On This Summer, Financial Meltdowns, Ron Paul and the Future

The bushes in front of my apartment have been overridden with cobwebs this summer because until just recently, central Indiana hadn’t received much in the way of rain.

As it turns out, the cobwebs are even thicker on my blog. Wow, no posts since March 14? If we’re counting by the accumulation of U.S. government debt since that time, that’s over 400 billion dollars ago!

Also since that time, the spring semester came to a close (complete with 2.5 weeks of absolute frantic chaos), followed promptly by a summer course and thesis proposal that, when combined, felt like a death march. I’ve enjoyed my recent freedom from coursework, though in that time I’ve dedicated several hours a day to learning French. (Oui, je parle le français maintenant! Vive le France!) The language is necessary for my future pursuit of doctoral studies, but it may come in extra handy if Lauren and I decide to pursue the Peace Corps before that time. Now, there’s less than a month until the fall semester commences, so it’s time to savor every remaining day.

But the major benefit to the summer has been the ability to clear required reading off my bookshelf and make some room for “pleasure” reading. My pleasure reading this summer has consisted of three major categories: theology (of course), politics, and the complexity of the human brain (yes, it’s way out in left field, I admit). My summer reading list:

  • Love Wins, Rob Bell
  • Jesus Before Christianity, Albert Nolan
  • The Evolution of Faith, Philip Gulley
  • Christianity Without Absolutes, Reinhold Bernhardt
  • The Revolution: A Manifesto, Ron Paul
  • Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedon, Ron Paul
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, David Eagleman
  • The Believing Brain: From Ghosts to Gods to Politics and Conspiracies–How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them As Truths, Michael Shermer

That last one–by Shermer–has been entirely fascinating, and probably will require a serious discussion on the part of this “believer” whenever I happen to finish it. It’s long, challenging and intellectually stimulating, but in the end will be worthwhile.

But as the title of this post suggests, I’ve kept myself abreast of the financial Armageddon that the United States is quickly approaching next Tuesday. Actually, as we spend much more than we take in–to the tune of 40 percent of every dollar spent being borrowed from some other country like China–we’ve been approaching it for a while. It’s just been quickly accelerated since 2000 or so. And the things that Ron Paul wrote in his 2008 “campaign book” (of sorts), The Revolution: A Manifesto, make him seem like a prophet. I quote Dr. Paul at length:

Right now our government is borrowing $2.2 billion every day, mainly from China and Japan, to pay for our overseas empire. As our dollar continues to decline, thanks to Federal Reserve inflation, the American debt instruments that these countries are holding lose their value. We cannot expect these and other countries to hold on to them forever. And when they decide that they no longer wish to, our fantasy world comes crashing down on us. No more empire, no more pledging ever more trillions in new entitlements. Reality will set in, and it will be severe.

Our present course, in short, is not sustainable. Recall the statistics: in order to meet our long-term entitlement obligations we would need double-digit growth rates for 75 consecutive years. When was the last time we had double-digit growth for even one year? Our spendthrift ways are going to come to an end one way or another. Politicians won’t even mention the issue, much less face up to it, since the collapse is likely to occur sometime beyond their typical two-to-four-year time horizon. They hope and believe that the American people are too foolish, uninformed, and shortsighted to be concerned, and that they can be soothed with pleasant slogans and empty promises of more and more loot.

To the contrary, more and more intelligent Americans are waking up to the reality of our situation every day. Now we can face the problem like adults and transition our way out of a financially impossible situation gradually and with foresight, with due care for those who have been taught to rely on government assistance. In the short run, this approach would continue the major federal programs on which Americans have been taught to be dependent, but in accordance with our Constitution it would eventually leave states, localities, and extended families to devise workable solutions for themselves. Or we can wait for the inevitable collapse and try to sort things out in the midst of unprecedented economic chaos. I know which option I prefer.

Now that’s the truth, truth.

I’ve come to the realization that the only thing really great about our government these days is the size of the growing monstrosity of a deficit. Ron Paul preaches a foreign policy of non-interventionism and a domestic policy of weaning ourselves off entitlement programs, abolishing the Federal Reserve and allowing free market economies to prosper without unnecessary intermingling. I’m convinced that his Constitutionalist ideas, whether they are adopted under a possible administration of his or by a like-minded individual, are the last shot we’ve got at regaining the greatness that once was the United States and curtailing our empire before it crumbles before us.

So really, read his book. Go to the library today and borrow it. Educate yourself and challenge yourself. You don’t have to agree with me, or Dr. Paul, but at least give him a shot. Because if there’s anything we know for certain, it’s that the establishment-fattening ideas of the last two administrations have not produced anything worthwhile. For a quick introduction to him, you may even like to give this recent interview he gave to PBS Newshour a listen:

I know people are fond of saying that he’s crazy (or maybe some other, more explicit manifestation of this idea). He seems crazy because what he’s saying is so different from everyone else in Washington. I’m probably crazy for believing that he can become president of such a mess. I do know that I’m willing to give the man a shot. He’ll get my vote in the primary and, I’m certain, a plethora of other support along the way.

But, I digress. In the days to come, this blog will once again light up with activity, as I have a number of papers long and short from the last 1.5 months of the spring semester that are certainly worth sharing. I’ll try to keep it light on the politics, I promise. The easiest way to receive these is to click the “Sign me up!” button on the right-hand border, just below the recent post list and the category cloud. Or you could subscribe to my RSS feed, or just look for my shares on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for visiting, and au revoir!

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Israel? And A Quick Update…

    Hazor lies north of Chinnereth and the Sea of Galilee in Israel, as shown in this map from bibleatlas.org.As you may or may not know, I am extremely hopeful that I will be able to travel to Israel for an archaeological dig this summer at the northern Galilean site of Tel Hazor (simply meaning “Mound” or “Hill” of Hazor). At various points in the seventh and eighth centuries B.C.E. and further back in antiquity, Hazor was occupied by Canaanite and Israelite populations, and the archaeological program I’ve found would explore these time periods. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Tel Hazor, check out the Hazor Excavations Project hosted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Anyhow, I’m highly excited even to have the opportunity to consider traveling to the Holy Land, let alone being there for 4-6 weeks to study and explore. I should know within the next week whether or not my proposal for this upcoming summer will be funded. Won’t you pray that I may be allowed to participate in this experience, should it be in the will of God? Thank you so much 🙂

With that duly introduced, I think a quick update is probably in order as well, seeing as it’s been almost two months since I last did so. My wife and I are all moved in to our new apartment in Anderson, and it goes without saying that we love it. I am not kidding when I say that we tripled in space, going from around 430 sq. feet to nearly 1300 sq. feet. Sometimes we don’t know what to do with all of the space!

The only downside that I’ve found this semester is that getting into a groove has been difficult. When I knew I had a 45-minute commute to and from campus, that made my time all the more valuable; I knew that I had to use what little I had wisely. I’m not saying I’ve been slacking this semester… just the opposite, actually. I feel like I’ve worked my tail off even though I remain behind. A good part of this may be due to the MLK holiday and our numerous snow days in recent weeks – there has yet to be a normal week this semester, so to speak. I am confident it will all come together when I gain an appreciation of the normalcy of the semester!

As for my classes, two are continuations from courses last semester. The second semester of Greek has proved somewhat harder, as we’ve been introduced to participles, which are nasty beasts in their own right. The second semester of Old Testament History and Literature is shifting the focus to the prophets and wisdom literature, which has so far been enjoyable. Reflections I’ve done on Jonah and Joel, as well as some other selected classwork, will hopefully be soon posted to the blog!

My other two classes are not taken in a traditional classroom. I am taking Church of God history as an online class because the in-class section has a time conflict with my OT2 course. While I thought this course would be dry and boring, it’s been worthwhile to understand the history of the movement with which I now identify closely. Furthermore, I am taking an independent study entitled “Christians and Old Testament Theology,” which has proven enlightening in the regard of relating to the beliefs and understanding of Yahweh espoused by people of Old Testament times. In some cases I believe we read too much into the text, i.e. by trying to reconcile the Scriptures in the light of Jesus. Sometimes we can go too far by stretching the text beyond what would have been understood by the writers and original hearers of these treasured books. But, I digress.

Thank you for reading and for being hopeful along with my regarding Tel Hazor in Israel! Until next time…

What About Mark? John?

What about Bob?As Christians, we generally ignore these two gospels around Christmas time unless they are otherwise advantageous to us. Mark serves us… well, by having served Matthew and Luke enough to finagle Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. (The birth story wouldn’t have been quite the same if Mary texted her midwife and gave birth to Jesus in the spare room of her Nazarene home, right?) While we can always count on John for a spoonful of divinity-speak, Mark and John certainly don’t say anything about the supposed Bethlehemic birth of Jesus, which is what we tend to be celebrating.

Or are we? Is there anything about our Christmas celebration that would indicate we’re celebrating something more than Winter Solstice (or Festivus)? We like to think so, but we’re easily susceptible to the trap of materialism (believe it or not) and traditionalism.

Something I look forward to around Christmas and Easter is the broadcast of religious-themed programming on TV stations like the History Channel and National Geographic purporting to explore the history behind our traditions and the historicity of the holidays in general. I was reminded last night about the pagan roots of our celebrations, from the “Christmas” tree to the candles to other nonsense that has nothing to do with the birth and life of Jesus.

But these hour-long features are a topic unto themselves. Since we have no footage from many thousands of years ago, actors and actresses are hired to reinforce the stereotypes that scholarly types eventually come on screen to refute. And anytime some sort of Hebrew or Greek translation error comes into play, it is drawn out and treated like a major revelation. Six to eight minutes of solid information is stretched out into 47 minutes, and after you solicit advertising, you’ve got yourself an unnecessary hour-long block. But that’s not all! Some sort of ambiguous ending is always thrown in, so you are left with no clue why you just spent an hour of your time learning nothing in particular.

But back to those not-so-Christmasey gospels. For all of the affinity that pastors have with John (hard to ignore those way and truth and life Ἐγώ εἰμι statements), it just throws a wrench into the Bethlehemic birth story. Jesus wasn’t just God’s divine son, but he even preexisted with God before coming to Earth! While the common “good” Christian thing to do is meld these accounts into an über-Gospel, it’s important we recognize that John’s community put their gospel into writing not to augment the Synoptics, but to supplant them.

For Mark, it was enough that Jesus was and Jesus did. But predictably enough, the communities that heard his gospel started asking questions, and started thinking of him in terms of the history of Israel. Was Jesus the one who was to come? Was he “Emmanuel,” God with us? Certainly a man so knowledgeable and gracious had an eventful birth.

I’m not going to pretend like I have all of the historical answers, but we can’t deny that those people who Jesus interacted with on a daily basis didn’t ask and didn’t care where he came from, how he was born, etc. The disciples didn’t whisper to each other about it in their spare time, and they didn’t entertain such gossip about him from outsiders (biblically speaking). Either they all knew and accepted his upbringing (which would have made it into Mark) or they didn’t care. I subscribe to the latter interpretation.

Which would mean that the message of Jesus is in his message, not in his person. Not in his birth.

Which would mean that we’re wasting a lot of time worrying about the acceptance of our nativity scenes.

Which would mean that on his “birthday” (I say that very loosely), shouldn’t we be stressing his message – his vision of the Kingdom – rather than fables that were crafted after his death?

Merry Christmas, and may we come to understand what that really means.

One Semester Down!

Well, I made it.

Academically, this surely will not have been the hardest semester of my postgraduate experience, but it will probably come to be the hardest one logistically.

 

A squirrel hanging from a birdhouse has nothing to do with this blog entry, but it was one of the first photos that came up on a Google Image Search for “whew.”

 

The actual truth of the matter is that my semester ended eight days ago. But for the last week or so, we’ve been frantically packing our apartment so we can move to campus just after Christmas. I feel fortunate enough to blog about it all now that I’m with family to celebrate Christmas or Winter Solstice or whatever it is that we celebrate this time of year (more on that tomorrow).

But starting next semester, I won’t have to wake up so early for my early classes! I’ll still wake up early, and hopefully go through the gym routine before classes begin, but I’m most excited about not having to waste time (and gas) on the drive to and fro. That will free up time to do coursework at a more reasonable hour, cook dinner more often, sleep longer, devote some time to a community ministry and hopefully have a free weekend every now and then for some recreation. Like all of that will ever happen like I imagine.

To recap from the year that was, all of my classes ended excellently… a 4.0 semester! I certainly didn’t expect that, but I’ll take it and try to repeat it again in the spring. Two of my classes – Greek and Old Testament – essentially continue in the semester to come, and to that I will add the history of the Church of God movement (I’ll call it CHOG History) and “Christians and Old Testament Theology,” which has interested me throughout the past semester of Old Testament class. It will be exciting to interact with the beliefs of the Israelite fathers and prophets and understand how Christians can more faithfully apply that to a well-rounded base of faith.

Other than the big post-Christmas move, I have two major personal goals during the break. Those are…

  1. Read for fun! I have been reading Jesus the Riddler by Tom Thatcher for the greater part of the semester, and am almost finished with it. It has been a great read, even if my wife has ridiculed me for enjoying such “boring” books. The good news is that I’ve also checked out Thatcher’s other book, Why John WROTE a Gospel. I have another about the history of Messianic expectations, but I probably will not get to that until next semester.
  2. Apply for funding to go to Israel this coming summer. Through a fellowship, Anderson University funds a student to travel to Israel for an archaeological dig each summer, and I want to get that either this summer or next… but preferably this summer. I have picked out an interesting dig site (Tel Hazor) and need to fulfill the application requirements, including an essay, before January 15.

And besides those things, it would be nice to add some new and fresh content to the blog for the new year. I’m sure I’ll hammer out a blog post or two once I’m settled in Anderson!

Take 3 Minutes to Help My Wife’s 1st Graders!

If you could give $5 of Bill Gates’ money (via Bing) to my wife’s first graders in just 3 minutes, wouldn’t you do it?

Well, you can! It is somewhat of a process, so follow closely!

Via DonorsChoose.org, my wife has set up a project she would like funded for her first grade classroom called “Ready, Set, Centers!” You can read more about it via that link. In the spirit of the holidays, Bing is giving money to projects that you can choose when you pledge to make Bing your homepage! (I don’t think you really have to follow through with it, but I digress…) So follow these steps!

  1. Go to Bing.com/Gives and click on the orange button that says “Start Here.”
  2. Under the “Bing Gives $1” option, click the orange button to proceed. This will take you to a new page which gives you the option to give even more if you make Bing your homepage. Click on that orange button and a form will pop up in your browser.
  3. Under the “I Choose. Bing Gives $5” option, enter your e-mail address twice and agree to the terms and conditions, then press the orange button that says “Make Bing my home page.”
  4. Wait a minute or so and check your e-mail… Bing will have sent you a message with a coupon code that you can redeem on DonorsChoose.
  5. Go to my wife’s page on DonorsChoose.org for “Ready, Set, Centers!
  6. In the box under “Give any amount,” type in a “5” for $5.00 (or any other amount you choose!) and click the green “>” button to proceed.
  7. On the page that will appear, click the green “Check out” button.
  8. This is where you enter the $5 coupon code that Bing sent you in your e-mail inbox. Once you enter the code and press the blue “Redeem code” button, the credit card prompt will disappear (if you only typed in $5 to give). Enter your name and e-mail address and press the green “Place my donation!” button, and you’re almost done!
  9. A new page will appear and you can type in a message that will appear on Lauren’s DonorsChoose page. If you’d like, you can anonymize yourself by clicking the “A donor” radio button!
  10. Submit that form and you are finished! Another page wanting your real cash money will pop up, but you can simply skip that without entering any information.

My wife wants to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH to anyone and everyone who helps out. Up to 40 people can do so! Her little first grade rascals will be that much better prepared because of your efforts!

An Alternate Logo?

Hockey teams have alternate logos and sweaters/jerseys all the time. Why can’t I have an alternate logo?

I designed this during some idle time in a class last week. Don’t judge me.

You’ll be seeing this logo on my third jersey…

 

I pledge to post an in-depth update sometime soon, likely after next Tuesday when my final exams are complete and I’ve had some time to celebrate a successful semester. Until then, enjoy the auto-posts I have set up! Ciao!

November News and Notes

Consider it the seminarian’s lament, but as I alluded to about a month ago during my last “update” post, after classes and commuting and work and marriage and errands and leading a high school small discipleship group and whatever else, my hours and minutes are few. Not even seminarians get a regular Sabbath!

But in the last four weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to rid myself of that ridiculous stack of books and turn in my two major expositions for the semester. As I trudge toward Thanksgiving(s), I still have plenty of work to do, but luckily, I’ve gotten slightly ahead of the game – at least enough to return to the blog without feeling guilty!

On the positive side, my recent weeks dedicated to coursework has produced somewhat of a backlog of blog-ready theological material, including three consecutive weekly Old Testament reflection papers, my exegesis on the bulk of Genesis 39 (Joseph and Potiphar’s wife), and a church history term paper on an interesting Jewish-Christian heretical group known as the Ebionites. I’m not quite sure how much of the longer papers I will end up posting – I don’t want anyone to get plagiaristic ideas, you know – but for now, I plan on dedicating a few posts to each paper. Here’s something you can count on, though: this Monday through Friday, I will post something each day at noon. Set an alarm for yourself, if you’d like!

(Earlier today I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of my exegesis on
Genesis 39, which got an unexpectedly fortuitous grade!)

Now for the brief rundown of my classes and how they’ve progressed:

  • Greek: For the first half of the semester we get a taste of different parts of speech, including nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs and other special particles, albeit all in the present verb tense. Over the last 3 or so weeks we’ve branched out from the present tense to the present active form, the imperfect and aorist (past) tenses, and the future tense. Basically, when I pick up my Greek New Testament I am continually able to read more and more of the words, but there are still large gaps in my understanding. Everything must be proceeding as desired, however, as my quiz grades continue to look stellar.
  • Old Testament: Seems like not too long ago that we were stuck in Deuteronomy, but we’ve now rolled along quite swimmingly through Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings. The fun part about this is we’ve gotten into (and through) books that I’d previously never read completely. Doing so gives you a much better perspective about the history of the Israelites and, ultimately, the circumstance in which Jesus was born. Despite the heavy reading necessary for Old Testament, my grade is looking much better than I could’ve hoped for, especially after I received my exegesis back!
  • Church History: We’ve breezed past the Protestant Reformation pretty quickly and are almost getting into more modern periods of Christian history, such as the 1800s and 1900s. In fact, this is the last week that the class will be in a church history textbook: after this is a focus on African-American churches and reformers followed by the religious right. As I may have alluded to before, my particular historical interest is much further back: the historical Jesus himself, and the battles that raged for orthodoxy of faith in the centuries following his death. It is out of this spirit that my term paper on the Ebionites came about!
  • Theological Ethics: While my major papers for the semester are now in the books, I still have two smaller papers, about 3-4 pages in length, due for Theological Ethics. These involve ethical case studies and wrestling with the theological and social dilemmas they propose. They have no specific due date, but I plan to get on one of these before Thanksgiving, and one afterwards. This timing works out quite nicely with the heavy periods of my other classes. In Ethics class itself, I believe I have overcome my deference to all of the third-year M.Div students to participate frequently in class discussion. Ultimately my grade will be the arbiter of that, but I’m satisfied with my level of discourse in the class about the various topics, such as the medical-industrial complex (as a power and principality) versus the Christian ethical call.

Aside from schoolwork, I’ve been fortunate enough to dedicate some time each week to the Miriam Project, where I have applied my prior online marketing and public relations background. The Miriam Project is a Christian adoption agency in Anderson, a non-profit with a strong heart for children and adoptive families. If you weren’t aware, November is National Adoption Month – as dedicated by the President – and all month long, in addition to other things, I’m writing a blog series for the Miriam Project about ways to improve knowledge and perspectives about adoption. If you’d like, please check out our first two posts: Get the Facts and Consider the Scripture. I may eventually repost the latter of those on my own blog, but for now, learn about adoption through the Miriam Project, please!

In short, all is shaping up well for the end of the semester and the holidays. I’ve already registered for the spring term (maybe I’ll share this in my next post). And it’s hard to believe that Christmas is just 40-some days away! I guess we had better get to ordering our wedding photos for everyone! 🙂

If you are reading my blog, I’d love it if you left a comment or two – not necessarily on this post, but on anything you find interesting or challenging or whatnot. Either way, thanks for reading, friends.

~Rob