Friday, December 28, 2012

Around the Horn

First, Thomas Sowell continues to be one of my favorite columnists. He offers a good word here on Christmas-Tree Totalitarians. It’s a bit rambling, as might be expected from an article whose subtitle reads “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene.” But it has a lot of provocative thoughts.

Second, Forbes has an article on “The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.” It seems that there are some evidences that the author has been snooping around in some churches as well. It is an instructive article, and worthy of careful thought. The problem is likely that people who need it most won’t give it much consideration.

At third, here’s a good story about former NFL quarterback John Kitna and his life after his playing days. There’s something inspiring about people who do hard things, especially when they have other options.

The homerun is a reworking of my favorite all time comedy bit, “Who’s on First?” I have never come across anything funnier than the original. This is pretty good however:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Cost of Academic Freedom

Here’s a follow up to an earlier story about a counseling student at Eastern Michigan University who was dismissed from the program because she referred a gay client to another counselor because of her religious beliefs. After filing suit, she was awarded $75,000.

We are often told that academic institutions of higher learning are supposed to be places of freedom. One of the frequent knocks against some Christian colleges is that there is no academic freedom, that you have to agree with the positions established.

Of course, what honest people know is that is par for the course at just about any academic institution. It’s part of the culture of intolerance that has been created and sustained.

It’s a bizarre and troubling world when people aren’t allowed to practice even basic freedoms of their discipline (including referring clients to other practitioners), and the academic intelligentsia is above questioning.

EMU doubled down by asserting that “The faculty retains its right to establish, in its learned judgment, the curriculum and program requirements for the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University.”

It’s learned judgment? By whose estimation? It is likely by the estimation of a MAS (a mutual admiration society). It’s a group where “learned” is defined by “agrees with me.”

It is interesting to imagine why EMU settled this case out of court. One can’t help but wonder if it’s not because of the danger that they envisioned, not just financially, but academically.

My guess is that the courts generally have a sympathy for religious objections, and a loss in the courts would mean that the “learned judgment” of the faculty is determined not to be so learned after all. The outcome would be that the university would no longer be able to establish these requirements that limit freedom.

$75,000 (of either insurance or state money) is a small price to pay for “academic freedom.”

One of the most instructive parts of this article are the comments where the student is repeatedly attacked and called names for her beliefs. Nothing quite like tolerance. It reminds us that tolerance means about the same thing as “learned judgment” means—agrees with me.

In reality, it seems to me she did the proper thing—she referred a client to someone she believed could better help them. Isn’t that what we expect out of doctors and counselors?

Shouldn’t we admire a doctor or counselor who says, “Someone else is better equipped to help you here”"?

My guess is that these same people who complain that she referred the client would also complain if she counseled the client.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Chickens and Airplanes

Ok, so yesterday over lunch, we were conversing about birds and airplanes.

It was all innocent enough when it started. I promise.

Then the conversation turned to testing airplane windshields by shooting chickens or turkeys at them.

Then I remember an episode of MythBusters where Jamie and Adam shot frozen and thawed chickens at plane windshields to see what would happen.

The next think you know, I am on YouTube looking for it. And sure enough, it was there. So now it’s here for your encouragement and comfort as you fly.

So the moral of the story is this: If your plane hits a chicken while flying, it won’t matter if the bird is frozen or thawed. It’s gonna hurt something.

Disclaimer: No actual chickens appear to be harmed during the shooting of the video. The harm to the chickens had already happened before this video took place.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Around the Horn

Leading off today, Dave Doran plays the role of divisive person here by categorizing some hypothetical modern day people based on their response to Paul’s response to Peter and Barnabas in Antioch (Galatians 2). These are some helpful, and a bit humorous, categories. There’s a little something for everyone here, and no doubt some will object … probably because they fit one of the categories.  

At second, Thabiti Anyabwile weighs in with a pastoral letter to an abusive husband. It is a strongly worded model of how we might respond to abuse. Perhaps the most poignant line is this one: “Her safety is our first priority, but it’s not our only priority.” Perhaps too often, the church is either unwilling to do anything, or too willing to completely cut off the abuser as if they are beyond God’s grace. There are even those who say that abusers should never be in church. They are, quite frankly, wrong since they are demanding that churches prevent people from obedience. These are tricky issues to be sure, but the church must not punt on either end. They must neither refuse to act in judgment and stand with the abused, nor refuse to reach out to the abuser with biblical grace of confrontation, ministry, and mercy upon repentance.

At third (because a triple is harder than a homerun), from the realm of science, this TED talk about superconductivity and quantum levitation is amazing. Well, not the talk (which, frankly, I didn’t understand) so much as the demonstration (which makes you look for some camera trick, but alas there appears to be no tricks; it’s just straight up). I watched it last night on a flight, and found it incredible. The idea that things like this would be the result of randomness rather than design requires way more faith than I have. I think things like this are a clue to the existence and design of our creative God. It makes no sense otherwise.

And as a bonus, this TED talk by Bryan Stevenson is intriguing for a lot of reasons. Whether you agree with him or not, it should provoke some thought. And I think it’s a great example of effective communication—simple, underspoken in many ways, and it connects well with the hearer. He’s a good example of effective communication without theatrics.

Lastly, here’s a good note for churches who invite guest speakers. Having been a guest speaker here and there, I hate wondering what I should wear, how long I should speak, what the order of service will be, where I should sit, and the like. Preaching in a strange place to people you don’t know is hard enough without adding on these other concerns, petty though they may seem. Showing up overdressed or underdressed, or preparing a forty minute message for a thirty minute slot, are burdens that are easier to remove. It’s fairly easy to say, “We usually wear X and I usually preach for about Y. We’ll start with some music, and you will be after Z.”