Clash of the Titans LXIV: Star Wars v. Star Trek

01/19/2008, 12:00 am -- by | 6 Comments

In this corner, claiming that Star Wars is best, is Josh!

And in this corner, arguing for the supremacy of Star Trek, is Tom!

To the uneducated eye — otherwise known as people who think fans of any “Star” franchise are just a bunch of dorks — there’s not a lot of difference between Star Trek and Star Wars. But I’m here to tell you, despite the Trek’s mountainous advantage in total number of TV shows and movies, I’ll take quality over quantity. Allow me to take you to a galaxy far, far away…

I guess I should start by admitting that I am far from an expert in Trek matters. But as near as I can tell, Star Trek’s contributions to our world consist of little more than “Beam me up, Scotty,” and the worst fight scene ever.

Star Wars has so much more to offer. They have better characters and better actors (not that it’s that hard to overcome the ongoing intentionally unintentional joke that is William Shatner). There’s the charisma of Han Solo, ably played by Harrison Ford, easily the most successful actor from either franchise. There’s the mystery and wisdom of Obi Wan Kenobi, originally thanks to the legendary Sir Alec Guinness. There’s spunky old Yoda and his beloved verbal patterns, part of a genius partnership with Jim Henson. And of course, there’s the terrifying Darth Vader, with the booming voice of James Earl Jones — consensus choice for the greatest screen villain of all time.

And there’s more to love. Light sabers, for instance. If you try to tell me you’ve never wanted a light saber, you’re lying through your teeth. That goes double for Jedi powers. The entire Star Wars universe is just a more intriguing place to be, which accounts for the massive popularity of the entire line of Star Wars video games that put you right there (Incidentally, I highly recommend Lego Star Wars, Battlefront II, or Knights of the Old Republic, depending on your genre of choice).

The creative genius of George Lucas brings all this to life, with an attention to detail that makes everything more authentic and a superior sound track that makes everything seem more important. So if you’re ready to vote for Star Wars, may the force be with you.

And if you’re not, then this isn’t the clash you’re looking for. Move along.

Space. The final frontier.

If you’re anything like me, when you read those words, you began to hear the haunting strains of a string orchestra begin to swell. In your mind’s ear, each phrase was delivered with the firm, yet understanding tones of a Royal Shakespearean Company-trained actor. And in your heart was awakened a yearning — a yearning to be entertained.

Those four words (for those of you who may not know) are the opening to Star Trek: The Next Generation, the second well-known television series in a series that to date has numbered seven incarnations. Ten films have been spun from the original concept, with an eleventh currently in production. Compare that with a measly three good Star Wars movies, with another few that even die-hard fans loathed. But commercial success can’t be our only basis for comparison. With that in mind, how do Wars and Trek really compare in a number of key areas?

Star Wars gets points for sheer numbers, but let’s face it: their robots are annoying. Neurotic gold-plated three-dollar C3PO flutters around uselessly, his talents for “interpreting” rendered useless by a voice that engenders a burning hatred in the end-user. Data, on the other hand, is a positronic-brained android of the classic Asimov model, neither annoying nor metallic-looking. Sure, he may not look human, but he wants to be, which is more than you can say for the whirring, beeping R2D2.

Chewbacca may be hundreds of years old, but it’s pretty obvious he didn’t spend any of them at the speech therapist. His voice is even worse than C3PO’s, and can only be understood by his “partner” Han Solo. Klingon Worf, son of Mogh, on the other hand, has any number of memorable lines. From “Sir I protest! I am not a merry man!” to “If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand!,” Worf worked hard, played hard, and enjoyed nothing more than a tall, frosty glass of prune juice. And I’ll wager his conditioner bills were much lower as well.

Character With Big Ears
Leonard Nimoy brought his quiet dignity so obvious in his recording of “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” to the role of the ever-logical half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. Who does Star Wars have? Oh, only those three little words every Star Wars fan loves to hear:

Jar Jar Binks.


Best of Bweinh! — Metric/Imperial Clash

01/15/2008, 11:30 am -- by | No Comments

Originally printed on April 17, 2007!

In this corner, supporting the metric system, is Tom!

And in this corner, supporting the imperial system, is Mike!

As a people, Americans have always paid our collective independence more than its share of lip service. We claim to be a land of freedom, say we have thrown off the bonds of tyranny that yoked our nation in her infancy, and present ourselves to the world as a paragon of liberty. Yet we persist in using a system of weights and measures based not on any semblance of sense, but on the whims and physical characteristics of the despotic few who governed the monarchies of antiquity.

The standard system ruled the roost of world business for centuries, growing comfortably fat off the toil of our brows and calculating machines. Wide rolls of strange numerical conversions began to hang from its jowls as it glutted itself at the table of commerce. Was this monster decimal? Octal? Dodecahedral? Who could afford to question? Time was better spent trying to determine the number of ounces in a hogshead, or inches in a furlong. But a new wind was about to blow.

Amid the tumult of the last time the French showed any collective semblance of bravery, a few daring souls decided to forge a universal system of measure. Rather than the length of a king’s thumb, or the volume of your average sheep bladder, they selected a length they would use for a base, a length of the people. The world was changing! The king was dead; he could no longer force the people to memorize numbers like 12, 16, 1160, or 5280! Instead, they counted their fingers, counted their toes, averaged the result and arrived at the number 10. That’s right, the same number upon which our entire system of numbers is based.

Not only can you convert between a nanometer and a kilometer just by moving a decimal place, you can even move between two and three dimensions without straining. Without measuring someone’s anatomy. Without consulting a council of bearded elders, table of ciphers or magician’s grimoire. When was the last time a child was able to proudly tell his teacher the number of cubic inches in a gallon? But any precocious tot can be instructed that a thousand independent little cubic centimeters together become a proud, powerful liter.

In a time of increasing foreign tension, should we really be raising the next generation to measure the world in a way foreign to the others who call it home? Is it worth enduring the confusion and inconsistency of the standard system, just so our grandchildren will measure their ice cream in the manner of our fathers? Just look into your heart, and count your toes.

I think you’ll find they hold the answer.

I pastor a church in a threatened part of the world. Chester County, Pennsylvania, just east of Lancaster, is a county of rolling hills and mushroom farms, and is a traditional home to horse trainers. You can still pass an idyllic Saturday in the southern part of the county watching the county as it used to be.

But the town where I pastor, Exton, has long been under threat. Every chain restaurant in the world, it seems, has moved in. I live about twenty minutes away, in Coatesville; a mere ten-minute drive from our church or home could take you to five McDonald’s, three Wendy’s, two Friendly’s, three Applebee’s, and countless other familiar restaurants that have conspired to all but destroy local cuisine.

We don’t need more themed chain restaurants beating the individuality out of us, and we sure don’t need a metric system forcing us all into a mold, even if it is a perfectly square, perfectly sensible, extremely user-friendly mold.

Do you really prefer the meter to the yard? We know how the meter came into being: it was a product of the “pure reason” so popular (and so stunningly bloody) in the French Revolution. Indeed, in 1799, the French stored away the originals of the meter and the other metric units, adorning the metric system with the motto, “For all men, for all time.”

On the contrary, we don’t know precisely where the yard comes from, only that its origin lies in charmed tradition. The girth of a person’s waist? The distance from Henry VIII’s nose to the tip of his outstretched thumb? No one knows for sure–all we know is that it’s a much better story than a bunch of progress-minded revolutionaries laying off the bloodshed long enough to standardize something random, then attempting to force the rest of the world to use it.

And they have tried to force the metric system. Don’t believe me? Ask the “Metric Martyrs,” a group of five English grocers who were fined for failing to measure their produce in metric units. Ask any Canadian you want. Their government went to the trouble of creating a logo to demonstrate their allegiance to metric’s new world order, pushing imperial users into underground quietness. Like Narnians, they must patiently await their chance to again enjoy their nation as it used to be.

So, go ahead, vote for the metric system. And while you’re homogenizing the world, would you also cast a ballot for eradicating local accents, closing the family-owned hardware store, and creating a list of state-approved songs for worship?

Thanks so much.


Jobsquatch, Vol. 3

12/12/2007, 3:00 pm -- by | 3 Comments

The question of Job Tate’s existence is far from settled. As morning broke, Tom thought he and Steve had enough evidence to prove it already, but Steve refused to go home when they were so close to possibly capturing the noble beast. Who was right? Was Tate toying with them? And can any man hope to see Job Tate’s face — and live?

On the day Americans celebrate as Job Tate’s birthday — we bring you this brave journey, captured on video.

Part one is here; part two is here, but now we bring you — the final chapter, right here!

Jobsquatch, Vol. 2

12/12/2007, 11:15 am -- by | 4 Comments

Some refuse to believe Job Tate exists, but Steve and Tom knew it was true. After spending a fitful afternoon failing to find any woman in Vermont that could serve as “Tate bait,” the brothers return to home base — only to find a surprise waiting at the top of the stairs. Is this enough? Can the boys go home?

On the day Americans celebrate as Job Tate’s birthday — we bring you this brave journey, captured on video.

Part one can be seen here.

Now — onto part two, right here!

Jobsquatch, Vol. 1

12/12/2007, 1:45 am -- by | 3 Comments

On the heels of the great debate over Job Tate’s existence, Steve and Tom traveled to Vermont last month to see if they could lure the great mythical beast out of hiding. They brought along a video camera, two leather jackets, their leftover fries from Wendy’s and a dream — a dream that they could finally capture the elusive Tate on film, to prove to the world once and for all that Job lives and breathes and walks among us.

Now — on the day Americans celebrate as Job Tate’s birthday — we bring you their journey, captured on video.

The first step? Part one . . . watch it here!

Bible Discussion — Romans 12

11/14/2007, 11:30 am -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter in the book of Romans, Romans 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

And the book of 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

Chapter 12 marks a complete change in the tenor of this epistle. The main work of dealing with the law, the Jew, and the Gentile done, Paul turns to general exhortation for the body of Christ. It is rich in basic instruction on “How to Live” for the believer.

A wonderfully concise handbook for Christianity.

The chapter begins the final section of Romans, a call to practical obedience to God. Christians should live lives that reflect a transformation by our salvation working in us, and we should demonstrate such by good stewardship of our spiritual gifts.

Under the old covenant, there were two types of sacrifice: the sacrifice to atone for sin, and the sacrifice made for worship. Since Jesus already became the sacrifice for our sin, when we’re exhorted in this chapter to be living sacrifices, we aren’t earning our salvation through good works. Instead, Paul encourages us to make our very lives an act of worship, which IS a pretty reasonable service given the circumstances.

Verse 19 says, “Never avenge yourselves.” Never! I had always heard “Vengeance is mine” quoted, but the other side of that statement hits home. We are NEVER justified in “getting back” at someone. Never. Not even if it feels fair.

Erin: Customs of this World
Tom: Place to Wrath, Fervent in Spirit
Chloe: Zeal
Steve: Overcome
David: Abhor
Connie: Vengeance Is Mine
Josh: Humble Associate; Hungry Enemy

Continued here!

Clash of the Titans LVIII: Library Internet Censorship

11/4/2007, 2:00 pm -- by | 6 Comments

In this corner, against censoring the Internet in libraries, is Tom!

And in this corner, in favor, is Chloe!

I am in no way in favor of children viewing adult material. I’m not even in favor of the vast majority of adult material. But I am against an adult using the Internet and having it censored.

Censorship’s main problem is the inelegance that defines its operation. To function properly, a censor’s parameters must be defined by a person, and enforced by a machine. This is a less than ideal situation. The first problem is mostly that of scope. There are many ideas on the Internet with which a given librarian may not agree. What’s to stop that crusading librarian from blocking that subject from all patrons, for their “own good”? Restricting access to one arena opens the door wide to restriction for any other, and I fervently believe that the power to restrict people’s access to ideas could and would be misused.

The other problem with censorship is enforcement. A computer is a machine, and as such would make mistakes in enforcing almost any type of censor that could be installed.

A violence filter could block images of religious icons, news articles exposing the savagery of which humans are capable, and even reviews and previews of sweet Lady Hollywood’s newest blockbuster.

A sexuality filter could block access to this article (it does contain the word pornography), websites devoted to the health and safety of young people, and even reviews and previews of sweet Lady Hollywood’s newest blockbuster!

And a profanity filter might decide that your 56-year-old eyes cannot be trusted reading the velvety prose of my erstwhile opponent’s last clash, written back when she still extolled the virtues of free speech.

Friends, a better solution exists. In every public library I’ve ever entered, the computers were fitted with polarizing screen filters. This inexpensive device renders it impossible to see what the screen contained unless you were sitting in a chair directly in front of it. This way, when I’m triumphantly reading my newest clash against sex trafficking, or my latest public service announcement lauding the HPV vaccine, no child will be harmed by the foul language and ideas. To be doubly sure of their safety, a NetNanny-style censor could be activated should a child need to use a computer, as I have no problem restricting the freedom of those little monsters.

Because, remember — they are our future.

I had a librarian in high school named Mr. W. He was old, at least 75, and perhaps the most ill-tempered librarian I’ve ever come across — and I’ve seen some vicious librarians. He commonly yelled at students for talking, and was known for his tendency to throw students out while they were studying or doing research. We were all quite thrilled when he was fired, and we were absolutely triumphant when we found out why. Pornography had been discovered on his work computer. We were right! He was the devil!

But he was a teacher, exempt from the Internet restrictions imposed on students. It was just assumed that, as an adult, he would have the self-control and moral standing to refrain from such behavior.

Clearly, this assumption was wrong.

Library computers exist to assist in research and provide those without access to a computer the opportunity to use the Internet. They are not there to enable people to look at pornography or read about methods of violence. If a person wants to expose himself to such filth, he should get his own computer and do so in his own home. But when a free service is provided by public funds, we have the right to impose restrictions.

Yes, it’s true that at times, censoring can be annoying. There have been occasions when I was doing research, and for some odd reason, Houghton’s filter refused to grant me access to pages due to “adult content,” which was absurd. It’s irksome when you’re doing research on, say, breast cancer or victims of human trafficking, and you’re barred access because of explicit content. It’s inconvenient, but easily remedied. In a library setting, it’s not that hard to either find another website or ask the proctor to lift the restriction for the moment.

Internet censorship in libraries isn’t an impediment on your rights. It’s not a ridiculous attempt by the nanny state to turn you into a moral human being. It’s common sense, because there are people who would use those computers for the sole purpose of viewing explicit or malicious content — and that doesn’t belong on a publicly-run service.


Why We Believe, Vol. 3.14159265

10/27/2007, 12:00 pm -- by | 6 Comments

This and following weekends, we will share the brief salvation testimony of each Bweinh!tributor. Next in line is Tom.

I was recently behind the wheel, in the middle of a two-hour drive, thinking about what I would write for my testimony. I’ve attended a church for as long as I can remember, and have prayed the prayer of salvation a number of times, each in earnest, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember a specific time that could be boiled down into 750 pithy, life-affirming words. I was in a great mood despite it being a rather dreary day weatherwise, but I couldn’t come up with a memory to share that I felt conveyed the importance of having all of my sins forgiven at once. Then, the thought hit – why not this one?

A number of years ago, a fellow giving an altar call at a meeting I attended asked anyone in attendance who had not asked Jesus to forgive their sins and come into their hearts to pray a simple prayer of salvation with him. He then went on to ask anyone who had done so already to pray the same prayer anyway. He told us he took every opportunity to pray that prayer, and if you look at it closely it becomes apparent why. The typical prayer for salvation you see outlined goes something like this:

1. Acknowledge in your heart that Jesus is Lord.

2. Confess that you are a sinner in need of grace.

3. Believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised three days later.

4. Repent of your sins, and ask for His forgiveness.

Each and every point of this simple prayer is as true for me today as the first time I prayed it. Jesus is still Lord. I am still a sinner in need of grace, even if that grace has been extended to me. I still believe that he died, and was raised again. And I still willingly commit sins for which I need to be forgiven. My salvation isn’t a single event, although it does begin that way. I took that opportunity in my car to pray that prayer, and I believe it as important to my life as any I’ve ever prayed.

A life is a lot like a trip, one that takes a lot longer than two hours, and can sometimes be a lot less pleasant than a rainy, 45 degree day. As we take that walk, it’s important not only to remember the steps that got you where you are today, but to consider and take those steps that will keep you on the path on which you’ve started.

Bible Discussion — Romans 8 (Part Two)

10/17/2007, 3:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter in the book of Romans, Romans 8. Romans 8 Day continues!!

Again, joining us as guests are Capt. Steve Carroll, Rev. Dave Maxon, and Maj. Doug Jones!

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

And the book of Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7

Maj. Jones:
There is now no condemnation. Satan can’t condemn. Jesus won’t condemn. We shouldn’t condemn ourselves; unfortunately, we sometimes forget that truth.

This would easily make my top ten list of chapters of the Bible that a Christian should be extremely familiar with.

Freedom from the Law was one thing, but for us to be described not only as children of God, but “joint heirs with Christ,” is an unimaginable honor. We will be glorified together.

What is the difference between foreknowing, predestining, and calling? Why does Paul draw this difference?

Pastor Dave:
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If people ever truly understood the depth of God’s love towards us, it would radically change their Christian experience in a positive way. Gone would be all those nagging thoughts — “He doesn’t love me,” “What did I do wrong to deserve this,” “What am I being punished for,” “Am I saved?” We would all walk with encouraged hearts, full of anticipation, knowing that no matter what’s around the next bend in the road, our ever-present help in time of need, the Lover of our souls, was with us.

Capt. Steve:
At night, when I am putting my son to bed, I often tell him, “Of all the little boys in the whole wide world, your Daddy loves you the best.” What am I going to say if my wife has another boy?

What does it mean for the Spirit to intercede for us with groans?

This chapter presents Christians as “spiritual” people, while Jude presents the wicked as “sensual” people. Are we being led by our senses or the Spirit? All that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — are not of the Father, but of the world (1 John 2:16).

Capt. Steve:
“At the center of it all.” He provided the means of this new life. He Sent His Spirit, who empowers and frees us from sin’s control.

Not condemning, rather, having set us free, He is raised from the dead!

MC-B, Connie, Pastor Dave:
Everywhere — without Him, there is no way that humanity can approach God in order to have the relationship with Him that is detailed by this passage.

This passage is all about Paul trying to understand Jesus!

He is the pattern for the life of this new family, the church, and the giver of the Spirit which animates the life of this new family.

Chloe, Josh:
At the right hand of God, interceding for us.

Maj. Jones:
Jesus is throughout the entire chapter, beginning with freedom from condemnation and sin, making us joint heirs of the kingdom, keeping us firmly in His hands through any and every trial.

In 8:32, being delivered up for us all.

8:18 — “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

8:19 — “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”

8:32 — “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Chloe, Pastor Dave:
8:28 — “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Erin, Connie:
8:38-39 — “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Capt. Steve:
8:6 — “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

8:14 — “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

8:15 — “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ ”

Djere, MC-B:
8:31 — “What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Maj. Jones:
So many verses, so little space — verses 10, 17, 26, 28, 31, and 35-39!

Continued here!

Bible Discussion — Romans 8 (Part One)

10/17/2007, 11:30 am -- by | 3 Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter in the book of Romans, Romans 8. That’s right, it’s Romans 8 Day!!

And not only do we have almost-universal participation, but joining us as guests today are Capt. Steve Carroll, Rev. Dave Maxon, and Maj. Doug Jones!

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

And the book of Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7

This Chapter articulates the key difference between the world and the Christian. The people of this world walk in the flesh, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind” (Eph 2:3) — but “as many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The test to determine which you are is Romans 8:9 — “…ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit if . . . the Spirit of God dwell in you.” You must be born again of God’s Spirit.

Capt. Steve:
This is the kind of passage that I start reading quietly to myself, but by the end of the passage, I am shouting the words at the top of my lungs, and people are sticking their heads in my office to make sure everything is okay. “It’s all fine — I just got a little excited!”

Set free from our slavery to death, we are made God’s beloved children. In a flourish, Paul declares that the calling of the children of God is the crowning moment for all of creation (v. 19-20) and that God’s love for his children never fails (v. 31-39).

This passage contains some of the most important tenets of Christian faith, so I suppose I should probably actually discuss this one, huh?

Maj. Jones:
Whenever I am asked about my favorite portion of Scripture, I always say Romans 8. As I now reflect and ask myself why, I am reminded of the assurance of life, liberty and the source of my joy and contentment.

Pastor Dave:
How yellowed and worn, the edges of the page that holds Romans 8.

Capt. Steve:
The Holy Spirit is praying for us. How does that work?

Verses 38-39 contain a fairly well-known list of things that cannot separate us from God’s love, but the list actually starts in verse 35.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” — The words “for us” are omitted in the NU text. I’d never noticed that before.

The phrase in v. 2: “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free…” Still wrestling with what precisely that means.

The verses preceding Romans 8:28 are the ones that emphasize the Holy Spirit as our Intercessor. I always separate them and use them separately, instead of realizing that His intercession can lead us right to knowing HOW all things in our lives can and will work to our good, as long as we love Him and walk in His calling.

It can’t be wrong or inappropriate to pray for God’s will in a situation — that’s precisely what the Holy Spirit is doing.

Maj. Jones:
Paul begins in verse 35 by asking who, but then lists many whats.

Connie: Sheep for the Slaughter
Capt. Steve: Plan B
Chloe: For Your Sake
Tom: The Pangs; Indwells
Pastor Dave: Glorified; Foreknew
Djere: Firstfruits of the Spirit
David, Mike: Abba
Steve: Peril
MC-B: The Whole Creation
Erin: The Creation Waits
Josh: No Charge; Famine Nakedness Danger

Continued here!

Bible Discussion — Romans 7

10/10/2007, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter in the book of Romans, Romans 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

And the book of Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6

If you believe Paul has been speaking about the purpose of the Law (with a few asides) ever since introducing the subject in chapter 2, then chapter 7 makes more sense — because it becomes a demonstration of what happens when the Law is applied to the flesh, rather than a peek into Paul’s personal failures.

The Law came to produce death, and it still produces death when we try to walk in “the oldness of the letter” as opposed to the “newness of Spirit” extolled in chapter 8.

Look at what happens when we get a challenging chapter — everyone disappears! I bet they come back for the celebration that is Romans 8, but you can’t get there till you struggle through chapter 7!

How much Paul stresses that the Law was an innocent bystander in our murder by sin. At the very least, it seems to be the weapon by which sin brought death, produced evil desires, deceived us and killed us — but still he repeats that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”

Relative complexity of a NKJV translation of 7-12.

The word “oldness.”

Steve: Free
Tom: Will Is Present
Josh: Utterly Sinful; Body of Death
David: Wretched Man

Continued here!

Bible Discussion — Romans 5

09/26/2007, 12:00 pm -- by | 1 Comment

This week, looks at the next chapter in the book of Romans, Romans 5.

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

And the book of Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4

We’re through the tough sledding of the first few chapters and their focus on human depravity — now it’s time for the payoff, which starts right off with the good news — “therefore, having been justified by faith.” The rest is just icing.

Paul builds on his previous chapter to examine the results of our justification: we have peace with God, and our sufferings have new meaning as they eventually produce hope in us. He also compares Christ’s life-giving ministry to the death-giving “ministry” of Adam’s sin.

Paul explains our new position in Christ, and introduces the idea that the law came to show us our shortcomings, so that we might receive God’s grace.

Verses 13 through 17 are one long parenthetical statement in the NKJV…

God intentionally puts us into a process that includes tribulation so that it can produce patience, experience and hope in us. Too bad he didn’t just make those things “gifts.”

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read Romans very closely, but now that I’m carefully trudging through the cryptic sentence structure and overloaded nouns, I’m suddenly finding an astounding comfort in these chapters. God’s Son died for His enemies. I was God’s enemy. I am no longer. Praise the Lord!

How much the chapter stresses Jesus’ humanity — His ultimate sacrifice is death, yes, but being fully man for that to be possible was a huge sacrifice as well.

Verse 10 says we are “reconciled” to God through Jesus’ death, but “saved” by his life. Interesting distinction, though we shouldn’t push it too far, I suppose.

Steve: In Due Time
Erin: Received Reconciliation
Mike: Reconciled
Tom: Imputed
Chloe: Powerless; The Trespass
David: Adam’s Transgression

Continued here!

Clash of the Titans LI: Television

09/25/2007, 12:15 pm -- by | 4 Comments

In this corner, a television supporter, is MC-B!

And in this corner, against TV, is Tom!

We all know that television is a “vast wasteland”; I don’t think anyone would argue against the idea that television producers could use a little more moderation in the schlock they put on the air. Americans as a whole also probably spend far too much time watching television. However, we’re not talking here about trimming a few shows (including MTV in near-entirety), or a few hours watching the tube. We’re talking about whether television as a medium is good or bad. I believe that, as a whole, television has been used for good and has the potential to continue to be used in this manner.

First of all, for pure entertainment, television simply cannot be beat: it’s the cheapest close approximation of life available that is still relaxing to take in. As big a fan as I am of A Prairie Home Companion and the early days of Amos ‘n’ Andy, lack of visuals is a severe setback to their value as relaxing escapes from life. Sure, I can listen to them while driving or cleaning the house, but sometimes I don’t actually want to be doing anything else. Books are nice (easily my second favorite method for relaxing), but sometimes you don’t even want to read. Video games require active input on the part of the viewer and are not optimal choices for everyone’s relaxation. Television is the one medium with enough choices and variety to satisfy all comers.

More importantly, though, is television’s ability to inform us. Where would much of Bweinh!’s readership be without the teachings of Sesame Street? As we grew older, many of us made the switch from PBS to the Discovery Channel, but the medium bringing us information didn’t change. Not only that, but television news continues to be one of the most popular ways to get current, up-to-date information. On the morning of 9/11, where did people turn for the breaking story? Newspapers? No, they turned to television, and TV news delivered as well as could be expected on such a confusing day.

Finally, the following is a brief list of television programs and/or channels that I know are frequent favorites of certain Bweinh! users. No one person probably likes every one of them, but that just serves to illustrate my point about the variety of television serving us all: The Simpsons; The Office; Project Runway/America’s Next Top Model/Top Chef; MythBusters/Dirty Jobs/the Discovery Channel, and the Sci-Fi Channel. Look me in the eye, all of you, and tell me television doesn’t have redeeming qualities.

Television certainly has its drawbacks, but most useful things do. Television should properly be viewed as a tool that can be used for evil or good. As viewers, our viewing habits are our choice, and it would be wrong to blame television for creating some evil along with good.

By way of disclaimer, I am not completely against television. I have spent a great deal of delightfully entertaining time enjoying thought-provoking entertainment with friends and family. In myriad positive ways I have been touched, amused, morally outraged, and pleased by the oases of quality in the bleak landscape of television. However, taken as a whole, television has harmed our culture far more than it has ever helped.

Television encourages complacency. Comparatively speaking, it’s a lot easier to sit on your couch as entertainment is pumped into your home, rather than going out and seeking or making that entertainment on your own. Why read a book when you can have people more attractive than those around you act out a miniature play for your enjoyment? Why do something new when you can share in the experience of literally dozens of other people watching the same program you enjoy?

Even the rare occasions when television moves people to action, there is still a complacent stink about their decisions. The outrage in vogue these days, complaining of the situation taking place in Jena, Louisiana, is being taken up not by people who have thoughtfully examined a number of articles and points of view. Rather, a sorority sister will see a single segment on network news (presented in a manner to most provoke and incite the rabble that constitutes the average viewership), and join with other socially-minded nitwits to protest something they don’t necessarily understand.

Television decreases the attention span. A friend of mine recently suggested I read an article, because it was excellently written. Her paraphrased quote: “You should totally read this! I almost didn’t because it was so long, but I’m glad I did because it was so great!” The article filled a screen and one half in my tiny monitor, and if it had hundreds of words, there were no more than five. Anything not presented in a manic, quick-paced style runs the risk of being completely ignored by your typical person, and television’s ratings-at-all-cost mindset has a great deal to do with that.

In an era of failing schools, sinking test scores, and the prospect of a world stage upon which America plays a background role a very real possibility, I cannot help but consider television’s part in the slide. The few points of light amid the ebony backdrop of reality television, celebrity gossip, and lowest-common-denominator sitcoms cannot provide complete redemption. Television, I name myself your enemy.

But I’m still going to watch Psych.


Clash of the Titans XLVIII: Public Broadcasting

09/7/2007, 12:30 pm -- by | 9 Comments

In this corner, opposing PBS, is David!

And in this corner, supporting it, is Tom!

Public broadcasting is part of an evil plot to subvert our country’s youth by filling their minds with liberal politics, designed to turn them all into leftist car-burning radicals.

That being said though, it isn’t really the main reason I am so opposed to public broadcasting. The main reason is that we tossed all these topics into a hat a while back and I drew this side of the argument.

However, the best reason for opposing PBS or NPR (the nefarious radio arm of the cabal) is the obvious safety concern, highlighted in a study fabricated by the University of Wisconsin during the late 1990’s. Test subjects drove across the country while listening to the soothing sounds of either R&B music or hard rock, in an effort to gauge the effect of the two formats on driver alertness. As you probably have guessed, NPR was used as the placebo. After 33 deaths from NPR listeners falling asleep at the wheel, the study was cancelled. The university is still in litigation over the psychological damage suffered by the test subjects who were not fortunate enough to perish.

The second reason to hate public broadcasting is their TV presence. The problem is actually twofold. One is their programming. Who hasn’t grown tired of watching frumpy people with British accents make their way through intricate plots based on books written 200 years ago? “The sun never sets on the British Empire,” they used to be fond of saying. I guess all that daylight adversely affected the mental composition of the British author, and somehow the British managed to win a rigged bid process, requiring us to watch their endless prattle for the next 3 centuries.

The second, more dangerous, aspect of their TV presence is the dreaded pledge drive. During the pledge drive, whatever “good” movies they have in their back room are dusted off and advertised heavily. Casual TV patrons are drawn in by this ploy, so after they have enjoyed the first half of the classic movie they have been dying to watch for years, the movie is brought to a screeching halt, so a pleasant little fellow in an easy chair can lay on the guilt trip.

“Have you been enjoying this wonderful trip down memory lane? Did you know that the only way we can stay on the air is thanks to contributors like you? Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah — and if you ever want to see the end of this movie, you freakin’ freeloader, get off your lazy butt, open that wallet, and PAY US!!!”

This, by itself, has led to many nervous breakdowns among the viewing public.

Commercial broadcasting is part of an evil plot to subvert our country’s youth by filling their minds with consumerist politics, designed to turn them all into mindless SUV-buying mouth-breathers.

That being said though, it isn’t really the main reason I am so in favor of public broadcasting. The main reason is that we tossed all these topics into a hat a while back and I drew this side of the argument.

Public television has long been a part of my life. Although I’m an outspoken critic of most television, very little of the programming I’ve come across on WPBS (my local affiliate) offended my admittedly delicate sensibilities. Big Bird and the rest of his crew on Sesame Street taught me colors, letters, numbers, and how to take a punch. Mr. Rogers taught me how crayons are made, and the all-encompassing importance of coordinating sweater and sneakers. Even up through college, my roommates would return from their classes on days my schedule lightened to find me transfixed, my entire being a beam of concentration leveled intensely at Simply Ming.

Whether I was appearing on Whiz Quiz with local celebrity Glen Gough, or relentlessly mocking Rod and Reel, public television was always there for me. Would lack of exposure to the brilliance that is Rowan Atkinson in Mr. Bean have made me less of a person? Would having to put up solely with the depravity, inanity, and banality that is a commercial television station have harmed me irrevocably? At this point it’s impossible to tell, but I’d err on the side of caution and give PBS its due in the amalgamation that is Tom.

However, public radio is the medium of the people that lies closest to my cold little heart. Our local National Public Radio affiliate has kept alive the tradition of real radio programming that laid the foundation for all of our media sources today. The landscape of commercial radio today is a barren wasteland of Top-40 nonsense, jaded partisan babblings, and the warbly, self-pitying strains of country stations just aching to get that truck back. NPR fires back with news featuring in-depth reporting, quiz-shows that simply assume their audience is smarter than a fifth-grader, and entertainment programs in which people read (gasp) actual short stories. Oh, the humanity!

Finally, to defend the lowly pledge drive. Without the sale of commercials, public broadcasting is able to keep itself pure, an ivory tower of news, entertainment and information unsullied by the dirtying effects of the almighty dollar. If the price I have to pay for my cooking shows is watching a pledge drive once a quarter, is that too much? I humbly submit that it is not.


Clash of the Titans XLVI: The Drinking Age

08/31/2007, 12:00 pm -- by | 2 Comments

In this corner, saying we should lower the drinking age, is Job!

And in this corner, arguing to keep it at 21, is Tom!

I’ve never had a drink of alcohol in my life. I had it in my mouth once by accident — I was toasting a friend at his wedding and was told it was sparkling cider. I spat it into a bush. This status of complete restraint might seem to make me incapable of making an argument about the drinking age in America, but I disagree; as the kid outside the fishbowl, tapping the glass, I may look oblong and distorted by the refraction, but everything in the tank is clear to me.

And as that boy, I support getting a cute “no fishing” sign, buying a few more colorful rocks, and lowering the drinking age for the guppies.

If you don’t think alcohol is more of a threat to America — physically, mentally, emotionally and socially — than terrorism, then you’re reading this at Miller:30 anyway. It is the fuel for the engine of sin, rending this nation apart with almost surgical precision, through crumbling marriages, sexual hubris, and enough wrecked vehicles and bodies to drive an IED to, well, drink. Bars are our temples, Friday nights the new Sabbath, and the tithe given to this liquid and its orbital vices far in excess of 10%. Alcohol is an immovably entrenched American religion, with zealots of greater number and passion than our own. I can only hope to somehow alleviate alcohol’s oppression and shocking effects.

As I think about this drug, I am most immediately aware of the sheer irresponsibility accompanying its use. Current federal law requires an American to be 21 before imbibing an alcoholic beverage and making a fool of themselves at Jeff’s party — by then, the drinker can vote for 3 years, die for his country for 4, and may be graduating from college (or if Steve Maxon, finishing his doctorate), having babies, and living on his own. This sheer amount of societal load (and expectancy) implies an almost-certain furtive use of alcohol before age 21. This use is best defined as rebellion, usually accompanied by reckless behavior and the instilling of certain attitudes that will forever accompany the use of spirits.

My argument follows a simple equation. (The vast amount of alcohol in our country + its glamorization + the legal restraints on its use) x (Ample access to it anyway) = Almost-universal illegal use, overwhelmingly without parental knowledge or supervision. The parental relationship has always served as the tonic to societal malfeasance, and in light of the immense destruction alcohol causes our country, we must strengthen this relationship.

I would lower the drinking age to 17, and the purchasing age to 18. This would require parental knowledge of its use, with proper instructions and expectations. Perhaps it would even produce an unsettling amount of introspection after seeing its effects on our youth, with a small mirroring effect on an adult’s own use. With a problem as powerful as potent potables, we need to flush the enemy out of the shadows and away from punk kids who meet behind the old mall on Saturdays to share a fifth. As with most societal problems, we need to return the responsibility to parents, rather than relying on a law that tries to do the parenting while neutering a parent’s ability in the same stroke.

Theories abound regarding the benefits of lowering the drinking age in the United States. Proponents laud continental European nations where drinking ages effectively do not exist, yet cultural expectations toward alcohol seem vastly more healthy than America. They cite increased parental involvement with newly legal teen drinkers, leading to a much-needed steadying hand while the youths negotiate difficult terrain. Finally comes the oft and proudly cried, “If you can die for your country, you ought to be able to drink a beer there!” However, these arguments fail to ring true for me.

Nations such as Spain, Portugal, and France are often put forward as the new model for dealing with alcohol in the United States. These Romance- language speaking nations have relatively lax policies toward youth and alcohol, and manage to enjoy low rates of alcoholism and alcohol- influenced crime and death.

However, to claim these laudable statistics came about only because of early exposure of youths to alcohol is ludicrous. England, a country with a long-standing legal drinking age of 18, is widely renowned for the binge-drinking propensities of its young people, at home and abroad. The culture of Iberia and its environs seems steeped in alcohol, and that’s the secret to the apparent lack of youth fascination with it there.

But in the domains of the Anglo-Saxon, a more Puritan view of alcohol has lent it an aura of mystique youths are incapable of escaping. Lowering the drinking age will not result in an overnight change to our nation’s culture, nor a reversal of alcohol’s taboo status.

Claiming that lowering the drinking age will encourage parents to take an active role in teaching their children the proper way to approach alcohol is similarly ridiculous. How can we expect a nation of parents, who through ignorance or apathy ignore the illegal drinking of their children, to step up and oversee their legal drinking? Parenting must be left to the parents, I’ll agree with that every time, but when the life at stake could be an innocent, I’ll let society trump the average parent every time.

Arguing that youths are able to join the armed forces at 17, but must wait four long years to drink legally, seems like disjointed logic. Taking up arms to defend one’s country is a very important responsibility, yet absolutely zero well-founded medical studies have shown military training to have an adverse affect on the development of a teenager’s brain. The miracle that is the millions of electrical connections which together form the seat of our cognition is not fully understood, but what is understood are the facts that the brain continues to evolve well into the twenties, and that it is absolutely, unquestionably and negatively affected by alcohol use.

We are a nation founded on freedoms. But sometimes the greater good to society of decreasing brain damage in the upcoming generation outweighs Junior’s right to tap the Rockies after prom.


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