Madness

More details come out about the Tucson shooter Jared Loughner’s insanity.  I was struck with this paragraph in a description of his delusions (none of which were apparently related to politics, despite what is still being said):

Slowly but steadily, his intelligence warped into a distorted, disconnected series of obsessions. He developed an illogical fascination with logic. Math, grammar, logic – the systems civilization has developed to make sense of the world became the means through which he expressed the confusion and pain in his increasingly lost mind.

via Friends, teachers tell of Loughner’s descent into world of fantasy.

This reminds me of G. K. Chesterton’s comment in Orthodoxy that a madman is not someone who has lost his reason, but someone who has lost everything but his reason.  Chesterton pointed out that madmen often carry a kind of logic to its extreme–circular reasoning, seeing evidence of conspiracies everywhere, closely analyzing ordinary occurrences and finding sinister meanings–but they lack normal human feelings and perspectives.

How bad is the flooding in Australia?

Sharks spotted swimming through flood-hit streets of Australian town.

I worry what the flooding will mean for the habitat of Queensland’s salt water crocodiles–affectionally known as “salties”–one of the most dangerous creatures on earth.

And we mustn’t forget the even deadlier floods in Brazil, which have, by last count, killed more than 500 people.

The “I have a dream” speech

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Clarence Jones, an aide to Martin Luther King, Jr., recounts the background of the famous “I have a dream” speech, which really is a spectacular piece of oratory.  According to his account, Dr. King worked on a policy-type speech, showing it to a number of different individuals and getting their input.  But when he actually got up there at the Lincoln Memorial to speak, the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was in the crowd and said, “tell them about the dream!”  Dr. King then improvised the speech, turning it into a sermon, which gave it its power.

See On Martin Luther King Day, remembering the first draft of ‘I Have a Dream’.

I remember, growing up in small town Oklahoma in the 1950s and 1960s, seeing side-by-side water fountains, one with a sign for “whites” and one with a sign for “coloreds.” The town swimming pool was only open to black people on Wednesdays, after which the water would be changed for white people to swim in the rest of the week. I don’t know if black people were allowed to vote, but they certainly were not in much of the South.

I also remember the Civil Rights Movement and the change in the sentiments of that small town. It was, first of all, an application of transcendent morality to the treatment of black people. I recall vividly the appeal to Christian ethics and how churches of all stripes were exerting leadership. I remember how moved people were by Dr. King’s principles of non-violence and non-resistance. The Civil Rights Movement triumphed by simply winning people over.

The Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King was not just a political fight; rather, it was a moral crusade. It changed both political parties. It was predicated on moral principles being objectively valid. Churches exerted moral authority.

So Martin Luther King Day is a holiday that conservatives, as well as liberals, can celebrate.

Ike’s warnings

Today is the 50th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address.  Ike was dismissed at the time as not being that great of a president, but historians now have rehabilitated his reputation and are realizing what a good president he really was. The Washington Post, which also printed a story about the composition of Martin Luther King’s famous speech (see my other blog entry) also printed an account of Ike’s farewell address written by  his granddaughter Susan Eisenhower:

I’ve always found it rather haunting to watch old footage of my grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, giving his televised farewell address to the nation on Jan. 17, 1961. The 50-year-old film all but crackles with age as the president makes his earnest, uncoached speech. I was 9 years old at the time, and it wasn’t until years later that I understood the importance of his words or the lasting impact of his message.

Of course, the speech will forever be remembered for Eisenhower’s concerns about a rising “military-industrial complex,” which he described as “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions” with the potential to acquire – whether sought or unsought – “unwarranted influence” in the halls of government. . . .

As early as 1959, he began working with his brother Milton and his speechwriters to craft exactly what he would say as he left public life. The speech would become a solemn moment in a decidedly unsolemn time, offering sober warnings for a nation giddy with newfound prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life.”There is a reoccurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties,” he warned in his final speech as president. “. . . But each proposal must be weighed in light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs . . . balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future.”

While the farewell address may be remembered primarily for the passages about the military-industrial complex, Ike was rising above the issues of the day to appeal to his countrymen to put the nation and its future first. “We . . . must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

As I see my grandfather’s black-and-white image deliver these words, a simple thought lingers in my mind: This man was speaking for me, for us. We are those grandchildren. We are the great beneficiaries of his generation’s prudence and sacrifice.

via 50 years after the ‘military-industrial complex,’ what Eisenhower really meant.

So what about our grandchildren?

Packers/Bears; Steelers/Jets

The playoffs have gotten very interesting, especially for us Packer fans. Green Bay utterly destroyed top-seeded Atlanta. They never even had to punt! The Packers seem like a relentless machine. And now they will play their division arch-rivals the Chicago Bears, who defeated all of the ex-Packers in Seattle, with the prize a trip to the Super Bowl. Those teams both know each other very, very well. They split the two games they played this season, the last one being a must-win for the Packers to get into the playoffs. Next week’s contest should be a truly good game.

In the AFC, the volatile Jets beat the vaunted Patriots. The Steelers beat the Ravens, but they didn’t look as good as the Packers looked.

I welcome your analysis, projections, and predictions!

The Incarnation is not enough

Yet another good sermon from Pastor Douthwaite:

Last week we heard that after John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).

This week, we hear what John did and proclaimed after that. When he now sees Jesus, he points to Him and proclaims: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is, perhaps, not what we would expect. For it would, perhaps, make more sense if, after the voice from heaven identified Jesus as God’s beloved Son, John would go around proclaiming: “Behold the Son of God!” But he doesn’t. It’s Lamb of God for John. That’s how he unwraps Jesus for us. And today I want you to consider why that is.

But I’ll not leave you in suspense. I’ll tell you straight out, now, why this is: because just knowing that God, who is almighty, is here, is not necessarily good news. Because why has He come? Is this Son of God here to redeem or to revenge? Is He here to comfort or to condemn? Power and might can work both ways, you know. And so John pointing to Jesus and proclaiming: “Behold the Son of God” tells us who Jesus is, but nothing more.

For the fact is, if you just know God as almighty, you don’t really know God and you will be filled with questions. Like, if you are almighty, then why the shootings in Arizona, God? Why the floods in Australia and Brazil, God? Why the troubles in my life, God? If you are almighty, why don’t you stop these things? Or maybe you’re not really almighty at all? Or if you are, then maybe you don’t really love us, or love me, or care for me, or want to help me. Maybe we can’t really count on you.

For who, then, is God, really? An unknown and unknowable God is a frightening God. Is He the God of sunny days or of hurricanes? Is He the God of spring flowers or earthquakes? Is He the God of love or of war? Which Son of God is here?

Or think of it like walking down a dark alley, and you know someone is there with you – you can hear the heavy footsteps, it’s someone big. But who is it? You cannot see them or know their intentions. It’s frightening. . . . But if they come into the light to be with you as a friend, a helper, a protector, that is good news. That is what you need. And then there is peace.

Well that is, John wants you to know, the God you have. Jesus is God the Son, yes; but even more. He is the Lamb of God, the friend of sinners, companion of the downcast, lifter of the low. He has come to be your Saviour. It’s Lamb of God for John, that you might know who Jesus really is – that the Son is the Lamb and the Lamb is the Son, and that in Him we see how God does love you, care for you, and help you. That He has come to lay down His life for you, and give you peace. He has come to BE your peace, by taking away the sin of the world. By taking away your sin.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 2 Sermon.


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