Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Equality Ride 2007

Looks like the Equality Riders won't be coming back to ACU this year. But they will be at Baylor...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Question #4: Zephyrs

Anyone remember the name of that church song with the line about the "gentle zephyrs"?

Definitive Answer: As expected, my mom and dad figured it out.

The song is Beulah Land. Interestingly enough, in our old songbook the first line was changed to "I've reached the land of love divine".

Beulah Land by Edgar P. Stites

I’ve reached the land of corn and wine,
And all its riches freely mine;
Here shines undimmed one blissful day,
For all my night has passed away.

    * Refrain:
    O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
    As on thy highest mount I stand,
    I look away across the sea,
    Where mansions are prepared for me,
    And view the shining glory shore,
    My heav’n, my home forevermore!

My Savior comes and walks with me,
And sweet communion here have we;
He gently leads me by His hand,
For this is Heaven’s borderland.

A sweet perfume upon the breeze,
Is borne from ever vernal trees,
And flow’rs that never fading grow
Where streams of life forever flow.

The zephyrs seem to float to me,
Sweet sounds of Heaven’s melody,
As angels with the white-robed throng
Join in the sweet redemption song.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Son My Executioner

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a reading by the U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall.

The Poet Laureate is almost 80, and doesn't move too quickly. He sat behind a long, narrow table covered with a white tablecloth, and occasionally, when he got involved in a poem, his foot would poke, poke, poke at it.

I enjoyed his poetry. Listening to a thoughtful, eloquent lector made me feel like I was participating in something important and mysterious, and when he finished, I felt like I'd been to church. As far as feelings go, I haven't been to church in quite a while.

Here's one of his early poems, written about his first child.

My Son My Executioner

My son, my executioner,
  I take you in my arms,
Quiet and small and just astir
  And whom my body warms.

Sweet death, small son, our instrument
  Of immortality
Your cries and hungers document
  Our bodily decay.

We twenty-five and twenty-two,
  Who seemed to live forever,
Observe enduring life in you
  And start to die together.

Friday, February 16, 2007



I think a fuse in my brain just blew. And nobody else is likely to understand why. But here's my attempt at an explanation.

Jack Whelan just said this:

The encounter with the Christ is an experience of insemination in the Matthew 13 sense (parable of sower, mustard seed, etc.). This seed has a subversive effect within the soul life of those who are inseminated, and they find that if they nurture its germination in the right way, a new regime grows within.

This was a marginal point within his post about postmodern Catholicism.

Now briefly: The idea of "seed" is an ancient idea, an archetype that goes way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way back. It may be so old that it's actually genetic rather than just memetic. It's all tied up with life and death, with dying to live again, with harvest gods, with Jesus, with sex. And, as hinted at in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, the idea of seed is all tied up with modern things, too, particularly potentially world-changing technologies such as genetics and nanotech.

Another primary theme in The Diamond Age is subversiveness ... the idea that things change for the better primarily because of tiny changes that happen out of public view, and perhaps in opposition to public norms.

Those two ideas rattle around in my head fairly often. I know they're really important ideas, but I'm not sure why. So anything that talks about "seed" or "subversion" will light up my pattern-matcher.

Particularly things that also talk about "Matthew", and my lucky number, "13".


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Question #3: Regarding Social Norms

Say you, personally, wanted to change a social norm. In light of the last 100 years of American history, what method would you use to make that change?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Question #2: Regarding Artificial Intelligence

Why is it so hard to design a machine that can make free, undetermined choices?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Question #1: Regarding the Shoah

In Jewish history, is the Holocaust effectively the opposite of the Exodus?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Heavens to betsy

I've written a little lately about books I've been reading, but what about the books I haven't been reading? Specifically, what about the book my wife is reading about Chinese Christians in the early 1980's, The Heavenly Man?

Because I'm not reading this book, I only know what my wife tells me. And basically, she tells me that it sounds kind of like the New Testament. Church leader gets put in prison, hears a voice, his hands are loosed, and he walks out of the prison, making a miraculous leap to the top of a wall and a miraculous leap across a sewage-filled moat to complete his escape. Back home, his wife has had a vision that he has been captured, and the church has been praying and fasting on his behalf.

Yeah, sounds like the New Testament. But the Book of Mormon sounds a lot like the Old Testament.

I say that, not because I have any good reason to believe these things didn't happen, but because I'm kind of afraid that they did.

Why am I afraid?

I'm afraid because thousands of African Christians didn't walk away from their murderers.

Because thousands of men, women and children didn't walk through tsunamis unharmed.

Because 6 million Jews didn't walk out of Nazi death camps.

In other words, I'm afraid that I'm going to believe that these things actually happened, which will force me into Dostoyevsky's corner, where I have to admit twin propositions like:

1. God exists and acts in the world

2. God only acts on the behalf of those who tickle God with prayers, or fasting, or whatever gets God off.

For me, this is the basic problem with special providence and supplicatory prayer. Can we call God "good" if God only rescues those who recite the proper incantations ... or are lucky enough to have wives back home, reciting the incantations on their behalf? And if this capricious, megalomaniacal God really were the God of the universe, could we morally justify worshipping it?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A few bucks for things she needed

So a few of us are up at the church building this morning, getting lunch ready. Woman walks in and tells me about how she got jumped at the bus station. Shows me her broken glasses. Tells me how the nice bus people reinstated her ticket, thank the Lord, but now she needs some help for the trip to Dallas.

Sorry, I tell her. I don't ever give anybody cash.

Which I don't.

Buying food instead of giving people cash may take a bit longer, but it's darn hard to trade Chicken Express for drugs or booze. And I was pretty sure that this woman wasn't headed to Dallas, but to the crack house down the street. Her story wasn't very good. Her heart wasn't in it. She didn't want to lie to me. Really, he just wanted a couple bucks to buy whatever it was she needed to make her feel better for a little while, to forget whatever she needed to forget.

So she turned down my offer of food to take with her, because food wasn't really what she needed. She left looking tired and sad, telling me, as she walked out the door, that she hoped I would have a nice day.

But I wouldn't have a nice day. I had called her bluff, and for some reason, I felt pretty bad about it.

I used to think giving people drug money was patently bad, but now I'm starting to wonder. Maybe some people legitmately need drugs. And rather than pretending that what they need is food, maybe I should think about offering them ... safer drugs. I mean, really: life looks pretty bleak sometimes, and we cope the best way we know how. Street kids in Central America sniff glue, because it makes their hunger go away. Maybe Texans do meth, crack, or whatever because it's the relief they have access to.

In other words, maybe people do meth because they can't get Prozac.