Monthly Archives: November 2009

Google on the Defensive About Michelle

Google is being criticized because it allows search results to show a Photoshoped image of Michelle Obama altered to make her look like a monkey. It’s a despicable photo. Many people argue that Google shouldn’t allow people to find it.

As much as I dislike that photo, Google can’t take this path. And why, I wonder, aren’t those same people up in arms about all the other stuff on the internet which can turn up in search results?

You can find white nationalist sites, anti-Semitic sites, information on making a bomb, unflattering caricatures of nearly any public figure, and pretty much anything having to do with sex. All things considered, this photo seems pretty trivial. If Google censors this one photo, it opens a huge, huge door. Imagine all the people who will come storming through the door next, pointing out how their pet cause was slighted and demanding that Google make it stop.

Google says, “We do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it.”

Except in China. There, if the Chinese government says remove it, they remove it. But in America…let the photo remain. And let those people all in a huff about it go after some of the multitude of other junk on the web which is far, far more offensive. Or, go after whoever created the photo, and the people who post it.

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Inferior to Canada? What Up with That?

I was working on some statistics for the countries where we have United Brethren churches. In looking at square mileage–physical size–I noted that the United States is the third largest country in the world, behind Russia and Canada. So we take the bronze, which is just not acceptable for an American. We’re accustomed to being first.

Now, the United States, with 9.83 million square miles, is far behind Russia’s 17.1 million square miles. But we’re only 158,000 square miles smaller than Canada. It seems like we could make that up fairly easily.

Keeping Afghanistan or Iraq would provide more than enough territory, but we don’t want to go that route. I’m pretty sure the Afghans and Iraqis would object.

Tunisia, Surinam, Uruguay, and Cambodia are just about the right size, with a few square miles to spare. But I can’t get excited about any of them.

If we had hung onto the Philippines (300,000 sq.mi), instead of granting independence in 1946, we would now be a firm number two. What was Truman thinking?

We could conquer Cuba (110,860 sq. mi), and that would cut the distance. Then throw in the Dominican Republic (48,700) and grant statehood to Puerto Rico (13,790), and we’d be there. Those acquisitions would also give us a lot of really good baseball players.

Of course, the best solution would be to annex Canada. That would give us a combined area of 19.7 million square miles and vault us straight to the Gold not only in square mileage, but in hockey as well. Of course, Russia would just turn around and take over any number of adjacent countries which were once part of the USSR, and we’d be back to the Silver, with China now taking the Bronze.

I just don’t like being Number 3

.

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Learning Why Atheists Reject Christianity

mills-harris-books250.jpg Surveys show that atheism and agnosticism are on the rise in the United States. Christianity is ascendant in other parts of the world, particularly Latin America and Africa, but not in Western countries. I don’t know why. But I decided to try to understand better how atheists see the world and view Christianity.

A lot of books have been written lately by atheists–evangelistic atheists, I should say, intent on converting people away from whatever religion they belong to. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are probably the best-known writers, but comments on Amazon told me that they tend to be obnoxiously condescending and combative.

Instead, I ended up with “Atheist Universe,” by David Mills, and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” by Samuel Harris. Both were excellent books. Yes, they attacked Christianity strongly, but that was the point.

Mills, who at one time was an on-fire evangelistic Christian, devoted a chapter to a lot of different subjects. I appreciated his understanding of how Christians think and what we believe, even if he has rejected all of it personally. The Harris book–a short little thing, more like an extended essay–was like a highly condensed version of “Atheist Universe,” hitting many of the same areas in a compact–and very compelling–manner.

Let me say right now: these books didn’t shake my faith at all. I’ve seen and experienced way too much of God and His Word to doubt him. Those books would be devastatingly effective with someone who was questioning his faith, but not with me.

Both spent a lot of time disputing Creationism and Intelligent Design. Many of their arguments made great sense to me. But I’m a total non-scientist, and we’re talking about very complicated issues which require a depth of knowledge which I fully lack. Creationists and ID folks could rebut Mills and Harris, I’m sure. I can’t, and don’t intend to immerse myself in these subjects to get up to speed.

However, I admit that Mills and Harris raised serious questions in various areas beyond science–questions which I cannot answer. They pointed out things in Scripture (usually fairly) that are inconsistencies or dilemmas we Christians, perhaps lamely, prefer to ignore. I realized how commonly we fling around pat answers. And pat answers don’t fly with people like Mills and Harris, nor with other skeptics or with people honestly searching out Christianity.

I’m not afraid of truth. By pointing out things in Scripture which appeared to be inconsistencies in my beliefs, they pointed out real truths about Scripture. It’s there, written right in God’s Word, and inspired by God Himself. No sense denying it, unless I want to take Thomas Jefferson’s approach and scissor out parts I don’t like. Mills and (to a lesser extent) Harris revealed to me new mysteries about God, things that require answers. I find that invigorating, rather than faith-quenching.

While I don’t have the answers, I, Steve Dennie, know that answers exist. Because I know God, and don’t doubt him. THAT kind of answer would drive Mills and Harris nuts. But sometimes, pat answers are valid. Especially if that’s all we’ve got for the moment, and maybe until we enter eternity.

I emerged from those books appreciating their intellectual honesty and why they have rejected Christianity. And I realize there are new mysteries surrounding God, the universe, and the Bible that I need to probe.

I also, now, realize the threat these compelling atheist writers pose to the souls of men. They are a potent weapon in Satan’s arsenal.

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Humor Diversion

funny-pictures-cat-stares-at-goat.jpg

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Books: Forsyth, Patterson, Sandford

Nov_3books300.jpg I’m a little behind on reviewing books I’ve read. Here are three recent novels.

The Afghan, by Frederick Forsyth. This one disappointed me. Forsyth did a great deal of research, and felt like he needed to inflict it all on the reader. I was never really engaged in the plot. At least not until the end, when he kicked into a higher geer. Interesting ending. But the rest–just skip it.

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. This is a new series under the Patterson brand. Daniel X is an alien, who himself is an alien hunter. He tracks down and kills aliens living on earth. It was interesting, quirky, and fast-paced. I’ll look forward to additional books in this series. It’s mostly fluff, but I like that sometimes.

Dead Watch, by John Sandford. Not one of his better books. Certainly far beneath the Lucas Davenport “Prey” books. Here, Sandford introduces a new hero, and instead of a murder mystery, we get a political thriller. I’d say the political thriller isn’t Sandford’s forte. The plot was certainly intricate enough, and I liked the hero, and it moved along, and…so what didn’t I like? Don’t really know. But it just didn’t satisfy me.

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Peering Beneath the Palin Fan Base

This video was shot at Sarah Palin’s book-signing in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend. Her adoring fans had great trouble saying what she stood for. I’m sure the video was shot with a particular agenda, so you need to take it with a grain of salt. The people who made it through the editing process are clearly just Palin groupies. I’m sure some thoughtful people also bought her book.

(If you’re reading this on Facebook, you’ll need to click on “View Original Post” to see the video.)

A similar video could be made at Obama events. With one big exception….

I was looking, but didn’t see anyone of color or ethnicity in the video. All reports about these signings are pretty similar in that regard. She clearly stirs up strong emotions among white people. What should we make of that? To me, it’s worth exploring.

In America, we need to be on guard concerning racial issues. We’ve come
a long way, but too many racial tensions lie dormant, awaiting a match.
A populist like Palin (or Buchanan, or Beck, or lots of others) can easily stir up those tensions, whether
intentionally or not. Now, just because the crowds around Palin are
predominantly white doesn’t mean
she condones racism in some way. That’s not a valid leap. But the situation is
something worth monitoring.

Look, I’m not out to bash Sarah Palin, so don’t go ballistic and label me a liberal dirt-monger. Palin’s a good, charismatic, engaging
person. But when I see masses of white people flocking around someone, with hardly anyone of ethnicity in the picture–well, that gives me pause.

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Give it a Shot

Found this in a New Yorker article about James Cameron’s new movie, “Avatar.”

Said James Cameron: “If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”

It’s reminiscent of this famous Teddy Roosevelt quote: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

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Speaking of the Public Good….

China executed two persons who helped produce tainted milk that killed six babies and sickened 300,000 others. Nineteen others, all executives or middlemen, received long prison sentences. Obviously, China is tough on companies that endanger public health.

McDonald’s executives should probably avoid going to China.

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Our Worship Team is Suck Proof

Yesterday in church, Carla gave her testimony as part of (or most of) the message. She did a great job, and it was very moving hearing her and Jose’s story. God has done great things in their lives.

But one part really cracked me up.

They first came to Anchor last spring. Carla kinda dragged Jose there, from what I remember; he wasn’t yet a Christian. The worship team did a song, and Carla looked over at Jose to get his reaction.

“They don’t suck,” Jose said.

I love that. Maybe our goal should be that the first impression of all visitors will be, “They don’t suck.” It’s a foundation you can build upon. Thanks, Jose, for what I consider to be a great compliment!

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Did George Bush Really Keep Us Safe?

You hear it a lot, from both Republicans and Democrats: “No matter how you feel about George Bush, at least he kept America safe.”

Since I prefer to question what I hear, I’ve been musing, “Did George Bush really keep America safe?” Let me pose some contrarian ideas.

  • On 9/11, we suffered the largest attack on the US homeland since, I believe, the War of 1812. 2976 people died on 9/11, which is 500 more than died at Pearl Harbor. This happened on George Bush’s watch, and warnings were communicated to him through security briefings. He most definitely didn’t keep us safe on 9/11. It’s like saying FDR kept Hawaii safe AFTER PEARL HARBOR.
  • There was a minor attack on the World Trade Center under Clinton, but no such attacks under Bush Sr., Reagan, or any other president going back to Truman. Only under GWB were we attacked successfully. So you CAN say Truman, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush Sr. kept America from being attacked. You can’t say that of GW Bush.
  • Since 9/11, over 6100 US soldiers have died and many thousands more have been severely wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. On top of the 3000 already killed on 9/11.
  • When 9/11 occurred, it’s estimated that the number of committed Al Qaeda operatives was only 500-1000, most located around Afghanistan. Now, it’s estimated at around 200. We lose 200 US soldiers every 3 months. Are we okay with that kill ratio? Is that necessary to keep us safe?
  • In Afghanistan, we mainly fight the Taliban, not Al Qaeda.
    We’re involved in a civil war, not the War on Terror. The same argument
    could be made for Iraq, where the conflict is pretty much Sunni vs.
    Shiite, with Al Qaeda playing a small role. Does keeping America safe require fighting in civil wars?
  • By invading and occupying two Muslim nations, we radicalized thousands of additional Muslims, including many already living in Western countries. They will continue being a threat for decades to come.
  • Our military is stretched thin. If a conflict occurred somewhere else in the world, we would be hard-pressed to respond. We certainly couldn’t respond with overwhelming force, since our forces and equipment are focused in the Middle East. We are secure…as long as nothing else happens.
  • While we were bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, two rogue countries, Iran and North Korea, developed nuclear capabilities. We were simply too distracted to deal with them. Plus, another nuclear power, Pakistan, is in chaos (though things are looking better).
  • Under previous presidents, we went into Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Haiti, and the Balkans. We did what we needed to do, then got out, or turned things over to international peace-keeping forces. Very few soldiers died in any of those engagements. 
  • Consider how different the world would be if we had gone into
    Afghanistan, beat the crap out of Al Qaeda, finished the job, then gone
    home. Instead, Bush switched his attention to Iraq, and we ended up with two
    quagmires.
  • When we invaded Afghanistan, Iran’s moderate (for them) government helped us in significant ways. But then Bush, for some reason, included Iran in his “Axis of Evil” speech. Iran’s moderates were discredited in their attempts to make nice with America, and they were replaced by hard-liners. Now, instead of a potential friend, we have a sworn enemy on the verge of having The Bomb.
  • Bush left with the US economy in ruins and deeply indebted to China. China practically owns us. How safe is that?

So–did George Bush really keep us safe? I’m just asking.

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