Wealth Accumulation and Consevative Protestants: More Biblical Than We Thought?

For all the years of prosperity teaching, conservative Protestants still do not match the wealth accumulation of others in the U.S.:

According to data analyzed by Keister, a Duke University sociologist, the median net worth for conservative Protestants in 2000 was $26,000, compared to the national median of $66,200.

Why the gap? Keister says it may all come down to theology.

"The one big difference is the conservative Protestants’ assumption that God is the owner of money and people are managers of it," Keister said. "They are doing with their money what God wants them to do with it, so that does mean that it is not sitting in their bank accounts."

What this means is that many believers may be more better rooted in the New Testament–at least in practice–than their leadership.

Flip Wilson, in Cowboys and Coloured People, used to say about Christianity that it had a great coach, but the team was shaky.  Perhaps the biggest problem isn’t with the team but the coaching staff.  New offensive coordinator, anyone?

Planes flying into New York area on dangerously low fuel

This is not a good time to run out of gas:

A review by federal authorities has revealed a sharp increase in planes, particularly from Continental Airlines, flying into the New York area with so little fuel that they demand an emergency landing.

In a report on minimum and emergency fuel declarations into Newark airport last year, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) expressed concern that some of the incidents may be prompted by fuel-saving measures.

"We are concerned that fuel-saving measures may have contributed to the low fuel declarations because of two pilot bulletins issued by Continental Airlines in 2007," the report said.

This is an old CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China) trick, as I noted here from a 1982 trip:

Pem (my brother) drew the short straw and flew CAAC, which made an emergency landing in Shanghai when they nearly ran out of fuel.

It doesn’t pay to make fun of others; you could be next.

Brazil Leads the Way in New Sources of Oil

Brazil is once again taking the lead as a source for oil:

Brazil’s state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA in November said the offshore Tupi field may hold 8 billion barrels of recoverable crude. Among discoveries in the past 30 years, only the 15-billion-barrel Kashagan field in Kazakhstan is larger.

Haroldo Lima, director of the country’s oil agency, last week said another subsea field, Carioca, may have 33 billion barrels of oil. That would be the third biggest field in history, behind only the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia and Burgan in Kuwait.

Analysts Mark Flannery of Credit Suisse Group and Gustavo Gattass of UBS AG challenge the estimate for Carioca. Lima, the Brazilian oil agency director, later attributed the figure to a magazine.

Flannery told clients during an April 16 conference call that 600 million barrels is a “reasonable” estimate and suggested Lima may have been referring to the entire geologic formation to which Carioca belongs.

I say "once again" because Brazil has been a leader in offshore oil production for a long time, and not only in producing it, but in developing deep water technologies to actually develop the fields they have offshore.  This is crucial since their Continental Shelf falls off relatively quickly from their coastline.

Although it’s certainly a relief to reduce our dependence upon the Middle East, it still doesn’t solve the problem of having to export dollars to pay for the energy we burn.  The more dollar hegemony deteriorates, the more painful this becomes.

Sometimes offshore development in Brazil had its exciting moments, as I note on another website:

Below: a pile driving log from offshore, 1976. As the hammer lowers, blow by blow, the pile into the soil, the number of blows required to advance the pile one foot is counted and recorded for each foot of penetration. With a uniform soil, the resistance would increase uniformly as more pile-soil contact is made along the pile shaft and the toe resistance increases, but soils are anything but uniform, and the increase is best described as a general trend with interruptions.

Sometimes these interruptions could be dramatic. In 1980, during one platform installation in Brazil, as a Vulcan 560 hammer was driving pile for the Italian contractor Micoperi, the pile toe encountered an underground cavern. The pile ran, the shackle broke and the Vulcan hammer assembly fell and went to the sea floor. (Micoperi was, much to Vulcan’s dissappointment, able to salvage the hammer and bring it back into service.

A Kairos Moment for Texas Catholics

This week’s podcast is Let Your Face Wear a Smile, from the group Kairosingers’ album Of One Accord.  This group of Texas Catholics from Port Arthur, Texas (the home of Janis Joplin) brings to mind many things about Texas Catholicism during the 1970’s, and the kinds of lessons we might learn today.

The album cover defines the Greek word kairos as "a time when conditions were right for the accomplishment of a crucial action: the opportune and decisive moment."  It’s used frequently by many of the newer thinkers in Evangelical Christianity (like Leonard Sweet.)  Catholicism in general in the 1970’s and Texas Catholicism in particular were facing a "kairos moment" in the wake of Vatican II.  In Texas there were three influences that impacted the life the the church and Catholics:

  1. The influence of Cursillo, the Spanish retreat movement.  The first Cursillo in the U.S. took place in Waco in 1959, and the first U.S. Cursillo in English took place in San Angelo in 1961.  Cursillo is the ancestor of just about all of the retreat systems in place today such as New Cor, Search, Tres Dias, the Encounter, etc.  It produced an introspective form of Christianity that challenged Catholic tendendies to regard their church life as a "business deal with God," as my first parish priest put it.
  2. The influence of the Evangelical world around it.  Although Texas Catholicism was more substantial relative to the general population than in most other Southern states (Louisiana excepted,) the influence of Baptist and other like churches was strong on many Catholics.  This comes out on the album in places, especially regarding the second coming, making it an interesting Catholic/Protestant fusion.  It also resulted in incidents like this.
  3. The influence of the Charismatic Renewal, which is well documented on this site.

This "kairos moment" made being Catholic in Texas at the time an exciting proposition.

Today one out of ten Americans regard themselves as ex-Catholics.  It’s easy to say that this is because of the church’s dogmatism, but the reality is that many left Roman Catholicism because it could not harness the energy of the "kairos moment" it faced after Vatican II.  This is a reminder that it’s just as important to know how to harness the energy of spiritual success as it is to initiate it.

The rest of this album is found at The Ancient Star-Song.

Barack Obama Makes the Shiny Sheet

I guess one can say that he’s arrived now that he’s appeared in the Shiny Sheet’s (Palm Beach Daily News) blog:


I wonder whether candidates are fully aware of the depth of their followers’ devotion. Many of these folks waited in line for 2 hours — in full sun and 85-degree temperatures. Then, after passing through security (having bags checked, water bottles dumped and metal detected), they stood for another 2 1/2 hours.

While they waited, the group around me shared water bottles, thirst-quenching ginger candies, crowd management/survival tips, jokes, and offers to share photos. Denise, an educator, made me promise to catch her if she fainted upon spying Obama. I did, she didn’t.

Once the senator took the podium, the crowd began cheering loudly, letting go of their hunger and foot pains. Obama looked tired, and seemed to rush through his speech. But his followers were undeterred. They punctuated his words with cries of support. One young man, there with his adorable and very pregnant wife, peppered the speech with pleas to “talk about it.”

Everybody’s worried about Oprah Winfrey’s new religion, but perhaps this is the new religion we should be paying attention to.

Trust Me, Mike, There’s More to Come

M.D. McMullin lets it out about Positive Infinity on Jonathan Stone’s blog:

I think Don has already blogged on every issue known to man.

And, if God gives me life, I’ll keep it up.

I think that a lot of the problem Evangelical Christianity is facing these days is that its focus (or life view) is too narrow.  As I said three years ago in The Obvious Solution (on energy:)

One of the persistent criticisms of Christian political and social commentary is that it there are many issues of state that Christians find of marginal interest, so they ignore these issues.

Part of my object with this blog/website to to broaden that view and invite others to do so.

You’re Not as Dumb as You Look

David at the Political Chase seems taken aback that this "conservative blogger" wouldn’t go along with the Jonesville COG’s pastor’s implication that Barack Obama is a Muslim:

Interestingly enough, not every right-wing conservative blogger supports Pastor Byrd’s thought provoking idea. At least two conservative bloggers do not.

This reminds me of something that happened to me as an undergraduate at Texas A&M.  One of the things that the Mechanical Engineering department required its majors to take was Logic, which was offered by the Philosophy Department.  Most of the engineers did pretty well in this course, which was doubtless a source of secret frustration to liberal arts’ professors.

One day I went up to pick up a test from the professor.  The professor looked at the grade, noted that I had nearly aced it, looked at me, and exclaimed, "You’re not as dumb as you look!"

But perhaps I shouldn’t be so smug about this, because most liberals don’t find my explanations about Barack Obama any more satisfying than they do Pastor Byrd’s.

One Church of God Weighs in on Obama and Osama

The Jonesville (SC) Church of God and its pastor are making a stir with their latest sign out in front of the church:

Pastor Roger Byrd said that he just wanted to get people thinking. So last Thursday, he put a new message on the sign at the Jonesville Church of God.

It reads: "Obama, Osama, hmm, are they brothers?"

Byrd said that the message wasn’t meant to be racial or political.

"It’s simply to cause people to realize and to see what possibly could happen if we were to get someone in there that does not believe in Jesus Christ," he said.

When asked if he believes that Barack Obama is Muslim, Byrd said, "I don’t know. See it asks a question: Are they brothers? In other words, is he Muslim ? I don’t know. He says he’s not. I hope he’s not. But I don’t know. And it’s just something to try to stir people’s minds. It was never intended to hurt feelings or to offend anybody."

Although it’s a hard sell in some quarters, the truth is that Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim.  He’s definitely an elitist snob whose view of the country is not as high as it should be for someone wanting to be President of the United States.  The fact that many in this country find him an enigma, however, isn’t surprising, given the fact that he defies understanding in the way that Americans like to look at their politicians.

Given the fact that we’re in the same church, and that my wife is from that part of SC, I’d be glad to discuss this with Brother Byrd at his convenience.

American Foreign Legion?

It certainly looks that way:

Under pressure to increase their numbers, the Army and Marine Corps are sharply raising the number of recruits with felony convictions they are admitting to the services.

Data released by a congressional committee shows that the number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 208 to 350.

The bulk of the crimes were for burglaries, other thefts, and drug offenses, but nine involved sex crimes and six involved manslaughter or vehicular homicide convictions.

Beau geste, anyone?  But given our country’s method of using incarceration to solve our social problems, it’s hard to see the military has any alternative.

With Environmentalists, It’s Always the Wrong Cause

Muhammad Cohen’s article No Friends of the Earth highlights the backward priorities that so often plague the environmental movement:

Within days of the Bali breakthrough, activists from environmental group Greenpeace were speeding toward Antarctica, ground zero for global warming, with an embedded BBC reporter aboard. The polar ice caps are melting at accelerating rates, and some islands, nestled thousands of kilometers north in the tropical Pacific Ocean are already at risk due to rising sea levels. The environmental activists it seemed could reinforce and extend the message of the Bali conference, with testimony from this critical climate battleground.

Except that the Greenpeace activists aboard MV Esperanza weren’t there to talk about global warming. They were there to stop Japan – a critical player in climate change on several fronts – from conducting its annual whale hunt. Greenpeace planned to tail the Japanese whaling boats, hoping to harass and shame them into stop killing whales. Global warming was not on their agenda.

Environmentalism is the home of romantic socialism, and the romantic socialists–who, in an earlier era, would have fought Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War–have made their dwelling there.  Rather than properly prioritise problems and pursue them with solutions that make scientific and economic sense, environmentalists would rather stage emotionally compelling events that make for good fund raising amongst the overmoneyed guilty but in the end don’t really contribute towards bettering the planet’s situation.

It has been this way from the start.  Global warming isn’t a new idea, and conserving energy for environmental purposes certainly isn’t.  But in the 1970’s when emissions on cars started, one of the first things done was to reduce the compression ratios on cars to cut down on NOx emissions.   But, as anyone familiar with thermodynamics knows, that reduces the efficiency of the engine, which adversely affects the petrol consumption and…generates more CO2!  Greenhouse gases!  And that doesn’t compare to the panic they created over nuclear power, which eliminates such emissions (along with the NOx and many other things) altogether.

A little later they also tried to stop the French from nuclear testing, to which same French responded by sinking their ship, the Rainbow Warrior.  Greenpeace would have done their cause more good by sinking it themselves in the Straits of Hormuz–forcing the issue of conservation–than to waste time with the French in the South Pacific.

Secularists love to lampoon religious people for being "unscientific."  But environmentalists are far more aggresively so, as I noted in my piece Messing in Our Own Box.  There are sensible solutions to our dilemmas, but as long as the environmentalists are in the driver’s seat, I despair of ever seeing one.