Stop Tweeting Your Life Away

Miley Cyrus is coming to grips with life in the 21st century. She has stopped tweeting and uses the web less often than she used to. “I’m a lot less on my phone, I’m a little bit more social,” she says. “I have a lot more real friends as opposed to friends who are on the Internet who I’m talking to — which is like not cool, not safe, not fun and most likely not real. I think everything is just better when you’re not so wrapped up in [the Internet].”

Of course, she doesn’t read BwB, so that part of her life (that very small part) is malnourished.

Perils Facing the Evangelical Church

R.C. Sproul writes:

In the sixteenth century, the term evangelical came into prominence as a description of the Protestant church. In many cases, the terms evangelical and Protestant were used interchangeably. Today, that synonymous use of the adjectives no longer functions with any accuracy. Historic Protestants have forgotten what they were protesting in the sixteenth century. The central protest of the Reformation church was the protest against the eclipse of the gospel that had taken place in the medieval church.

He points to loss of biblical truth, loss of discipline (meaning appropriate church discipline of congregants), and loss of faithful worship as three danger points for the modern church.

I heard yesterday a Moody radio producer say they believed their listeners were hungry for teaching on the fundamental principles of the Christian faith. Why would that be? Have these people only heard sermons that make application points of principles assumed to be understood? Do most of our churches preach notes from a Christian life over the character and heart of our triune God through whom that life is possible?

Green sin

Man Holding Recycling Bin Full of Glass

My impression (of course I only move in limited circles, usually three times before I lie down) is that this past Earth Day was a relatively muted celebration. The Greenies were observing in private, while we Spoilers of the Earth were having a big old time whooping it up over tired Al Gore jokes.

So I think I’ll pile on a little more. But in a serious vein.

One of the most common responses I’ve met when talking religion with non-Christians (and liberal Christians) is, “I can’t believe in your angry God. Your doctrine of Original Sin offends me. My God is a God of love. My God would never condemn a baby for something Adam and Eve did.”

And it occurred to me, “Well, what do environmentalists believe about sin and guilt?” Continue reading Green sin

A Poem by Seamus Heaney

The Guardian Hay Festival 2006

He would drink by himself

And raise a weathered thumb

Towards the high shelf,

Calling another rum

And blackcurrant, without

Having to raise his voice,

Or order a quick stout

By a lifting of the eyes

And a discreet dumb-show

Of pulling off the top;

At closing time would go

In waders and peaked cap

Into the showery dark,

A dole-kept breadwinner

But a natural for work.

I loved his whole manner,

Sure-footed but too sly,

His deadpan sidling tact,

His fisherman’s quick eye

And turned observant back.


To him, my other life.

Sometimes, on the high stool,

Too busy with his knife

At a tobacco plug

And not meeting my eye,

In the pause after a slug

He mentioned poetry.

We would be on our own

And, always politic

And shy of condescension,

I would manage by some trick

To switch the talk to eels

Or lore of the horse and cart

Or the Provisionals.

Continue reading “Casualty” by Seamus Heaney

Them’s the breaks

Doctor looking at a x-ray

Here’s another of those insights that many of you probably have already figured out. But I share it on the chance that a few of our visitors may be even more spiritually immature than I am.

As you know, I’m a big fan of Dennis Prager’s radio show. Today he was promoting a charity called CURE International, which provides medical services in the Third World.

He talked with a physician who told a story which intersected (in my mind) with something I was thinking about, and gave me an insight which, frankly, frightens me. Continue reading Them’s the breaks

Earth Day for beginners

Farmer Thorarinn Olafsson tries to lure his horse back to the stable as a cloud of black ash looms overhead in Drangshlid 2 at Eyjafjoll

When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

My usually reliable sources inform me that tomorrow is Earth Day (now known as Earth Week, due to the inflationary effects of global warming). In my capacity as acknowledged arbiter of public morals and taste, I take seriously my responsibility to clarify some public misconceptions about this observance.

I am very old, and I remember the first Earth Day. At least I remember magazine articles and people talking about it. I have no memory of the actual observance. I was in college at the time, and I think they gave us the afternoon off. I think the students were supposed to walk around town picking up trash. But I don’t recall it (and, sadly, I can’t even offer drunkenness as an excuse). If I did pick up trash, I don’t remember. Of course, this college was in Forest City, Iowa, which means there probably wasn’t much around in the first place. I suspect I spent the afternoon hiding in my dorm room, cowering with the lights off, fearful of the dreaded knock at the door.

Which was how I generally spent my afternoons anyway.

So how should we observe Earth Day? How should we honor our dear, abusive Mommy Dearest Earth, who sends us hurricanes and earthquakes, harbors our insect and bacterial enemies, and recently threw a hissy fit in Iceland, just because we forgot to call?

First of all, keep that bicycle in the garage. Bicyclists tend to get hit by automobiles, causing unnecessary fuel expenditures for gas-guzzling ambulances and all those energy-sucking operating room lights. Also the water necessary to wash your blood off the street is a drain on the aquifer.

Also, eat a lot. Preferably fatty, salty, high-sugar foods. This lowers your lifespan, you human parasite, and nothing reduces your carbon footprint like death. Also, Mother Gaia loves burials (why do you think she keeps dropping heavy stuff like mountainsides on people? She’s a carnivore). One caution—do not be cremated. Greenhouse gases, you know. Especially after you’ve eaten a lot of fast food.

Hug a wild animal. Preferably a large one with long teeth. They need love too, and your understanding may be just the thing that gives meaning to their dull lives, living out there in the woods where’s there’s no high speed access. And no fast food delivery. Until now.

Join some religion that will force you to live in a pre-industrial age, like Wicca, Islam, or Texas Hold ‘Em. Then give away all your sinful, environment-molesting high end electronics.

I have an address where you can send it all.

George H. Scithers, 1929-2010

I got word today that the first editor to buy one of my stories professionally, and my agent for many years, George H. Scithers, died yesterday at the age of 80.

He was editor of Amazing Stories Magazine back in 1984 when he bought my story, “One Final Dragon.” Several more stories followed, and he took the trouble to give me some good advice along the way.

After he left Amazing, George started Owlswick Literary Agency along with Darrell Schweitzer. They asked me to come on as a client. I remained in their stable until they dissolved a few years ago.

I never had the chance to meet George (came close once, when I had a flight layover in Philadelphia, but it didn’t work out). We communicated by letter at first, then graduated to e-mail. Talked a few times on the phone. He was always gentlemanly, funny, and reassuring.

Beginning as a fan, he was one of the people responsible for the increasing popularity of heroic fantasy, being especially a champion of Robert E. Howard’s work. I was proud to be associated with him.

We never discussed religion, but from some comments he dropped, I believe he was a Christian of some description.

An obituary by Tor editor David Hartwell is here.

His Wikipedia entry is here.


Does God hate Icelanders?

So a volcano erupted in Iceland, they tell me. I’m always interested in what goes on in Iceland, because it’s saga country, and I’ve been there and enjoyed it. Not much good has been happening in those parts recently, which has provided the opportunity for many (including Rush Limbaugh, but he was joking) to ponder the question, as old as Job, of “What have I (they) done to deserve this?”

It brings to mind a story from the sagas (I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t tell you which one; thought it was Njal’s, but it’s not) about the debate held at the Icelandic Althing (national assembly) around the year 1000, when they adopted Christianity by legislative decision. Word came that a volcano had erupted, and was threatening the farm of one of the participants. A heathen claimed the disaster was a threat from the old gods. Snorri the Chieftain (who appears in my novel West Oversea—you can read about it there) pointed to the ancient lava floes all around their meeting place and asked, “And what were the gods angry at when this flowed?”

Because back then, it was Christianity that was hard-headed, skeptical world-view. Continue reading Does God hate Icelanders?

Out of C0nt3xt

I have been busy this week and will be next week as well, so my blogging (and pre-blogging, prep-blogging, post-blogging, and linking) will continue to be light and even lite. But at the moment, I am putting folding clothes, so here’s a link to a post on amusement over out of context Bible verses on t-shirts.

One of the best out of context verses I’ve heard was a missions conference banner reading, “All this I will give you – Matt. 4:9.” The person telling the story said he couldn’t recall a missions context in Matthew 4, and if you don’t remember that reference either, I’ll tell you it’s a quote from the devil when he said he would give Jesus the world if he would worship him. I can only assume a biblical illiterate used a program to search for a few words and ran with the best ones.

The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbo

‘It’s an historian’s duty to uncover, not to judge.’ He lit his pipe. ‘Many people believe that right and wrong are fixed absolutes. That is incorrect, they change over time. The job of the historian is primarily to find the historical truth, to look at what the sources say and present them, objectively and dispassionately. If historians were to stand in judgment on human folly, our work would seem to posterity like fossils – the remnants of the orthodoxy of their time.’

This snippet of dialogue is delivered by one of the characters in the novel The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbø. I’m having trouble deciding exactly what to think about this book, but that passage seems to me about as close to a statement of the author’s world view as I can find (I may, of course, be entirely mistaken). Nesbø seems to believe that moral choices are extremely important, but who’s to say what the right ones are? Continue reading The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbo

Freedom Isn’t Free: An Essay on Digital Content

Freedom isn’t free.

The problem is that most high quality content found on the internet (music, video games, stories, illustrations, etc.) costs significantly more money to create than it is making on-line. There is a huge gap between the cost of production and the price of consumption. Some organizations, such as the New York Times or the makers of the game Spore, complain about this gap and seek to correct it. When they do, they are endlessly mocked on blogs and many consumers refuse to pay up. This results in such organizations either backing down or finding themselves with far fewer customers. In either case, the degradation of content continues, professional people are laid off, and the public gets more and more Beyoncé mashups to feast on.

Fr. Thomas McKenzie offers suggestions for Christians using digital content.

Now I sea!

I am suddenly a fan of Office Depot. The following endorsement is given in return for a favor, but no money changed hands. Either way. Which is the point.

I took my sick laptop (the one I write on) in to Off. Dep. today. An associate and a technician spent about 45 minutes with me, found the problem, fixed it, and sent me home at no charge whatever.

You could have knocked me over with a USB connector.

I really, really needed some stuff I’ve got on there, too.

I reviewed Jared Wilson’s Your Jesus Is Too Safe the other day, and spoke portentously of an insight I’d had while reading it. Chances are many of our smart, attractive readers know this already, but I’ll share it anyhow.

Like all Christians (I suspect), I have Bible passages that I like less than, say, John 3:16, or Romans 8. One of them comes from Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

Continue reading Now I sea!

Denial, by Stuart M. Kaminsky

I’ve written about the Lew Fonesca books before, perhaps my favorite of the late Stuart M. Kaminsky’s detective series. It occurs to me that my personal fondness for Lew may rise in part from the fact that he’s a fellow depressive, and that some readers may be put off by that. Perhaps it should be noted that although the hero of these books is a depressive, the books are not necessarily depressing. There’s a lot of comedy here (some of it pretty black), and wry humor. Lew is sad, but he knows when he’s being ridiculous.

In any case, I want to do what I can to raise Kaminsky’s profile in the world, while some of his books are still in print. They’re worth reading.

Denial begins with Lew locked in the office which is also his home, refusing to speak to any of his friends. Finally his therapist talks her way in, persuading him to tell her what’s kneecapped his spirits even more than usual.

The body of the story is his account of two detective jobs he was hired for (Lew isn’t actually a private investigator. He’s a retired prosecutor’s investigator from Chicago, now eking out a living as a process server in Sarasota, Florida. But people keep bringing problems to him). One job is a serious one, trying to find out who fatally ran down a teenage boy with a car. The other is almost comic—a lady in a nursing home insists she saw someone murdered in one of their rooms, and wants him to prove she’s not senile.

Lew sets about the jobs in his usual quiet, methodical way, with his friend Ames McKinney, a latter-day Gary Cooper from Texas, providing backup and bodyguard service.

Feathers will be ruffled. Secrets will be uncovered.

People will die.

In the end, Lew makes a life-changing resolution. I’m going to order the next book tonight, because I really want to find out how that goes.

Highly recommended.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture