4/15/22 A Writen Sermon for Holy Saturday

I am still not going to church with Covid, and neither are a lot of you.  I have written another little sermon that you can read.  I pray that it is helpful.  I can read silently far faster than I can read out loud, and you probably can too.  I would encourage you take a deep breath and to read a little slower than your fastest, as if I were reading this to you.    

As well as I can remember it was Holy Saturday last year (anno domini 2021) when I was thinking of this, while out running along the ditchbanks.(1)  It has taken about a year to get it put up, my life has been busy.  This was my thought: There was only one full day in all of time in which Jesus was not alive, and that would be Holy Saturday, about 2000 years ago.  He would have died some time Friday afternoon and was not risen until sometime Sunday morning. 

God is something very foreign to us.  Jesus was, as I see it, a human extension of God.  God reaching out to us to help us overcome this foreignness.  In most Christian thought, Jesus had some existence before he was born into his human life, and continues in a somewhat separate existence now.  As it says in Revelation “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne(God), and unto the Lamb(Jesus) for ever and ever.”(2)  So Jesus has a separate existence in the future.  Jesus also says “Before Abraham was, I am.”(3) showing a separate existence in the past.  There are theories that the Angel of the Lord, that appears in Genesis, is also Jesus before the Gospels. 

A lot of theological ideas are difficult to really prove one way or another without sitting down with God and talking it over, which none of us are doing right now, but I think God likes us to use our intellects to analyze our Faith and the Bible.  This is a good thing.  At the same time, we must not become too confident in our little theories.  We must balance our intellectual pursuits with a humility that realizes that God is very complicated and we do not have everything figured out.  I am talking about details here, like whether the Angel of the Lord that appears to Abraham was or was not Jesus. 

I am not talking about the big issues of Christianity, such as: the existence of an engaged loving God that hears our cries, an unchanging and God defined good and evil, Jesus dying innocently, Jesus being resurrected, and the hope of a real Heaven.  On these issues most Christian denominations agree.  We can have confidence and surety in these big issues.  If we cease to, we are no longer Christians.  In my case, I believe God has miraculously given me the faith to believe these things.  It is not arrogance to believe it, it is having faith.  I write this because the rest of my little written sermon involves my thoughts and theories, which I sincerely intend for the encouragement of my Christian brothers and sisters, but I will not say that they are certainly right, they are just my thoughts. I do not presume to read the mind of God.       

In between these “before” and “after” periods was Christ's incarnation, his human phase.  We celebrate the beginning of this phase at Christmas and the end of it at Easter.  This human interval of Christ is the beginning of the Christian Faith. 

And at the end of this incarnation period, on that day, on Holy Saturday, Jesus, the human extension of God, is dead.  God forms Jesus to take on mortality to such a degree that he dies, and is no longer co-omniscient with the Father.  We see the first step of this just before Jesus dies, when he says, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”(4)  This is a strange and unique state in history.  This sentence makes me think that this day was a state of oblivion for Jesus, he was not a spirit in Heaven watching his dead body in the grave.  He was not conscious.  He was dead.  I do not think that this state reduced God, or at least it did not do so appreciably.  At the same time I think it was difficult for Him, unpleasant, if not for any other reason than that it was definitely painful for Jesus.  We all as Christians are extensions of God, but I speculate that none of us will ever be an extension of God in the sense that Jesus was and is.  We will not be an extension of God's mind.  We would cease to be ourselves.  An immortality in which we cease to be ourselves is not an immortality in my book, or at least it is not a Christian immortality.  This special and unique connection to God was, I think, what kept Jesus going through all of His hard life.  We cannot really know how God makes an extension of himself human, what it was like to be Jesus, “truly God and truly man.”(5) I think we can be fairly confident though, that the loss of the connection to God at his death was one of the darkest parts of his Passion, likely the darkest part.

But Jesus is not in that state anymore.  He has become the first resurrected human.  Now, there were a few people who rose from the dead in the Bible, but they just went back to being normal people afterwards.  Jesus did not.  He went into this glorious, sort of post-human, state.  I think that this state is an example or a pattern of what we will be in the Resurrection.  Still ourselves, still somewhat human, but immortal and able to move among God and the angels as Jesus does, and yet still physical as Jesus was, solid and touchable to His disciples after the resurrection.  As it is now, we (as Christians) are aware that a spiritual reality exists, but our interaction with it is, let us be honest, sketchy at best.  I believe that this spiritual reality is there, but I do not have any real proof to show anyone that it is indeed there.  This is the catch of religion in general.  You have to believe in something that is not visible or detectable under normal circumstances.  Maybe we should say that the spiritual reality is “here” instead of saying that it is “there,” as we really do not know how it overlaps spatially with our reality, though it probably does.  God, the Resurrected Jesus, and one would suppose the angels as well, are able to perceive both realities.  I feel that a lot of our sadnesses and temptations come from only seeing our physical reality and not the spiritual one.  I think that Heaven would be a new place in which these two realities are merged for us.  I like that idea.  I find it especially comforting, peaceful.  I can not really explain why.  Maybe something inside of me, figuratively speaking, can smell my Eternal Home.         

God bless you on this Palm Sunday.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

1. If you do not live here in central New Mexico, we have lots of little dirt roads that run along the irrigation canals and drains, almost all of which are open to the public.  They are often pretty with lines of trees along them.  I am thankful to have so many of them around my home. 
2 Rev 5:13 (my parentheses)
3. John 8:58
4. Mat 27:46
5. This is from the Chalcedonian Creed

7/19/20 Since I can't go to church, I thought I would write a little sermon.  

I was listening to Luke 5 on my phone whilst driving around town, and noticed that when Peter meets Jesus the first time, as soon as he (at least sort of) realizes who Jesus is, he falls on his knees and says "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man."

The first thing popping into my head is some preacher with an accent who pronounces sin as "sinnnuh." I guess it is easy to have the word “sin” get distracted with all the cultural and historical aspects of the Church and Christianity. As I fairly orthodox Christian do not look on all these aspects as bad, but rather that some are good and some are bad.

But behind all these distractions there is a very real God (whatever God is) who genuinely cares for us and sent a piece of himself in Jesus in an attempt to communicate with us mortals.

An important part of this communication is the idea that there are objective, God defined standards of behavior, and that our compliance with these standards is our own individual responsibility. (Obviously, this is concept is not limited to Luke 5.) This is not something that the world sets in front of us very often.

Peter does not make any excuses. He does not bring up his circumstances or history, nor does he try to argue about some of his behavior not really being sins. I am not saying God is not aware of all of these circumstances and is very merciful. But Peter does not bring them up. Not at all.

I cannot really put myself in Peter’s place in more than in imaginary sense, to be standing there looking into the eyes of the God made flesh. I do not pretend to know what that would be like. What comes to mind though (and perhaps somewhat strangely since I am Protestant) is the last of the Rosary where it says:

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Happy Sunday y'all.   

1/20/19 Thoughts on Male/Female Uniform Discrepancies in Certain Major Sports

Every time I see a picture or video of modern track and field event I ask myself, why do the girls wear bikini bottoms and the guys wear bike shorts?  Is there something in about the female anatomy that makes those outfits have some performance advantage, but only for females?  Something about the slightly different shapes of the hips and thighs?  The answer is of course no.  So why are they wearing them?  Someone or some people in an organizational capacity in the sport made a decision about this, and as far as I am concerned, it was the wrong decision. 

There area a lot of really good people involved with track and field: parents, coaches, organizers, etc., and many of them are rightly deserving your respect and mine.  Still, the uniforms are a problem.  Some people involved with the sport simply do not see it as a problem.  I think a lot of folks are probably not completely comfortable with it and just go along with the flow.  Then there some, at all levels of the sport, who make a conscious decision that sexier uniforms lead to more media coverage and more sponsorship money.  Obviously this is not something that they are posting publicly on usatf.org, but I am confident that the this has been discussed.  Some of them may rationalize this by saying that growing the sport benefits the women and girls involved with the sport, helps them stay healthy, keeps them off drugs, etc.  On a darker note, some of them, also ones that would not admit this publicly, enjoy looking at the girls in their uniforms.  At the end though, there are people within the organization of the sport initiating and perpetuating what is in my opinion a bad policy, some for well meaning reasons, some not. 

Running is not the only sport with a problem like this, but they are one of the worst.  Tennis, team volleyball*, and gymnastics are others that come to my mind.  Try to imagine Roger Federer wearing shorts that showed as much of his tushie when he bent over as some women's tennis skirts.  He would be a laughing stock.  Fortunately a lot of sports, really most sports, do not have this problem.  In skiing, softball, basketball, power lifting, wrestling, soccer, cycling, hockey, speed skating, and in a lot of others, males and females wear identical or near identical uniforms. 

Some sports, whose athletes do not have uniform problems, have a sexist or objectivist side show via podium girls, ring girls, or cheerleaders, or such, whose uniforms have varying degrees or tastefulness.  My approval of this has a lot to do with the tastefulness of the outfits, and most of the time they are not very tastefull.  Even in the worst cases though, at least it is honest and clear as to what is going on: We have a side show with pretty girls.  However, when you use your female athletes as your objectivist side show, this is really bad.  Even in these above “less guilty sports,” they are often creating an environment through these side shows that says objectivism is acceptable.  One gets the sense that if there ever were to be, for instance, women's football, the uniforms would be more revealing than the men's uniforms, based on the cheerleader uniforms and the attitudes towards them. 

Now imagine, to what degree you can, the inner workings of the brain and conscience of a person who has made (by my definition) bad decisions about discrepancies between male and female uniforms in a sport.  Think about how aggressively someone with this same psyche is going to respond to a potentially embarrassing case of sexism or abuse, whether it be a mild case or a serious one, especially when there is a real, tangible, painful cost to this response, be it in pride, in money, in reputation, in friendship.  How deeply is respect for women engraved in their life, when there is a real cost?       

Now, clear your brain from that, and now picture the mind of a sexual predator, feeling around for a potential position that would provide them with “opportunities.”  As they look over sports, would they not be drawn to ones that apparently have a culture of sexism within the the directorship of the sport.  On a more direct level would they not be drawn to a certain extent by just looking at the uniforms themselves.  Are all the people in these sports sexual preadators?  Or even possible sexual harassers?  Of course not.  But the attitudes within these sports, in my opinion, create an environment in which a person with a compromised conscience (however that manifests itself) is going to feel more comfortable and safe. 
I realize that I am putting intentions into the minds of people who I do know, but the results are right there for everyone to see.  The uniforms are different for no good reason.  Why is this?  You could say maybe that there is some cultural issue, but I don't buy it.  In tennis, it is fine if the women wear skirts, they just need to approximate the coverage that the men's shorts provide.  If I were a young woman competing in say, track running, I would be pretty upset about this.  I would also sew my own uniform, which I am going to do if my daughter ever wants to race track. 

I do not think that parents should necessarily abandon these sports, but they should be the squeakiest wheels they can complaining about uniform discrepancies.  It often requires less squeaking than you might think to make a change.  They should also be doubly vigilant with any staff involved with these sports, especially if the staff are adults and the athletes minors.  They should get or make their kids uniforms that are appropriate, if the ones that they are provided are not.  Fortunately there are not to my knowledge any rules specifically mandating the smaller uniforms.  If your coach, event organizer, or sponsor does insist on the smaller uniforms, that is someone that you need to watch very closely, and I personally would hesitate to allow my child to participate in the sport with that particular individual.   

* I am speaking here of women's team volleyball, not beach volleyball.  In team volleyball women typically wear very short black lycra shorts and men longer baggy shorts, more like those used for soccer.  As far as I can see there is no practical reason for this.  As far as beach volleyball goes, it is kind of intrinsically objectivist, and is not typically a high school sport.  One would like to hope that the primarily adult beach volleyball participants have a decent idea of what they are signing up for, with its pros and cons.   

8/13/18 Thoughts on Immigration (2000 words, so wait until you have a moment)

In my opinion I the immigration policy of the US government in recent years is racist, particularly DACA as it is currently proposed, and the situation with a porous southern border. 

I have written this out, at least in part, to clarify my own thoughts to myself about what is a very complicated situation. 
Any discussion on US immigration needs to start with a little math.  The number of immigrants that the United States can absorb is finite.  I feel that a lot of people do not have a grip on the hard numbers in regards to the number of people who would like to come VS the number we can realistically absorb. You rarely hear this discussed in the various arguments about immigration.  Defining “immigration” I am just talking about work visas for now, not new citizens per se.

There are about 7.3 billion people in the world currently outside of the USA.  If we were to make a guess on how many of them would immigrate to the US if given the opportunity, 40% is a decent guess, though maybe still on the conservative side.  Let us just use this number for now.  (Note this is not the number of people who actually apply, and try to wade through the almost impossible system, rather the number who, if given a  work visa, would like to come to the US.)  40% of of 7.3 billion is about 3 billion.  Over the last few decades we have averaged about 1.3 million immigrants per year, legal and otherwise.  Based on 3 billion this would come out to 1 in about 2300 people who might like to come here are actually able to so.  Of those 2300 many hundreds could be defined as truly poor, truly oppressed, or truly persecuted.

Somewhere there is an overfill point on immigration, though exactly where that point lies is open to argument.  A lot depends on how much standard of living the average resident American is willing to sacrifice to feed one more new American.  Eventually a US population point would be reached in which the was no economic difference between America and a poor emigré country.  Importantly, this point would be reached long before all the people in the world who wanted to come to America (or what America once was) were accommodated. 

Feel free to haggle on my numbers.  They are guesses, but I do not think that they are that far off.  They might be off by half or more, but it is a fact that the US is not even remotely able to absorb its number of potential global immigrants. 

All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.  This is not a quote from the Bible, but theologically I am completely comfortable with it.  The way I see this is that everyone is not equal in every way, but, ideally speaking, everyone deserves an equal chance before the law.  It is morally wrong before God to give one person preferential treatment over another based on their ethnicity or national origin.  

Let us keep in mind that the number of immigrants our country can absorb, whatever you believe that number to be, is a finite number.  What this means in our context today is that for every DACA kid that is allowed to stay here, someone else in the world will not be able to come.  The number of potential DACA recipients they are talking about is (I think) about 700,000.  That is over half a normal year's total immigration.  That is a lot of people.  For every one that stays, someone else around the world doesn't get to come.  This is also the case for illegal immigrants coming across the border; or the special cases that were being made for Syrian refugees; everyone displace someone.  This someone, maybe in Africa or Asia, may have been applying for decades, trying to get a visa.  I cannot see this as right or fair.  Basically you give one person preference over another one because of their ethnicity.  In my eyes this is racism.  

We as a country need to stand back and realize the sad reality that there is a huge quantity of suffering and poverty in the world that we are not seeing on our TV news or even on our online news sources.  Not having this “unpopularized suffering” in front of our faces does not mean that the suffering does not exist or that the sufferers are less important because no one knows much about them.        

For what it is worth, I have nothing particular against Latin Americans.  I have a lot of Latin American friends.  I have spent more time in Latin America than the average American.  They, like us, have positive and negative aspects to their culture.  However, they should be treated equally under the law, not better or worse than anyone else. 

The irresponsible open southern border has allowed millions illegal immigrants to take places that could have been taken by other immigrants from around the world.  This is both tragic and racist.  The most important place to start with immigration policy it to tighten our southern border.  (Fortunately this is already happening.)

This is how I think immigration should be run: There should be a clear and public number of people we take from each nation around the world per year.  This number should be based on their population.  Big countries get more, little countries fewer.  Poor countries or rich countries get the same number.  Any country where Americans are seeking work visas gets one extra US work visa for every American to which they are willing to give a work visa for their country.  This would create a good exchange rate between the US and a lot of the first world countries in the world where it is difficult for Americans to get work visas, and also for some desirable developing countries like Costa Rica.  It might be good to set a percentage or skilled VS unskilled work visas for each countries quota.  This could be reciprocal as well, swapping a skilled for a skilled worker or a unskilled for an unskilled based on the set percentage.  If an individual is deported back to a given country that country gets one person added to their immigrant quota.           

Any country that is hostile towards the US, or that contains considerable elements that are hostile to the US, gets their number of immigrants reduced by the extra time it will take to vet immigrants from that country.  Hypothetically let us imagine that Honduras and Syria have the same population.  If it takes the INS five times as much work to vet an immigrant from Syria VS one from Honduras, they can get 1/5 the number of visas that Honduras gets.  Some countries might not get visas at all.  Every country gets a proportional slice of the INS's time.  I think this is the only fair way to do this. 
Part of the way that America controls immigration is simply by understaffing the INS.  They are famously slow and inefficient.  Ask anyone who has dealt with them.  This needs to change.  We maybe need to tell a lot of people no, but it needs to be done on a faster timetable with better “customer service.”
The only way it would be globally fair to let the DACA folks stay is to shut down immigration from their respective countries until the yearly quota of those respective countries tallies up to the number of immigrants we accept under DACA.  Their home country has to pay off its “immigrant debt” before we take any more new cases.  We could still do marriage visas, student visas, and the like, but no new general work visas.  In the case of Mexico or El Salvador it might be 10 years.  Maybe 20.  Maybe 50.  But it would be closer to fair.

Regarding the situation with the non-DACA illegal Latin American immigrants, our negligence at the border has caused a humanitarian situation for which we (as the American Government) are responsible.  This is not a situation that should have ever been allowed to exist, but now that it does, we have a certain responsibility to clean it up.  I do not think it is realistically possible to deport every illegal Latin American in the US.  Some of them are probably going to have to be allowed to stay.  For one thing, if all were deported at once, their home countries could not easily reabsorb them.  People allowed to stay would be part of the immigrant debt from the above paragraphs, which would have to be repaid over time.  Some of the illegals in the US could and should be deported, the most likely prospects being: unmarried individuals, individuals with immediate families residing back in their home country, individuals who have not been in the country long, individuals who have felony convictions or multiple misdemeanor convictions (either in the home country or this one), and individuals who have a history of being previously deported and have returned illegally.  I do not think that anyone who came illegally should be ever eligible for citizenship, unless they return to their country and go through the legal entry system, but they could get a permanent work visa, inclusion in aid programs and social security.  

There could be some kind of an aid package for non-criminal deportees, especially poor ones.  Al least transportation back to their home and some food help for a while.  Also letting the deportee keep and export a certain amount of personal belongings would be appropriate.  I do not know how this works now.  The idea is to give the deportee a decent chance of getting reestablished in their home country.   

I would propose that we set a date at which everyone here needs to register with INS.  Then set a quota, like maybe 70% (80%?, 90%?), who are going to be allowed to stay.  Publish the vetting parameters, make them public and open.  There might have to be a small lottery system.  Stick to the quota and have it transparent and documented.  This would require a lot of extra staff for INS or maybe a whole new temporary department.  Anyone who does not register by the deadline date is subject to deportation. 

After this date we should step up enforcement considerably for several years,  seriously stepped up, to the tune of three to five times the staff they have now.  (I have some concernes on exactly how to do this, and prehaps that would be good for another essay.)  Make a concerted effort to track down every person who does not register.  Do this for three or four years, then stop.  I do not want to live in a country where there is that much government intrusion forever, but I would put up with it for a few years for the right reasons.  It is not realistically possible to find every person, but after that time and with those resources, most of them could be found.  Ideally there really should be no foreign citizens in the US that the government doesn't know about.  This is a security risk in today's world.  Border enforcement would also be stepped up after this date, even more vigilant than it is now.  This would not time out like the in-country enforcement, but would need to be continued for the foreseeable future, or else we are back in the same mess a just a few years down the road.      

I am not anti-immigrant, I just think we need to be globally fair and unbiased.  The way things have been, particularly in the last few decades is terribly unfair to the citizens of the world who are not from one of our immediate southern neighbors, and this situation should not be allowed to continue. 

2-14-17 A prayer request for Valentines Day.

I am married now and am very thankful for my little wife, but I spent most of my life single. In fact, I will have to live considerably past the average life expectancy (for gringos) in order for most of my life to be “married.” Valentines day is kind of rough on single follks. Aside from my wife, I do not think I ever had a girlfriend around on Valentines Day. Deep down one knows it doesn't really matter, but there are all these decorations, ads, and TV specials everywhere. Valentines is a decent retail holiday, and the stores are just trying to sell the stuff they usually sell. I cannot really fault them for being good capitalists. Sometimes they go too far, but generally I would do the same thing in their shoes.

It doesn't matter in the sense that Valentine's Day “success” or “failure” hardly ever makes or breaks relationships. The TV ads would contradict this, but you have to realize that they are trying to sell something, and it is not your relationship success. One would have be an idiot to totally forget Valentine's day, with all the retail decorations. Anniversaries, birthdays and the like require a little thought, but Valentine's is easy.

I was single long enough to come to a certain acceptance of the idea that I might spend my life single. It is not the ideal situation, but God gives the ability to deal with it, at least in my case. I was not really happy about being single, and sometimes I was depressed, but it was not crippling my life on the whole. Part of living with difficult situations in life boils down to just not letting ones mind dwell on these difficult things. This particular thing is something one cannot change, at least not for the moment. In the more long term, one can try to create social contact situations, or be nicer to ones next girl/boyfriend, but just this precise moment there is often nothing that can be changed. So all the decorations and ads do not make it easy not to think about it.

So if you are with someone or not, take a moment today, if you believe in such things, to pray for the people in your life that would like not to be single, which is pretty much all of them I know. (My paternal grandmother (Mimi) was widowed at about 90 years of age and went on to live to be almost 101. I think she loved her husband, but was pretty content to be single at that point. She certainly did not have a match.com account.) But we can safely say most of them.

Thus God be with you all, my single friends and relatives. May God in his mercy send you a mate that makes your life better and not worse. May He comfort you in His love until that point comes. If coming to that point is not in His plan for you, May He continue to comfort you in His love until you breathe your last breath, and open your eyes in a place where you are no longer concerned about having a mate. May you use the extra time that not having a family gives you to be Christ's hands to help the people around you, who suffer from this and many other hurts.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

9-1-16 A Frustrated Voter (A brief fill in the blank essay)

The way I see it, we are all in more or less the same boat, or rather in very similar boats trying unsuccessfully to go in pretty much opposite directions.  I am sure I am not the only person wondering how we got here.   

At this point, what is really hard for me, concerning this presidential election cycle, is not so much who we ended up with, but that we had a decent guy in (insert Cruz or Sanders) who seemed so close to making it, and then still lost.  Over the elections that I have been old enough to observe, there is often a candidate or several, early on in the primaries, that I sort of like.  They seem never to get very far though.  This year though, for a while it really looked like we might get someone a little better.  My guy looked like a realistic possibility.  What made him different from a most candidate is that he had a lifetime of consistent adherence to his ideals, not a life of flip-flopping convenience.  Very disappointing.  Almost the only positive thing that I can say about the whole circus is at least that maniac (insert Cruz or Sanders) did not end up the nominee on the other side. 

I know that this is more or less scenario that happens in every election, we are left with two undesirable candidates, and are asked to choose between them.  This time though they are, both of them, the most undesirable candidates I can remember in my lifetime.  Add this to the fact that the primaries were so close early on, and it makes for a very frustrated voter going into November. 

Furthermore, the nominee we now have did a lot of immoral (and probably some illegal) things to see to it that my guy did not unseat (insert him or her).  In fact, looking at the nominee that my side has chosen, and listening to their critics,  I find that often I cannot really argue with them.  A lot of the things are true, and one cannot really defend them.  I do not even want to, they do not deserve it.  I cannot say that I “endorse” or “support” (insert him or her) at all. 

However, with the all the dust settling, we are left with pretty much four choices.  Bad, Horrible, a symbolic protest vote that does not help us avoid Horrible, and not voting at all, which also does not help us avoid Horrible.  As unhappy and displeased as I am with the our nominee, (insert Trump or Clinton) is still considerably better than the alternative.  I feel that the best thing I can do at this time to use my vote and what influence I can to see to it that (insert Trump or Clinton) does not end up in The White House.  Maybe I am just getting older, but this is the most disillusioned I have been.  

8-20-15 Thinking about soap operas.

I was watching a soap opera out of the corner of my eye one morning at the carousel.  The Century Link kiosk always had a TV on.  If an American soap opera comes on, one instantly says, "Oh that is a soap opera."  Why is this? What is it about soap operas, particularly American soap operas, that is so distinctive?

The first thing that comes to mind is my mind is the lighting, very uniform, very artificial.  Never a dark shadow.  Never a badly lit corner of a room.  No outdoor shots.  They also often use a smoky or misty filter, as someone left oil on a hot plate just off screen.  I remember this effect being used a lot for dream sequences on TV when I was a kid in the 70s.  It used to be a lens filter, but it is probably digital effect nowadays. 

The actresses makeup is generally heavy but kind of neutral.  Guys usually have quite a bit on as well.  Guys also tend to be unrealistically well groomed, like the boys in a Disney sitcom.  Female clothing tends to be somewhat revealing but otherwise unremarkable.  Male clothing is merely unremarkable.  It is as if they got the entire cast's wardrobe at Penny's.  Not Benetton, not Armani, not a thrift store, not Wal-Mart, something right in the the middle: Penny's.  In fact every lamp, every rug, every desk, is a study in being unremarkable.  Everything is nice and new but never really interesting or unique. 

The actors and actresses themselves are similar, always attractive but never in a unique way, all Brendan Fraser but never Benedict Cumberbatch.  There is something a bit boring about them, like, like models on posters for Penny's.  I cannot in my life remember seeing a girl on an American soap and thinking to myself, “Wow, that is a fascinating young woman.”  OK yeah, but not fascinating.  Maybe it is just that I am not keen on all that makeup. 

There is something about the audio as well.  I cannot seem to put my finger on it.  Maybe they use an audio filter of some sort.  Maybe it is the lack of realistic background noises, or music like you have in a movie.  Maybe everyone just kind of talks in a loud uniform voice.  Maybe it is that they seem to always be on a TV that is turned up too loud.  I can't figure this one out, but if there is a soap on in another room I know it is a soap without looking at the screen.  On the old ones they used to have those dramatic emphasis organ bits.         

I remember listening to an episode of Car Talk some years back where a caller inherited a nice big Oldsmobile or some similar vehicle.  He said that it was a nice car but it had somewhat “mushy” handling and felt very disconnected from the road.  One of the brothers responded that Detroit had spent decades perfecting this precise mushy feel.  It was a specific goal, an great engineering achievement.  The soaps seem like this, a carefully created image of an ideal that I cannot imagine thinking is very cool.  Even counterculture or radical characters seem to be strained through the sieve of this image.  Something in the back of my mind is frustrated by this.     

It is worth noting that Latin American soaps or telenovelas are often at least aesthetically better than our domestic productions, with more interesting sets, outdoor shots, and marginally better casting. 

I am not a fan of soap operas.  I do not think that, from a moral point of view, that they are really healthy for anyone to watch.  A lot of subject matter and situations are ones that could and do exist, but are not good to spend too much time thinking about.  I like a lot of classical music, especially vocal pieces, and enjoy non-soap operas, except for parts of the plots which are crazy over dramatic and rather like, well, soap operas.

8-12-15 A few words about Donald Trump

Mr. Trump is currently leading the field of Republican contenders.  Speaking from my traditional family values voter perspective, I really do not like him much, and I felt like this before the recent statements he has made, though those were neither very nice nor diplomatic. 

The main thing to me is that he made his step into ultra-richness as a casino developer, with all that goes along with that, bars, shows and the like. Casinos, though legal in some areas, are not a positive thing for communities. They could not exist if they were not fed by people with serious compulsive gambling problems. Though not quite as bad as being a porno movie producer or an abortion services provider, it sure doesn't put you down in my book as being a good guy. His company also runs the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. It is hard not to see that whole thing as a little sexist. I would not be comfortable with a dime of my money being invested in his company.
He is on his third wife. I remember hearing stories about parties he organized in between the marriages, models in bikinis and the like. Not illegal but well, just not the kind of person the average pew warmer looks up to.

In what I write, I really try to be polite even when talking about people or ideas that I don't agree with. I think this should be the ideal for commenting or participating in political matters. I do not really respect people who do not do this. Take someone like Amy Goodman, my total ideological opposite. I have never heard her be impolite on the scale of Mr. Trump. She gets some respect, even though she is wrong. It would be different if Trump were repentant, saying something like, "I said some things when I was younger that were really inappropriate. That was wrong. I am trying to do better now."          

He currently sits at about 24%. One should keep in mind that this means that 76% of Republicans, though fragmented over a variety of candidates, would really prefer someone else.  So would I.      

6-9-15 Thoughts on Marco Rubio, Theology, and Gay Inherentcy.(1)

  Marco Rubio made a few statements in an April 19 interview on CBS's face the nation that I find interesting.(2)  Particularly: “I also don't believe that your sexual preferences are a choice for the vast and enormous majority of people.  In fact...I believe that sexual preference is something that people are born with."  I would think that most of the traditional family values block (including myself) feel that no one is inherently gay.  This would not be so notable except that Rubio is kind of a tea party hero, and a lot of the traditional family values block (including myself) like him pretty well.  Also he identifies himself as Christian.

It would seem that he holds the idea that homosexuality is both inherent (presumably genetically) and that it is at the same time morally wrong. I generally agree with his political comments on this issue, and he seems to be pretty rational about it. Perhaps I misunderstand him, and this will get cleared up in future statements. In any case, this idea deserves some discussion as it comes up from time to time.

I feel this idea to be a logical fallacy. It does not seem rational that a good God would create people who were inherently gay, and then say that it is morally wrong for them to practice homosexual behavior. If people are inherently gay then homosexual behavior cannot be wrong. In order for it to be morally wrong, it must be non-inherent. In my opinion, you can't have it both ways.

There are several other ways at looking at the issue, and though I do not agree with them, they are logically consistent. One could suppose that God never said that it was wrong to be gay, and that part of the Bible and Christian tradition is just a misunderstanding. This is what the liberal Christian denominations believe. One could suppose that there is no gods/god/God at all, and mankind must make their own decisions about any moral issue. I think if this as kind of the European view. Or one can suppose that God exists, but is not good, or not particularly caring. All of these ideas at least make logical sense.

I thought it might be something connected to the Catholic viewpoint concerning this issue. (Rubio is Catholic) I have heard Catholics say things more or less like what Rubio said. Rubio is a politician, and he is trying to get himself elected. We will hope he is sincere about this, but one could see that these statements might help him with some voter groups. If Rubio articulated this in the words of the Catholic Church, that homosexuality is "a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil" from which certain individuals may not be "curable",(3) he might not pick up as many of those votes. For myself, I feel that I disagree more with what Rubio said than with what the Catholic Church says.

I am working on another essay about exactly what “inherently gay” does and does not mean from my point of view. I will try to get this finished in the next few weeks. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this all pans out. Rubio was currently the front runner for the nomination, by the last poll I saw.(4) Despite all this, he might yet get my primary vote, depending on who else is doing well in the primaries.

(1.) Note that this is pretty much a theological essay, and not a political one, analyzing the thinking behind the predominant American Christian viewpoint that homosexuality is morally wrong. If you would like to read more on my political views on these issues try the same-sex unions essay linked at right.

(2.) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/marco-rubio-sexual-preference-

(3.) http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith
persons_en.html, P. 3
P. 8

(4.) http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/23/politics/marco-rubio-2016-election-poll/index.html

1-31-15 I had a friend ask me about this seeming contradiction via a Facebook post. I had never really looked at the two scriptures side by side before this.  It has taken forever to get this written out.  I hope you find it interesting.    

Notes on the seeming contradiction between James' and Paul's reference of Genesis 15:6, “And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

If these scriptures are not fresh in your mind you might want to read (at least) Romans 4 and James 2. 
My thought on this, which I would suppose is in line with most Protestant thought, is that two separate topics are being discussed here: (Topic A) “How a Christian is reconciled to God” and (Topic B) “How should we live as Christians.”  I personally feel that I pretty much agree with what both Paul and James are saying, and that they are not particularly contradictory.    

Topic A: How a Christian is reconciled to God.  I, and most Christians, believe there to be a line that divides all of humanity into two groups, those that have faith in Jesus as Savior and those who do not.  That is to say "Christians" and "unbelievers."  Those who have this faith have the advantage of a reconciliation with God that unbelievers do not enjoy.  (This is one of the things that places orthodox Christianity at odds with a lot of modern western thought)  The believers also enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Though the Holy Spirit reaches out to unbelievers, he does not live within them in the same way that he does for believers.  This division starts with a point of conversion.  The evangelicals would call this being “saved.”  Other terms might be being “converted” or “reconciled to God.” (1)

For the purposes of explaining this process, Paul, in Romans, speaks of faith as isolated from works.  Faith, yet unproven, is the starting point of this process.  Faith isolated from works exists only for a short period of time, perhaps for only a moment.  It is not a way of life.  At the moment of conversion, faith has not yet had the opportunity to validate itself by works.  The validity of this faith can only be observed in retrospect.  Sometimes it leads to a life of repentance and good works, and sometimes it does not.  As Christians, if we observe in another professing Christian both confession of Christian faith and works, we suppose this faith to be valid.  This however is only a supposition, and may occasionally be proved wrong.  God alone knows the validity of anyone's faith.  If faith is not followed by works and repentance, we suppose that it was never valid in the first place, only a fantasy or deception on the part of the supposed convert. 

Speaking as a Protestant, it is very important to understand how this process works, in order to show that the reconciliation to God is not earned, but is rather His gift to us.  This places the Christian in the proper position of humility before God.  “Lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:9) “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” (Rom 4:4)  I take this to mean that if we can earn our salvation by works, this places God in our debt.  It does not work that way.  It is a gift.  Works, though extremely important, do not form a part of the mechanics of our salvation.  They are not part of the means by which salvation is achieved.  Another way of looking at a works based salvation, is that it is kind of a “deal” with God, the mortal has obligations to do such and such, and God in return can be expected to grant such and such to the mortal.  This is reminiscent of a lot of pagan thought, the sort of thing that comes up a often in the Illiad or similar works. 

Let us define the Christian life in three stages. 
1. Faith in Christ as Savior.
2. Reconciliation, God's gift.
3. Proving ones faith by repentance and works. 
This is the process that a genuine conversion takes.  Works do not take the place of faith and reconciliation, rather it proves that they were valid.  Works which are not preceded by Faith and Reconciliation are still good works, they benefit the recipients, and are representations of man's God given potential to do good.  They do not however make a person a Christian, merely a righteous pagan or a righteous unbeliever.  I think that in a certain sense that God is pleased with every kind act, even those done by pagans, but they are not Christians, and live outside the state of reconciliation that they would have through Jesus, outside the path that God wants for all His children. 

In the interest of being objective and honest concerning human observations, one can find certain examples of individual pagans who do a better job of pursuing Christian virtue than certain individual Christians.  I do not however think that this is a generality.  If it were, Christianity, having so little to show as far as the good works of its adherents, would have shriveled up and died in its infancy back in the first century.          

Topic B: How a Christian should act.  This is what I feel James 2 is discussing.  Some churches today take the “salvation by grace” idea of Romans 4 out of context to indicate that the works do not matter.  Though heretical, it is easy to see the attractiveness of such a theology, one may keep whatever comfortable sins one pleases, fornication, debauchery, financial irresponsibility, lying, and ignore them by saying “We are not under the law but under grace” (Rom 6:14)  I think it is reasonable to assume that some churches in the first century had the same misinterpretation of this part of Romans, and that James is addressing them directly, using the part of Romans that is being confused.  James had probably read Romans.  It is possible that he had not read Romans exactly as we have today, or that he had not read it at all, but had heard of the discussion Paul makes in Romans 4, and the of heresies springing from it.  I think that it is highly unlikely that the two parallel references are simply coincidental.  Note that I say that James addresses the erring churches (or individuals) directly, but I do not say that he addresses Paul directly.  I see no reason that, if he wished to do so, he might not have said, “ 'Abraham believed God....,' as Paul of Tarsus erroneously references in his letter to the Roman Jews, etc.” I would like to note that he does not do this, he only directly opposes the errors of the “works do not matter” theology, which, in my opinion, Paul himself also opposes. 

Let us briefly discuss how this theology is, in my opinion, taking Paul out of context by looking back at Romans.  I have included a few other references to similar concepts from other Pauline epistles.  This could certainly be more extensive, and I will try to add more references as I find them.  
In the Pauline epistles works matter because:
1. We seek a better father-child relationship with God and that relationship is damaged by sin and lack of good works. (Romans 8:14... also Gal 4)
2. It is our duty, calling and purpose as Christians. (Romans 12:1)
3. To live in sin is incompatible with the new relationship we have with God as Christians.  (Rom 6:11-13, Gal 4:9 more)
3. There is a time of judgment on the works of all mortals be they Christians or no. (Romans 2:6-8, 2Cor 5:10, Rom 14:10)

It should be noted that Paul spends a significant percentage of all of his epistles talking about works, very directly about what a Christian should and should not do.  Off the top of my head, without going through them all verse by verse, I would guess this to be about one third of the text of all the Pauline epistles. (2) A good place to start looking at this is Romans 6:15: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”  “God forbid” is pretty strong and clear language.  As long as one is taking things out of context (that is to say taking one idea without letting the other ideas balance it) it is possible to defend a works based salvation using, not James, but the letters of Paul themselves.  See 1Cor 6:10-11, Rom 2:7-11. 

James 2 discusses the third stage, proving our faith by repentance and works.  It does not generally speak of salvation, but proving oneself to be righteous, with the exception of verse 14, which is where we will start. 
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” (James 2:14) 
I would say no, a claimed faith that does not lead to works will not save a person.  I do not think that this is the “faith” that Paul is discussing in Romans 4.  Real faith leads to works.  Only false faith does not lead to works.  False faith will save no one. 

Moving on to v18., switching to NIV here(3) 
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (4)
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

The idea of being “considered righteous” to me points more to the proving ones faith, the third stage discussed above.  James does not here go so far as saying “a person is saved by what they do” rather he says “a person is considered righteous by what they do.” Thus we are not talking here about how a person is saved (converted, reconciled) but rather about how they go about proving their faith.  This example of “faith and actions working together” is to be emulated by the Christian.           
In summary, looking again at “he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness,” Paul uses this to demonstrate that faith was the seed of Abraham's righteous life, and James states that this seed of faith did indeed lead to definable works, and faith that does not lead to definable works is useless or dead.  The works being necessary to prove the validity of the faith, does not contradict the fact the faith comes first in the process, not the works.  The idea that faith (in sincere examples) initiates the process of conversion before works exist to prove it, does not contradict the idea that works are necessary to prove this faith.  Abraham, if his faith had not led to works, would not have been an example, either for James or for Paul.

Paul writes in Romans 2:4 that “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance”  I would take this to mean (at least in one way of looking at it) that the grace of Jesus dying for us as a free gift is the “goodness,” and that this “goodness” should lead the believer into repentance.  I believe that this is the model that God has for his Children.      

(1) I have a friend who says that she can never remember not being a Christian.  I have spent enough time around her that I am not inclined to doubt her faith.  I think in some cases perhaps a coming to awareness as a small child is simultaneous with acceptance of Christ's love.  However, at some point, (or at several points) as they get older they have to make an intellectual assessment of this faith and decide to continue in it or to abandon it.  In some individuals it may be hard to pin down exactly where  moment of conversion is, whether a young childllike faith, or an older faith persevering, but that does not mean that it has not occurred.  

(2) I am working on a longer discussion of this on my blog with the “Commentary on Romans” 

(3) I here use the NIV as opposed to my normal KJV as I prefer that it uses “proved righteous” as opposed to “justified.”  The word justified is a little enigmatic in modern English, sometimes meaning “proved correct” or defended (intellectually or logically) instead of “proved righteous.” 

(4) Deism, which is what is defined in verse 19, is not Christianity.  Many of the “works do not matter” churches today believe not only in one God, but in Jesus as Savior, and in the Holy Spirit as well.  That does not erase their error, nor does it make them, in my definition, Christian.  Hypothetically, if you could actually somehow get the truth from a demon about what they believe about God, Jesus, sin, etc., I think that we would find them to be more orthodox than many modern churches. 
General notes:
I am at this point struggling with a few statements in the Pauline epistles.  I feel that perhaps some small statements in Paul's writings cannot be defended in terms of Christian thought.  It is going to take some time to get through it and think it all out.   Paul was just a guy like us after all, and would be the first to tell you that he was not perfect.  I do not think that this means that we should throw him out of the New Testament.  I will try to write another essay and list the points that concern me, if by that time they still concern me, but I think it is premature at this point. 
In any case, I feel pretty comfortable with Romans.  I say “pretty comfortable” because Romans definitely has some confusing bits.  I would really question anyone that feels like they have absolutely all of Romans figured out, in all of its layers.  Paul has sometimes, in my opinion, a really weird way of explaining things.  He kind of talks around in circles and I sometimes cannot figure out where the circles meet up.

10-22-14 For whoever might be interested, The New Mexico judges involved in the Elane Photography VS Vanessa Willock case are as follows.  Four are up for retention in this November 4 election.  All of these judges ruled against Elane Photography in this case:

District Court case, single judge:
Alan Malott, 2nd Judicial District, Division 15 (up for retention, Bernalillo County ballots only)

Appeals Court case, three judges:
Cynthia Fry (up for retention, will be on all NM ballots)
James Wechsler (up for retention, will be on all NM ballots)
Timothy Garcia (not up for retention in this election)

NM Supreme Court Case Justices:
Edward Chavez (up for retention, will be on all NM ballots)
Petra Jimenez-Maez (not up for retention in this election)
Charles Daniels (not up for retention in this election)
Richard Bosson (not up for retention in this election)
Barbara Vigil (not up for retention in this election)

If you wish to confirm the judges names, the Appeals court ruling is available at the following link:
Judge Alan Malott is referenced at the top as the District Court judge over the initial court case.  The Appeals Court Judges are listed at the bottom of the document.  None are listed as dissenting.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruling is available at:
http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/Photogopinion.pdf or
Judge Alan Malott is again referenced at the top as the District Court judge over the initial court case.  The five Supreme Court Justices are listed at the bottom of the document.  None are listed as dissenting.

Click here for a printer friendly list of these judges, if one might like help remembering the names at the ballot box. 

If you are not familiar with this case, a Santa Fe photographer was fined around $6600 for refusing to photograph a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony.  Elane Photography is a husband and wife LLC.  It should be clearly noted that they did not refuse to serve Ms. Willock because she was gay, they stated that would have been happy to preform any neutral photography work, such as portraits.  They felt that a same-sex commitment ceremony (effectively a gay “wedding” before these were officially legal in NM) was not a neutral subject because it was a celebration of what they felt was a union that was contrary to their religious principles.  Personally, I do not think I can remember a case or political action in New Mexico that I have found more upsetting than this one.  If these statutes continue to be enforced in this manner, it would mean that a whole range of businesses could lose their right to run their businesses in accordance with their consciences.  I do not consider myself to be particularly radical as far as this issue is concerned.  I support civil unions and equal legal rights for same sex couples.  (I do not feel that these unions should be called “marriage” under civil law.  Read my longish essay on this here.)  It is rational in a country with mixed opinions that people of same-sex orientation and people who believe such activity to be wrong should both be treated with respect under the law.  I feel that the traditional values Christians should treat people who choose same-sex orientation with complete respect and courtesy, as far as is possible within a conscience that believes those actions to be morally wrong.  Those of the same-sex community should in turn treat the traditional values Christians with respect and courtesy as far as is possible within their respective consciences.  I favor “equality” though perhaps not by everyone's definition.  I do not feel that this case is about “equality,” but rather state-sponsored discrimination against one group that is currently in favor with the judges against another group that is currently not in favor with the same judges.  There are dozens of articles on the internet about this case, and I list a few below if you would like to look into it further.  Obviously some of my fellow Americans may disagree, but the way this case ended is not acceptable to me. 
The case started in the New Mexico Human Rights Commission in 2008, where an initial complaint of discrimination was made.  It then went on to District Court, then the New Mexico Court of Appeals, then the New Mexico Supreme Court, which also ruled unanimously against them.  The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case a few months ago, effectively ending the legal possibilities for Elane Photography. 
As it turns out several of these NM judges are up for retention. (see above)  They have to get 57% of the vote to remain in place.  I am not so much concerned about whether or not they are retained, that is in God's hands, but rather I am troubled that I might have voted to retain them in ignorance with their involvement with this case.  I would like to do what I can to inform others so that they do not do this either.  I have started an essay discussing this issue further, which I will put up at a later time. 

Other Articles on this case:
Christian Photographer Who Refused Gay Wedding Lost Lawsuit
Summary from Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Elane Photography
This article by Sherry F. Colb, though written from the opposite veiwpoint to my own, offers some good information about the case. 
New Mexico Center for Family Policy has some info on Justice Edward Chavez in their voter guide, as well as a lot of general info on traditional family values issues. 

1-20-14 I have been working on transferring my blog over to hawkemorgan.com. I saw that the url was not taken, and I couldn't resist. I would like to post some new things here, a commentary on Romans, and a little info about hunting edible mushrooms in the Albuquerque area.    
Samisue, the baby, and I nearly got hit by a speeding getaway car last week. It was a big white Dodge Magnum wagon. They lost control coming around the little bend in Copper just west of San Mateo. They were sliding sideways towards my little beetle at about 20 mph, but were thankfully stopped by a telephone pole about 10 feet away from us. One of those times when one feels like God is watching out for them. As soon as they stopped two guys got out and started running. Soon after two dozen cops appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. A few of the early ones chased the guys down. We had to hang out for half an hour and fill out a statement. I drove by the pole today and it was hit pretty hard.  It is still standing but it is leaning a little. I don't think it was leaning that much before. The whole thing was scarier after it happened, which is a weird feeling.  

blog (not much there, new baby and all)
2012-2011 blog
2010 blog
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2008 blog