Thursday, May 29, 2003

liberal media bias

One of my favorite phrases to toss around for the past eight years has been "the godless liberal media." I love to tell people I work there, mostly because I regard the issue of liberal bias one that often gets overplayed by people who assume I have a certain view because I covered something they wanted left alone.

Well, apparently Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll thinks his paper has been biased, and he feels strongly enough he wrote a memo to every one of his section editors warning them that he expects all bias to be purged from their stories.

Carroll's memo is pretty honest. We'd be ignoramuses not to admit that even the best journalist has biases, and that those biases do shape their writing -- not to the extent that we're often accused, and certainly not as blatantly as some claim -- but those biases are inescapable nonetheless.

liberal media bias

One of my favorite phrases to toss around for the past eight years has been "the godless liberal media." I love to tell people I work there, mostly because I regard the issue of liberal bias one that often gets overplayed by people who assume I have a certain view because I covered something they wanted left alone.

Well, apparently Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll thinks his paper has been biased, and he feels strongly enough he wrote a memo to every one of his section editors warning them that he expects all bias to be purged from their stories.

Carroll's memo is pretty honest. We'd be ignoramuses not to admit that even the best journalist has biases, and that those biases do shape their writing -- not to the extent that we're often accused, and certainly not as blatantly as some claim -- but those biases are inescapable nonetheless.

random comments

I read once that scientists had discovered genetic evidence for a common "Eve" ancestress to all humanity. In addition to the DNA that is split up through cellular meiosis to create gametes for reproduction, there is a separate amount of DNA found in the mitochondriae. This mitochondrial DNA is passed unchanged from mother to daughter, generation after generation.

About 12 or 15 years ago, I read an article in Newsweek about a team of researchers who had discovered that mitochondrial DNA is virtually identical in women from a broad range of ethnic groups around the world. It didn't matter if you were a m'Butu pigmy living in Africa; an Innuit fisher living north of Haines, Alaska; a Maori attorney in Rotorua, New Zealand; or a computer programmer in Buenos Aires. They checked the mitochondrial DNA of hundreds, if not thousands, of women, and it was all the same.

This doesn't prove the biblical account of creation, of course; it does indicate that humanity has a common ancestress, though. The article noted a number of possibilities for why this may be so, mostly involving variations on natural selection and plain old human luck.

Separately, I also recall reading about the parting of the Red Sea that a computer simulation of the sea at the point where the Bible indicates they crossed the sea, given the wind conditions the Bible describes, really would part so there would be a wall of water on each side wide enough for them to pass through.

I've also heard that archaeologists discovered tons of bones and armor at the bottom of the sea, but I don't recall more details, so I'm inclined to view it in the vein of NASA proving that Joshua stopped the sun for 24 hours.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

language reform update

Note that my plan to implement a global English already is being implemented and starting to bear fruit. The New York Times has run a most fascinating article on the spread of Engrishes.

Singlish seems to me a legitimate form of English -- perhaps a pidjin or creole version, but a version nonetheless, with its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, much of it obviously cribbed from English. As a language, Singlish apparently also is developing a body of literature, just as other Englishes have.

In any event, it demonstrates the success of my plan, as stated, to develop a worldwide English language with no ties to any one nation or culture.

Singlish may be a pidjin English, but a pidjin form of a language is still a form of that language. Singlish is more closely related to English than it is to the other languages it draws from, and as noted in the article, as things continue and the Singaporeans' exposure to standard English continues, Singlish is going to conform in more ways to standard English.

In any event, as more Englishes arise around the world, the flow of ideas from one culture to another also will increase, with the eventual emergence of a pan-national English. This pan-English is what will be central to my world empire's lexicon, much as koine Greek became the second language of the ancient world, not just under Alexander and his immediate successors but under the Romans as well.

Singlish, Japlish, Russlish and Spanglish -- and the other Englishes that are out there -- are just the beginning. Give them time.

Now, this article from The New York Times shows that we ultimately will need some sort of regulatory process in place to pull the various strands of English together. Who better to do this than journalists, who deal with questions of clarity and grammatical correctness every day?

Friday, May 23, 2003

job update

Well, what's next appears to be a promotion to the manager of a different office, a little further up the Parkway from where I work, overseeing a staff of three editors and their reporters, a copy editor and a receptionist/typist type.

I had remarked to Tim about a month ago that I'm feeling burnt out where I am right now. The work is essentially what I've been doing for a few years, with the result that I've been spinning my wheels and beginning to stagnate. Even before that conversation, I had started working with some of my co-workers from a mentor position, going over papers, layouts, headlines and stories with them with an eye toward what could have been done to make the paper better.

It appears that Tim has decided I'd be a good choice to engage in some of that on a formal basis in one of our other offices. What that would mean in terms of pay I don't know. Obviously, and as I told him, I'd like to get more money. I'm making about $35K now; I had been making $40K at The Times, and that was the first time Natasha and I were able to live moderately comfortably on my salary. It's been tight on what I'm making at WCN, and to be honest, we wouldn't be making it at all without the money Natasha pulls in from some free-lance work she does for Rutgers University. Now that we have Rachel as well as Evangeline, we really could use a bit more. I didn't name the figure, but $45K would be nice. (I actually said $60K would be nice, which it would, but I really don't think that's even in the realm of possibility.)

From what Tim told me, I'm already one of the three highest-paid managing editors, which is about what I had figured, so he's not sure how much more they could give me as a regional or associate editor, whatever my title would be.

Mixed feelings. It's a step up and it's a chance to develop new skills, and although I'm not wild about staying with a company as notoriously cheap as this one, I'm also not wild about changing jobs AGAIN. I've been with this one only a year, and before that it was unemployment for eight months, The Times for eight months, The Packet for three years, Forbes Newspapers for 18 months, various piddly jobs like gas station attendant and pizza guy over a 12-month period, teacher in Bethlehem, Pa., for a year, teacher in Port-au-Prince for a year, missionary for a year, and college student.

In other words, my work history has been marked by a lot of jumping, and I wouldn't mind a little stability and a natural progression through the ranks for a while before I leave the workforce for stay-at-home dadhood or to a job I really enjoy.

Another nice thing is that the job theoretically could be 9-to-5, which is what I'd like right now anyway, with the kids the age they are. The niggling suspicion there is that while Tim might not be consciously lying to me, he also said this current, 50-hour-a-week job only takes 40 hours, back when he hired me. We editors call that the big lie.

On top of that, the office where I would be working has two bits of its reputation that I don't like: 1) It's where they send people when they want them to quit; and 2) It has its own Reporter from Hell, and I've already had one of those in this job. Her replacement has been great -- the epitome of professional behavior, and I've tremendously enjoyed working with him. I'm really not eager to trade him in for someone who's been doing the job for so long he knows everything already and won't be taught. I've also seen a couple of the editors in action whom I would be dealing with, and I'm not terribly impressed.

I didn't tell Tim yea or nay, and he didn't push me for an answer either, which suggests it's not his plan to send me there to get rid of me. I told him I am interested, but would like to know more about what I would be doing (responsibilities and authorities), and how much I'd be making.

The implication I picked up was that the job is mine if I want it, and that he wants to have me moved in there by the end of next month. So we'll see.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

mutant massacre recalled

I think it was 1986 that I read the first -- and only good -- merry Marvel mutant massacre. I remember the story arc because it crossed over nicely and reasonably. It didn't show up in every comic, just the ones where it made some degree of sense: the mutant titles, Thor (whose writer's wife was one of the brains behind the whole idea) and Power Pack, whose writer was also writing X-Factor.

I believe it began in one of the X-men titles, when a group called the Marauders showed up in one of the abandoned subway tunnels that are so prolific in New York City -- Lex Luthor even converted one into a palatial penthouse for "Superman: The Movie" -- and started blowing away a bunch of lesser characters. The carnage ran through "X-men," "Thor," and "Power Pack" and its aftermath spilled over into "Fantastic Four" and other titles as well.

It was a fantastic story. Not because of the action and cliched slaughter, but because of the character development. Everyone who went through that experience was changed somehow: Peter Rasputin actually killed Riptide, one of the Marauders; the kids from Power Pack were seriously wigged out by what they had seen, Angel was nearly killed and had to have his wings surgically removed, and Thor went absolutely nuts and torched the entire tunnel network with lightning.

For what was probably the last time in more than 10 years, the Marvel writers and editors implemented an incredible idea and then explored the fallout over the next year. Peter Rasputin and Kitty Pryde's powers were messed up so that his natural state became Colossus and she couldn't stop phasing; Angel ended up becoming a pawn of Apocalypse because of his post-operation depression, the surviving Morlocks were both scared to go back home and aghast to find all trace of their previous lives erased by Thor's lightning fire, and so on.

Of course, they've done mutant crossovers pretty much every year since then, and each one's been a paler and paler echo of the one before, but that first one was a doozy.

Friday, May 16, 2003

adrift upon the open sea

It's becoming painfully obvious to everyone that there is NO coherent plan for what to do now that Saddam Hussein is gone. It's only now that the U.S. is trying to control looters, and when Christian business owners and distillery operators have gone to U.S. troops for help, they've basically been told "Sorry, we can't help you. It's not our job." As bad as a dictator is, at least he's better than anarchy.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

easter baskets redux

I was talking today with a co-worker about the golem legend and how it appears in other forms throughout literature such as Frosty the Snowman and Pinocchio, and somehow discussion trailed as it is wont to do onto other subjects.

The issue of how we celebrate our religious holidays with the extra trappings came up, and I mentioned the dilemma we faced over the Easter eggs. I shared with him how we resolved it at our house, which he found fascinating: As Evangeline and I boiled the eggs and dyed them, I explained to her that just as we change the eggs' nature and appearance every Easter, putting our faith in Christ changes our nature and our appearance to the Father so that when he looks on us he sees his Son. In other words, I made the Easter message a central part of the Easter eggs so that they're not a distraction from the meaning of the day.

It was great -- not only did I get to use Easter eggs to teach my daughter something, I was able to use them to share my faith with a co-worker in a completely nonoffensive and nonintrusive way.

We didn't do an Easter basket this year because it didn't occur to me in time how to do it, but next year we're going to use the Easter basket as a metaphor for searching for Truth and then discovering him in the person of Christ. If I get really fancy, we could leave the Easter basket somewhere on Saturday night, and then on Sunday when Evangeline goes to look for it, she'll discover it's not there and have to go looking for it, just as Christ's friends found his body had disappeared unexpectedly.

chick's a screwball

Found an interesting history of the Bible in translation by Jack Chick, accidental comic and writer extraordinaire of gospel tracts. (Chick tracts, as they are commonly known, are a guilty pleasure of many, because they are so full of hatred and because they so badly misrepresent Christianity, and just about everything else they cover.)

Chick's history has some kernels of truth to it, but he misses the mark in several areas. For starters, the Puritans were incensed that James actually was translating the Bible all over again. They wanted the Geneva Bible to receive official status, which made James and his supporters uncomfortable because the Geneva Bible had a lot of explanatory notes with an anti-royalist bent. By the time of James, the whole Catholic/Protestant issue had been pretty much settled because of Queen Elizabeth I; the struggle over the Bible was waged between Anglicans and Puritans, the latter of whom ultimately lost the fight.

He also falls into error by claiming that Elizabeth was a Protestant counterweight to Bloody Mary. True, Queen Mary did persecute the Protestants -- hence her nickname -- and Elizabeth I did not, but Elizabeth never "renounced Catholicism." She regarded her throne as too unstable to do anything but allow Catholics and Protestants alike to worship according to the dictates of their conscience. Pity Jack Chick can't learn a lesson from her.

He also links Guy Fawkes and the November 5 gunpowder plot to destroy Parliament to the Catholic Church. I'm fuzzy on all the details, but I think Fawkes was a Puritan hoping to overthrow the ungodly institution of monarchy as headed by King James.

What can I say? Chick's a screwball.

Anyway, the other reason for this post: I'm not as familiar with the history of the different manuscripts. Does anyone know if Chick's information about the Textus Receptus is generally correct, aside from his usual sinister gloss on everyone he disagrees with? His contention is that the KJV was translated from the Textus Receptus, which more closely resembles the Signatures than the Alexandrian texts he claims were the basis for subsequent, satanic Bibles like the RSV and so on.

Have to say, I find it amusing that he cites 1 John 5:7 as an example of meddling with the Bible. Unfortunately for Chuck, that verse doesn't exist in older, more reliable manuscripts. In the KJV, 1 John 5:7 states the doctrine of the Trinity pretty clearly, but it's generally regarded as an error a transcriber made by copying somebody's margin notes into the text proper as he copied. So much for cutting verses.

Maybe he should be more worried about adding them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

work situation

Somehow in the past few weeks I have become the editor in the newsroom that everybody talks to about their job problems. Other editors are coming to me with questions about layout; reporters other than mine are asking me for ideas; I've been helping other editors brainstorm ideas for editorials and positions they can take. Even my supervisor has asked me questions about the computer system and how to get it to do what we want. Today one of our photographers told me, practically in tears, that she's being cut back from three days a week to one and she doesn't know what she's going to do to make ends meet.

It does get a little difficult. Everyone seems to be confiding in me about their frustrations with the job, and everyone's asking me for layout and editorial advice. I've essentially taken over the coaching duties the regional editor is supposed to do, but without any official bestowment or any effort on my part. It just happened, which I can't say I think Mike is likely to appreciate. He seems to think he does a great job as a manager by sitting in the corner and avoiding everyone, and he isn't likely to take it well that everyone seems to prefer me.

I don't generally seek positions of leadership, but this is a situation where it looks like leadership has been placed on me without my advance knowledge.

One wonders what's in store.

Monday, May 12, 2003

of movies and men

Sometimes people say, "Is Ian too good to be true?" And I’m, like, "Aren’t
you tired of the bad portrayals of men in movies?" Isn’t it about time that we
have this guy who is willing to do anything for the woman? We keep seeing that
over and over again: that the woman will quit her job and put the guy through
law school—we see that type of thing—but just once, we see a positive portrayal
of a man, and some people are going, "Is that too good to be true?" Why does the
man have to be flawed in order for us to accept that he’s an actual man?
— Nia Vardolos, on "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

speaking in tongues

What is your position on speaking in tongues?
  • Practiced today, it is the act of demons
  • Practiced today, it is nothing more than emotionally charged religious ecstasy
  • It's a part of my public worship experience
  • I pray in tongues only in private, except when I interpret
  • You have to speak in tongues to be a Christian
  • If you speak in tongues you're a better-equipped Christian
  • It's a spiritual gift that I can use at will, whenever I want
  • I speak in tongues but only when the Holy Spirit initiates it
  • I don't speak in tongues, but believe it is biblical
  • I believe it's biblical, but I'm still waiting to see it exercised properly

Some of you probably are aware that I spent my first seven or eight years as a Christian as a member of the Assemblies of God, where speaking in tongues is viewed as the first physical manifestation of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Some groups in the AoG take it a step further and say you shouldn't serve in ministry unless you've received the BotHS, and others take it a step further and say you can't be a Christian unless you've received the BotHS.

I don't regard either of those positions as tenable biblically speaking, but that's besides the point. I'm curious to hear what other peiople's experiences and views have been/are with this issue. In my experience, speaking in tongues is a lightning rod of controversy to some groups, often because it is so often misused by Pentecostal and charismatic fellowships.

Paul appears to place no limits on speaking in tongues as far as private prayer goes; in fact, he says, "I thank God I speak in tongues more than any of you." But he also says, "I would rather speak one word that you can all understand than ten thousand words in a tongue none of you will."

It's at that point he lays out several restrictions for speaking in tongues during corporate worship, including not to speak in tongues at all unless you also can interpret, and even then to keep the number of messages in tongues to a minimum.

This is a work in process; nonetheless, I'm going to add my disclaimer that any reproduction of this piece by any means is strictly forbidden, as is its performance, without my express permission. The piece is obviously very autobiographical, which makes it rather difficult for me to view it with any measure of objectivity. I'm intending it to go either with a sermon on prayer or on sacrifice. Constructive feedback is welcome and desired.

"The Christian at Prayer"
By David Learn

All is dark on stage except for a single spot illuminated by a spotlight. Framed in that spotlight is Andrew. He is sitting on the ground, wrapped tightly in the fetal position, with his face not visible. He sits like this for a while, saying nothing and barely moving. When he does speak, it is with deep emotion barely suppressed.

ANDREW: Just tell me one thing. Why?

He pauses, but only briefly. The first crack has appeared, and the dam is slowly beginning to burst. Andrew lifts his head, and he begins to speak. He's talking to God, but it's not one of those formal let's-hold-our-hands-and-pray types of prayers. He's speaking as though God in the room with him.

ANDREW: I meant, it's not as though I don't have a right to ask that much. I'm not asking you why I'm suffering. If I suffer, it's because I either sinned or because I chose to follow you, and either way it's because of a choice I made, and I have no right to complain about that.

No, what I want to know is why Isaac has had to suffer. I accept that I have to suffer for me my sin, and I accept that following you is difficult. But why him? Ian isn't even 3 years old, Lord. What sin has he committed? What decision did he make that's left him like this? What was his great crime against you, except to be born to a father who doesn't understand responsibility and a mother who doesn't know how to love anyone but herself?

Andrew rises to his feet. He is beginning to brim with anger, but fighting hard to contain it.

ANDREW: This kid's been abused. (He points a finger accusingly, at God.) You know better than I do what he's had to go through, the way his mother has sacrificed him and his sister to her own happiness, stunting their development so they'll need her longer. (Now he starts to tally off on his hand the various problems Ian had.) This is a kid who barely even knew how to walk when the state put him in our care. He didn't know how to feed himself, and he couldn't say anything more advanced than gootchy-gootchy-goo. You saw what he was like when he came to stay with us -- he was practically dead inside. He was as close to being a poster child for reactive-attachment disorder as you can get.

You're such a big one for talking about what increases your glory. Tell me, how does the suffering of a child like Ian increase your glory? I see that what he's going through is wrong, and if I, sinful as I am, can see that, why the hell can't you? And if you can see it, why won't you stop it? Come on, tell me: What great ineffable purpose of yours did it serve for Ian to spend a single hour like that, let alone the two years he had for them to ignore him and stunt his growth?

Damn it, give me an answer! (He grabs something at his side and pushes it the floor, where it breaks. He stops and stares at it, and slowly regains his composure somewhat.) I've given you everything I have, Lord. You know that. But you still find a way to take more out of me and wring out more tears. What do you want from me? I've given everything -- everything -- for this child.

I've taught him how to walk, how to talk, how to eat with his fingers, and with a fork and spoon. I've taught him how to speak, and even though I know I shouldn't, I can't help but smile every time he calls me daddy.

And now you want to send him back to his parents. What for? So they can finish what they started? You disgust me.

Why are you so intent on destroying him? You're sending him back there, and he's going to lose everything he's gained here. He's going to lose the only real parents he knows, he's going to lose the sister he gained in our household, and he's going to lose the love, the support and the discipline we've given him. Do you have to take even that away from me?

What do you want from me? (Andrew pauses, and in the silence he hears something whispered. His response is filled with disdain) Follow you. I have followed you, and this is where you've led me. If this is how you treat your friends, Lord, it's no wonder you have so few of them.

He pauses and looks about him. Everything around him is in darkness, and there is no indication what lies ahead if he takes a step in any direction. He appears to get ready to take a step, but before he does, the light goes out and the curtain falls.)


Copyright © 2003 by David Learn

crime and punishment

What purpose does a long imprisonment serve? A person who serves 30 or 40 years -- or even just 10 years -- of his life behind bars is a person who is going to have an incredibly difficult time returning to life outside jail. Part of that's because of the lesser structure outside the prison environment, but the difficulty also is due differences in the culture inside and outside jail. Longtime inmates often are hardened by their experiences and in the case of violent offenders usually emerge even more violent.

The penal code expressed in the Bible makes no allowance for incarceration. That might be because there was no way to incarcerate a person back then -- although I doubt it, since Ahab imprisoned the prophet Micah when he refused to prophesy victory for Israel -- or it might be because a long and drawn-out punishment for sin is not what God wants us to mete out.

Looking at the Torah, the punishment for a crime was quick, personal and set to match the crime: murder a person, you get killed. Build a house it falls down, your own house is knocked down. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, blow for blow, burn for burn. The idea was that a crime was not committed against society as much as it was against a person. Locking someone up for 30 years might keep them from committing a crime during that time -- or maybe not, if you're familiar with the crimes committed from inside a jail -- but it fails to redress the pain of the victim, which has helped to give rise to lawsuits, and it's also led to some pretty ludicrous jail terms in our criminal justice system.

Lesser crimes were punished by slavery -- not slavery as we understand it in culture, but something more akin to indentured servitude. The offender would serve the person whom he the crime against, as restitution. As a result, most of the laws provided in the Tanakh about slaves are meant to protect those slaves. There were undoubtedly some benefits: Like modern prisoners in jails, slaves were guaranteed three meals a day and a place to sleep. Unlike jail, thee slave would work not only to pay for room and board, but also to pay for the crime committed.

Unlike jail, there is no long-term cost to society at large. Commit a serious crime, like murder, and the punishment was death. Commit a violent crime and suffer the same as your victim. Even incorrigible criminals wouldn't survive very many such convictions; think of it as an Iron-Age "three strikes out." Commit fraud, embezzlement or go bankrupt and you have the privilege of actually working off your debt in the midst of those whose lives were hurt by your sin.

I did think it was confusing the first time I read the provision in Exodus 2:16 that allowed a slave to choose to remain in his master's household when his term of servitude was up, but a friend of mine pointed something out that actually makes sense: In a worst-case scenario, the offender would have gainful employment until the debt is paid. In a best-case scenario, he could gain a family and a permanent job and home.

staff devotions

I've never been a big fan of daily devotions when it comes to matters of faith, especially when we're expected to lead them with one another.

Devotions more typically are shallow readings of Scripture or similarly light stories intended more to make us feel good than they are intended to challenge us to think more deeply about God or a life of holiness. Poems like "Footprints" are popular material for devotions. They reassure us that God is in control of things, and no matter how it seems to get, everything will turn out all right in the end.

We had daily devotions at Central Christian Academy in Bethlehem, Pa., when I taught there, and man the other teachers hated when it was my turn. I've always felt that the purpose of reading the Bible is to discover something new about holiness and our pursuit of God; and that we should share what we've been learning, rather than repeating the same homilies everyone knows and shares all the time.

In other words, I couldn't just be normal and light and fluffy, no, I had to do something different and sometimes even downright bizarre.

So one time I shared Orson Scott Card's different versions of the woman caught in adultery. In one the teacher spares the woman's life because he is corrupt, and sees an advantage in sparing her life; and in the other telling he kills her to uphold justice. That got a horrified gasp from one teacher, but I enjoyed Card's point that Christ strikes the perfect balance between justice and mercy, and that's why we strive to follow him and his example.

Another time I shared a passage from Don Richardson's "Eternity in their Hearts" about the redemptive analogies found in pre-Christian cultures, that missionaries connected to the gospel story so that Christianity would grow organically in the culture rather than being imposed from outside with its Western baggage. I was a former missionary and found this sort of thing fascinating; the other teachers found it tedious and pointed out how long it was taking.

These were not normal fare for devotions, I guess, but then it was my turn to lead devotions, and I found them both more interesing and inspiring that hearing that damn "Footprints" poem again.

Then of course there was the other school, Cradle of Life Christian School in Haiti. We had staff devotions there only twice a week, as I recall, and when I shared "what God was teaching me," it was about the obligation we have to the poor. I offered no answers, only the questions I was asking, and what I was seeing in Scripture and in literature.

No one in the staff objected to my knowledge, but the administration really didn't like that. I was put on probation the next day, and at the end of a month I was fired.

I'm not a fan of devotions, but I'm pretty confident I did that one right.

Copyright © 2003 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

retreat of the clones

I still haven't seen "Attack of the Clones," mostly because "The Phantom Menace" was so appallingly bad I didn't want to see another Star Wars flick that was likely to be just as bad or even worse.

A friend of mine who did see it and initially liked it, the further he has gone from seeing it, the more he has decided it was awful. That's telling, I think; often when I see a movie or read a book that is critically acclaimed and yet seems awful to me, I'll start to think more about it as time goes on and start to understand or appreciate things I missed before. John's reaction has been to develop a progressively more negative view of the dialogue and story as time has gone on, suggesting that the lasting impression of the movie is not a good one.

showoff doctrinal terms

Tetragrammaton: The name of the Lord, literally. It refers to the four Hebrew letters used to denote God's name, often represented in English as YHWH or JHVH.

Decalogue: The Ten Commandments.

J-source, P-source, Q-source. These are terms made popular by the Jesus Seminar and other scholarly movements to determine who wrote what portions of the Bible.

E, P, J and D are the four "authors" of the Tanakh. E stands for Elohim and J for the Tetragrammaton as noticed; the two of these quite often appear in pairs, which suggests to scholars that they represent two separate traditions about the Israelite faith, which some editor -- called the redactor -- joined together into the single course of Scripture we now have. The E story of creation takes place over seven days; the J story begins in Eden. Similarly, there are some psalms that are virtually identical, except one uses "Elohim" and the other uses YHWH.

P is the priestly source, which includes most of the Torah. It lays out the laws for everybody, sets up the priesthood and so on. P is supposed to be responsible principally for the book of Exodus after the parting of the Red Sea up through the book of Numbers.

D is the Deuteronomist, who retells the law in the book of Deuteronomy, with a few minor variations, and then is generally held to be responsible for compling everything up through 2 Kings. I believe some people have linked the Deuteronomist to Jeremiah, who was a prophet during the reign of King Jehoshaphat (I think -- sorry, I'm writing this from memory, and I'm too lazy to look it up right now), the last righteous king of Judah who returned Judah to whole-hearted devotion to YHWH and during whose reign the book of the Law was rediscovered (*koff* *koff*, say the scholars).

The Q source remains the collected sayings of Jesus that Matthew and Luke supposedly cribbed from.

Parousia: The word's Latin root has to do with giving birth to something; the one time I distinctly remember reading it, I had understood it to be a reference to the Second Coming. I believe it refers to the birth of the Kingdom of God, which many first-century Christians expected would happen within their lifetimes, particularly when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

Pelagian heresy: In a nutshell, and if I understand it correctly, it's a heresy that claims it is possible for men to please God and live a righteous life apart from Christ simply by exercising free will.

Glossolalia: A fancy word for speaking in tongues under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Not to be confused with charisma, which is the supernatural endowment of a believer by the Holy Spirit to perform miraculous signs.

transubstantiation: A teaching held within the Catholic Church, but also within several mainline Protestant denominations, that Christ is physically present in the elements of the Eucharist, that when we take communion the wine miraculously becomes his blood and the bread miraculously becomes his body. There are actual names for the different views on how this takes place -- for example, it becomes it in the stomach so we don't become sick or commit cannibalism; or it becomes it at the moment of consecration but in such a way that it becomes indistinguishable from unconsecrated bread and wine -- but I never bothered to learn those names.

Christological: Christology is the doctrines of Christ, such as his being entirely God and entirely man, and what that means.

hermeneutics: a ten-dollar word that essentially means "Bible study"

synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. Those three gospels have a lot in common in terms of structure, narrative, sayings of Jesus and so on that suggest a common source. The gospel of John has an entirely different structure, has an entirely different set of sayings it draws on, has a radically different focus than the other three, and is considered by some scholars to be from a different tradition entirely (perhaps even later since some of the phraseology appears to be written to correct Gnostic error). Since Mark and Luke were both journeymen with Paul, and Matthew appears to be highly derivative from Mark as well, I suppose that makes some degree of sense.

In terms of divine election, I would say it is the Arminian position that best represents my understanding, although at the same time I agree with the basic principles of Calvinism. How's that for something to wrap your brain in a knot?

My understanding -- and I never went to seminary, so I'll readily concede that I very easily could be wrong -- is that the -lapsarian doctrines have to do with when God decreed that Christ would have to die for our sins. With that explanation, I'd have to say I'm prelapsarian since I can't see God playing catch-up with us.

The Arian heresy is essentially one of the doctrines propagated by the Jehovah's Witnesses today, viz. that Jesus was a created being and not of the same substance as the Father, that he was created and not begotten.

What I don't understand and never have is what that has to do with white supremacists.

On a tangent, does anyone know what the name is for the heresy found in "Paradise Lost?" Milton has God create all things out of himself rather than ex nihilo, and declares Jesus to be his son and chief of them all. It's similar to the Arian heresy except that in this case Jesus is of the same substance as the Father, but so is everyone and everything else.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

because you asked

I'm curious, Dave, what do you do about weeds in your garden? I haven't been going organic like you, partially since I'm not growing much of anything that I'm going to eat, so I got a bottle of weed killer and sprayed it rather heavily over a corner of my lawn that was grown over with clover and dandelion. It had pretty much zero effect.

We've got a bumper crop of dandelions ourselves. The only way to remove a dandelion is to pull out its entire taproot. If you just break off the top of the plant, it'll grow back.

There's a couple ways you can get of them with varying degrees of ease:

1) Pile on the mulch. The dandelions will grow through, but because the mulch is loose, they won't have a very good grip and will come out more easily when you pull them. If you don't want to pile mulch on, try compost.
2) Mix equal parts vinegar with water and pour the mixture on the offending spot. This kills weeds and other plants since the vinegar burns the plant from the inside. I've never used it because I'm not sure how the vinegar would affect other plants and grubs, though I'm sure it's a lot less nasty for the environment than conventional herbicides and lawn chemicals.
3) If you have a particular part of the lawn in mind, dig it up or rototill it. The rototiller especially will destroy any plant in its path, clearing the way for you to plant whatever you want.
4) Enjoy them. Personally, I love dandelions. They look nice, their seeds are fun to blow when they go all white and puffy, and if you collect their leaves early enough, they make a nice addition to your salad. (Let 'em go too long and they get very bitter.)

If you want to prevent dandelions, it's too late at this point, but next spring when your crocuses -- or the crocuses of somebody else who lives relatively close, at least in the same county -- start to bloom, hie unto your local Agway store or the equivelant and buy yourself some corn gluten.

Corn gluten is a byproduct of corn processing. It has no effect on established root systems like your grass, but when you spread it on your lawn, it acts to inhibit new seeds from germinating. Put that on your lawn at the start of the spring, and it will greatly reduce not only your dandelions but your crabgrass as well. Best of all, it biodegrades into nitrogen and fertilizes your grass as well.

Corn gluten is effective at inhibiting seed germination for up to six weeks, although you can transplant established annuals and other plants in the treated soil at any time. (You also can walk on it and let your children play on it, which you can't do with herbicides.) After the six weeks pass, overseed your yard with new grass seeds, and in the course of a couple years, your yard is going to be pretty much weed free.

When I pull a dandelion or other weed out of my garden or flower beds, I toss it into the middle of my compost pile. The heat kills the seeds, and the whole mass decomposes and becomes a part of my garden the next season.