How to tell “who done it” in a TV mystery

My wife and I have been watching an array of television mysteries.  As I have noted, one way to determine who the murderer is in any contemporary American television drama is to notice which character is the most religious.  He or she will almost invariably be the killer.

Since religion is often not evident at all in the TV universe, this rule will not be applicable to every episode.  But we have devised another rule:  If a guest star from any of the old Star Trek series appears in the episode, he or she will be the killer.

Spoiler alert:  In a recent Criminal Minds marathon that my wife and I indulged in last weekend (don’t ask why), three successive episodes featured the actors who played Wesley Crusher, Neelix, and Odo, all of whom provided evidence for our hypothesis.

Should Christians smoke (legal) marijuana?

The recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington state.  So is there any reason why Christians in those states should not use marijuana?

Interestingly, one medical marijuana dispensary in California is run by evangelical Christians, who seem to be using their business as a ministry, witnessing to their customers and giving out Bibles, even as they join the effort for legalized pot:

A medical marijuana dispensary in California expresses evangelical Christian views and is known to hand out Bibles along with the controversial drug.

Canna Care of Sacramento, a family owned dispensary known for supplying medical marijuana and advocating for decriminalization, evangelizes and prays with its customers. Canna Care oversees group prayers in a typical day around 6:00 p.m. and has handed out an estimated 3,000 Bibles to those who come for their services.

Kris Hermes, spokesperson for the nationwide pro-marijuana legalization group Americans for Safe Access, told The Christian Post about its ties to Canna Care.

“Canna Care has been a supporter of Americans for Safe Access as have scores of dispensaries across the country,” said Hermes. “We have also worked with the operators of Canna Care on a number of political campaigns over the years, given their active involvement in advancing medical marijuana policy.”

Hermes also told CP about the building of bridges between ASA and faith communities in the United States in the effort to decriminalize the drug.

via Calif. Marijuana Dispensary Owned by Evangelical Christian Family.

Mark Driscoll, a cutting-edged Reformed pastor says that Christians should stay away from marijuana, making an interesting distinction between “sin” and what the Bible describes as “folly.”

I would add that moral issues are not necessarily just a matter of isolated  individual behavior.   Buying marijuana may well involve a person financially supporting the murderous drug cartels.  So let’s stipulate what is not presently common, the use of weed that is locally and legally produced.

Is there a Biblical difference between marijuana and alcohol?  Isn’t it true that alcohol, according to the Bible, can be used without intoxication, whereas intoxication is the whole point of smoking marijuana?

(Note:  I am not proposing that we debate whether drugs should be legalized.  I am asking whether, if they are legalized, Christians should nevertheless refrain from using them.)

Planned Parenthood as political organization

The most effective political organization in America, judged by the recent elections, is Planned Parenthood.  As reported by Sarah Kliff:

Planned Parenthood Action Fund earned an honor this campaign cycle that had nothing to do with women’s health: It was the most effective political group in the 2012 election.

Over 98 percent of its spending was in races that ended with the desired result, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.

Planned Parenthood pulled this off, pollsters and strategists say, with a two-pronged strategy. First, it turned Mitt Romney’s words against him. Then the group used algorithms to identify a group of 1 million female voters, largely in swing states, who were particularly receptive to the group’s message. . . .

Planned Parenthood started with focus groups in the spring, trying to figure out how much voters knew about Romney’s positions on women’s health issues. The answer seemed to be: not a lot. . . .

After that, O’Rourke and her team began testing out what messages worked best to define Romney. They would put up online ads that had personal messages or ones that leveraged Planned Parenthood as an authority on women’s health. . . .

Figuring out the best message was only half the puzzle; Planned Parenthood had to figure out who would be most receptive to their ideas. For that, they turned to micro-targeting, identifying 1 million female voters who were likely to support legal abortion and the health law’s contraceptive mandate.

The group spent about $15 million this year, more than tripling the $4 million it spent in 2008. It wanted to make sure those dollars were targeting the voters who would be open to their message.

“Those were the women that we were going to relentlessly target over and over and over again between June and November,” says Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens.

If you were among the women in that group who lived in Virginia, you received five pieces of direct mail and dozens of phone calls. You would get visits from canvassers, who might hand you a folded-up brochure, styled to look like a pocketbook, that told you Mitt Romney could cost you $407,000 over your lifetime by not supporting no co-pay birth control or equal pay legislation.

via Inside Planned Parenthood’s campaign strategy.

My first reaction is to wonder if conservatives and pro-lifers could ever get that sophisticated.  My second reaction is to think that no one should be so manipulative and mendacious.   “Romney will cost you $407,000.”  I’m sure many of these scientifically-targeted and brow-beaten women thought, “But I don’t have $407,000” and voted accordingly.

Surprise in Obamacare

Obamacare was passed so quickly that, admittedly, lawmakers did not have time to so much as read the multi-volume bill.  Hardly anyone, opponent or proponent, knows everything that Affordable Health Care law will do.  So as it is being implemented over the next two years, we will probably keep getting surprises.  Here is the latest, from the Associated Press:

Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It’s a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The charge, buried in a recent regulation, works out to tens of millions of dollars for the largest companies, employers say. Most of that is likely to be passed on to workers.

Employee benefits lawyer Chantel Sheaks calls it a “sleeper issue” with significant financial consequences, particularly for large employers.

“Especially at a time when we are facing economic uncertainty, [companies will] be hit with a multi-million dollar assessment without getting anything back for it,” said Sheaks, a principal at Buck Consultants, a Xerox subsidiary.

Based on figures provided in the regulation, employer and individual health plans covering an estimated 190 million Americans could owe the per-person fee.

The Obama administration says it is a temporary assessment levied for three years starting in 2014, designed to raise $25 billion. It starts at $63 and then declines.

Most of the money will go into a fund administered by the Health and Human Services Department. It will be used to cushion health insurance companies from the initial hard-to-predict costs of covering uninsured people with medical problems. Under the law, insurers will be forbidden from turning away the sick as of Jan. 1, 2014.

via Surprise: New Insurance Fee in Health Care Reform Law – DailyFinance.

Yes, it’s nice that pre-existing conditions will be covered.  Yet another thing we don’t know (“hard-to-predict”) is how much this will cost.  Normally, businesses–and especially insurance companies with their actuarial charts and calculations–would need to have those figures.  I doubt that $63 dollars per insured person would come anywhere near paying for the nation’s pre-existing conditions.  But at least something is budgeted for it.  Still, this amounts to a tax on everyone with health insurance, whether paid by the company or the insured.  I believe we were told that taxes would only go up for the wealthy.

HT:  Jackie

Countdown to Mayan apocalypse on December 21

Harold Camping’s end of the world prediction did not take place, but now we are approaching the New Age equivalent.  The calendar of the ancient Mayans has time running out on our December 21, 2012.  A range of New Agers, including flying saucer cultists, have picked up the theme.  And in those secularist bastions of Europe, Russia, and China, panic is spreading.  From the London Telegraph:

Ahead of December 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar, panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.

The precise manner of Armageddon remains vague, ranging from a catastrophic celestial collision between Earth and the mythical planet Nibiru, also known as Planet X, a disastrous crash with a comet, or the annihilation of civilisation by a giant solar storm.

In America Ron Hubbard, a manufacturer of hi-tech underground survival shelters, has seen his business explode.”We’ve gone from one a month to one a day,” he said. “I don’t have an opinion on the Mayan calendar but, when astrophysicists come to me, buy my shelters and tell me to be prepared for solar flares, radiation, EMPs electromagnetic pulses … I’m going underground on the 19th and coming out on the 23rd. It’s just in case anybody’s right.”

In the French Pyrenees the mayor of Bugarach, population 179, has attempted to prevent pandemonium by banning UFO watchers and light aircraft from the flat topped mount Pic de Bugarach.

According to New Age lore it as an “alien garage” where extraterrestrials are waiting to abandon Earth, taking a lucky few humans with them.

Russia saw people in Omutninsk, in Kirov region, rushing to buy kerosene and supplies after a newspaper article, supposedly written by a Tibetan monk, confirmed the end of the world.

The city of Novokuznetsk faced a run on salt. In Barnaul, close to the Altai Mountains, panic-buyers snapped up all the torches and Thermos flasks.Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, even addressed the situation.”I don’t believe in the end of the world,” before adding somewhat disconcertingly: “At least, not this year.”

In China, which has no history of preoccupation with the end of the world, a wave of paranoia about the apocalypse can be traced to the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster “2012”.

The film, starring John Cusack, was a smash hit in China, as viewers were seduced by a plot that saw the Chinese military building arks to save humanity.

Some in China are taking the prospect of Armageddon seriously with panic buying of candles reported in Sichuan province.The source of the panic was traced to a post on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, predicting that there will be three days of darkness when the apocalypse arrives.One grocery store owner said: “At first, we had no idea why. But then we heard someone muttering about the continuous darkness.”  Shanghai police said scam artists had been convincing pensioners to hand over savings in a last act of charity.

Meanwhile in Mexico, where the ancient Mayan civilisation flourished, the end time has been seen as an opportunity. The country has organised hundreds of Maya-themed events, and tourism is expected to have doubled this year.

via Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears – Telegraph.

What I want to know is, how are the Mayans supposed to know when the world will end?  What inside information are they thought to have?  At any rate, it is remarkable that people and societies that consider themselves too sophisticated for Christianity can nevertheless embrace New Age irrationalism.

So will there even be a Christmas this year?  Some people will presumably wait to do their shopping, or perhaps max out their credit cards because they won’t have to make the payments once the world ends.

We have to worry not only about the country going over the fiscal cliff but about the whole world and maybe the whole universe going over an existential cliff into the void.

But, in the words of the great Merle Travis, if we can make it through December we’ll be fine.

How to interpret “kill Americans”

The South Korean rapper Psy–whose “Gangnam Style” goofy dance moves have become the top YouTube video of all time–was once virulently anti-American.  In 2004 at an anti-Iraq war concert, he rapped these lyrics written by a South Korean metal group:

“Kill those f—— Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captive / Kill those f——- Yankees who ordered them to torture / Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers / Kill them all slowly and painfully.”

Now he is apologizing:

“While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words.”

My interest is not in Psy’s anti-Americanism or his violent lyrics.  I’m sure his apology is sincere.  But what gets me is his reference to “how these lyrics could be interpreted.”  He says to kill Yankees and the girls and women in their families.  In what sense is that statement in need of interpretation?  How else could those words be interpreted, other than as an exhortation to kill Americans and their families?

The notion that all language statements and assertions stand in need of interpretation and may be interpreted in many different ways–including those that contradict the explicit meaning–is wreaking all kinds of havoc.  Especially  when treating the Bible.  Theology has often become an exercise in interpreting away Biblical statements that the theologian does not agree with.

To be sure, some language calls for interpretation, but other language is clear on its face.  Some of the controversies involve questions about which is which. But even interpretation is supposed to help us understand what has been said, rather than undoing what has been said.

via Heat is on South Korean rapper Psy for anti-American rap – The Washington Post.


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