Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Confusion

(click to enlarge)

A Christmas Comics Extravaganza

(click comics to enlarge)

Contributing comics:

Jumpstart, by Robb Armstrong
OPUS: 25 Years of His Sunday Best, by Berkeley Breathed
Big Science, by Nick Downes
Non Sequitur, by Wiley
Foxtrot, by Bill Amend
Rubes, by Leigh Rubin
Together Again, by Guindon

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

World Church Faces Financial Limitations

Travel budgets cut, hiring freeze implemented
Reported by Ansel Oliver, assistant director for news, General Conference

Executives of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists announced financial restraints and cutbacks to deal with the current economic situation, ranging from delaying pay increases and budgeted increases in appropriations to reducing travel budgets and relocating executive meetings. Also, a hiring freeze is in effect. The moves come in response to global economies facing declines in stock market value, a credit crunch and increased unemployment rates, realities that could significantly affect tithe and other contributions to local congregations and administrative offices worldwide.

Church finance officers will review the church's budget in mid-February, shortly after new tithe and offerings figures will be available. Leaders emphasized the church was not in a "crisis" mode, but making short-term changes until they have a clearer understanding of where the economy and financial markets are headed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Comics

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

December 2008

Although I believe the Recorder could provide a context for Adventist news that is more engaging, spiritual, and thoughtful, I have to admit that it has become an amazingly comprehensive Adventist news source and a mecca for specifically directed Adventist advertisers interested in reaching 75,000 Adventist homes in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. In addition, the new Recorder website is state-of-the-art and includes the calendars and advertisements that appear in the magazine. The layout and graphics are also impressive, and the editorial work is professional quality.

Consequently, I will continue to read the Recorder, but will post a review only when issues relating to politics or belief are reported.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 27, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 33

This Review, with one exception, rates high marks for its feature articles, letters, world news and perspectives, Kid’s View magazine insert, and editorial comments. Three Bouquets have been awarded along with five Honorable Mentions. (If you decide to share this issue with a possible new subscriber, tear out page 17. Next, write in “God for All Seasons by Gerald F. Colvin” on page 19 and all will be well.)

SAFE WATER, COIURTESY OF ADVENTIST VOLUNTEERS: MOZAMBICANS BENEFIT FROM CHRISTIAN AID reported by Wendi Rogers, Maranatha Volunteers International. Maranatha volunteers “provide [clean well] water in every location where we build a church or school. . .Church buildings are also being used for literacy education classes, which are held in partnership with the government of Mozambique”.

ADVENTIST LEADERS IN SOUTHERN AFTICA TESTED FOR HIV/AIDS reported by Rajmund Dabrowski. For too long the Adventist Church in sub-Saharan Africa, an area of 23 countries and 20,000 Adventist congregations has not provided needed leadership in Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. This is an impressive first step!

A TREE GROWS IN AUSTRALIA by Cyril R. Were is a fascinating historical account of the beginnings of the Adventist Church in Australia.

The following quote from reader Richard Wright highlighted INBOX’s important contribution. “I believe that the primary goal of students at our colleges and universities should be to bring about spiritual liberty.”


KID’S VIEW, Managing Editor Wilona Karimabadi, Content Editors, Kimberly Luste Maran and Gina Wahlen. I have only one suggestion for the editors. If you had used a Scrabble first letter in the framed words accompanying each child’s comment, it would have graphically tied pages 1 & 3 to the Scrabble letters used for the title.

Gerald F. Colvin’s GOD FOR ALL SEASONS contributed the following story. "Philanthropist Robert Owen, a Welsh manufacturer, once interviewed a 12-year-old breaker boy, black from head to toe with coal dust, and weary from unbroken hours spent chipping shale from broken coal. 'Do you know God?' Owen asked. After pondering a moment the lad replied, “No, sir. He must work in some other mine.”

WHAT ABOUT SPLENDA by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
“Rats fed sugar substitutes ate more food and gained more weight than rats fed sugar-sweetened food. Studies show that, while both are sweet on the tongue, they affect the brain differently. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), tests demonstrated that sugar engages the parts of the brain that respond to food rewards and then switch off the craving for more; whereas the artificial sweeteners do not. It is likely that people using artificial sweeteners who tend to be overweight gain this extra weight at least partly because they are not satisfied with the food they eat.”

Cliff Goldstein’s THE CIRCLE, on page 17, is analogous to reading a medieval Catholic Church critique of Galileo when it was assumed that scientific knowledge was the result of speculation and traditional authority rather than experimentation and the scientific method. Consider the following quotes from the essay:

“Knowledge comes with a kind of circularity, doesn’t it? As more books are written, the circle gets wider, but it still goes round and round.

“Suppose, though, all those books were science books. We’re not talking, then, about feminist critiques of Rainer W. Fassbinder filmography; we’re talking, instead, of quarks, chemicals, and continental shelves—reality as we meet it, and not as filmmakers or playwrights create it. Doesn’t that break us out of the circle?

“Not really. Science is, inevitably and necessarily, a human endeavor—shackled, weighed down, and distorted by the shackles, weights, and distortions that qualify knowledge. The myth persists that science stands at some Archimedean point, “a view from nowhere,” and thus delivers an objective reflection of what’s really real.”

In Goldstein’s next to last paragraph he offers this criticism of science in general. “Scientific realities of even a generation or two ago aren’t the same as today. No doubt, too, if time should last, some present ex cathedra scientific certainties will be mocked as myth.” Who is it that Cliff believes will be responsible for these scientific breakthroughs? Theologians?

Finally, Goldstein concludes his essay using impressive-sounding, undefined philosophical generalities along with a comment about the “circularity” of knowledge that I have attempted to contextualize using his own words.

“There’s a real world out there, one that we meet as opposed to create, and science is a particularly fruitful way of encountering, experiencing, and interpreting that world. But what science reveals remains uncertain, contingent, and particular, as opposed to necessary, universal, and certain, because human knowledge remains that way. No matter how large the library, how many impressive volumes. . .

(‘—deep tomes filled with page after page of references. (Wow, references!) References to what, though, other than other humans, whose writings reference other humans, whose writings reference humans . . . and on and on. Knowledge comes with a kind of circularity, doesn’t it? As more books are written, the circle gets wider, but it still goes round and round.’)

. . .fill the shelves, or how large the circle gets, it still of necessity goes round and round.”

If, after reading this essay, you are left with your brain spinning “round and round” and questioning your ability to make sense of what you have read, you are not alone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Comics

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 20, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 32

This edition of the Review is worth reading cover to cover. I have some comments, of course, but the magazine is edited well, informative, and more often than not, inspirational.

One Bouquet has been earned along with four Honorable Mentions.

The cover article, THINK GLOBAL—ACT ADVENTIST is truly a “vision of what the contemporary church could be. Won K. Yoon speaks eloquently of a global outlook that is open, inclusive, and creative. He closes with the following words.

“We Adventists must either develop a global attitude or experience increasing difficulties in our attempt to convey our message to our contemporaries. The church has established a solid global hardware, so to speak. But it now needs to develop a global software—namely, its people. The new wine of present truth needs a new wineskin.”

INBOX—Letters from Readers
I didn’t know that there are nearly 325,000 members and more than 451 organized churches and congregations in Haiti. They, along with their countrymen STRUGGLE WITH DEVASTATION FROM FOUR MAJOR HURRICANES. Adventist volunteers along with ADRA are working to help victims in the worst hit areas. (There is no better Christmas gift than an ADRA gift card!)
REJECTING THE CURE by Connie J. Beehler
THE SILENCE IN BETWEEN by Dixil L. Rodriguez

I have two concerns. One is factual; the other is theological.

FACTUAL: There are reasons why the title, Clear Word, does not include “Bible”. It could, if it were a legitimate paraphrase, but it isn’t! It is a “bible” rendered consistent with the interpretations supplied by Ellen White without regard for the plain words of the Biblical authors. The Review and Herald Publishing Association knows this, as evidenced by the title, but it is advertised in the Review as a “popular paraphrase”. The advertised audio CD is doubly misleading in that the “Clear Word” in italics is followed by the plain text “New Testament”. The type is small but the intent to mislead is again present.

THEOLOGICAL: This issue contains a pullout titled, The New Believers Plan. It is an attempt to get free subscriptions of the Review into the hands of new converts. That is an admirable endeavor. However, in this attempt to “sell” the Review, Bill Knott advertises Cliff Goldstein as an author that will “continue to offer new believers plenty of evidence why biblical faith is the only viable alternative in a sea of relativism”. It is difficult for me to agree with Knott’s assessment in light of Goldstein’s editorial writing. His reactionary essays are provocative rather than enlightening.

Knott goes on to assert that Angel Rodriguez will give new converts the “tools for talking with their neighbors and friends”. I don’t know the “tools” to which he is referring, but only occasionally does Rodriguez provide answers that do not confuse the issue under discussion.

Christmas Comics

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 13, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 31

This is a solid issue. I do, however, get tired of the recurring “signs of the end” refrain that permeates all official church literature. Assertions like the following that conclude the cover feature, THE END OF A SIGN, OR A SIGN OF THE END? damage the Church’s credibility with members and nonmembers alike. “While we do not know how much longer time will last, the prophetic periods and signs confirm that truly we are in the end-times.”

One article has earned a Bouquet, and several pieces deserve Honorable Mention

The Inter-American Division is a happening place! IN ONE DAY, ADVENTISTS FEED ONE MILLION. Sabbath, October 11, 2008 was the yearly division-wide Day of Kindness and Compassion. No wonder SDA membership in this part of the world is exploding! Imagine what might happen if instead of “evangelizing” North America in 2009, we spent those millions providing food, education, and healthcare to the poorest of the poor in North America?

INBOX—Letters from Readers
EDITORIALS—thoughtful words from Stephen Chavez and Carlos Medley
I was unprepared for but delighted by the illustration that accompanied Elaine Hayden’s THE POWER AND THE GLORY: A REFLECTION ON JESUS’ GREAT PRAYER BEFORE THE CROSS. The portrait was of a man of African heritage.

Christmas Comics

Comic from Foxtrot by Bill Amend
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

November-December 2008

This is an issue that is big, and I mean BIG on graphic illustrations, and advertising. We Need to Talk by Chris Blake and God Wants Israel Back, the Andy Nash Interview, were accompanied by picture spreads that covered a page and a half. (There was only space for four letters to the editor.) I would have happily donated most of the full-page picture of LA that accompanied my cLAim news update to reader feedback.

We Need to Talk by Chris Blake makes the obvious point that the SDA church in North America will “continue to lose our next generation” unless changes are made. The changes he suggests have to do with identifying and catering to the preferences of “Older Mosaics” and “Young Busters”, ages 16 to 29.

I don’t buy it. Tweaking the delivery system of the Adventist message won’t solve the problem. The problem is the message itself, the 28 Fundamental Doctrines of the Church. Children raised as Adventists who do not attend SDA schools discover early on that other Christian communities tolerate less restrictive lifestyle choices. Young people that leave the sheltered world of the Adventist educational system discover that they have left a loving, inclusive Christian environment in which SDA doctrine is virtually ignored. The nonacademic Adventist world requires all but the cynical to conform to doctrine that dictates ritualistic, traditional behavior that is Christian in name only. For both groups, Adventist dogma is an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual turnoff.

Andy Nash and family had a great time in Israel, and the pictures that accompanied his tour bus editorial are charming. Unfortunately, his interview with Richard Elofer, President of the Adventist church in Israel needs the kind of editorial scrutiny that was afforded my piece. God Wants Israel Back is an interview that is scattered and too informal. Consequently, it looses focus and the title of the interview remains an unsupported assertion.

The “special advertising section” sponsored by Alumni Awards provides four pages of information about the state of Adventist secondary education and a reward strategy designed to improve it.

A Time to Laugh features caricatures and a brief biography of famous personalities; most are Adventists. Their author is anonymous “to avoid any sort of reprisal from the saints lacking humor”. (I too have had the honor of being “caricatured”!)

The Eye Doctor by Alden Thompson makes the point that “the whole truth is presented more clearly by several than by one. He is aided in this observation by an extensive quote from Ellen White’s Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, pp. 432-433.

The Seven Questions for Mary Whipple, Olympic Gold Medalist coxswain leaves out what for me is the most interesting question for Adventist readers. “How does she navigate traditional Sabbath taboos as an international athlete?”

Adventist Man’s comedic performance is steadily improving. However, he should have ended his answer to the question, “What should we avoid doing on the Sabbath?” with the first two sentences of his answer, “Adventist Man notes that many Christians tend to require lists. Otherwise, they feel listless.” The rest of the answer is preachy.