Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Omens, Disasters, Prophecy And American Pride

I have written elsewhere about other concerns I have about how the modern church handles the Bible in relation to prophecy.  In this post, I want to focus on a particular observation that has sunk in over the past week or so: Most of the discussion in the United States about eclipses, hurricanes, judgment and prophecy only makes sense if you live in the United States. 

The entire world didn't have a total solar eclipse last month, yet somehow because the U.S, got it, that was a signal of the end. In 2016, South/East Asia, North/West Australia, and the Pacific and Indian Ocean had a total eclipse. In 2015, it was Europe, North/West Asia, North/West Africa, East and North America, the Atlantic and the Arctic. Total eclipses happen a lot all over the world, but for some reason they don't count unless they blanket the United States. The rest of the world was having natural disasters in 2017 as well, including tropical storms and flooding (some of which devastated church communities) but apparently their experiences did not merit the same prophetic consideration as ours.

This, I think, ought to give us pause, and I will offer several reasons to explain why.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Harvey, Irma And Global Warming: The Facts From Experts Whose Opinions Matter More Than Mine Or Yours

After hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it was hard to miss the multitude of headlines demanding that we pay attention to global warming now. Those who refuse to see this connection are science deniers at best and possibly criminals at worst (some are suggesting politicians who deny or minimize global warming should be arrested). 

But there were other voices as well, voices cautioning that the correlation was not so clear. The more I read, the more I realized how many 'weasel words' permeated the coverage (might, could, likely, probably, many speculate, etc). Even worse, headlines and even conclusions within articles often did not align accurately with the actual facts in the article. 


I figured it was time for some research. I looked for national and international agencies, think tanks, meteorologists and climatologists. I did not try to avoid anything or confirm a particular bias. As far as I know, what I have to offer represents the mainstream or consensus scientific view. I know "consensus" is a dirty word in some circles, but if it's good enough to give force to the global warming argument, it should be good enough to give weight to this topic as well.


These quotes will address the number of hurricanes, their strength and duration as compared with existing data over the history of hurricane activity, and whether or not we should be drawing a connection between the power of the recent hurricanes and global warming. 


I think you will see that while there is minor disagreement, the general consensus is solid: global warming does not get credit for Harvey and Irma (except for perhaps a couple extra inches of rain). These are not climate change deniers saying this. Everyone I read affirms that the globe is warming, and that if trends continue we should eventually see significant impact, even if it might be a while. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The End Is Near - Again

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars: and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and expectation of those things that are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)

"And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth." (Revelation 12:1-2)

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These verses are suddenly front and center on social media. Why? For the passage in Luke, it's because the eclipse was on the 21st, Hurricane Harvey began on the 25th, and the flooding hit on the 26th (there's the numbers from the chapter and verses). There's more, however.  According to unsealed.org:
"Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall exactly 4 days after the Great American Eclipse and 4 weeks before the Feast of Trumpets, or, on the Jewish calendar, exactly 4 weeks before the Revelation 12 Sign featuring a woman with 12 stars on her head who symbolizes the 12 tribes of Israel.  The storm was the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in 12 years and brought with it 12-foot storm surges."
This isn't the first time Luke 21 has been referenced in relation to natural disasters. Charisma magazine wondered last year if Hurricane Matthew was perhaps the referent. It wasn't, apparently.

The verses in Revelation are being cited because on September 23, 2017, the sun will be in the constellation Virgo (the virgin), the moon will be near Virgo’s feet, Jupiter will be in Virgo, and Venus, Mars, and Mercury will be in the constellation Leo. There are nine stars from the constellation Leo; the other three are found in the conjunction in Leo of Venus, Mars, and Mercury. Some are claiming that this is a fulfillment of a sign in the Revelation 12 passage cited above.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Facts About DACA And DREAMers

"We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion -- but through the lawful Democratic process -- while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve," he said. "We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans." – President Donald Trump
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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which was started by President Obama in 2012, lets young immigrants who came to the United States as children of illegal immigrants to a) apply for temporary protection from deportation, and b) obtain work permits, attend college, get a driver’s license, etc. There was a $495 fee attached to this, and it needed to be renewed every two years.

These immigrants became known as DREAMers after the DREAM Act, a failed piece of legislation meant to give these particular immigrants legal status in return for attending college or joining the military, and to eventually help them apply for citizenship. Though it kept popping up in Congress between 2001 and 2010, it never passed. 

So in 2012, President Obama used an executive order to issue DACA, which meant that these DREAMers who met certain criteria could apply for “deferred action” every two years. This was not a path to citizenship; "deferred action" meant that deportation proceedings would not be started against them. They would be “lawfully present” for those two years. This was only available for immigrants who met the following criteria:

  •  lived in the US since 2007
  • arrived before they were 16
  • were 30 or younger as of June 2012
  • were in high school, had a high school diploma (or a GED), or were discharged from the Coast Guard or US Armed Forces
  • had a mostly clean criminal record (not convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor)
Unfortunately, most people under DACA have no path to become citizens, because "federal immigration and naturalization law contains a categorical bar that prevents, in most circumstances, a person from applying for permanent residency or citizenship if their most recent entry to the United States was 'uninspected'" - which is precisely what happened. "Permanent residency is the step necessary to become a citizen and since DACA recipients are not eligible to be permanent residents, they cannot become citizens."

In 2014, President Obama decided to expand DACA by a) loosening age restrictions and b) including parents in what was called Deferred Action For Parents Of Americans (DAPA). Suddenly, half of the illegal immigrants in the United States were covered. A lawsuit against both DAPA and the expansion of DACA was successful (the Supremes deadlocked, so the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to block the action stood). This was not, however, a lawsuit brought on constitutional grounds. It was because of “Texas’s claim that it would incur costs” and because “the Obama administration did not go through the APA’s notice and comment process when creating them.”

When Planned Parenthood Fights For the Right To Live - and DREAM

“DACA has helped so many young DREAMers to go to Planned Parenthood abortion centers. We are resolved to fight back against this cruel and heartless decision — and I hope you are, too.

Here at Planned Parenthood, we firmly believe that every person has the right to live, work, and raise a family freely and without the threat of deportation or separation.

We believe in every person’s right to control their own destiny and their own body.

We stand with our allies who are leading this fight and will never stop fighting for this vision. Protecting immigrant families from inhumane attacks, assault, and deportations is critical to making that vision a reality.

- Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation Of America

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Oh, my.

Planned Parenthood clearly does not believe every person has the right to live, work and raise a family. They are responsible for ending the life of unborn babies at the remarkable rate of 887 a day on average (that’s about 320,000 in 2015 in case you were wondering).  Oh, and “79% of their surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods.” So those DREAMers they are helping? They are helping them abort the next generation. Deportation is bad for business, a business that makes at least a third of its income (and perhaps as high as 50%) through inhumane attacks and assaults against unborn human beings (click on the link to see my defense of this definition of a fetus).

Oh, Cecile, you have such moral clarity for the born, and I’m with you on that. I, too, think DACA needs to be reinstituted by the legislative branch. It is a morally good law implemented poorly. Let’s use the just means this time to achieve the same just ends.

But please, please apply your thinking to those who have not had the privilege of being born. They are truly the marginalized, the discarded, the ones being deported not just from this country but from this life. They are the ones being separated from their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Let them live so that they can truly control their own destinies.


I actually agree with your vision (with some clarifications about when deportation is appropriate): "We firmly believe that every person has the right to live, work, and raise a family freely and without the threat of deportation or separation. We believe in every person’s right to control their own destiny and their own body." Cool. Just…don't stop there. Walk it back. Every person's life begins not at birth, but at conception. The biology is incontrovertible. All they did after that moment was grow. 

Let them live.

Let the dream, too.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Wind River's Modern American Frontier

Wind River is the third film in a loosely connected trilogy linked to Taylor Sheridan. As a screenwriter in Hell Or High Water and Sicario, he set both in what Sheridan calls the "modern American frontier."  As a director, Sheridan uses the same setting in Wind River to take a stark look at the ways in which sin shatters the world in a 21st century Wild West.

I noted in my review of Hell or High Water that I was conscious while watching the film that it was a remarkably well made movie. I thought the same thing during Wind River. I didn't realize until later that Sheridan was responsible for both. I'm impressed that he got y attention with both. The dialogue and pacing, the brooding silence that suddenly explodes in violence, the way in which the landscape is just as much a character as the actors (the cinematographer also shot Beasts Of The Southern Wild)...  Wind River is just really well done in terms of cinematic art.*

During the opening credits, a voice intones, "There is a meadow in my perfect world." There is no idyllic meadow in this film.  Instead, there is the bitterly cold mountains of Wind River, the only American Indian reservation in Wyoming. As cold as that wind is, there is one just as bitter that moans through too many hearts as well. One character says, "You'd think people would realize this is sheep country." Hello, foreshadowing. Sheep country attracts wolves. There is more than one kind of sheep, and there are many kinds of wolves, and a howling, harrowing wind flows relentlessly through them all.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Is The Nordic Theory Of Everything Really As Great As It Sounds?

Several weeks ago I had the privilege to talk with Mella McCormick, a philosophy professor at Northwestern Michigan College, about a book called The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen. Here’s Mella’s overview:

The book compares the Nordic approach to life with that of the United States, which interestingly enough is polar opposite in many ways; for example, the Nordic countries provide their citizens with free universal health-care, free higher education, paid maternity and paternity leave, to name a few things. 
Despite the United States' proposed claims to value principles such as liberty, freedom, independence, the U.S. has created a system that makes its citizens dependent on others: students are dependent on parents to help pay for higher education and thus become beholden to them (this could potentially influence where the student goes to school, what she studies, selected career path, etc.); employees are dependent on their employees for health benefits, thus potentially enslaving a person to a job that he does not like or finds unfulfilling but cannot afford to leave; due to the high cost of geriatric care, adult children are left with the task of caring for their elderly parents which could potentially corrupt the elderly-parent/adult-child relationship (i.e. elderly parents feel like a "burden" to their children, children feel overwhelmed by medical tasks they are not trained to perform).
Partanen argues that the social services that Nordic countries provide for their citizens is what allows them to lead more authentic, free, and liberating lives, not less, as the anti-socialist rhetoric that portrays Nordic countries as "welfare states" would have you believe.
According to "For Generous Parental Leave and Great Schools, Move to Finland" (New York Times Review), there are many facts to support this contention:
  • Finland’s child poverty rate is less than 5 percent, compared with 25 percent for American children. 
  • Smoothly functioning and comprehensive health insurance 
  • A full year of partially paid disability leave 
  • Nearly a full year of paid parental leave for each child and a smaller monthly benefit for an additional two years (should I or the father of my child choose to stay at home longer with our child) 
  • Affordable high-quality day care 
  • One of the world’s best K-12 education systems 
  • Free college and free graduate school.
“The core idea,” Partanen writes of the Nordic Theory Of Love, “is that authentic love and friendship are possible only between individuals who are independent and equal.” A Norwegian friend said it this way:

"The basic view on government in Norway is that you elect people whose responsibility it is to help create a society where people aren't necessarily 'dependent' on others or government but actually have a fair chance at creating a good life for themselves with the help of good government regulations and equal opportunities."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

White Supremacism, Antifa, And The Ethics Of Protesting

It's no secret that tensions are rising in the United States. Hardly a week goes by without another march, another protest, another shouting match (or physical fight), another cry against injustice in some fashion. These clashes often seem to generate a lot more heat than light. Is it possible to navigate our way through these skirmishes in a way that productively leads us toward truth, justice, reconciliation and peace, or are we stuck with simply shouting and posturing until the loudest or strongest side wins?

In our most recent episode of Etctera, Beth and I discuss the recent controversy in Traverse City involving the replicas of Columbus's ships before addressing Charlottesville and other places where clashes over civil and human rights have been front and center in the news. We offer a starting conversation on a complex subject; hopefully, it can contribute in some fashion to a cultural move toward truth, justice, reconciliation and peace.

As always, you can listen to this podcast on Soundcloud; we also encourage you to become part of the conversation by posting thoughts on this page or on our Facebook page. Meanwhile, here are some links that will further your search for truth on this subject.