[?] "HOW TO" Create a cummulative Archive for Blogger blogs

Table of Contents:

I didn't really look until the other day, but my Cummulative Index by Category seems to be getting a bit of traffic all by itself, and my friend Hobster left a question over there about how one might go about doing such a thing.

Note to Blogger: it would be great if your software did this for us. I have noticed that typepad, for example, will allow the user to assign categories and categorizes each post. It's a nice feature for both the blogger and the bloggee. However, you're still free so I'm still on ly complaining in the theoretical sense.

Anyway, it is relatively easy to do what I did, and it takes about 30 minutes once a month to keep it current. However, it takes a LONG time to set up the first time -- for example, remember that week I spent updating all my posts? That's how long it can take. I'm posting this for all you freaky bloggers who are willing to spend your time doing things like this.

This may actually be the hardest part. If you're a completely anal filing maven, you have to curb your enthusiasm in order to keep the filing system from having categories with only one or two posts in them -- which is a massive waste of filling, if you ask me. If you file by putting everything in one pile (cf. my desk at work), you have to come up with a couple of distinguishing features of your posts that will work to make filing simple.

I think that 5 or 6 categories is great. You might have a different opinion, and that's your problem. You use as many as you like.

For our example, I'm going to use 4 categories:
-------- ----- --------------
Family FAM !
Friends FRN ?
Enemies NME #
Stuff STF %


Once you have your categories, you have to find a way to cheat Blogger's lack of subtlety. That is, you have to find a way to make Blogger do something it normally wouldn't do. For example, what we need for this index is a set of hyperlinks for each post that are able to be sorted into said categories so that we can update one page without hand-keying every bloody character every time. Blogger doesn’t really do that, does it?

As a matter of fact, it does from your dashboard. If you go to the posting tab and click "EDIT POST", you get (by default) a list of your last 50 posts. "But cent," complains the n00b on the phone line with 3 posts on his blog, "you can't sort that list, and someone with a very long history of blogging can't see all his posts."

Well, n00b, allow me to explain. The default 50 posts can be changed via the dropdown to up to 300 posts. As I type this, I have 163 posts, so 300 is fine. So change the dropdown to 300 and click "go".

Now you have a list of all your posts sorted by date, last post first. "But cent," complains the n00b again, "I can't sort that list, and anyway I can't link to that page for others to see." Yes: there is a reason you are a n00b. Of course you cannot link to this page, and of course it is unsortable. But it has a very interesting feature: it can be saved as an HTML file by even the worst of browsers. In that format, we have a very powerful tool for making our index page.

But having that list is nowhere near enough -- because there's no way to index them except by date (which Blogger has already done for you) and alpha by title (which is interesting, I am sure, but your ability to create definitive subject lines is no better than mine).

That's where the funny symbols come in. You've seen my list of funny symbols -- ahead of every post is a keyboard character between two square brackets (e.g. - [@]). The funny symbol alone would probably be enough, but I put it in brackets to make no mistake that it is not some kind of series number to new readers. You can do whatever you like -- use numbers, letters, KB characters you like. But you have to decide that some symbol always stands for some category. For example, [@] always signifies a post from me about orthodoxy; [!] always signifies a post about the Gospel; [?] always signifies a post about random thoughts; etc.

So in order to cheat Blogger, you have to put your signifiers at the front of the subject line of each post. Yes, it's monsterous, and if anyone is feeding from your site, they will go insane as you do this. But the net result is that when you're finished, the "EDIT POST" page becomes a treasure trove of HTML text.

When you have updated all your subject lines, load the Blogger "EDIT POST" page viewing 300 posts, and save this page to your desktop as an HTML FILE (NOT a Web Archive).

You're going to need EXCEL, WORD, and a basic text editor to do this next step, so bear with me as we go through this. If you're clever, you can build WORD MACROs to do some of this work so you won't be punished with having to read my blog every time you want to update your cummulative index.

See: I have WORD98 for MAC, so I don't have too many problems editing raw HTML. I open the file using the "Recover Text From Any File" open method, and I can open HTML without WORD trying to render it. When I use my PC at work to do this, I use WORDPad.

Anyway, the first step is to take out all the trash that this file has in it. You can delete everything from the "<!DOCTYPE" header to the "</tr> </thead>" which begins the actual table in the HTML for the posts and their links. Just highlight the whole jumbled mess and then SAVE UNDER A NEW FILE NAME. You need to keep the original file laying around in case you make a mistake (and you prolly will). Save it as a plain text file.

After you save the file, replace all "<" with "{" and all ">" with "}". Why? So WORD and EXCEL will not try to render the HTML tables the tags describe. We will change them back at the end of this exercise, but they need to go away for now. Save your work and close the file.

OK. Now open the saved document in WORD. I use WORD to make the next set of edits because this file is usually pretty big and WORDPad usually locks up on me because of the number of substitutions it has to make. Follow these instructions VERY CAREFULLY.

Globally replace this text in your file:
{tr class=""} {td class="date"} {span class=""}

with "^p" (which signifies a line break). That will put each post listed in its own separate line of text, even though WORD will wrap the text. This will be important when we import this file to EXCEL.

Globally replace this text in your file:
{/span} {/td} {td class="edit"} {span}

with the character "|". We are going to use "|" in EXCEL as a cell delimiter, and this will put the DATE of your post in ist own cell.

Globally replace this text in your file:
{table lang="safari-hack"} {tr} {td}

with the character "|". This will ultimately create a column of useless stuff we are going to delete, but it will also start the column in which the subject line of your post will appear.

Globally replace the text:
{/td} {/tr} {/table} {/td} {td class="author"}{span}

with the character "|". This completes the subject line cell and begins a cell of useless stuff.

Globally replace the text:
{/span}{/td} {td class="link"}{span class=""}

with the character "|". This isolates the useless text (which, btw, is your Blogger user ID), and begins the most important field in this file: the HREF tag that links to the post.

And last of all, globally replace the text:
View {/a} {/span}{/td} {td class="weaklink"} {span}

with the character "|". This sets off the HREF tag, and leaves us with a final column of junk text which is quickly dealt with in EXCEL. Save and close the file. You're doing great. If you're smart, you recorded these steps as MACROs.

You now have a very keen text file that you can use to make your index page. All you need is the ability to sort the file. EXCEL does this like nobody's business. Open your file in EXCEL.

First, delete the first row -- it will either be blank or have the text " {tbody}" in it, and either way it is completely irrelevant. Now select column A, and under your "DATA" menu, select "TEXT TO COLUMNS…"

The first dialog will prompt you to select either FIXED WIDTH or DELIMITED columns. Select the "DELIMITED" radio button, and click "NEXT".

The next dialog will prompt you for DELIMITERS. UNCHECK "TAB", and then in the field next to "OTHER" type "|", and click next. The really savvy ones of you reading already get where this is going, but I'm going to document the whole process for the n00b who is going to e-mail complaints to me for giving him free advice.

When you click "next", something magical happens: all the text takes on columns. This last step will give you a file that you can work with easily to finish up your index. Follow my instructions carefully, young padwan.

Select the FIRST COLUMN header, and in the COLUMN DATA FORMAT dialog, click "DATE".

Select the SECOND COLUMN header, and in the COLUMN DATA FORMAT dialog, click "DO NOT IMPORT".

Select the THIRD COLUMN header, and in the COLUMN DATA FORMAT dialog, click "TEXT".

Select the FOURTH COLUMN header, and in the COLUMN DATA FORMAT dialog, click "DO NOT IMPORT".

Select the FIFTH COLUMN header, and in the COLUMN DATA FORMAT dialog, click "TEXT".

Select the SIXTH COLUMN header, and in the COLUMN DATA FORMAT dialog, click "DO NOT IMPORT".

Now click "FINISH". Viola! You have the makings of a subject index for your blog.

Save your work before the excitement causes you to do something stupid.

Now insert a column between columns A & B, and then select the column with the HREF tags in it and drag it into the inserted column. In the now-empty column "D", type "{/a}" into cell D1, and then fill the rest of the cells below it with that text -- use your favorite method, whether cut-and-paste, drag, or CMD-D on selected cells.

Here's the keen part: select all 4 columns and sort by column "C". If you stopped right here, you'd have a directory of posts and their links sorted by category, as determined by the signifier characters. However, we're not going to stop there. In order to manage the last bit of text editing we are going to have to do, we're going to insert line breaks into this file. You have to do this part by eyeball -- just select the first row of a series with the same signifier, and insert a row. When you're done, you can sake your work.

At this point, the categories are sorted by type, but not by date. If you're quick about it, before we move on you might sort each category by date to show last post first or first post last.

The last step in EXCEL is to save the file as TEXT. The best way to do that is to use the SAVE AS command and save this file as "Text (tab-delimited)" format. It will require a small amount of cleaning up in the last step, but you can do it.

Open your saved file in WORD without fear because all the HTML tags are disabled by virtue of there being no "<" or ">" in the file. However, we are about to fix the. Go ahead and globally replace "{" with "<", and then "}" with ">". Now that looks more like HTML, doesn't it? What you should find is that your file you have a bunch of extra quotation marks (") and tab characters.

To fix that, first change all quotation marks(") to apostrophes('). Next change every occurrence of ('') {that's two apostrophes, not a quotation mark} to (") {which is actually a quotation mark}. Then, change all occurrences of (') to nothing. What you have just done is "undone" the text formatting EXCEL did to your file so that it will work like normal HTML without rendering a bunch of mileading and irrelevent quotation marks. Last, change all (^t) {that's the tab character for you WORD replace n00bs} to a single space.

Now we have to insert the Category headers, which will take some basic HTML savvy. First, copy the following like of HTML into your clipboard:

<a name="cat_abbv">Category Name</a>

I'm sure almost anyone reading this has used the <a href="URL"> tag before. The tag above is for placing "#name" tags in an HTML page so that rather than hyperlinking to just the page, we can hyperlink to a SPOT on the page. So if your page is:


You can link to:


and when the page loads, the browser will be pointed at #name on that page.

All that is said to say this: in the spaces in your archive listing, paste the text from above, then substitute the 3-character "#name" from your category list you made in STEP 1 with the appropriate "Category Name". So using one of our examples above, The category "Enemies" gets the header:

<a name="NME">Enemies</a>

BTW, that's the way the Step Finder at the top of this post works. This is amazing to n00bs only, I am sure, but if we are going to hold class, let's make sure we make all students competent. Save your work as we are almost done.

The last step is to place your indexed file into Blogger, and the method is simple. Tell Blogger to create a new post for your blog, and set the date to 1/1/YYYY where YYYY is the first day of the year you are in. Set the time to 12:01 AM. Why do this? It is to make sure that your index post is the first post for the current year, or what appears to be the last post when you pull up the list of posts the next time. It gives you a visible mile marker for on-going blog indeces.

Now copy and paste your file into the blog composition field. Save and Publish the post, and you should be good to go.

You should post your questions on this entry in the comments here so we can maintain a basic point of reference for the users of this obtuse and difficult process.

[!] ... by which you are being saved [4] & [5]

    1Cor 15: 1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ[1] died for our[2a] sins[2b] in accordance with the Scriptures[3], 4that he was buried[4], that he was raised on the third day[5] in accordance with the Scriptures[6](ESV, emph. Added)
I was glancing at the cumulative archive this morning and noticed that I hadn't finished my series on this summary of the Gospel, so I thought I'd come back to it today before the kids woke up.

We have covered some pretty critical ground so far in that we have discussed the matter that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures -- meaning that Christ's death fulfilled the Scriptures. But what about these next parts: why does Paul include the matter that Christ was buried?

Well, in the first place, he says it because it is true. Christ died and was buried -- he didn't die and then have his body thrown left to rot on the cross, or have his body torn to pieces by scavengers. Christ died bodily, and his body was buried after his death.

But in the second place, we come back to the matter of "in accordance with the Scriptures." Christ's burial was foretold by the prophets -- which Peter pointed out to the crowd at Pentecost.
    Acts 2: 29"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
And that leads us to the matter of the resurrection -- because for both Peter and Paul, the death of Christ is the necessary leaping-off point for the greatest news in the history of mankind.

Not only have the Scriptures argued that Christ would die for our sins and that he would be buried, but they have also been clear that death would not be the end of this story. If Christ had died and was buried and never came out of the tomb, there would be room left to say, "he was a great man, a good teacher, but not a savior because he could not save himself."

Instead, there was a resurrection. Paul says this about it:
    1Cor 15: 12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

    20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Peter says this:
    Acts2: 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
The resurrection is the final fact of the matter -- and why the Gospel is good news for men. Christ's sacrifice is completely sufficient for its task, but Christ's person and Christ's nature requires that something else be true: that death cannot overcome him, but that he overcomes death. The resurrection is our guaranty that what Jesus did was acceptable to God and was also the work of God. His walking out of the tomb, leaving it empty, was the sign that his work was not only complete but certain and without need of anyone's help.

This is the Gospel, then, according the Paul -- the most compact summary of the essential confession of the faith. It is itself the dividing line between life and death, and between truth and falsehood. We will be referring to it over the life of this blog for the sake of determining or exploring the claims of others who want to make competing claims regarding the faith.

Hope this was all helpful.
Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |

[?] Frankly, I'm outraged

The Banty Rooster has a good schtick on Frist's stem cell gambit, Phill Johnson blogspots, and I find myself trying to resist blogging about Paula Abdul and Corey Clark -- especially in light of the independent counsel that is going to investigate the claims.

And that's not even funny -- it's sick. It's like the WWE conducting an internal investigation into alleged soft porn being produced in its Diva segments in PPV events. Who's kidding whom? It's hype -- free advertising. If it's false, he lost anyway so what's the point? And if it's true, he lost anyway so what's the point?

There's not even a decent Arsenio Hall or Ryan Seacrest joke in this.

[*] All shapes and sizes

You have to read this link for yourself to believe it.

[?] I just ate ...

... a giant plate of pasta and I had 20 oz. of Coke to wash it down. So much for my diet and my blood pressure.

I think my stomach it trying to stage a revolt. It is sick of vegetables and water. However, I think it doesn't understand that the Coke is going to kill me if I don't stop coming back to it.

I went 3 weeks without, but the first swallow was better than the 5 lbs I have lost in the last 3 weeks.

Pray for me.

[#] Campus Delecti

Apparently Steve Camp said this:
We don't have the right biblically to go around holding unsaved people to that same standard (1 Cor. 5; Rom. 6:20) as they do in many of their writings and radio broadcasts (Being constantly critical of non-believers for living like non-believers.)
I have taken a side in the argument Steve is trying to advance here, but I think he has made a pretty bad error in saying what he has said in this case.

Before we jump into why this is a bad idea, let’s look at the texts he cites to support his statement.
    Rom 6: 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

    20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What Paul is talking about here is man’s spiritual ability to follow God’s law, not the practical matter of what standard human law can or ought to hold an individual to. To try to use this passage to justify the assertion that unbelievers “cannot be held to the same standard” is to overturn the apple cart of the book of Romans by ignoring that every man is, in fact, accountable for his actions because he knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses to do the wrong things anyway (Rom 1 & 2).
    1Cor 5: 9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."
This section of 1Cor 5 is interesting because Paul is talking about church discipline here – not about civil government. When Paul says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders,” he is underscoring that shunning sinful men is about church discipline – because if he meant “never have anything to do with a sinner”, he realizes that he would be saying “never go out into the world” (as he admits in v.10). He doesn’t mean “never go out into the world”: he means “don’t let sinful men who do not repent stay in the church”.

That is hardly the rebuke “don’t hold unbelievers to the same standard as you hold to believers” in the political sense. It is the rebuke that we have an obligation in the church to uphold holiness and to call each other to reformation and repentance all the time.

In that, I wonder: if “we don't have the right biblically to go around holding unsaved people to that same standard,” how do we preach the Gospel to them exactly? As I have practically tattooed 1Cor 15:1-4 to myself blog-wise, how do we preach the Gospel that “Christ died for our sins” without pointing out that we all have sins that require a debt of blood to be paid?

If we can’t hold “them” to the same standard, then they can’t be accused of being lawless and sinful because that’s just “how they are”. It is inherently and fundamentally necessary to say that man can and should be held to God’s standard in order to preach the Gospel. The paradigm, of course, is not that we sin therefore we are sinners but that because we are sinners we sin – the nature causes the effect. But the effect is breaking God’s law and violating God’s moral decrees.

They are held to the same standard in the objective sense – and in that, government can hold unbelievers to a code of law.

The question is this: how ought government come to its code of law?

You think about that, and I’ll get back to you.

[#] I don't play video games ...

... but if I did, I'd be interested in this open letter to Hillary Clinton. In fact, I am interested in almost any open letter to Hillary Clinton, so if you find any or have one you'd like to get out, let me know about it.

The national dialog with her/to her as we draw closer to 2008 will be fascinating background material as we watch her presidential aspirations unfold.

[*] 20-year-old Beef (skimpy main course)

OK – I still have the loose end of complaining about Brian Mattson’s review of U2’s last CD, and after all the hoopla I’m not going to make too big a deal out of this. My opinion is that I covered the nuts-and-bolts of Bono’s use of words when I briefly reviewed his conversation with Michka Assayas.

Here’s my upside of this CD: it really does rock. If that’s all you care about, rock on.

But Mattson takes too much for granted. He summarizes Part One of his review by saying:
In part one of this review, I rehearsed some of the background of U2's life and music, particularly the evidence of a spiritual journey over the course of their many albums. I pointed out that they seem to have traversed the territory between a cynical approach to suffering, characterized by accusing God of screwing up the world, to an approach of faith and hope, characterized by humility and "bended knees."
Ironically, I would agree with about 81% of this assessment, but the rub lies in equating “a spiritual journey” with “faith, hope, … humility and bended knee”, particularly in the matter of faith. Not all “spiritual journeys” are ones which lead to saving faith, unfortunately, and it is in the best case it is not determinate what the results of Bono’s spiritual journey is.

In taking too much for granted, Mattson gives Bono all the benefit of the doubt. For example, in listening to “Vertigo”, Mattson says
The source of satisfaction, the antidote to "Vertigo," is God teaching one how to kneel.
Let’s remember that Bono is not a careless person when it comes to choosing his words, so in calling this song “Vertigo”, we have to believe that he knew that “vertigo” means “An illusion of movement, a sensation as if the external world were revolving around the subject”. (an interesting note is that a common error to believe that vertigo is merely any kind of dizziness) Thus when Mattson offers the conclusion that this song is about an antidote to personal vertigo, he seems to overlook that the majority of the song is actually about the whirling about of the world – and that the last words of the song are “die young”.

Maybe Bono was careless in naming the song, and this song really does hinge on the phrase, “I can feel your love teaching me how / Your love is teaching me how, how to kneel, kneel”. I find it difficult to get to Mattson’s conclusions, however, because like the rest of Bono’s vocabulary the terms are all ambiguous. Some people may say that this is the definition of poetry, the heart of artistic work in literature, but that is simply an uninformed view. You cannot find this kind of ambiguity in great poetry (cf. Williams, Stevens, Whitman, Elliot), but you can certainly find it in pop music.

Let’s consider, however, that I am still holding a grudge against Bono and that this song ought to be read in the context that the song “Yahweh” on this same CD – which is obviously using the covenant name of God for some purpose. In defense of Mattson’s view of this particular song, the first half certainly is, as he says, evidence that Bono has read the book of Psalms – and perhaps a little Isaiah as well. The whole matter of taking our ashes and turning them into something beautiful – to the very end, where Bono pleads “Take this heart/And make it break” – is classically biblical.

Yet here is the centerpiece of the song:
Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Still waiting for the dawn... sun is coming up
Sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?
Even Mattson can admit that the phrase “always pain before a child is born” is a reference to the pain of this world – he goes to identify it as the matter of original sin. I will gladly accept that view – if it can be reconciled with what the ocean is in the bridge. The singer is “still waiting for the dawn” in spite of the “pain before a child is born” – so the dawn is something better, yes? And the sun is coming up “on the ocean”. We can hop ahead a little and try to say that “the ocean” is all of God’s love, and that the love that Bono knows/feels is “like a drop” in that ocean.

But if we hop ahead and do that, we have a problem: the dawn is already “something better”. So is “something better” coming than God’s love? Or is God’s love in need of something more? This is question is amplified by the singer’s question “tell me now/why the dark before the dawn?” The easy way out is to say, “all of it is God’s love, cent. The dawn, the drop, the ocean.” And anyone is welcome to say that – but find a way to make the passage make sense if that is true. The singer is waiting for the dawn, and here comes the dawn, and the dawn is on the ocean, and the ocean is God’s love, so God’s love is enlightening God’s love ... ?

It seems to me that this bridge is instead saying, “I can see the dawn coming up on the ocean, but this love (the dawn) is like a drop in the ocean – that is, the problem looks bigger than the solution.” That makes sense especially in the context that the idiom “that’s just a drop in the ocean” is not an idiom which expresses surplus but one which expresses insignificance or inadequancy –- consider the Michelle branch lyric “Drop in the Ocean” or Mother Theresa’s classic quote, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but if that drop were not in the ocean,… the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

As I listen to this song, I want to hear what Mattson has expounded – but I hear something different, which is the confusion Bono has over the work of God and the role of man. Sure: he has this idea, as demonstrated in the book review post, that love came down in a humble way in the dung and the straw. But it is confused by a lot of things – like failing to connect suffering in this life to man’s actual guilt and also to Christ’s redemptive suffering (which are two different classes of suffering, to be sure).

In that way, to extol this song as a modern psalm (aside from the hubris of saying such a thing) is to overlook the shortcomings in its view of God’s relationship to man.

So, in the end, I think Mattson’s review is confused. And that’s a shame because I think he’s a bright guy. So if you’re looking for rock and roll, go ahead and buy U2’s last CD – but let’s not confuse it with something that deserves a theological 4-star rating.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

[#] This Stolen Content ...

... brought to you by me from a person a greatly admire: Jason Engwer. Where I am a fool and a harlequin, he's a prince and a bright guy. This citation from Chrysostem that Jason dug up is proof enough:
But many in these times, even when they come to church, do not know what is read; whereas the eunuch [in Acts 8], even in public and riding in his chariot, applied himself to the reading of the Scriptures. Not so you: none takes the Bible in hand: nay, everything rather than the Bible.

Say, what are the Scriptures for? For as much as in you lies, it is all undone. What is the Church for? Tie up the Bibles: perhaps the judgment would not be such, not such the punishment: if one were to bury them in dung, that he might not hear them, he would not so insult them as you do now. For say, what is the insult there? That the man has buried them. And what here? That we do not hear them.

Say, when is a person most insulted-when he is silent, and one makes no answer, or, when he does speak (and is unheeded)? So that the insult is greater in the present case, when He does speak and thou wilt not hear: greater the contempt. 'Speak not to us' (Is. xxx. 10), we read, they said of old to the Prophets: but ye do worse, saying, Speak: we will not do....But what is the common excuse? 'It is always the same things over again.'

This it is most of all, that ruins you. Suppose you knew the things, even so you certainly ought not to turn away: since in the theatres also, is it not always the same things acted over again, and still you take no disgust? How dare you talk about 'the same things,' you who know not so much as the names of the Prophets? Are you not ashamed to say, that this is why you do not listen, because it is 'the same things over again,' while you do not know the names of those who are read, and this, though always hearing the same things? You have yourself confessed that the same things are said. Were I to say this as a reason for finding fault with you, you would need to have recourse to quite a different excuse, instead of this which is the very thing you find fault with.-Do not you exhort your son? Now if he should say, 'Always the same things!' would not you count it an insult? It would be time enough to talk of 'the same things,' when we both knew the things, and exhibited them in our practice. Or rather, even then, the reading of them would not be superfluous. What equal to Timothy? tell me that: and yet to him says Paul, 'Give attention to reading, to exhortation.' (1Tim. iv. 13.) For it is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom." (Homilies on Acts, 19)

[#] from Foxe's book of Martyrs

Christ our Savior, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, hearing the confession of Simon Peter, who, first of all other, openly acknowledged Him to be the Son of God, and perceiving the secret hand of His Father therein, called him (alluding to his name) a rock, upon which rock He would build His Church so strong that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. In which words three things are to be noted: First, that Christ will have a Church in this world. Secondly, that the same Church should mightily be impugned, not only by the world, but also by the uttermost strength and powers of all hell. And, thirdly, that the same Church, notwithstanding the uttermost of the devil and all his malice, should continue.

Which prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully to be verified, insomuch that the whole course of the Church to this day may seem nothing else but a verifying of the said prophecy. First, that Christ hath set up a Church, needeth no declaration. Secondly, what force of princes, kings, monarchs, governors, and rulers of this world, with their subjects, publicly and privately, with all their strength and cunning, have bent themselves against this Church! And, thirdly, how the said Church, all this notwithstanding, hath yet endured and holden its own! What storms and tempests it hath overpast, wondrous it is to behold: for the more evident declaration whereof, I have addressed this present history, to the end, first, that the wonderful works of God in His Church might appear to His glory; also that, the continuance and proceedings of the Church, from time to time, being set forth, more knowledge and experience may redound thereby, to the profit of the reader and edification of Christian faith.

As it is not our business to enlarge upon our Savior's history, either before or after His crucifixion, we shall only find it necessary to remind our readers of the discomfiture of the Jews by His subsequent resurrection. Although one apostle had betrayed Him; although another had denied Him, under the solemn sanction of an oath; and although the rest had forsaken Him, unless we may except "the disciple who was known unto the high-priest"; the history of His resurrection gave a new direction to all their hearts, and, after the mission of the Holy Spirit, imparted new confidence to their minds. The powers with which they were endued emboldened them to proclaim His name, to the confusion of the Jewish rulers, and the astonishment of Gentile proselytes.

[?] I didn't post today

I was too invloved with PP and Steve trying to explain to them why their libertarian views are secularist pap.

You can check their blogs for my comments. I have to go home now and kill spiders for my wife.

[!] Jus Divinum: conscience and the State [1]

I’ve been chatting with a fellow who calls himself Jus Divinum over at Steve Hayes’ blog, and I’ve dragged the discussion over here. When appropriate, I’ve left my comments from the previous discussion in place when Jus Div is responding to them.

Thus I said: "There are a lot of shades of gray between the two camps I'm going to posit here, but I think that one end of the spectrum is epitomized by Dobson, Colson, Falwell and the "religious right" -- and these people do believe that if the ship of morality in practice in our nation is off the north star, one way to right the course is to make some new laws that place government in the position of keeping moral choice-making tidy. Their ideal is that if people do not understand morals, government can teach morals to them through law."

And he replied:
... I am being totally sincere by responding that _I have no idea why you would think the above_. The notion that ECBers think the function of law is to "teach morals" is just weird to me. I certainly don't see it in their writings as their motivation for doing what they do.

But then again, I don't know what you mean by "right the course" or "keeping moral choice-making tidy". These phrases are so vague I don't know if they properly describe the motivations of anyone or not.
For that reason, I’m going to flesh out the comments I made in reverse order. When I said, “the right course” and “keeping moral choice-making tidy”, I was saying that there fellows have a particular view of morality which they affirm is “the right choice”. I’m not going all pomo on anybody here, so without quibbling about their list of commandments we ought to keep, I would agree that there is a moral standard that we ought to live up to. “the right choice” is the choice of the individual that ought to correspond to the moral imperative. For example, no one should lie; no one should steal; no one should kill.

Saying that these fellows think there is a “right choice” doesn’t seem all that vague to me, but if it needed fleshing out, there you have it.

Now what could I have meant by keeping that right choice “tidy”? Simply this: that in every case, the government has an obligation to legislate morality if the aggregate community ceases to demonstrate the willingness to make the right choices. That is to say, that the right moral choice must always correspond to the right legal choice. It is a view of government that I don’t think is very wise, and it is not the view of government found in the constitution, but it is the view these men practice in fact.

I can hear the objection right away: of course these men don’t want to legislate every moral action. That’s a crazy exaggeration. OK: it might be. I’d be willing to see a list of moral problems in this country that they do not think are most effectively handled by legislation. I’ll give you my short list of counter-examples: keeping sodomy illegal, keeping some drugs illegal, and getting abortion to be illegal.

Now mind you: I think all these should be illegal. The question is why – for what purpose?

I said:"This passage certainly applies to our elected officials today -- but if Paul was willing to say such a thing regarding Imperial power which was pagan at its very root, how much more does it apply to those who are in political power in our nation today?"

Jud Div replied:
I'm not sure who you think this comment is directed against. The ECBers? Why? The ECBers _explicitly apply_ Paul's statement in Ro 13 to our current government. Why would you think they need reminding in this regard?
Because they are putting the cart before the horse. Paul here says that government is established by God to punish the evil, but in what context does he say this? In an exhortation to establish a government based on Christian morals? Of course not – it is to encourage the Christian that he ought to behave in a godly way, and in doing so he would not have a reason to fear the government.
But here's an interesting question: Paul says that the purpose of government is to be "an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." Now, keeping in mind Mr. Hays earlier comment on the theonomy-2 thread about sola scriptura, how would you define "wrongdoer"? As Christians are we called to define "wrongdoer" as imperial Rome defines it, or as sola scriptura defines it? That will have plenty of consequence for our view of the duties of government, it seems to me. Do we just get to be postmodernists and let anyone define that word any way he wants to?
It is not post-modern to say that the standard upheld by government (or that will be upheld by government) is not necessarily the standard God commands us personally to uphold. It is also not post-modern to allow the word to have the meaning it has in the context provided.

And in that, Paul here does not call the government of Rome the evildoer, does he? Of course he does not. He has just called all government -- all government -- a ministry of God.

Paul here uses wrongdoer as one who is not doing what God has commanded – the word is juxtaposed against the idea of one who does the godly thing. Government will punish the wrongdoer; you should behave in a godly way so that you have nothing to fear.

Now why will you have nothing to fear? Does Paul say? Of course he does: He says there is no fear because the one who is godly is following the ordained order of things and has a clean conscience. The clean conscience is the critical matter, and in that Paul is not saying that Government will always have just laws but that Christians have an obligation to follow a higher law personally.
Paul is quite aware that Christian responsibilities change depending on the opportunities which are afforded to you. So, to slaves, he writes that if they _can_ get their freedom, then they should do so. Likewise, if Christians _can_ influence their government through lawful means, so that government fulfills its goal of avenging God's wrath on the wrongdoer, then they should do so. Here they are simply holding government to account for what _God_ describes as government's duty. And there are lawful means available to us today, by divine providence, that were not available in imperial Rome.
Paul certainly doesn’t say that in Rom 13. Eph 6 says this:
    5Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Col 3 says this:
    22Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
And then Col 4:
    1Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
and 1Tim 6 says this:
    1Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
And of course Philemon says this:
    8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you--I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus-- 10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. 15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother--especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So if you could find where your interpretation comes from – since it is not in any of these verses – it would be of significant interest to me.

And note: I do not advocate slavery. What I advocate is the Gospel first. The Gospel first. That is why the example of Onesimus is so critical to my position in this discussion, btw.

[#] The Off-season at Fatima

Patricia Anstett of the Detroit Free Press has a really keen travel feature about seeing Fatima in the "off season", but I thought it had some apologetic value.

You can read it, but it's not the same without the pictures that were in my local paper's reprint of it this weekend. Comments later today.

Here’s the photo (in full color, just like I saw it in Sunday’s paper) that was pasted over the story:

Here’s the caption:
Praying while holding a rosary, Maria Doceu of Lisbon, Portugal, walks on her knees away from the sanctuary and Basilica of Fatima. Doceu taped chair pads to her knees to make her spiritual journey more comfortable.
Now is that exciting or what? I mean, it is clear that this woman in particular has a very clear picture of what she’s doing and demonstrating. And that’s not all. From the body of the story:
The most devout line up to take their turns crawling on their knees more than 100 feet down a sloping path to the chapel.
This one doesn’t need a lot of theological fine-tuning, I hope. The next time someone tells you that when they pray to Mary they are just having a conversation with her, and that it’s not the same thing as devotion to God, ask them when the last time was that they got on their knees and crawled down a hillside in order to have a conversation with the fellow that sits next to them in the pew at church.

I might be wrong, but I'll bet that they have never gone to that kind of effort just to talk to someone -- even someone important.

[!] luddites: this is your only warning

I do not have enough time to battle the stupidity of MS Internet Explorer's inability to consistently render my blog. I'm tired of it.

Get Firefox!

Now look: I have to use IE 5.X on my OS 9 Macs at home. I'm cheap, and I suffer for it. But most of you are not Mac users, those who are apparetly are OSX users, and all you PC users have no excuse for not using the best browser for your platform.

Thank you. Now back to your lunch.

[#] I stole this from InstaPundit, too ...

But when you read this:
Usually it's the hostage who gets Stockholm Syndrome, but the newly liberated Wood must occasionally reflect that in this instance the entire culture seems to have caught a dose. And, in a sense, we have: multiculturalism is a kind of societal Stockholm Syndrome. Atta's meetings with Bryant are emblematic: He wasn't a genius, a master of disguise in deep cover; indeed, he was barely covered at all, he was the Leslie Nielsen of terrorist masterminds - but the more he stuck out, the more Bryant was trained not to notice, or to put it all down to his vibrant cultural tradition.
you have to ask yourself: "Good Heavens?! Is the World waking up?"

[#] Objections Noted

Sometimes it's what you link to, not what you write. Glenn Reynolds (aka InstaPundit) linked to this story which seems to have flown under the radar of the US mainstream media.

Somebody might correct me, but it's pretty "radical" for the Egyptians to come out against Islamic-driven terrorism. I sau "good for them".

[@] Good Stuff


[?] The last thing this week ...

... is that my daughter who will be 4 on Monday is having her b'day party tomorrow, so I'm bugging out of work early and leaving you blog readers empty-handed for the weekend.

I'm sure you'll get over it.

For those of you who didn't "get" my butter and toast thing yesterday, I never promised you a rose garden. I try to make them all at least smirkable, but it doesn't always go that way. Be at peace.

And call your Mom this weekend. Is it really too much to call your mom?

[#] I'd like some butter on my toast

Somehow I wound up here, and I read this bit of "journalism":
I know what you are saying: "Hey, we have always had heat waves." Yes, that’s true. But what we haven't had is summer nights as hot as summer days, and that is what contributes to turning normal heat waves into deadly heat waves (Two dozen deaths in Arizona have already been blamed on the heat). The human body does not have the relief of recalibrating itself. No cooling off period. Spain and Portugal are suffering the worst droughts since they began keeping records. The Swiss are desperately trying to wrap blankets around glaciers so that they will stop melting. (Good luck.) And a dead hiker from twenty years ago was just discovered because all the snow covering him has finally melted.
The emphasis is added. If you click through to this piece, you'll find the words "worst droughts" linked to this UK report on said droughts.

It's sounds pretty serious, yes? "The worst droughts since they began keeping records"? I wonder -- how long have they been keeping records? Any guesses?









Here's what that UK article says:
For some, it already is the worst. Spain and Portugal are suffering their worst droughts since records began in the 1940s, and in western France water levels are at their lowest since the drought of 1976.
That is to say, the worst drought in 60 years. In France, it's the worst drought since Jimmy carter was President. That's hardly a geological time scale -- it's barely a historical time scale. What if we find out that weather patterns on Earth occur in 120-year periodic cycles?

Sure: those of us who might argue for a 6000-year-old Earth might get panicked over a "worse case" that occured inside 1% of all historical time, but for the old-Earth Evolutionist, 60 years isn't even a valid sample -- it's not even two generations of time past.

If that's their definition of "toast", I'll have the butter and the jelly, please.

[$] Bark beats Snark, and other news

I was going through the motions this morning, and I came across this:

Mr. Limbaugh's audience of Persons 12+ is three and a half times the size of Mr. Franken's audience. Among Adults 25-54, Mr. Limbaugh more than triples Mr. Franken's audience.
Personally, I don't listen to Rush anymore, but L.A. should be Franken's home court. Maybe it turns out that Al Franken is just not funny and Rush is.

Either way, somebody has to do some self-assessment. I thought for sure that the Lefties could field a media dream team to "take back" the airwaves, but apparently there is no left-wing dream team. When they lost Dennis Miller (and did they ever have him, really?), there was no bench.

In other things that I prolly don't know anything about, here we are, a year away from mid-terms, and I'm going to say this before the crush starts: I want Hillary to run for President. I want them to field their first string this time so that when they lose the White House *again*, maybe the Democrats will realize that they have a failed ideology and they need to find something else to do with their time besides complain about things most people have no stake in -- or have a stake against.

Lastly, I have nothing to say about Bush nominating a lawyer and not a sitting judge to the Supreme Court. It looks bad to me, but I'm bitter because I didn't get past the vetting. Rove's e-mail to me said that "because you have an enemies list that looks like the rogue's gallery from the 1960's Batman series, we can't take you seriously for SCOTUS. However, Jeb is looking for a new Attorney General and we also have an inside line that Lakewood Church is looking for a new proprietor for its bookstore ..."

[$] I never wanted to admit this to anybody

I am a fan of Dooce, I read her blog every day, and I'm insane with jealousy that she gets 55,000 hits a day.

I confessed and I don't feel better. What does that say about me?

[@] Criticizing Joel Osteen

OK: so what exactly is going on at Lakewood? I don't mean doctrinally -- I mean practically. If you follow the link, the Compaq Center went for about $95 million, and it apparently has "three stories, 16,000 seats, two waterfalls, a coffee shop, myriad wireless hotspots, 32 video game kiosks, a nursery, a bookstore and a vault to hold donations."

Well, we have a "safe" to hold donations at my church, and if Lakewood really did take in $55 million last year then they prolly need a vault -- they take in about $1 million a week, and you can't just drive that to the drop box at the corner bank branch.

They average 30,000 in services on Sunday -- making them the largest church in America. Personally, I think that's amazing -- most churches cannot survive having 500 on Sunday without splitting over the building program.

So what's my beef? If I'm not going to take Pastor Osteen out and beat him for soft-soaking the Gospel (see the other post), what am I going to do?

Well, I'm going to ask why, exactly, it is important for Lakewood not to split. It seems that the Compaq center was available, and they apparently had either the cash or the credit to close the deal, so if they get 30,000 on Sunday while cent's church in the boonies only gets about 300, why complain? Isn't God glorified by a sell-out crowd as much as he's glorified by a handful of people gathered in his name?

Well, God is certainly glorified. The question is if He's glorified because the wicked are being exposed or because his name is being lifted up. And the funny thing is that I don't think it's Osteen who's being exposed as wicked, per se.

There's a very funny link at the Lakewood website which you can find here. Boy, there are pages of stuff about the bookstore, how to make a donation, the fellowship groups, the services, the new campus, the ministries (which I would call "in-reach" as opposed to "outreach") -- but open up that missions page. It's empty. Excuse me: under "local outreach" it says, "Lakewood Church encourages its members to share the love of Christ with the Houston community through volunteerism, evangelism, and ministry. Regardless of your interests, spiritual gifts or talents, there is a place for you."

Where are they? 30,000 people come to hear someone who believes God's word is true and Christ died for sin speak every week -- and then the rest of the time, what? What do they do after they brave the traffic out of the campus? Obviously, they give their money -- and there's something to be said for that. But was it as important to renovate the Compaq center as it might be to have, say, feed 400 people dinner every day for a year? (My guess is that this would have cost about $750,000 -- about 1% of what they spent to buy the Compaq center)

This is why it is important to have a church which is smaller than 30,000 people: accountability and personal relationships. There is no doubt that I can name 5 churches inside a 10 mile radius of my home that are small and are dying because they are exhibiting the same kind of church mentality as Lakewood is -- which is that what they have is good, and they have to protect it by making it (the physical stuff) safe, clean and neat. But when people can come to a church service in the same way they can come to a basketball game or a football game -- which is to saym anonymously and vicariously -- they are missing the point of the Gospel, the consequences of the Gospel.

Sorry. I might stand up to those who call Osteen a heretic, but his church demonstrates a low view of what the Gospel calls us to by the way it uses its resources. He's the pastor there. He should do something about it.

[@] Defending Joel Osteen

Once you have picked yourself up off the floor from reading the subject of this post, let's not get too worked up, OK? It's not like I'm going to defend Lakewood's purchase of the Compaq Center in Houston -- because I'm about to blog that Lakewood buying that place has a lot in common with Medieval cathedral-building in scope and expense.

What I'm defending Pastor Osteen from is the charge that he's a reprobate or a heretic. I'm not going to blog in defense of megachurchism, or his book, or his TBN sermons, or any of that stuff. What I am going to defend is this:
WE BELIEVE…the entire Bible is inspired by God, without error and the authority on which we base our faith, conduct and doctrine.

WE BELIEVE…in one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth as Savior of the world.

WE BELIEVE…Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe that salvation is found by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again.

WE BELIEVE…water baptism is a symbol of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ and a testimony to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

WE BELIEVE…in the regular taking of Communion as an act of remembering what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross.

WE BELIEVE…every believer should be in a growing relationship with Jesus by obeying God’s Word, yielding to the Holy Spirit and by being conformed to the image of Christ.

WE BELIEVE…as children of God, we are overcomers and more than conquerors and God intends for each of us to experience the abundant life He has in store for us.
It's the Lakewood statement of faith, from their web site. The first thing to say is that they have a statement of faith at all. I say "good for them", and challenge you and your church to do the same -- which is to have a statement of faith that they make public for the sake of setting boundaries.

You might not like some of the loose words they use -- like what they might mean when they say "abundant life" or "baptism is a symbol" -- but again: at least they come out with a statement of faith which doesn't really separate them from the pack in terms of orthodoxy. Does it leave some questions not answered? Sure it does. But it doesn't say anything that would disqualify them at face value.

Now the mean, scandalous Calvinists out there are grumbling, "cent: TULIP. Where's the TULIP?" Well, it's not actually put that way, is it? The T is sketchy, the U is absent, the L is very sketchy, the I is absent, and the P is sketchy. So they're not 5-pointers -- not in any confessional sense, to be sure. But does that mean they are not a church? Does that mean Osteen is himself an unsaved person? Is he damaging the faith of others?

That's really the question, isn't it? Is he damaging the faith of others by what he teaches? In the worst possible reasonable case, we can only say, "maybe" -- and if it's "maybe", we can't get out the kindling and start stoking the fire at the stake.

But why is that? It is because we are called to treat each other with a little bit of grace. At face value, Osteen is not teaching any kind of Gospel-plus construct -- and no offense to Pastor Osteen, but I don't just see him as that complicated. He's not a crypto-heretic. I think he says and writes what he means, and what he means is to teach what he believes he has read in the Bible. In that, he deserves a little grace for being an imperfect person -- because it is my hope and confidence that I'm going to get some grace in spite of being an imperfect person.

So those who are ranting about what a wretched Christian he is, what a wretched church he has built, stick to what is true and clear and steer clear of what is not true and maybe not so clear. Hey -- he flopped on Larry King if you're asking me, but that doesn't mean he's Pelagius or Arius. I'll bet if you had 15 minutes on Larry King, you'd not make an "A" either.

And let's also remember that I am on the record someplace as saying that Osteen has "android-like eyes" and an "android-like faith". I can't find the link (I'm sure one of you really wiley readers will be on it in a minute), but I said it -- and I meant it. I don't "like" Joel Osteen. That doesn't mean I'm not called to love Joel Osteen in a godly and Christ-like way.

[#] So how do we pull it together?

Those who have been reading (and there are so many of you that I’m about to bust) the various threads over the last few weeks have been taking in the critique of Bono and the critique of African debt relief with some academic interest, I am sure. But what’s all that got to do with a blog that is supposed to be by a guy who thinks he’s the evangelist to the curious?

Here’s the first place to start: there is no action we can take that ought to be segmented apart from the Gospel. Jesus didn’t come for us to feed these ones, and clothes those ones, and comfort the other ones, but then if you get to it tell them about this cross He died on and what it means propositionally to know the Son of God, receive His righteousness, and do the will of the Father.

So in that, the matter of questioning whether anyone has done their fair share – whether they are the lions or the lemmings – is moot. The problem of poverty and pandemic and starvation in Africa is not in and of itself a materialistic problem which we solve by anointing them with carte blanche in a sacramental re-enactment of what Zaccheus did when after Jesus invited Himself over for a snack.

Yes: people are starving. People cannot find meaningful (read: profitable) work. People are dying of AIDS and of other ridiculously-simple diseases which we ought to be able to control and ultimately cure as we have done in our cul de sacs here in America.

But the question comes back: why are all these things happening? Are they happening because America is too stingy and only spent $30 billion (you can keep the change, thank you) on foreign aid to Africa last year, and the whole rest of the world came up with the same amount and only scratched the surface?

I said it yesterday, but I’ll say it again here: how can $78 billion in investments result in negative economic growth? Is the problem that we are flying food in to these people rather than building them saw mills and machine shops? Is the problem that we are sending them basic medical supplies instead of condoms and AIDS inhibitor drugs?

I ask all these questions because the answer, in its most-raw form includes the matter that we ought to feed the hungry, aid the sick, and comfort the prisoners. But the answer must also include cultural reform – and when you read those words here in this blog, you had better understand that “cultural reform” means “the invasive expansion of the Gospel message and its consequences”.

I’m not preaching a prosperity Gospel here – I’m not advocating that the Gospel means that by 2010 Africa could all be paved and landscaped so that it’s a nice drive-by. I’m saying that the Gospel strikes down the barriers between races and between tribes and between language groups – it is the message that God has made His peace to all the nations, and that means the nations of Africa as well as the nations of the West. I’m saying that the Gospel calls men to share each others’ burdens, and in that it calls those with power (read: the local political rulers) to exercise compassion and justice in carrying out their ministry which is ordained by God. I’m saying that the Gospel calls men to repent of sin – and the sin of sex apart from marriage is not a worse sin than any other sin, but it is the one which is ravaging the health and welfare of these people. I’m saying that the Gospel has already been delivered to us, and if we hand over a bowl of soup, or a pill, or a dollar, and when we do that material act we do not take a moment and preach the Gospel which has empowered us to do this work, we have failed as disciples of Christ.

Look: here’s what I mean. About 4 months ago, our associate pastor was about to go on sabbatical and as part of his last sermon before leaving, he gave me the honor and privilege of providing my testimony to the church as an example of the Gospel.

To keep it brief, my testimony is this:

I grew up Catholic, and became an atheist. I rejected God and embraced the philosophy of man. Ten years later, everything I had done to suit that philosophy of man-made priorities had proven itself to be, as Paul said succinctly, “skubalon” – dung. My life was not worth living because it was only my life – my choices, my values, my ethics. I wanted to die because of the emptiness, and planned to die, but God showed me a different plan through the Gospel.

I had to come to that lowest of low points to find out that God would go any distance to do what He planned to do – and it wasn’t just for laughs or as an open-ended possibility: God did what He did for me. “Me” who cursed the name of Jesus; “Me” who spit on the idea of church and worship; “Me” who thought that selflessness was suicide and vain. God did what He did for me – and that changes who and what I am and what I ought to be.

So now when I do something for someone, it is in Jesus’ name – the name which is above all names, who emptied himself out in order to take the form of a servant for the sake of my salvation and God’s glory.

When I finished giving that testimony, I had lunch with my brother-in-law, and he said to me, “You know, I have never been that low in my life. I can’t imagine what it’s like.” And when I hear that, I’m stunned – because he’s not the first person to ever say that to me.

If you have never been so low as to know that the only hope you have is in Christ, and in Christ alone, then I suggest you have never met Jesus and you have no idea what the power of the Gospel is. That is not to say you cannot be saved: it means that you do not understand the definition of the word “saved”. And in that, you have no idea what the gift is you have been given if you claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

That gift – and its power to change death into life both in the soteriological sense and in the “I got out of bed this morning” sense – is the greatest gift we can send to the African continent. It cannot come without the food, and the money, and the medicine, and the education, and the investment – but it is possible that all of those other things could arrive without the Gospel. And the Gospel will not be delivered by those who do not realize that it is the power which gives life to dead bones.

If that happened – and it is happening right now, make no mistake – then we would be doing far worse to these people than letting them starve to death. If we do not do these things in the name of Jesus Christ, we might as well send them money to establish a porn industry, because it will no doubt be a solid way to generate cash for them and their economy. We must do these right things in the right spirit for the right goal of every tribe, tongue and nation on Earth giving praise to God.

This is really not about whether we give $30 billion or $3 trillion to Africa: this is about calling dead men out of their tombs. This is about Lazarus and whether God was careless to let him be dead or if God planned to use his condition to bring Glory to Himself.

By the way, since Jesus hasn’t come back on the clouds yet, this is about you and me getting ourselves together and doing what He sent us to do. Each with his own gifts, and each as members of one body, but each without any doubt as to why we do what we set out to do, and let our critics either be reached by our message, ashamed for their hatred, or damned.

[#] Somehow, we're in last place

Yes, this is more on the aid to Africa thing. I'm blogging about it because it seems to me that all we hear about in this discussion is that there's not enough being done. Greed in the west, says one talking head, is as great a sin as sexual promiscuity in Africa which is leading to the death of millions by AIDS.

Well, yes: greed is the same kind of sin as adultery. No doubt about that. Can we ask ourselves, however, how we define the word "greed" for a minute? For example, is it greedy for a rock star (no one in particular, but any given rockstar) to perform for free at a concert to promote his cause (a performance lasting about an hour, and perhaps it took all day to prepare for that hour), but afterwards fly home on a chartered jet and take his Mercedes from the Airport to his home? No?

I wouldn't say that is greedy, to be honest. I'd say, "that's how Capitalism pans out". If you define the end result of Capitalism as "greed", then of course it's greedy, but if you define the end result of capitalism as "economic justice as arbitrated by the marketplace", then it is not greedy.

Now consider the following chart:

click me to enlarge
It's the ODA assessment chart that the Live8 rock stars were all clamoring about. There are a few salient features about this chart which might be of interest to anyone passing by.

The first is this: the sum of the aid given by these 22 countries in 2004 is $78.566 billion. In case you haven't been following my aid to Africa posts, that is about $2 billion less than the entire debt of the nations the Live8 gang want to see forgiven. And that's what was given in 2004. Nearly the same amount was given in 2003. So in the last 2 years, about double the total debt owed by these countries was given back to them in free, don't-pay-me-back, here's-a-check, aid.

The next thing is this: somehow, the country which has given the most in aid in raw dollars is at the bottom of the list. Excuse me: it’s second-to-last.

Well, of course it is -- because in this list the dollars given is indexed against GDP*. And the country which has given the most dollars also happens to have the highest GDP, so indexing against GDP is the only "fair" way to assess whether there has been any "justice", right? To whom much is given, much shall be required, right? You can't argue with the Bible: the US owes more to the African nations than, say, the French who exploited Africa through colonialism.

Well, it turns out that there is some latitude for the US in this even in the eyes of the beholders here. When we factor in private giving as well as national/political funds, the US goes from #22 on the list to #15 -- and that makes it's total giving not $18.999 billion but in fact $30.873 billion.

Think about that for a second, dear reader: last year the US gave $30.873 billion to Africa – and amount equal to about 38% of their total indebtedness. And the amount of private giving from the US was more than the total governmental giving of 13 other countries combined.

Which leads us to this particular chart:

click me to enlarge

It turns out that the US, in government funds only, gave more than the next 2 countries on the list, and also more than the bottom 14 countries combined. It’s pretty hard to say that the US is “greedy” or “stingy” in its giving when it gave more than 9 Italies or 7 Canadas.

I think it is also pretty, um, staged to say that “God will judge us” for the way we have shown good will in the form of almsgiving to the African continent. To make my final point here, I’m going to reference a formula that the president of every chamber of commerce in America uses to demonstrate the power of investing in a community. The “common knowledge” is that if you spend a dollar in any American community, it has a seven-fold impact on the community. I have no idea where this notion comes from, but they all parrot this as if it is a proven fact. Let’s assume for a minute that the impact is not seven-fold but three-fold. So if somebody dropped $1 billion into your community, if we assume that it would not be gobbled up by local politicians and scam artists, the net impact would be a $3 billion expansion of your local economy.

Now even if we give the benefit of the doubt to this formula and the Africa advocates and say, “and that’s because a viable economic infrastructure already exists”, let’s say that the impact in an African community ought to be dollar-for-dollar. That is, if we drop in $40 billion, the economy should grow by $40 billion.

The problem is that these economies do not grow by $40 billion. In fact, they are documented to be contracting rather than expanding – in spite of an annual infusion of literally billions of dollars. Billions.

The problem is not a lack of money: it is a lack of stewardship. That is to say, somehow the people we are giving this aid to are not spending it on things. They can’t be. If I had $1 billion, and I spent it all on bubblegum, a bubblegum industry would pop up. If I had $1 billion and I spent it on a castle, an explosion in construction employment would occur. If the money were being spent on things – which is, in the most objective sense, what money is for – then economic development would happen. Something else is happening to the money.

And in that lies the problem with the argument the aid for Africa folks have fronted up.

*Some of you, if you are like me, are thinking, “ah. GDP. Right. Exactly ... um ... what is GDP again?” “GDP” stands for “Gross Domestic Product”. We love Wikipedia here, but rather than make you click through, GDP is defined as the total value of all goods and services produced within that territory during a specified period (or, if not specified, annually, so that "the UK GDP" is the UK's annual product). GDP differs from gross national product (GNP) in excluding inter-country income transfers, in effect attributing to a territory the product generated within it rather than the incomes received in it. The standard GDP formula is expressed as:

GDP = private consumption + government + investment + net exports

I’m sure that clears it up for you. :-)

[?] It's a giant ploy on my part ...

... to garner sympathy.

What is "it", you might ask. That would be this:



I have no explanation. I only have my disgruntlementness to keep me warm.

[%] Rooster, Wilson, and the Blog


Doug Wilson has responded to the Banty Rooster re: the problem of homosexual marriage, and it seems that I have heard what Pastor Wilson is saying here someplace else before.

Rooster: I think you over-reacted, and as a fellow who is equally-likely to over-react, it's always better to just admit you goofed. And if you don't think you goofed, then don't admit it.

Either way, blog on.

[#] The other end of the light switch

I don't know how you spend your Sunday mornings, but I start out by reading the paper. I have this habit of waking up at 5:30 AM in order to get 60 minutes in at the local health center (to keep my blood pressure down, not to be a pro wrestler) before work, while my family is asleep. The health center isn't open at 5:30 AM on Sundays, so I read the paper.

It's painful, usually, but it does make sure that I'm not just reading other blogs and I have some contact with the world beyond rural Central Time, USA.

There is apparently a newer book out called Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial, by Marvin Olasky and John Perry which advocates that the Scopes trial was misrepresented as a solid victory for Evolution over the years, and the results of that misrepresentation has lead to America's moral decay.

I haven't read the book, but I have read the review by Asher Price from the Austin American-Statesman, as published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. So this entry is not about the book per se but about Price's review, and in particular about a question Price has asked.

Price makes two complaints about the book. The first is that the authors overlook some of the moral victories that have come to pass since the Scopes trial and the acceptance of Darwinian theory -- like the civil rights movement and the decline of racism. Yes, well, on-net we also, have more abortions per year and (if you ask the other side of the aisle) more poverty, so I'm sure there's room to debate that matter.

The second is that "the authors do not spell out how intelligent design instills personal responsibility". Particularly, Price asks, "Suppose I act immorally because I have bought into materialistic explanations of human evolution. Now I find out we were created by space aliens. Why should I change my behavior?" It's a fair question if Olasky and Perry do not address it, and I have some time before I have to wake the family up this morning.

The problem for Mr. Price is that Intelligent Design (ID) doesn't really advocate for some intra-creational motive for the development of life. See: he cites ID theorist Phillip Johnson (who is not that Phil Johnson) as saying that while the designer "could be space aliens or time travelers," Johnson favors the God of the Bible. In saying that, Johnson is not saying that time travelers are a viable explanation for ID: Johnson is saying that his theory requires an intelligence of the proper scope -- something greater than man.

In that way, Price himself has (I think unwittingly) put himself inside the group Olasky and Perry are criticizing in their book. But the answer to Price's question is valuable.

In my recent family vacation to St. Louis, we took the kids to both the Magic House and the Science Museum. Because I can't really remember at which of these I saw this display, I'll say that you should visit them both because they are both worth visiting anyway. There's a set of batteries, switches, and simple machines on a table -- a light, a bell, a fan. If you line up the parts in the right way, you can ding the bell, runs the fan, or light the light.

Now the standard answer from the ID side is that if you have a simple machine -- like a light bulb -- the irreducible complexity of the machine points toward an intelligent design. Function indicates purpose. When there's a light at the end of the light switch, it points to design and purpose. And that's well and good, I suppose -- a decent apologetic and a simple argument.

But when we are faced with a question like Price's, there is something else to consider: the fact that the light switch is turned "on" when we find it. Sure: there's a machine we call life rattling and humming along as we enter the scene as observers -- but we didn't turn the machine on: we found it running. There's another light at the end of the light switch -- and it's not at the end where the bulb is. It's at the end of the switch which made the machine and said "let there be light"; it's at the tip of the finger which did not just set things up but actually set things in motion.

Machines are easy enough to be made, I suppose. But why set them in motion? If the light is turned on in an otherwise-dark room, the question is not "who designed the light" but "why is it on rather than simply dormant or at rest?"

If it turns out that space aliens have been the guiding hand in human evolution, then Mr. Price should ask them why they did what they did and then apply that to his ethical and moral worldview. But the light is on, and he should seek out whatever it is on the other end of the light switch in order to find out why it is on in the first place. That will answer the question of personal responsibility.

[#] More on the matter of African Debt Relief

Because it seemed unlikely that $40 billion in debt would actually make this kind of difference regarding the economic status of a continent, I did some more Googling and came across this article from the BBC regarding debt relief. Here's what I think is the key passage:
The main one is the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) which was launched in 1996 and for which a total of 38 countries, mostly in Africa, are in principle eligible.

To qualify, countries have to be very poor and have a very heavy debt burden.

They also have to maintain economic stability and produce a strategy for reducing poverty.

A total of 18 have reached what is called the "completion point" - the end of the HIPC process. These are the countries that will immediately benefit from the plan announced in London on 11 June.

Another nine have got to the "decision point", at which debt relief starts to kick in.

The World Bank says the total debts of these 27 countries went from $80bn to $28bn as a result of HIPC and other debt relief initiatives.

It also says that what it calls "poverty-reducing expenditure" went from 40.9% of government revenue in 1999 to 48.5% in 2003.

There are another 11 HIPC countries yet to reach their decision points. Most have had difficulties such as internal conflicts, which have prevented them doing all that is required for debt relief under the initiative.
So as a matter of correction, the World Bank says that prior to the current initiatives (which were enacted in 1996), there was $80 billion in debt out there in Afican debt, not the measely $40 billion I reported last week. That changes the math from $50 per person in debt to $100, and the ratio from 7% to 14%.

Just trying to keep the facts straight. Not that it improves their argument very much.

20-year-old beef (book review)

Is anyone going to be surprised if I write the following:

Well, I have finished the 300+ pages of conversation between Michka Assayas and Bono, and it turns out that Bono is a human being with flaws, and fears, and trouble in his past he hasn’t overcome, and he loves others, and he has great compassion for the poor of Africa. It also turns out that he’s in this band called “U2” which he started in High School that has had the same group members for more than 20 years.

Anyone surprised? I didn’t think so. He’s likable – you can’t help but like him. He’s self-deprecating and has a sense of humor about himself; he doesn’t appear to hold a grudge against anybody. Frankly, he has the Irish gift of tongues, which is to say his conversation is always interesting.

Look: you cannot read this book and come away thinking, “man, this guy is really a bad person at the core – you have to wonder if he thinks anyone is going to believe this stuff.” You can’t if you’re an honest reader. Bono is an amiable person. There are dozens of examples of why you ought to like Bono when you read this book.

So here’s the first real window-breaker of my response to Rooster’s review of U2’s last CD. I said this in my original post:
I think Bono’s clever and nuanced uses of the Bible and the names and work of God are not just pop marketing: I think they are intended to deceive.
And when I said that, I was wrong. After reading the interview book, and bookmarking almost 100 critical points in the conversation and reviewing them, there is no way I was right about Bono or U2 setting out to deceive anybody.

In that, I owe Bono and his friends an apology for saying such a thing. I was wrong to say that they have set out to intentionally deceive anybody about what they believe, and whether they have read it or not, I apologize.

However, I have to say this: I do actually think that since the “clever and nuanced uses of the Bible and the names and work of God” are present in the lyrics, they must mean something. So what can they possibly mean?

There are two paths to follow: what is evident in the text of those lyrics, and what is evident in Bono’s own description of his life in his own words as guided by Michka Assayas. Since this post is allegedly a review of that book, I’ll start with the last one first, and then come back to the lyrics the next time we handle this topic.

The interesting thing about this book, really, is that it isn’t very much about what Bono thinks is important even though he spends a lot of time talking about his work on behalf of the Africa poverty problem, his family, and his career. This book is about what Michka Assayas thinks is important about Bono. The really clever readers of this blog might come back with, “duh, Cent: it’s an interview. That’s how that genre works: someone asks (leading) questions and the answers come as they will. The interviewer guides the discussion.”

I think that speaking strictly from the view that genre exists in any piece of writing, that must be true. But anyone who has personally been interviewed for anything more than a job at Wendy’s knows something important: the person being interviewed has the option to take control. That is to say, the questions start to matter less than the answers if the person giving the answers has a piece of turf he’s trying to stake out.

Here’s the perfect example: the Matt Lauer/Tom Cruise interview. Technically, Matt Lauer was interviewing Cruise – and baiting him. Who would say that Lauer wasn’t baiting Cruise to say something outrageous or controversial? But Cruise turns out to be a pretty wiley fellow and turned the interview completely on its head. By the end of the interview, the only person more in control of that interview than Cruise was the person producing the segment from the control room. If the genre of interview was strictly about the softballs tossed out by the interviewer, then frankly I think no one would bother to be interviewed ever – why choose to be a pig in a poke?

If anything must be true of Bono, he’s not a pig in a poke. If he had the smallest whim to make the conversation about something specific, I am certain he could find a way to do it. He’s eloquent, he’s smart, and he’s got a lot of energy for a fellow past 40.

But this book is just not at all about what Bono might want to talk about. In fact, I would say that Bono takes great pain to make sure he’s not leading Assayas anywhere in particular. We might attribute that to a couple of things. First, these two have been friends since Bono was nobody and Assayas was, in his own words, “a ‘new wave’ preppy” working for the French magazine Le Monde de la Musique. Bono and Assayas have a history, and Bono frankly trusts his friends – so he could just trust Assayas to ask questions that he didn’t have to be afraid to answer. We also might say that Bono has no vested interest in being anything more or less than what is available for sale already – that is, he’s on the record, literally. Why muck that up by turning out to be something more (or less) than what the fans already expect?

So there are no earth-shakers in this book. Bono’s mother died when he was a teen – we knew that already. Bono’s dad took that pretty hard and he was never close to his son – well, we knew that somewhat already, I think. Bono has an older brother – I didn’t know that, but it’s not an atom bomb of revelation. What we get, for the most part, is Assayas’ filter of Bono’s life: a strict respect for the things he knows Bono holds close to the chest, a causal dialog that any two friends might have together, and a lot of talk about the question of what Bono is doing about Africa.

Technically, Chapter 4 is all about that aid to Africa stuff – it’s all about Bono acting as lead ambassador for the organization DATA (Democracy, Accountability and Trade for Africa – or Debt-AIDS-Trade-Africa, depending on who you ask) to round up G8 support (and particularly US support) for their cause. But the rest of the book is simply littered with more questions or anecdotes about this work.

Hey: it’s goal is good in the geopolitical sense. It would be good to have Africa not starving to death anymore, not to be living on dust anymore. My family supports a family in Africa monthly – we have been doing it for 7 years, since before my son was born -- and if every American family did that we could cut the rate of starvation in Africa significantly.

But to get back to my point here, Bono’s not the one who keeps bringing it up: Assayas is. He is apparently fascinated by this work – because he’s apparently seen the carnage up-front. Gosh: good for him. Thank God he’s got a conscience! But even if this is the most important thing Bono has ever done (and it might be, honestly), I’m really more interested in why he has this passion for good work rather than what a great job of rallying political allies he’s done to gain some debt relief for the African continent.

It comes back, full circle, to the matter of “Bono’s clever and nuanced uses of the Bible and the names and work of God”. The only reference Bono makes to God in all the talk about Africa is that God will judge us by how we react to this situation – and that seems rather amazing to me for someone who, elsewhere, seems to “get” the astonishing act of the incarnation – that man should be humbled and have his pride broken by the fact that God the Creator of all things condescended to be made flesh and be born in a manger.

I would offer up this bit from chapter 11 (Assayas is in italics; Bono is in plain face):
Terrorists are focused on big ideas. You’re quite aware that there are no greater idealists than terrorists. Most of them revere the notions of God (emph added) and holy justice. I guess for a person like you, who is deeply religious and idealistic, it must be very disturbing.

I’m a lot of other things as well. But you see, Michka, people who are open spiritually are open to being manipulated more easily, are very vulnerable. The religious instinct is a very pure one in my opinion. But unless its met with a lot of rigor, it’s very hard to control.

Correct. But you’ve also never seen a skeptic or an atheist smash himself to pieces in order to kill as many people as possible. I mean, atheists would organize concentration camps or would plan collective starvation, but this kind of terror we are dealing with now is of a spiritual nature. You can’t hide from that.

It’s true. Yeah, smashing other people to pieces doesn’t need the same conviction. Most terrorists want to change the material world. Well, add eternity to that, and people can go a lot further to pursue their ends. ... but of course, this is always a corruption of some holy thesis, whether it’s the Koran or the Bible.
Now Bono is about to say something here that’s frankly beautiful – but it is in contrast to calling both the Bible and the Koran “some holy thesis”. Let’s think about what he says here: an act of terror and the underscoring conviction is a corruption of “some holy thesis”, whether that thesis is from the Bible or the Koran.

We can go into it in a future blog entry, but there is no way to say that both the Koran and the Bible are “some holy thesis” in the way he means here. They make exclusive claims. I hate to get all propositional and theological here, but either the Bible is “some holy thesis” or the Koran is “some holy thesis”.

There is also the problem of “people who are open spiritually”. Some people may think that way, but any person who thinks 5 minutes about God’s intention to set apart a chosen people in Christ can’t read that and not wonder which parts the of Bible Bono has neglected.

That’s one piece of evidence we should consider when we look at “Bono’s clever and nuanced uses of the Bible and the names and work of God”. But another comes up hard and fast:
My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sigh] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now, that’s not so easy.
How do you reconcile those two statements standing right next to each other, both coming out of the same mouth at the same time from the same man?

My answer is: you cannot. I have no doubt that Bono believes both of these things as equal truths. In the very next response to Assayas, he says:
There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is.
And a page or so later says:
It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic.
In the very best case one can imagine, Bono is being quite the Emergent evangelist here, talking to his unbelieving friend in terms that he might “get” and using the whole vocabulary of world religions to try to make his point. Rather than talk about the Law – he actually calls the Old Testament an “action movie” of violence, special effects and adultery – he says “Karma”, as if they were the same thing.

It is in the confusion evident in that kind of verbal alchemy that I realized something: whether Bono knows the Gospel or not, he doesn’t think there’s a difference between Allah and Yahweh. And inherent in this conversation he’s having with Assayas, I think there is something more important: I’m not sure he cares for those who do.

Before I clarify that and finish this review – which gives me the basis to finish my comments on the U2 review that kicked all of this off two weeks ago – let me say, as I have before, that I am not qualified to say whether Bono’s saved or unsaved. I tried baptizing my glasses to see if it would help, but it didn’t. He says the right words sometimes, but frankly in the best case he says “the older I get, the more comfort I find [in the ‘Holy Roman Church’]”.

But in all that, we have to go back to the first citation I gave from the book, above, when Assayas calls him a man of deep faith, and Bono responds, “I’m a lot of other things as well.” Bono is ambivalent about faith even when he asserts that it is the basis for his understanding of God and love. It comes our clearest when he speaks of an incident early in his life in chapter 8:
I was very influenced by a man called Chris Rowe and his beautiful wife, Lilian. I think he spent a lot of time in China, the child of a mission there before the Communists threw his family out. He was an older man. He relied on the Lord to provide them with everything they needed. They were living hand-to-mouth, this community. I guess he would have been what you would call the pastor of the church, but he’d be much too radical to wear a collar or anything like that. This was the real deal: a radical group. And I said, “look, you shouldn’t have to worry about money. We’re going to earn plenty of money. I’m in a band, and I know we’ll be able to help. We’re going to make it.” He just looked at me and laughed. I remember what he said to me: “I wouldn’t want money earned that way.” And I said: “What do you mean by that?” He revealed to me that, even though he had known we were serious about being musicians, and being a rock group, that he was only really tolerating it. He didn’t really believe that out music was an integral part of who were as religious people unless we used the music to evangelize. I knew then that he didn’t really get it, such a fundamentalist, he didn’t want a part of the rock ‘n’ roll thing. Maybe it’s a compliment to him: we could have been a cash cow.
He continues on the next page:
Then we came to a realization: ”Hold on a second. Where are these gifts coming from? This is how we worship God, even though we don’t write religious songs, because we didn’t feel God needs the advertising.”
So this book – authored by an unbeliever, who I admit controlled the conversation with Bono, though he did not manipulate him – says specifically that Bono has a very uneven view of the Christian faith, and his own faith in particular.

In that, we will proceed to the Rooster’s review next week some time. Have a nice weekend, and enjoy your time in the house of the Lord.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |