Current Events


I wish I had more time to comment on this, but maybe some of you can do a better job. This is a goody:

This past Sunday a Detroit church devoted their corporate worship gathering to praying for Trinity— not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, mind you. Rather, they lifted up the automotive big three, Ford, GM, and Chrysler, filling their stage with SUV's from local car dealerships.

Personally, this makes me feel icky.


On Persecution

With the U.S. in a dire financial straights, the blame game is in full effect. Even though our politicians and national press members aren't quite sure how to properly assess the blame for this crisis [BLAME WALL STREET! BLAME HOMEOWNERS! BLAME GEORGE BUSH!] there is one group who is obviously responsible: Christians.

A couple of weeks ago, USA Today decided that it was worth the ink to print that Christians who tithe are foolishly choosing giving over saving their own houses, and are partially to blame for the rise in foreclosures. And then this past week, Time Magazine claimed that the evangelical health-and-wellness gospel could have caused our country's financial woes.

Look, I'm not denying that many Christians over-extended themselves in the past decade and are culpable for this mess. But to single them out in an article is asinine. Insert any other race, religion, people group, or sexual orientation for "Christian" into those articles and someone loses a job. It's just lazy journalism. Of all the intricacies that led to the folding of these banks/insurers, this is the best they could come up with?

But who gives a rip? I'd love to complain, or write a letter to the editor but, in the end, they're just words. It cannot compare to the plight of my Christian brothers and sisters in Iran, Iraq and India who risk their very lives because of their association with Jesus. They would probably scoff at a couple of articles like this, knowledgeable that persecution is more than just a few uncomfortable words.

So a reminder to my Christian friends: when your anger bubbles over an incindiary article critical of the faith you hold so dear, let the feeling pass and offer up a prayer for those around the world who face death for the same faith.

Whom Do You Trust?

So the bail-out of the financial industry failed in the House. Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other. The Dow is flaming. Interesting afternoon.

As many of our leading politicians passionately plead for support, there were massive objections coming from their constituents. It's not surprising that House Republicans fled from this deal: it's politics, plain and simple. By objecting to a bill connected to both the President and the Democratic leadership, they've probably secured for themselves more congressional seats this November. What's truly remarkable here is the large numbers of Democrats that rejected it. For the majority party to sponsor a bill and not get the votes to pass it shows just how political this situation has become.

This flop doesn't help McCain in the least; his handling of the economic situation has been lacking; but this was even more disastrous for House Democrats who have projected their discontinuity for the country to see.

Ignoring for a moment the specifics, the fascinating observation I claim here is the overwhelming distrust in our national government right now. Our country is facing a crisis and who do Americans look to in order to solve the problem? Obviously, President Bush has lost his influence, and his administration's plan garnered instant mistrust. McCain tried to step up and show leadership in this crisis, but nothing came from it. Obama chose to sit this one out, opting instead to win the White House with the hope he can lead in January. And neither of the two major parties were capable of commanding the leadership to provide a solution.

I'm not sure if this leadership vacuum can be blamed on a volatile election year or if it truly proves that there are no selfless political leaders in our time.

Still, doesn't it seem that this country has absolutely no faith in its political leaders?

24 Important Hours

On a national level, I'd say that time from tomorrow afternoon through Friday evening has the potential to be the most important hours in our country since September 11, 2001.*

First, I suspect that in that time frame, Congress will either pass or set the foundation for a $1Trillion bail-out. I'm not sure I've had anything to say about this on the blog, but even though I am more libertarian in my view of government, I believe that letting these institutions bite it would prove more harmful to the country than if the government stepped in. Sure, blame here can be levied equally to the industry and foolish home-buyers, but without the bail-out many people who have practiced fiscal responsibility throughout these times could be harmed in the process.

Even though we Generation Xers and Millenials have never witnessed the American economy in such dire straits, our nation's economy has tended to fluctuate like this every twenty years or so. Four years before I was born, the US economy was in the crapper to the extent that Nixon attempted to manhandle it into submission. He instituted price controls and eliminated our country's connection to the gold standard. While it temporarily worked, it helped create the inflationary struggles that we always associate the 1970's. Additionally, study American economic history throughout the 18th century until the Great Depression, and you'll understand that amount of fluctuation that accompanies our economic system.

I guess what I'm saying is that no matter how bad this gets, our country has seen worse [and more than just the Great Depression]. The congress will get this things passed, and historians will debate it for decades to come. My opinion: if this bail-out goes through, there will be ripples, but we'll be OK.

Second, even though McCain is trying to get it rescheduled, I'm assuming that the first Presidential debate will go off as planned Friday night. This has been a rough week for the McCain campaign (which I think is one of the reasons they decided to "take a break"), and some of the polls have him losing distance between Obama. Personally, I think the 9-point separation is a little suspect. I lean to believe those that still claim that the race is within the margin of error. Regardless, Obama definitely has the momentum and this is why this debate is critical.

I predicted earlier that McCain would be the better debater, and he needs to be more than ever. He doesn't need to dominate Friday night; a draw would be sufficient. But if he's not on his game and comes off as confused or uninformed, it could cement an Obama White House.

I think that by the end of the weekend, both the economic and political picture will be much clearer.

*True, the time I'm referencing is more than 24 hours, but it's the only way I could use the pop-culture tie-in.

The Shack Book Review [Part Two]

I will admit that this rather lengthy post is written specifically to the Christian who is further along in their faith. New Christians or non-Christians might view this as petty and/or confusing, so those people might want to avoid this post altogether.


Considering I wrote Part One of this review almost two months ago, you might need to glance back to see my original criticism of the best-selling book The Shack written by William Young. There you can also find a brief synopsis of the story. Since I'm not going to repeat it here, you might be a little lost without referencing Part One first.

Among my dislikes of The Shack listed there were a) it's poorly written fiction, b) it attempts to speak authoritatively under the guise of fiction and c) it hides behind an emotional narrative to present its theology. As more and more people are starting to read this book, I thought I'd finally get around to citing specific texts with which I had problems. I will admit that even though I took these notes while reading the book, I already passed it on to someone else, so I apologize if I don't fully recall the exact context of these quotes. And I typed a couple of pages of notes, so following is merely a handful of my concerns.


Upon receiving a written note from God, we read an inner-thought process of Mack reflecting on THE Written Word of God. We read,

"The thought of God passing notes did not fit well with his theological training. In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God's voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligencia. Nobody wanted God in a book, just in a box. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges." [Page 64]

There is an edge to this quote. While made somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it's really the premise for what will follow throughout the rest of the book. It is a slighting of God's Written Word that will set the stage for "real, personal interaction with God." At its best, this statement is anti-intellectual; at its worst, it's a revolt against the submission to the Scriptures. Listen, I get it: some people worship the Bible more than God Himself, but you're not doing anyone a favor by disparaging the process here. Although this quote is subtle, I think it's deliberate. It's intended to presumptively backhand anyone who dares to criticize the experiential revelation that is to come. Young does a huge disservice to the concept of Biblical inspiration/interpretation by this needless one paragraph jab.


On page 96, there's dialogue between Papa (God the Father) and Mack about the crucifixion of Jesus. Here's how it plays out:

PAPA: "We were there together" MACK: "At the cross? Now wait, I thought you left him — you know— 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'" PAPA: "You misunderstood the mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him."

I would argue that Young misunderstood the mystery there. Despite many interpretations/references claiming otherwise, Jesus was indeed forsaken by God on the cross; not out of spite, mind you, rather as the fulfillment of his life as substitutionary atonement. Examine the scene at Calvary— an event without parallel— with the sun being darkened, and earthquake, the temple curtain torn, and dead people walking the streets. Our sin needed to be accounted for and the Holy God, in his judicial role, had to enact justice. That doesn't speak ill of God. It actually reflects poorly on us who forced God to have to take such a position.

Again, you might counter that this is no big deal, that substitutionary atonement isn't the point of this book. But it's the point of Christianity, so it needs to be noted.


The thrust of Young's book is the emphasis on relationship with God above everything else, stating on page 101 that the Trinity can be summarized as love and relationship. At the conclusion of the weekend, Mack said to the Spirit, "This weekend, sharing life with you has been far more illuminating than any of those [Seminary] answers." The Spirit responds, "And you will hear and see me in the Bible in fresh ways. Just don't look for rules and principles; look for relationship— a way of coming to be with us" (page 198).

While many Christians would swallow this whole, we need to realize the term "personal relationship with God" is merely a contextualization of the gospel message— a way of explaining the interaction between God and humanity. Notice that I said, "A way of explaining" and not, "THE way of explaining." The emergence of "the personal relationship" language can be dated after the Second World War, originating in American society then spreading globally, to reach a society that started to value the individual more than the communal.

This might be shocking, but "personal relationship with God" is not found in the Bible. In the NIV translation (produced in the early 1970's), the word "relationship" is only used three times in the entire book. Even the paraphrased Message Bible only uses "relationship" once in this kind of context. Throughout the Scriptures the predominant view of our interaction with God is explained in legal or covenantal terms. Unfortunately, this terminology turns most of us off because we'd rather not wrestle with that view of interaction with God— he as Judge/King and we as violator/servant.

Sure, we prefer a "personal relationship with God" because we'd rather view God in a human-to-human relationship; the thought of a judgmental God can be frightening and it reeks of old-school Christianity. So instead of viewing Jesus as the atonement of our sin, we think of him as our buddy. But regardless of how much disdain we carry for this "legal" interaction with God, it is consistently found in the Scriptures. And perhaps this is why The Shack is so popular: it embraces an interaction with God that we find comforting rather than frightening.


I could talk much more about all the qualms I had with this book, but I feel like I've said my peace. Hopefully you understand my opinion here: this is a flawed piece of fiction. Again, allow me to reiterate: I'm not saying that people shouldn't read this book, but we ought to realize that this is just one person's perspective on faith and it does not present a consistent explanation of the gospel message. If you're interested for a more compelling piece of literature, I suggest the Bible. It's good stuff.

If The Shack has made your relationship with God "more real," that's great. But I would challenge you to ask yourself why.

The Hits Keep Comin'

Call me a bit morbid, be if I could pick another career, I'd say professional hitman would be a cool option. Sure, I would only do it if it involved knocking off people who really deserved it, and perhaps severely hurting people rather than actually killing them [I mean, I'd still try to hang on to my ministerial credentials]. Admit it: whenever you see hitmen in movies, you're thinking it's a pretty awesome career. Cool guns, unlimited bank account, the ability to travel— all wicked awesome. Please, friend, resist clicking over to to see if there any such job listings there.

Any-who, I had to laugh when I came across this real-life article this morning that detailed a woman strangling a burglar to death in her home. See, after further investigation, authorities discovered that it wasn't a mere burglar, but a hitman . . . hired by the woman's husband.  Apparently the hitman was in the house when 51 year-old Susan Kuhnhausen came home for work, and attacked her with a claw hammer. Kuhnhausen, who is in the middle of divorce proceedings with her husband [think she'll get back together with him?], disarmed the hitman who then proceeded to bite her. Then we arrive at today's official "Moment of Great Journalism," the statement from this article describing what happened next:

"A large woman, she was eventually able to get the slight [hitman] into a chokehold and police later found him dead in a hallway."

If this story can't get any crazier, there are other facts to consider, such as:

  1. The woman's house had a security alarm. There was no sign of forced entry. The only person [besides Susan] who had the alarm code was the husband. Way to think of everything, dude.
  2. The hired hitman was a janitor who worked for the husband.
  3. The hired hitman had the husband's cellphone number in his backpack.
  4. The husband managed an adult video store.

That's just classic. There's no way you could make this story up.

After that story, I think I'll leave my hitman dreams by the wayside, fearing death by the hands of a pissed-of 51 year-old large woman.

The Shack Book Review [Part One]

One of the blessings of my previous class at Xavier was the freedom to choose our own subjects for papers. Fortunately, my class was on views of the Trinity, so I tailor-made one of my papers so that I could read and examine The Shack.

As I mentioned here before, The Shack is a piece of fiction that is quickly becoming a best-seller and is said to be transforming the way that people are viewing their relationship with God. Originally I was skeptical, but I knew some good Christian people who enjoyed the book so I decided I would refrain from commenting any further until I read it myself. Well I have read it and studied it thoroughly. And after finally taking the time to type out my response, I am ready to unveil the following conclusion:

I do not like this book at all.

In my previous post on The Shack I gave a quick synopsis on the book. So as I continue here, I'm assuming you at least have a cursory understanding of what it's about. Quickly, The Shack is about a guy [named Mack] who is angry with God because his daughter was killed by a serial killer. So God chooses the location of her murder [the aforementioned shack] to be the site of His reconciliation with Mack. Mack spends the weekend with the Trinity [described as a black woman, an Arab man, and an Asian woman] who try to tell them "the truth" about God.

As I begin to critique, let me start here: to be fair, I don't know William Young [the book's author]. I don't fully understand the circumstances surrounding his life [which were apparently somewhat hellish] and I am not judging him directly. As I understand it, the book was supposed to be a therapeutic gesture written for his children, but Young later sought for the book to be published; from there it gained widespread popularity. So it's no longer a personal matter, but a public one, and people are going to this book for spiritual guidance, then it is then fair game for me to deconstruct its contents.

I'm assuming that Young had good intentions in getting this work out there to the masses, but there is objectionable content in it. And while some suggest that it's just an innocently written fictional book that shouldn't be over-examined, I disagree. There is power in the written word. And just because something was done with good intentions does not excuse it from scrutiny if it is, in fact, harmful.

As for its artistic merits, I found it lacking. I've admitted before that I'm not very big on fiction. That said, I can easily recognize good writing and The Shack isn't it. For example, while I disagreed with practically all of the "factual concepts" found in The DaVinci Code, I could definitely see why it is so popular— Dan Brown was a good storyteller. The Shack was not at all similar. Young vacillates between humor and seriousness to the point that it is uncomfortable. And much of the dialogue seemed forced, completely unnatural. It isn't good fiction.

So if I were merely a book critic, this would be reason enough alone for me not to recommend it. But even more than its literary attributes, this book attempts to speak authoritatively on theological issues. Again, Young can claim that it was never his intention to do so, but he does make statements about God and Christianity that are presented as fact, not opinion. So it must be examined from a theological perspective as well.

A roadblock to examining The Shack theologically is the fact that it speaks authoritatively under the veil of a rather emotional narrative. The catalyst behind Mack's weekend conversation with the Trinity is the brutal sexual assault and murder of his daughter. I would suggest that Young's use of the worst possible crime in our society [the violation/death of an innocent child] as a backdrop to this story is a method of deflecting any criticism towards his more controversial statements. Bolstering this observation, Young gives the illusion that this story could possibly be true by inserting himself into the story as narrator. While all of this might seem like no big deal, it creates a barrier for those who dare to criticize the content of the story; so if I question Young's assertions, I'm a heartless person who is unsympathetic towards parents who have lost their children. But the inclusion of such a horrific back-story works for Young by giving his statements strength. So if you are going to truly assess The Shack for what it is, you must immediately divorce the narrative from the given statements about God.

Like I said in my earlier post on The Shack, I am always skeptical of the theological fiction genre. One might counter that that's exactly what C.S. Lewis' classical writings were, but there is a distinct difference. Notice how Lewis worked theology into fiction— He never directly spoke through the Trinity, but always used different representations: The Screwtape Letters is very theological, but it is a conversation conducted between demons; in The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan was certainly a Christ-like character, but it was in a completely different world; in The Great Divorce, the heaven seen does not specifically involve the Three Persons. This is advantageous because if Lewis' theology [like all humans] isn't perfect, it does not suffer from putting definitive statements into the mouth of God.

And this is exactly where Young makes his initial [and crucial] mistake— he puts words into God's mouth. Fiction or not, that makes huge statements and you must ensure that you make no mistakes. And I'm afraid Young is mistaken.

In the next part of this review, I'll give specific instance from the book that I find problematic.


It's All Crap

Three posts in one day. Obviously, I have a lot on my mind. I had to laugh today as our worship of the environmental god continued to expand with a study examing America's carbon footprint. I imagine as certain mythological aspects of global warming begin to melt away we'll need a new goal to work towards and the mastering of the carbon footprint appears to be the heir apparent.

The reason for my increased skepticism is the results of the aforementioned carbon footprint study. While Honolulu was lauded as the country's best city, second place was a little surprising: Los Angeles. Couple that shock with what was determined to be the worst city in this category [LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY], and the legitimacy of this analysis becomes a joke.

I have been to L.A.. And I have been [once or twice] to Lexington, Kentucky. I'm not quite sure I would have placed those two towns at those ends of the spectrum.

I know some of you will respond that I'm misinterpreting the study, such as that it averages out the impact among each of the cities' inhabitants, or that carbon footprints take into account issues such as  energy consumption and emissions while factoring the benefits of things like public transit, but I really don't care. The stuff that environmentalists are urging us to care about continues to become more and more ridiculous.

Again, I'm all for being good stewards of this beautiful world but if you wholeheartedly believed in the movement that it needs to be saved, you'd be living in a field somewhere, eating off the ground, and not taking advantage of the modern conveniences that continue to contribute to the destruction of our planet.

I'm A Jerk

No surprise there. Sometimes I withhold saying things on this blog because it might offend people I love. I gravitate towards more sterile posting so as not to make people think ill of me. But the more I live, the more I realize that we all should be able to disagree and not take it personally. And if I can't throw out a dissenting view to get people thinking, then I'm just not doing my job. With that in mind, I offer you something that has been bothering me a long time that I've wanted to harp on:

Fair Trade.

I know it's the new, sexy thing to get behind and, on the surface, it seems to make sense: help the marginalized workers in third world countries become viable sellers by setting up structures to guarantee their success. When I was going to write about this last year, I was partially motivated by this BBC article which presents the holes present in this thinking. Chief among them is that fair trade is yet another instance of we in the West imposing our methodology of success upon the less-fortunate third world worker, once again causing them to become dependent on our consumption in order to survive. Additionally, it works against the principle of supply and demand, as these third world farmers are usually told to produce what we want them to.

I really have no desire to make a fully defended article on this topic, suffice to say that I'm extremely skeptical that fair trade will work over the long haul. I'm not saying fair trade is evil, and I'm not saying that those promoting fair trade are ignorant, but I am saying that while the intention of fighting world poverty is a good one, fair trade won't even make a noticeable dent in the conflict. In fact, it seems to reek of the Western oppression on the third world that many who support fair trade vehemently decry.

Finally, allow me to speak pastorally for a moment. As many churches are now choosing to involve themselves in fair trade, we should be careful how we articulate the issue. Fair trade should not be defended as part of the gospel mandate to serve the poor. Sure, it can be a good thing to be involved in [much like recycling] but is not a more holy endeavor than any other*. This issue is much more convoluted than any might proclaim it to be. We could do much better work by recognizing the tangible ministry to the poor in our midst than to try to reconstruct international economic structures.

There. Now I feel better that I got that out of my system.

*I am not convinced, however, that fair trade is anti-gospel. So Christians who have convictions to be involved in the movement are free to do so. Just don't use Jesus as a way to induce guilt to those who disagree. I liken the situation to playing Scrabble: it's not a Christian/pagan issue if you like it or not, so you can chose freely whether or not you'll participate [unless, of course, you play Scrabble with a Ouiji board. Then Jesus will get ticked]. 

One Way To Help

The tragedy in Burma [Myanmar] is exacerbated by the fact that the military-controlled goverment that doesn't care much for its people. The latest count is projecting that as many as 100,000 people might have died as a result of the Cyclone. People are usually moved to do something in times like these. In addition to any local organized efforts,  I tend to funnel people towards the International Disaster Emergency Service. They are an established organization that have preexisting connections in the region through whom to deliver aid. Their organization is large enough to be effective, but not so large as to claim large portions of gifts for stateside administration. In short, their oversight can be trusted.

Of course, try to keep these people in your prayers.

At Whose Expense?

While some payday loans are indeed helpful, many of them are criminal. In urban areas, they lure lower-class people in with friendly faces only to screw them over in the long run [such as 300%+ interest on a loan]. I know of one couple who ignorantly took out one of these loans [for $500] and it nearly cost them their house. It's a lucrative business, however, so they don't appreciate when the government attempts to regulate their activities. The Ohio legislature passed House Bill 545 last month, which caps annual interest rates on payday loans at 28 percent. The old limit was 391%. So today, workers for these institutions protested in Columbus, saying that this will drive payday loan establishments out of business, netting 6,000 lost jobs for our state.

First, coming from an industry that loves to play games with numbers, I just can't buy that figure as accurate. Second, if the only way an industry can stay in business is to take advantage of people in a tight spot, then I'm not sure it's the best thing that it continues to exist anyway.

As the economy continues to struggle, the implications of predatory lending here will begin to ripple throughout higher economic strata. If this industry isn't reigned in now, things could get really ugly.

The Ground Shook

. . . or so I was told. The Carr household slept soundly through the earthquake this morning. Although the epicenter was southeastern Illinois, it was felt throughout the Cincinnati area. I'm wondering if our hillside location helped to defer the reverberations. Or maybe we have an incredibly solid house. Otherwise, we're just sound sleepers.

I made sure we took out earthquake insurance on the place when we moved here. We're well above the Ohio River flood line, but a really good earthquake could do some damage.

I imagine a few insurance agents will make some additional sales today.

I'm Losing It . . .

My sentiments yesterday concerning low-income housing at the Banks were exactly the same as many other people in our city. The Enquirer printed up many responses, but really only one person who thought it was a good idea. I do not know who Dave Bean, but here is his response:

Absolutely, there should be affordable housing associated with The Banks project. Too much money has already been spent by the city and county in the riverfront area that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the majority of the citizens. Government has the responsibility to protect and treat all people with equity. Here is a chance for Cincinnati to show the world that it is not owned by big business and it in fact cares about all its citizens. For those who think this is to be a showcase: I agree, it should be a showcase of what this country is about.

Thoughtful response. I disagree, but everyone is entitled to their own idea. All would be well, except when we take note of where Dave Bean resides:


Yep, a 'burb about twenty miles north of where this housing project would be.


You see, Dave, think you have the perfect solution but, in essence, you're part of the problem. If you lived downtown, or in a neighboring neighborhood, or perhaps even within city limits, or even in the same county, then your opinion might mean something. But since you live in a suburb, where you won't have to actually encounter the Section 8 housing you're suggesting, then you're just talking crap. Hypothetically and philosophically you think you have it all figured out. And I'm sure you do since whatever happens at the Banks really won't affect your life in the least.

I know I've probably said this before, and it will appear that I have a chip on my shoulder, but it bears repeating: if you don't live here, shut-up and keep it to yourself. I'm sure you think you have the solution to every urban problem, but you don't. All your opinion is doing is wasting valuable ink that could be better used on tire advertisements.

I'm sure if this discussion centered in Warren County, with the City of Mason wanting to move in some low-income housing into your subdivision, you might be compelled to show up at a council meeting and voice your disapproval, concerned for what such a move would do to your property values. But if this is how you really feel, you should be proactive, get some petitions, and get some Section 8 on your street pronto.

I'm sorry, Dave, if I've judged your harshly. But unless you're willing to practice a consistent ethic, then your opinion is worthless. Sure, we all want what's best for our society, but it's a whole lot easier when you can't see it from your house.


The Word of 2008

. . . is "misspoke." Note the use of it here, here, and even here.

A New Yorker article [that I haven't fully read] describes the legs this word has.

Think about it: it's a very convenient excuse.

If I misspeak, then it's not necessarily a lie. It means that I knew the truth, but somewhere between my mind and my mouth it wasn't articulated You cannot really criticize someone for a daffy idea when they misspeak, as it's not necessarily representative of their views.

And now that a couple politicians have used it somewhat successfully, it'll be all the rage for a long time.

Keep your eyes out for it and you'll notice it.

Look At The Big Picture

Two news items and one personal item that intersect. First news item: the Olympic torch is being attacked and might not make it out of San Francisco alive.

As you already know, people around the world are ready to use the Chinese-hosted Olympic games to bring to light China's occupation/oppression of Tibet. If you're unfamiliar with what's behind these charges, go Google it and see what you come up with.

Second news item: The state of Ohio is opening a department of development in Beijing. 

Apparently the state is starting to do this in various countries throughout the world in an effort to encourage trade.

My personal item: I bought a new pair of Italian shoes this week.

Seriously, before you start making fun of me, it sounds more "yuppy" than it is. They're more casual shoes that don't even look Italian. I bought them at DSW for a really good price.

So how do these three items connect?

China has been thrilled about the Olympics as they're viewing it as their international coming-out ceremony. With over one billion consumers and the ability to produce goods on the cheap, China is a cash cow. But the fact remains that China, while enjoying the wealth that accompanies free markets, still operates as a steel-fisted regime capable of committing numerous human rights autrocities without accountibility [see Tibet]. That's why the Olympics are the perfect target for protesters. China is now on an international stage. They're attempting to paint an "everything-is-normal" picture for the world. Protesters are going to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit China hard, knowing that there's very little the Communist government can do about it while the world is watching.

But shouldn't this also be the perfect opportunity for the other world superpowers to step up, give international governmental support to these protesters and demand that China make specific changes in support of human rights? You would think so. But they won't. There's one major problem concerning such a demand: there's too much money at stake. Governments aren't too excited about upsetting the applecart just to make a plea for human rights. There are two sides getting rich here who don't want to ruin a good thing.

Take for example American politicians. The perception in our country is the Republicans are big-business, in favor of open markets and, by nature, will overlook human rights issues. Meanwhile, Democrats are usually viewed as the party that fights against oppression. Yet in this situation, no one is moving. Sure, Democrats might spout certain rhetoric that expresses their disdain, saying they favor something akin to an un-official rebuke, but they're just as culpable as the Republicans. It should be noted that Ohio's government is currently under control of the Democrats. Opening up a trade office in downtown Beijing doesn't really vibe with the "Free Tibet" message.

I'm not a social liberal, but we should really think a little about this. These facts bring up some interesting ethical questions. What is America's responsibility in all of this? By our "business as usual" attitude are we empowering the Chinese government to continue oppression? As a Christian, what role should we play in resolving this conflict?

I hold that there are no easy answers to those questions. And, despite how other Christian leaders come down on the issue, I'm not convinced that they have black-and-white Biblical answers; there's a lot of grey to navigate. But the very least I should do is think through them and put any conclusions into application.

Oh, and what does all of this have to do with my Italian shoes? A careful examination of the shoe box revealed some small print that made me laugh:

"Made In China."

April Foolin'

Yes, my last post was a weak attempt at an April Fools joke. Can't really defend it: I was lazy and it was Rick Astley. As the wife noted over on her corner of the interwebs, there were a lot of April Fool's jokes out there today; I mean, they were all over the place on the world wide web. I'm wondering if the rising popularity of the internet is now bringing about a renaissance of this faux-holiday. Over the years, it became less and less couth for the major media outlets to pull jokes [exposing themselves to possible lawsuits], but the internet has always dabbled with illegitimacy, making it a perfect location to pull a fast one on an unsuspecting people.

I suspect that there are sycophants around the world already plotting for next year [just like this guy], looking to leave their one-day mark of brillance for all to see.

Yep, did it again.

BONUS: Find out more about Rick Astley here.

Biblical Proof

Whether or not you're a geeky scholar like me or have absolutely no interest in archaeology, it is imperative that you check out this week's report from the Jerusalem Times about an ancient discovery which confirms numerous facts concerning the Christian faith. READ THE ARTICLE FROM THEIR SITE HERE. I'll post more when I familiarize myself with it but I've gotta make you understand: you know the rules and so do I . . . you wouldn't get this from any other guy.

Burning the 8pm Oil

I guess the organizers of Earth Hour aren't basketball fans. Saturday night at 8pm people around the world are being urged to turn off their lights for an hour to show how much we love the world or something like that. Since the hour would occur right near the end of Xavier's match-up with UCLA, I will not be participating.

I should note, however, that I am an Earth Hour pioneer. For years now I have been an active participant by turning off the lights in my home for hours at a time when I go to bed. And, unless it's a gloomy day, I usually participate during the daylight hours. Yet despite my previous contributions to the world, I wasn't consulted when they came up with the plans for tomorrow night's Earth Hour. If that's how they acknowledge my leadership, I'm not sure I want to be involved in the first place.

By the way, the event is sponsored by the WWF. I never knew Vince McMahon was a greenie.