More gun control by executive order

The Justice Department is moving ahead with a new round of gun control regulations implemented by the President’s executive order, to be enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  These include forbidding anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense from possessing a firearm.  Also anyone who has been found to be “mentally ill.”  (Does that mean anyone regularly treated by a psychiatrist? Even for traumas and conditions unrelated to any threat of violence?) [Read more...]

Martin O’Malley enters the Democratic race

The rock guitar-playing former governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, announced that he is running for president as a Democratic alternative to Hillary Clinton.  He is running to the left of Mrs. Clinton, whom he accuses of supporting wealthy special interests.

Democrats, would you rather have Mr. O’Malley than Mrs. Clinton, who is supposedly more conservative than she is?  Republicans, would you rather have Mrs. Clinton than Mr. O’Malley, since she is supposedly more conservative than she is?  Or does personality, for better or worse, trump policy? [Read more...]

So should we baptize machines?

The hype about artificial intelligence has some speculating that at some point a computer might have what we might call a soul.  So some theologians are wondering if machines advance to that point, should they be evangelized?  Should they be baptized?

Thomas D. Williams writes about this line of reasoning and why it is unlikely that machines would be able to become Christians.  In addition to “artificial intelligence” meaning something completely different from the human ability to reason, machines would not have inherited original sin so would not be in need of saving (the AI apocalypse crowd may be projecting human-style sinfulness on inanimate objects), and Jesus, according to the Athanasian Creed, came “for us men and for our salvation,” not for animals, much less for machines.  See Williams’s argument after the jump. [Read more...]

Between first sleep and second sleep

About two years ago, we posted First Sleep, Second Sleep, which became the 12th most-read post on this blog, with people to this day clicking on it.  It had to do with what historians have discovered about sleep patterns in the days before artificial lighting, from ancient and Biblical days through the 17th century.  People would go to bed shortly after it turned dark, sleep for four hours, wake up for two or three hours, then go back to sleep for another four hours.  During the period of wakefulness between “first sleep” and “second sleep,” people would talk, read, and pray.  This seems to have been the main time when married couples would make love.  Artificial lighting–not just candles but oil lamps and especially electric lighting–changed people’s sleeping patterns, letting us stay up late, though patterns of insomnia suggest that first sleep and second sleep is deep wired into our nature.

Anyway, researchers have been studying this phenomenon.  Test subjects made to go to sleep when it gets dark, after a period of adjustment, fall back into the pattern.  But then scientists discovered something else.  That time between first sleep and second sleep is characterized by a unique state of consciousness.  Although the person is fully awake, he or she is in a state of deep rest, relaxation, and peace.

Clark Strand, who has written a book on the subject, relates it to the “mindfulness” of Eastern meditation.  I don’t think we have to go all mystical about it, like he does (though the connection might suggest why “the night watches” were such a good time for Bible reading and prayer), but I’m curious what this would have meant for marriages.  Marital intimacy–sex, yes, but also conversation–may well have been heightened during this nightly state of mind.  “Sleeping together” may have been more than a euphemism, perhaps a description of an deep intimacy that may be difficult to attain today. [Read more...]

Laura Ingalls Wilder rediscovered

Some weeks ago, I blogged about the publication of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoir, entitled Pioneer Girl.  This was the manuscript she wrote about her life on the frontier that she could not get published, whereupon she switched gears to write a slightly fictionalized version in a series of  books for children.  These became the nine titles in the Little House books, which, in turn, have become classics of  American literature.  The publication of that original autobiography by the South Dakota Historical Society–complete with photographs, historical annotations, and scholarly notes that give the real-life context for the later novels–has proven to be a literary sensation.  The small press was having trouble keeping up with the demand, and Amazon was overwhelmed with lengthy backorders.  (Something that seems to have been rectified.  Last I checked, the book is available now, without the earlier delay, from Amazon.)

The day my post went up, in which I said how anxious I was to read Pioneer Girl and lamented how hard it was to get ahold of, the intrepid librarian where I teach, Sarah Pensgard, told me that she had found a copy for the library.  So I checked it out and was soon immersed in the real world of Laura Ingalls Wilder. [Read more...]

You Might Be a Lutheran If…

The invaluable Anthony Sacramone has put together a mashup of theological culture and Jeff Foxworthy, resulting in a list of 20 descriptors entitled “You Might be a Lutheran if. . . .”  My favorite:  “You think the pope is the antichrist but still a Christian.”  After the jump, the first part of the list and a link to the rest.

My challenge: Add to them.  (Bonus:  Explain Mr. Sacramone’s more obscure references.)

My other challenge:  Come up with something similar for other Christian traditions, preferably one you are a member of.  (“You might be a Catholic if. . .”; “You might be a Baptist if. . . .”; “You might be a Calvinist if. . . .”; You might be Orthodox if. . . .”; “You might be a theological liberal if. . . .”; etc., etc.)

[Read more...]


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