Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'd like to take this occasion to announce an addition to the Pinhead clan: not-so-little (eight pounds-plus and 20 inches) Sophia Ellen Pinhead, born at the birthing center at Group Health hospital on Capitol Hill, Seattle, on Tuesday, November 16, 2010, at 3:15 pm, Pacific time.

Steviepinhead's first grandchild.


Monday, August 09, 2010

A Mating Conundrum

Here is my half-tongue-in-cheek theory on why so many men and women end up unmarried. In a nutshell, maturity lags eccentricity (especially for males). Also the way we socialize our youth focuses on entertainment, education and building careers when they are young which runs counter to our reproductive and mating needs as a species. For the average woman to marry, they must make a gamble on how the man will mature over time. If they delay doing this, their biological clock ticks ever more loudly, the pool gets smaller and smaller and they become even more set in their ways and inflexible on daily routines. For males, American bachelor culture teaches them all the wrong lessons and by the time they find out that being alone isn't all it was sold to them as when they were young, their lack of domestic influence has made them too slovenly/odd/socially clueless to attract a mate. They are left to either while away their time with a computer wishing they had grown up sooner or else find something mature and meaningful to do with their life. But what kind of meaningful life's work does society encourage or prepare slovenly/odd/socially clueless (i.e., undomesticated) men to do? For the most part, nada.

This plot is a slightly more hopeful look at the homo-sapien mating scene. Almost all men mature when they get married. Almost all men mature A LOT when they have kids. Men who stay unmarried for too long are often those who give up hope and regress or never matured in the first place.

The biggest takeaway from a plot comparing the ecentricity of married and unmarried men is that most people develop peculiar and tough to break habits as they get older. Getting married reduces this tendency dramatically among males but doesn't eliminate it. The best shot for women is to either be really flexible about this or marry young so they can have some say in how these peculiarities evolve.

Lastly, I've been told that I'm a poop for making a suggestion like this and criticized by both male and female. I'm not sure how to take that, except that I hit some slightly sensitive spots with some people who weren't married. This is humor. I'm not aiming this at any particular person. I do think that we have some serious problems as a society regarding our mating habits and how society doesn't encourage people to prepare well in this area. Anyway, if you want something impersonal to blame for the dissatisfaction on all sides, blame the pill or pornography or women's lib. Just, please, don't blame me. I'm more than willing to entertain alternative tongue-in-cheek theories(or even serious ones) as to the why of this situation, and I'm really not to blame for it in the first place.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why Do the Kids Leave?

"Our children and grandchildren are abandoning the faith because they perceive -- rightly -- that its demands are at fundamental variance with the lives we have prepared them to lead. We have raised them to seek lives characterized by material comfort, sexual fulfillment, and freedom from any obligations that they have not personally chosen. Should it surprise us that they fail to take seriously our claims to follow one who embraced poverty, chastity, and obedience to the will of God?"
-J. Peter Nixon

I'd probably add the term self-perceived in front of sexual fulfillment, though I'm not sure even that applies to most people. The point is a valid one nonetheless. We don't do a good job raising Christians as a subculture because we have adopted lifestyles and goals which make Jesus look like an self-oppressed freak to our children.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Legal Implications of Marriage

In my response to Doug's post contemplating the pros and cons of ministers being agents of the state in performing marriage, I mentioned how nice it would be to have a list of the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage in the US.

I also mentioned that I'd never seen such a list which, as it turns out, was shamefully due to my own lack of looking.

In many respects, the list could be seen as the marriage contract itself, which makes me wonder how many people become aware of these before they marry.

"According to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), there are 1,138 statutory provisions in which marital status is a factor in determining benefits, rights, and privileges." In addition, there seems to be several hundred provisions in each state.

What may not be readily apparent is the core reasons why society allocates these various rights and responsibilities, and to what extent the government must be involved. There are a lot to go through and categorize, but I'm curious if any items stand out to you.

(1) Which items (should) discriminate by (differences in) gender? Is the act of sex or procreation relevant to any items?

(2) Which items (should) discriminate by count of spouses?

(3) Should individuals have the right to define membership in their union and family, with the government's rules merely respecting their definition?

(4) Should individuals and businesses have the right to discriminate based upon another's definition of "spouse" or "marriage" or "family" even if the government does not discriminate? e.g. based upon gender differences or sex or count?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Abortion: Coming to an OB-GYN Office Near You?

The NYT writes about their future dream world, where abortionists are mainstream and their numbers are robust. They want this procedure to be done by OB-GYN's all over the country in the course of their regular practice. But how many pregnant women want to go to a doctor as comfortable with killing their offspring as delivering them live? Sure, some are comfortable with it, but not enough that this dream world will ever materialize. It just doesn't make good business sense to do both, especially in smaller communities that both trend conservative and also can't support a doctor who has been rejected by well over half his potential clients. Money drives decisions on how to arrange a medical practice, and this idea has lost profit written all over it. Of course, the abortion promoters at the NYT would never ask whether something like this makes actual business sense. Advocacy journalism doesn't ask the hard questions and has no qualms falsely accusing peaceful abortion protest groups of promoting violence.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Agent of the State, God or Both? -or- Why Gay Marriage is Potentially a Positive Development

Who should officiate at weddings? Should civil and sacramental marriage be kept separate, or should they be synonymous? Currently, while a pastor can officiate, one still has to obtain the marriage license from the state. Is this a good thing? Stuart Koehl has an excellent essay briefly delving into these issues, especially as regards gay marriage.

This conflation of roles strikes me as one of the key problems that the Church has had in maintaining a Christian view of marriage. If the Church acts as an agent of the State, then it is far too easy to cheapen marriage to conform to the broader cultural view of marriage, instead of that taught by Jesus. Coming up with juridical structures that can adjudicate a lawful "divorce" is terribly time and resource intensive. Much easier to simply let the state handle that messy business and officiate when one has a decent hunch that the marriage would be Christian... and that's when people bother to bring any form of Christian doctrine to bear at all on remarriage.

Are there risks in this separation of powers/duties? Absolutely. Currently, by combining State and Church, the State encourages married couples, albeit in a rather indirect way, to settle down and take their religion seriously. The formation of a family and presence of children is one of the best statistical indicators of religious attendance. If the Church is seen as less relevant to family formation, couples sitting on the fence regarding religious attendance will be less likely to give it a whirl and discover for themselves what life in Christ is all about. However, by conflating the roles of Church and State, Christians have also diluted the meaning and doctrine of marriage for the faithful. Is this trade worth it? Most often, people don't even consciously think about these decisions. It is just accepted as a byproduct of the culture we live in and given as much consideration as the air we breathe.

It would probably be useful to look at the example of the Orthodox churches in communist countries, as Church and State marriage were distinctly separate during that time and (I think) remain separate to this day. It isn't like this would be the first time such a separation has been maintained between State and Church recognition of marriage. Catholics have also maintained separate juridical structures and offered a distinctly different concept of heterosexual marriage from the state (think Henry VIII), and so the adjustment for them would in some ways be minimal. If this separation of powers were to be implemented, the biggest adjustment would be among Protestants, most of whom (in my limited experience) haven't thought deeply about what constitutes valid Christian marriage and the difficult, controversial and practical aspects of blessing Christian remarriage, for instance. The only thing a Protestant needs to do to get married after divorce is to change churches/states. Almost never is a denominational change required, because the structures/doctrines simply aren't in place to determine if one is "free" to marry, in the Christian sense. Shaking this complacency in letting the state make those determinations is no small feat, and it offers tremendous opportunity for Protestants to re-examine what Jesus really taught on marriage. Who knows, state recognition of gay marriage could end up being one of the best things that ever happened to Christians in this country.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Bran Scans of Men Viewing Bikini Clad Women

Shocking News... Images of women in bikinis turn off the empathy section of men's brains and turn on the section associated with using power tools, especially if the head/face has been digitally removed from the body. They associate bikini clad women with first person phrases like "I push" or "I handle", while they associated fully clothed women with third person phrases like "she pushes" or "she handles". This study is particularly puzzling. It goes against everything we know from personal and societal experience.

On a slightly more serious note: I wonder if the group of men studied distorted these results. It appears they were all undergraduates at Princeton, suggesting to me that they weren't married and were living in a particularly promiscuous environment. I doubt that college age guys are particularly representative of the male population at large, though they are likely representative of the male population at certain destination beaches.

And in the mildly humorous column: Most news articles reporting this have sample images, just so you know what they are talking about. They would hate for there to be any confusion on this. Their copy editors I'm sure will assure us that they actually take the Princeton researcher quite seriously when not trying to attract greater readership. wink, wink.

PS: Yeah, I know this is year and a half old news. Things tend to get by you when you live most of your life under a rock.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Phrase of the Day

"American style, spill-your-guts-to-Oprah, emotional incontinence"
-Gerald Warner describing the new BBC series "Men's Hour"

"emotional incontinence" I can't wait to use that phrase.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Expectations and Their Implications

I typically shy away from touchy-feely articles because they tend to be extremely floofy, and not terribly interesting to boot, but this one caught my eye, especially the following paragraph/sentence regarding a woman’s discussion with her husband about having another kid.

“During the evening’s conversation, I outlined all of my reasons and desires for having a third... He listened and expressed genuine feeling for my position. He said he would think about it. The following week he said ‘no.’ He hadn’t slept well all week, explaining he was terrified of what his answer would do to us - the resentment that would persist because of his choice. But he said he didn’t want another and he could never bring another being into this world that he didn’t want.

Wow. That last phrase is pregnant with profound implications. It basically assumes complete control over fertility, as if one can have unlimited sex at will without consequences. In the “perfect world” promoted by Planned Parenthood, it’s possible. Of course, they are also the world’s largest abortion provider, and that’s the rub. In practice, contraception fails at pretty high rates. User effectiveness for the pill is about 80%, and that is by far the most common method of contraception. If people have emblazoned in their mind the idea that they should be able to maintain complete control over fertility, then abortion will always be legal and will never be rare. Reproductive systems are extremely complex, especially for females. Pumping humans full of pharmaceuticals until perfectly healthy biological systems malfunction in a “healthy” manner is an extremely complicated process. It is a process prone to failure on many fronts. Too much medication (especially for years on end) and one risks health complications (e.g., stroke, embolism, infertility, etc.) Too little and one risks pregnancy. For many, side effects like weight gain and loss of libido are inevitable. The drugs do mimic pregnancy for crying out loud. Like one couldn’t see those side effects coming from a mile away. Anyway, I digress. The point is that these drugs fail. All of them. Even with perfect use, and quite often the use is imperfect or not at all.

The expectation that contraceptives give us control guarantees that abortion will always be legal, because that expectation is false. When people plan their lives around false assumptions, they always demand that the government make available a backup plan, and they often don’t give a damn regarding how that backup plan affects other people.

Kind of reminds me of the social security/medicare crisis, but I’m getting off track again.

I really wonder where this is headed in 50 years. 90% of humans diagnosed with Downs’ Syndrome are currently aborted. Doctors now require a person who refuses the intra-uterine testing for D.S. to sign a waiver, because the doctor can be sued if they don’t diagnose the baby, giving the parents an opportunity to abort. How long will it be before infanticide is allowed for handicapped babies. There is no in-utero test for autism, and rates keep going up. If a child is born and doesn’t interact normally, why shouldn’t the parents be allowed to kill it? There is nothing magical about the trip down the birth canal, and many ivy league profs think that infanticide should be perfectly legal and normal for handicapped kids in the first few months of life. After all, newborns are just as dependent on adults after birth as they were in-utero. They just aren’t as dependent on one specific individual. Is the right to abortion solely dependent on the potential cost to one individual. Shouldn’t the costs to both parents and even society at large be taken into consideration? Why should an elderly person with dementia have a right-to-life, no matter the cost to family and society when the fetus does not? Caring for someone with dementia can takes years, if not decades off their caregiver's life. Does being born in to a family mean one is obligated to provide for another persons every need after they "lose their mind" and can't take care of themselves. If their own family members have no obligation to provide for their needs, can one say that it is society's responsibility with a straight face? How does mere biological existence impose unreciprocated obligations on other members of the same species?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Immigration Rates to Drop? Political Repercussions Tough to Predict

I found this article fascinating, given the potential implications it has for future immigration in this country.

Reflecting on it further, it seems to me that this could spell tremendous changes for the Democratic party. There probably aren't 10 congressmen/women who won't flop on 90% of the issues in order to save their jobs, so I would never predict the death of a party. That said, if immigration drops, not only will that be a tremendous blow to the economy, but it could push the Democrats in directions they've never gone before. The three biggest questions I have in that regard are...

1) Will Hispanics be a lock for future democrats. I live in a Hispanic state, and though I've seen a strong trend toward Democrats, Hispanics have never struck me as an ideal fit in the Democratic party. For one, they tend to be very conservative on social issues. They value family a lot. They have lots of kids. Statistically speaking, among whites, these are strongly correlated indicators of political conservatism. Also, most Hispanic immigrants do well economically (or at least their children do well), and there isn't the same level of social injustice/victim mentality/(insert pet cause) that seems to have wed the black community so closely to the Democrats.
2) Will Hispanic birthrates stay the same or drop? If they do drop, will there be a breakdown along political lines like we see in the white community? In 2000 George Bush famously carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates. In 2004, there was a 0.86 correlation factor with Bush's vote.
3) Given the current fecundity of white democrats (or rather the lack of it), how would their party change in the future in order to attract new members (assuming Hispanics are not a lock for the party). Democrats are fans of big government and, specifically, big social programs. Ironically, most of these end up being generational wealth transfer programs which are then dependent on both immigration and the increased fecundity of Republicans to maintain. If social programs are cut for Republicans, it will hurt, but many of them will be able to get by with the support of their social support networks (primarily family and religious). They likely won't starve to death. Democrats have much lower fertility rates and don't go to church nearly as often. If social programs are cut for them, they are more likely to be totally screwed. This is doubly true for older Democrats (at least those I know).

All of this is highly speculative. It is most probable that the political divisions of today will be drastically altered in another 20 years, but it's fun entertainment for a political junkie like myself.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Greene Wins SC Primary:

Alvin Greene is one audacious candidate, no matter how you slice it. Also, either South Carolina Democrats are really stupid or Vic Rawls is one hated politician/ asshole to lose to an unknown by 18%. I've written in Mickey Mouse or voted for a relative unknown when I didn't like any of the frontrunners, but I never thought any of my Hail Mary votes would actually win. Maybe Democrats in SC just don't like ugly, old white guys 1 year away from collecting SS checks representing them. Does anybody else have a better theory on why Greene won the SC primary? I find the whole situation incredibly amusing myself. That's partly because I can't imagine the GOP hijacking this election at the ballot box, so it strikes me that the dems shot themselves in their own foot. A coordinated get out the vote effort is too difficult to manage statewide without garnering tons of attention and negative publicity. Every party has plants in the other party and people on their opponents e-mail lists, plus plenty of people on their own side who despise dirty politics enough to blab to the press and buck a move toward sabotage. An 18% statewide differential translates into a massive get out the vote effort, if that was the driver in this election. At least, if some GOP operatives did engineer this, they will be easily found out and likely offered a job in Harry Reid's campaign. He could use that kind of miracle working.

Anyway, if reports like the below turn out to be true, it wouldn't be funny. I'm just skeptical people would be so stupid as to actually rig an election that would receive such scrutiny. It's practically a guaranteed jail term, as it should be.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Health Care Rationing is Responsible and Necessary?

"Ultimately, even that (the VAT) won't be enough. As the population ages and health care becomes increasingly expensive, the only way to avoid fiscal ruin (as Britain, for example, has discovered) is health care rationing." - Charles Krauthammer

I reject that idea as a general principle, but it probably does apply to the position America finds itself in. What I like most about the statement is that it raises the difficult questions that our politicians are unwilling to broach. As a society we are getting older. Health care for the elderly is much more expensive than health care for the young. There are two ways to pay for health care in one's old age.

1) Place the burden of paying for your old age care on your kids and grandkids.
2) Save for health care expenses in your retirement planning.

Now, it's a no-brainer to me that #2 is the responsible choice in today's demographic environment. However, most American's seem to have chosen #1 a long time ago and never re-evaluated that choice. By choosing #1 and placing the burden of this wealth transfer on government taxation, we set up a system that was doomed to failure when dropping fertility rates caught up with rising benefits. The system functioned well with a rapidly growing population (e.g., it worked well for the WWII generation because they had a lot of kids). However, what works when there are 5 taxpayers for every retired person doesn't work when there are only 2 taxpayers for every retired person and health care for the elderly has come to cost far more than the average house. Even including government benefits (which cover far more than individual contributions) Fidelity estimates that health care will cost somebody retiring today a quarter million dollars.

The bottom line is that most people don't realize is that if you don't save for your health care expenses, your care will be rationed, and that's actually the responsible thing to do.

Either that or this country will destroy it's financial house through extreme deficits and hyper-inflation, leaving far fewer people with jobs and health care coverage in the long run.

I'm betting on financial ruin for this country, but I'm a pessimist by nature. I don't think our politicians have the courage to make necessary cuts. I think the elderly are too @#$# selfish to vote in people willing to make those difficult choices, and I think the young are too ignorant and absorbed in their own entertainment to worry about the future until it's much too late.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Patristics at Wheaton

Wheaton is going to start a center for the study of Patristics. In the words of George Kalantzis, "We are striving to create a center where discussions between Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox can happen. A place where we can come together and say, ‘What is this that we call our common faith, and how do we each contribute to a better understanding of that,’"

Can I get an amen, brother!

It appears that this program is tapping into a felt, yet unmet need, too. Kalantzis already has over 20 applicants to the brand new program, and he hasn't even begun to advertise it.

George goes on, "Our goal is to understand our common tradition, explore it, live with it, be with it, instead of just going back and plundering it - finding the eight quotes to justify whatever I want to do." or as he says in another interview, “Most Christians look at the early Church and find quotes that support their position and move forward from there. But that is not study. That is pillaging,” Kalantzis said. “We need to delve into it and truly live with [the Church Fathers] and understand them, where their conflicts were and what their thought patterns were. How else are we going to understand our faith if we don’t understand those who delivered it to us?”

Preach, it. This has got to be my pet peeve in discussions over Patristics with folks. Cherry picking somebody's words to make them say what they never intended is far too common, whether one is looking at Scripture or the earliest interpreters of the Word of God written.

It is this one statement in the Christianity Today article that I don't get.
"The Tradition belongs to Protestants as well, he reminds us. Without the story of the early church, the Protestant Reformation would make no sense. The Reformers appealed to the pattern of the early church. We cannot be true Protestants without knowing that history."

I get the first and third sentences. However, I don't see the 2nd and 4th as clearly. In my experience, most people who take the early church seriously end up converting to Eastern Orthodoxy or Catholicism. Perhaps one could study Patristics as an Episcopalian or Lutheran, but it is tough for me to imagine large numbers Evangelical Protestant taking this as seriously as a Presbyterian takes the writings of Calvin, et. al. and not having large numbers of conversions to Orthodoxy or Catholicism. In my experience, I've met numerous people who reach the early church fathers and decided that they were heretics (similar to George Barna/Frank Viola in Pagan Christianity) or cherry picked verses to support their ideas (all traditions, but more prevalent among evangelicals in my experience) or aligned their viewpoints more with the Catholic/Orthodox traditions (e.g., Robert Wilken, who gave the inaugural lecture at the opening of the center and is a Catholic convert). I've yet to read anybody who really took the study of the early church fathers seriously and remained an evangelical Protestant. That doesn't mean such people don't exist. I've just not familiar with anybody that fits that description. There is such a discord between the writings of Ignatius or __________ and evangelical theology/practice on subjects like the authority of bishops, I don't see this new center as being something that would encourage status quo theological thinking for most evangelical students.

Another interesting point, is that Wheaton doesn't allow Catholic or Orthodox professors on staff (at least, I think that's why Prof. Hochschild was fired). Given that the experts in this field often hail from non-evangelical backgrounds, it will be interesting to see what kind of faculty they pull in. My guess is that there will be close collaboration with faculty of other universities, without actually hiring them (e.g., the Prof. Wilken inaugural lecture).


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Religiously Disconnected Young Adults

I found this paragraph particularly interesting, because it put the phenomena of an increasingly agnostic/religiously indifferent young adulthood in perspective.

"This should come as little surprise, however, when we step back from the religious lives of today's emerging adults and look at the larger social milieu in which they find themselves. Their connections to education and work tend to be fragile and unstable. They live much of their lives in an isolated, electronically mediated world in which iPods, personal computers, and cell phones link them to their preferred music, movies, and friends and not much else. They are largely indifferent to the great causes of the right and the left. And, most importantly, for most of these emerging adults, marriage is not on the horizon. It is little wonder, therefore, that the members of this lukewarm generation are largely disconnected from American religion, given that they are also disconnected from stable long-term employment, civil society, and family life."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Blogging from Kenya

Compassion Bloggers: Kenya 2010

It's that time of year again. Compassion International is taking bloggers with large followings to an exotic part of the world to show them what life is like for people on the edge of existence. Please, take some time to read a bit about life in Kenya, and ask God whether he might want you to help provide food, clothes, education and basic healthcare to a child for about $1/day. I've sponsored a kid through Compassion for nearly a decade now, and though I have yet to get anything but no response or an evasive answer from them on the approach of their staff to Catholics, they do good work overall.

I've sponsored kids through all 3 of the top rated child sponsorship agencies according to the American Institute of Philanthropy, and Compassion does the best job of facilitating communication between the kids and their sponsors as well as promoting their work to those unfamiliar with the concept of child sponsorship. This makes them the most expensive organization, but allows them to help far more kids than relying on word of mouth.

Incidentally, if one is ever considering visiting their sponsored kid, one might consider CFCA, since the costs run about 1/3 or less of the cost of visiting a Compassion Project. But if one is really new to the concept, a Protestant, and looking for an organization that values your time and makes everything convenient, Compassion is probably the way to go.

Below is a my own quick overview of the three highest rated child sponsorship agencies. Feel free to make corrections, if you spot anything outdated or inaccurate.
1) Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA)
$30/month - 94.6% goes toward program work. Lowest fundraising and management expenses of any large child sponsorship organization. Quite amazing, actually. Founded by Catholics, but accept kids of all religions and there are no hard sells regarding religion. Nobody is required to learn the Christian faith as a condition of receiving aid. Very low rates for sponsors visiting kids ($450 to visit Latin America for a week, not including airfare to the country). They are the only group to have specific programs dedicated to sponsoring teenagers, the elderly and the handicapped. Some sponsorship agencies are focused on young kids because they area more easily converted to your religion, among other reasons. However, it is in the teen years when sponsorship is often more necessary as education costs increase dramatically and the child becomes a potential wage earner, making their continued education all the more difficult. Also, living in the US, with its robust elder care system, we forget how destitute many elderly in the third world are. Sponsoring grandma in diapers isn't nearly as glamorous as sponsoring a bright-eyed 5 year old.
2) Compassion International
$38/month, 82% for program expenses, including sponsor/donor relations. I think other groups include sponsor/donor relations in this percentage, too, but am not sure.
Largest organization reaching over a million kids. All outreach is done through local Protestant churches and every kid is taught and sometimes required to learn a Protestant version of Christianity from what I gather. It appears that the group has actively evangelized the Catholic kid I sponsor into the small Guatemalan sect that they work through. I haven't been able to get a straight answer on their approach to Catholics, so I don't recommend them to Catholics, agnostics or people for whom sheep stealing and Proselytization into sects through monetary gifts is a problem, but many Protestants wouldn't consider sponsoring a kid through a Catholic or secular group, so this would be the best fit for them.
3) Save the Children
$28/month, 92% goes toward program services
One of the oldest and most revered aid agencies in the world, Save the Children is based out of the UK. They are strictly secular and forbid people to mention religion in their correspondence. This is a big part of my life, so I felt like I was hiding part of my life from the kid we sponsored, and this group wasn't a good fit for me. They also offer child sponsorship as part of a much larger approach to aid, as opposed to being focused primarily on child sponsorship, as Compassion and CFCA are.
4) World Vision
$35/month, 89% goes toward program services
B+ rating by the AIP and I have no personal experience with child sponsorship through this group, but they have such devoted fans I would be remiss if I failed to mention them. A cross between all of the above groups, they offer child sponsorship as part of a much larger aid program. They are Christian in character, but similar to CFCA don't do the very active (and some would argue disrespectful) proselytization that Compassion does. The only group to have a program dedicated to sponsoring children affected by AIDS, which is an incredible need in some parts of the world.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Water on the Moon

Very cool discoveries keep on being made about the moon. It's an exciting time to live in. Now, if we could just figure out how to go back there again...


Monday, March 01, 2010

Religious Freedom Violation or Just Jail Time

So, a father may spend 60 days in jail for violating a court order barring him from exposing his child to a religion other than Judaism (the mother's religion).

Below is a summary of the facts, along with references. Please, correct me, if you feel I am misinformed.
1) A Jewish gal marries a Catholic guy. Neither is practicing, except occasionally. He's an Afghanistan veteran. She's a law school student. Her family has money (her dad is a lawyer for Playboy). His family doesn't have money.
2) Guy marries gal in Jewish ceremony.
3) Gal's parents provide pecuniary support in the early years of marriage while the gal goes to law school and the guy tries to get a job and figure out what to do for a living as a civilian.
4) Guy and gal have kid. Still, no regular church practice in the home according to him. They only attend synagogue or mass on high holy days. Gal claims more regular practice as Jewish family, but this is unspecified, as near as I can tell.
5) Guy converts to Judaism in order to smooth things over with the in-laws (his version). Gal claims no pressure. Guy says he never stops practicing his faith (praying, attending mass on high holy days, etc.)
6) Gal changes cell phone contract to cut off guy from info as well as how she dresses for work. She cheats on husband and is caught with numerous incriminating e-mails.
7) Gal leaves guy and goes to her parents' place. Guy shows up with police accusing gal of kidnapping their child.
8) Gal cuts off husband from child for 7 month stretch at one time. (Only one reference for this.)
9) Guy sues to obtain some visitation rights to his daughter.
10) Guy is said by court to have psychological problem. I don't quit know how to describe this, since no evidence of such a problem is given that I could find.
11) Gal gets the house, car and primary custody of the kid. Kid attends private Jewish preschool which gal or her parents pay for.
12) Guy has child baptized.
13) Guy sends pictures of ceremony to mom. He says it was because she had asked for pictures. She says it was retaliatory and vindictive.
14) Court forbids guy from exposing his daughter to any religion other than Judaism. Judge in case is former President of Decalogue Society, the Jewish bar.
15) Guy defies court order. Says it is a violation of his basic religious freedoms and invites news cameras to accompany him to a mass at the Chicago archdiocesean cathedral.
16) Court slaps guy with 60 days in jail.
17) Guy successfully files to have judge removed from case. New ruling is pending (due tomorrow, March 2, I think).

References for facts of case at bottom:
There are so many places to go with this case, it is tough to know where to begin. I will start by laying out the big questions, as I see them.

A) Under what circumstances would the court be able to justly forbid exposure to any religion but one single parent's religion?
B) What would could justly constitute unlawful exposure? Examples listed in what I presume would be least offensive to most offensive.
B1) Prayer before meals?
B2) Prayer before bed?
B3) Attending church as a family (is this a babysitting requirement if the guy wants to go himself?)
B4) Reading a particular religion's Scriptures to the Child?
B5) Having the child circumcised or baptised, in the context of a religion that teaches such actions are indicative of the parent's faith?
B6) Having the child go through some ceremony that is supposed to be indicative of the child's faith?
B7) Exposing the child to propaganda aimed at denigrating the other parent's faith?
C) Does the guy's conversion count for anything? If so, who determines this? His is certainly never considered by the Catholic Church to lose his standing as a Catholic and continues his practice pretty much as before. The Jews consider him one of their own, I suppose, too. He occasionally practices both faiths.
D) In the case of dual-religious homes, what is healthy? Is it healthy to only have the child exposed to one religion? Is it healthy to have the child exposed to both religions? Who has the right to determine this?

I'd ask whether the father was justified in his actions, but there's so much he-said/she-said in this case, that it would be pointless to do so until a basic understanding of underlying principles and the facts of this case was established. It would probably also be more informative to ask people, what the facts would have to be for the man to be justified or not justified in his actions. I posted this first on Facebook gave it up for Lent and was actually pretty disappointed in some of my "friends' comments", one of which I had to delete because it totally misrepresented and twisted what I had stated. I think this is probably a better forum, since the people who post here tend to be much more thoughtful in their responses. My apologies for any overlap, to those who are (semi-)active in both forums.

References in no particular order:
(20/20) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jK75ZqmPNg

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tempora Christiana

Since last year I've been meaning to post about my friend Scott's blog: Tempora Christiana

His eclectic tastes bring forth some interesting topics related to history, politics, and religion. I periodically object and we've had some good discussions. Please join in if it interests you!


Getting Things Done Better

The busier I am the more interested I become in efficiency.

I've known about Getting Things Done (GTD) for a while, but it always seemed like too much work. Then I lose track of a couple of ToDos and I suddenly take a renewed interest in capturing and planning everything. :)

Likewise for Some Techniques for Learning by Connections. It's kind of a verbose article, but the list of techniques are a good reminder and make sense to me, so I thought I'd share them.

Of course, now I'm blogging about doing things rather than doing them, so off I go. :)


update: P.S. if you have any tips or techniques for getting things done, please mention it! Thanks. :)