Jubal: Trust

Wheat WR 1001  (1977)

Although this Detroit-based production has been described as “Christo-funk,” it’s really very eclectic, with a wide variety of styles that reflect the makeup of the group.  There’s both jazz and soul elements in it, some hard driving stuff and some very light stuff too.  One thing that’s missing is any churchy or even any CCM sound to it.  A real delight that is sure to brighten your day.

Thanks to Dennis for providing this music.

The songs:

  1. Whom The Son Sets Free
  2. Changed Man
  3. I Long To Glorify Thee
  4. Blessed Abundantly
  5. Rock Of Refuge
  6. Be All That You Can
  7. Psalm 57
  8. Expose Yourself To His Love
  9. Loser
  10. Trust


For more music click here

Those Unscientific Science Journalists

NPR wants a new one, but…

NPR, which to its credit at least attempts to cover science and health, is looking for a new Science Editor. Unfortunately, actually being trained in science is not required for the job.

Under the qualifications section, the ad says, “Education: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience.” Amazingly, not only is a background in science unnecessary, college itself is optional. Despite such a low bar, whoever gets hired for the job will be responsible for covering “consumer health trends, medicine, public health, biotech and health policy.” Seriously?

It’s fair to say these days that a journalism position is an advocacy position.  But that’s one thing that’s discredited many scientific initiatives: the total lack of people with science training either reporting, advocating, or setting public policy on these kinds of issues.  No where is this more evident than climate change, where the biggest carbon-free solution in the mix–nuclear power–has been shunted aside, even when most of scientific community is good with it.

But that’s the American way, and has been for years.  It’s little wonder that countries such as China, Iran and Russia, where more of the educated population is trained in the sciences, are perceived as such threats.

I Guess YouTube Will Flag the Boring Video, Too

YouTube is doing some strange things these days, and this is yet another:

YouTube announced Friday it will start flagging videos published by organizations that receive government funding.

Viewers will be able to see labels on videos from government-funded outlets above the video’s title on the page.

“News is an important and growing vertical for us and we want to be sure to get it right, helping to grow news and support news publishers on YouTube in a responsible way,” YouTube News senior product manager Geoff Samek said.

I guess that includes this masterpiece, which I use in my Soil Mechanics class:

Watch it for a minute or two and see why I call it the “Boring Video.”  I told my students that labelling it as such was my attempt at “truth in advertising.”

This video was produced at the University of California at Davis with a grant from the Feds.  Like so many documents and other material in this field, it was produced with government funding, and use of this kind of material is widespread amongst the Federal and State agencies charged with civil and military works, and used in the teaching of civil engineering, most of which in this country takes place at state (government) universities.

So I guess that YouTube will, once it figures all this out, label this as “propaganda.”

Like I said, YouTube is doing some strange things these days.  Recently they demonitised “small” YouTube channels (like mine, the pennies rolled in) and frankly I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to accomplish other than getting rid of a large number of accounts that were more hassle to service than they were worth.  The obsession of social media with “propaganda” (and YouTube certainly isn’t alone) is going to kill it for themselves and everyone else.

Just Because Your Alma Mater is “Christian” Doesn’t Mean You’ll Be

Higher education is a competitive business.  One of the things that educational institutions that are affiliated with a church or profess or call themselves Christian use to attract students is “your faith will be enhanced by coming here.”  Christian parents and students find that attractive, which is why many pay the premium to go to one of these institutions.

Unfortunately things don’t always work out the way we think they’re supposed to.  I didn’t have to wait until college to find that out: the one and only church affiliated educational institution I ever attended, the St. Andrew’s School, was the place where I entered an Episcopalian (the school was and is affiliated with the Episcopal diocese it’s in) and left a Roman Catholic, a move which liberal and conservative alike found distasteful.

So how did this happen?  There are basically two reasons for this.

The first is that the school, like many in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, received an influx of sixties radicals in the faculty.  These obviously had little use for any “traditional” agenda of any kind, Christian or otherwise.

The second is that neither of the school’s head chaplains–who also taught the required theology courses–had much use for the Episcopal Church’s historical beliefs either.  I document my conflict with the second one here.

Although life at Bethesda had its moments, when I came to St. Andrew’s I was basically happy with being an Episcopalian.  By the time I left I wasn’t.  I could have just dropped out of church altogether, like many did (and do) when faced with people who had fled their post.  Thankfully I didn’t.

Christian educational institutions don’t exist in a vacuum.  They’re subject to the changes going both in the society at large and in their own church (if they’re affiliated with one.)  It’s takes a special effort–and occasionally some unpleasant staff and policy changes–to keep such an institution on course.  It’s easy to let things and people slip.  This is true for Evangelical and Pentecostal institutions as well; the firm doctrinal stand is frequently overwhelmed by the shame-based desire to be acceptable in society.  The accreditation system accelerates this process.

For me, I went to Texas A&M, which exceeded my expectations in many ways.  I’ve never been on the faculty or received a degree from a Christian institution since.

So what is to be done?  For Christian parents and prospective students, it’s time to be discerning.  Don’t accept labels and heritage at face value; things are changing too fast these days.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in his good time, laying all your anxieties upon him, for he makes you his care. Exercise self-control, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, like a roaring lion, is prowling about, eager to devour you. Stand firm against him, strong in your faith; knowing, as you do, that the very sufferings which you are undergoing are being endured to the full by your Brotherhood throughout the world. God, from whom all help comes, and who called you, by your union with Christ, into his eternal glory, will, when you have suffered for a little while, himself perfect, establish, strengthen you. To him be ascribed dominion for ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11 TCNT)

Is Going to a Canadian Style Immigration System That Bad?

While most Americans were bracing themselves for Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address (which turned out reasonably,) I got myself into a Facebook argument with the most bilious person I know about immigration policy.  During that dialogue I stated my preference for a Canadian (the Aussies use a similar system) immigration system which uses points to favour immigrants which, in the opinion of the government, would contribute most to the betterment of the country.  This usually means those with more education and income potential, as opposed to the “Emma Lazarus” dream we usually see in the US.

There was a time when such a proposal would have gone down well with progressives in the US, for two main reasons.

First, it’s Canadian.  Our elites have been holding up places like Canada and Western Europe as a model for us as long as I can remember.  They have universal health care; we don’t.  They have strict gun control, we don’t.  They have lots of paid family leave and holiday; we don’t.  And so on…remoulding this country in the image and likeness of places like this has been a long-time dream for many progressives, at least up to now.

The second is that it would skew our immigration towards more educated people.  Our elites constantly hold up people with high intelligence and as many degrees as Dr. Fahrenheit as the ideal; the more people like this we can attract, the happier they should be.

It would make sense that the left should then be the first to propose such a system.  But they haven’t: Donald Trump did, and reiterated that proposal in his SOTU address.  Personally I’m surprised that he did this; I would think his base would react badly to it, having been pummeled by legions of “pointy-headed,” overeducated elites and with little stomach for more.  Donald Trump, however, not only knows how to play to his base; he knows when they’re not paying attention, and this is one of those times.

My bilious opponent was unreceptive to such an idea; she changed the subject and then blasted me for my disinterest in DACA (I am fine with the legalisation on the table, actually.)  I think her idea on this exemplifies the apparent volte-face of the left on the subject, which has its roots in more recent history.

First, the obvious: they’re thinking, if Donald Trump proposed it, it must be bad.  For people who style themselves as reason- and reality-based, this is pretty stupid.  Everything they look at is through the lens of Trump even though the law passed (if the opposite of progress gets moving) will be in place after he is gone (kinda like the ACA and BHO, and we see how that’s come out.)

Second, it would dilute the large numbers of unskilled people coming in who, in their mind, would automatically vote Democrat if they achieved citizenship (and, in some places, before then.)  In addition to an abuse of the electoral system, this is a monument to their inability to “close the deal” with the American people.  If the ten trillion in debt the illustrious BHO borrowed couldn’t buy off the population, how can they expect to hold new people?

Third, I think the traditional Europhile nature of our “knowledge classes” has been diluted by years of multiculturalism.  About the only countries that get that treatment any more on a routine basis are the Scandinavian ones, and honestly Canada, Australia and the UK are better comparisons for many reasons.  Conservative people decry the fact that people in the West don’t believe in Christendom any more, but really they don’t believe in the secular replacement either!

I said that I’m surprised that Trump proposed this.  But if he believes he’ll get more immigration from Norway, he’s badly mistaken; he’s likely to get more from India, China and Iran than any place in Western Europe.  Perhaps, in this case, ignorance is bliss.

It’s also bliss for his base: what will happen with more merit-base immigration is the importation of a new elite which will crowd his base into an underclass.  As David “Spengler” Goldman put it a long time ago, the children of the soccer moms will be serving tea to the children of the tiger moms.

At this point I’m not prepared to predict how or whether this “critical moment” will come to a legislative resolution.  I wasn’t optimistic about a new tax law but we got one anyway. Maybe we’ll take a cue from our neighbour to the north and maybe we won’t.  On this topic we could do a lot worse, and given the current state of our political system, one can never count worse out.

The Real Problem with Prosperity Teaching Isn’t Theological (Well, not entirely…)

There’s a well-known Anglican “divine” (to use the old term) in this country who’s engaged in a Facebook campaign/rant (take your pick) about African faith declarations and the popularity of prosperity teaching.  It’s gone on for some time, and the fact that he’s Reformed only adds to the persistence.  (Maybe he’s also trying to prove that doctrine, but that’s another post…)

Readers of this blog know that an family heritage snob like me doesn’t have much use for prosperity teaching as it is currently propagated by the arrivistes on this side of the Atlantic.  And that may be a big part of our Anglican divine’s problem: Episcopal churches in this Republic have traditionally been the church home of people who really don’t need “name it and claim it” or “blab it and grab it” because they already have it and know how to get it by other means.  I suspect that Anglican churches have inherited many of these people and have attracted more to their ranks, which is why it’s easy for Anglican and Episcopal divines to sniff at others not so well endowed.

But to turn sniffing into heresy hunting is a game-changer.  It’s easy if you’re a hammer to see everything else as a nail; it’s easy if you’re a minister of the Gospel to see everything that doesn’t square with what you know to be true as heresy, especially when you’ve been pummeled by the stuff from the Episcopal left.  It’s also easy to miss the forest for the trees, and I think objectors to prosperity teaching have done just that.  The real problem with prosperity teaching isn’t theological, but it’s wrapped up with the whole theodicy issue.

I’ve discussed this before, but the core problem is that Americans in particular have been drilled in the idea that life is supposed to be a “bowl of cherries” and that they’re not supposed to experience adversity or pain.  That’s an interesting idea in a country where interpersonal relationships (like marriage and parenting) are so unstable and thus cause pain by themselves.  That’s had a great deal of fallout, I’ll mentioned two examples.

The first is the opioid crisis.  Boomers act like this is something new, but face it: the generation committed to “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” put drugs front and center in life.  But why?  Why are Americans so prone to taking drugs, and have been for the last 50+ years?  Some of that blame must be put squarely on the drug companies themselves.  Leaving out the scourge of prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, so many over-the-counter drugs were sold on the idea of “take a pill, you don’t have to feel pain, everything will be fine.”  That’s a powerful concept for drugs both legal, illegal and those in transition.  But it’s left a wreckage.

The second is prosperity teaching itself.  You never learn to appreciate the “positive confession” movement until you’ve been subjected to the “negative confession” one.  But prosperity teaching here pushes very strongly the idea of the pain-free, adversity-free life, especially for people who have been primed for that idea by their culture.

And that’s where the Africans come in.  Prosperity teaching has an obvious appeal in a place as poor as Africa.  But my exposure to the Africans tells me that for the most part they haven’t bought into the pain-free, adversity-free mentality that we have here in the U.S.  Their daily life and bad actors such as Boko Haram only reinforce reality in a way that most Americans find incomprehensible.

So what’s a Christian to do?  The first thing is to define the extremes, and see what’s in the middle.  We’ve seen one extreme, the adversity-free idea.  The other is that we should just tough everything out in life and do it ourselves.  The problem with that is that it basically leaves God out as our ultimate source and strength.  A good example of that is the “Contract on the Episcopalians, ” where the promises of God were replaced by what we promised to do.

Somewhere between these two extremes is reality, that we live in a fallen world, that our God as given us the promise of eternity, that bad things happen but ultimately that the life that God has given us is good.

Finding a middle ground on anything these days isn’t easy.  In this case, however, it is both Biblical and necessary.

My Response to Twitter’s Paranoia About the Russians

Yesterday I received the following in my inbox from Twitter:

As part of our recent work to understand Russian-linked activities on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency.

Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing you because we have reason to believe that you either followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked content from these accounts during the election period. This is purely for your own information purposes, and is not related to a security concern for your account.

We are sharing this information so that you can learn more about these accounts and the nature of the Russian propaganda effort. You can see examples of content from these suspended accounts on our blog if you’re interested.

My response is simple: I really don’t care.

Our elites’ paranoia about the Russians and their influence mirrors that of Joe McCarthy in the 1950’s.  They do not understand that we are the strongest state and that the success or failure of these United States is strictly in our own hands, or those within who own and operate us.  To say otherwise is blame shifting, and those who believe everything bad that happens to them is someone else’s fault are inherent failures.

Those who control social media have finally woken up to the fact that some who use their media for their own purpose are existential threats to them (or at least they think they are.)  The result of this will be the suppression of free speech on these media.  This has been coming for some time and will only get worse.  Those who have put all their eggs in the social media basket and get crossways with the gatekeepers will find this out the hard way.

As far as “fake news” is concerned, after watching the gorgeous show called Shen Yun one evening I told my wife that “It’s all propaganda.”  I had seen it from the other side (Shen Yun is an effort by the Chinese religious group Falun Gong, which the government hates.)  It’s just too bad that the propaganda war Twitter is so paranoid about can’t be conducted with such beauty.

No, Columbus Wasn’t Worried About Falling Off the Edge of a Flat Earth

I think it’s fair to say that most Boomers (and some who came afterwards) were taught that one reason Columbus sailed west to determine whether the earth was flat.  But this won’t wash, as BizzareVictoria notes:

Everyone knows that in the medieval era, everyone thought the world was flat, and Columbus discovered the Americas in part because he was trying to circumnavigate the globe, to prove it was round, and to end up in India, right?

Except all of this is wrong. 

Eco tells us that people have known the world was spherical since ancient Greece. “Parmenides seems to have guessed its spherical nature, while Pythagoras held that it was spherical for mystical-mathematical reasons [and] subsequent demonstrations of the roundness of the Earth were based on empirical observations: see the texts by Plato and Aristotle. Doubts about sphericity linger in Democritus and Epicurus, and Lucretius denies the existence of the Antipodes, but in general for all of late antiquity, the spherical form of the Earth was no longer debated” (11).

In addition to providing additional backup to this claim, BizzareVictoria goes on to detail how Victorians, frustrated at the opposition of the church to evolution, spread the idea that the medaevals, following Lactantius, thought the earth was flat.

To all that I’d like to add the following:

  1. The Bible does not teach that the earth is flat (cf. Isaiah 40:22.)  There was a great deal of knowledge interchange amongst the civilisations of the Middle East, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks, a fact that was better appreciated in ancient times than it is now.
  2. Dante certainly conceived the earth as round, which is closer to Columbus’ time than the Bible.
  3. If there was a central fault in medaeval science, it was an over-reliance on the ancients for scientific fact.  That’s why Galileo butted heads with the schoolmen of his day. In this case, however, that reliance was correct.

As for Lactantius, he wasn’t exactly in the top shelf of Patristic writers, a fact also recognised in medaeval times.  One thing he was dead right on, however, was the rapacity of Late Roman tax collection methods, which doubtless hasn’t endeared him to the bureaucrats.

HT Tim Harding.

Chelsea Manning, the Perfect Democrat

Buried in all the other excitement this week was the announcement that Chelsea Manning, the transgendered Wikileaker, is running for the Senate in Maryland as a Democrat.  This announcement has gotten a great deal of adverse press from the right, but I think we need to stop and look at this in more detail.

First, the transgendered business: we need to face reality that, as long as we live in a society where one’s life is defined by one’s sexual activity, it not being optional or restrictable, this will happen, because it’s easy in a society as obsessed with conformity as ours to find oneself cornered by that obsession.  If we address the underlying cause, we will be closer to resolution, although it’s a steep uphill climb.

Turning to the leaker business, many Republicans and conservatives simply regard Manning as a traitor.  In this case that assessment really shouldn’t matter: it isn’t the job of Maryland Republicans to vote for a Democrat anyway.  Manning’s first contest is in the Democrat primary, and it’s here that things really get complicated.  He is the perfect Democrat in a party which loves perfection until it doesn’t.

I am one of those people who still think that the phrase “patriotic liberal” is an oxymoron.  Liberals (or leftists) are supposed to be internationalists.  They’re always telling us that other countries are better because they have things like lots of paid leave and holiday, universal health care, better educational systems, lower defence budgets, etc.  If other places are really better than we are, why be loyal to this one?

Our society, however, is highly duplicitous; liberals are glad to be internationalists as long as it suits them.  When it doesn’t suit them is when they get into power; all of a sudden, they become very patriotic, because it’s suddenly their country, and we’re all supposed to love it and be loyal to it even as they change its very nature.  That was very much on display during the years when Barack Obama was President.  He was obsessed with leaks and secrecy (as James Rosen found out) and even with those in the media who simply wanted to report the facts (as Sharyl Attkisson found out.)  Obama never pardoned Manning, he only commuted his sentence, probably as a sop to those in his party who, although wrong, are at least consistent.

And then there’s the matter of secrets themselves.  The simple truth is that our government keeps too many and collects too much information.  How much good it does is debatable; the Soviets’ intelligence gathering apparatus didn’t prevent the collapse of the USSR, and it’s not obvious that we’re looking at what we know with any more understanding than they did.  Our Congress supinely renews legislation to extend their powers to do so.  In reality, they’ve breached the “safeguards” built into this kind of legislation before, they can collect pretty much what they want and bury it in the classification system.

It’s interesting that some of Manning’s statements about the bureaucracy and security apparatus could have just as easily come out of an alt-right person.  Our political spectrum is actually circular; if those on either side of the ring gap could cut a deal with each other, things would be very shaken up in our society.

My guess is that Manning’s campaign won’t get any further than Code Pink’s Cindy Sheehan’s did against Nancy Pelosi.  Since the days of George McGovern, the Democrat party has been the home of people like Manning until it isn’t, and it isn’t when job security and power are on the line.  That’s especially true in Maryland; like Northern Virginia, which has pushed that state purple, the DC suburbs’ bureaucracy dwellers will probably look at Manning as an existential threat.  But such areas, to paraphrase Portfirio Diaz, are so far from God, so close to Washington, and Manning will find out that the proximity to Washington will, for the moment, trump the distance from God.

The Oyster and the Flying Fish

There are many ways of expressing the idea that you should be content where you’re at, but my favourite is this one, from Kevin Ayers’ 1970 album Shooting at the Moon:

The lyrics are as follows:

An oyster was a’travelling
Along the ocean road
He’d been some time preparing
And now he’d left the fold

He was sick of being oysterized
And he wanted to explode, to explode
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

He saw a pretty flying fish
And said if I could have one wish
I’d change into a flying fish
And then I would be happy, yes I would
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

The flying fish came down to see
Just who had made this plea
And seeing the poor oyster
Said this cannot be
An oyster has to stay inside
And a flying fish must flee, all the time
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

As the oyster turned to go away
The flying fish was heard to say
“If I could find a place to stay
I know I would be happy, yes I would!”
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

Growing up in South Florida, I remember seeing flying fish paralleling our boat as we went to and from the Bahamas.