Article Round Up

I Think I’m a Communist – Interesting article from Relevant Magazine covering some thoughts I’ve always harbored about communism and the early church. The comments that follow the article are interesting as well.

My So Called Rights – Another good Relevant article about how, as Christians, we forsake all rights to follow Christ. Especially interesting in light of war. Lately I’ve been justifying war as a defense of our basic human rights. I think this article would imply that Christians give up their basic human rights. Not exactly something we American Christians like to think about.

And in other news, animals are now fighting the war for us. Well, not really, but it’s interesting to see the different animals that are being employed to help keep soldiers safe. Dolphins are hunting for landmines, seal lions are keeping a lookout and then cuffing divers, and pigeons are playing the role of the proverbial canary and alerting troops of chemical weapon attacks. There’s even a report of monkeys who can disarm mines. It’s a nice deal when the animals can face danger and keep us safe, and for the most part (who needs pigeons?), the animals aren’t hurt either. I suppose PETA isn’t happy about it. Pray for Mojo.

More War Coverage

In the midst of war I’m finding myself drawn to coverage, any coverage, like an addict. Today I discovered a war blog that collects war news from sources all over the world. They post them as quick news bytes with no muckety-muck or politics. Just the facts. They update multiple times an hour, sometimes every few minutes. And they often beat CNN, Fox and others with the coverage and often cover stories the major outlets never cover. I can’t imagine who has the time to do that, but I find myself having to fight the urge to discover the latest.

It’s worse when I get home and the TV’s on. I love hearing live updates from Ted Kopel in Iraq. The guy is such a seasoned pro and old goof, I love it. I’m partially horrified and partially drawn to the coverage, and it’s a bit disturbing.

In addition to the news updates, there’s also soldiers blogging. More coverage from more points of view. It’s information overload. But I crave it.

A word on peace:

“We have our peace movements, and all we want is peace-abroad and at home. But if by peace we mean appeasing tyranny, compromising with gangsters and being silent because we haven’t the moral fortitude to speak out against injustice, then this is not real peace. It is a false peace. It is a farce and it is a hoax.”
–Billy Graham (from The Quotable Billy Graham)

And if you really need a break from the serious war coverage, head over to the Onion.


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s time for … Link-o-Rama!

I’ve been collecting all sorts of random links this week, and now it’s time to share. On your marks, get set, click!

Demotivators – This one was passed around the office with a knowing chuckle today. It’s the latest in corporate demotivating merchandise. If Dilbert had a motivational calendar on his cube wall, this would be it.

Happy Tree Friends – If you thought SouthPark was bad, you haven’t seen anything. Happy Tree Friends is a flash cartoon that features nauseatingly cute little forest creatures being maimed and slaughtered in truly disgusting style. They’ve even got a DVD available at Best Buy. It’s sick, twisted and morbid, but worth watching. Once.

Dear Raed – I haven’t determined exactly who this is or what it’s called, but it appears to be a blog written by a Baghdad citizen. There’s been some journalistic discussion as to whether or not it’s legit, but it appears to be. If not, it’s some darn good reading anyway. It’s an interesting view of the war from the inside.

The New Wave of War Protesters – An article from Relevant magazine comparing half-baked and quasi-committed protesters to Sunday morning Christians who compartmentalize God. Challenging words.

Q&A w/ “Keeping Faith” Co-Author Frank Schaeffer – An intellectual father and his son write a book about their relationship after the son joined the Marines. This is a chat with the father and provides an interesting commentary on military service, protests, and the working class volunteer army.

Random craptacular web sites – Need I say more? The link generates random homepages from AT&T users. Craptacular, craptacular.

You’re Welcome

The Detoit Red Wings returned the favor tonight and shut out the Minnesota Wild, 4-0. Now why couldn’t they do that while I was sitting in the fourth row? You’ll also notice that Detroit went with goalie Curtis Joseph, rather than Slouching Manny, as I like to call him (see photos from Sunday).

We are Saddam

Protesters gathered outside Senator Norm Coleman’s office in St. Paul this evening, blocking the eastbound lane of University Avenue at rush hour. The Metro Transit officials scrambled to reroute the buses around the blockage, keeping things moving on time. The woman sitting next to me remarked that she should get off and join the protesters. I wanted to say something in response, but didn’t quite know what.

I respect protesters. They’re exercising a basic right every American enjoys. But sometimes protesters baffle me. Protesting war can certainly be justifiable. But what I don’t understand is the people who protest any and all war. On Sunday I saw a protest sign that said, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” That’s an odd way to invoke the Bible, especially when the Old Testament is full of killing, much of it seemingly God-sanctioned. You’re more than welcome to disagree with some wars, but how far can you take it?

Would today’s protesters have wanted us to stay out of World War II? What about the Civil War? What about the American Revolution? As I walked home tonight, I thought it’d be fun to join a protest carrying a sign that says, “If this protest were in Iraq, we’d all be shot.”

Protesting any and all war is a dismissal of the very right to protest. War ensures that right. I suppose if the protesters were willing to sacrifice their freedoms to achieve a warless society, then they’d be consistent and I’d respect them. But somehow I doubt they’d welcome censorship and oppression.

Yesterday morning during church I found the lack of application to the war in Iraq during the sermon distressing. I wasn’t looking for the kind of war mongering I remember during the Gulf War, but I was hoping for some peace and hope in a tumultuous time. With the sermon lacking, I came up with my own thoughts.

This is a terrible metaphor that doesn’t fully stand up, and implies a lot of things that aren’t at all true, but just bear with me. We’re a lot like Saddam Hussien. God is a lot like the United States. (See, I told you it implied some not so happy stuff.) The United States has given Saddam so many chances to fess up, to come clean, and to join the peaceful world. We’ve asked him to get rid of his weapons, his malicious ways, his dangerous weapons. For a while he agrees, he goes along with our demands. But then we find he’s been lying, or deceiving, or doing whatever he can to get away with what he wants to do. And so we step in and correct him, albeit with missiles and bombs. For a while he follows the rules, but it’s not long before we realize he’s at it again. For twelve long years we went through this.

It reminds me so much of our relationship with God. He calls us to a certain standard and asks us to follow it. We try, we do our best, but we so often fail. God corrects us, forgives us, gives us another chance. We get up and again carry our cross, only to fall again. Thankfully, God is not a U.N. weapon’s inspector, he knows what we’ve done (and no, that isn’t an original Kevin Hendricks line. I stole it.). But thankfully, God is also not the United States. He offers grace. He offers salvation, some sort of holy U.N. that comes in and clears out the weapons of mass destruction and all the corruption and greed and leaves new life.

I told you it was odd. I imagine most of us bristle at being compared to Saddam. But he’s human just like us, a sinner like you or me, in need of Christ’s grace as much as you or me. And I bristle at comparing the United States to God. We think ourselves God’s chosen nation far too often. Unfortunately, the title of chosen nation comes with a responsibility that we could never hope to carry.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Minnesota Wild.

Xcel Energy Arena. Section 124, Row 4, Seat 7.

Wow. You can’t imagine how hard hits in the NHL are until you hear a guy smashed into the boards six feet in front of you. Best seats ever. Too bad the game didn’t match. The 4-0 shut out by the Wild was painful. The first goal came 21 seconds into the first period. I should have know things would go bad. Goal #2 came in the second period, it was a nice play. Goal #3 was an empty netter, and goal #4 was a penalty giveaway.

What a lame way to loose. I was really hoping I could jump out of my seat and scream, just once, even if we lost. It would have been fun. The Wings and Wild rematch on Tuesday, and I’ll be sure to watch the outcome of that one.

Manny Legace standing around. A lot.
That series is all the shots I had of Red Wings’ second string goalie, Manny Legace. No offense to Manny, but his stance isn’t exactly reassuring. He stands like that until the puck is well across the blue line. Yikes.

Eating Right

I’ve been eating fruit lately. I should probably clarify that lately means the last four or five days. Basically since we last went to the grocery store. This comes as a worthy piece of news because I’m not exactly the healthiest eater on the planet. They tell you to eat four to five servings of fruits or vegetables per day. I usually eat that many per week. In high school it was per month.

Since college I’ve gotten much better about vegetables. I actually like mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Match those with the already acceptable potatoes, corn, and lettuce, and you’ve got something. Throw in the ‘acceptable when eaten in something like pasta or salad’ vegetables, including tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and the like, and you could call me a vegetarian.

So vegetables haven’t been a problem. It’s fruit I’m not wild about. And part of the problem is delivery. It’s easy to add vegetables to a dish and you have a guaranteed delivery system. Tacos, baked potatoes, and pasta are all excellent vegetable delivery systems. But fruit has very few ready made delivery systems. Yogurt is probably the most healthy, but everything else seems to veer into the realm of baked goods, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Of course I shouldn’t act like I’m eating all sorts of fruits. I’m mainly an apples and bananas kind of guy. I think those are the great American school lunch fruits. And I suppose if juice counts, I drink a glass of orange juice every day. That counts for something, right?

I’m also trying to be more active. Of course I’m always trying that. But in the past week I have exercised twice, which is two-thirds of what I should be doing. Not that I’ve ever cared much or care now for formal exercising. I’ve always thought it’s pathetic that we reduce ourselves to mice running in a spinning wheel just to stay physically fit. It used to be that our labor kept us in shape. And if it wasn’t our labor, it was our play. Now we don’t do either, so we hit the running wheel. I’m hoping my exercise falls somewhere between the running wheel and play. And the more towards play I can be, the better.

Don’t worry, I’m not turning into a health nut. I just want to be physically fit. When I sprint to catch the bus I don’t want to be catching my breath for the next five minutes. When I join the broomball team every January, I don’t want to spend the first weeks in agony at my lack of activity. When I’m 60 I don’t want to have trouble getting up.

Now if only I could give up my addiction to Pepsi, I’d really be on the road to good health. Wait! No! That’s my caffeine delivery system.

Publication is Shit

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people that you do.” (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, page 22)

So we’re at war. Life seems to be barreling ahead whether I stop to reflect upon it or not. And I was doing so good there for a few days. Okay, want to know a secret? I really wasn’t writing for several days in a row. I just wrote once, and broke up those thoughts over different days so it looked I was a responsible blogger. Pretty sneaky, huh? It’s so easy to mislead.

So what’s been going on? Houses. Jobs. Not having either. Snow camp happened. I survived. A trip to Green Bay happened. I survived. My job hunt has oscillated from hoping to find something to hoping I don’t find something so I can write my first great American novel. The pipe dream takes over and I sadistically hope a sudden bout of unemployment will bring it all to fruition. As if a book would solve all my woes. I started re-reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird this week to regain the proper perspective. “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it,” (Lamott again, page 218–and no I haven’t finished the book already, I just skipped to the end and read the underlined parts).

Publication is shit. That’s what I tell myself. Obviously it has some practical value. If some sucker never published your work you’d never get paid the piles of pennies that you do. But it really is just piles of pennies. The average writer makes about $10,000 on a book. That’s it. You’d have to pump out three to four books a year just to maintain a lower-middle class lifestyle. Louis L’Amour could barely pull that off.

So I keep telling myself my first great American novel won’t solve my upcoming unemployment. It’s not a wise solution. Even if it did have a big pay off, I’d have to write the stupid thing first. And I’m not exactly experienced at that. In the years since high school, when I thought my short stories were good, I’ve let my fiction skills atrophy a bit, and I’m not sure if they could handle a freakin’ novel. The last short story I cranked out required a class deadline, plenty of caffeine, a sacrificed Saturday evening, and Radiohead at full volume. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience. And that was only a six-page short story.

But I’ll plow ahead anyway. I have this idea in my head. It’s actually dangerous to say this here. Every time I mention here that I have this idea it dies a slow and painful death of neglect. It’s as if broadcasting the idea to the entire world creates expectation and expectation equals death. World, meet my idea. Idea, meet–oh crap, it’s dead. Nevermind.

Maybe I’ll overcome it by telling you nothing about my idea. It’s just an idea. Let’s leave it at that. It’ll probably require a caffeine-induced Saturday evening of Radiohead just to keep the idea on life support for all the hype it’s already received. But I plan to pursue that idea. I want to chase it down. I want to pursue it and see if it does have something worth the hype. I want to follow the idea, pursue the dream, and see if I can’t actually write a novel. I love to write. I want to write. I yearn to write. Who else would be sitting at their computer on a Friday night, ignoring friends and family, just to type some stupid reflections on life that no one really cares about? You have to like writing to subject your life to public scrutiny for four years straight for the sheer thrill of it. It’s not like anybody ever follows that little support link up there to see what that’s all about. This thing has no rewards. Except for the sole satisfaction of writing. And amazingly enough I keep coming back for that and that alone.

So you see, I have to write a book. At some point in my life I’m going to have to do it. It may be the suckiest novel that ever sucked, and I’ll bury it in the backyard, but I’ll have written it. Anne Lamott suggests writing shitty first drafts, and I want to write the shittiest first draft of all shitty first drafts. Let’s just hope I have the guts for round two.

I think that’s enough for “today.”

War Coverage

I’m finding myself sadistically drawn to the war coverage. Here’s some thought provoking (if left-leaning) articles:

Bush Is an Idiot, But He Was Right About Saddam – from premium (free if you watch a short commercial) – Interesting interview with an author who has overly harsh words for Bush (he’s more concerned with how Bush presents his case) but overall support for the war in Iraq. Very interesting thoughts on Islam as a worldwide force. The interviewer shows a lot of their bias.

“A” Day (that will live in infamy) – from premium (free if you watch a short commercial) – Interesting analysis of the war as reality TV. Seems a little too anti-war biased, but so does most of

Military Promises Huge Numbers for Gulf War II: The Vengeance – from the Onion (which means it’s a joke, mom)

A War Broke Out Today

So war broke out. It took me an extra half-hour to get home on the bus today, thanks to the protesters in downtown Minneapolis. Hurrah to your anti-war efforts, you inconvenienced a few thousand poor schmucks. I hope that helps your cause. You could certainly use some help. Someone ought to explain to the poor fools in San Francisco that when you’re arguing for peace, violence is not a very persuasive tool.

Extreme nutcases aside, I’m having trouble understanding the anti-war movement. Now I’m not a pro-military guy. You’ve probably noticed the big feature on the book Iraq Under Siege on the homepage. I wrote that. It’s a bit out of date now, but it’s still interesting. I read the book with some skepticism, but came out with a lot of questions about U.S. policy. Granted Saddam is not a great guy, but we’re no Ghandi.

I have my reservations with war. My selective service card is tucked away somewhere, and if that number was ever called up, I don’t know what I’d do. I would have trouble shooting at my fellow man. My grandpa fought at Iwo Jima, and I respect his sacrifice, but I still approach war with fear, hesitation, and questions, much to the irritation of my own dad.

But despite my aversion to war, I’m just as put off by the anti-war demonstrators. Their complete lack of logic, balance, and inability to present a decent argument are astounding. I can see a legitimate anti-war platform, but I’ve yet to see a protester argue that platform.

They spout off rhetoric about Bush trying to rule the world, trying to run a race war in the Middle East, trying to claim all the oil in Iraq. What a load of crap. The only argument there that has any validity is that the war has to do with oil. It’s fairly legit to think that oil is a motivation. But if Bush was really oil hungry, would he really be promising to use the oil for the Iraqis, to let them have what’s theirs. If it was really about oil, we’d be seizing the oil fields, selling the oil, and paying for our war. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. If anything, oil is a way to pay for rebuilding the damage a war has caused and a way to get a liberated people back on their feet, a motivation that doesn’t exactly exist in a place like Sudan.

Many people are arguing that we shouldn’t be fighting this war because we don’t have international consensus. That’s a decent argument–though I don’t see any protesters chanting about that. The problem with international consensus is that it’s rare. This conflict has dragged on for a long time, and at some point you have to draw the line.

War is not a pretty thing, but it’s inevitable. That doesn’t mean we have to like it or even pursue it, but it does mean that it’s going to happen. We can do everything we can to avoid it, but it will happen. Especially if you value freedom, war is necessary. So many people find it ironic that war is what enables the protesters to protest war. Without the American Revolution, we wouldn’t have the first amendment that gives us the right to petition our government. Without World War II, we might be under Nazi rule. And I don’t think fascism looks too kindly on a ‘puke-in.’

There’s a lot of tough questions the anti-war movement needs to address, and I see very few addressing it. What about Hitler? They tried diplomacy with Hitler and he invaded Poland. What about the terrible things Saddam has done? Do we just ignore those? True, we ignore other terrible things around the world and we end up enforcing justice inconsistently. I agree. But is it better to stop the one massacre you can than to let it happen? True, we often make big mistakes, like selling someone like Saddam chemical weapons. I think we should fess up to them and try to make smarter decisions in the future. U.S foreign policy is fraught with some big blunders. I’m the first to point those out. They make me nervous. But sometimes those blunders were an attempt to keep something worse from happening. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Meddling in El Salvador didn’t come off too well. But taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan seems like a no-brainer.

Sometimes I just wish America would be the world’s police and do it right. Stop the bloodshed in Rwanda and Sudan. End the guerrilla fighting and drug wars in Columbia. But it’s not that simple. I wish it was.

True Christian pacifism is an interesting idea. Jesus talked about peace, and so some Christians think that’s the way to go. The Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. approach that turns the other cheek. You love your enemies, and that doesn’t happen with smart bombs. It’s a great personal philosophy, but I get squeamish when you have to think about nations. I can decide to be non-violent, and take a punch in the gut when it happens. But when it comes to a nation, if you don’t defend yourself, innocent people die. If a nation turns the other cheek, trades flowers for bullets, eats pastries for peace, you have no more freedom. You become a country in occupation. Maybe that’s okay for some people. It works for Switzerland. But I have a feeling most of us freedom-loving Americans would be shot by the invading army pretty quickly. We’d want to speak out, to say what we want, do what we want, and they’d kill you. That’s what turning the other cheek gets you. Loving your enemies is not compatible with freedom. You have to fight for freedom in this world. We can have freedom in Christ, but it’s more of a personal commodity that bears fruit on the other side.

So I’m not liking the anti-war protesters. I sympathize with them, but I wish they’d make some decent arguments. I wish they’d address the real issues. This world is a complicated place, and it doesn’t work to just say can’t we all get along. Because some jerk comes along who doesn’t want to get along, and pretty soon people are dead. You can either stand up and make sure that innocent people don’t die, or you can hold up your hands and be willing to die along with them. On a personal level, one sounds a lot like Jesus. But nations are different, and I’ve never seen that kind of a Christian nation.

It would be interesting to see America the Christian nation, as in the country that makes every effort to be Christ-like, even in the way we wage war (can there be a Christian way to wage war?). But maybe that’s what we’re doing. A “smart bomb” that lands on target more often than a conventional bomb and hopefully destroys the military target more often that it destroys a civilian target seems like a humane advancement. Moving in with humanitarian supplies seems like a Christ-like move.

Maybe it would help if our government made better choices across the board. If we got tough with countries like China that don’t offer freedom of religion. If we stuck up for the fatherless, the widow, and the orphan all across the globe. The prophet cried out for justice to flow down like a mighty water, and maybe that can’t happen until God steps down onto this earth, but aren’t we called to bring justice now, in whatever way we can? We’re certainly not God’s henchmen, and we shouldn’t claim to be, but some things are pretty clear cut. Mowing down your own people is not justice, and that’s a worthy fight.

Oh, the rambling. Sometimes I find myself easily swayed by arguments. Last week I was angry when someone was so incredibly Republican that they refused to see the duplicity in American foreign policy. I don’t like war hawks. But this week I’m angry at the protesters who don’t see the necessity of war in a modern world. There’s a shaky middle ground somewhere, and that’s where I find myself. Raising a flag for peace is a lovely gesture, but it’s also an idealistic one.