Friday, June 29, 2012

the whole creation - evolution debate has been solved!

Not really.
I'm a swinger when it comes to these positions.
I'm really grateful that the church fathers never decided that this topic was at creedal level, like that of God's triunity and Jesus's simultaneous full humanity and full divinity. I'm glad I'm saved by grace through faith and not by my ability to discern the debates in evolutionary science.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On Blankenhorn's new direction on gay marriage

David Blankenhorn recently wrote an important editorial in the New York Times, How My View on Gay Marriage Changed. His change of opinion is important because has been arguing in our culture for years the dreadful impact on children of divorce and single parenting and extolling the value of a lasting sole marriage between one man and one woman. He even testified on behalf Prop 8 defenders. But he has concluded that the traditional marriage defenders have lost the framing of the debate. I agree. He still agrees that children are best raised in a marriage of their parents, but the debate has been framed as treating gay citizens as full citizens with equal access to the legal rights only straight couples can attain, except in a few states like my own. He'd rather ally with all marriage proponents to strengthen marriage and keeping his focus on strengthening marriage. He no longer wants to be distracted by this culture war.

I empathize with Blankenhorn. I also empathize with gay people who want to be married. I think downgrading the religious language so that anyone can get a civil union and removing the word "marriage" from the legal books is a middle way. For those who want to elevate their union status to something more spiritual, let them go to a church willing to affirm them. But for those seeking various legal benefits alone, let them get a civil union. I argued this case more thoroughly here in January.
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

book response: Wait No More by the Rosati's (2011)

Be careful, Wait No More by Kelly and John Rosati is a dangerous book. If you read it, expect your life to be changed. Kelly and John Rosati were a successful childless couple who weren't conceiving and were not worried about it. They made a friend who advocated for children in foster care, in word and deed, fostering and caring for many children herself. Her passion caught on in Kelly who was open to an opportunity to foster an 11 year old girl. Kelly, admittedly clueless, wondered how hard this could be. It was a disaster and extremely humbling to the Rosati's. They were committed to sticking with it, but the child decided she wanted to be with another family. In their trial by fire, they learned about reactive attachment disorder.

Adoption is complicated. It's hard. The Rosati's are up front with some of their horror stories involving their four adoptions. They want families to know, going in, what to expect when they are expecting. They want their readers to know how great the need is, not only in the world but in the United States as well. Although their kids look like they are international adoptees, they are all from Hawaii. Despite all the pain and heartbreak and frustration, which is what natural families experience anyway they feel blessed.
The bottom line was that God had blessed us so much, and we knew that His heart was beating for the orphan children. His heart was beating for these orphan children. All our reasons not to proceed were part selfish, part risk averse, part faithless - even though they all seemed reasonable. Please don't misunderstand, John and I feel strongly that this is what happened with us. It was our personal experience. Not everyone is called to adopt. The Bible makes it clear that we are all called to care for orphans in some way (James 1:27), but we believe that no one should ever pursue adoption without a clear leading from the Lord. p.85
I agree fully, we need to help kids, whose parents can't take care of them. Whether you are Christian or not, it's inhuman to ignore kids in need. If we can't adopt physically, please sponsor a kid or two with World Vision or Compassion. Some of these programs keep the children with their families, but provide them support with hot meals and health care in a schooling environment. One group I saw in person, and support a child with is Mission E4 in Haiti. If you choose Mission E4, tell them I sent you. It's amazing how much impact, trading in a daily DD or SB coffee can do for a child. For more information on foster care and adoption, see the ministry the Rosati's are a part of, I Care About Orphans.

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

insights from high schoolers into St. John's Apocalypse

It's really fun to facilitate a Bible discussion with high schoolers when I don't have an agenda, don't ask leading questions, and listen to what they hear. For some reason, after we finished the Gospel of John, they wanted to study Revelation, aka, the Apocalypse. It's real easy to get an agenda with this book. "It's so weird, how can any Christian teacher in their right mind let kids figure out this stuff on their own?" I'm not in my right mind, andI think God's Holy Spirit will handle it just fine.

We were in Revelation 3 last night, sitting around a campfire in my back yard. My main purpose is to provide a loose structure, and a frequent call to focus, with smores waiting as a reward. There were 7 kids and me. We went around the circle, each reading a few verses. When we finished, I asked them what they liked, what they didn't like, what they learned about God, what they learned about humanity, and what do they need to do with what they've read.

The kids liked Jesus's snark towards Laodicea. "You think you are so special, buttttttttttt, you are wretched naked and blind." v. 17

We also talked about what it means to be hot or cold, and how lukewarm makes Jesus barf, vv. 15-16. I wanted them to figure out what hot and cold means. Someone associated hot with hell. Someone else connected it to light switches, and how when they were little they'd try to get the switch to stay in the middle, unsuccessfully. Of course, some people did have success keeping it in the middle, but I told them they were probably close to burning their house down as well. They concluded that being in the middle spiritually was risky as well and they needed to choose on or off. One kid took that as his application and prayer request for the week.

God was at work, and I had the privilege of watching Him. It is such a pleasure to be a discussion facilitator, watching people learn to learn, and staying out of God's way. We spent about 40 minutes on the text, we do a safe prayer method, taking requests then praying all at the same time - no oratory skills required, then cooked smores, then played frisbee for an hour and a half until we couldn't see anymore in the twilight.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Kindness vs. punishment and criminal recidivism

It is still a penal colony, but Bast√ły prison in Norway, treats offenders as those who can re-enter society and contribute to it. As a result, only 16% re-offend within 2 years of release, in contrast with the United State's punishment focus with a 43% recidivism rate within 3 years. Instead of cells, the prisoners live in wooden cottages, on a working farm, where everyone has to work. They have a beach to enjoy as well as a sauna. It's like a campground, except it's one that you stay at for several years, not just a summer. So why coddle murderers, rapists, drug dealers? As noted in this long CNN article

But if the goal of prison is to change people, Bastoy seems to work. "If we have created a holiday camp for criminals here, so what?" asked Arne Kvernvik Nilsen, the prison's governor and a former minister and psychologist. He added, "We should reduce the risk of reoffending, because if we don't, what's the point of punishment, except for leaning toward the primitive side of humanity?"

Because there is another way to keep offenders from doing it again, a true sign of repentance, the turning away from your wickedness. There is still recidivism, but it works 3-4 times better than my country's punishment focus. Curiously, the US has a higher proportion of Christians, but the Norwegians, historically Lutheran, might have retained a great deal of Luther's emphasis on God's grace, and I wish we could do that as well. When I read this story I thought of Paul's letter to the Roman church, where he writes,

from Wikipedia
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

I think it's time this country, the United States of America, try out this thing called "grace," in the way we treat those who offend us. 

The abuses within the American system can be learned about in many places. The Equal Justice Initiative is a great place to start. This recent article from the New Orleans Picayune-Times on the profit motive to keep people incarcerated should break your heart.
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Friday, June 01, 2012

Ferrocement house construction

Sometimes I like alternative construction that's a little more conventional, but still better. Ferrocement is pretty neat. It was developed around the same time as reinforced concrete but ferrocement got used for boat hulls and not for buildings as much. Imagine slapping cement on a chainlink fence, but with a form to hold the cement in place until it dries, or a much tighter mesh than the fence.

I first learned about it because one company started doing it, Shelter 2 Home, in Haiti after the earthquake. Apparently they build houses in the states as well, but not so many. Recently, I heard about another company doing the same thing in the states, with seemingly more builds under their belts, Am-Cor Inc. All that steel concerns me in regards to heat convection through the structural beams, but they have some pretty good insulation options. Am-Cor seems to also be DIY friendly as well.

overhead stucco
overhead stucco (Photo credit: velacreations)

File this under: #anothercrazyhouseJohnwantstobuild
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