The internet’s utopian libertarianism

The Washington Post has a fascinating article about a manifesto written in 1996 entitled  A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.  (Click the link.  It’s worth reading.)  The piece is by John Perry Barlow, who articulated a utopian high-tech libertarianism that still influences the tech industry and internet culture.  His writing lauds the radical freedom and spiritual changes made possible in the cyberworld, and it is also deadset against any kind of big government, with its regulations and controls.

Read the piece by Jacob Silverman, who has written a book on the subject, excerpted and linked after the jump.  Silverman critiques Barlow for his libertarianism and his opposition to government, maintaining that his successful crusade to keep the internet independent of the government simply allowed private corporations to take over and to do what he did not want government to do.  What do you think of this? [Read more...]

What’s the difference between pastors and laypeople?

Rev. Adam Roe, in his series on vocation at Mission: Work, observes that Philip Melanchthon, author of the Augsburg Confession and other key texts in the Book of Concord, was a layman.  Pastor Roe uses this fact as an example of “the priesthood of all believers,” going on to show how the doctrine of vocation shows how God is graciously active and present  in all of life.

Now Rev. Roe is a pastor in the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).  I’m in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).  There are, indeed, different strains of Lutheranism.  I get the feeling that we Missouri Synod Lutherans have a higher view of the pastoral office than the LCMC.  Rev. Roe emphasizes God’s real presence in lay vocations, such as farming and parenthood, but he seems to have more of a functionalist view of the pastoral office.  My impression is that neither kind of calling is just a function, but that both are genuine channels for God’s workings, though in different ways.  Then again, I’m aware that within the LCMS are some differences in the theology of the pastoral office.  Then again, I, like Melanchthon, am a humble layman, but unlike Melanchthon, I’m not up on all of the theological nuances. Read what Rev. Roe has to say, excerpted and linked after the jump, and help me out here. [Read more...]

The unchurched and non-religious still pray

Church attendance and other marks of religious observance are in decline, but a new study has found that people–including the non-religious–are still praying.  In fact, 57% of Americans say they pray every day, and 75% pray once a week or more.  This would seem to indicate a shift away from corporate religion to privatized religion.  See details after the jump.

Question:  From a Christian perspective, is the persistence of prayer, even as church attendance declines, a good thing, in the sense of better than nothing, or a sign of spiritual sensibility despite it all?  Or, as Joe Carter argues, is it a bad thing? [Read more...]

Diversity and Empire

Which is better?  A society characterized by cultural diversity?  Or a society in which its many different kinds of people are assimilated into a single nation characterized by cultural unity?  Today, the former view dominates, but the goal through most of history throughout the world has been the latter.  More to the point, cultural diversity has always been the characteristic of an empire.  Republics have always been built around national unity.  The Claremont Review of Books discusses a new book on diversity, William H. Frey’s  Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America, delving into these topics and other provocative questions:  such as, how will affirmative action laws work when white people become the minority? [Read more...]

Family, country, God–in that order

The Barna pollsters have released a study of what factors tie into Americans’ self-identity.  The biggest factor by far is  “family.”  Then comes “country.”  Then comes religion.  Other elements, such as career and ethnicity, play a lesser but still significant role.  The mix is different according to different demographics.  After the jump, an excerpt and a link to the report, for more details. [Read more...]

“We loathe this worthless food”

Last Sunday one of our Scripture readings was about the children of Israel complaining in the wilderness, whereupon they were attacked by fiery serpents until Moses healed them by lifting up a bronze serpent on a pole, which Jesus would later apply to Himself (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-21).

I was struck by one of the Israelite’s whines:  “We loathe this worthless food” (Numbers 21:5).  They were talking about Manna!  The miraculous food that God supplied them day by day without their effort!  It was delicious!  “It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16: 31).  And yet, even though this was an astounding miracle from a loving God, the people got tired of it.  They thought it was boring.  It became something to complain about.  “We loathe this worthless food.”

How often we–or, I should say, I–take our blessings for granted, to the point of thinking them worthless.  The only remedy, I suppose, is for fiery serpents to awake us to our need.  And for the Bronze Serpent to show us how that very sinfulness has been crucified and for the one who bore that sin in His body to heal us. [Read more...]


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