Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sing along with Goat, “Dare to be a weirdo; dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose true; dare to make it known.”

Comic from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing Adventist Today

Winter 2010
Vol. 18, No. 1

Unfortunately, the headlines promise more than the editorials and articles deliver.

J. David Newman’s editorial, WOMEN PASTORS OFFICIALLY ORDAINED simply references old news. The Adventist Review reported that fact months ago.

In Edwin A. Schwisow’s commentary, TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK is a whine about AT being misunderstood for advocating financial reform.

LETTERS was allocated three pages. Unfortunately, the equivalent of one of those pages was taken up by graphics and the appeal for esoteric articles like “When did sin come into existence?” and “Will a person be saved regardless of their views on whether sin and death always existed”. A second “page” was devoted to Des Ford’s theology. Enough already!

IS THERE ROOM FOR MAVERICKS IN THE CHURCH by David Newman is another self-serving whine. “The [SDA] church too must wrestle with the challenge of encouraging the dreamer, learning from the heretic, tolerating the gadfly, and accommodating the maverick, even Adventist Today.”

In WHAT REALLY IS THE REMNANT CHURCH? Harry Allen is given five pages, full-page graphic included, to reveal that there isn’t one. It is “an indiscernible network of affiliates whose names are known by God alone”. In other words, “people who “will be saved at his second coming”. (Mathew 25:31-46, anyone?)

My biggest disappointment is the feature article, LEGALISM OR PERMISSIVENESS: AN INESCAPABLE DILEMMA? reprinted with the permission of The Christian Century, April 16, 1980. L. A. King makes the following quasi sociological argument: Churches inevitably decline from legalistic cohesive beginnings to a collection of permissive “atomistic individuals, each of whom goes his or her own way without taking any responsibility for one’s fellows or accepting any concern from them”.

King believes that when this “atomistic” condition becomes unsatisfactory to “a person or small group”, there will be a spontaneous “new attempt to get back to primitive Christianity”. It will “reproduce the vividness or the original [legalistic] experiences”. This will produce “strikingly spontaneous agreement. No long debate, no rules imposed, little institutionalization, but a striking unity of the Spirit. There will also be a remarkable mutual concern and love for one another”. *

This article doesn’t answer to the question, “Where is the Adventist church on this continuum?” Because this commentary implies that this cycle of legalism to permissiveness is inevitable, there is no suggestion as to how this cycle can be broken. My question then, “Why waste the space?

WHAT DO WE DO IF WE DON’T AGREE? by Don Watson, is pretty simple. Listen, make sure you understand what the other person is saying, and remember, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job “to straighten them out”. Good advice for spouses. Good luck if you’re a teacher or administrator!

Loren Seibold suggests that LETTING ROMAN CATHOLICS OFF THE HOOK is a good idea. “Today religious liberty still has more dangerous enemies than Catholicism—in the United States, perhaps even some of our fellow conservative Protestants.” Earthshaking, this message is not.

I hope Nathan Brown is right when he poses the rhetorical question, DID GOD DIE FOR MORE THAN JUST PEOPLE? with these concluding remarks: “Because we have accepted God’s gift of salvation, we seek that same salvation and re-creation for our fellow human beings, our fellow creatures, and the whole created world.” I hope this is true. I love my dog.

Alden Thompson and I don’t always se eye-to-eye, but on this one we do. MESSAGES TO YOUNG PEOPLE—REVISITED, a compilation of Ellen White’s advice, wasn’t worth revisiting.

RACISM AND DARWIN, a book review by T. Joe Willey, is informative and well written, with one exception. It is not immediately clear that the introductory quote by Tony Campolo is inaccurate. It is included to provide a commonly held misconception that Darwin considered skin color to be an indicator of God’s favoritism when it came to the human genetics. This misstep gets the reader off on the proverbial wrong foot, and slows the realization that Darwin detested the idea.

7 QUESTIONS by Marcel Schwantes is an interview of filmmaker Martin Doblmeier who is currently producing The Adventists, a documentary film inspired by the fact that we Adventists live a long time. The film will be shown on PBS stations around Easter.

ADVENTIST MAN tries hard and is satirically successful about half the time. That success rate isn’t bad when you consider his competition this time around. I’ve awarded him my “E” for effort.

*The argument seems to be that legalism is the glue that holds churches together. If this is true, then Adventist leaders are responding to a real threat to their salaries when they attempt to enforce uniformity of belief.

It’s tough coming in from the cold!

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

Cartoonists & Noah Jokes: Love at First Slight

Comics from Non Sequitur (by Wiley) and Bizarro (by Dan Piraro)
(click to enlarge)

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Church of Bureaucratic Least Resistance

From the comic Bizarro by Dan Piraro.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

January 14, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 1

Kudos to editors and staff. This issue is a MUST READ!

In A SHELTER IN THE TIME OF STORM, Bill Knott offers church members this succinct advice: “In this new year, your fellowship need not divide in order to become a place of safety and inclusion: it rarely helps when all the kindhearted ones swarm to some new storefront location.”

THE SPIRIT OF THE PIONEERS is a reminder by Stephen Chavez that we can't afford to lose strong candidates for church leadership because they are younger than we'd like them to be. “I understand the progression of moving from local leader to conference officer to union conference officer to division officer, etc. But I also know that a system such as that produces compliance and conformity, not innovation, creativity, and energy.”

Amanda Newton discusses TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY DATING: DOES IT EVEN EXIST? with refreshing candor. “It may seem as if dating only other Adventists would simplify things. Why complicate relationships by dating outside the church? But not every Adventist is the same. In fact, there are varying degrees of ‘being Adventist’ today. There are conflicting political views. There are Sabbath-keeping differences. And although the older generations may not want to acknowledge it, there are many young single Adventists who are drinking and/or having sex. So a young Adventist has to consider how important these issues are in a future relationship. . .Although marrying an Adventist is important to me, I in no way judge others for marrying a Christian who may not be an Adventist. It’s a personal choice.”

WALDENSES IN AMERICA? is the Cover Feature by Gladys Sherrer. She visited the Waldenses’ community in Valdese, North Carolina and met the direct descendents of the 200 Waldenses who immigrated there in 1893. They are still known as “people of the book”. Sherrer was inspired by her visit. “As Christians, we each have a responsibility to honor our heritage, to be witnesses to God’s love. God has called us to show and tell, not merely the dusty relics of Waldensianism or Seventh-day Adventism, but to proclaim His grace, His biblical truth.”

Elijah Mvundura reminds us why we shouldn't be influenced by wild conspiracy theories in his essay, GOD IS IN CONTROL. “Conspiracy theorists explain all major historical events or catastrophes as intrigues by secret societies—Freemasons, Illuminati, Jews, Opus Dei—steering the world toward one global government. . .For conspiracy theorists malevolent and powerful secret cabals in high positions hold the levers of history. . .To ascribe such transcendent power to human beings, no matter how powerful or how influential, is to contradict clear biblical testimony of divine sovereignty over history. . .Actually, it magnifies the demonic.”

Clifford Goldstein invites us to join him in poet Wislawa Szymborska’s ‘Museum’ in TRINKETS LEFT BEHIND. It’s “the place where ‘ten thousand aging things have been amassed.’ It’s a poem, a paean, not so much about what death takes away but about what it leaves behind”.

Goldstein, no stranger to poetic language himself, reminds the reader that “In Christ our corpses are merely pajamas, sleeping attire, loosely fitting and comfortable if not exactly beautiful. But who cares, because our eyes are closed until that moment, until that “twinkling of an eye . . . [when] the dead will be raised imperishable” (1Cor. 15:52), and the museum door shuts forever on the trinkets left behind.

BEAUTY IS a young mother dying of AIDS who is not “asking for pity, just stating a fact”. She does, however, have a request of Elfriede Volk. “Tell me; you’re a writer. We have so few Christian songs in my language. I want to translate the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal into Ovambo, so that we can use the songs in our church services. Would that be possible? Would I need permission? How would I get that?”

Eddie Heinrich battles the guilt he feels for injuring his little boy while breaking the rules and playing baseball in the house. In BRAEDEN’S STORY, his son, rather than blaming his father, only wants to be snuggled on the way to the hospital. Heinrich reflects, “Like my son, who wanted to be snuggled by his father, I want to be snuggled deep in the arms of Jesus, where I can rest assured that He loves me and will never leave me.”

In AGENTS OF CHANGE, Hyveth Williams reminds us to be “grateful that amid prolific changes many things will always remain the same, such as Jesus Christ, the person we worship.”

There is a uniquely Christian way to live during AN ECONOMIC CRISIS according to banker Bradley Skilton. “In all of this there is still good news: humankind has the opportunity to rise above the storm by giving of ourselves and our resources to those in need. Fifty years from now—if Jesus has not returned—when what some are referring to as the second Great Depression of the early twenty-first century is studied in history classes, wouldn’t it be gratifying if what stands out as memorable are evidences of compassion, cooperation, and help for one another on a previously unparalleled scale?”

Two Adventist icons have died. Milton Murray, an Adventist philanthropy pioneer and Adrian Westney, a longtime religious liberty advocate passed away in December.

Robert E. Kyte is returning to denominational service as president of Adventist Risk Management, and Virginia-Gene Ritenhouse, at age 87, is once again playing the violin and directing the New England Youth Ensemble after reverse shoulder replacement surgery.


Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Explain This

Once in a while, I plan to challenge to Adventist scientists and theologians of every stripe, to explain how a certain biological phenomena came to be.

A fierce species of Amazonian ant has been seen building elaborate traps on which hapless prey are stretched like medieval torture victims, before being slowly hacked to pieces.

The ants divide labour according to age, with the oldest individuals being trap builders. With cunning and patience, Allomerus decemarticulatus worker-ants cut hairs from the stem of the plant they inhabit, and use the tiny fibres to build a spongy snare. This ingenious feat of engineering has only ever been observed in one other species of related ant, French researchers say.

The ants cut hairs to clear a path under the plant stem, while leaving some hairs standing to form "pillars" on top of which the lethal platform will sit. Using the plant hairs they have harvested, the ants weave the platform itself, which is bound together and strengthened using a special fungus.

When the ants have completed the chamber they puncture holes all along its surface, each just big enough to poke their heads through. Then, hundreds of worker ants climb into the chamber and wait for an unfortunate victim.

"Workers will hide inside the platform, with their mandibles just inside the hole and they will wait there for prey to come," co-author Jerome Orivel of the University of Toulouse, France said. Anything with legs slim enough to fit through the carefully constructed holes will meet a miserable fate if they are foolish enough to enter the trap.

There is no limit to the ants' ambition - they will try to catch any mammoth of the insect world "They will catch almost anything that goes on the trap," continued Dr Orivel. "And they will grab anything they can - legs, antenna, anything."

Once the prey is well secured by jaws fastening all its extremities, it is stretched over the platform like an ancient sacrifice to the gods. Scores of worker ants then stream out from inside the trap and sting it vigorously to cause paralysis. Once the creature is dead or fully immobilised, the ants will carry it to their nest, where they will dismember their prey before carrying it inside.

"Small insects will be immediately dismembered and transported to the nest," said Dr Orivel. "But bigger insects will stay on the trap for up to 12 hours." There is no limit to the ants' ambition and they will attempt to catch any mammoth of the insect world - so long as it has slender legs.

"Their success depends on the type of insect," Dr Orivel told the BBC News website. "The insects' legs have to be smaller than the holes otherwise they cannot get hold of them. "The ants must have something to catch - for example, caterpillars will have nothing to get hold of so they will not be preyed upon."

Original article here

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reality vs. Credulity

Comic from Tom Meyer's SF Chronicle Blog
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing Spectrum

Fall, 2009
Vol. 37, No. 4

Alexander Carpenter provides an excellent overview of each of the editorials and articles in the current Spectrum Magazine in his Spectrum Journal Discussion Club. In addition, he invited critiques from readers. Most are thoughtful and worth reading. If you are not a subscriber, I suggest you check out Carpenter’s post before continuing, as my “review” is really an editorial response to the content of this issue.

First off, the editorials by Bonnie Dwyer and Charles Scriven and Dwyer’s interview of La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey are world class. Unfortunately, the rest of the issue doesn’t come close. Articles need to be carefully edited for length, focus, clarity, and punctuation. Relevance is also a problem.

Science writing is almost always second-rate when written by amateurs. Ronald E. Reece’s piece, 21st Century Challenges to God in His created Cosmos is no exception. And when the title of an article poses a question, the reader expects an answer. Jared Wright doesn’t supply one in Does Adventism Still Need the Geoscience Research Institute?

Bryan Ness teaches biology at Pacific Union College and even his defense of teaching “about” evolution may get him into trouble. Never the less, his tentative defense of his turf is a disappointment. On the other hand, Ness’ poetry is more philosophically daring. I particularly liked Design Theory, his poem on the back cover. It’s rhythm, partial rhyme scheme, and ten syllable lines add melody and richness to his message. That rhythm is disconcertingly broken in a last line that contains twelve syllables. (Bryan, please excuse an old English teacher for the following suggestion: substitute the word “creation” for “in execution”.)

While bothersome, these editorial failings are not as disturbing as a continuing attempt to dance around, rather than confront, the screwy fundamentalist theology that threatens to destroy the credibility of the Adventist church and its educational system.

The insistence that the world, not to mention the rest of the universe, was created in seven 24-hour days is as ludicrous as the belief in a universal flood and a “young earth”. (Yes Dorothy, there were dinosaurs and a geologic column exists.)

The belief that an Investigative Judgment began in Heaven in 1844, supported only by a prophecy mentioned in an Old Testament historical novel and a Hiram Edson revelation, is certainly problematic.

The belief that a kind of orthodox sundown-to-sundown seventh-day Sabbath keeping is the final “seal” of God’s remnant people has no biblical support. And it’s illogical because the world is round and the Adventist Church supports the notion of 24-hour days and recognizes man made time zones. And Paul argued that Sabbath observance was a personal issue. See Romans 14.

The Adventist Church’s health message has been elevated to fundamental belief status even though Jesus commented that it isn’t what goes into your body that defiles you, it’s what comes out of your mouth.

It is for these reasons and others that our Fundamental Beliefs need to be downgraded to Traditional Beliefs if the Adventist Church is to survive in a modern world. Our individual salvation and Adventism’s relevancy depends on whether we proclaim and live by the words of Jesus in Mathew 25:31 or squabble over the words of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs.

Matthew 25:31-46 (New International Version)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”


It's Not Easy Being Green

Comics from Over the Hedge: Stuffed Animals by Michael Fry and T. Lewis
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gray is a Color, Too

Heavenly Father,
On this blustery, rainy, winter morning
Remind us that gray is a color, too
Of Sunrise
Clouds that bring needed rain
The breasts of doves
The fur of kittens
Rail fences along country roads
Smoke from chimneys
A favorite coat

Remind us that gray is the color, too
Of wisdom
Life’s mysteries
Difficult choices

Father of us all, help us to remember that gray is a color, too
as we face our individual winters of the soul
Times when the warming sunshine of your love
does not penetrate our clouds.



Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fortunately, the shepherds didn’t understand a word.

From the comic Bizarro by Dan Piraro.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 24, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 36

This Christmas issue arrived at my house after New Year’s Day. Am I alone in consistently receiving the Review a week or more after the publication date?

I looked at the Review website when I was out of town and was prepared to comment on a piece by Angel Manuel Rodriguez in which he made the distinction between “heresy” and “apostasy”. When I received my copy of the magazine, I was happy to note that this particular BIBLE QUESTION was not included in the print issue, and I was surprised to discover that it no longer appeared in the online edition either! Way to go, whoever was responsible!

Check out the inside front cover. Pictures of the Review and Adventist World editors and support staff are pictured in living color.

The reports included in WORLD NEWS IN PERSPECTIVES make me proud to be an SDA. Thousands of Africans die from AIDS every month including 500 to 600 Adventist church members. However, because AIDS International Ministry and ADRA programs teach, prevent, and provide needed medical help, thousands of other lives are saved. Adventist Global Mission programs in Siberia are active in providing shelter, drug and rehabilitation programs for the homeless.

Loma Linda has opened a Geoinformatatics Lab that uses “geospacial thinking and technology to aid in solving health problems, not one person at a time but entire groups of people at a time”. It provides information that enables health workers to better analyze and mitigate the impact of the environment on human health. Very cool!

In his editorial, COUNCIL BLUES, Gerald Klingbeil writes about his reaction to the personal and job related challenges that confronted him during the Adventist Church’s Annual Council. It brought on an attack of the “council blues”. It was then that he discovered that the best antidote for the blues was remembering the excitement of the first Christmas.

Christmas doesn't have to be bad. Sandra Blackmer tells us why in her editorial, BAD OR GOOD? In the cover story, THE STRONG GALILEAN, William G. Johnsson describes Christ’s powerful personality and how it changed the world. Hyveth Williams reminds us that when we are down, there is a strong Savior to pull us up and set our feet ON SOLID GROUND.

In A GREAT AWAKENING, Bill Knott interviews Justin Kim “about a revolutionary movement making huge strides for Christ. Call it a movement. Call it a ‘confederation of possibilities.’ Call it a Spirit-inspired meeting of minds and hearts. Or just call it GYC—Generation of Youth for Christ. The eight-year-old young adult organization has grown from a handful of idealistic college students to a powerful force for Bible study, evangelism, and mission service in the life of North American Adventism—and now around the world”.

Ellen G. White suggests that AS WE GIVE GIFTS at Christmas and “bestow upon one another tokens of love and remembrance, we should not. . .forget God, our best friend”. In his feature article, YES! AND GOOD RIDDANCE! Associate editor Roy Adams takes a sobering look back at 2009, and, while decrying the tragedies of the past year, voices his “concern for the poor and marginalized in society”.

HERE’S TO YOU, PVA, Jimmy Phillips offers the following tribute to his alma mater, Platte Valley Academy, now merged with Enterprise Academy in Central Kansas. “So here’s to you, Platte Valley Academy. It is fitting that where your buildings once stood, crops will forever prosper under the hand of the Master.”

THAT ARMY, RIGHTLY TRAINED by GYC leader, Justin McNeilus offers readers this reminder: “Adventist youth are ready to steer to the church into the future. On every continent of the globe young people are asking, sometimes begging, to be more involved in this movement called Seventh-day Adventism. . .Why is this phenomenon” happening now? Because we are weary of amusement, tired of PowerPoint, annoyed by unfulfilling music, and weighed down by committees.”

This issue of KIDSVIEW is the best ever, even though I continue to question its popularity with students above the third grade.

Teach the Children Well