A Short Sequence of Thoughts on Creationism

paulrwaibel:

I recently read this blog essay and found it very interesting and thought provoking. Hence, I want to pass it along to my readers.

Originally posted on Sanctum In Heremis:

I’ll admit first that I haven’t watched the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, whose hype induced me to write this essay, and I probably won’t. I have also invested very little of the past five or six years into investigating the specifics of the creationism controversy, which I am aware still smolders in Evangelical circles.

Some autobiographical information may account for my present general apathy. Defending young earth creationism (YEC) was a major church-culture thing when I was a kid, and the typical centerpiece of apologetics ministry. I traveled to an Answers in Genesis conference with a church group when I was about eleven, and met Ken Ham there. Ham also taught adult Sunday School once in my little Baptist church. (My father, who has no particular leaning on YEC, personally found him evasive.)

My parents did their best to supply me with apologetics materials as my intellect budded. Some, for…

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Guest Post: Depression, and the Science Behind Positive Affirmations

Guest Post: Depression, and the Science Behind Positive Affirmations.

Finding God in a Broken World

Whenever I hear of cruelty to women, children, or even animals, I immediately react with feelings of rage. Let me avenge these wrongs. Let me decide the fate of those who commit such atrocities. I will surely fit the punishment to the crime.

After I calm down and remind myself that in doing so I would become like those monsters I want to make suffer, a different emotion takes over. Although I was never the victim of abuse, I feel that I can identify with the victims of abuse. I can feel the pain, the fear, the despair that they, the victims, must experience. I want to cry, but most of all I ask God why he allows such evil. He is sovereign, is he not?

Theologians, preachers, and a wide variety of self-appointed spokespersons for God are quick to provide an answer. More often than not they expose their ignorance. Better to remain silent than address issues about which one is not qualified to speak. Reading a few books, especially the syrupy inspirational goo that clutters the shelves of Christian bookstores, testimonies by those who suddenly “found Jesus” and no longer need bother themselves with the challenge of living in the real world, will not do. One must get up close and experience the true banality of evil.

Holly Burkhalter is one who has earned the right to ask the really tough questions of God. She spent many years as a human rights advocate. She has seen firsthand just how depraved human beings can be towards the most vulnerable. She has seen the horrors of children of preschool age held in bondage to pimps who rent them out to adults willing to pay for the opportunity to sexually abuse them.

Ms. Burkhalter has intimate knowledge of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Many of the victims took refuge in churches only to discover that the churches were slaughter houses. The Rwandan church leaders refused to condemn the genocide, even when it took place in the churches. The whole of Christendom remained largely silent. American Christians turned their faces away and ignored the cries of those they called “brothers and sisters in Christ.”

The Rwandan genocide was the result of human choices. Likewise is the inhuman treatment of the children enslaved in the brothels that cater to well-to-do tourists from Europe and America the result of human choices. The perpetrators of such crimes are entrepreneurs providing services that others demand and are willing to pay for.

None of us, you and I, would ever participate in such criminal activity. After all, are we not Christians living in a Christian nation founded on Christian principles by our Christian Founding Fathers? We go to “big box” retail outlets in order to fill our closets with cheap clothing we do not need, while plugging our ears to the cries and shielding our eyes from the tears of the children who work long hours under harsh conditions for pitifully small wages to produce our plenty.

Not only non-believers, as was Holly Burkhalter for much of her life, ask, “Where is God?” Many Christians also ask that question, again and again and again, as did the Old Testament prophets. There isn’t an answer. Of course, there are attempts at formulating an answer by theologians who labor long hours over biblical passages in a variety of languages, ancient and modern. But their answers fall short no matter how learned and logical they sound. Some find that no matter how hard they try, they cannot go on without some answer as to why God, the great I AM who spoke to Moses from a burning bush, sovereign over all that exists, does not intervene and deliver the justice he promises.

Ms. Burkhalter writes of Kevin Carter, a photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize for his picture of a starving Sudanese toddler lying in the dirt while a vulture waited patiently nearby. Two months later, Kevin Carter took his own life. In an attempt to explain why, he wrote, “I am depressed. . .I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain. . .of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners.”

What Burkhalter discovered, was that the awesome question of why cannot be answered. It is a mystery. But what we do know is that only the God revealed in the Bible and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can provide an answer for the existence of evil. No other religious or secular philosophy can do so. Why God does not do what we would do, and what we would have him do, is a question we cannot answer. We do know God is sovereign over all, and that justice will prevail, as he has promised. No injustice will go unanswered. No tear is shed that is not seen, or will not be wiped away.

In the end, “after forty-plus years of skepticism, cynicism, and doubt,” Holly Burkhalter came to the conclusion that God exists. “I know it,” she writes, “because, oddly, I see signs everywhere, including in the very places that previously seemed to be proof of the Lord’s absence, or worse, the Creator’s neglect of a battered, hungry, suffering creation.”

Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures,  and always live under the mercy.

 

SPAM®, Seventy-five Years of Success

Hormel Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota.

Hormel Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a child, it was not unusual for me to carry my lunch to school in a small paper sack or a little tin box with a handle on its side.  I’m not sure, but I do believe I was fortunate enough to own a lunch box with Gene Autry on it.  Gene Autry was “America’s Favorite Cowboy” and my greatest hero.

Descended on both sides of my family from hardworking immigrant stock, those who really built America, not the robber barons who owned it then and still do, carrying my lunch to school was a kind of status symbol.  The sandwich or two that made up the main course was peanut butter and jelly, bologna, or that marvelous canned mystery meat known by its brand name, SPAM®.

Each region of our great nation is noted for some particular cuisine, for example, fried chicken in the south.  But, if there is one dish that more than any other can be described as truly American, it is SPAM.

For those of you raised on fast food, the contents of which remain a closely guarded secret that baffles the brightest of today’s scientists, the ingredients of SPAM are simple and not unhealthy.  Well, perhaps I should qualify that just a little.  Whether the original or the lite variety, SPAM is rather high in salt and fat.

Jay C. Hormel, President of Geo. A. Hormel & Co. developed SPAM to make use of pork shoulders, a largely wasted part of the pig at that time.  At first it was called Hormel Spiced Ham®. The name, “SPAM” resulted from a contest to name the new canned meat during a party on New Year’s Day, 1937.  The winner was the actor Kenneth Daigneau, who received $100 for dreaming up one of the most readily, recognized brand names in history.

The meaning of “SPAM” is not known for sure, but usually assumed to mean “spiced ham” or “special processed American meat.”  Hormel officially registered the name on May 11, 1937, thus giving the product an official birthday, so to speak.

It was World War II that assured SPAM would never disappear from store shelves in America or around the world.  One-hundred million pounds of SPAM were consumed by American and Allied troops who claim that they had it for breakfast, dinner, and supper.  Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev attributed the Russian victory on the Eastern Front in part to SPAM.  “Without SPAM,” he said, “we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”

SPAM has been on the menu for American troops in every war since World War II except the Gulf War.  Saudi Arabia would not allow it, since pork is a forbidden food that country.

By 1959, Hormel sold one billion cans of SPAM Classic.  That figure rose to two billion in 1970, three billion in 1980, five billion in 1994, and seven billion in 2007.  If the cans of SPAM were placed in a row end to end, they would circle the earth twelve and a half times.  More cans of SPAM have been sold around the globe than there are people living on the planet.

There are twenty-one varieties of SPAM today, but the connoisseur’s favorite remains the original, the Classic. There is a SPM fan club, a SPAM museum, and T-shirts, mugs, and even underwear with the SPAM image on them.  The really dedicated SPAM will want make at least one pilgrimage to the SPAM museum, located on Spam Blvd. in Spamtown, U.S.A., also called Austin, Minnesota, its birthplace.  Not only is it the subject of uncounted jokes, but also eulogized in songs.

I often look at the cans of SPAM on the grocery store shelf, but have not purchased or eaten any for many, many years.  Formerly it was because I can still taste those sandwiches I had to carry in my school lunches.  These days, I look at the amount of salt and fat in a serving and decide to pass it by.  I convince myself that it is simply not a healthy choice for senior citizen.  That may just be a convenient excuse, because the late Senator Harry Byrd of West Virginia was known to eat three SPAM sandwiches with mayonnaise per week until his death at ninety-two.

Now that I think about it, maybe I will buy a can of SPAM Classic and give it go, just for old times’ sake.

I will close by referring you the song, “Pam Don’t Take My SPAM”:  https://soundcloud.com/spam-brand/pam-spam

Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures and always live under the mercy.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas Eve, 2013

Christmas Eve, chromolithography

Christmas Eve, chromolithography (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Christmas Eve, 2013, the day most of us choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  I say “choose,” because no one knows for sure on just what day Jesus was born.  In fact, even the year is disputed.  Getting right the day of his birth is not important.  That he was born is the single most important event is history.

For those of you who found time to read this humble blog entry, here are a few notable events that occurred on Christmas Eve in years gone by.

The first radio broadcast of both voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906.  Sailors aboard vessels in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea were astonished when at exactly 9:00 p.m. they received over their ship’s radio in Morse code the message, “CQ CQ CQ,” a general call to all stations within range.  The “dots and dashes” message was followed by the voice of Reginald Aubrey Fessenden.  After a brief introduction, Fessenden played “O Holy Night” on his violin, followed by his reading from the Gospel of Luke: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”  [A dramatic recreation of Fessenden’s broadcast:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Elu0HF4a8yI ]

Sixty-two years later the Apollo 8 astronauts were orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve.  Mimicking Fessenden’s historic broadcast, the astronauts took turns reading the opening verses from Genesis 1.  They ended their broadcast with “Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”   [For live coverage of the Apollo 8 broadcast by CBS News:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aIf0G2PtHo ]

On Christmas Eve in 1818, a poem by Joseph Mohr titled “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht,” set to music by Franz Gruber, was performed for the first time during midnight mass at St. Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, Germany.  On Christmas Eve, 1914, “Silent Night, Holy Night” was sung in German, French, and English during a spontaneous truce along the Western Front at the opening of World War I.  It remains one of the best loved Christmas hymns of all time.  [To hear the original German:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUb8ySdERKs ]

One of my most memorable Christmas Eves was that of 1968.  It was the 150th anniversary of “Silent Night, Holy Night.”  I attended midnight mass at St. Stanislaus Church in my hometown of Bay City, Michigan.  St. Stanislaus is a neo gothic church in what was earlier the Polish section of the city.  Outside everything was covered in snow.  The beautiful crowded sanctuary was not much warmer.  At the front of the sanctuary were fresh cut pine trees and a lovely manger scene. The smell of fresh pine mingled with the smell of incense drifting through the air, added to the ambiance of the moment.  Since it was the anniversary of the first performance of “Silent Night, Holy Night,” the church’s orchestra and choir performed it in numerous languages, including of course, Polish.

I wish to complete these thoughts on Christmas Eve, 2013 with two of my favorite Christmas poems.  First, the better known “Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCVnuEWXQcg

Second, the lessor known “Bethlehem BC” by Rod McKuen: http://www.rodmckuen.com/music/bethbc.mp3

Merry Christmas to one and all, and until next time, do good, be good, and always live under the mercy.

The Evolution of Austen: Jane Austen in the Twenty-First Century

English: Detail of C. E. Brock illustration fo...

English: Detail of C. E. Brock illustration for the 1895 edition of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice (Chapter 56) showing Elizabeth Bennet outdoors in “walking dress”, with bonnet and parasol. Français : Détail d’une illustration de C. E. Brock pour l’édition de 1885 de Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Recent shoulder surgery condemns my right arm to several weeks residency in a sling.  The problem by this unfortunate development is evident in my having to peck out these introductory remarks with my left hand, one letter at a time.  The obvious inconvenience gives me the opportunity to introduce a new category of blog entries, which for lack of imagination; I will designate “Guest Column.”

My first guest columnist is Emily Polson, a creative writing student at Belhaven University who originates from Ankeny, Iowa, where the heart of America continues a healthy, even rhythm.]

The Evolution of Austen: Jane Austen in the Twenty-First Century

Jane Austen’s most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice, was published two-hundred years ago. Since then, there have been countless adaptations, sequels, prequels, and spin-off stories of her works created in various mediums. Many would argue that Colin Firth’s iconic performance as the dashing Mr. Darcy in the 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice may have sparked the renewed Austen fervor that has continued into the twenty-first century (Alexander). In recent years, Austen fans around the world have been focused on reliving, reviving, and reinventing her famous Regency-era stories, proving how timeless they truly are.

The fans who take joy in reliving the stories of Austen in the Regency style are generally referred to as Janeites. The term was coined in 1894 by George Saintsbury, a literary critic, in his introduction to a new edition of Pride and Prejudice. Rudyard Kipling helped popularize the term with a short story called “The Janeites,” which is about “a group of soldiers brought together by their passion for the works of Austen” (Kelly). In contrast, the word in popular culture now describes Austen fanatics, the majority of whom are female. Contemporary Janeites are famous for dressing up in Regency-era costumes to attend tea parties and balls, writing fan fiction about Austen’s most beloved characters, and forming societies with other fans. The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) is among the most popular of such societies, with over 4,500 paying members (Kelly). JASNA members can attend an annual three-day fan conference that features “speakers, entertainment, tours, banquet, and Regency ball” in addition to having access to newsletters and local branch group meetings; they also have the opportunity to take “members-only” tours in England to visit the famous locations associated with Jane Austen (JASNA.org).

The Austen obsession of these fans might sometimes border on ridiculous; earlier this year, the film Austenland was released, a lighthearted comedy inspired by the silliness of the Janeites. Based on the 2007 novel by Shannon Hale, the film follows Jane Hayes—who is a fanatic of Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy—as she checks in to “Austenland,” an English estate set up in the Regency style, where “female visitors pay for the privilege of acting as if they were modeled on the scribe’s plucky heroines, complete with era-appropriate suitors” (Wloszczyna). While some think this type of humor is merely mocking Austen fans, Hale, a self-declared Janeite, defends her story and the intention of the film: “we made it in love, full of warmth and fondness and well-intentioned humor. . . .” She adds, “I do know we were walking that fine and wonderful line: to be the thing and make light of the thing. That’s the only way to do a loving comedy.” After all, Janeites themselves share a striking similarity to the heroine of Austen’s romantic comedy Northanger Abbey; the young Catherine Morland is obsessed with Romantic novels, and the narrator gently critiques her silliness throughout the novel. This fixation even gets the young Catherine into trouble; in writing the character of Catherine, Austen was warning against becoming too passionate with fiction to the point where it interferes with one’s judgment (Austen). Hale’s Austenland may have been drawing attention to this same risk.

Not all of Austen’s popularity is attributed to the Janeites, however. Her fame has spread through a number of books and movies which have helped to revive the twenty-first century fascination with Jane Austen. Perhaps the most popular is the 2005 remake of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy respectively, which was nominated for four Oscars. This is not all, however; all six of Austen’s novels have been remade into films or television mini-series in the last ten years. In addition, a film based on the life of Jane Austen was released in 2007; it was titled Becoming Jane and starred Anne Hathaway as the beloved author. The film revolved mainly around Austen’s romance with the Irishman Tom Lefroy (played by James McAvoy), but some Austen scholars bemoan the historical inaccuracy of the film’s representation of this relationship (IMDb.com).

Austen’s stories have been remade time and again, but the twenty-first century has brought a unique set of interesting reinventions. The earliest is Bridget Jones’s Diary, a British romantic comedy, which was based on the novel of the same name. The story is a modern-day interpretation of Pride and Prejudice and stars Renée Zellweger as the title character, accompanied by Colin Firth—Darcy from the 1995Pride and Prejudice—as the love interest. It follows Bridget’s journey of losing weight, quitting smoking, and finding love, as recorded in her diary. The Bollywood film industry adapted Pride and Prejudice in 2004, calling their version Bride & Prejudice; it was set in the Indian city of Amritsar and featured the colorful costumes and exciting dance numbers typical of Bollywood films. Though the 2007 film The Jane Austen Book Club—based on the 2004 novel—is not an adaptation of any of Austen’s specific stories, it tells of a book club that assembles to discuss each of Austen’s novels, during which time the events of each of the six book club members’ lives begin to align with the stories from the novels (IMDb.com).

While numerous novels and films have remade Austen’s stories in a different setting, the 2008 TV mini-series Lost in Austen takes twenty-first century Amanda Price back in time to the actual story of Pride and Prejudice and puts the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, in present day London. By introducing a new character to the classic tale and taking the original protagonist out, the storyline begins to change (IMDb.com). English professor and Janeite Laurie Kaplan believes this mini-series appeals to Generation-Y viewers because of the contrast drawn between the old and new cultures and the confusion which ensues from this; she writes, “Amanda’s physical and verbal style—her cultural baggage—is juxtaposed with the trappings of a Regency comedy of manners, creating exactly the time-travel mix that engages with issues of contemporary culture.” Amanda’s love for the world of Pride and Prejudice, combined with her disdain for her current situation in life, causes her to embrace the opportunity to make her own way in the story world but also to fret when things begin to go awry and characters act contrary to how they do in the novel. Lost in Austen succeeds in altering the original story to suit a younger audience, while not losing the precise social mores which are so characteristic of Austen’s novels, by crossing the two time periods: “Buttressed by anachronisms, the witty intertextuality—the multiple cross-cultural, cross-class, cross-text, cross-media, and cross-linguistic references—takes the viewer backwards and forwards in time” (Kaplan).

As far as appealing to a younger generation of viewers and playing off of cultural references, Lost in Austen does well; however, Seth Grahame-Smith’s retelling of the original story in his 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies plays even further into the appeal of pop culture. The novel’s back cover claims that it “transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.” Much of the writing in the novel follows Austen’s exact wording, but Grahame-Smith makes some clever revisions. He includes masses of the undead—referred to throughout the novel as the “unmentionables”—and makes certain characters expert warriors, thus adding a layer of action and adventure to the comedy of manners that is the original. It begins with the line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains,” a play on the original text’s opening line, which reads, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (Grahame-Smith 7; Austen). According to the author’s official website, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies “has sold over a million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages” (SethGrahameSmith.com).

For those not into the cultural obsession with zombies, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries offers another modern update to the story of Pride and Prejudice: it is told entirely through a series of three to seven minute video blogs posted on YouTube. This adaptation—conceptualized by the show’s executive producers, Hank Green and Bernie Sue—features Lizzie Bennet (played by Ashley Clements), a graduate student pursuing a degree in mass communications, who documents her life through video blogs for what originates as a class project. She is assisted by her best friend Charlotte Lu, and the videos frequently include Lizzie’s sisters, Jane and Lydia. The show’s one-hundred-episode run featured a total cast of thirteen actors and was made in the span of a year. The method of story-telling was unique not only because the central forum was YouTube video blogs, but also because the production team created a variety of other social media accounts for the characters—on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc—which were updated “real-time” with the events of the story (LizzieBennet.com).

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries demonstrates the potential for new forms of media to be successful on a larger scale. The show won the first ever Creative Arts Emmy in Interactive Media, beating out big-name opponents Top ChefOprah, and Nickelodeon. Rachel Poletick, blogger for Yahoo! TV Emmys Blog, attributes the show’s success to the characters’ multi-forum social media accounts, which she believes greatly contributed to user engagement, as well as the show’s fan base sprouting directly out of another project—Lizzie Bennet fans flocked over from producer Hank Green’s fan base of over one million subscribers for his YouTube channel The VlogBrothers. The first Lizzie Bennet episode now has close to one and a half million views. Due to the show’s success and fans’ mourning at its end, producer Bernie Sue pioneered another series of video blogs, this time inspired by Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon; the completion of that project led to the team’s newest endeavor: Emma Approved, an adaptation of Austen’s Emma (Poletick).

A lot has happened with Jane Austen stories and their fans over the last thirteen years. The Janeite societies still prosper, new and innovative film adaptations are continually being made, and popular culture is keeping Austen relevant for younger audiences. The stories have proven themselves timeless; they have endured for over two-hundred years and been adapted to numerous new versions and unique methods of storytelling. The evolution of Austen in the twenty-first century has shown that with the passage of time, there will always be those who travel with the stories into the past, and those who carry them on into the future.

Works Cited

  • Alexander, Bryan. “Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy is the pride of Austen portrayals.” USAToday.com. USA Today, 24 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.
  • Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. London: Headline Review, 2006. Print.
  • —. Pride and PrejudiceGutenberg.org. Project Gutenberg, 2010. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.
  • Grahame-Smith, Seth. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2009. Print.
  • Hale, Shannon. “On not mocking Austen (but laughing all the same).” SqueetusBlog. Shannon Hale, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
  • IMDb.com. IMDb.com, Inc, 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
  • JANSA.org. Jane Austen Society of North America, 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
  • Kaplan, Laurie. “Lost in Austen and Generation-Y Janeites.” Persuasions On-Line. Jane Austen Society of North America, 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
  • Kelly, Jon. “Janeites: The curious American cult of Jane Austen.” BBC News Magazine. BBC, 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.
  • LizzieBennet.com. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, 2013.  Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
  • Poletick, Rachel. “How ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Won Over and Audience and the Emmys Jury.” Yahoo! TV Emmys Blog. Yahoo TV, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
  • SethGrahameSmith.com. Seth Grahame-Smith, 2011. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
  • Wloszczyna, Susan. “Austenland (2013).” RogerEbert.com. 15 Aug. 2013. Ebert Digital LLC, 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 201
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Celebrating Christmas: A Review of THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS

 I wish to state at the beginning of this review that THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS: BATTLES IN FAITH, TRADITION, AND RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION (Master Books, 2013) is a very attractive, beautifully illustrated, and interesting book.  It is a book that will no doubt find a warm reception among evangelical Christians.  All of that said I wish to voice a few words of caution.

First off, one should note that the book is a product of the Answers in Genesis ministry.  The logic behind this examination of Christmas traditions and the Bible, simply put, is that a Christian’s celebration of Christmas should be a celebration of the birth of Jesus.  That assumption goes without saying.  As those popular yard signs evident everywhere at Christmas say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because God entered into history as the God-man, a space-time historical event, in order to reverse the effects of the Adam and Eve’s fall, also a space-time historical event.  It is important that there was a historical Adam and Eve, and a historical Fall, if Jesus Christ is to make any sense at all.

Where I find myself at odds with the book is when it implies that in order to believe in the historical truth of Genesis, one must accept the idea that the earth is young, that the days of creation were twenty-four hour days, and that it is possible to somehow date those events.  The logic of those involved with Answers in Genesis notwithstanding, the simple fact is that what we have in Genesis is a series of historical events, not a chronology.  Not until the call of Abram (Abraham) does Genesis intersect with verifiable history.

Another area where I find myself at odds with the book is the implication that celebrating Christmas with Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and other traditional secular Christmas icons is somehow incompatible with celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Why cannot a Christian teach children about the birth of Jesus, while at the same time pointing out that Santa Clause is a fun game that people play at Christmas?  By denying children the fun of celebrating Christmas as do most Christians is much more likely to prevent them from accepting who Jesus Christ is than putting hot chocolate and cookies out for Santa and sugar cubes for his reindeer.

Still, despite my reservations, I find THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS a worthwhile read.  I simply urge the reader to keep in mind that it is authors’ opinions, not biblical truth, regarding that wondrous holiday we call Christmas.

The Day Camelot Died

John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov....

John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What happened fifty years ago on November 22?”

I put the question to one of my history survey classes.  Forty-two students, mostly sophomores, sat in front of me, staring into empty space.  Perhaps I asked the wrong question?  Maybe I should ask who won the Super Bowl fifty years ago.  No doubt then their zombie-like faces would suddenly come to life.  A lively discussion would ensue, as different answers came from all across the lecture hall.

After a moment of silence, not at all surprising, someone said, “World War I ended.”  Another brave soul on the other side of the hall countered with, “Pearl Harbor!”  Before another example of historical revisionism could be heard, a student who was pecking away at the screen on his cellphone looked up and shouted, “President Kennedy died!”

I was not surprised by the response to my question.  The appalling lack of knowledge about our nation’s history, any sense of historical time, not to mention a profound ignorance of geography, is not surprising to those of us who choose to teach college and university students.  I am no longer surprised to discover that many of my students can only read at an elementary level.  Nor am I surprised to learn that some are unable to read or write, at all.

I do not remember where I was, or what I was doing, when I first heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  I was a freshman in college.  Classes were canceled.  Many of us gathered in the library to hear a young history professor give an impromptu eulogy.  By the time he finished, he was almost in tears.  We were all silent, aware that we would never forget what happened on that day in Dallas.

John F. Kennedy’s assassination marked the end of idealism and hope of a better future for many of us who wanted to believe that human beings were by nature good and reasonable.  That day darkness descended on Camelot.  Before the decade ended, both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. would also be assassinated.

John F. Kennedy was not the only public figure to die on November 22, 1963.  Both C. S. Lewis, the lord of Narnia, and Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, died that day, their deaths overshadowed by President Kennedy’s.

The number one hit song on November 22, 1963, was “I’m Leaving It All Up to You,” written by Robert Dale Houston and recorded by Dale and Grace.  Houston was standing along the parade route and waved to the President just moments before the fatal shots were fired.

At least ten songs were subsequently written and recorded memorializing JFK’s death, among them Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and Phil Ochs’ “Crucifixion.”

J.F.K.: The Man and the Myth by Victor Lasky was at the top The New York Times Best Seller List for non-fiction.  It was a scathing critic of J.F.K. and the whole Camelot myth.  The book was quickly pulled, only to reappear three years later more damning than at first.

I don’t remember where I was, or what I was doing, when I first heard that President Kennedy was dead.  I do remember, however, that I was on Interstate 79 passing through Wheeling, West Virginia, when I heard over the car radio that Elvis Presley had just been rushed to a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.  Funny what one remembers, isn’t it?

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always live under the mercy.

For Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-EC_egRR1M

For Phil Ochs’s “Crucifixion”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UtNDTEqp_k

Historian’s Almanac for November 2, 1213

Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972), 1945 – 1953 the...

l would be negligent if I did not take time to comment on several notable historical events that occurred on November 2.  So, not wishing to be guilty of such a grievous offense, may I call your attention to the following?

On this date in 1884 that Harry S. Truman was born in the little town of Lamar, Missouri.  It was more than a month later that his parents, John Anderson and Martha Ellen Truman were able to agree on a name.  The county clerk, having grown tired of waiting, chose to register the new infant without any name.  A first name was not difficult to decide on.  “Harry” was to honor his maternal uncle, Harrison Young.  But what was to be little Harry’s middle name?

The dilemma facing John and Ellen was which grandfather to honor, his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp[e] Truman, or his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young?  Choosing one over the other would only complicate things Harry as well as his parents.

The solution was simple.  Harry’s middle name would be simply “S” for both grandfathers.  Thus it is technically incorrect to refer to the 33rd President of the United States as Harry S. Truman, since the “S” is not an abbreviation, but in fact his middle name.  However, since Harry S Truman always signed his name Harry S. Truman, so does everyone else.

Daniel Boone

It is the birthday of Daniel Boone, one of America’s great folk heroes, and a legend in his own time.  Boone fought for the British in the French and Indian War, as did George Washington, and against them in the American Revolution, as did Washington.  Daniel Boone was a consistent failure in every business venture he undertook, but a brilliant success and legend as a frontiersman.

Boone married Rebecca Bryan in 1856.  They had ten children.  One grandson became the first white man born in Kentucky.  Daniel Boone died on September 26, 1820, just a few weeks shy of his 86th birthday.  He was laid to rest next to Rebecca who died March 18, 1813.  Their graves remained unmarked until the mid-1830s.  “All you need to be happy,” said Boone, “is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.”

And finally, it is the anniversary of the first and only flight of the “Spruce  Goose,” the largest plane ever built.  Made of birch, not spruce, the monster plane has a baggage compartment large enough to hold two railroad boxcars.  It was the brainchild of Henry Kaiser and Howard Hughes.  Hughes piloted the plane on November 2, 1947, as it soared seventy feet above the earth for a distance of one mile in less than one minute.  Those who wish to see this aviation wonder will find it on display in McMinnville, Oregon.

To view a newsreel of the Spruce Goose’s only flight, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGNyAd2uffg

Until next time be good, do good, and always live under the mercy.