Bible Discussion — Luke 14 and 15

04/2/2008, 12:30 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next two chapters of Luke, Luke 14-15.

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

The contrast between these two chapters is noteworthy. In ch. 14, Jesus addresses scribes and Pharisees during a social event at a chief Pharisee’s house, and rebukes the guests (v. 7), the host (v. 12), and the entire nation of Israel (vv. 16-24), while challenging their commitment to follow Him.

In ch. 15, He addresses publicans and sinners, and it\’s all about how anxious God is to have them saved, how happy that salvation makes heaven (v. 10), and how happy it should make the rest of us (v. 32).

After the man finds his lost sheep, he calls together his friends AND neighbors, and has a party to celebrate. I know it’s a metaphor for the lost sinner, but it made me wonder what all those people will eat during this party? Hopefully not all of his other sheep, hmm?

The father gives the lost son the best robe, a ring, and a party with a fattened calf for the meal. But what never occurred to me before is that since the lost son took his inheritance, the father is using what is rightfully the good son\’s to supply this party. I can see why he\’s sore about it.

Peace is always an option instead of war, even when two armies are getting ready to fight (14:31-33).

Jesus preempts the Pharisaical protests to healing on the Sabbath by asking them if it’s okay in advance (14:3).

Josh: The Other Son
Chloe: Famine
David: Lost Coin
Steve: Dropsy; Pig Pods
Connie: Bread Enough
Erin: Five Yoke of Oxen

Continued here!

A Mystery of Delmarva, Part One

04/1/2008, 11:30 am -- by | No Comments

The Delmarva Peninsula is that little lump of land hanging off the south end of Jersey, or — if you like to avoid Jersey — the southeast end of Pennsylvania. It is thus named because of the three states that claim part of it: Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. I have spent the last five days in the great state of Delaware and, as penance for writing so sporadically, I hope you will accept a bit of fiction.

This short story bears explanation, however. There is a man down the road from my dear friends who walks around his fields, praying over his sheep, at least once or twice every day, usually in the mid to late afternoon. I was out walking over spring break and was startled when I heard him, but then I had a few ideas…

It was bearing down on him like a thousand pounds of moist, salty sea air. He knew that he should kneel and let it in but he dared not; not in front of all these people. The respectable men of the town, even the mayor . . . none of them would understand what seemed to be happening in and around him.

A torrent of tempting emotions — a slightly melodramatic way to describe his situation, yes. But those were the words that popped into his writer\’s mind as he closed his eyes so tightly a purple mist of pain spread behind them. What was so tempting, besides the need to speak? To shout? To make his fear known?

His wife could see how he rocked as the leader\’s words made crescendos and diminuendos out of the names of the Lord that only he knew. Safety for all and deliverance from Satan, blessings and outpourings and confirmations of the Spirit . . . oh Father that we may glorify You please be with us in this moment . . . the words were less and less determinable as the prayer went on . . .

And that was the first time the cry burst out of the man\’s lips. It was inhuman; a howl: there was no other description. Five, six, seven, eight seconds, and silence.

The room was still. The instruments had broken off mid-measure — the musicians even were not quite used to this shrill an expression. A few beats and they began again awkwardly, the mood broken.

The man who had shouted — Jaffey was his name — slumped down in his pew, embarrassed beyond belief.

Jaffey had bought a herd of goats the week before…if two dozen goats were supposed to be called a herd anyway, the wife had remarked. He had been unable to explain the purchase when he came home, but they were well off and she had the children to worry about, and he the farm. So she raised her eyebrows, pointedly mentioned that he\’d have to build a bigger pen, and kept sewing.

It was later that day — the day he bought the goats — that Jaffey was hauling water and his world changed. He dropped the bigger bucket after an awkward placement of his foot on the wet rock and went, cursing, to retrieve it from the fast-moving river. He ran, limping, along the bank until he figured that he was far enough ahead of the bucket, then jumped into the icy water and waited for it to float downstream. He had just caught it in his hands when he noticed the grizzled old woman watching him from the bank.

“H– hello?” Jaffey stuttered, the water making it hard to stand.

“Don\’t let them out of your sight,” the stranger said.

“Let . . . who? What?” Jaffey remained as still as possible, thinking that he had misheard.

“He\’ll come to separate them out — the sheep and the goats. Don\’t let them out of your sight . . . he\’ll come to separate them.”

Thoroughly spooked, Jaffey walked towards the opposite bank. The woman repeated her lines without breaking her nervous, finger-twitching stare. As he climbed out of the river, her voice rose.

“The sheep and the goats. The sheep and the goats! He\’ll come to separate them; the sheep and the goats!” she spoke rhythmically.

“Ma\’am?” Jaffey asked uneasily, not sure what to do. “Are you . . . all right!”

She was frantically murmuring, though the occasional word broke out in a shout. “The SHEEP and the goats he\’ll COME to separate them don\’t let THEM OUT of your SIGHT the sheep and the GOATS the sheep and — LET ME GO!”

Jaffey had grasped her tightly by the shoulder to still her, but she turned on him like a cornered cat, and she indeed had feline intentions. By the time Jaffey lay on the ground, dazed and in pain, she had scratched nearly every square inch of his exposed skin. He could still hear her, though, as she retreated. She called back to him, spitefully.

“Don\’t let them OUT OF YOUR SIGHT!”

Clash of the Titans LXXV: Money in Politics

03/21/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

In this corner, supporting less money in politics, is Erin!

And in this corner, opposing limits, is Steve!

I’ll be the first to admit that I am generally less informed than the average high school sophomore about politics, though you might not know it from how animatedly I like to shout at my more conservative friends (either because I perceive more holes in their arguments than those more liberal, or I just like to be argumentative). Writing this clash is largely the result of my foolish and hasty statement of belief that there is too much money in politics. This is based on a deeper idea which I will try, briefly, to explain.

Whether or not spending more money will make a potential presidential candidate more likely to get elected: I’m sure this can be proved and disproved many ways, and has been already. It’s the nature of numbers, the ability to be manipulated. There are always new statistics coming out, to exhibit or ignore one side of the argument or the other.

Whether the president or other politicians make too much money: that is for each person to decide as well. The current congressional salary (2008) is $169,300 per year. The annual salary of the president was increased to $400,000 per year, including a $50,000 expense allowance, and the vice president makes $221,100.

So given the facts that “not just anybody” gets elected to public office (thank goodness!); one must have at least some degree of personal means, influence, and experience to get elected; and that the majority of politicians have families, businesses, and hobbies to support — are these salaries too much? I have heard that every president ever elected took a pay cut when he entered office. So are they being paid too much? I think so.

The bigger idea that I want to address (which I am only in the early stages of thinking through) is that there is too much money in society as a whole.

I am just as a slave to money as the next hapless American college student. I am studying at a college that, by the time I graduate, will have collected in payment for my undergraduate education more than the golden $100,000 that seems to represent a comfortable income for middle class America. So I will have paid — or have promised to pay — what a great deal of middle class families strive to make in a year. Isn’t that too much?

And why do middle class families feel that $100,000 would be a comfortable amount to live on? Property and income tax. Utilities. Groceries. Food. Clothing. Hobbies. Family outings. Transportation. The same things that lower-class and upper-class families spend money on. Isn’t there a simpler way to do all this?

Instead of going to a theme park that costs $60 per person and wastes electricity flinging souls around on aerodynamically sexy roller coasters, why not wade in a river and catch crawfish — or make a game out of clearing brush away from an old campfire-pit, not worrying about how soon it gets done or how well? Why must we take three trips to town each day to cart kids to school, get items for a honey-do list, and pick up a pizza for dinner?

Simplicity is just that: simple. Some might say that it is for the simple-minded, and I will admit that I have said that to myself many times. But when I say that there is too much money in politics, I am lumping politics in with life in general: things could be done a lot simpler and a lot cheaper. Yes, it might require cutting back. Creativity. Sacrifice. But wouldn’t we be the better for it?

I’ll see your bet and I’ll raise you. Not only do I disagree that there’s too much money in politics, I actually believe that there’s not enough.

I’m happy to admit that the money we have in the system now might not be the best money. It might not be used for the best things. It might not be spent for the best reasons. But I’m convinced that it’s impossible to actually get the best of all those things — and any attempt to try is likely to produce even more problems, while unconstitutionally limiting speech. Frankly, the problem isn’t money, or more correctly, the speech that money facilitates. The problem is accountability.

Whenever possible, I like to err on the side of freedom. That’s especially true when it comes to matters of how people can spend money they have earned. Take Mitt Romney, for instance. He received a lot of criticism for spending tens of millions of his own money in an attempt to become the Republican nominee for president. But why? He earned it honestly, in business, through hard work and effort. And although many less affluent candidates sneered that he was trying to “buy the nomination,” the results actually proved that dollars alone do not lead to electoral success.

Yet many remain convinced not only that money is the main key to winning elections, but that there’s something inherently wrong with money in politics. And this opinion, often informed by a confusion of the effects of money and incumbency, has led to a system that drastically limits the way we can spend our money, and what we can say when we do.

Well, call me old-fashioned, friends, but I happen to take the First Amendment at face value. You’ll remember it from high school; it’s the part of our Constitution that states (among other things) that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. When “reformers” prevent me from spending money to espouse a certain view on the political stage, how can they pretend this is anything other than a restraint on speech? How can they defend it in light of the text of the First Amendment?

Maybe you think that the danger of money influencing politics makes these laws a necessary compromise, a proper exception to our First Amendment rights. But I answer you — what speech could possibly be more important to protect from government regulation than that speech which criticizes the government?

I support greater transparency, so we can know who writes the checks before we cast our votes. But the current system is designed to just shut it all down, like we’re a bunch of children, too stupid to understand issues, willing to vote for whichever candidate runs the glossiest ads. Please explain to me — I would love to know! — how we are helped by this convoluted system that prevents a group of Americans from publicly talking about a candidate, favorably or unfavorably, within 60 days of an election, when the information is most relevant.

Presidential candidates in 2004 spent about $661 million in that race. That sounds awfully high, doesn’t it? But it turns out McDonald’s spent $635 million in advertising by itself — back in 2001! General advertising for “cooking products and seasonings” topped $675 million four years before that! And way back in 1998, $720 million was spent on alcohol advertising JUST INSIDE STORES.

I happen to think that the future of our country — the First Amendment — is a little more important than Mrs. Dash and Captain Morgan.


Bible Discussion — Luke 12

03/20/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter of Luke, Luke 12.

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

Luke 12 is a somewhat long discourse covering many of the pitfalls that we face as we walk out the journey of our faith as Christians. It provides encouragement — some of it from common sense, some from warnings of what’s to come.

Luke uses the majority of this chapter to present some of Jesus’ teachings on priorities in a disciple’s life. Who should you fear? The one that can kill you and send you to hell. What should you be thinking about? His Kingdom, because He can take care of our business for us, if we are about his business for Him, and when He returns, He\’s going to be very interested in what we were doing for Him.

This chapter is narrow in narration — it is mostly just Jesus talking — but broad in content. Warnings to be watchful, to be frugal, to share, to be peaceable, and not to worry, all vie for the readers attention.

It can be easy to get bogged down in all of these instructions in just the way that Jesus did not intend. The people to whom he spoke were familiar with Jewish legalism, and so this itemizing of ways to “live out the new Covenant” would have made sense to them. What is easy to ignore, however, is that these are simply outward expressions of a life lived with every thought captive to the large purpose of devotion and service to the Kingdom of God.

These people are trampling on each other to hear what Jesus has to say. Devotion, selfishness, or both?

In the parable about watchfulness, Jesus refers to “one who does not know and does things deserving punishment,” and says that such people will be “beaten with few blows.” What does this mean concerning those who die without hearing the Gospel?

Peter asks whether or not the parable Jesus is telling was intended for more than just the 12. Seriously, Peter?

(Herein I show my own Christianese background — I already know Jesus\’ answer, and struggle to put myself in Peter\’s clueless, and very familiar, shoes).

One of my favorite scriptures, Matthew 6:33, is also here as 12:31 — “But seek the kingdom of God, and all of these things shall be added to you.”

Josh: Rich Fool
David: Girded Loins
Erin: This Very Night
MC-B: Many Sparrows
Steve: The Ravens; Last Penny

Continued here!

Best of Bweinh! — Romans 8 Discussion

03/5/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Read Part One here, and Part Two here!

Best of Erin — Grime

03/4/2008, 10:30 am -- by | No Comments

Originally published October 2, 2007.

Clifford Avenue points west and downtown towards the gorge in Rochester — you can follow it with your eyes and end up staring uncertainly at the skyscraper-ish buildings rising nobly out of the city. They attempt to shake off the grease of the neighborhoods and stretch their tinted windows up to the sky, where the tint is enough that free air is all that matters. Miles upon miles of sky do a great deal for the skyscrapers, and for those who dwell inside.

But outside those windows is a whole other world that I have just come to know. A world within the city where uncertainty is life, where — despite Latino ascendancy — the Latino neighborhoods still rotate aimlessly around a center of poverty, crime, and fear. It is part of any city, the suburbanite might say, so what can we do?

I am as guilty as any suburbanite, even though I’ve never lived in any sort of housing development or suburb, of having this thought run rampant around my mind, twisting any compassion or motivation I might have for those who live their lives in the urban rut. Even in 2002, when I was blessed enough to have the city of the third world brought to my immediate attention — in an Iquitos marketplace, the immediate is all there is: sights, smells, tastes — even then, I do not think I really understood what the grime of the city is.

To me, then, it was sheer culture. Iquitos, Peru was distant even when I dug my toes into the black selva dirt. Certainly, the culture was amazing and I have since realized how much it really was my first love, but that does not take away from the fact that the cities have always been places that I feared. Too loud, too many people, too many problems that could never be solved.

Last weekend, nothing really spectacular happened, at least not by most standards. I hung out at a Salvation Army (a ‘Salvo,’ as I have called them for a long while) with 40 or 50 kids, played fútbol for upwards of three hours, proved that Houghton has not improved my ability to swing my hips to Latin music at all, and chatted in unmistakably poor Spanish as much as I could. I understood about 60 percent of a sermon and took communion with people from more countries than I ever have at the same time.

How disorganized my love for Latino culture has been.

I feel that I can only clarify this statement by saying that the grime of the city has officially taken up residence on my knees — and it is only by embracing this culture and all its needs that I can truly love it, truly pray for it, and truly be in it and of it (someday!).

Grime is unpleasant and ugly and socially unacceptable, but it is there. And those who live with it are just as qualified as any suburbanite to receive God’s love and ours.

Bible Discussion — Luke 10

02/27/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter of Luke, Luke 10.

We also welcome a few visitors from David’s home Bible study — and work with a joint entry from Chloerin!

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

In this chapter, Jesus says some things that never make it into the world’s conception of the all-loving gentle teacher from Galilee, while sending his followers out to extend His power to the lost.

Even though Jesus sent the 72 out with instructions to preach, perform miracles, etc., they were surprised to find that they could drive out demons in Jesus’ name. What more (or less) did they expect, I wonder?

Rachel Clancy:
We always preach a balance in spiritual things, but Jesus seems to disagree when Martha asks for help from Mary. When Jesus is here, forget everything but Him!

I don’t ever remember reading verses 23 and 24. Jesus references men like Socrates, Job, and David, who had longed to know the fullness of reason and religion, to reason with God as a man speaks to a friend, and tells these fishermen and tax collectors from backwater Israel that they had been given the ultimate honor — to see the things so many had longed, and would long, to experience.

After the disciples are rejected, they are to tell the people, “Be ye sure of this, the kingdom of God has come near you!”

Ian Clancy: The Very Dust
Steve: Trample
Rachel: Two Pence (none the richer); Lambs Among Wolves
David: Babes
Erin/Chloe: twoBYtwo

Continued here!

Java 101

02/19/2008, 10:30 am -- by | 2 Comments

On Saturday I probably spent the better part of an hour in one print center or another on the Houghton campus. They’ve put one in the library now, which allows one to effectively hermit oneself away there for hours upon hours upon days at a time. (Perhaps days takes it a bit far, but hyperbole is a perfectly acceptable literary device, as far as I’m concerned.) The other, more commonly used (and crowded) print center is in the basement of the Campus Center, right next to Java 101, the closest thing in Allegany County to a Starbucks.

Last night I got a coffee from a Buffalo Starbucks with my ministry team buddies and, although it was quite the delicious mint mocha frap, I got the feeling that I always get when I drink coffee-confections outside of Java 101: I am a little bit homesick.

Perhaps a bit of further explanation is warranted. My freshman year, I had vowed that coffee should ne’er cross my lips, that I would remain unaddicted to caffeine, that I hadn’t the money to waste on drinking water strained through ground legumes (ok…so I don’t know if the cacao bean is a legume).

All this changed one late night during a Cultural Anthropology paper, but that was as much my fault for giving into Chloe’s French Press-made hazelnut deliciousness as anything else. And that became a Java 101 caramel macchiato. And that became a few pounds of Schuill’s from Grand Rapids, MI. And that became the cold hard fact: the coffee machine in our townhouse belongs to yours truly.

Setting my love for (good!) coffee aside — the reason I brought up Java 101 is to discuss how a place can have such a deep meaning for me. Recent conversations have brought to my attention that I tend to value places for themselves — even if what I’ve come to love about them is solely based on experiences I have had there, or people I met there.

Java is a prime example. My good experiences there include reading numerous letters while munching blueberry muffins (courtesy of Houghton College Church Relations), and really thinking all was right with the world. I’ve written several espresso-fueled papers on the little breakfast bar, my feet kicking in a rhythm much faster than my thoughts seem to move.

The Lanthorn literary journal coffeehouse readings/concerts, live music, my first exposure to Regina Spektor, excellent conversation dates, salsa contests — all of these contribute to my feeling homesick for a place where the coffee isn’t always the best, the baristas are sometimes rather awkward, and where, if I’m not careful, I’ll get Brit-wittily insulted a few times during the 11 a.m. hour by Dr. Pearse (Java is a favorite haunt of his at this time, as well).

It might be nostalgia, or rose-colored glasses, or whatever silly feminine attachment you might identify: I simply can’t tell the difference. But I do know that for quite a while, when I think of a good coffeeshop, the image that will pop into my mind is of Java 101.

Bible Discussion — Luke 8

02/13/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter of Luke, Luke 8.

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Jesus teaches a wonderful parable about the types of soil we offer God to work with in our life, heals a demoniac and a woman plagued with a life-long infirmity, and then raises the dead again.

The people of the Gerasenes were overcome with fear, and that’s why they asked Jesus to leave them. Even after he’d performed a miracle, the people’s fear was what drove Jesus away.

One of the women who supported Jesus was the wife of Herod’s steward.

Jesus kept the true meaning of the parable of the soils from the crowd, then urged His disciples not to light a lamp and hide it under a jar or a bed. I don’t think this is contradictory, though; Jesus simply knew the same secret that TV producers, secret societies and women use to their benefit: a little mystery is attractive.

Soon what was concealed would be brought into the open, but making the people work a little, to use their minds to discover the Truth, had numerous benefits to the Kingdom and its future followers. Our Lord isn’t into brainwashing.

On His way to visit Jairus’ daughter, Jesus has the encounter with the woman with the issue of blood. I couldn’t help but wonder, if she hadn’t come forward and identified herself, would He have taken back the healing? Otherwise, why was He asking? He goes on to say the answer — her answer — was the reason for the healing. But was it the answer, the mere stated words, or the declared faith in those words?

Josh: Hidden Light
Chloe: Broken Chains
David: Came Down A Storm
Connie: Gadarenes
Steve: Drowning Pigs; Abyss

Continued here!

Clash of the Titans LXVIII: Racial Profiling

02/8/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | 5 Comments

In this corner, arguing against racial profiling, is Erin!

And in this corner, defending it, is MC-B!

I am driving and I pull into the tiny parking lot of a Sunoco gas station. There are only three or four spots, but I am seriously lost, and on top of that, I have to go to the bathroom. Badly. So I park my car, grab my purse, get out, and run inside.

Although there are several other people at the gas station, the first thing I notice is that I am the only Anglo, and the only woman, in the building. As I search for the likely dingy and dark bathroom, the only thought that stands out to me is: I hope I locked my car…

What just happened there? Because I was the ‘white’ woman in the situation, I assumed there was automatically a higher probability that the men around me would commit a crime? Yes. Exactly.

I didn’t even tell you what race any of the men were — but how many of you had a picture in your head? Lebanese? African-American? Ukrainian? In the past year, I have met people of all three backgrounds at gas stations, and never have I been robbed, never have I been assaulted, never has anything gone the least bit illegal.

So how is it even possible that racial profiling — the practice by law enforcement officers of taking into account racial or ethnic background when taking action — could seem right?

The ACLU defines racial profiling as the practice of investigating, stopping, frisking, searching, or using force against a person based on his or her race or ethnicity, and not criminal behavior. Pedestrian stops, “gang” databases, suspicion at stores and malls, and immigration worksite raids can be included in the definition as well.

So please tell me, what gives our law enforcement officers the right to do such a thing? To arrest someone based on the way that they look instead of their behavior? To detain, search, or harass someone because they can??

The answer is: nothing gives them the right. It is systemized racism, and should not be tolerated.

If racial profiling were called by almost any other name, or used almost any criteria other than race, I doubt many would be averse to it. Trying to prevent crimes or attacks on US citizens using statistics about which person is more likely to be a terrorist or criminal sounds pretty reasonable.

So what if race is one of the factors involved? Does a good idea suddenly become ludicrous? I’m going to talk mostly about international terrorism — it’s the situation in which racial profiling is most clearly justifiable (and therefore not wrong in every situation, or in principle).

There are some questions about the efficacy of racial profiling, but that’s not at issue here; the question is whether questioning or detaining someone comparatively more based on their race infringes that person’s right to privacy. Racial profiling, when done correctly, does not imply that anyone is guilty of a crime; rather, it is more comparable to what happens when the police are trying to track a felon.

If a white male of average build has brutalized someone while walking down the street, does it infringe on anyone’s constitutional rights if, in the course of finding the one who committed the crime, a few white males of average build are taken aside and questioned? We are at war with certain parts of the world whose inhabitants happen to look a certain way, and we need to react to that fact with smart policies designed to prevent attacks rather than kowtowing to PC sensibilities.

I would happily be detained for longer at an airport, even for hours, if it meant there was a slightly smaller chance that my plane would be taken over by hijackers or terrorists. This type of racial profiling may be a little insulting and quite inconvenient, but it would be difficult to find a credible constitutional lawyer who considered it a true infringement on constitutional rights.

Of course, engaging in racial profiling requires us to maintain rigorous standards and keep a watchful eye out for possible abuses of the system; it should never provide an excuse for racist actions. Additionally, racial profiling for strictly domestic crimes is a bit more complicated, and should be far more limited than racial profiling at airports or borders.

However, saying that all racial profiling is wrong regardless of the context sacrifices security, safety, and reality to political correctness — a very dangerous sacrifice to make.


Bible Discussion — Luke 7

02/6/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | 1 Comment

This week, looks at the next chapter of Luke, Luke 7.

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6

Who does Jesus touch in this chapter? A servant. The only son of a widow. Tax collectors. A harlot. It is a perversion of Christ’s example and the Gospel when we do not extend His love to them, and when we preach that material success is the singular sign of his blessing.

In chapter 4, Jesus pointed out that God performed miracles for a Gentile widow and Naaman during the time of Elijah and Elisha. Here, Jesus does something similar in healing the servant of a Gentile who exhibited a faith unseen in any of the Jews Jesus had encountered. Luke, a Gentile himself, captures many such touches in Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus doesn’t answer the questions that John’s messengers bring to him: he just tells them to go back and tell John of the evidence of Jesus’ ministry, and let the Spirit of God that inspires John to prophesy reveal to him who Jesus really is.

I’d never before noticed the timeline presented in this book, and it’s a little confusing. John the Baptist essentially asks Jesus in this chapter if He is the One (7:19), but four chapters ago, JB baptized Jesus. The whole dove and voice from heaven thing would have seemed to have established that (3:21,22). Perhaps John was unable to see these signs or recognize Jesus for who He was, but considering he recognized Him when they were both still in the womb (1:39-45), that seems a bit odd.

The elders tell Jesus that the centurion deserves to have Jesus heal his servant for what he’s done for Israel. And yet the centurion says the exact opposite — “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.”

All the times I have read this passage, I never before noticed that the centurion, by Jewish testimony, loved the nation of Israel. I suppose it makes sense that he would have heard of Jesus then. I wonder what that meant in his life and his religious devotion.

Steve: Dirge
Erin, Chloe: Marketplace Children
David: Go in Peace
Josh: Dead Man Speaks

Continued here!

Burning the Midnight Oil

02/4/2008, 6:00 pm -- by | No Comments

My roommate, amazing and talented fellow Bweinh!tributor and non-New Yorker, Chloe, recently gave a mini-speech on college students who can’t seem to stay out of debt. Her introduction included a short list of “traditional college activities,” like eating bad cafeteria food, longing for the outside world, wincing at the price of books in the bookstore, staying up all night — well, perhaps her speech really only included the last two.

This comes to mind because when I woke up this morning at 5:00 — a truly ungodly hour — another one of my housemates greeted me as I made my way into the living room. Our exchange went something like this:

“Mwrffff . . . good morning,” I said.

“Hello, dear.”

“How long have you been up?”

“A while…” Her voice is definitely way too awake for this time of day.

“Did you get up just now?” Isn’t it wonderful how my brain doesn’t process information this early?

“No, I just started working last night and I thought, well, I might as well get this all done now so I don’t have to do it tomorrow. I didn’t exactly, um, go to bed…”

Ay, there’s the rub. That most noble of college traditions — the all-nighter — is hard to avoid over four years of higher education. Now, there are doubters (and good students) everywhere, but I think that the vast majority of students have, at one desperate time or desperate measure, deeply contemplated the question, “Is it really more important for me to sleep, or to do my work?”

Or perhaps this rationale: “If I do it now, I can get a TON of sleep tomorrow.”

This one is always popular: “I do have quite a bit of coffee in that decrepit old crate in my closet…”

Whatever the reason, I would like to celebrate all those who have felt the pull of the all-nighter. It really is rather romantic, in a strictly gothic sense, to stay up all night, working like an angsty madman or tortured genius. And oh, the completeness one feels upon finishing a project, whether it be a first (or final) draft of a paper, an outline, a problem set, or even a lab. There really is nothing like it.

So all of you — students and non-students, teens and twenty-somethings, adults and those who wish you weren’t — if you know what it is like to endure the long, lonely, thrilling hours of an all-nighter, I declare today as your day to celebrate.


01/31/2008, 2:00 pm -- by | 1 Comment

YermaFederico Garcí­a Lorca was a Spanish author who lived from 1898 until 1936, when he was executed by members of the Nationalist party for reasons that may have included his political affiliations, his homosexuality, and the content of his works. Although this beginning may sound a little bit (okay, a LOT) similar to a poorly written biographical piece (read: Wikipedia article), it’s not really what I’m on about. I think that to understand the play Yerma, one needs a bit of background knowledge on the struggle and unpopularity of its author.

Yerma takes place in rural Spain at the turn of the last century, and focuses on the struggles of its titular character whose name means, quite literally, “barren land.” Yerma is married to Juan, a farmer, and encounters many townspeople (never given names more specific than “First Girl” or “Second Sister-in-law”), as well as a few other central characters: Víctor, Marí­a, the Old Woman, and Dolores.

The plot hinges on a single, bitter fact: Yerma has no children. In a day where a woman’s purpose in life stemmed from her role in the home raising her children, she is inútil, useless, and nothing that she can say or do for Juan gets through to him. Her desperation is markedly worse every time we encounter her, causing her to hallucinate sounds or smells, to refuse to speak to her sisters-in-law who come to stay with her family, or to sneak out of her home at night to meet Dolores, a woman of reputed spiritual/magical skill.

Without giving away the end of the play, I wanted to share this beautiful peace of prose-poetry-drama with any Bweinh! readers who enjoy gems of literature. The play is, in my opinion, one of the best I have read in my lifetime for a few reasons.

Continued here!

Bible Discussion — Luke 6

01/30/2008, 12:30 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter of Luke, Luke 6.

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5

Jesus’ sermon in this chapter will never cease to be countercultural, because at every turn it challenges the default setting of humanity, to seek selfishness and success.

In the last chapter, Jesus scolded the people for trying to mix New Covenant and Old Covenant concepts in their question about fasting, likening it to placing new wine in old skins. Now He begins to use His teaching to turn the Jewish religion upside down, overturning their ideas about the Sabbath, wealth, popularity, judgment, mercy and what constitutes real righteousness.

After leaving the guy with the splinter alone, and pulling the beam out of my own eye, I am actually allowed to go back and say “OK, now about that splinter:”

Before Jesus chose the twelve disciples, He spent an entire night praying. Talk about careful consideration! And yet, all of these men were flawed, said and did things that were less-than-upbuilding to Jesus or His ministry (Peter, etc.), and often seemed so dense when Jesus spoke to them that it is hard to understand why He chose them to be His “inner circle” of followers.

Jesus is talking to people from Judea and Jerusalem, which means He’s talking mostly to Jews. And yet He says, “For that is how their fathers treated the prophets,” ‘their’ referring to the ones who persecute ‘you.’ Already the believers have been set apart from the rest of the Jewish nation.

I hadn’t noticed what Chloe just said until I read this discussion, so I’m going with that.

Josh: Blind Guide
David: Plankeye
Erin: Simon Called Peter
Chloe: False Prophets
Steve: Bramble Bush

Continued here!

How to be Useful

01/23/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Sister Janice Brown said to me last Sunday, “Erin, you’ll know my car by the gold emblems on the back where it says Nissan — you know us black people, we always got to have our gold and nice stuff.” She said to me yesterday, “You’ll hear a lot of open talk from me about race, about racism. You can’t hide from it, not here.” She then launched into a story about one of her previous interns who was white-as-white-can-get, and how she did her best to train him in the city, but wasn’t entirely successful. The whole time she spoke, I thought to myself, oh, God, that’s me, isn’t it?

Every time I enter Sister Brown’s house (only a few times thus far), she tells me to be at peace, to be blessed of God, to have the Spirit rest on me and nourish me. She is on the pastoral staff at the Pentecostal Miracle Deliverance Center Church (PMDCC), on the corner of St. Paul and Upper Falls Boulevard in Rochester, but she wears about as many hats as there are townhouses in the 19th Ward. When she speaks, her words are almost always teasing, instructing, or praying; sometimes all three.

This weekend when I worked for my internship at her house/office, I felt useful, which is a lot more than I can say for much of my college experience. That ‘experience’ has usually consisted of cramming, reading, writing, and generally getting on the nerves of those unfortunate enough to live with me and not be in the Kierkegaard seminar (consider this my apology, housemates). The oddest thing about this feeling, however, was the fact that what I did seemed so minor. So what if I showed Sister Brown how to look up articles on segregation vs. integration on the internet? So what if I put together a program for a Youth Association rally? So what if I semi-translated and reformatted a registration form? So what if I played soccer with Yaser, Roby, Mateo, Carmilo, etc.?

Why, if all of these seem so minor to me (and, no doubt, to you), did I feel like I actually did something — or that I am doing something?

I grew up being taught that if I didn’t take initiative when I saw something wrong or something out of place, then it was my fault if the conditions turned worse. Usually, this was just my mom’s way of telling me to do laundry when the laundry room got so full that we couldn’t step inside it, but I really value the point that she made and it has stuck with me. There is something to be done. There are new ways to be learned.

And if I am in a position where I can learn those new ways, where my stupid I-just-met-you-so-I’m-kind-of-shy tendency can be stretched to teach me what it truly means to have interracial friendships, to work with teens who have never known the luxuries I have known (and now feel almost desperate to leave behind) — then by all means, I want to do this! I want to feel like in some small way, I am useful. That I am serving and learning at the same time. That my future isn’t as bleak as it sometimes seems.

This may be nothing more than a rant for hope from a hopelessly idealistic student. But I think the answer to the question ‘How can I be useful?‘ is strikingly simple: find a need. Fill it. And if you can’t find a need where you are, go somewhere else.

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