Friday, March 31, 2006

putting God in a box

“Largest Study of Prayer to Date Finds It Has No Power to Heal” said one headline on Google news this morning. The article from the LA Times cited a 2.5 million dollar study which studied 1800 patients recovering from heart surgery in six different hospitals.

The article makes a couple contentions:

  • “The largest study yet on the therapeutic power of prayer by strangers has found that it provided no benefit to the recovery of patients who had undergone cardiac bypass surgery.”
  • “In an unexpected twist, patients who knew prayers were being said for them had more complications after surgery than those who did not know, researchers reported Thursday.”
After reading a few articles on this topic, there were three things I noticed.

Religious Plurality
There’s an interesting theological issue involved because the study involved the prayers of Catholics and Protestants. Although some people might claim both denominations are one and the same, there’s a crucial difference. Catholics do not believe in salvation by grace alone like the Protestants. I’m sure there are some Catholics that are Christians, but Catholicism relies partly on works for salvation. Not only that, but Catholics don’t just pray to God, they also pray to Mary. The study didn’t differentiate between religions. The researchers based their conclusion on prayers to two different deities.

The Limitations of Science
“Ultimately, can science really measure the power of God?” asks an article from the St. Petersburg Times. To say that a study has come to a conclusion about prayer is to put God in a box. As C.S. Lewis described Aslan, “He’s not a tame lion.” That’s the very thing that makes God worthy of our praise and adoration. If we say that science can measure God, we are saying that science has an edge on God. As the creator of our world, God is in control of all things, and has preeminence over everything. If God could be measured, if everything He does could be understood, I admit I would be disappointed. To me, one of the most beautiful attributes of God is his supreme superiority. When I get into a sticky situation and ask God for help, it is because I know he is wiser, more powerful, and everything more perfect than myself.

Testing God
I don’t know whether Christians were involved in this research project, but we should take heed of Jesus’ words, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan tempts Jesus in the desert, telling Him to make stones into bread, to throw himself down, and to worship Satan. In a sense, Satan was conducting his own research. If the story had gone differently, Satan might have had a headline that said, “Latest Study of Miracles Reveals That Stones Turn Into Bread.” Going back to the ideas in the previous paragraph, we know that God is the Alpha and the Omega, the great I Am, and He cannot be explained. He cannot be tested. He is beyond human understanding.

" 'My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.' " Isaiah 55:8-9

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

quote of the week

"Love that had only begun in creation. Love that was so great that it didn’t end there."
-blogger Brittney at Aletheia Liberty.

Her post, "Created In His Image," is a beautiful discussion of the miracle of creation and God's love for us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Marriage Keeps People Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Healthy marriages are on the decline. The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families quoted Dr. David Popenoe, “between 1960 and 2004 the number of unmarried couples in America increased by nearly 1200 percent.”

Although the Women’s Rights Movement led to voting rights and equal pay for equal work for women, the modern feminist agenda has a negative effect on marriages. Today, 43% of Americans are unmarried and single. Fewer marriages and more divorces ring warning bells, especially since research indicates that married people are happier, wealthier, and safer.

The feminist agenda says that marriage oppresses women and makes them unhappy. Marlene Dixon, a University of Chicago sociology professor, declared: "The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women.” The Pew Research Center research found that married people are twice as happy as single people. Together, these two pieces of information say that there are a lot more happy “oppressed” people than happy “free” people. Based on those percentages, if you’re married, you are two times as likely to be happy.

Married people also are wealthier than single people. Bridget Maher, a family policy analyst, found that married-couple families make three times as much as single parents. The cost of living for married people is only 1.5 times as much as that of singles. Not only does marriage benefit adults financially, but it also profits children.

“Children raised by never-married mothers are seven times more likely to live in poverty than children raised by their biological parents in intact marriages,” says the Heritage Foundation. Poverty and welfare could be reduced if more Americans married.

The feminist agenda focuses on fighting domestic violence. The National Organization for Women (NOW) devotes an entire section on their website to violence against women. Ironically, while feminism portrays marriage as an oppressive institution, they are undercutting the very institution that keeps women and children safe. The Heritage Foundation said that domestic abuse is twice as high for women who have never been married. Children are also at increased risk in unmarried households.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., commented on a British study saying, “Children are safest living with their natural parents, married to each other, next safest living with their mother and her new husband, next safest living with their natural mother alone, still less safe with two natural parents cohabiting and the least safe with their mother and a cohabiting, but unrelated boyfriend.” The marriage commitment helps keep women and children twice as safe as other unstable relationships such as cohabitation.

Not only do married couples have more joy, a higher income, and greater safety, but they also are healthier, less likely to have children who commit crimes, and more likely to have their children go to college. Although not all marriages are happy, wealthy, and safe, statistics favor marriage over singleness. If feminists really want to fight depression, poverty, and domestic abuse like they claim, they should get married.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Necessity of Belief: Part II

After my previous post, I now return to summarize.

To summarize, we can see that at least in these stories, belief is important for emotional and physical well being. Not only that, but the right belief (believing in the right thing), is also important.

What did the authors of these stories really intend? That’s a very difficult question. On the one hand, Mark Twain tells his readers not to read too much into the story. On the other hand, based on Twain’s focus on right and wrong, I think it is safe to say that Twain wanted his readers to ask themselves how they know what is right and what is wrong.

At the very least, Kate Chopin wants her readers to ask themselves about the significance of their life and what they believe in. She uses Edna as an example of someone struggling to find meaning. Stephen Crane is both ambiguous and clear. His story scarcely mentions the thoughts of the men in the boat. On the other hand, the men very clearly question what they believe in because it has done them no good.

We return to the original questions. Based on my analysis of these three stories, it is very necessary to believe in something—both for emotional and physical well-being. To not belief in something is to feel like one is floundering hopelessly in life. In Edna’s case, not knowing what she believed in led to so much depression that she committed suicide.

Not only that, but it is most important to believe in the right thing. It has been said that it is only important that a person believe in “something.” However, such a belief leads to failure and disappointment. It yields nothing. It leads to even more hopelessness. The seven mad gods will not save you. Fate will not save you. Believing in the right thing, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, leads to joy, fulfillment, and eternal life.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Necessity of Belief

How necessary is it for us to believe in something?

Is that something a specific end or is it more like a process? What is more important—that we believe in the right thing or that we believe?

These were the questions asked on the final exam in my American literature class. What follows consists mostly of my in class essay, but also additions I made subsequent to the final exam. The rephrasing and additions were made to improve the clarity of this essay.

The Necessity of Belief
Before I can explore these questions through American literature, I feel that a couple questions must be answered. The first question—how necessary?—leads to another question: what is necessary? Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines “necessary” as: absolutely needed, required. For the purposes of this discussion, I will ask: is belief necessary for emotional well being and/or for physical well being? In other words, is belief required for a person’s emotional and physical well being?

The second question is: what is belief? Wikipedia says, “Belief is usually defined as a conviction to the truth of a proposition.” In a casual sense, one might say, “I believe I will go shopping tomorrow.” In this discussion, belief most likely adheres to a meaning along the lines of “Mental acceptance of a claim as truth” (Wiktionary). To accept something as truth, one must first have a basis for determining truth.

Belief is necessary for both emotional and physical well being, as I will explain later on. This explanation leads us to the answer of the last question: what is more important—that we believe in the right thing, or that we believe?

I will explore these questions through three stories: Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), “The Awakening,” (Kate Chopin) and “The Open Boat” (Stephen Crane).

Let’s examine the stories. Huck Finn spends the entire story trying to find a moral philosophy. He struggles with what society calls right and how that plays out in reality. “I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing…I was full of trouble…and didn’t know what to do.” Huck is struggling with belief and how to determine what is true. Even at the end of the book, Huck never gets the answer to his questions. His feeling of hopelessness is expressed when he says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” When Huck didn’t know what to think, what to believe in, what to accept as true, he felt much inner conflict and frustration. One can see from this story that belief was necessary for Huck’s emotional well being.

Edna, in “The Awakening,” also seeks meaning, significance, which are, more or less, a type of belief. The quote that best sums this up in the story says, “There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why. .when it did not seem worthwhile to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead.” Belief indicates that a person has something to stand on, and the reader can see that Edna does not know what she stands on. Edna doesn’t believe (at least on the basis of her actions) in marital fidelity.

At one point in the story, she speaks of life as simply an endless drivel. She does not know what is significant, or who is significant. Her dissatisfaction with her empty married life leads Edna into adultery. However, she doesn’t find meaning in life even while pursuing someone she thinks she loves.

In fact, the book says, “Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted…There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” Edna never finds life’s significance, her emotional well being rapidly deteriorates, and she dies. In this story, belief was important for both emotional and physical well being.

In “The Open Boat,” the men in the boat become more frantic as the situation becomes more desperate. They are in the midst of a horrible storm. These men question whomever is in charge of the situation—the seven mad gods or Fate. One man asks, “If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of men’s fortunes.” Unlike the other stories aforementioned, the men in the boat arrive with a belief. They believe in the seven mad gods or Fate. Yet, not only does their emotional well being deteriorate as their beliefs—gods and Fate—fail them, but their physical well being also suffers. In fact, their gods (or Fate), their beliefs, don’t save them.
To be continued...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

2008 Presidential Election: Sam Brownback

Samuel D. Brownback (Brownback family pictured on right)

Biography (taken from Brownback's official bio)

1986-Kansas Secretary of Agriculture
1994-elected to U.S. Congress
1996-elected 32nd U.S. Senator of Kansas to fill in for Sen. Bob Dole
1998-elected to full six year term as U.S. Senator
2004-reelected to a second term as U.S. Senator

Samuel Brownback and his wife, Mary, have five children. Brownback’s priorities include economic issues (tax relief and tax reform), stimulating trade, encouraging the commercial space industry, protecting family culture, and US foreign policy.

Key Issues
Note: voting issues are either paraphrased or taken directly from

NO-to federal pregnancy prevention
NO-to adopt an amendment to show Congress in support of Roe v. Wade
YES-to prohibit partial birth abortion

YES-to provide $170 billion in corporate tax breaks
YES-to provide $350 billion to supply tax breaks
YES-to provide tax relief for married couples
NO-to increase funding for Title I grants and reduce debt by closing corporate tax loopholes.
NO-to fully reinstate the pay-as-you-go requirement through 2011.

YES-to appropriate $87 billion to fund ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
YES-to authorize funds for military construction and defense activities
YES-USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization
NO-to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty

NO-to increase maximum Federal Pell Grant
NO-to provide additional funding for title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
YES-No Child Left Behind Act

YES-to pass a bill that would add prescription drug benefits to Medicare.
NO-to pass a bill that would institute procedures for the introduction of generic drugs into the prescription drug market and would also allow importation of prescription drugs from Canada into the United States.
NO- To provide funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program within the Health Resources and Services Administration.

YES- to pass a bill that raises the annual cap on H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers, and for other purposes.
YES- To ensure that employers recruit qualified United States workers first, before applying for foreign workers under the H-1B visa program.

[unable to find voting record on Iraq]

Iraq: Brownback seems supportive of the Iraq War and Bush’s stance, and seems to think it is important to show support even if mistakes were made.

Religion: Brownback is Roman Catholic.

Read about another presidential candidate: George Allen.

Coming up! 2008 Presidential Election: Bill Frist

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Quote of the Week

“God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”
-author unknown

I discovered this quote on the blog Advancing His Kingdom. Blogger Marshall Sherman wrote a post on this site that expounds on the above quote, “Talent…A Pre-Requisite?”

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

2008 Presidential Election: George Allen

The 2008 presidential election looms every closer. is polling visitors about presidential candidates, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at each of the ten men featured in the poll.

I’ll be providing a biography of each candidate, as well as a summary of their stance on key issues taken from their voting record. The issues I’ve chosen to highlight are: Abortion, Budget/Taxes, Defense, Education, Healthcare, Immigration, and Iraq. Finally, I’ll note religious background for each person.

In the next couple weeks, I’ll post about each candidate.

George Allen (Allen family pictured above)

Biography (taken from Allen’s official bio)-

2001 – Present 51st United States Senator from Virginia
1994 – 1998 67th Governor of the Commonwealth
1991 – 1993 U.S. Representative, elected in a special election
1983 – 1991 Virginia House of Delegates

Allen is married to Susan and they have three children. For his first term as a US senator, Allen lists a few priorities including national defense and homeland security, jobs, improving technology, and reduction of tax burdens on families and small business owners.

Key Issues
Note: voting issues are either paraphrased or taken directly from

NO-to federal pregnancy prevention
YES-to prohibit partial birth abortion

YES-to increase statutory limit on public debt
YES-to pass a bill that authorizes and extends $70 billion in tax credits and cuts.
NO-to increase funding for Title I grants and reduce debt by closing corporate tax loopholes. NO-to fully reinstate the pay-as-you-go requirement through 2011.

YES-to authorize funds for military construction and defense activities
YES-to approve 3.2 % for DoD and national security programs at DOE
YES-USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization

NO-to increase maximum Federal Pell Grant
NO-to provide additional funding for title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
YES-No Child Left Behind Act

YES-to pass a bill that would add prescription drug benefits to Medicare.
YES-to pass a bill that would institute procedures for the introduction of generic drugs into the prescription drug market and would also allow importation of prescription drugs from Canada into the United States.

[unable to find voting record on immigration or Iraq]

Immigration: Believes illegal immigration must be curbed by securing our borders, not rewarding illegal behavior, reforming legal immigration.

Iraq: Allen seems optimistic about Iraq’s future and US participation in their freedom. He is very supportive of the changes being made like unifying Iraqi government, but also seems to think there is a hard road ahead.

Religion: Allen is Presbyterian.

Coming up! 2008 Presidential Election: Sam Brownback

Monday, March 20, 2006

Senator Frist on the Issues: Immigration

Americans have become increasingly concerned about lax border security and the large numbers of illegal immigrants entering the country. Last Friday, March 16th, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist circumvented the Senate Judiciary Committee and introduced his own bill—Securing America’s Borders Act (SABA).

The 243 page bill provides for reform including border enforcement, interior enforcement, unlawful employment of aliens, backlog reduction and visas for students and aliens with advanced degrees, and immigration litigation reduction.

One NY Times article by Rachel Swarns stated,

“Mr. Frist said his bill would include several measures already hammered out in negotiations under way in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had included an increase in the number of border guards, more fencing along the Mexican border and faster deportation of illegal immigrants. But Mr. Frist's bill would not create the temporary worker program that President Bush has urged to legalize the status of the 11 million illegal immigrants thought to be in this country.”

Frist hopes to have the bill go to vote by the Senate during the week of March 27th. This turn of events most interests me because Senator Frist is drawing attention to himself. I don’t claim to be familiar with the ethical, legal and political implications of immigration policy, so let me direct you to a couple sources that I found useful.

Human Events Online takes the stance that immigrants should not get amnesty, and even provides of a list of senators and the way they’re likely to vote. John Gizzi wrote “Bush Defines Amnesty as 'Automatic' Citizenship,” in which he explores Bush’s stance on the issue.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Right to Discriminate

Browsing the news today, I was pleasantly surprised to find an organization from New York sticking to their guns and refusing to cater to the politically correct gay tolerance groups.

Reuters published the article titled, “NY St. Pat's chairman compares gays to neo-Nazis.” Despite the heated headline, the actual story is best summed up by a quote from the article,

“In an interview with The Irish Times, parade committee chairman John Dunleavy defended the organizers' decision to bar the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization from participating in the biggest St. Patrick's Day party in the world.”

It seems that the issue comes down to whether private organizations have the right to discriminate. In 1995, the Supreme Court thought so, when they ruled that Boston parade organizers had the right to exclude gays and lesbians.

"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?" said John Dunleavy.

Although I’m sure there are a few people who can’t get past the analogy (as in, *gasp*, I can’t believe he compared gays to neo-Nazis), I think he has a legitimate logical argument.

In this day and age of tolerance, it seems that some people cannot abide uniqueness or the idea that someone might believe something different. They want everyone to be one big happy family. One big happy cloned family. You can’t exclude anyone. You can’t offend anyone.

Private organizations should and do have the right to exclude whom they wish. Private organizations should have the right to discriminate. Imagine what a prochoice parade organizer might say if they were forced to allow a prolife group to march in their parade.

In his article, “The Right to Discriminate,” Scott W. Sixier said, “Discrimination, then, is vital to the proper functioning of the market economy. It is a process of differentiation-a process by which we demonstrate our preferences…If some people make decisions which we view as immoral, the way to change these values is by peaceful persuasion. The solution is surely not to impose our values on others.”

It is for these reasons that I grateful to John Dunleavy for being willing to swim against the political correctness current. If I were to sum Dunleavy's comments up I would say, “Hey, this is an Irish Catholic parade. Gays and lesbians are not following a path which we consider morally right. We are making the free market decision to exclude them.”

Don’t let your liberties get taken away. Stand up for what you believe. It’s your right.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

R.O.C. or Regenerate Our Culture

The launch date for Regenerate Our Culture has finally arrived! I am very excited to say that the site looks great. Already, I've been able to puruse some inspiring articles by bloggers Alex King and Tim Sweetman. In addition to front page articles, if you navigate to the 'blog network,' there are several more listed bloggers you might want to check out.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Quote of the Week

Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.
-G.K. Chesterton


Also, please take a look at a wonderful post by blogger MVB at The King's Highway titled, "The God of All Comfort, Continued..." I came across this post today and found the message comforting (no pun intended). You can also read the prelude post, "God of All Comfort."

I especially liked MVB's point about "dismal Christianity." In speaking with a Christian friend, he said that he wanted people to ask the reason for his joy. I want those around me to want the kind of joy I have. I want a joyful light to shine forth from me in everything I do.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Fool

In youth, the young
disregarding, indifferent
they say they don't care
heaven, hell, God, no God, any god
it makes no difference

the dead will know the truth
though in youth gave no thought
yet now know the existence of
Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End

trembling, yet defiant
embracing, the eternal fiery flames
because they said, "There is no God."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

quote of the week

"Why, the anti-social wretch!"
-Don Feder

In his column, Feminists Control Women, Don Feder explains the feminist attack on real femininity, and the 'novel' idea that women might actually like being mothers. Imagine that!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

the modern pirates

Not too long ago I wanted to purchase a music album by a popular female artist. Much to my chagrin, thirteen skanky songs accompanied the one song I really liked. That song could be obtained in three ways: a legal download, an illegal peer to peer music sharing network, or an illegal free download.

80% of teenagers have been involved in some kind of music piracy in the last six months, said a statistic from The Barna Group. An ever growing problem, worldwide theft causes the music industry to lose about $4.2 billion annually.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) provides a definition, “ ‘Piracy’ generally refers to the illegal duplication and distribution of sound recordings.” Technology has made it easier than ever to burn CDs or download music.

In a speech from RIAA representative Hilary Rosen, personal recordings aren’t a problem. “We have always been supportive of the ability of consumers to copy a CD for the gym or for their car. . .The problem is with the student who burns 100 copies for his friends in the dorm or makes available hundreds of files for uploading onto Kazaa.”

Bottom line: there’s nothing wrong with a personal copy of an album, as long as you purchased it. The problem lies in actions that cause loss of profit: illegal or counterfeit recordings, bootleg records, and online piracy.

Don’t assume that you won’t get caught. The RIAA, AFM (American Federation of Musicians), and IFPF (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) are working to fight music piracy by suing violators and seizing pirated music. The crime is punishable by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

PC World announced a new policing method—an embedded watermark that tracks pirating from peer to peer networks back to the originator.

If the RIAA doesn’t catch you, spyware will. When a person agrees to the terms for ‘free’ file sharing, they often agree to allow a third party to monitor them, says Tom Stafford from the University of Memphis.

Colleges and universities are working to crack down on peer to peer music sharing networks. They’re especially affected by music file sharing, because the illegal activity clogs up college network bandwidth.

That leaves the broke college student with a dilemma: where can they find legal, inexpensive music? Personally, I listen to the radio a lot. It’s free and there’s a lot of variety. However, I buy most of my CDs off, where I’ve been able to purchase most of albums for $7 or less.

Some people might not make that big a fuss about music piracy, which can be easy and free. That doesn’t justify stealing. Somewhere down the line, somebody pays for this illegal activity—the user in fines, the artist because they’re losing profit, or the music industry, because their contributors can’t afford to stay in business.

Thou shalt not steal is still true.

And what did I do about the one good song in a sea of sleaze? I guess I’ll just keep enjoying it on the radio.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Regenerate Our Culture

Regenerate Our Culture (ROC) is a brand new organization, dedicated to bringing Christianity back to America. ROC’s leaders include Alex King, Kristin Braun, Jake Smith, and Tim Sweetman. Alex and Brett Harris are serving as launch sponsors for Regenerate Our Culture.

What’s the point?
ROC exists for the purpose of regenerating American culture in the areas of politics, religion, and life. Christians bloggers can team up and have a greater impact on the culture.

What’s the plan?

ROC’s plan includes a web magazine, to be published the 1st and 15th of every month, as well as creating a Christian blog network.

What can I do?
You can visit Regenerate Our Culture now, and when it launches on March 15th. You can also become a launch sponsor.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

quote of the week

"With the public's interest and anxieties sated, the media moved on to the next hot topic -- one we might describe as "Help, Help, Bush is Turning over Six U.S. Ports to the Arabs!!!!!" -William Murchison

Murchison’s column, “So Much Speech, So Little Caution,” talks about the dangers of microwaved news or commentary that makes sweeping judgments before the whole truth can be known.