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Here in our small Oklahoma town, we have three or four high school boys currently on crutches. Football injuries. When they are my age, will old injuries haunt them?

A recent study> strongly suggests that former NFL players have a much higher risk for dementia than the general male population because of more blows to the head.

So, once again I am thinking over my relationship to football. Can I in good conscience, as a Christian, be a fan of the sport? I here put one of my previous posts on instant replay.

I want to pose a question that many will regard as heretical, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line, and that may render me unable to return to Texas. Question: Can a Christian remain faithful and participate in or watch football?

I know that lots of players and coaches at all levels are outspoken Christians. I know that many football games in the south are opened with prayer regardless of the courts. But the question is not Do Christians participate in and watch football, but rather can we do this and be consistent in the Faith?

Raised in Missouri, I grew up a Chiefs fan and a University of Missouri fanatic. On Saturdays I lived and died with MU and on Sundays I rooted for Len Dawson and company as though the fate of the world hung in the balance (and hated the Raiders as if they were the forces of the antichrist). In elementary school we played football at recess (tackle if we could get away with it, touch if the teacher on duty was paying attention). I was not and am not particularly athletic, but enjoyed playing football when I got to Jr. High and on for a while.

So, what causes me to ask this question?

Injuries. Especially the life-long pain most veterans deal with. Rick Reilly reminded me of this fact in his essay for the Nov 13 Sports Illustrated. In the context of talking about Tiki Barber Reilly told story after story of seeing NFL former greats hobbling stiffly through life, enabled to go on only by pain pills--Butkus, Otto, Deirdorf, and others. Essay here, subscription required. The harsh truth is that playing pro football will damage your body such that you will live with pain and impaired ability for the rest of your life. Some research results here.

You are a Christian, and someone comes up to you and offers to entertain you for money by jumping from a one-story building to the ground, again and again and again. Do you pay him the money to watch him abuse his body? Or, do you decline, and tell him that his body is entrusted to him by God to be used wisely?

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
It's getting late on a Friday night and I am poking around YouTube. Here are some odds and ends that I think are interesting.

Woody Guthrie: Jesus Christ

The Devil Went Down to Jamaica with The Muppets

Shoulda Know Better

The Ultimate Lovecraft Tribute

Death Don't Have No Mercy

Jesus Christ Superstar: The Crucifixion

Jesus Christ Superstar: Hosanna

Godspell: Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord

Bob Dylan: Slow Train Coming

Blind Faith: Presence of the Lord (for you youngsters, the guy with the guitar is Eric Clapton)
Perhaps you've seen the reports in the news: the current population of 1.57 billion Muslims makes up 23% of the world's population. The data are from a Pew Study.

Details are here, including interactive maps. There is also a link to a PDF of the full report of 62 pages, which I have not yet gone over.

I wonder how many of the 1.57 billion are practicing Muslims? I wonder how many have taken, or are ready to take, the path of violent jihad? Even 1% would be a lot of folks.
How does any group, from large to small, create the "world" in which its people live? A world that includes not only a world-view in the mind, but a loyalty of the heart? A world that regenerates itself in each generation? A "world" that shapes the individuals into a people, a community? If a group must explicitly discuss and decide these questions, it is in serious trouble.

I grew up Primitive Baptist: a people-group shaped by a capella congregational singing, long extemporaneous sermons, shared meals, and visitation of members between churches. Shaped by a world-view of an omnipotent God who saves sinners because He decides to save sinners, apart from any efforts on the part of the sinner. As I argued in my book, The Formation of the Primitive Baptist Movement, the "world" of the Primitive Baptists was much more self-evident in a traditional, agrarian, pre-capitalist market society. Today, the Primitive Baptist world has trouble regenerating itself in each generation.

The author of this essay grew up Covenanter, a small Scottish Presbyterian group also in danger of losing their "world" in this new and modern world. The essay is brilliant, and gives a reading to Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that I would never have seen on my own.

Thanks, Tocq, for calling my attention to this gem.

One also can reflect on how this community called America is shaped by a "world," and whether we have lost or are losing that world in the 21st century.
Recently, and with little fanfare, the United States co-sponsored with Egypt a U.N. resolution against any speech that contained "racial and religious stereotyping." This is not a good thing. Islamists world-wide have pushed for restrictions on any speech or art that "offends" them, like the Muhammad cartoons. Islamists also have sought to stifle any speech that "defames" Islam; this latter category has been made to include any linking of Islam and terrorism. Even in Western countries--such as The Netherlands and Canada--individuals have been prosecuted for speech that "offends" Muslims: even when the content of the speech is objectively true.

Politically, this seems part of the Obama administration efforts to curry favor in the Islamic world, even at the cost of an essential American freedom.

Pakistan Christian Post.

AP story.

Here is the page on the official U.N. site that links to the document: "Freedom of Opinion and Expression." Notice, however, that though this document is available in several languages, English is not one of them. If anyone out there can read French, Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese, feel free to provide a translation.



The most recent Pew Forum study found that support for abortion among the American public has declined.

Polls conducted in 2009 have found fewer Americans expressing support for abortion than in previous years. In Pew Research Center polls in 2007 and 2008, supporters of legal abortion clearly outnumbered opponents; now Americans are evenly divided on the question, and there have been modest increases in the numbers who favor reducing abortions or making them harder to obtain. Less support for abortion is evident among most demographic and political groups.
. . .
No single reason for the shift in opinions is apparent, but the pattern of changes suggests that the election of a pro-choice Democrat for president may be a contributing factor.

Read the entire article, which includes graphs.
More wisdom from Australian Archbishop George Pell. The issue is women in combat, evidently an idea being floated in Australia. The Cardinal is against it, offering reasoning both traditional and practical. Read the whole Essay here.

Excerpts and comments:

But do we really want to expose those who are the source of life and love in human communities to the horror of the battlefield, just so the defence bureaucracy can meet recruitment targets and feminists can tick another item off their equality agenda? This is not a peculiarly Roman Catholic statement. In most cultures throughout human history women have been regarded as somehow linked to the sacred by virtue of the ability to bring forth new life. In most human cultures over the history of humanity, men have functioned as the agents of death (warriors and hunters) and women as agents of life (childbirth and nursing). It seems to me we should not blithely ignore millenia of tradition without seriously considering the consequences. Only a kind of bias toward modernity, a narcissism that only we know the ultimate truth about human beings that our ancestors did not know, a hubris that only now has the human race reached wisdom, would allow us to discard long-standing practice without compelling argument and evidence in our favor.

Many who return from battle physically untouched often suffer from post-traumatic stress for years with devastating consequences. The effects on children whose mothers have been crippled by PTS after combat does not bear considering. The Cardinal, of course, is saying that we must indeed consider this reality if we are to be prudent at all.

Western soldiers taken prisoner or hostage on the battlefield can expect little mercy in today's wars. Women combat soldiers could expect even less, especially if they fell into the hands of misogynistic enemies like the Taliban or the militias in Somalia and Sudan. There is a word for those who ignore hard reality when it does not fit their ideals--delusional

Archbishop Pell also points out the common sense observations any one can make about boys and girls. Growing boys play rough, give and receive physical pain in play and in fights, and tend to be less sensitive emotionally than girls. My sister played with dolls. I liked blowing up dolls and other toys with firecrackers.

Our military is under similar pressure to make quotas, and to conform to modern feminist sensibilities.
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: an okie gardener
A lot of Americans are saying that the healthcare and financial debates show that when push comes to shove, Republicans and Democrats always take the side of the corporations that give them the most money. We should make politicians dress like race car drivers ó when they get money, make them wear the company logos on their suit. Jay Leno

From Newsmax.
President Obama is up a tree on Afghanistan. It was the war he said time and again that we had to win. As many have pointed out, beginning with the 2004 presidential campaign, the Democratic Party endlessly lauded Afghanistan as the "necessary" and "just" war, shamelessly employing the anemic military action as a rhetorical club with which to beat George Bush. Fast forward to 2009. Now the Democrats are stuck with the faltering Afghan war--and they have no idea what to do with it. If it all wasn't so tragic, the irony would be delicious.

But the moment is tragic and portentous. The President seems paralyzed with indecision. Democratic Leadership in Congress seems to be running for cover. Even more disturbing, Vice President Throttlebottom seems to be taking the lead in the policy deliberations. Could this all get any worse?

Actually, YES. The above is just the low hanging fruit. The most alarming element in this drama may well be the spectacle of the United States military high command and their ongoing campaign to martial public opinion on behalf of their position. I suppose we cannot call this insubordination. Presumably, the generals had permission to mount their media blitz (although I cannot imagine that the White House approved the leak to the Washington Post that began this whole public discussion).

The [London] Daily Telegraph reports: "[President] Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan."

Quoting the article:

"An adviser to the administration said: 'People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being naÔve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.'"

Speaking of naivete and not-ready-for-prime-time: hello pot; this is kettle.

Bottom line: even though I think the Obama strategy in Afghanistan is likely to be disastrous, the precedent of a chief executive incapable of controlling his military is much more worrisome.

Even though it would precipitate a political firestorm, the President needs to rein in those generals right now--or, better yet, sack them immediately to make the greater point. Civilian control of the military is one of the fundamental tenets of the American tradition.

Right or wrong, presidents trump generals.

The nagging question: does the President have the fortitude to stand up for civilian authority in the face of the inevitable massive political fallout?
Six members of the United States Supreme Court are Roman Catholic: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. (I don't know how many are practicing Roman Catholics.)

Red Mass before Court Session. from Newsmax.
Amazing. In pre-Civil War America Irish immigrants regularly faced discrimination, and earlier even riots, mostly because they were Roman Catholics. In the same period Protestant organizations raised money for missions in the West by arguing that if Protestants did not make converts on the frontier first, then the Romans were sure to do so, with dire and deadly results for the nation.

In the 1960 presidential election, JFK's Roman Catholicism was an issue.

Several questions come to mind, for which I have no answers. What is it about growing up Roman Catholic that increases the odds of becoming a Supreme Court Justice? Which Justices think with a coherent Roman Catholic world-view and how does that affect their opinions? Which religious traditions are under-represented, compared to the U.S. population?
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Many guitarists in the 1970s stampeded down the same trail: play more notes in less time, awe the listener with blinding speed, if all else fails, turn up the amps.

Pat Metheny went down another path: allow space between riffs, be musical, keep the volume down a bit. And he made (and still makes) memorable music, exploring the space where jazz, rock, pop, and electronic music come together. So far, he has won 16 Grammy Awards mostly in jazz and rock categories.

The Pat Metheny Group from 1978 San Lorenzo.

The Pat Metheny Group from 1978, Phase Dance.

He was still a teenager when I first heard him , playing in the Kansas City Jazz Festival and holding his own with famous talents. He is a Kansas City product, born in 1954. He should have many good years ahead of him. Biography.

Pat Metheny (once again) with the Gary Burton Quintet, in Montreal 1988.

Pat Metheny at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2003, with an orchestra yet.
Churches seem by their very nature conservative institutions. Any change is apt to cause controversy. And that is a good thing. Christians are admonished to continue in the Apostles' teaching, to hold to the faith once delivered to the saints, and to remember that it is Jesus' Church, not ours. Also, in an ever-changing world that can put individuals under great stress, continuity in worship from week-to-week and year-to-year provides the reassurance of a stable reference in the midst of a life that threatens to descend into chaos. Chesterton once wrote that tradition is the ultimate democracy, even the dead have a vote.

But, there is a difference between righteous conservatism and mere traditionalism.

While apostolic doctrines cannot be allowed to change in their essence, the manner of explaining them may need to change for different ages and circumstances. The style of preaching that reached one generation, for example the often two-hour sermons of the First Great Awakening, may not reach the generation of the internet effectively. And, some traditions of the church are not exactly apostolic, but are practices that may have arisen for very good reason in their day, but now live on because "we have always done it this way." Sort of like the new bride who cut off both ends of the ham before baking. When asked by her husband why, she replied that her mom did it that way. Prompted to call Mom, the older woman said, "I always had a short baking dish." Some traditions, though, do reflect theological positions that need to be thought-through carefully before changes are made. Controversy can help the reflection process, if done in a Christian manner. At the very least, controversy can prevent change for the sake of change.

Changes in church life always produce stress, and usually produce conflict. Coral Ridge Presbyterian seems be going through both kinds of changes--in style and in substance--and schism is now the result. From the AP:

Hundreds of congregants have left a pioneering megachurch in Florida to form their own congregation because they were unhappy with leadership at the church that's seen as a bedrock of the religious right.
...
The feud at Coral Ridge appears mostly to be a matter of style, not substance.
Under the leadership of Kennedy, who died in 2007, the church was a forerunner to modern evangelical megachurches, a fiercely conservative voice on social issues including homosexuality and abortion, and a powerful political voice.
Tchividjian, 37, took over earlier this year. While he has shown no sign of theological differences with Kennedy, he has rejected politics as the most important force for change, and his sermons have not focused on divisive issues. Meantime, he cuts a far different image, forgoing the type of choir robe Kennedy wore during services, and sporting spiky hair, tan skin, and sometimes a scruffy beard.
The difference in approach prompted dissenters to circulate a petition urging Tchividjian's removal. Their letter called him "a disaster" who has shown "a complete lack of respect" and made "grievous missteps."


I think the reporter may err in his characterization. Granted, preaching without a robe (Kennedy wore a pulpit robe, not a choir robe), spiky hair, etc. is "a matter of style, not substance." The change in worship style probably is one of the necessary changes made to reach the present age. But, the "rejection of politics as the most important force for change," may be a change of style, or may indicate a change in theology, that is a change in substance. Calvinism (the Reformed tradition) to which Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and D. James Kennedy belong, believes that Christians individually and collectively have the responsibility before God to try to change the world to bring it more in line with God's will. Just as we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and then go out and work for it rather than sitting back and waiting for bread to happen, so also we pray "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," then go out and work to bring about godly change in the world, rather than sitting back and waiting for the world to descend into greater depths of evil. Downplaying politics at Coral Ridge could be a stylistic change, or, it could indicate a substantive change. We'll see what develops.

I did an earlier post> on Coral Ridge, and on Liberty University & Thomas Road Baptist Church and the changes now underway.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
When purchasing albums, and now CDs, I prefer live recordings. Partly it is aesthetic preference. I think that performing in front of a live audience gives an excitement and immediacy to the music. Partly it is philosophical. Music is naturally a performance, and seems made for sharing in the immediacy of person-to-person contact. Decades ago, recordings tried to capture the sound of an orchestra or band as in performance. Louis Armstrong and friends would stop into a studio between gigs and play just like they were in front of an audience. No overdubbing, tape splicing, enhancing, or other wizardry by a producer. Eventually some groups--Beatles, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, etc.--made the studio primary and then tried to replicate the recorded sound while on tour. This seems the tail wagging the dog. Of course the Beatles largely gave up live performance by the end. And some bands that sounded good on a recording were often atrocious live (yes, you also America).

Instapundit links to this post on the 100 greatest live albums of all time. I am not familiar with them all, but am familiar with most of the jazz choices. Good stuff.

Of course, many of you live in places with live music available nearby. Get out and go. And, for all of us, if we are to be producers rather than merely consumers, we'll make some of our own music. Long live garage bands, living rooms duets, and back-yard sing-alongs.
I feel a wee bit unpatriotic for saying so, but choosing Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics was the right move, coming from an international relations angle.

Reasons why:

1st: South America has never hosted an Olympic games. Never. Just in the spirit of the Olympic movement's goals to promote world peace and equality, after more than a century of modern Olympics, it's time.

2nd: As WF points out in his essay below, American power and influence are waning, as is European power. When Europe held the majority of power in the world, it made sense to have the games there. When the US and the USSR dominated, it made sense to host in those countries and their allies (whether or not it made sense to boycott the opponent's games is another story). US hegemony post Soviet collapse deserved representation (see 3rd point, below). The rest of the world, the "global south" or however you want to phrase it, is gaining in economic power in absolute terms, which is translating to a gain in political power in relative terms. The IOC was smart in recognizing this.

3rd: The games have been in the West enough recently. Canada is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, London the 2012 Summer Olympics; the US just had the 2002 winter and 1996 summer games, and Australia hosted the 2004 Olympics. All told, that's 5 out of 10 (1996-2014) Olympics in Anglo/Western states. If the list is broadened to include continental Europe, the number is 7 or 8 out of 10 (depending on if you include Russia or not - 2014 host Sochi is kind of on the line between Europe and Asia). A Chicago 2016 Olympics would have tipped the scales in a decidedly Western favor, which is out of sync with the times.

4th: As the B in the BRIC countries, Brazil is widely recognized as an up-and-coming economic power. Just as China sought and deserved a chance to shine on the international stage (human rights violations very rarely have any actual impact on international relations), so does Brazil now deserve its chance. Russia is hosting in 2014, which just leaves I, India, which is preparing a bid for 2020 (in Delhi, which is also hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games).

Part of me is a little sad that Chicago lost the bid - I live just 5 hours from the city, and have always wanted to go to the games. But who knows, maybe I'll get a chance to be in Brazil in 2016, or India in 2020, or South Africa in 2024.
I have been AWOL from the blog for a while now. Why?

1. I have been very busy with my day job.

2. I am realistic about my impact on the world. Pontificating on my blog is a non-essential activity (where as teaching, parenting, and husbanding remain my top priorities).

3. I am thoroughly disgusted with the way things are playing out with this administration. I have nothing good to say right now about this president; therefore, I choose to say very little. One more critic of this White House is not necessary.

Having said that, Dennis Boyles offers a provocative essay in NRO today concerning the ramifications of the "change" in American foreign policy.

What would a future look like in which the United States of America retreated from global hegemony?

BOYLES:

"A less-than-forceful America has serious implications for Europe. If Obama is willing to throw the Poles to Putin, what does that mean for the rest of Europe? Just the idea of defending themselves is enough to bankrupt most European states. A strong America may have been unpopular. Thatís the price a nation pays for its superpower status, and even when the Left was at its most successful in demonizing the U.S., they could never quite diminish the hopeful respect for American ideals that always lurked nearby.

"But Obama may have found a way to reinvent America as something in his own image, even if more loathsome: a weak nation shrinking from the responsibilities of strength. A weak America is a prize that Yank-bashers have been dreaming about for 50 years, because thatís an America that, perhaps rightly, will be truly and forever despised."

In the weeks and months to come, I intend to explore the possibilities of a more humble and more sustainable American presence in the world--which I am increasingly inclined to advocate. I am not sure the doomsday scenario Boyles predicts is inevitable.

I have no complaint with the disgust Boyles evinces for the President's actions in re international relations. Obama has a distorted notion of the American past, which negatively affects his strategic vision. On the other hand, this president may be traveling in the right direction for all the wrong reasons.

An American retreat is definitely bad news for Europe, which they will come to realize in due time, probably sooner rather than later. A less dominant America is problematic for American business interests, which most certainly means dramatic changes in our national lifestyle. But, in the end, a world view in which we rediscover our own hemisphere and de-emphasize our self-imposed commitment to provide security for Europe and Western-dominated commerce may well prove much healthier and wealthier for us in the long run.

George Washington warned us NOT to "entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice." Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt convinced us that Washington's advice was anachronistic. I am beginning to wonder whether they sold us a "pig in a poke."

More to come.