If God Is For [the Seahawks], Who Can Be Against [the Seahawks]?

[That’s from the New Revised Substandard Perversion]

Terry Bradshaw, after living a full life, died. When he got to heaven, God was showing him around. They came to a modest little house with a faded Steelers flag in the window. “This house is yours for eternity, Terry.” said God.

“This is very special; not everyone gets a house up here.” Bradshaw felt special, indeed, and walked up to his house. On his way up the porch, he noticed another house just around the corner. It was a 3 story mansion with a blue and white sidewalk, a 50 foot tall flag pole with an enormous SEAHAWKS flag, and in every window a blue Towel.

Bradshaw looked at God and said, “God, I’m not trying to be ungrateful, but I have a question. I was an all-pro quarterback, I hold many NFL records, and I even went to the Hall of Fame.”

God said, “So what’s your point Bradshaw?”

“Well, why does Matt Hasselbeck get a better house than me?”

God chuckled, and said, “Terry, that’s not Matt’s house, it’s mine.”

[from GFBA Jeff]


Define “Religious”

“Americans–at least American Protestants–are not, in fact, very religious. True, the great majority believes in God. Most say that religion is important to their lives. Compared with citizens of other highly industrialized countries, American Protestants go to church with astonishing regularity. Nonetheless, if being religious means an understanding of creed, a confessional loyalty that clearly separates worldly purposes from worship, and a refusal to try to make God’s power ‘relevant,’ then most American Protestants have merely confused the sacred with their well-known devotion to practical results” (R. Laurence Moore in the Foreword of D.G. Hart’s The Lost Soul of American Protestantism [Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002] ix).

Organ Donation

Do you have an organ donation sticker on your driver’s license? I do not, but I have never really been opposed to someone doing such a thing. This past week, I have had to think more about the issue after reading the following excerpts from books I have read for classes.


“As part of or alongside a Living Will, more and more people are donating their organs after death to be used to benefit the living. This practice may well be encouraged by the pastor” (Norbert H. Mueller and George Kraus eds. Pastoral Theology [St. Louis: Concordia, 1990], 146).


“The body, as the place of personal presence, has its own integrity, which ought to be respected. Indeed, because we are regarded as stewards rather than owners of our bodily life, the Roman Catholic and Jewish traditions generally forbade self-mutilation. These traditions have become willing to approve the self-giving of organs or tissues for transplantation as long as the donation will not cause grave harm to the donor’s bodily life….In general, therefore, we may regard donation of a kidney or of bone marrow as significantly different from donation of heart, lung, or liver…Yet, a living donor’s gift even of tissue or a paired organ (such as a kidney) should not simply be affirmed as if it were morally uncomplicated. Doctors have in the past been hesitant to transplant kidneys from living, unrelated donors, and it is good that they should be. We should want them to be reluctant to subject a healthy person to the risks of a major operation and the loss of one kidney even if that person is eager to make this bodily gift. It is true, of course, that we ought always be ready to risk harm to ourselves for the sake of others. But it is one thing to aim at my neighbor’s good, knowing that in so doing I may be harmed; it is another to aim at my own harm in order to do good to my neighbor. Thus, even when we approve donation (of, for example, a kidney) from a living donor, we should retain a lively sense of the moral complexity of such an act” (Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005], 88-89).

So what do you think?

“Various Backward Parts of the World”

Ah, that subtle, insidious racism.

Atheism is far from dying. Quite the contrary: If anything, it is bound to grow as the stigma attached to atheism is challenged by scientists, journalists and philosophers [that’s a fine group!]. In the industrialized world the trend has been toward secularism for 250 years, though admittedly it has made no inroads in various backward parts of the world. –Steven Pinker, Science and Theology News (Dec. 2005), p. 12

Fits quite nicely with the name by which atheists prefer to be called: “brights.” By the way, Mr. Pinker, care to define exactly which parts of the world you consider to be “backward”?


A Theory of Poetics

I am fully aware that by posting this, it will make me look even more defensive than I already looked. That’s fine. Please try to take this at face value.

My posts and conversation generated by those posts has caused me to think about what makes for good poetry. The American Idol experience seems to be most comparable. When those terrible singers go on there, and the judges say that they never should be singing, the ones for whom pop stardom is their most closely held dream are devastated. They say something completely ridiculous like, “they don’t know what they’re talking about; I know I’m good,” when they clearly are not.

Is poetry related to American Idol in some way? I started here by saying that some or many of the musicians/artists I like would likely have little chance of being approved by Paula, Randy, and Simon (Dylan, one of my favorites, being a prime example). Those judges are looking for someone who has both the looks and the vocal cords to be a pop star. Yeah, they give lip service to the “rock” guys, but you know they’re never going to be–and maybe they shouldn’t be–the American Idol.

There are objective criteria that most people, unless they are truly tone-deaf, can use to evaluate whether a person is a good singer. They may not be able to tell whether they themselves are good, but they know whether someone else is good. In my mind, however, the criteria for evaluating poetry are much closer to the criteria for evaluating whether something is beautiful or not. We’re all aware that in different cultures and at different points in history, what makes for, say, a beautiful woman has been quite different.

Although poetry is, in some sense, an extremely personal thing, that does not mean that there are not objective criteria for evaluating poetry. My criteria are these: I don’t like poetry filled with cliches, or that come off as contrived or artificial. I don’t like bad rhymes imposed on lines simply because there has to be a rhyme there. I don’t like overly emotional, googly-eyed love poetry. I don’t like sickly sweet, saccharine poetry. Are those “official” criteria? How the heck should I know? I have no literature or creative writing majors. I read poetry and I know when I read something I like and when I read something I don’t. I try to write something I would like to read (I read something I wrote years ago, and I realize I’ve failed more often than not). I like rhythm and movement. I like picture, mood, and emotion (only in poetry!) more than completely decipherable meaning. I read stuff I’ve written and I don’t necessarily know why each word is there, other than it helps create the mood in which I wrote it.

Can we separate our personal likes and dislikes from supposedly objective criteria? I’m not convinced that it’s possible in something like poetry. I read stuff that the “experts” say is good, and it doesn’t make me feel anything. I don’t “get anything” from it. On the other hand, if enough people say something is good or bad, I know I should give it another chance.

If you don’t get anything from something I write, that’s fine. Read something that gives you what you want. That can be taken to an extreme, to the point where you never read anything that might stretch your horizon, but it’s not bad in itself.

Another example: I like Flannery O’Connor and Andre Dubus. I consider them good writers. I like Bob Dylan–listening to him now, in fact. I think he’s a good songwriter and his experimentation with words moves me (even though sometimes I have no idea what he’s singing about). Other people have no use for any of those. What does that say about the quality of their work? Of course, none of this is to say that I’m an objectively good poet. Apparently, more than one person thinks not! (Take a hint, you idiot!)

Balaam’s Ass is averaging about 105 visits a day. There’s got to be someone who has a background in literature or poetry “officially.” I’m interested in your observations on a theory of poetics. Even if you have no official background, by what criteria do you judge whether any particular form of creative writing is “good”? Perhaps Pastor Gruhn will come back and give us his criteria.


Waste of Time

I know this is going to come across as defensive, but take it as annoyance instead. I really dislike drive-by commenting. I repent in dust and ashes if I have ever done it. If you’re going to come by and make strong comments about a post, at least check back to continue the discussion. You can’t make unsupported assertions and not respond when someone has a question about what you’ve said. It’s wasting your time to make the comment, and it wastes the time of those left wondering what the heck you’re talking about. So if you’re too busy to continue the discussion, don’t bother starting one.


I Know Better

“However rude it may be these days to say so, there are some moral truths that we all really know–truths which a normal human being is unable not to know. They are a universal possession, an emblem of rational mind, an heirloom of the family of man. That doesn’t mean that we know them with unfailing perfect clarity, or that we have reasoned out their remotest implications: we don’t, and we haven’t…Yet our common moral knowledge is as real as arithmetic, and probably just as plain. Paradoxically, maddeningly, we appeal to it even to justify wrongdoing; rationalization is the homage paid by sin to guilty knowledge” (J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know [Dallas: Spence Publishing Company, 2003], 19).

Hemmed and Hawed?

This story reports that President Bush did just that–hemmed and hawed–when asked about the movie, Brokeback Mountain.

I may not be an expert on hemming or hawing, but based on the report, it sounds like Bush simply answered the question…eventually.