Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Story

Christmas past…..

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. [Luke 2:8]

It had been about four hours since the sun had set.  The three shepherds were trying to stay warm, and Simeon was lost in his thoughts….

What a miserable existence, spending days and nights in the fields, away from home, watching someone else’s sheep.   Shepherding was once considered honorable.  After all, King David was a shepherd, as were the patriarchs. But this day and age, shepherds are considered lowlifes, not a vocation to aspire to. Not many fathers would relish giving their daughter away in marriage to someone who spent more time with sheep than with a wife and children.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Arius, Athanasius and Jehovah's Witnesses

A couple years ago I wrote about an encounter I had with a Jehovah’s Witness. I wondered then (and still wonder now) how best to carry on a conversation with them. They have some sincerely held beliefs that motivate their proselytizing activity. And they generally are not argumentative or confrontational (at least not with me). I often ask them if they believe the Gospel, that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose from the dead, and their answer is usually an unequivocal “yes”.

For those of you who are not clear on the difference between the Jehovah’s Witness’ beliefs and classical Christianity, it has to do with their understanding of who Jesus is. They believe him to be a created being, even the first created being, but nonetheless separate and apart from God Himself, as opposed to the classic Trinitarian belief that God is One Being but somehow Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ephesus Comes to Wall Street

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. (Acts 19:32)

The story is told in the book of Acts of a riot that erupted when the Apostle Paul began preaching the Gospel in the city of Ephesus. Indeed, wherever Paul went he stirred up controversy, and Ephesus was no exception. His Gospel message was apparently persuading many people, even in the midst of fierce opposition, partly because God was confirming his message with miraculous signs, but also because of Paul’s ability to persuade with calm logic and reason:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Old Friends: Musings on Living and Dying Well

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy!

For someone younger than thirty, Paul Simon waxed quite philosophical when he penned these words more than forty years ago. He now gets to experience firsthand the answer to his rhetorical question as he turns seventy this year. Oddly enough, seventy doesn’t seem that old anymore, perhaps due to increased life expectancy. They say that the fifties of today are like the thirties of yesteryear, so perhaps seventy is equivalent to fifty. It is all a matter of perspective, particularly as the baby boomer generation is getting on in years.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Victorious Valedictorians

In the month of June we are subjected to graduation ceremonies and the inevitable controversies that crop up regarding the role of religion and prayer therein. Years back, the controversy was more limited to whether a prayer, invocation or benediction by anyone in authority would breach the sacrosanct “wall of separation” between Church and State. During hundreds of thousands of graduations during the first couple centuries of the republic, the thought didn’t even cross anybody’s mind that this would be a problem, but courts in their infinite wisdom have nonetheless placed official prayers off limits.

Corny Capitalism

My commute to work is accompanied by a host of messages from advertisers, whether via radio ads during my drive to the train station, placards inside the commuter train, or a host of colorful signs and messages and even huge floor decals that grace the walkways of Washington’s Union Station.

This month’s billboards have been sponsored by a group called the “Corn Farmers Coalition”. Hmmm. It never occurred to me that busy commuters and travelers running to catch the Acela train or the Metro would be interested in corn. Yet the colorful billboards seem intent on presenting us with some interesting facts. For instance, did you know that 90% of all corn produced is grown on family farms? Well according to the USDA and the Corn Farmers Coalition, that is an important fact you ought to consider, and it is illustrated very nicely by the lovely picture that graces Union Station and the Corn Farmer’s Coalition Website. Isn’t that a nice family with the Dad holding up the big “90”, surrounded by his lovely wife and adorable kids in front of some tall stalks of corn on their idyllic farm?

Monday, May 30, 2011

A High School CIvics Lesson

Yesterday I made mention of Paul Ryan’s Budget proposal, which easily passed in the House, albeit along party lines. Last week the Senate finally got around to rejecting the Ryan proposal--again mostly along party lines-- but not before unanimously rejecting the Obama Administration’s proposal. At least they finally got around to voting on it, but the bottom line is that the Senate has not passed any budget at all. Ryan himself summed it up best in the aftermath of the Senate vote on May 25:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Medicare Part D

No I am not talking about the Medicare Prescription Benefit program, otherwise known as "Medicare Part D".  In this case, D is for "demagoguery" and I have been on that theme lately due in no small part to the number of sickening and shameless examples that abound. It never ceases to amaze me how people fall for it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Disliking Demagoguery

  • dem•a•gogue noun \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\ a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power
  • dem•a•gogu•er•y (d m -gô g -ree , ) noun\ The practices or rhetoric of a demagogue.

In my last post I wrote about the demagoguery employed in the debate over the “Debit Card Rule”, but plenty of other examples abound. Politicians love to use class warfare or other means to demonize entire categories or groups of people in order to stir the populace into a frenzy.  Their goal is to make the latter clamor for passage of new laws, which ultimately grant more power to politicians.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Debit Card Demagoguery

Lately I have been inundated with lots of pro and con advocacy ads about a certain “debit card rule”. To be honest, I am woefully ignorant about the details and I have not done any research on the subject, but I think I have been able to glean the following:
  • Back in December, Congress passed some rule limiting the amount that banks were allowed to charge merchants for transactions involving debit cards;
  • Currently, Congress is considering delaying, modifying or stopping implementation of this rule out of concern (among other reasons) that these limitations will hurt smaller banks;
  • Large retailers are crying foul and have started an advertising campaign talking about how “big banks” are getting another “bailout”;
  • On the other side, banks are screaming that the so called “debit card rule” is a “gift” to “big retailers”.

So who is right? To find out, let us first consider a little background and history.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Murderer and a Blasphemer

I was very tired Sunday evening and went to bed early. I must have needed it because I fell asleep right away, even over the distant sound of the television my wife was watching in the next room. At around 11:00 pm. I was suddenly awakened by my wife’s excited voice:

“Osama bin Laden is dead. The Navy Seals captured him in Pakistan”

“Okay, cool," I muttered. "Will he still be dead in the morning?”

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Turn to Whine

No, I am not whining because I am an about to be furloughed federal employee. If the government shuts down, I will survive. So will the rest of the country. My beef today is about something that is much more petty and parochial, though on second thought, it might be a microcosm of the larger debate that is going on with regard to the size, scope and level of accountability of government. It has to do with a quasi-governmental organization: The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, affectionately known as “Metro”.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why not settle the matter now?

You would think that the Obama Administration would like to settle the constitutionality of it’s sweeping healthcare “reform” act sooner rather than later. After all, it was struck down twice by two federal judges, one in Florida and one in Virginia. Given all the effort that went into ramrodding it through Congress over the people’s wishes, don’t you think they would want to put some effort into assuring those efforts come to full and unfettered fruition by ascertaining that the law passes constitutional muster?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sometimes They Listen

After 97 posts on “The Maryland Crustacean”, I am finally writing something about the State of Maryland.  Well, sort of.  Last night I sent emails to at least 16 members of the Maryland House of Delegates.  Each individually addressed message was short and sweet:

I am writing to respectfully urge you to vote NO on any bill attempting to legalize marriage for same sex couples. Such a bill would make a mockery of the institution of marriage and would further erode the social and moral fabric of our state and nation.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why do they hate you?

I generally enjoy listening to Bill O’Reilly, but with regard to his interview last week with President Obama, I find myself in strange agreement with O’Reilly’s detractors.

On balance, it was about as good an interview as you can expect for a live exchange in a limited time frame and in front of an audience with a limited attention span. One of the criticisms was that O’Reilly seemed rude and disrespectful by repeatedly interrupting the President. The following day on The O’Reilly Factor, he defended himself by noting that it was indeed a live interview limited to a short time span, and his interruptions were designed to keep the President on track and not let him “run out the clock”.

Fair enough, but his interruptions did seem repeated, noticeable and somewhat annoying. But the one part of the interview where O’Reilly really fared poorly was in the following exchange:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Life and Liberty

I mentioned in my post the other day that even a libertarian can believe that abortion should be outlawed. Why? Life begins at conception, as any intellectually honest medical scientist will concede. Once we have established the individuality and humanity of the unborn, they are vested with the same right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness as the rest of us.

I was thinking about the issue in church this morning when I was reminded that today is “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday”. The italics in the last sentence are intentional, because it bothers me that I had to be reminded.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Libertarianism and Legislating Morality

In my last post I mentioned how I am increasingly sympathetic to the libertarian point of view, although I am not quite there yet. One of the reasons I am still a little uncomfortable and unconvinced has to do with moral law. Despite the old and stupid adage that says “You can’t legislate morality” (What else are you going to legislate and why would you otherwise legislate anything?), all law has a basis in morality. Even the basic libertarian concession to the proper role of government,--to allow for the “least intrusive government consistent with the maximum freedom of each individual as long as he doesn't interfere with other individuals pursuing their own freedom”--is itself based in moral law. Does anyone remember the “Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tilting Toward Libertarianism

As a teenager and as a young adult, I pegged myself on the left side of the political spectrum. I called myself a liberal, which is of course a misnomer. Those who call themselves liberal today typically look to the government as the promoter and guarantor of the general welfare. In their view, the government is somehow to achieve this noble end through regulation, control and even ownership of economic activity; by redistributing wealth; or by incentivizing desired human behavior through regulation or the tax code. I prefer to label this ideology for what it is: statism.