Friday, September 19, 2008

The Family of God

I've been reading through Paul's letters in the New Testament, and I've come across a passage that I guess I have read before, but not in a very long time.

1 Corinthians 7:12-14 (NRSV): To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

Paul's theology was Calvinistic (or, more accurately, Calvin's theology was Pauline). Paul believed that Christians were predestined by God for salvation. They were the chosen ones; God had set them aside before the beginning of time for salvation. Those who were condemned from the beginning of time were condemned not because God is a monster, but because he wanted to demonstrate how merciful he was to those he had chosen - after all, he could have placed THEM in the condemned camp. Paul says this very explicitly in several places, including 1 Corinthians and especially Romans.

Paul also believed that Christ's return ushering in the kingdom of God on earth was going to happen in his own generation. Later in this same passage, he urges people to simply stay in whatever social place they are in - there is no reason to change jobs, get divorced, move away, become free if you are a slave, etc., because God is coming soon. This is a common and repeated theme in Paul's writings. Later New Testament writers even addressed this issue by encouraging their followers to keep the faith, even though Jesus was taking his good easy time with returning in glory.

In the passage quoted above, Paul is making it clear that people who are predestined - chosen by God for salvation - are of a special breed. Therefore, their children cannot be condemned...a predestined person's offspring are also predestined and saved simply by virtue of being born of the loins of a predestined person. It's the same idea that says the child of a king is also royalty, simply by virtue of being born to a king. It's all one big family, for Paul. Again, this is made explicit in both 1 Corinthians and Romans.

Therefore, in order for a child to remain the holy offspring of a Christan parent, BOTH the child's parents must be part of God's kingdom. A child can't be half saved and half condemned. Therefore, if a Christian marries a non-Christian, the non-Christian partner is saved by his/her marriage to the Christian. In that way, the family of God remains intact. Paul urges Christians not to divorce their unbelieving partners because the non-believer is saved as long as they remain married to a believer. If they get divorced, then eternity in God's kingdom is lost for that person. And since God's kingdom was coming soon, as far as Paul was concerned, he was urging these sorts of mixed religion couples to stay together, for the sake of eternity for themselves and their offspring.

The ramifications of this Pauline theology are twofold. First, anyone married to a Christian is saved, whether they themselves are a Christian or not. Second, anyone who is the CHILD of Christian parents is also saved (or a Christian and a non-Christian parent, provided the parents stay together).

If we take this out to its full conclusion, pretty much everyone who is from European descent is saved because all of us can trace our family lines back to parents or grandparents who were Christians. I'd be willing to bet there's not anyone alive today of European descent that doesn't have Christians in their direct line. Even if not your own parents, then probably THEIR parents (meaning they were holy by default), or their grandparents' parents.

The "holy" gene, for Paul, is passed on from generation to generation.

The words for "holy" in that passage, by the way, are the Greek words "hagios" and "hagiazo" (the second being derived from the first). Both words essentially meant "sanctified," "holy," or "purified," and when the word is used by NT writers, it is used in the sense of being consecrated or dedicated to God. That is, it literally meant "saved."

If someone is a Bible literalist, they must accept that Paul, inspired by God, teaches that anyone married to, or descended from, a Christian is saved by default.

The first argument against this, I believe, will be Paul's phrase: "To the rest I say - I, and not the Lord - that if any believer..." Paul was speaking on his own here, not necessarily through God.

But Bible literalists already accept that the words of the Bible - ALL the words of the Bible - are inspired by God and are, literally, the words of God. Paul may have been making his own theological point here, but he was inspired by God in his writing, so what he wrote MUST, by definition, be true. If one wants to make a concession here, then where else should we be making consessions and saying that this passage or that passage isn't actually the Word of God? Bible literalists, by definition, can't make concessions. If you are a Bible literalists, you must accept that most every North and South American, and most every European - Christian or not - is saved. Not to mention many people in other continents of the world who have Christian parents or ancestors. Otherwise, you are disagreeing - not with me - but with Paul.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How Much Oil Is Left?

A couple of commonly asked questions, with answers.

How much oil is left in the Arctic?

No one knows for sure how much oil is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The estimates have changed over time. The estimates range anywhere from 5 billion (minimum) to 16 billion barrels (maximum). The U.S. uses about 7 billion barrels every year.

Drilling in the ANWR? It's putting a band-aid on a grenade wound.

If anyone thinks that the ANWR will eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, or even dramaticallly reduce our dependence on foreign oil, they simply don't understand the facts.

Has someone said for sure when the world's total oil supply will run out? Is it in our lifetime? 50 years from now? Maybe 500?

According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, there are about 1.3 trillion barrels of oil left in the world right now.

According to OPEC, the world uses about 31 billion barrels of oil every year. That number will go up 35.4 billion by 2015, 37 billion by 2020, and 41 billion by 2030. Thus, over the next 21 years, the world will average about 36 billion barrels of oil each year.

Thus, barring any new major oil discoveries, the world's oil supply will be effectively gone in 36 years.

Ending our dependence on foreign oil? Band-aid. Grenade wound.

We absolutely MUST start focusing RIGHT NOW on finding alternative fuel sources.

Which candidate has vowed to find alternative fuel sources within 10 years? Obama.

Which candidate hasn't said a word about doing anything other than continuing to drill for oil that is going to run out? McCain.

And while McCain has been opposed to drilling in the ANWR on environmental grounds, he said a few months ago that he would "look at the issue again," and he has since chosen a strong pro-ANWR-drilling supporter as his running mate.

Back in July, before being chosen as Veep, Palin was quoted as saying that she intended to do her best to "convince" McCain to change his mind about drilling in the ANWR. How much more will she work to "convince" him now that she's his running mate?

And why would Palin be so strongly behind drilling in the ANWR? Oh, I dunno, maybe because Alaskans get money directly into their pockets from oil revenues on the northern slope. Every citizen of Alaska gets several thousand dollars each year as part of "profit sharing" from oil drilling. OF COURSE they think we should drill in the ANWR! In the rest of the world, we call this "profiteering."

As for how much oil is left in the world, my numbers above assume that every last drop can be profitably extracted. In fact, the profitable nature of the oil would end LONG before we actually got to that last barrel. This means, of course, that the oil will run out even quicker - maybe within 25 or 30 years.

The "profit" issue is one reason that drilling in the ANWR has only recently become a hot topic. It's been discussed for many years, but because oil prices were so low, it would not have been profitable for oil companies to extract the oil. It would have cost them more per barrel to extract it than what they could sell it for. Now that oil prices are so high, the oil companies know they can make an absolute BUNDLE on the ANWR oil, so (big surprise) now the oil companies want the concession to drill in the ANWR.

And the politicians who have the oil companies in their back pocket are suddenly pushing for ANWR drilling and acting like the ANWR is going to solve all our problems.

Band-aid. Grenade. Profiteering.

Those are the only three words anyone needs to know when it comes to the ANWR and to the red herring of "ending our dependence on foreign oil."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Caribou Barbie


New from Mattel!

Log Cabin Republican playset sold separately.

Why Obama Should Be Elected

This is short and sweet, and is not even my own creation. This was a comment posted by a friend of mine from the Internet, "Drewsifer," in a politics thread on the Rush messageboard. It says all that needs to be said:

"The way I see it, we are a deeply divided nation. We have gone through 8 years of an administration that has made this divide even greater. Our economy is in poor shape. Our standing in the world has been greatly diminished. Over half the country feels disenfranchised by their government. Do you think that the election of another Republican administration that has vowed to continue many of the same policies that got us to this point will do anything to make this state of affairs better? America works best when each side of the political spectrum is given their periodic day in the sun in order to keep things in balance. It's our turn to drive."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin and the Alaska Independence Party

According to ABCNews, Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party during the 1990's, and even attended an event they sponsored in 1994.

The Alaska Independence Party is a group who wants Alaska to secede from the United States and form its own independent country.

I'm not sure the extent to which Palin was involved with this organization, but it appears that she was a member, and did attend events. This has been confirmed by ABCNews through the chairman of the AIP, Lynette Clark.

Here's a link to the article:

McCain's choice for VP is becoming more and more difficult to believe. Was this woman vetted at all?

I wonder how Republicans would react if Obama's running mate was shown to have been a member of a group advocating secession from the United States?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sarah Palin's Pregnancy

A lot of rumors have been flying around the Internet blogosphere this weekend regarding rumors that Sarah Palin's 5-month-old son isn't actually her son, but her grandson - the child of her 16-year-old daughter. These rumors have been supported by a variety of circumstantial evidence - most notably the fact that Palin didn't appear pregnant, even as late as 6 or 7 months into the pregnancy, pictures of her daughter with a "paunch" taken around the same time, her daughter's timely excusal from school for 4-5 months because of supposedly having mono, and Palin's inexplicable decision to give a speech in Texas, then fly all the way back to Alaska, then drive to a rural hospital in Wasilla, all after her water had broken - a total of some 15 hours. In addition to that, the hospital where the baby was born, apparently, has no record of a baby by that name being born there that day.

While this is interesting and compelling circumstantial evidence, it appears to just be a smear campaign. I've seen some pictures, apparently, from late in Palin's term, where she DOES appear to be showing (although it cannot be denied that she was strangely flat-tummied as late as 7 months into the pregnancy). I suppose if there is any substance or truth to this rumor, it will eventually come out.

Be that as it may, I think an important facet of Palin's personality has been revealed by these stories. Namely, that she made a remarkably poor and selfish decision in choosing to return all the way to Alaska to have her child, when she was already going into labor in Texas.

She was there, in Texas, giving a political speech, and was about 8 months pregnant. Her water broke, and she began leaking fluid. She decided, however, to go ahead with the speech (even though any doctor will tell you that you absolutely MUST get to the hospital immediately upon the breaking of your water). Then, after the speech, instead of going to a Dallas-area hospital, she boarded a plane for an 8- or 9-hour flight back to Anchorage, including a stop-over in Seattle. After arriving in Anchorage, she still didn't go to the hospital, but instead drove to Wasilla, where she finally gave birth something like 15 hours after her water broke.

It doesn't take an OB/GYN to tell you that this was a remarkably bad decision. Not only did it put her own health in danger (particularly considering that she - at 44 - is in a "high risk" category already), but it also put her unborn child in unecessary danger - especially since she already knew the child had Down's syndrome.

Supporters of Palin might suggest that it shows what a "tough" woman she is, but I believe it shows what a foolish and self-centered woman she is. What reasons could she possibly have had for waiting? Obviously she wanted to give that speech. Obviously, too, she wanted to give birth in the hospital of her choice. Not very good reasons for putting your own health, and the health of your child, in jeopardy.

Would any average woman do what she did? If you were going into pre-term labor, a month early, at 44, with a Down's syndrome baby, would you wait 15 hours before going to the hospital, including getting on a plane for an 8-hour trip? Furthermore, if you DID do such a thing, wouldn't it be reasonable to say you were acting selfishly, rashly, and without good judgment?

There are many reasons to be uncomfortable with the selection of Palin as a VP candidate - the primary of which is her profound inexperience. This situation simply adds another black mark to her record - a record that has very little of quality to someone who is not a gun-toting, pro-life, anti-environmentalist.