Christianity Today Book Awards

Have you read any of these?  If so, please report.

2011 Christianity Today Book Awards | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Are there any other books with a Christian theme that you think deserves to belong in a list like this?

A new nation

After years of civil war and genocide, in which the Arab Muslims of the north brutalized the African Christians of the south, a new nation has been born.  In accord with an armistice agreement, the people of southern Sudan voted for secession.  With 99.57% of the vote.

The new country, South Sudan, is set for sovereignty within six months.  It will be one of the poorest nations on earth.  And yet it sits atop vast amounts of oil.  By terms of the agreement, the oil wealth has to be shared with the north, but it needs to be developed first.

This is a country that’s worth pulling for.  And praying for.

It’s official: South Sudan set to secede with a 99.57 percent vote – CSMonitor.com.

Egypt explodes

The Egyptian protests against its authoritarian regime have escalated, to the point of revolution.  Even though President Mubarak has shut off internet access and most cell phone connections, the protesters have succeeded in shutting down the government.  The army was called out, but is apparently taking the side of the people, a key development in a military dictatorship.  The police had been battling the protesters with truncheons, tear gas, and guns.  The death toll is unknown.  But now the police have disappeared.

Instead of freedom, we now see social breakdown.  Looters are plundering everything, as they did in Iraq when Saddam’s regime was overthrown.  A culture that relies on strong external controls to ensure social order can go wild when those external controls are no longer there.  That seems to be happening here.  Are all Islamic countries going to do that, due to being all Law, as opposed to societies influenced by Christianity, which stresses inner transformation through the Gospel?  Meanwhile, in Egypt, the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood is organizing vigilantes to protect people’s property.  That’s an ominous sign.

See Egypt vigilantes defend homes as police disappear | Reuters

And now the Arab revolution seems to have now spread to Jordan!

An op-ed piece in the Washington Post says that the uprisings show that George Bush was right, that people in the Islamic world do crave freedom and democracy. Maybe so. Then again, it didn’t take us invading to bring down these tyrannies. But what kind of freedom are the people getting?

Harm reduction

Idly surfing the internet, I came across the tidbit that a socially conservative party in Australia opposes “harm reduction.” Not being familiar with that is, I dug around and found that it is an entire theory of do-goodism.

Harm reduction (or harm minimisation) refers to a range of public health policies designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with recreational drug use and other high risk activities. Harm reduction is put forward as a useful perspective alongside the more conventional approaches of demand and supply reduction.

Many advocates argue that prohibitionist laws criminalize people for suffering from a disease and cause harm, for example by obliging drug addicts to obtain drugs of unknown purity from unreliable criminal sources at high prices, increasing the risk of overdose and death. Its critics are concerned that tolerating risky or illegal behaviour sends a message to the community that these behaviours are acceptable.

via Harm reduction – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The idea is, instead of getting people to stop dangerous behaviors, we should make those behaviors less dangers.

This is where we get the thinking behind needle-exchange programs, to prevent heroin addicts from getting AIDS. Some countries, such as England and Switzerland, actually give heroin addicts heroin, so that they won’t steal to support their habit. There is an outfit in this country called DanceSafe that goes to raves and offers free testing of drugs, so that kids can make sure they aren’t ingesting dangerous impurities in their drugs, so that they will have a positive experience with their Ecstasy or crystal meth.

Other examples would be condoms in the schools, free rides for potential drunk drivers, less harmful cigarettes, and the like.

What do you think of this philosophy? Can we draw a line between reducing harm and giving approval to bad behavior? If we take away the harm from bad behavior, does that stop it from being bad?

Only 4% of the universe is material

From a review of Richard Panek’s The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. Richard Panek:

The latest surveys of the universe indicate that only 4 percent of it is made of ordinary matter. Nearly 23 percent is made up of dark matter, which some physicists suspect consists of wispy subatomic particles that may someday be caught in a detector. And the remaining 73 percent is made up of something far more baffling: an energy that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-increasing rate. Scientists call it “dark energy,” and they have no idea what it is.

via Richard Panek’s study of the cosmos,”The 4 Percent Universe”.

Maybe it’s God.

The last Louvin brother dies

The Louvin Brothers brought their close, tight harmonies from the world of Gospel music into country and then into early rock ‘n’ roll and today’s pop music.  Their sound can be heard in the Everly Brothers, the Beatles, and on and on.

Charlie Louvin, 83, the country singer and Grand Old Opry performer who, as half of the duo The Louvin Brothers, influenced such later performers as the Everly Brothers died at his home in Warface, Tenn. from complications of pancreatic cancer.

The Louvin Brothers songs were later covered by such diverse performers as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and the Byrds,

The brothers were renown for both gospel songs and so-called heart songs and tearjerkers such as “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” later recorded by Emmylou Harris.

They also updated many traditional — and very morbid — folk songs such as “In The Pines” and “Knoxville Girl” which were both included on their 1956 early concept album for Capitol, “The Tragic Songs of Life.”

The Louvin Brothers’ style evolved from the popular close harmony brother duos of the 1930s such as the Delmore Brothers, the Monroe Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys (Jim and Earl Bolick).

While the duo preserved the singing style of the earlier groups, they made it popular for 1950s audiences by adding electric guitar solos, many by a young Chet Atkins, and a driving beat from an upright bass. Ira Louvin’s mandolin work also gave the duo a connection to the then evolving bluegrass genre.

After the duo disbanded in 1963, Mr. Louvin continued to record as a soloist and was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry into the next decade including a number one hit in 1966, “See The Big Man Cry. ” Mr. Louvin’s brother Ira had a much shorter solo career. He died in a car accident while touring in 1965.

As interest in the early Louvin Brothers material increased, Mr. Louvin had a recent resurgence in activity with performances at rock clubs and bluegrass festivals.

via Post Mortem – Charlie Louvin dies; country singer inspired Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello.

The thing is, I met Charlie Louvin.  He took me and a friend of mine, Tom Wilmeth–who wrote a book about the Louvin Brothers and who turned me on to this kind of music–back stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry.  Here I also met  Bill Monroe and hung out in his dressing room.   I watched the curtains rise from the performer’s point of view for the second show.  This was a highlight of my musical experience, one of those odd and  interesting things I’ve managed to do in the course of my life.

Here is a video of a performance.  Their songs, including their Gospel music, were generally dark.  This one is a little different.  Charlie is the short one.  (If you don’t see the video on your browser, hit “comments” and you should.)

UPDATE:  Their vocal influence was to harmonize with two tenor voices, just a few notes apart, rather than the usual high voice with lower voices.   Their kind of harmony can be heard in the Everly Brothers, the Beatles, the Byrds, etc., etc., etc.

{httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWp7MGY3II4}


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