Friday, February 29, 2008

Tom Hsieh Interview

Divine compulsion is afoot.

It was no coincidence that at Urbana '96, a small nondescript book titled something like They Loved the Inner City made its way into my hands. After many years, it is no coincidence that my church's city mission effort, Mission St. Louis, is coming to my neighborhood. It is no coincidence that I saw Tom Hsieh's story a couple of months ago on the Next Gener.Asian blog. It is no coincidence that I'm reading a book titled Restoring At-Risk Communities with a bunch of people from church. It is no coincidence that I saw the following POWERFUL telephone interview with Tom Hsieh from NewPointe Church in Ohio (many thanks to Laurence Tom's blog).

(Credit: YouTube user maxvenable)

This interview is one reason why I know there must be a God around here. I was reaching for Kleenex at 3.5 minutes. I am going to try to locate the story about him in People magazine as well and update.

Christian Superstition

This post is in response to a series on the Next Gener.Asian blog about how Asian Christians have commonly adopted Eastern religious ideas and practices into their Christian faith. In particular, I am responding to the post about Shamanism in the Asian church. As with the other religions (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism), David (and Rodger Nishioka) asks "How has [this belief system] influenced practices in Asian American churches?"

He posts three ways:
  1. A ready acceptance of the Holy Spirit and belief in its power in our daily lives combined with a sense of evil spirits opposing the Holy Spirit leads to lots of attribution to Satan.
  2. Significant reliance on the Holy Spirit and spiritual experiences that are often highly emotive and emotion charged.
  3. Congregations look at the preacher as the shaman and may expect him or her to be closer to God and to act as an intermediary or intercessor in some way.

The post ends asking "What's the alternative look like?"

My family is not Korean, and my Chinese Baptist church experience is more naturalistic than how Nishioka describes the Korean church. However, it is not without its occasions. Trying to nail down specific hangovers from Asian religious culture is a little like catching flies with chopsticks.

Point #1 has a lot of hidden problems, I think. No one would dispute that awareness of the Holy Spirit in daily life is a good thing. This point doesn't get into specifics as to what people believe evil spirits are opposing. But we should pause to ask: to what are Asian Christians ultimately attributing to Satan? Common complaints always include illness and hardship. What about negative emotions, financial difficulty, and personality conflict? What about the 30 year-old son who seems unable to find a wife? How much should we attribute to Satanic activity versus our own human failing? Not only that, should we even consider problems like these Satanic in origin?

A more foundational question would be "why do we think that God owes us a comfortable life?"

One superstition I suspect we have embraced at this point is that the Christian life is about fulfilled values and gratification and that gratification is what Satan wants to prevent in our daily life. Generally, gratification is the experience of everything you desire in life and believe God should send your way (marriage, children, grandchildren, financial gain, the respect of others). This superstition has perhaps replaced the language of "lucky" in many Chinese households. Instead of attributing job loss, for example, to unluckiness, many now often attribute it to some form of Satanic oppression perhaps.

The typical reaction to such a situation is very telling. Traditionally, an unlucky Chinese person would seek to turn his fortune around through shamanistic appeals. A Christian, similarly moved, might feel tempted to pray down the demon causing such suffering in his life. I find this disturbing, but only slightly less disturbing than the fact that Asians are not alone in practicing this type of "Christian shamanism."

I call it manipulation, which is perhaps a second superstition working its way through the minds of many Asians. The result is that we believe that God responds to such appeals. I see this as the theological foundation for the "sin of divination" spoken of in 1 Sam. 15:22. Relating to the God of the Bible the same way one would relate to a demigod in any Eastern religion shows a failing of wholistic theology on the part of the church. Or, to say it another way, for anyone to think that circumstances can or should be changed by appealing to some vain formula or method of prayer designed to manipulate either God or the spiritual world into alignment with one's own desires is clearly opposite to Biblical Christianity.

I have encountered something somewhat similar. Two friends I know once shared an apartment, and when they moved in, they made it a point to walk through all the rooms and pray over each room for God to 'sanctify'(?) it and provide protection from demonic activity. Now, I am not given to such proclivities, and the whole proposition seemed suspiciously superstitious to me. BUT, I can see an important distinction. Some Christians need to exercise their prayers in a visible way (such as walking through and praying for each room in an apartment) in order to assure themselves that they have been thoughtful in dedicating certain aspects of their lives to God. If some need this as a psychological comfort, I don't have a problem with it per se. However, if some rely on such activity in order to bring about God's protection or supernatural intervention (where it would be absent if they did not), then I think they risk enslavement to a defective theology that is more akin to shamanism than Christianity.

The Gospel is a complete 180. In Christ, we have God revealed and His promises made explicit. God, who made Himself human and lived among us, died for us, and promises us a life that is truly free. In the Gospel, we have the freedom to experience God not through spells, incantations, or rituals crafted to merely grasp vainly at the divine, we have God Himself in Jesus who 'fills our cup to overflowing' with His presence and Holy Spirit. Human beings are constantly trying to find a bridge and cross it from the natural world to the supernatural. In Christ, He not only is the bridge, He comes to us to make that connection with us that all other methods fail miserably.

What's the alternative? Emphatically, the Bible speaks of spiritual freedom and victory as a present accomplishment in Christ that most believers have yet to realize. My pastor has said a number of times that we are living below our priviledge in the Kingdom of God. True, the victorious Christian life is not experienced without struggle to cast off the baggage of past hurt, present sin, and our own cynicism of our circumstances present and future. We must repent of such thinking, he says. Whenever you are tempted to think that you have accomplished something out of your own strength, repent. Whenever you think that you deserve better than what life dishes out at you, repent. Our priviledge is a life enveloped in the saving grace of Jesus, to focus not on ourselves but on others and ultimately on God. Love God and love people. His grace frees us to live to love, not just to survive and have pleasant things happen to us. Surely we should express the assurance of Psalm 23 a little more confidently than we do.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ouroboros -2-: Hecklers Unhinge Clinton

CORRECTION: Frank Beckwith has posted a correction about the hecklers in this story. Apparently, the hecklers were not students of Steubenville, although there were pro-life students who protested but did not heckle.

Bill Clinton Comes Unhinged at Hecklers in Ohio

I've made it a point to avoid blogging on politics (or politicians). It just doesn't fit well with what I've got going on here; but when a key issue is also unavoidably political, it's well, unavoidable.

What happens when a staunchly pro-abortion politician stumps for another staunchly pro-abortion politician at a pro-life Catholic university? Blessed beauty. Last Sunday (February 17), Bill Clinton was heckled by pro-life students at Ohio's Steubenville University for his support for abortion on demand during his administration. and covered this event in snippets, capturing Clinton's rebuttal:

“We had the lowest teen pregnancy rate since the statistics had been kept when we were doing that. And guess what? Without overturning Roe v. Wade, or trying to keep people all torn up and upset or calling them killers, the abortion rate went down almost 20 percent on our watch.”

And then this after more heckling:

“We disagree with you. You want to criminalize women and their doctors and we disagree. … If you were really pro-life, you would want to put every doctor and every mother as an accessory to murder in prison. And you won’t say you want to do that because you know that, because you know that you wouldn’t have a lick of political support. Now, the issue is who, the issue is, you can't name me anybody presently in politics that did more to introduce policies that reduce the number of real abortions instead of the hot air putting out to tear people up and make votes by dividing America. This is not your rally. I heard you. That's another thing you need is a president, somebody who will stick up for individual rights and not be pushed around, and she won't.”

Bill Clinton takes credit for the decline in the number of abortions? Hmph. Michael J. New, who writes for National Review Online, lays it out on abortion decline, citing research that both in the US and globally, abortion rates are mostly influenced by moderate legistative restrictions on abortion. He writes:

Articles that have appeared in peer reviewed academic journals provide further evidence that legally restricting abortion results in reductions in abortion rates and ratios. A 2004 study that appeared in The Journal of Law and Economics analyzed how changes in abortion policies in post-communist Eastern Europe affected the incidence of abortion. This study was particularly interesting because after the demise of communism, some Eastern European countries liberalized their abortion laws, while others enacted restrictions on abortion. At any rate, the authors concluded that modest restrictions on abortion reduced abortion rates by around 25 percent. [emphasis mine]

Furthermore, a study that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 found that a Texas parental-involvement law led to statistically significant reductions in the number of abortions performed on minors (both in and out of state) and a slight, but statistically significant increase in the teen birthrate. Finally, my own Heritage Foundation research on state level pro-life legislation which utilizes data from both the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control provides evidence that informed consent laws, public-funding restrictions, and parental-involvement laws are all correlated with reductions in the incidence of abortion.

Interestingly, even some studies that have appeared in the Alan Guttmacher Institute’s own Family Planning Perspectives provide evidence that pro-life legislation at the state level reduces the incidence of abortion. [emphasis mine]

So what has he done? Clinton's real 4-1-1 toward "safe, legal, and rare" abortions reads like a locomotive ramrodding abortion down America's throat. Observe...

In 1993:
-President Clinton issues five executive orders on the same day to make abortion more available:
1. Reversed Title 10 regulations banning abortion referral by federal employees
2. Repealed the Mexico City Policy restricting federal funds to international organizations that oppose abortion laws
3. Reversed ban on funding for transplants utilizing fetal tissue
4. Mandated military hospitals to perform abortions
5. Overturned a ban on the RU-486 pill and ordered the FDA to review ways to license and manufacture it for US distribution
-The infamous Clinton 1993 Health Care Plan - provided financial coverage for elective abortion (and also nonvoluntary euthanasia)
-Clinton signs a bill authorizing government funding for tissue research on aborted fetuses
-Nominates Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the US Supreme Court (Ginsburg is a former ACLU attorney and a strong supporter of abortion rights)
-Volunteers to give $75 million to International Planned Parenthood (of course, it's not his money he's volunteering)
-Mandates Medicaid funds to be available to cover abortions when abortionists report pregnancies resulting from rape or incest

In 1996 and 1997:
Clinton vetoes the Partial Birth Abortion Ban twice, falsely citing exemptions for the lives of women whose pregnancies are life-threatening

But wait, there's more:
-Although the drug does not meet its own standards, the FDA approves of RU-486 anyway for availability to the public.
-Clinton urges passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, which, if passed, would have nullified every state regulation of abortion
-Clinton attempts to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion except in rare cases
-Clinton orders family planning clinics receiving federal funds to refer women for abortion
-Clinton reinstates funding to the United Nations Population Fund, which helps manage China's forced abortion policies
(info credit: Jill Stanek's blog)

Egads, do I need to go on? Clinton must have an earthmover sized hole in his head if he thinks that greenlighting abortion as he did would result in a decline. Instead, new reports, like this one from National Right to Life, show repeatedly that the increase in informed consent laws, parental notification laws, and the efforts of pro-life organizations to educate young women on fetal development and abortion risks have had significant influence on pregnant women carrying their babies to term versus obtaining abortions. And it is no secret that Bill and Hillary have opposed such legislation and measures to educate young women at every turn. Given the facts, it is utterly clear that abortion decline has been occuring despite the efforts to promote it by both Clinton politicians.

And what about his dig at pro-life students about not really being pro-life on account of not wanting to prosecute abortion-seeking mothers as accessories to murder? Frank Beckwith dealt with this at length on his blog, pointing out that he did not address the pro-life students' questions, but rather questioned their integrity for asking. What a surprise. Do note that I reserve the right for my logical brain not to accept that kind of smack. Although, Clinton did give away a bit of the store in his little outburst by admitting that women are indeed "mothers" to their unborn children.

Brush off aside, Beckwith feels that the hecklers shouldn't have heckled. I say they darn right should have heckled! You don't get that true Kodak color out of Bill Clinton otherwise. It's priceless. Bet you're dying to see it:

(Credit: YouTube user mikejmon333)

Monday, February 25, 2008

ARTtsy Fartsy

Last Thursday, my good friend Brett put together an awesome art and music event called Stage Nite at the ARTt Cafe near UMSL. Lil ol' me was one of the featured artists/photographers with four pieces in the gallery. Aw, he called me an artist!

The coffeehouse was surprisingly full given the icy bad weather that day. Three bands with varying music styles came to give a concert; the coffee drinks were flowing, and I saw people I had not seen in over a year there to cheer all of us artistes on. This is being written up in Live magazine as well as The Current (UMSL student newspaper). I must go hunt me down a copy of each. Brett busted his tail to get this event on, and it turned out great; it was also publicity for his photography and production company (ATC Production & Photography). The ARTt Cafe is a Christian-owned coffee shop and good hangout place, with its own art gallery in the basement. Roomy and comfy, I highly recommend it as a meeting spot for catching up with friends and getting your java on.

The ARTt Cafe
8400 Natural Bridge Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63121

Enjoy the photos from the evening!

Above: Look, groupies!

Left: Brett and I, pals and artists for Jesus. LOL.

It's not rap; it's spoken verse.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Laugh Rack -2-: Macadamia Nut

It's the weekend.

(credit: YouTube user tvlord17)

I Can, Can You?

I Can, Can You? Written and photographed by Marjorie W. Pitzer. ISBN 1890627577 (board book)

Although this book was mainly put together for babies and toddlers (and six year-olds learning to read), it's a great book for adults to look at and think about. Every page is a photograph of a young child with Down's Syndrome doing everyday activities, like playing, swimming, and even learning sign language. Anyone who doubts the human worth of such kids has a greater congenital defect than they, Peter Singer.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Laugh Rack -1-

Once in a while, I feel the need to interject some humor into my blog. Warning: this is my kind of humor. I have long realized that what makes me laugh doesn't always (or rarely) make the rest of humanity laugh. If it's not funny to you, I don't want to hear about it.

Triablogue: William Lane Craig Would Endorse This Book

The saucy guys at Triablogue caught my attention this week with a post screaming


all over it. Of course it caught my attention! Where'd I put my I Heart Kalaam t-shirt? An amusing piece of satire; I'm happy to link to it as my laugh-of-the-every-so-often. Oops, the screaming contains only four exclamation points, excuse me. Here's an excerpt:

One reader (not

said, “Peter Pike has written a very sarcastic book and also refers to himself in the third person when writing reviews.”

Public Transit is an irreverent social commentary that deals with such issues as the Vietnam War (“It was about white Republicans forcing African Americans into a godforsaken jungle so that they would die, and thus avoid the Civil Rights movement. It’s exactly like what Shrub is doing in Iraq today” (p. 79)), animal rights (“[I]nstead of fetal pigs, they’d use real human fetuses so they wouldn’t have to worry about the ethics of dissections any longer” (p. 41)), politics (“A bullet in the Bush is worth two in the hand” (p. 76)), and the philosophy of time (“That had all been six hours ago” (p. 156)). Most notable (

WILLIAM LANE CRAIG!!!!would notice if he were writing this review), the entire book contains only four (4) semicolons!

(Just a heads up, I do have Dr. Craig's home telephone number somewhere, so I wasn't kidding about possibly calling him up.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Fourth Mind Turns Two Years Old

Happy Birthday, Son!

What better way to celebrate turning two than to get really tired! A trip to Beasts class at The Little Gym in Creve Coeur did the trick. 45 minutes later, I was ready for bed. 18 toddlers, 28 parents, a puddle on the floor (NOT ours), and no room is big enough. Both kids had a blast.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Go Pecadillo!

Okay, okay. My conscience tells me I need to say something else nice about the Pyromaniacs/Team Pyro. I like Pecadillo's blog, although there are some elements to it that truly frighten me and some that make me throw up a little in my mouth.

My hats off to America's finest out there, braving criminals and B-rated restaurants from sea to shining sea. Pec, you run in an arena of twisted genius that angels and I dare not tread. The Lord be with you.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Better than a Hot Cup of Che

David Park has written an absolutely powerful post on what revolution feels like, Jesus style, contra revolution through today's commercialution. At least, that's how I took it. (Yeah, one of my famous puns worked its way into this post, didn't it?)

He writes:
No, revolution, even a personal one, is not cheap. Revolution leaves a man
ruined. And there are a lot of casualties. You can’t sell that. And even as I
understand it from where I’m sitting…it’s too much for me to grasp and I can’t
let go. God help me, I can’t let go.

Gasp. It never ceases to floor me to listen to someone who 'gets it.' The most powerful revolution is the one that takes place when the heart, occupied by nothing but the corpse of the sinful self is brought to life and starts to beat for Christ and tastes but a drop of the kingdom of God. How about a churchful of people who Jesus has invaded and conquered like that? I'm a sobbing heap on the floor. Thank you, David.

Ah, the Crotchety Sound of Inspiration

I know I'm late to the game on many fronts. But being on the cutting edge of motherhood has it's sacrifices, ya know? Anyhoo, coming home from Midrash planning last Sunday evening gave me the almost-never opportunity to turn on my car radio to my local FM talk radio station (who listens to talk radio on a Sunday night???). And a revelation hit me--on the air was an articulate, strong-minded, politically charged woman that sounded like she was taking thoughts out of my own mind and broadcasting them all over St. Louis. Who is this?!, I wanted to know. Well, you can take a gander at the links below, but man, not since I discovered Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham as a college student have I found a kindred spirit in this young gal on the airwaves. She says what I think; she must be brilliant. ;-)

Kudos to Dana Loesch.
97.1 FM Talk link
Dana's political blog

And she lives in St. Louis, too! And she's a mom of two the same ages as mine! And..and..and...don't worry, the afterglow will subside in time.