Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taxes question

Do you think that there is a genuine difference between "raising taxes" and "removing tax breaks for certain groups?"

It seems to me that there is a vital difference.

Tax breaks are not a Constitutionally protected right, and are therefore given solely for the purpose of gaining some socio-economic goal that would not occur by simply collecting that tax. Right?

If so, it seems perfectly fair to me for the government to remove that tax break if no socio-economic benefit is being gained from that break in order to try to provide what the tax break was failing to provide.

Of course, the counter argument may simply be that the government should have as little money as possible and therefore every tax break is philosophically justifiable even if there is no apparent socio-economic benefit resulting.

Thoughts? Matt (Lee and Moore), are you calling me a liberal communist right now?

N.T. Wright on Easter

So, I'm finishing up Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright. He goes to great pains to divorce the Western Christian mind from linking the resurrection of Jesus with a simple belief in an afterlife. The resurrection of Jesus historically happened, and it means something entirely different than that an afterlife exists. It is the fulfillment of God's promise to redeem for Himself a people as well as all of creation. It is the demonstration that though the world fell through man's sin and is now in bondage to decay, He will not permit sin and death to have the final word regarding His good creation. All of this has huge implications for how we live our lives in this present world in every particular.

His focal point is not exclusively, or even primarily, upon the individual Christian, but rather the Church. This is appropriate since Christ came to save sinners, but to make out of them one holy Bride: the Church.

So, the last chapter is titled, "Reshaping the Church for Mission (2): Living the Future" and he begins with a question:

So how can we learn to live as wide-awake people, as Easter people?
His answer to this question begins in a place that many of us would not first consider: how we celebrate Easter. He words it better than I could, so here he is again:

I have come to believe that many churches simply throw Easter away year by year; and I want to plead that we rethink how we do it so as to help each other, as a church and as individuals, to live what we profess . . . For a start, consider Easter Day itself. It's a great step forward that many churches now hold Easter vigils, as the Orthodox church has always done, but in many cases they are still too tame by half. Easter is about the wild delight of God's creative power . . . we ought to shot Alleluias instead of murmuring them; we should light every candle in the building instead of only some; we should give every man, woman, child, cat, dog, and mouse in the place a candle to hold; we should have a real bonfire; and we should splash water about as we renew out baptismal vows . . . the thing aobut Easter is that it is neither ethereal or esoteric. It's about the real jesus coming out of the real tomb and getting God's real new creation under way.

But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday . . . and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day fesitval, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don't throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don't do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn't take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?

This is our greatest fesitval . . . our greatest day. We should put the flags out.

In particular, if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again--well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative . . . Easter is the time to sow new seeds and to plant out a few cuttings. If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit (255-7).

So, if you made it through the end there, congratulations. It was a long passage, but I didn't feel I would do it justice by cutting it shorter than I did.

What should we do this Easter season? What will you do to celebrate the goodness of God's creation, the fulfillment of his promise in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the anticipation of His return to complete the work of restoring all things to the glory of the Father?

Monday, February 23, 2009

I appreciate this

I got another political email today. This time no beanies, t-shirts, or other memorabilia were being hawked. This time, I was encouraged to take political action most Americans don't ever even consider.

Whether you voted for "change" in November or like me voted for the other guy, you have to appreciate this emphasis upon keeping Americans involved at least in some way in the process. How many of us even know who our Congressional representative is, much less have contacted him/her about current legislation?

So, despite the obvious political perspective present in the email, they're inviting me to stay involved in the process through my Congressional representative. Though it is clearly not advised here in the email, the invitation is implicitly open to contact Rep. Edwards to tell him what I think is wrong with the stimulus package if I so desired instead.

I appreciate that.

Organizing for America
Trey --

President Obama launched the most ambitious effort to stimulate the economy in our nation's history when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Tuesday.

Your representatives need to hear from you when they vote for the change you mandated in November. Doing what's right can be thankless when the culture of Washington tries to make political games out of the issues that matter to everyday Americans.

You're part of a powerful grassroots movement that can change that dynamic. According to our records, you live in Texas's 17th district.

Rep. Thomas Edwards's vote was crucial to passing the bill and creating and saving jobs in Texas.

Can you pick up the phone right now to thank Rep. Edwards?

Rep. Thomas Edwards

Report your call.

Here are some suggested talking points for your call:

- I'm calling to thank [Congress member's name] for supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- I'll be watching closely online and in the news how taxpayers' money is spent in the implementation of this Act.
- I encourage [Congress member's name] to continue working with President Obama to lift America out of this economic crisis.

After your call, please record your feedback here:

We still have a long way to go, but working together we were able to take this important first step.

With the plan in place, more than 2 million people will be lifted out of poverty, 20 million at risk of losing their health care will be protected, and 3.5 million jobs will be created or saved.

There will be plenty more ways for you to contribute in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you for your continued support,


Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

P.S. -- If you don't live in TX-17 or think you have a different member of Congress to thank, you can input your address here and find out whether your Representative and Senators voted in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Development Bingo

I love it:

"I have just stumbled across a great series of articles on buzzwords in development. Some aid workers and development scholars are so jaded by these vague but ubiquitous buzzwords that they play “Development Bingo.” Whenever a development pro is giving a lecture, they hold Bingo cards marked with all the buzzwords and check them off whenever the lecturer mentions them in the talk. When they have got a full set of buzzwords, they stand up and shout “Development!” (No doubt leaving more than a few lecturers baffled.)"

-From Aid Watch

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Assortment of Articles for your Analysis

Sometimes, I really hate blogspot. In trying to post a photo from online, I ended up losing all of that I had already written. Stupid blogspot.

This time, I shall not try to include a pic as apparently that is beyond blogger's technological capacity.

An art review of Bruegel's "Triumph of Death." Great painting, well written article.

WSJ article on the youth of Iran and the complexity of that society. Fascinating place.

Interview with Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, on the GOP, educational reform, and how to use politics to accomplish real changes.

Finally, a link to some articles by Harvard Business professor Rakesh Khurana who I heard this morning on NPR. He has some excellent things to say on the ethos behind much of corporate America's failure to accomplish the social and economic benefits that business is supposed to serve in a free-market capitalist country.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Alexi Murdoch: Dream of Flying

"Pale light this morning, woke me
Slow pain I feel
Will not let me be

So much work to do
I don't know if I can
I'm trying so hard, so hard, so hard
But I am just one man

Five years old I climbed up on the wall
My mother warned me but I took no heed
Like all creatures great and small
I took a fall and found out I could bleed

Well these days I'm afraid of everything
Suppose cause everything will die
For who wants to love what they will lose
So much easier to lie

Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning
Actually its more like most of the time
But every now and then when I am sleeping
I still have a dream that I'm flying

And I wake up crying"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Never saying never

Just when I think that my children have mastered, overcome, or continually obeyed in some area of child training, I am proved wrong and my prideful parenting humbled. I guess this is a good thing. Wink. 

However, I am vowing today to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER say these words again: "My (insert child's name) NEVER does...(insert unacceptable action.) 

Here's the latest reason why I have made this vow:

We had been having a smooth day. After they played all morning in their classes at Grace Bible Church while I worked, we headed to the grocery store. An afternoon shopping trip, of any kind, is usually dreaded by me because I know that that I am asking much of my little munchkins. For one, they have to be still for a good hour. Secondly, afternoons are typically spent napping. Thirdly, they have probably played their little hearts out in the morning. These factors all add up to likely result: major disobedience. Like public fighting, pulling hair, screaming and countless no's and whines. HOWEVER, today they didn't do any of that. I was so pleased. They were actually excited to go to the grocery store which is SO rare. 

Needless to say I was feeling pretty good on the way home. While I unloaded the groceries, I told them to pick out some library books to read and sit on the couch to wait for me. We always read a few library books to wind down before naptime. They always pick them out and wait on the couch for me. Then, I decided to interfere with the normal routine. I gave them each half a little chocolate as a sweet reward for behaving so nicely at the store. As I am bringing in the last bag of groceries, I glance over to watch Ethan tear an ENTIRE page out of one of the library books. He doesn't look back at me in fear of discipline. In fact, he looks back at as if he had done nothing unusual or wrong. I am flabbergasted. 

Of my two little ones, Ethan is the last one I would have expected that behavior. I can remember countless times I have even said "Ethan NEVER tears books." Well, here I sit, humbled and vowed. I am not vowing because I think it to be some magical charm that will keep these "NEVER" instances from happening. In vowing I am changing my philosophy, my mentality of parenting. Like "big people", "little people" go back to old habits easily and try new destructive behaviors because we are prone to pleasing ourselves. I have to remember that my children are human and not just little puppets I can manipulate to do what I want. So, I guess I should thank Ethan for reminding me of this. That is, of course, after I spank him for doing what he shouldn't have and NEVER does. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kristof again

On Myanmar

"I found it difficult to interview people in Myanmar, because I was traveling as a tourist with two of my kids (and my wife is sick of me getting our kids arrested with me in dictatorships)."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Africa needs God

"Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete."
-Matthew Parris, London Times

thanks phillip for posting

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Samantha Power on Gary Haugen and the IJM

I'm reading a book by Samantha Power right now on the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN envoy killed in Iraq almost six years ago. She has apparently just put out an article on Gary Haugen in The New Yorker that I think is worth reading.