Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Chirp Chirp

Excuse me while I examine my navel...

"Chirp Chirp" is either the sound of the crickets or the car alarm being armed - in this case, it represents a hiatus from posting. I took a hiatus from school once and was never able to return. Perhaps that won't be the case here.

It occurs to me that my readership of this blog is next to nothing and I've been wondering if I can find something else a little more important to waste my time on. For example, I can get back to writing music that people won't listen to. I can also develop classes that people won't attend. I can paint paintings that people won't look at and do research that will never be published. I have long dreamt of serving on a mission field only to find that the door remains closed to me.

The one thing I do that seems to mean anything to anyone else is performing arts. I don't get a big reaction out of my own music, but I have been encouraged to perform other people's music. Frankly, I don't know what people see in me on stage. I know I can get up and open my mouth and later people say how much they like to hear me sing. I seem to do pretty well at drama, too. Actually, I'm a little disturbed by the attention. In a way, t's encouraging, but I certainly don't deserve any of it. The reality is I'm not good enough to make a career at it as much as I would like to. I don't have any exposure to the music industry and I don't have any resources or contacts. I certainly don't know where to find them. One thing's for certain - I don't rule the stage. I understand jazz great Wynton Maralis used to hate the stage. Some gigs he would stand behind a closed curtain and stick the bell of his horn through and play that way. I share the sentiment, not for any hatred of a group of people, but because of the tension between the need to be encouraged and the need to not accept any praise for myself.

I suppose I could come back to this in short order if I find that more people read this than show up on the hit counter. Most likely, that's not the case. When I do return to the blogosphere, I will most likely revamp the site, as well as my approach, in an attempt to make it more appealing.

Until then...

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Appeal of Competitive Sports

The news is creeping up on me again, but I feel compelled to write on a couple of more personal items. The first involves my view on sports.

I came to a realization lately that I don't understand the appeal of competitive sports. That doesn't mean that I've never played before. When I was young, I participated in gym. We played some iceless version of Hockey, Volleyball, Tennis, War ball and Kickball. Later at school we played Football, Softball and Basketball.

Most of the sports I've played, however, were of the backyard variety. Before my dad remarried after my mom died, I didn't play much in the way of sports. My brother and I may have played tag with the neighbors or rode our bikes around, but we just didn't do much in the way of sports. After we moved, our stepbrother loved to play all kinds of sports. He would go around the neighborhood and drum up a game - and he would start with us. We played everything from 2-man teams of football on a full-sized field to 11-man teams of basketball on a quarter-court. Of course, the rules were pliable and constantly in debate. The thing was that for me this was always just something to do on a lazy weekend or summer day.

I observe sports-minded people. Spectators talk about teams, players, statistics and who won the last game. I observe athletes and they seem to talk more about the analysis of the game. I hear sportscasters talk about both. Therefore, there seems to be two venues for enjoyment of the game: the athlete and the spectator, with the sportscaster as the arbiter of information and analysis.

It may be true that some athletes are in simply for the money. They play because they can. I can't imagine just going out to the field if there is no "love for the game," so there must be some enjoyment they get out of it. They work, trying to make themselves the best they can in order to win the game. They build muscle, practice skills, and develop teamwork (if they play on a team) and go to the game to demonstrate their prowess. They pit their work against opponents who have likewise honed themselves for such moments of trial. The result is that one will emerge victorious and the other will sink in defeat - unless it's a sport where ties are allowed. The end. What kind of end is this? You either win or you lose and then you go home. There is not sense of continuity - except that you may have another game where you either win or lose and then you go home. At the end of the season, you may get to play a few more games where you either win or you lose and then you go home. If you win it all, you get fame and glory - until next season where everything and everyone goes back to square one. Nevertheless, you just go home. For more rigorous sports, you may contract a lifetime of medical problems. For less rigorous sports, you may retire quietly from professional competition.

So what is the appeal? An athlete spends considerable effort only to face opponents with whom he may have friendships or harbor rivalrous animosity. He may have a team with whom he has built close ties and friendships - but this is not exclusive to sports. Is sports a means for exerting the aggression of a fallen world in a controlled environment? if so, then "sportsmanship" would be a code of ethics founded in the need for a sinner to display self-disciplined control, that is to subject himself to the rules of the game and show honor to his teammates and opponents through his humility. Otherwise, sports are just a means for an athlete to impose temporary power and dominance over other people. It would seem that this is too often the appeal for the athlete.

For the spectator, I suspect that sports offers multiple venues of appeal. For one, many sports take on qualities of a good soap opera. Being well-versed in the history of a team means being able to dominate a conversation about that team. Another appeal is the collection of memorabilia. The autographed balls, jerseys, hats, photos, sports equipment, etc. make one confident that he has things that will be coveted by others who also value the team or athletes represented by the memorabilia. I imagine that another appeal is the vicarious sense of victory when a favorite team or athlete performs well. If the athlete is channeling the aggression of a fallen world into a controlled environment, then the spectator may do so from the stands or in front of his television screen. Unfortunately, there is little accountability for the spectator whose adrenaline rushes but doesn't exert himself in a controlled manner to release the mounting energy. It is the athlete who is performing physical feats, not the spectator. It's little wonder that so many spectators seek to take out aggression on referees or other spectators. This is likely the cause of such horrors as deadly riots at soccer (football) games in Europe. Along these lines, if one's favorite team wins, I'm sure it is particularly nice to lord it over the fans of the other team.

There is another venue of appeal for spectators that especially baffles me. That is that spectators frequently gamble on games. I could go into another diatribe against gambling, but I'll leave it only at my considered opinion that it is not a fiscally responsible practice.

It would seem that I understand something of the appeal that sports have - except that sports don't appeal to me. The appeals that I have mentioned do not hold particular sway in my psyche. This is why I fail to understand the appeal of competitive sports. There are a couple of things that I do understand that bear comparison. One is military competition and the other is the appeal of music.

Military competition has no particular appeal. There are military leaders who have been vilified as having some love of military conquest. Indeed, there may be soldiers who love to be involved in the conquering of weaker enemies. It is also true that for the purpose of survival on the battlefield military leaders seek to instill warriors with displays of bloodlust. For the most part, however, warriors do not want war. In a fallen world, it is often necessary to overthrow evil governments for the purpose of saving their victims, whether it is the enslaved population of the evil government, or their national neighbors (including the nation of the challenging army) who are threatened by the evil government.

I can understand military contention on this basis. Armies train to make themselves strong and to function effectively as a team. However, the end result is not simply that one should win or lose and go home, but that loss could result in the death or enslavement of those you protect. Even winning may result in the deaths of many of the winning army. One doesn't simply go home, but one goes home changed; and the purpose for contention is not to obtain simple personal glory, but the antithesis of glory - the price of a life paid for a much higher principle the meaning of which may be lost on many of the warriors who went to battle. The warrior kills, not for spite, hatred or revenge, but for survival. It changes a man to take the life of one toward whom he has no particular animosity knowing that if this other is not killed, the man's family will never see him again. It is for this reason that animosity is often feigned as a protection against the weight of guilt. I understand this, but there is no comparison to sports in the modern world.

Music may have a better comparison. In music, there are both players and spectators. The purpose is similar: the winning of the "game" is not a result of competition, but of amusement, entertainment or the unification of experience. The musicians work for long hours to produce a piece of music that will take only minutes to perform. While sports are competitive and music is not, both are experiences that are shared. The reason that a musician performs is to share the results of his labors with an audience that has gathered for a purpose. Music is used to unify an audience toward that purpose. For a strictly musical concert, the music may be the end in and of itself. An audience has come to hear a type of music they enjoy with a group of people who also enjoy the same music.

Music is painted on an emotional canvas using cultural pigments. The result is a picture that the musician hopes will resonate with the audience. It is a form of communication more than it is simply a shared experience. This is why someone can listen to music on the radio alone and be affected by it. The communication is clear although the listener is not directly connected with the musician. The message that resonates in the listener is, by nature, spiritual - not emotional. While lyrics may be important to many kinds of music, they are often ancillary to the spiritual landscape. Instrumentation, arrangement, style, tension and release work together to create this landscape and provide context for the lyrics. In the absence of lyrics, subtle emotional changes caused by the music in the hearts of the listener call to his mind non-visible images. This is the appeal that music has for me. I don't get this in competitive sports.

The distortion of this aspect of music is that the musician may seek glory for himself through the music. There are musicians who perform for the sake of the music itself and fail to recognize the spiritual impact of the music. There are musicians who focus only on power and seek to portray themselves as powerful through their music. Audiences stream to partake of this power vicariously. One example of this is that some display the power proudly in extreme audio systems installed in automobiles. The purpose is that the music gives the one who drives the vehicle a sense of power over others around his vehicle at any given time. It is a false sense of power and is a parallel appeal with the darker side of sports.

I still don't have any better an understanding of the appeal of competitive sports. I'm told in the Bible that I am to seek the good of others above myself. I'm also told to run the "race" of faith in a manner in which to win. Is the "race" to be won at the expense of the spiritual lives of others? If, in a sporting event, I defeat another whose faith is weak or nonexistent, will it cause his faith to fail? Can I afford to run the risk? Is running the "race" of faith more in keeping with a Christ-like life? If so, should I compete in a self-sacrificing way? What does that look like?

How would Christ compete?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Evolution of Gravity and Other Myths

Holes in the logic of Chicago's Field Museum President, John McCarter, are apparently evident to most Americans according to a recent Zogby poll. I'm suspicious of most polls because of their misuse by the old mainstream media. The Zogby sample used here is smaller than I'd like to see, but they strive to put together a poll base that produces accurate results by testing the accuracy of the polls during political elections. Nevertheless, John McCarter made some logically inaccurate statements recently. The article is short and I'll republish it here:

Chicago's Field Museum chief says teaching "intelligent design" in science classes threatens America's position as a technological leader.

"Everything in science is based now on evolution," said museum President John McCarter. "If these kids don't get that in middle school and high school, we're going to lose a whole generation of scientific inquiry and minds." He spoke during a preview of the museum's $17 million evolution exhibit "Evolving Planet," the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday.

McCarter blamed the intelligent design movement on conservative Christian Bible literalists. He said the Bible's account of creation should be celebrated as "great stories, rather than demanding we impose those ideas on scientific research in the 21st century."

Intelligent design theorizes that since life is so complex, it must have been designed by a higher intelligence and not the result of natural selection.

McCarter praised the evangelical Christian movement as "a wonderful force for faith and behavior," the Sun-Times reported.

"But there is another dimension to it and it's this literal interpretation of the Bible," he added. "We have to say those are stories done at that time by people trying to understand the complexity of the world."

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Do you see the holes?

First, everything in science is not based on evolution. Last time I checked, the law of gravity didn't have any basis in the theory of evolution. It certainly didn't evolve from some less complex law. If it did, then physicists would have to change the way they think about the formation of the universe. If there were only some primordial law of physics from which the many laws we know today evolved, then what shall we say caused the formation of suns, galaxies, planetary bodies, nebulae, etc. No. Of course I'm being ridiculous, but only because John McCarter's statement is.

Second, if kids have to blindly accept evolution, how will that foster scientific inquiry? If video games and television doesn't turn their minds to mush, not being able to scientifically question the veracity of evolution will.

Third, he expects theology to stay out of the laboratory when he complains that the ideas in the Bible should not be imposed on scientific research. Yet he would impose his naturalistic philosophy on scientific research. Scientific research needs to have a basis in understanding. What he is concerned with is that his understanding should be the basis and he is worried that the Creator would be held as the basis for scientific research by wild-eyed Bible-thumping idiots. The Creator having some bearing on an understanding of the created? Is it really a stretch? He did add that Christianity is a "wonderful force for faith and behavior," but holds that the informational authority (the Bible) of Christianity isn't true. I suppose he believes that good behavior is contingent on the amount of lies one can believe with a straight face.

If that's the case, he should be well-behaved indeed.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bad Christians

News Flash: Christians are bad people. I know that the common perception by people who are not Christian is that Christians fancy themselves to be good people - better, in fact, than everyone else. There are some people who are Christian who claim to be sin-free:

When I was studying physics at UNC Charlotte, I would frequently see evangelists come on campus and gather small crowds in corners of the campus "square". Frankly, most were kooks and didn't present a true gospel. A few were okay. I came up on one of the kooks one morning who was preaching against sin. One vocal atheist challenged him.

"Can you say that you don't sin?"

The kook replied, "I haven't sinned yet today."

The fact is, we live in a fallen world, and no matter how hard we try, we can't escape sin. The difference between Christians and everyone else is that true Christians admit it and want to do better.

With this in mind, there are three items in the news that bear analysis.

First, a teacher at a Christian school has been arrested for molesting some of his students. I don't know if the teacher is a Christian. According to the article, he's been well liked in the school and those who know him are disappointed with what he did. The fact is, this came to light because he confessed - not because he was found out or a student he molested turned him in.

Second, Merrill Keiser Jr., a Democrat, is running for the US Senate in Ohio. This is not so remarkable in itself. What is remarkable are his beliefs. For the most part his political views follow the more conservative Republican platform. However, he departs even from this in that he believes homosexuality should be a capitol crime punishable by death. His reason is that we need to return to a more Biblical government. What's wrong with this is that the legal killing of homosexuals in the Bible is part of the old Jewish Law and has no place in a society the Christian roots of which recognizes grace as the operative factor in obedience to God and for which justice is now more commensurate with natural law. The fact that he hasn't taken the time to change his affilliation to more closely match his views and doesn't recognize the need for the political viability of the stated position of an electable representative is an indicator that he will not be an effective legislator. Among thoughtful Christians he would be understood to be somewhat legalistic. With ministries like Exodus International, advocating the death penalty for homosexuals places him solidly within the "kook" category.

Third, Mute Math is a band that sings songs with Christian lyrics, sings for Churches and at Christian events with other bands known as Christian bands, is made up of members who are Christian and has a strong base of Christian fans. However, they don't want to be known as a Christian band. Their reason is that bands known as "Christian" bands are expected to minister and present a context of Christian messages along with their music. This band doesn't want the hassle of ministry. It's like a couple living together without being married. They want the benefits without the commitment. Mute MAth is so committed to not being committed that they are suing their record label, Warner Music Group‘s Christian outlet Word Records, for billing them as "Christian". The band appears to have an identity crisis of sorts. If they want to play Christian music, they should expect to be required to minister in the name of Christ. Otherwise, the Christian message in their lyrics is in vain and they will misrepresent Christ to people in general.

Music is a tool. It communicates a message through words and emotional energy in a programmatic context. Context is everything. A band that wants to escape the context of a Christian program while using Christian thematic elements in their music will profane the Christian message. A Christian context can bring a "secular" message into subjection before Christ, but it doesn't work the other way round.

Yes, Christians are fallible. Visit any church for any reasonable length of time and you will find out how awful Christians can be sometimes. Who would want to hang out with all these imperfect people all the time? What should be clear to those who would give Christians a fair hearing is that Christians are not Christians for the sake of being Christians. No. Christians are Christians because Christ is real... and He forgives us for being so bad.

Friday, March 03, 2006

News Swamp: March 3, 2006

Once again, the news has crept up on me. There are two big items I'm following, but won't comment on here. One is the issue of the recording made by 16-year-old Sean Allen of his teacher, Jay Bennish, turning his geography class into a political liberal indoctrination class. The other is the visit of George Bush to Pakistan. I just don't have anything to add to the commentaries that are already out there. I wanted to mention them, because they may become source material for analysis of current events later on.

Science and Technology in the News:

Recently, Honda announced that they will produce an automobile that runs on hydrogen fuel cells for mass production in three to four years. This is earlier than any of the other major automobile producers. The big requirement for the success of this endeavor will be the availability of mass-produced hydrogen. Probably, the key market will not be the US. I see this as a viable alternative to petroleum. I see this as eventually having an impact on the level of carbon in the atmosphere. I do NOT see any evidence that this will have any impact on global warming.

The gadgets proliferate with microchip implants. I predicted the viability and marketability of microchip implants for humans years ago - long before I started this blog. I'm wary of this for eschatological reasons - but only just wary: I make no predictions. But I'm also wary of the technology. There is a readable code in the chip available through some sort of RF interaction with an active reader. I suspect that this code can be easily pirated, rendering the implant useless. Apparently, there are some who are willing to take this risk.

How about the biggest, costliest gadget of all: the International Space Station? This is to be the platform from which to launch the most high-tech golf ball ever, using the most unnecessarily high-tech golf club, into orbit for the "longest drive". The argument against it is that it will produce yet more space junk in orbit around the earth. Whatever... I'm not impressed. I would be impressed if the golfing astronaut could drive the ball out of orbit.

Then there's the case of the shrinking Antarctic ice sheet. If there is a mass of ice so large that it sits on the bottom of the ocean and has a mass that significantly exceeds its displacement, then melting it could raise the sea level. A sheet of ice, however large it is, floating on the water will not raise the sea level by its melting because its mass equals its displacement. The "science" in this article is simply wrong.

Sexual Immorality in the News:

Homosexual advocates are decrying a lack of legalized same-sex marriage. Their latest claim is that it is harmful to their mental health. I suppose these homosexuals are saving themselves for legal marriage? The argument has been that they need legal marriage for shared ownership and insurance issues. These are people who are already involved with each other. The metal health issue is like saying that their mental health has nothing to do with their partners, but it has everything to do with mere law. If a homosexual has psychological issues with the law that they have no trouble breaking when they committed sodomy when it was illegal, then they are not mentally stable enough to commit to a marital relationship.

Every day it seems that there is yet another student-teacher sex crime that is being reported. Why are there more and more of these things being reported? Is it because it is suddenly happening more and more? I know of teachers who were fired and sent to court for statutory rape violations for having sex with students. They were not widely reported cases, but they were before the press started reporting them as national news. Why now start reporting them? It seems like the change in reporting started not too long after the Roman Catholic priest child sexual abuse scandal. The scandal was debated as to whether or not it was indicative of homosexuality since the abuse was homosexual by nature. The debate wasn’t widely reported. I suspect that more people than the press would like to admit correctly attribute the abuse to the latent homosexuality of the priests. The new run on student-teacher sex crime is not new at all, and people local to individual cases seem to realize this. However, I suspect that it is only now nationally reported in an effort to take the heat off the insidious nature of homosexuality by balancing the homosexual nature of the Catholic scandal with heterosexual examples.

There is a Fire Captain in Knoxville, Tennessee, who has undertaken to transform himself into a female. He is upset because people still refer to him as a “he” despite the fact that he has legally changed into a “she”. I don’t care how much one changes one’s appearance – and hormonal and gynecological status fits into this category – one will always be according to one’s genetic structure. He is still a "he" because he has an X and a Y chromosome. Therefore, the only people who can decide their gender are people who are genetically hermaphroditic. Frankly, this Fire Captain should have expected this kind of treatment unless his purpose was to push the issue.

If he doesn't have thick enough skin to handle it, how does he expect to have the tenacity to fight fires?

Homosexuals and “Transgender” types complain about the emotional pain, but children suffer the most. I remember seeing my first set of transgender types in the news in the seventies. This couple had swapped genders with each other. Mom was now Dad and Dad was now Mom. I was mystified and horrified at my young age that people would go under the knife in an effort to become something they are not. Even then, I was concerned for the children who I knew from my own experience that they needed to relate to Mom differently than they relate to Dad. I knew that in this case they were losing their parents as they know them and effectively being forced to live with a new family. The need to agree with their parents for the sake of emotional security, especially under the national microscope, would cause them to deny the pain they would have to live with. The internalization of the conflict would cause intellectual and emotional problems for years to come, and could even follow them to the grave.

The undue strain and disadvantage on children in single parent homes has long been statistically established. Good psychologists have long known the need of children for healthy interaction with both a father and a mother. This is why I’m baffled that people would choose to be single parents. There are women who have no desire to commit to a husband but want to have a child. They seek sperm donors, get pregnant, and have their babies. In the news recently is a group of these moms who want to have a reunion with other moms of the same sperm donor. These poor children don’t have a clue in the world what it means to sacrificially commit to someone else. In fact, the example for them is that they can do whatever they want without commitment. A civilized world turns on self-sacrificial commitment to others. A civilized world is destroyed by a commitment only to self-justification. This is why the nuclear family is so important.

Christian News:

The University of Wisconsin has reversed a policy preventing RAs from holding Bible studies in their rooms. Why did they have this policy to begin with? Representative Rob Kriebich, who attended hearings on the issue, says “it's a policy that's based on common sense that recognizes RAs are students and that they too have First Amendment rights to do as they please, voluntarily in their dorm rooms.” So, the University of Wisconsin had no common sense prior to this? Neither did they recognize basic rights granted by the constitution of the United States? It took a lawsuit to make them see the light? Or perhaps they intentionally sought to defy the Constitution of the United States.

There are many who laud the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling as fitting for enticing young minds toward excellence. There have been falsified claims against the books rightly exposed by Unfortunately,, normally thorough and reasonable, use their argument to fallaciously conclude that a more general claim linking the Harry Potter books to Satanism is also false. Most recently, the Vatican's top exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, has spoken against the Harry Potter series. I'm not a big fan of the Vatican, but Rev. Amorth's assessment of Harry Potter is not off base. To give evidence that something has been started with this, A real Hogwarth's is opening in Canada. A thoughtful and well-written critique of Harry Potter from a Christian perspective can be found at

There are brothers and sisters in Christ who are Palestinians. They are exposed now to rule by the Hamas, who threaten an extreme form of Shari'ah law. This places these Christians in mortal danger for their faith. They have been prevented from peace with Israel because their leadership will not rest until Israel is destroyed. Now safety within their own borders is in jeopardy. May God grant them strength, boldness and protection. May He use them mightily to foster peace and teach their hate-filled kin the truth about Christ. What is my analysis of this news? Perhaps God has placed them here for such a time as this.