December 3, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 12.17.11

What a busy week it’s been here at the iMonastery. It is like a miniature Santa’s workshop around here! Martha O’Ireland has been busy making fudge with a wee bit of special Irish “juice” in them. Damaris has knitted us all scarfs. Adam is composing a Christmas opera. And Joe Stallard, our erstwhile webmaster, is still trying to untangle all those Christmas lights. Meanwhile, Chaplain Mike made us a pitcher of nearly non-alcoholic eggnog to go with the gingersnaps First Lady Denise just pulled out of the oven. So what say you and I take a stroll past all of the wrapping paper, bows and scotch tape into the land called Saturday Ramblings.

You might say this is the science edition of Ramblings. Let’s start off by looking into the future—what our children’s children will have to look forward to. I for one love the idea of a “space elevator.” Of course, I’ll want to stop at every floor on the way up. I’ll be like Buddy the Elf and push all the buttons. (I know—you’ll wait for the next elevator, right?)

Eagle-eyed rambling reporter Adam Palmer (we’ll hear more from AP in just a minute) alerted me to this earlier this week. Scientists are that much closer to finding the elusive “God particle” using science fiction-esque equipment. Just what is this “God particle”? You can read a good overview here. Yes, it was commissioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation. But as you read this, see if your heart does not soar in praise to the God of this particle. I know mine did.

Speaking of famous atheists, Christopher Hitchens died this week after a fight with cancer. Adam has these thoughts to share about the man who fought so hard to prove God does not exist.

When I read the news two nights ago of Christopher Hitchens’s death, I was shocked. Not so much by his passing–the man had been diagnosed with cancer in his esophagus over a year ago, so it was just a matter of time–I found I was shocked by the amount of sadness I felt. I was grieving the loss.

The man could write, so I grieved the loss of a true literary talent. I rarely agreed with his arguments, especially his staunch atheism, but I respected him as a thinker. While Hitchens was a polarizing, pompous ass, he was at least a heartfelt and intellectually rigorous one. I regarded him as a man who had the courage to look at his humanness and embrace it, flaws and all; instead of the moralistic, toothy posturing we see from so many church leaders and talk radio hosts, Hitchens presented himself to the world with unblinking awareness.

He was, in other words, a troublemaker. One who, perhaps unknowingly, relied on the grace of acceptance, by his family, his friends, and his admirers.

Which explains my shocking sadness. For here was a man who came *so* close to the gospel. He was able to admit that he was a flawed, broken human being, but he couldn’t bring himself to take that last step, the one where we say, “Okay, Jesus. I need You.”

I often get it the other way around, coming to Jesus intellectually as some sort of penance, but without ever admitting my depravity. Once I own up to my selfish, sinful nature, I’ve started the Slinky down the staircase and the next step of accepting God’s grace comes naturally.

Hitchens couldn’t take that step–and that reluctant defiance is what saddened me. We have lost a brilliant troublemaker, because that was all he was content to be.

Let’s put science talk behind us for the moment and move on to a more important topic: Sports! I don’t know if anyone else is as ready for baseball season to begin as I, but this story kind of put me off my feed for a bit. Oh please please please—can we keep the evangelical circus away from baseball? (And while we’re talking about it, pray that my Cincinnati Reds can trade for a good starting pitcher…)

Meanwhile, Tebowing can get you in trouble. Take it from these high schoolers who were suspended for Tebowing in the hall of their New Jersey school. Oh those zany teens. What will they do next? Strike the Heisman pose when they answer a math question correctly?

A bit more severe punishment was meted out to a Saudi Arabian woman who claimed she had healing powers and charged clients $800 per visit for her “skills.” Am I the only one who thinks that if this woman were in the U.S., she wouldn’t have been executed?She would be negotiating a TV deal and opening a multi-site church.

Oh good. Another study on why young people are dropping out of church. Has anyone ever considered that this generation can see through the hype and that they long for fit over fashion? Just sayin’…

Some of you were skeptical about a story turned in by the Synonymous Rambler a couple of weeks ago about the Jesus Toaster. You thought it was a hoax. Oh ye of little faith. The Vermont entrepreneur who invented the holy toaster claims to be selling 50-100 a day. And no, you may not have my address to send me one.

Birthday cards this last week went out to Chet Huntley (“Goodnight, Chet”); Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; Tulsa’s own David Gates; Booker T. Jones; Donna Mills; Teri Garr; Edward G. Robinson; Frank Sinatra; Jack Ryan (inventor of Hot Wheels and Barbie); Dickey Betts; Neil Peart; Dick Van Dyke; Jeff “Skunk” Baxter; Ted Nugent; and Lesley Stahl.

Sure, I could use a drum solo by Neil Peart or a song by Ol’ Blue Eyes or even a clip from the Dick Van Dyke show as our bonus video today. But seeing as it is That Season, I thought this little ditty appropriate. Somehow I find this funny. And that probably says a lot about me now, doesn’t it? Enjoy.

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  1. “While Hitchens was a polarizing, pompous ass, he was at least a heartfelt and intellectually rigorous one. I regarded him as a man who had the courage to look at his humanness and embrace it, flaws and all; instead of the moralistic, toothy posturing we see from so many church leaders and talk radio hosts, Hitchens presented himself to the world with unblinking awareness.”

    Atheist or not, that’s quite a eulogy.

  2. Wow!!! So much to cover… 😉

    Jeff I have to disagree with you on the Saudi woman’s execution. The REAL story is that she probably tried reading from the Book of Esther outloud in Tim Challis church. 😯

    On the young people leaving the church, frankly I think much of its has to do with changing times and the economy and education. In the older days people married much younger. They didn’t carry as much debt, and they were able to start their lives sooner. Today people are picking up 2 or 3 educational degrees and not even sure if they can get a job. Many older people are putting off retirement and holding the good jobs. Quite a few are living at home and probably are frustarted. In the mix of all this the got this conservative evangelical spiel…and they look around at themself, and others and think “Who are they kidding? I’m 26 living at home, its been hard finding work, I’ve played by the rules…but this Christian thing doesn’t work.” And with that they move on or do whatever.

    Basically when fundagelicals reduce the gospel to morality, the biological sex drive will win every time. Becuase people are people.

    As for Christopher Hitchens he will be missed. I remember skimming thorugh his book “God is not Great” in Borders back in 2009, and I enjoyed what he said. He did have an attitude but he also said some good things. I’m waiitng for many parts of the fundagelical crowd to celebrate his death, joyfully talk about him being in hell, and to have believe that one more threat in their siege mentality has been neutralzied. Of course they could have shown unconditional love…but that would have taken too much work. Sadly it’s easier for some people to hate…..

    • So true, Eagle. My kids are in their 20’s. One goes to church some, the other not much at all. They both believe but see little reason to go to church every week and hear what Christians are against and how the government is making us Socialist. Both kids know and are friends with gays and to have the constant barrage of anti-gay preaching does not endear them to the church. As you said, many of these kids have played by the rules, get through school, and find out there is nothing out there. They’ve spent their lives being told that God has a plan for them, only to discover that the plan is full of failure and disappointment, with no comfort but only a good sturdy pat on the back and encouragement to try harder. Same goes for us middle agers, who are also leaving churches. There is an evangelical tv station in our area, and the rare occasion I turn it on, I’m appalled. Big teeth, big hair, loud pop music, and discussions on trivial matters or some slimy looking preacher wailing on how Got wants our lives to be wonderful. And then you look around, see what a mess everything is, see your finances taking a hit through unemployment, see thousands struggling, and you think maybe God needs to try a little harder.

      • If all I knew about Christianity was what I saw on t.v. …I wouldn’t go to church, either.

      • Eagle and Suzanne ~ I agree so much with both of you. The “plan of God” teaching is so Americanized by the church. So much so that we just sort of shove the tough verses out of sight. “For my sighing comes before I eat, And my groanings pour out like water. For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” Job 3:2 I have yet to see that on a poster or plaque. I have been a Christian for almost 40 years and yes, there were times of great joy. But most of that time has been very tough and sometimes downright torturous. Maybe if there had been a sequel to “The Prayer of Jabez” like for instance “The Prayer of Job”.

        • Love that Prayer of Job! But remember, Job had a happy ending; got a new, improved family, more wealth, and it was all good. Mention that sometimes you sit in ashes and sackcloth with sores covering your body and then you die? Won’t hear that in most American churches.

        • Adrienne, I like to contrast that Prayer of Jabez nonsense with the Prayer of Habakkuk, in Hab 3:17-18:

          17Though the fig tree should not blossom,
          nor fruit be on the vines,
          the produce of the olive fail
          and the fields yield no food,
          the flock be cut off from the fold
          and there be no herd in the stalls,
          18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
          I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

          Jabez was a hack. The bible mentions him only in passing, as an interruption; and then gets back to the important matter of painstakingly mind-numbing genealogies. Bruce Wilkinson pumped him up so he could make a buck on him.

  3. And now for something completely different: this link courtesy of Eve Tushnet. I never heard of the man before, but this poem somehow struck me – for some odd reason – as a perfect Advent poem. Maybe a dream of one of the Three Kings before they saw the star and set out. What do you think?

    Last Night As I Was Sleeping by Antonio Machado

    Last night as I was sleeping,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that a spring was breaking
    out in my heart.
    I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
    Oh water, are you coming to me,
    water of a new life
    that I have never drunk?

    Last night as I was sleeping,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that I had a beehive
    here inside my heart.
    And the golden bees
    were making white combs
    and sweet honey
    from my old failures.

    Last night as I was sleeping,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that a fiery sun was giving
    light inside my heart.
    It was fiery because I felt
    warmth as from a hearth,
    and sun because it gave light
    and brought tears to my eyes.

    Last night as I slept,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that it was God I had
    here inside my heart.

  4. C.H. dies – yawn.

  5. Jesus believes in Christopher Hitchens.

    From that article on what life will be like for our grandchildren: “Our grandchildren may have the option of reaching the age of 30, and then stopping at that age for many decades to come.” That would be so…weird. Would you want to be able to do that?

    Thanks for the update on the Jesus Toaster, Jeff!

    • @JoanieD…

      YES! So long as learning doesn’t stop.

      Maybe by that time all those “long agers” will be descendants of the Johnson Family and related to Lazarus Long.


  6. The Beatbox Nativity is great – creativity is a gift from The Creator.

  7. “Another study on why young people are dropping out of church. Has anyone ever considered that this generation can see through the hype and that they long for fit over fashion? Just sayin’…”

    On “Just sayin”, it made this study

  8. “even if the act of faith includes the denial of God. Where there is ultimate concern, God can be denied only in the name of God” – Paul Tillich.

  9. Thanks for mentioning Neil Peart’s birthday – one of the most respected drummers – well, except in the eyes of the R&RHOF and Rolling Stones.

    Speaking of the hall of fame, I watched on Youtube the recording of when Cream was inducted. Eric Clapton said in his acceptance speech that there was a time when he didn’t believe in the institution, because Rock and Roll is not supposed to be respected. It made me think about our faith, which in Hebrews is described as followed by those of whom the world is not worthy, but which the cultural warriors, Christmas jihadists, and Tebow fans keep trying to shove down the throats of the world. In the same way Rock and Roll becomes trite once it is respected, Cbristianity becomes ugly once it becomes sanctioned and relevant.

  10. I would enjoy these more if there was not that picture of the cow. A little disturbing.

    • Today’s cows are tomorrow’s burgers!!!! 🙂

      • +1
        “Salad isn’t food. Salad is what food eats”.

      • Eagle, btw, I finally got around to answering your question from the other day about Adam. PLEASE know it reflects MY take on the idea ONLY, but it is my honest best!

        • BTW…. I think I know part of the problem that developed for me. Maybe Jeff Dunn or Chap Mike can expand upon this….

          In todays evangelicalism I think the gospel is being masculinized. Now this is beyond what folks like Mark Driscoll teach about Jesus. I was taught by my mission team leader at McLean and in Campus Crusade that sin entered the Garden of Eden because of a failure by man to lead a woman and protect her from sin. If man led the female successfully in the Garden of Eden sin would not have entered the world.

          Now here’s where this bothers me.

          1. I think its perverse masculinity and patriarchy in a perverted form.
          2. It teaches that sin could have been managed, thus denying how sinful people are…
          3. It also subjugates women….
          4. Its an excuse or a way to manipulate the Bible FOR justifying why men should always lead womwn.
          5. And in my case since I didn’t see how sinful we are and how sin is connected due to the fact that I belived that it could have been prevented if man actually led a woman.

          Does that make sense I Monestary?

          • “[S]in entered the Garden of Eden because of a failure by man to lead a woman and protect her from sin.”

            This starts with the assumption that the man was capable of leading the woman away from sin; also that the woman was not capable of that herself. It’s a reading into of the scripture.

            And I think you’re right: That view teaches that sin (or rather sinfulness) can be managed. It sounds like works-rigteousness, and negates the need for a saviour.

  11. Hitch is in heaven now. But he didn’t get there as gloriously as he could have.

    “Only one life and soon ’twill be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

  12. Regarding the shape of things to come, Michio Kaku spoke at my alma mater’s graduation ceremony last May and so was briefly the BMOC there. (Unfortunately, I graduated from Rose-Hulman many moons ago myself, so I didn’t get to hear him with my own two ears.) He’s a pretty neat guy, from what I’ve seen of him on PBS, and I’m glad he helps to popularize science the way he does.

    As for the space elevator, if it weren’t against the rules, I’d happily post a link to something I wrote up last year regarding the detailed physics of these crazy things. But to summarize, Kaku’s right: carbon nano-fibers are probably just about strong enough to actually work — if they can ever be produced in industrial quantities. Anything else is pretty much hopeless, however. (Piano wire was 160 times too weak to work, in the specific example I was looking at — it would be like trying to tow a car with a shoelace!)

  13. Hitchens came so close to getting it right …the omnipotent and omniscient God is, indeed, a totalitarian. Following Him is tantamount to slavery and a surrender of your own sovereignty. What Mr. Hitchens seems to have misunderstood is God’s love. Some Masters are worthy of being served.

    I wonder if he ever knew love? Perhaps he has at least had a fleeting glimpse of it now. Can’t say for sure that Christopher Hitchens is in heaven, but he made a difference while he was with us. And I don’t think he was ever comfortable with himself.

    Now, as for the Reds, just don’t trade Alonso …yet, anyway. Let’s see what he can do this coming season. Volquez is another matter entirely. Pitchers and catchers report in 8 weeks!

    • No. No slave owner is worthy of being served. They are vile, evil people.

      • Is a railroad track vile and evil for being the restriction the train was meant to follow? Is the train a slave to the track because it was made to run well on it and it only?

        • If the slave owner has no will, then it is not evil. Is that what you want to say about your god?

      • Donalbain, please clarify: are you saying that if God is (by definition) the Supreme being and we – the creation of God – are therefore subservient to the will of God, that is inherently vile and evil? If so, on what basis would you define this evil?

        • I would define it on the basis that owning slaves is evil.

          • Certainly any human being presuming to own another human being is evil. No human being is qualified to assume lordship over another. Those that presume to be are playing God.

            The God I follow invites each of us to resume the loving relationship with Him for which we were designed, and, ironically, in that is perfect freedom. This kind of “slavery” is natural and voluntary, not at all like human slavery, which is forced and unnatural. If we were forced to submit to God, it would not be love at all. Besides …His yoke is easy and the burden light.

            Hope that helps 🙂

          • Glenn A Bolas says

            ‘Loving relationship’? ‘Natural and voluntary’? If this is what you’re talking about, methinks you should use a word other than ‘slavery’ to describe it.

    • Glenn A Bolas says

      Jim, I can’t help but think that this is a really unfortunate analogy. Especially for American readers.

      I can conceive of there being dignity in serving a king. A good king is a noble thing. Moreover, submission to a king is not a de facto violation of one’s human rights. But a slave owner is always and everywhere an evil and to be opposed. Even if he is benevolent towards his slaves, by owning them like property he is violating their innate human dignity.

      Slavery existed in biblical times, but, though God is often described as a king, I don’t think there is anywhere in the Bible where God is likened to a slave owner. I can’t help but think there is a reason for that.

      • And the difference between God and a slave owner is that the slave owner forces you to do his will. God offers you the chance to say ‘thy will be done’. No one has to do it – there is always the choice of God saying to you at the end of all things “*thy* will be done”.

      • Your point is well taken. Perhaps a marriage analogy would be more appropriate. As for the king/subject relationship, I doubt many Americans can really relate to that one, either, given our traditions. While scripture certainly talks of slavery, I have never believed that it condones slavery.

        Neither do I mean to be defending slavery, but only using it to indicate that God is worthy to be served with one’s whole being and that he “owns” us as a creator owns his creation. Surrendering your old life for one that center’s on Christ is the core issue here.

        Steve, Glen, Jack, Donalbain …thanks for the discussion!

  14. Dan Crawford says

    I will pray for the eternal rest of Christopher Hitchens, and I will entertain the thought that in his final moments, he was ministered to by Mother Teresa.

      • Thanks, Eagle. I liked that article. I like: “We often resent forgiveness and reconciliation, because it doesn’t seem ‘fair.’ But as Jesus points out, God’s love is far different than our own; it is prodigal, generous, even wasteful. I hope that Christopher Hitchens enjoys some of this prodigal love.”

        Me too.

        I was reading in the Gospel of Luke today where Jesus says that God is kind to the wicked. (I am not saying Hitchens was wicked…I am kind of changing the topic a bit.) Note that Jesus did not say that God is kind to the wicked once they repent. He said God was kind to the wicked. (Read Luke 6:34-36) What do you think of that?

    • Well, she did about as much for him as she did for any of her “patients” while she was alive.

  15. Glad Tebow was mentioned. I’ve been hoping the phenomenon would be brought up here sometime. I’ve read in the comments section of a couple of articles I’ve read on him this week where someone will say something like, “Tim Tebow is winning because he puts God first in his life”, or, “Tebow is winning because he honors Jesus Christ before men”. I know the “theology of victory” is not very popular here, (I don’t believe it myself), but it gives one pause to see how he has almost miraculously been pulling out victories the last few weeks in the waning moments of games. For that reason, I’m hoping the Broncos get pasted by the Patriots this week. If Tebow beats Brady in the last second of the forth quarter this week, I might have to start watching Joel Osteen!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      More like “15 minutes of fame” than “theology of Tebow”.

      We’ve all seen a lot of Christian (TM) Celebrities come and go.

  16. These young dropouts value the sense of community their churches provide but are tired of being told how they should live their lives. They don’t appreciate being condemned for living with a partner, straight or gay, outside of marriage or opting for abortion to terminate an unplanned pregnancy.

    And God doesn’t appreciate sin.

    • True enough. But God loves us in spite of our sin, and God is well aware that all have sinned. And he still seeks us and woos us. A lot of churches, not so much.

    • True…that means we must be all perfect. And if we can’t be than the door in the back is for a reason because no one can struggle, no one can be clean, no one can say, “alcohol is kicking my butt….” It they do admit that they face a scolding and a breif time to get everything together. Otherwise they are shown the door, and some call it “love….” (rolls eyes….)

      • As well it should be! You NEVER saw Christ tolerating drunks, hookers, cheaters, theives, or those nasty folks with physical or mental illness! No sireee, He loved all those smart, nicely dressed, respectable Pharicees and High Priests and , umm, ………..nevermind. 🙁

        • Didn’t Jesus tell the woman caught in adultry to keep on keeing on? In fact because of his love for her he had no expectation that she should ever stop her behavior, and because she was born with these desires she should embrace and celebrate them. We can be certain that based on the fact that Christ is so loving he would never be so hateful as to tell anyone to repent, right?

          • Yes, he told her to go and sin no more. But not before he had gone to the mat for her and thus won here over. Saved her from judgement and death. He restored her rather than rejecting her. And he didn’t in the end dole out the punishment the religious leaders wanted, either. That is the seeking and wooing I was referring to. It’s a pattern with Jesus.

  17. I love how atheists scientists have tried to find the so called ” God particle ” and after spending billions of dollars some of which came from us taxpayers , they are unable to find it.

    What if scientists don’t find the Higgs boson?

    Martin Archer – “If we don’t see it, it actually means that the universe at the most fundamental level is more complicated than we thought,” says Archer, “and therefore maybe the way we’ve been attacking physics isn’t right.”

    • Atheist scientists?

      • lol. yup

        • I am going to guess that you have never actually met a scientist. We come in all sorts of flavours. There are Christian scientists, Hindu scientists, Muslim scientists, atheist scientists, Buddhist scientists. What makes you think that the work at CERN is entirely run by atheist scientists?

    • To be fair, the ‘God particle’ is a name picked up on by the media with no real reasoning behind it. And as you point out, not finding it would be even more interesting than finding it, so there’ll be no complaints from me if the LHC turns up blank on that issue.

      Incidentally, the Large Hadron Collider is funded by CERN, a European initiative. The tax burden of the member states of CERN pays the equivalent of two Swiss francs a year per citizen towards all CERN projects – that’s a little over $2. Pretty good for a project that’s so important.

      • America has contributed at the min. $531 million to the CERN project. The real total is prob. well over the $1 billion mark.

        • All of which was from pre-existing public scientific funds and private research grants. No extra tax burden.

          • I believe Adam is correct on this one Jack. Majority of the money came from the US department of energy.

  18. I have no gripe with Tim Tebow. I don’t think he is the problem, it’s our 15 minutes of fame syndrome. Teens kneeling to pray are “Tebowing.” Who is getting the glory there?

    “At the name of Jesus we will all Tebow and confess that he is Lord.”
    Philippians 2:10, a paraphrase

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Tebow’s just the latest Christian Celebrity Bandwagon, that’s all.

      We’ve all seen other Celebrity Convert types come and go, make a big splash in all the Christian Headlines and then drop out of sight without a trace.