadn't of been so stupid," she said.

"You know, that's what I was saying to myself for 20 years," I said.

She wiped her tears.

"Yeah, but it's different," she said. "I mean, you had a good job, and my brother had no right to do that to you."

I knew what she was saying: that I was not a drug addict or prostitute, and she was, so she deserved what happened and I did not.

But I also heard what went unspoken: I was white, I had money, I had an education, I had parents who did not hit me.

I had all the things Charlene had not had in her life. She was used to being a victim. It was her world. It was not my world.

"Charlene," I said. "Those guys had no right to do what they did to you, either."

She wiped at her tears again.

"It's terrifying," she said. "Especially when you think they're going to kill you."

"I know."

This is probably going to sound like a non-sequitur, but I'm going to say it anyway (because it's my blog, that's why): This is why Christians need to care, and care actively, about social poverty. They are the only ones who can really get it. I'm going to stereotype some political terms, and I know there are exceptions and nuances, but the terms are handy and I can't think of a way around it that's not unwieldy, so here goes:

Liberals do care about poor people. For that I applaud them. But they do so for the wrong reason. They help poor people because they believe that they, as people, have human dignity and are thus deserving of help. I'll accept everything in that sentence up to the "and." They do not deserve help. Many people who grew up poor do not make stupid financial decisions, work hard, and do not commit crimes. Ultimately people are responsible for their actions, and poor people are no exception. To say otherwise would be grossly disrespectful of their human will and moral autonomy.

Conservatives frequently don't care about poor people for just that reason. If people are in trouble, it's often their own fault and we are under no obligation to help them. And they are right. Sort of.

But here's what they miss: There is only one thing separating "us" from "them." Grace. We mess up too. Hopefully we mess up in less drastic (and criminal) ways, but we mess up. Had we harder lives and less fortunate backgrounds, it is possible (and statistically likely) we'd mess up more. That doesn't mean we should excuse the messing up, big or small. But it does mean we should be compassionate because we, of all people, should understand grace more profoundly than anyone else, right? We've tasted it, benefited from it. It is only right that we should extend it. We don't help people because they deserve it; if they deserved it it wouldn't be grace. There is inherent good in reflecting the qualities of God: We have been filled with grace, and His grace in us should not help but overflow. Being tightfisted with grace raises a serious question about whether we have really understood it--or received it.

HT to Ryan for the article. I highly recommend reading it, but do so only when you have some time and emotional energy to spend on it. It's well worth it.

Friday, May 02, 2008


I need a Neil Diamond LP. Do they even make those?

More on Carbon Footprints

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

in which Africa is noticed

Wondermark by David Malki

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wheaton fires a prof over his divorce

Apparently the prof declined to share details with the administration, so they couldn't evaluate whether or not the divorce was biblically justifiable. Story here. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, I'm all about private, religious colleges sticking to the standards they had the profs sign. I don't question their "right" to do this--employment is at will, and even if he had tenure, I'm sure there was a clause in there that allows this... freedom to contract and all that...

But on a more pragmatic level, the quotation from the prof, "I also don't want to be in a position of accusing my spouse, so I declined to appeal or discuss the matter in any way with my employer," strikes a chord. We paint Joseph positively for wanting to put Mary away privately rather than publicly accuse her, right?

Maybe this is a disciplinary matter that would be better left to the church? Perhaps the school would be wise to alter their employment terms to "in good standing with a local church that holds to _____ confession." Wouldn't that take care of their concern about their professors being of good moral character without having to involve them in these kinds of situations?

Of course, the prof could as easily object to "publicly accusing" his wife to the church [leadership]. But I might have less sympathy for that. If you can't be transparent with church authority, maybe you need to reevaluate the extent of your individualism.

One account of Fundamentalist history

I came across this entry defining and describing Fundamentalist Christianity and found it really interesting. I can't tell who wrote it--it looks like a wiki-style encyclopedia, and there's a link to Christianity Today, but I haven't poked around enough to figure out who this guy is or if it's a group (I suspect the latter).

Anyway, history can be told from many points of view, and this guy has his own, but I find the history he presents really interesting. The "five fundamentals of the faith" were actually promulgated at a Presbyterian conference. Hmm. Dispensationalism really didn't become a part of the Fundy movement until later, but some leaders still adhered to Princeton Theology instead. I confess I don't know what that is. I guess I have some link-clicking to do.

After finals, though. Meanwhile, any thoughts?

Monday, April 28, 2008

random unsolicited update

I've not posted in a while. Sorry. Update:

Spring is trying to come. A couple days ago it was 83 degrees. It is supposed to snow tonight. This morning I saw a pair of baby bunnies and a goldfinch in my back yard. I moved the basil in so it won't freeze. Welcome to Indiana.

Thanks for kind inquiries about my cat. He got a thumbs-up from the vet today, and I think he'll be fine. Whatever was wrong with him seems to have passed, and he is back to chasing the dog and invisible carpet demons like his old self.

No, I'm not sure what I'm doing next. There's a possibility I'll be in the Chicago area. There is an alternate chance I'll be in Bethel, Alaska. If neither of those happen, there is a possibility (a slight one, mind you) that I could go to Rwanda for a year. But don't hold your breath. International Justice Mission is a neat program, but the fellowships aren't funded, and I'm not sure where the money would come from. I'll keep you posted. For now it looks like I'll be in South Bend for the summer to study for the bar.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Indiana Earthquake

I was awakened early this morning by my bed, which was creaking and swaying a little bit. My first groggy thought was "hmm. Must be earthquaking." My second slightly-less-groggy thought was "It's Indiana. They don't get earthquakes. Must be the dryer or something." But it didn't feel like the dryer--it was too strong and the pattern was all wrong. Also, even if the dryer had been inexplicably running at about 5 am, I would have heard it.

Vindication: There was a fairly strong-ish earthquake centered near Evansville early this morning. People reported feeling tremors as far away as Georgia.

See, I'm not losing my mind.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A call long overdue

We're finally marching. Concerned alumni of Bob Jones University, unite!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wait, who's the main character?

Who would have thought--turns out Garfield is a lot more funny without Garfield.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Creeds are fantastic. They are a simple, concise way of summing up what you believe, and of drawing lines between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. In the PCA church I am in now, the pastor asks us every week, "Church, what do you believe?" and we recite the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Mass also usually includes a recitation of the Nicene Creed. When they do it, they bow during the line "and was made incarnate by the Holy Spirit..." I'm not sure I fully understand the significance of the action, but it catches me off guard every time. Hopefully I will know more about the Nicene Creed in the next few days, since it is on the syllabus for our next Patristics class. The Nicene Creed is as follows:
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Apostles' Creed is also quite common. I have read that it is known as the "Reformed Creed," but it predates the Reformers by several centuries. In my church we usually recite it before a baptism. It is as follows:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.


And then there are other, more recently designed creeds. While I was at BJU, we recited such a creed daily in chapel. It mirrors in substance the Apostles' Creed, but with an added paragraph affirming the inspiration of Scripture:
I believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.

I suppose it is easier for students to memorize than either of the ancient creeds, and it probably says what it needs to. I'm not sure about the Apostles' Creed, but the Nicene Creed was designed somewhat in reaction to non-trinitarians. If BJU's creed is a "reaction" against anything, I imagine it would be to neglect and liberal interpretation of Scripture in contemporary Christianity.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Puck's belly in the spotlight

Lookitmykittyistotallyoncuteoverloadtoday! Awww, Puckster, you're famous!

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Theme Forgotten?

I watched Casablanca for the first time last night. I thought I'd hate it--too close to home or something. But I didn't. It's beautiful and true. And the end is perfect. You just know that Bogart is right--she would regret any other course, so famously soon and for the rest of her life.

I think it runs on the same theme as "Samson" by Regina Spektor (infra--or is it supra, since it went before even though technically it is below? I don't know.): There's a bigger picture here than What You Want, and what you choose matters in more than your personal little love story.

I was trying to think of more contemporary films that laud this theme, wondering if it was a lost or buried concept. Oddly, the only one that comes immediately to mind is Knocked Up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The New Conservatives?

Slate is running a witty and interesting note on why Catholics may go for Obama. I think it's remarkable for its wit more than its insight--I don't find a Catholic voting for Obama to be all that shocking. The Vatican cares about abortion, yes, but about many many other issues as well. One thing I really respect about the church is how seriously it takes the call to care for our fellow man.

Couple random thoughts:
  • I don't know if I'll ever stop being exasperated at all the demographic lumping that goes on in horse race politics: "The Hispanics," "The Youth," "The Soccer Moms." Sure, some of the groups do tend to vote together, but many are quite diverse. Catholics, for example.
  • This made me giggle: "So instead, some Catholics may be hoping for a Huckabee miracle. Southern Baptists and Catholics haven't always gotten along, but there is something just downright Knights of Columbus-friendly about the guy—squirrel-roasting aside. Huck's delegate math will need to cash in more than a few chits with St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, but hey, in theology, if you can make do with five loaves and fishes, what's the big deal about delegates?"

Monday, February 11, 2008

More realistic daydreaming

Actually, I'd probably end up with something more like this one. It's 360 sq. ft. and goes for $695/mo. Really, it's probably about all I need. I actually kind of like the living/dining/bedroom space all together, because it's more efficient. I'd rather have all the square footage in one place so I can fit more people for dinner parties. I have a loft bed anyway, so I can put a couch partway under it. Of course, at the size of this particular place, fitting both my dining table and a twin bed in the living space at the same time could be a squeeze. The long wall of the living room can't be more than 18 feet, even without the bookcases.


Floorplan of a studio apartment just blocks from downtown Charlotte, NC. For hypothetical demonstration only. This particular one is 650 sq. ft. and rents for $955/mo. Ain't it cute?

Okay, back to work.

Monday, February 04, 2008

More changes

Is it true? Do redheads have more fun?

New beginnings

I lost my cell phone. It's probably not ever coming home. I bought a new one and kept the same number, but my SIM card is gone, so I don't have any numbers in my contacts book. As frustrating as this is, to be honest, it's almost a relief. There were numbers in the old phone that I don't need and frankly would rather not have, and this saves me the trouble and emotional tinge that comes with the finality of actually deleting them manually.

If you would like me to continue to have your number in my contacts book, give me a call or email it to me.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mind the puddles.

It is 7:30. See that yellowish stuff in the 50's? That's here right now. See that purple stuff in the 10's? That'll be us in a few hours. At the rate it all appears to be moving, that blue line of scrimmage looks like it will cross us within the next two hours. Here's to driving home at 10:30 after rehearsal!

Forecast for the Day After Tomorrow



Do you ever think the National Weather Service just gets bored and takes out its frustrated novelist tendencies on the national broadcast system?

Monday, January 28, 2008


by Regina Spektor. This song is beautiful, but I've been a little puzzled at what exactly it means. I think I'm finally starting to understand it. Or maybe I'm just starting to develop what it means to me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When the Saints

Lord I have a heavy burden of all I've seen and know
It's more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and I cannot let it go

And when I'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord it's all that I can't carry and cannot leave behind
it often overwhelms me
but when I think of all who've gone before and lived the faithful life
their courage compells me
And when I'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharohs court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sisters standing by the dying man's side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down the door

I see the man of sorrows and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
and when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

--Sara Groves

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Brilliant Idea of the Month

I graduate from law school in May. This means I will possess a juris doctor degree and all of the debt that goes with it. It does not mean I will be authorized to practice law. To practice law, I have to take (and pass) the bar exam in July. This situation, common to almost all law grads (exception to those who graduate and practice in Wisconsin—an odd arrangement to be sure), inspires most of us to devote the summer following graduation solely to study and preparation for the exam.

Common way to tackle this task:
  • Enroll in BarBri course ($2200)*
  • Food and incidentals for 8 weeks ($150 x 8 = $1200)
  • Rent and utilities for 3 months ($550 x 3 = $1650)
  • Take the bar exam ($1200)
Total cost: $6250
Pros: fairly fool-proof, structured way to get the information needed to pass the test.
Cons: boring as all-get-out, spend all summer in a sterile classroom under commercial fluorescent lighting. I don’t have that much money.

Consider an alternative:
  • Buy bar study books ($200)
  • Find 2 to 4 friends with similar study plans to come with me (provide safety, study companions, and split up carrying books)
  • Plan short distances between shelters to maximize study time during daylight hours.
  • Plan weekends (trips into town): subtotal: $1220
    • 8 Saturday nights in a hotel (sharing rooms) ($35 x 8 = $320)
    • 8 Saturday dinners out ($15 x 8 = $120)
    • 8 loads of coin laundry ($2.50 x 8 = $20)
    • 8 trips to the grocery store for restocking ($100 x 8 = $800)
    • Local church Sunday morning (free)
  • Taking the test: subtotal: $1750
    • Rent/utilities for 1 month ($550)
    • Take the bar exam ($1200)
Total cost: $4050
Pros: WAY more fun and memorable. You only get to do this once, and it may be your last chance to structure your own time for a long while. Also, you get to bite your thumb in Barbri’s general direction by refusing to participate in its unfair competition practices. And you save money.
Cons: More risky. Have to have friends who will enforce accountability for studying.

So, um… Anybody game?

*Figures are based on the cost of taking the North Carolina bar. Other states may vary.
**I already have a backpack that may be fine.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Evidence thoughts

From United States v. James, 169 F.3d 1210 (9th Cir. 1999) (Kleinfeld, dissenting):
The victim was a bad man. Some people would say, in private and out of court, that "he deserved it," or "he needed killing." But no one says such things in a courtroom, because the law does not permit murder, even of very bad people.