Saturday, September 29, 2007


Our Thursday night book club wasn't completely without sanctification. I don't mean to mislead. Certainly we were blessed with a feast of KFC chicken, with all the trimmings. Thanks again, Mike! Share those calories, I say.

We also mined a few nuggets from the Wingren book we're currently, um, reading. Most of us. Some of it. Robin claims I haven't gotten her her own copy of the book. What's YOUR excuse?

But I wax lawful. And speaking of the Law: a quote from LUTHER ON VOCATION: Actually, it is Wingren quoting Runestam regarding Luther's understanding of the second application of the law:

"...It is in the conscience that the law is to fulfil its most important role, its usus theollogicus seu Spiritualis (theological and spiritual use), the awakening of sin. It is in the conscience after all that the law is to operate--and thereby effect a good work--in the conscience where it is the uninvited guest." P. 60

Lutherans like to talk about "terrified consciences", as though we stagger into church each week burdened beyond speech. I rather think we collect sin throughout the week like lint, and only are peripherally aware of the burden we bear. And therefore, when our sins are forgiven us, we may only peripherally appreciate the fact of it. Only rarely do we spend a night in terror at our deeds or lack of deeds.
Nevertheless, we do not naturally invite the law into our conscience. It truly is an uninvited guest, soiling our linens and drinking our best wine. WE try to purchase a clean conscience. We try to outwork the law. Or to ignore it. Trying to ignore or appease an unsettled conscience may be mankind's main historic activity: failing to gain a secure conscience by our actions or our philosophies, we try to ignore a soiled conscience by our actions, money, or philosophy.

Think of how rare access to Christ's forgiveness has been for generation upon generation. Rare, due to unbelief. Rare, due to lack of knowledge, because it wasn't understood as being possible or available. For how many millions of people has there been no one to say to them: "I forgive your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit" ? Think how the absence of forgiveness has formed cultures and civilizations.

In THE QUEST FOR HOLINESS by Koberle, man's attempts to storm heaven, to "sanctify himself in God's sight" is described at length:
"The sanctification of conduct by the strengthening of the will; the sanctification of the emotions by a strenuous training of the soul; the sanctification of thought by a deepening of the understanding; moralism, mysticism, speculation, these are the three ladders on which men continually seek to climb up to God..." P 2.
But what else could the world do? What else would YOU do? The plain, simple, obvious answer is too plain, too simple and not obvious at all.


At least, that's what the U.S. Navy is calling today's MySpace generation.

The Navy also calls this generation a "somewhat alien life force".
According to a Wired story about a recent Navy recruiting presentation:
"These kids grew up hearing nothing but praise, all the time, everywhere. Recent childhood has been defined by ego-stroking... [They] can get disgruntled if not praised for simply 'showing up' at work," according to the report, which calls the millenials "a 'coddled' generation."
For some years we have been busy, educationally, neglecting basic academic stuff such as math, reading, writing skills in favor of developing kids with high self-esteem. Who would ever have guessed that this would have led us to having difficulty defending ourselves?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tonight's Book Club

Yeah, pretty much all you need to know about tonight's book club.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


"Speech codes. Censorship. Enforced political conformity. Hostility to diversity of opinion. Sensitivity training. We usually associate such things with the worst excesses of fascism and communism, not with the American universities that nurtured the free speech movement. But American higher education bears a disturbing resemblance to the totalitarian societies that are anathema to our nation's ideal of liberty."
from Indoctrinate U's website

Well, it is no secret that America's universities have been very liberal for a long time. Lib-agenda hatchlings have been issuing forth from the law schools, liberal arts and education departments as a matter of course. What has become increasingly awful however, is the fascist restriction on free speech and ideas that have slowly descended upon our campuses.

A few weeks ago in the mail I received (I'm on one of "those" mailing lists, I guess) literature from a group calling itself the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Inc. Their concern is censorship on campus, and they would appreciate some of my money, of course. According to their brochure, "FIRE defends and sustains the individual rights of students and faculty on our nation's campuses." And good old Milt Friedman is quoted:
"Over the course of a long lifetime, I have witnessed a serious decline in tolerance and respect for freedom in the academy. FIRE is currently the most effective force countering that trend. It deserves the support of every believer in a free society."

Along the sames lines is a new documentary about to have its premier at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Indoctrinate U is a documentary telling a story of the political correctness and controls on speech on campuses around the country. Go here to see an amusing but alarming video outtake filmed at Columbia U in New York.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

of salt mines and energy independence

From James Woolsey, former CIA director and now of the Set American Free Coalition:

Writing in NRO:
Today, no nation sways history because it has salt mines. Salt is still a useful commodity for a range of purposes. We import some salt, so if one defines independence as autarky we are not “salt independent”. But to most of us there is no “salt dependence” problem at all — because electricity and refrigeration decisively ended salt’s monopoly of meat preservation, and thus its strategic importance.

Using salt mines as an example of how strategically dependent this country was on a technology that has become obsolete, Woolsey points to our careless oil dependence as something that we are not necessarily a slave to, though it looks that way now. New technology can, if widespread enough, seriously reduce our dependence on oil. It is not without the realm of possibility that ten or fifteen years from now oil-rich nations will be selling oil as salt-rich nations sell salt today. That is to say: cheaply.

Woolsey describes his organization whimsically as
"A COALITION of tree huggers, do-gooders, sodbusters, cheap hawks, and evangelicals."

Do I find myself in that bunch? Let's see: "Evangelical" as in "Evangelical Lutheran"? Kay. Cheap hawk? That's my middle name, actually. Do-gooder? Got that from my mama. I don't hug trees, but will puppies do? Probably not. And just what exactly is a sod-buster, these days?

Strange bedfellows are part of the American political tradition. At first blush, I think I like this 'un.

Energy--as in the stuff it takes to run our cars, light and heat our houses, power up our computers, our video games, our cell phones, our televisions--has been for the lifetime of most of us a nice, clean convenience. It has been so because it has been very efficiently centralized. Unfortunately, it is centralized in the Middle East. Decentralize it, and suddenly it becomes less convenient, more on our minds. Like the household which heats with wood, decentralized energy won't be as smooth a ride. Instead of just pulling into a gas station and filling it up, we will also have to plug in batteries to get our daily fix of mileage.

The costs to us of cheap, centralized sources of energy are evident. As President Bush says, "We're dependent upon countries that do not particularly like us." We are also slaves to a deeply held belief that is part entitlement and part "we can have it all." Freedom may appear to be free, but sooner or later we are reminded that someone somewhere is paying a price for it.

And in an ironic way, we are the someone, somewhere. As it says on the homepage of the SAF Coalition: "We are fighting a war against terror and paying for both sides of the war."


ALT ENERGY, Updated.

The top four alternative energy resources are: Wind; Synfuel; Solar; Geothermal.

Which one shows the best promise?
Wired has the story.

Of the four, geothermal appears to have the most upside. MIT scientists are refining a process by which cold water is pumped onto hot bedrock. Besides the very bad possibility of causing an earthquake...! Tapping into the energy at the earth's core sounds to me like a millenial winner. And as this can be done anywhere on the planet, the problems of distribution of energy could be minimized.

All of these forms have negatives--just as oil does. Perhaps no one of them will ever be as versatile as oil. And there are downsides to decentralizing energy sources in terms of our personal convenience. Nevertheless, it is great to see sizable sums of money going into R&D in these various alternative forms of energy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mouneer Anis, and Vickie Gene

The Bishops of the Episcopal Church are meeting in New Orleans, and the fractures are deepening.

Mouneeer Anis, the Primate of the church of Jerusalem, yesterday spoke to the American bishops. The bishops are gathered in part to make some sort of statement about appointing openly gay bishops, etc, as a response to the African bishops' requests for clarity on these issues. Finally, finally, finally, someone has stood up and spoken to the real issue behind the gay issue, and that is modern Episcopalian theology and how IT is what is at odds with historic Christianity. In part, Anis said:

"My friends, like you, we want to be relevant to the culture in which we live. More importantly, we want to be salt and light to our societies. That is not an easy calling but it means we must remain distinct and humble at the same time. Without being distinct we cannot be salt and light; without humility we will not represent the one who said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” We are also continuously challenged whether we should allow the culture to transform the Apostolic Faith we once received, or if we should allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our culture as it has in the past."
In other words, you have capitulated to the liberal culture in America, and I'm nicely trying to tell you to wake up. He went on:

"My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very different truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It is not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion."

And then this bombshell:
"We also deeply respect and appreciate our Muslim friends and value our interfaith relations while in no way compromise our faith. I have to tell you that many of these relations were severely strained after your decision to consecrate Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003. We are seen as the new heretics and this has hindered our ecumenical and interfaith relations as well as our mission in the region."
It is hard for a people who are convinced they have found a truth from a god "who is still speaking" to be humble enough to submit to a bunch of ignorant , confessing Africans. Bishop Spong has said as much, and many of his liberal peers have agreed with him.

But it takes one's breath away to read about Mr. Robinson--the American gay bishop who is at the center of the worldwide controversy--speaking to the Archbishop of Canterbury. His rebuke came after the Archbishop told a meeting of bishops in New Orleans that they have to balance their gay activism with concern for the worldwide communion. This caused Vickie Gene to retort that '"for Dr Williams to present the situation as a choice between fidelity to gays and fidelity to the Communion is one of the most dehumanising things I have heard in a long time," and he wanted no part of it. See here for more of that story.

I think the worldwide Anglican conservatives are pretty clear about where the American Episcopalians stand. That relationship is toast. What remains to be seen is what the wide belt of fence-sitters--western conservatives and moderates--will do in light of the continued abrasive insistence on this unhistoric, unorthodox, rebellious direction TEC has taken. Check out The Midwest Conservative Journal for updates and somewhat sardonic commentary.

Ken Burns' THE WAR

"When a man dies, it's like a library burning down."

So Ken Burns sums up the sense of urgency he felt in preparing his latest, seven part documentary. This time his subject is War II, and more than 1,000 veterans of that war are dying every day. Each one takes a piece of the story with him.

Telling war stories is as old as war, so that's been a stock fireside activity since Eve and Adam left Eden. And War II is ground that has been searched and researched almost too much. It remains however a fascinating time, not the least because of the war stories our fathers and grandfathers have told us. Burns' approach has been to sidestep the well-trodden ground of generals, tactics, Nazis, and to focus on four US communities and what impact the war had on them. The four are Waterbury, Conn; Mobile, Ala; Luverne, Minn; and Sacramento, Calif. I'll let you guess what the Sacramento story will focus on.

A few years ago I did some work for an elderly man who had just moved with his wife to Madison. When I walked in his door, I noticed several model versions of the American fighter plane F4U Corsair. He'd flown them in the Pacific, and pointed out that all of the museum models today display the actual numbers of the plane he'd flown. As his wife looked on patiently, he talked me through his experiences flying these difficult-to-maintain machines. It was obvious he missed it badly.

The War series by Burns begins Sunday night on PBS, and runs through October 2. Having done really great jobs with the subjects of the Civil War and Baseball, I expect this to be well worth watching as well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Chatham House Rule

Chatham House in London, since 1920 a (safe) meeting place for dignitaries to discuss world issues, is soon to be back in the news.

The unique setting was originally conceived as a place for Anglo-American discussions with the goal of preventing war, a noble cause that arose out of the very recent memories of the horrors of War I.

One of the important elements of the institution is something called The Chatham House Rule, which states:

"When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed".

The idea is to free participants to speak freely as individuals; people who if otherwise speaking publicly would be representing an organization, church, or government. The Rule has actually been invoked worldwide, but has Chatham House as its source. And at Chatham House, it is taken very seriously. What is fascinating about the Rule is that it places a moral burden on participants that can only be enforced through censure.

My first thought is: This would be a really great idea for synods to adopt. Thinking about tinkering with, say, your Doctrine of the Ministry statement? It might be a good idea to gather interested parties to Have At It for a week or two under the Chatham House Rule. What happens in Chatham House stays in Chatham House!

You could call it the Let Down Your Hair Rule, except that would be more American than Anglo. And speaking of hair-letting:

It is under the Chatham House Rule that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will soon be celebrating a "secret" communion service with gay clergy and their partners.
The Times of London has the story here.

In light of the fact that Archbishop Williams will soon be attending the gathering of Episcopal bishops in New Orleans to try to save that communion from splintering, and in light of the fact that he's sent out hundreds of invitations to next year's Lambeth Conference but isn't getting many back because he's invited the Americans, this latest is simply amazing. To the worldwide Anglican communion it will be like setting a match to a very dry, very large copse of wood.

HT: Get Religion

Baseball at Year's End

At mid season I wrote that I wasn't at all sure the young players on the Milwaukee Brewers would be able to stand up to a full year of pressure. Having suffered through twenty-five years of mediocrity, I was not about to get my hopes up that these kids could hang in there with the Cards and the Cubs for an entire season.

It was ugly, but they've done it. With less than two weeks left in a very irregular season, the Brewers trail the Cubs by one game. These two teams' fans have been scoreboard watching for six weeks, just awaiting the five-game losing streak, or seven- game winning streak that would create some separation between them. But this never happened, and one team or the other has been gnawing at the leader's heels for two months. As I said: some ugly baseball at times.

The Brewers have the rougher road the rest of the way. They have no off days --the Cubbies have two--and finish up five more games on the road before coming home for seven, the last four against the San Diego Padres, who will absolutely be fighting for a playoff spot themselves. That four game series will be as intense and exciting as the playoffs. For one of those teams, it WILL be the playoffs!

The worst thing about all of this is my two sons perched in Korea just now, who will miss watching the games with me. I have many fond memories of the boys hanging out in the living room, Colin usually doing some Greek translation at the same time he's keeping an eye on the game. Well boys! Don't miss this next two weeks! I'll sure miss watching the games with you. Robin just hasn't shown the interest you guys showed.

The second worst thing: Ed Veith and I used to take in half a dozen games a year when he was in the state. Lots of great baseball talk, vocation talk, culture talk, and brats. I remember a late September sixteen-inning game back at the old County Stadium. It was cold. Ed had a winter coat on. By the twelfth inning, including Colin, Jeremy, Ed and me, there were twenty two people in the entire upper deck (which held 28,000 when full). Do you have any idea what that means??? It means foul balls were ours for the chasing down and stuffing in our pockets. What a night. The home team won, too! Ed Veith has a hard and fast rule: you never, ever leave the game until it's over. Some vestigial red-dirt Oklahoma custom, I suppose. Anyway, I miss those times as well.

Finally: my Second Favorite Onion Headline: "Prince Fielder Dies of Inside-the-Park Home Run". I saw Prince's ITPHR this year, and it truly looked like he was ready to die when he finally reached home!

Monday, September 17, 2007


Anke woke up today to find the other ear standing up bravely and pretty much permanently. Well, I'm not sure she is aware of it, except in the mildest, densest, peripheral manner. But she's now a DOG!

Two ears up to ya, Anke!

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Pope and Bad Church Music

It seems Protestants and Lutherans aren't the only ones who have had to suffer through generations of bad contemporary music. The Catholics may have invented the form, in fact. But Pope Benedict is taking a new direction, and sending some fairly clear signals in his acts of commission and omission.

A. He boycotted a performance of Christian pop music in Loreto last week. Stayed secluded in a shrine praying, did he.

B. In Vienna last Sunday, Benedict celebrated mass with a complete performance of Haydn's Mariazeller Mass (Well, the subject matter does not appeal, but the music, the music!). Intends to make a habit of it, he does.

C. Word on the street is that the papal master of ceremonies is retiring. Accused of introducing elevator music into the liturgy, he also modernized the papal liturgical garb. Benedict may find a way back from there soon. Look for fiddleback chasubles to make a comeback.

More here.

Of Anthems and Postmodernism

Spain's national anthem has no words. This is a strange situation for a major country in which to find itself. For one thing, schoolchildren tend to fill the wordless vacuum with unsavory lyrics. Which takes the situation from strange to absurd.

What is more absurd is when postmodern poets try their hand at writing official lyrics. As Matt T points out in this Get Religion article, just what are they going to say? "We don't really believe in anything, but motherhood and peace come to mind. La. La la. La. Oh, and Love!" The list of what can't be spoken of proudly in a European country today is rather long: God, religion, national pride, the military, victory of any kind, God. That narrows it down to....well, let's see what the Spaniards have come up with. Here is the winning entry to an online contest run by a Spanish television station, by a poet named Enrique Hernandez-Luike:

Mother homeland, arms linked
in a sign of peace, our voices raised.

All your children at the foot of the flag
and in freedom, with the Constitution.

Art and strength, combination of cultures
firm pedestal of a triumphant people.

Hand of Europe outstretched to the whole world,
bow in the sea to the wind of Love.

So much for Allons enfants de la patrie...

Art and strength? Are we just free-associating here? Ah, art and strength represents "a combination of cultures" perhaps? And this is the Spanish national anthem. You know, the "Hand of Europe". Bow in the sea to the wind of Love. Who is going to fight this people's next war?

Here is another tortured sampling of a multicultural organization's attempt to chart a course for itself through hymnody. This is the United Nation's unofficial anthem, circa 1971:
Eagerly, musician.
Sweep your string,
So we may sing.
Elated, optative,
Our several voices
Playfully contending,
Not interfering
But co-inhering,
For all within
The cincture
of the sound,
Is holy ground
Where all are brothers,

None faceless Others,
Let mortals beware
Of words, for
With words we lie,
Can say peace
When we mean war,
Foul thought speak- fair
And promise falsely,
But song is true:
Let music for peace
Be the paradigm,
For peace means to change At
the right time, as the World-
Goes Tick- and Tock.
So may the story
Of our human city
Presently move
Like music, when
Begotten notes
New notes beget
Making the flowing
Of time a growing
Till what it could be,
At last it is,
Where even sadness
Is a form of gladness,
Where fate is freedom,
Grace and Surprise.

It may have--I dunno--lost something in translation.
But in any language: that, ladies and gentlemen, is about all you need to know about the United Nations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I'd like to refer you to two recent articles that blunt the cutting edge of the global warming craze. This sort of input, of course, does nothing for Al Gore's bottom line. But Al isn't apparently interested in a lot of studies that disagree with his worst-case scenarios.

Like just about everyone, I'm no scientist. So we have to rely to a large extent on what scientists have to say when it comes to global climate change. However, when it is apparent that scientists also have agendas, then the ice is a bit thinner, trustwise. And everyone has agendas. So moving cautiously in this area necessarily involves being highly suspicious of outrageous claims and hyperbole. Which is much of what we get from many global warming proponents.

In 2001, Bjorn Lonborg wrote The Skeptical Environmentalist, a more positive, data-driven evaluation of the global warming situation. He's back with another book,entitled Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming.
Lonborg admits that human activity is contributing to global warming. He just isn't ready to sign on with the over-the-top solutions being promoted by Al and friends. Jonathan Adler has the story here.

I don't know what Earthtimes is, but it has a similar "cool it" article which sheds a bit more acidrain on the globalwarmingmaniacs. In this article, someone actually did a survey of peer-reviewed literature on the subject of GW in order to assess just who and how many are saying what about it. A bit surpringly, over 500 scientists have published articles refuting in some way some aspects of the global warming menagerie of scary stories. One of the authors of the study:
"We have had a Greenhouse Theory with no evidence
to support it-except a moderate warming turned into
a scare by computer models whose results have never
been verified with real-world events," said co-author
"On the other hand, we have compelling evidence of a
real-world climate cycle averaging 1470 years (plus or
minus 500) running through the last million years of
history. The climate cycle has above all been moderate,
and the trees, bears, birds, and humans have
quietly adapted."

My guess is, twenty or thirty years down the lane, we'll look back on
these "Computer models" and marvel at how crude they were. "And
to think we were poised to act radically on these studies!" But I'm no

HT to Theodore

Tuesday, September 11, 2007



Futurism has always been an iffy business. From Christian fundies predicting the end of the world to Industrial Revolution philosophers predicting that anything of any value had already been discovered, looking into the future with certainty has never enjoyed a lot of success.

The latest version of Galadriel's Basin is science based, of course. It is called The Singularity, and is described as "the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence." Now, we've been here before, if only at the movies. And it has not heretofore been a very pretty picture. The general theme runs along the lines of machines making slaves of human beings. As in the movie The Matrix, some insightful, out-of-touch-with-the-Reality-they-want-you-to-buy-into, rebellious humans strive to find a way to overcome the monsters their predecessors had created.

According to these people, there will soon(er or later) be a confluence of technologies, among them AI and "brain-computer interfaces", which will enable the human mind to be...more than the human mind. The article matter-of-factly points out what ought to be obvious to most of us slouches, to wit: "...the last genuine improvement to intelligence was a hundred thousand years ago." Says so right here.

So what are the implications? Interestingly, these folks aren't sure.

"Combine faster intelligence, smarter intelligence, and recursively self-improving intelligence, and the result is an event so huge that there are no metaphors left. There's nothing remaining to compare it to."

Well, there is the Creator, of course, but that would take all of the fun out of it, wouldn't it?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Burning Man "Man"

The man behind Burning Man is Larry Harvey. He's the one who said back in 1986 or so, "Hey, let's burn a statue on the beach!"

The guy has some pretty interesting ideas about culture. I think I agree with many of them. And if you read this 1998 Burning Man speech by The Man, you might find a few things to nod your head at also. A taste:

The fact that 5 million people consume the same beverage at the same time doesn't mean a thing. We've created this world in which — they do these demographic studies, and they find out people think they want, and then in a kind of seance they summon up before you the Ghost of Your Own Desire and they sell it to you. And it doesn't connect you to anything. It connects you to your own individual desires, and then it turns out as it so often does in life, that what you wanted wasn't what you needed. So we spend all our time now, consuming stuff, consuming these dream images that nourish us spiritually like Styrofoam pellets. They don't do us any good.
Ok, that's the negative proposition. Sounds really familiar. Here's something more positive:

People come out here, and all their lives they've said to themselves, "I'd realize my vision, except for circumstance. It's my family, I don't have training, I don't know anyone, I don't have capital. Otherwise I'd do it." Then they come out here and they see other people coming in here who have miracled up worlds out of nothing. And they did it through cooperating, and collaborating, and creating resources. You go back home and you think, "Well, that was a lot of bullshit. I was the only person stopping myself." And that's really the fundamental basis for our growth.
And finally one last little touch:
Now I've said this again and again and I'm going to keep saying this till I die, that this thing called 'culture' is a naturally occurring phenomenon. It just happens. You can't plan it, and you can't control it — anymore than you can control the flow of a river or the growing of a blade of grass — you can't do it. It's something that we as animals are adapted to do and we spontaneously do it under certain social conditions.
I say nothing here about the futility of trying to create the conditions for the peaceful development of culture on a global scale. It is a part of man's primal condition that Mr. Harvey doesn't want to acknowledge that is the stumbling block. Yet he makes the good point that we do all hanker for community in some really profound sense, and spend our days in search of it.


That pretty well describes the Burning Man Festival, held yearly the week leading up to Labor Day in the playa of the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

The organizers of this yearly event describe it as "an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance".

The radical self-reliance is laid on people by its location in the desert, which in late August is a furnace and dust extravaganza. Getting 45,000 people back to the garden takes an amazing amount of organization, and costs an estimated $222 per person. Applying good intentional socialist doctrine to their event, people can pay on a tiered system, somewhat according to how much they have or feel like paying.

The Burning Man people even have a list of ten guiding principles, which include such radical chic as: decommodification, radical inclusion, and immediacy. Dude.

Back in the late eighties--ancient history--a couple of California boys looked at each other and said, "Let's burn a man on the beach!" Makes sense to me. And they did. A--well--a stick man, that is. What started out as just a cool beach thing: fire, water, wind (What young lady can resist dudes burning a stick man on the beach after sunset--am I right here?), has now turned into a massive open-sourced modern day Woodstock, except everyone is a performer, and no one merely observer. Even if you have to have a ticket to get in.

So the first idea was just this fun cool experience. There was no philosophy, no New Age implications to a glorified fire on a beach. It is somehow inevitable, however, that a "Burning Man" event will accrue special, nuanced meanings as time goes on. Now we have talk of the "Community of Burning Man"; the "Art of Burning Man"; "Burners Without Borders". It is now an art extravaganza, and as you might imagine attracts every sort of free-thinker that America has been able to produce. Some element of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome -meets-Easy Rider is at work here. There is that strange phenomenon of wealthy, powerful nations: a sizable population of adults who refuse to grow up.

Except for the fact that I'd be breaking a major rule of nonparticipation, I'd love to sit and watch this for a day and a night. I'm sure it would rival Rio on Fat Tuesday for bizarre characters. I suspect the population sleeps in, mornings. Interestingly, because of the stark environment, alcohol and other trip-makers are fairly actively discouraged. Gettin' high on the desert and all that lovin' vibe seems to suffice. "We achieve being through doing" is one of many mantras of the Burning Man people. "Community" as an idealized entity is deified. The real world is refered to as "The Default World".

But here's the thing: it only lasts a week. To try to sustain it would be impossible. In one week, it is possible for all beautiful possibilities to be sought, for all spiritual systems to commingle. The dark side of human nature--sin--can be held at bay to a large extent. What results is pure experience, a Nevada mountain high that tastes of heaven for many a west coast pilgrim.

They're spiritual, not religious. Catherine Gacad, a Catholic who has attended the event, makes sure that her religious practice is not in evidence there.
“There is this mind-set that Burning Man and burners are open and welcoming. That’s true to a certain extent, but I find that people have to be spiritual and liberal to be accepted. I’m not spiritual, I’m just plain religious.”
So. The BM Community probably wouldn't immediately warm to an overweight, pasty-white middle-aged Lutheran guy wearing a New Reformation Press t-shirt reading Simul Iustus et Peccator on its front. Just a guess.

Friday, September 7, 2007

"No Inklings" Book Club Potshots

Yes, that's sushi. It was warmly received by roughly 67% of the book club members. And that is Neil Bartlett, giving his "V For I-Ate-Sushi-And-Lived-To-Talk-About-It" sign. Next to Neil is his son Zeke, of Mental Llama blog fame, wearing his infamous Weak On Sanctification teeshirt.

We're doing Gustav Wingren's Luther On Vocation, which isn't as easy as it looks whilst wolfing down raw prawn with hot mustard.. The box in front of Neil in the photo once housed a bottle of wheat whiskey, which was received warmly by roughly 80% of the book club members. And all of this raw fish, coconut juice, tamari, and whiskey was provided by our good friend Mike, who will one day get his own very special posting on this very blog.

But what of that? The book topic is wonderfully interesting. Discussing it in any kind of structured format is a bit more difficult. Given the amount of time we have committed to the project, we're reduced to focusing on those passages that I've bothered to underline. Yes, it is a bit haphazard, but we have managed to mine some nice nuggets from the book. And Scott has discovered that, by and large, he underlines many of the same passages I do. Which must mean something.

Some choice quotes by Wingren from our discussion last evening:

"Only as the old man, still under the law, does the Christian ask about the righteousness of his works. Faith and the new man know only one righteousness: the forgiveness of sins..." P. 45

"There is nothing more delightful and lovable on earth than one's neighbor [Well, we joked about that a bit, to be honest...]. Love does not thnk about doing works, it finds joy in people; and when something good is done for others, that does not appear to love as works but simply as gifts which flow naturally from love. Love never does something because it has to [which engendered a discussion of "guilt" and those gifts which keep on giving...]. It is permitted to act. And earth 'with its trees and grass' is the site of man's vocation. He who has the Holy Spirit knows it by the fact, among others, that in faith and gladness he fulfills his vocation. He rejoices in his labor." P. 43-44.

"To be sure, the law seeks to bring love under its control and prescribe for it rules and suitable ways of dealing with the neighbor, which befit a Christian. The law would like to 'make of love a servant girl' [Whazzat mean? asked Neil] instead of the queen which it really is. But what chance does the law have? Its business is to compel (grudging) attention to one's neighbor..." P. 47.

Next up for the intrepid No Inklings: Wingren's take on Luther's Cross And Desperation. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pecha Kucha For Lutherans

Twenty slides for twenty seconds tells your tale. Is it performance art or sports for designers? And why not make the topic, say, Christian vocation? Someone call Higher Things! This has possibilities!

A few years ago, two designers, Astrid Klein and Marc Dytham came up with an arts event format they called Pecha Kucha (A Japanese term for "chit-chat")(and pronounced "peh-chak-cha") which has been sweeping the globe in certain "arts/designers " circles. I imagine it has become completely passe by now in those circles, which means it is just the right time for it to become hot in Lute-ran circles.

You can read more about it here, but the idea is to say all you have to say in twenty vignettes lasting twenty seconds, via powerpoint slide (and music, I suppose). Now were we to apply this to, say, the entire Old Testament, or topics such as Vocation, the Book of Revelation, The Book of Concord, or What I Did At Jesus Camp, it could make for an interesting and thoroughly entertaining evening.

But would it be art?

Book Club: prepare your dvd's!

Here is another site that features Pecha Kucha

Monday, September 3, 2007


If you like and have missed LUTHER AT THE MOVIES, you'll love this.
He writes about the book my buddhist lesbian chiropractor keeps trying to get me to read.

"Luther "also has a secret!

Sunday, September 2, 2007


"The Veterans' Administration (VA) will provide, upon application, a headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of most deceased veterans."

This from a religious tolerance website article on lawsuits trying to force the VA to add the Wiccan symbol to its list of approved icons for vet's gravestones.

They will also provide an emblem of the religious affiliation of the deceased, taken from an approved list.

There are 38 symbols on the list so far. I'm thinking: given the wide diversity of the list, how can the VA possibly object to a Wiccan symbol?

Here is the list:

VA form 40-1330 states that certain optional items, which "may be inscribed at Government expense," may include "an authorized emblem reflective of one's belief." Section 11: "Desired Religious Emblem" gives the applicant five options:

bulletNo symbol.
bullet1. Latin Cross - Christian; generic.
bullet2. Wheel of Righteousness - Buddhist.
bullet3. Star of David - Jewish.
bulletOther: Shown on the back of the form are:
bullet4. Presbyterian cross.
bullet5. Russian Orthodox cross.
bullet6. Lutheran cross.
bullet7. Episcopal cross.
bullet8. Flaming chalice: Unitarian Universalist.
bullet9. United Methodist Church cross.
bullet10. Aaronic Order Church.
bullet11. Latter-day Saints: Angel Moroni with horn.
bullet12. Native American Church of America: Teepee with three feathers.
bullet13. Serbian Orthodox: cross.
bullet14. Greek Cross: similar to the Red Cross.
bullet15. Baha'i: 9 pointed star.
bullet16. Atheist: A stylized symbol of an atom with the letter A in the center.
bullet17. Islam: A crescent and star.
bullet18. Hindu symbol.
bullet19. Konko-Kyo faith.
bullet20. Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now called the Community of Christ): A child between a lion and lamb.
bullet21. Sufism reoriented symbol.
bullet22. Tenrikyo church symbol.
bullet23. Seicho-no-ie symbol.
bullet24. The Church of World Messianity symbol.
bullet25. United Church of Religious Science symbol.
bullet26. Christian Reformed Church: Cross and triangle.
bullet27. United Moravian Church: Lamb carrying flag.
bullet28. Eckankar: Stylized letters "EK"
bullet29: Christian church - generic: A cup.
bullet30: Christian & Missionary Alliance: a cross, chalice, crown and pitcher
bullet31: United Church of Christ: a crown, cross and world symbol
bullet32: Humanism: a stylized image of a human.
bullet33: Presbyterian Church, USA: A flaming cross
bullet34: Ixumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii: A hexagon surrounding a symbol
bullet35: Soks Gakkai International - USA: A complex symbol
bullet36: Sikh: The Khanda symbol; three swords and a rink
bulletListed separately because of copyright restrictions:
bulletUnited Church of Christ.
bulletChristian Science: cross and crown.
bulletIslam: Five pointed star. 4
I'm also thinking: Eckankar? Sufism? Seicho-no-ie?? I wouldn't recognize Seicho-no-ie if I met it on the street. I have to think that, as religions go, Wiccan is more mainstream than any of these. But that's just me.

Can you find yours? And just what IS the "Lutheran Cross" anyway? Are all of the synods on board with this?