Friday, August 29, 2008

Flipping a coin

I think I may have found one article that does a good job of expressing my ambivalence over the upcoming election. Here's a a paragraph that resonates:
The most exhaustive examination of the McCain and Obama budget proposals I've found comes from the Tax Policy Center, sponsored jointly by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. It's discouraging reading. Though details differ, neither plan would realistically limit spending or eliminate deficits. This is especially true when the Obama and McCain health proposals are considered. Both would cost far more than $1 trillion over a decade, says the Tax Policy Center.
The article is 2 pages. The above quote is on the 2nd page.

Up to this point, I've been leaning towards McCain in the vain hope that the opposition would result in less that the government did. Obama seems to be trying to advertise that he'll unite the government. I don't want that. I want the government to be divided and fighting each other. That way, they tend to not have enough time to focus on fighting me. A united government strikes me as a horrific affront to individual freedom. Now, re-read the last sentence of my quote. It means that the opposition that McCain and Obama have is over small trivial things. They agree, quite strongly, on a whole bunch of ways that they're going to spend other people's money. On a whole bunch of ways in which they're going to interpose the government into individual choices. Aw, crap.

Then I am reminded by Greg Boyd of what's important:
But its precisely at this point that I have to remind myself that I am a citizen of a different empire and am not to get overly invested in civilian affairs. I have to therefore regard Obama’s call to embrace the audacity of this political hope as a temptation... Whatever good Obama, McCain or any other politician may or may not be able to accomplish, the ultimate hope and allegiance of all Kingdom citizens must remain in Jesus Christ and in the mustard seed Kingdom he established.
Me. Busted.

It's easy to hope that if we change our government and get something in place that is less invasive in individual lives, that life will get better for all. And I think that's true. But that's not the world we live in. The only hope we have for elminating the desire of humans to rule over each other is to set Jesus as the leader. We *all* follow. He leads. He is the ultimate omniscient and benevolant dictator. He is the one that *can* solve Hayek's knowledge problem. And He's incorruptible.

Until He comes, every other person who would preside, rule, lord, dictate or otherwise command others can really only accomplish one thing: make things worse.

I might as well flip a coin. Last time I convinced my wife to vote Republican, maybe I should return the favor.

UPDATE: Jimazing pointed me to this very entertaining interaction that Don Miller had with Barack & Michelle Obama.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Will Wilkinson was on MarketPlace and provided the following commentary (HT: Division of Labour)
A tomato raised in a heated greenhouse next door can be more carbon-intensive than one shipped halfway across the globe.
Doesn't it just have to be more earth friendly to not have to waste all that energy shipping food half way around the globe?


Wilkinson goes on to say something even more important:
But one thing is clear enough: the farmers in Mexico, China, and Brazil, who produce a lot of the imported food Americans eat, are poorer than the farmers here in Iowa. A lot poorer. The corollary of "eat local" is "don't eat Mexican," so to speak. But the way poor people get less poor is to do business with people who have a lot of money, like us. If the local stuff is mouthwatering, you might as well pony up. But if your salad is made with Mexican lettuce, savor your righteousness.
Yep. That's right. The market makes poor people wealthy. And in the effort to strive for even more non-market fixes to environmental concerns, remember two things:
  1. Non-market solutions almost always subvert the thing they're intended to do. E.g. forcing people to buy local on the premise that it's good for the environment is actually worse for the environment, and

  2. Non-market solutions come with a cost: they will like make someone else poorer, and frequently those someones are the people who are already desperately poor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Don Boudreaux sent a letter to the Boston Globe. I'm quoting it here in it's entirety because it's excellent:

Derrick Jackson wants government to reduce income differences among Americans ("Politely declining to touch the income gap," August 19). Forget that even poor Americans today generally have greater access to goods and services than did middle-income Americans of a generation ago. Instead ask: what kind of philosophy demands that government adopt and act on values that all decent parents teach their children to reject?

Who among us sends our children to school or to the playground with admonitions to begrudge classmates or playmates possessing nicer clothing or fancier toys? Who among us counsels our youngsters to form schoolyard coalitions for forcibly confiscating expensive sneakers and video games from 'rich' kids for "redistribution" to poorer kids? Who among us would not scold our children for such envy, and punish them severely if they participated in such thievery?

Children should avoid envy and learn to thrive by producing rather than by taking. The same is true for adults.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Thursday, August 07, 2008


The author of one of my favorite blogs has been revealed. I wrote previously about how I wished I could write like this guy. Apparently, his was a good standard to seek because his book is about to make the NY Times Bestseller list.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Heretics and Idolators

As previously mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed reading "The Shack" by William Young. This book has a lot of theology in it. Most of which, I have no real opinion on it's accuracy. Basically because the primary message of the book isn't the finer details of theology. The central message is that God wants a relationship with me. He craves it. He has and will do whatever it takes to get me to freely participate in this relationship.

But I did a foolish thing. I started looking for other people's opinions of this book. And I found them. I found a lot of effusive praise for the book, and a lot of criticism of the theology. I am bothered by the criticism. Not because I want them to agree. I have no leg to stand on to say that disagreement is bad.

Instead, I really think that much of the criticism is missing the point. And the criticism reminds me a lot of other criticism that I've seen bandied about within the church. Specifically, if you disagree with my interpretation of the Bible then you're a heretic.

Well then let me get this out of the way: I am almost certainly a heretic. But I'm in pretty good company. I would suggest that anyone who attempts to ever describe God will always advance some heresy.

I may misunderstand the technical definition of heresy. But from how I see it used, it seems like heresy is any inaccurate representation of God. So when someone decries the author of The Shack as preaching heresy when he presents a picture of the trinity, they're making this claim because that author's picture is inaccurate.

So, it would appear that the only way to avoid being a heretic is to always portray an accurate picture/representation/story of God. But none of us can do that. None of us have an accurate picture/representation/story of God. God tells us that all of our attempts to understand Him will come up short. If that's true, than any attempt to describe him at all, will always come up short. We *always* describe God incompletely. As a result, we always describe Him inaccurately.

Now, to be certain, there is a difference between someone who is taking their best shot at describing God and is inaccurate, from someone who is actively attempting to lie about God. But I certainly don't think that any of the authors that I've read,who've had the "heretic" epithet tossed at them fall into the latter category (e.g. William Young, Rob Bell, Donald Miller). So, based on behavior, it appears that being a heretic does not simply mean lying about God. You can be a heretic by attempting to describe Him, but failing to do so accurately.

Again, we always describe God inaccurately. Hence, I'm a heretic.

But that's where the beauty of this book comes in. The central message that it's trying to get across is that God wants a relationship with me. And I don't have to have my heresy fixed before that happens. He knows I'll never fully understand him. Being able to have a perfectly accurate picture of God is not the point. Being in that relationship so that He can point out where I'm not understanding Him is the point. He's not a map. He's a navigator. He wants to travel the road with me, giving me thoughts and tips along the way, avoiding the hazards as they come up.

That is the message I got from this book. Do I think that the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman who's hard to see, or that the Father is an jolly African American woman? Of course not! But they are useful images to help me grasp how God wants a relationship with me. Focusing on the inaccuracies of those particular tools is, in my opinion, entirely missing the point.

Now, of course, this creates a pretty big tension. God is also pretty clear in the Bible that we are not to worship idols. Put another way, we should make sure that the thing we have a relationship with is really Him. So there is value in understanding God as accurately as we possibly can. But as soon as we remember that none of us, not even those who dedicate their lives to the study of Theology, will ever have a complete and clear picture of God, that ought to introduce in our minds a bit of humility about the discussion.

When I hear people throw "heretic" around, it seems really really arrogant to me. As if to say, "I have a better understanding of God than you, and yours is wrong." Maybe that's true, but isn't there a better way to approach it? Wouldn't it be a better alternative to engage the differences and see what can be learned? Instead of immediately assuming that your own understanding is infallible?

Yes, there are people who have dedicated their lives to trying to understand what God looks like. And then there's the rest of us who have to use significant abbreviations from the theologian's understanding. But *ALL* of us (including professional theologians) are immensely far from the true understanding of what God looks like. Somehow, I don't think it really matters to God that we get a complete and accurate picture of Him. It seems to me that He has spent more time and energy trying to be in a relationship with us than in trying to paint a picture of himself.

Given that, can we please try to approach other opinions of what God looks like with humility? Can we please stop labeling as heresy thoughtful attempts to understand. Can we instead engage the thoughts and see if there's anything that can be learned? If, for a given topic, the theologians have already done that and settled it, then can we focus on explaining the outcome in terms that a non-theologian can understand? My assumption is this: if it requires theological training to understand, then it's probably not the primary way that God wants to engage us. If that's true, then maybe we can approach the declarations of heresy with a bit more humility?