Did St. Nicholas slap Arius?

Happy belated St. Nicholas Day yesterday.  A piece I wrote for WORLD a few years ago has been going around again, in which I take up the account of jolly old St. Nicholas slapping Arius at the Council of Nicaea for denying Christ’s divinity.

Many historians dispute that this ever happened, and they may be right.  Still, legends have a meaning of their own, even if they leave history behind.   (Then again, it might have happened.  The alleged incident is better attested than the claim that the Bishop of Myra is currently living at the North Pole running a gift-manufacturing and delivery service.)

The point is, I have written a more thorough article on St. Nicholas for the latest Lutheran Witness, though it won’t show up online for a few months.  I discuss that article on Issues, Etc.


Anti-Tebow bigotry?

A lot of people just HATE Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.  And it’s because of his open Christianity.   Even other Christians sometimes squirm over his overt piety, putting John 3:16 on the patches under his eyes and kneeling down to pray after each of his numerous touchdowns.  And further confounding his critics is that, despite what would seem to be poor football technique and bad passing, he keeps leading his team to one miraculous come-from-behind last minute victory after another!

Many Christians are not that demonstrative about our faith, which is certainly legitimate.  But is there anything actually wrong with Tebow being so demonstrative about it?  And shouldn’t we cut him some slack about it?  Yes, we are to beware those who practice their piety before men, but Tebow certainly isn’t doing it to make himself look good–as might happen in another age–since it is only attracting scorn and contempt.  Shouldn’t we support him and maybe ourselves be more open about our faith than we are?

Displays of faith put Tebow in spotlight – USATODAY.com.

Good-bye to next-day delivery

If you put first class postage on a letter, it used to be delivered the next day.  Lately, you can’t count on that, but sometimes it happens.  But now the U. S. Post Office has announced that it won’t even try, that to save money first class mail will now be delivered in two days at the soonest:

Unprecedented cuts by the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service will slow first-class delivery next spring and, for the first time in 40 years, eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day.

The estimated $3 billion in reductions, to be announced in broader detail later Monday, are part of a wide-ranging effort by the Postal Service to quickly trim costs and avert bankruptcy. They could slow everything from check payments to Netflix’s DVDs-by-mail, add costs to mail-order prescription drugs, and threaten the existence of newspapers and time-sensitive magazines delivered by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities.

That birthday card mailed first-class to Mom also could arrive a day or two late, if people don’t plan ahead.

“It’s a potentially major change, but I don’t think consumers are focused on it and it won’t register until the service goes away,” said Jim Corridore, analyst with S&P Capital IQ, who tracks the shipping industry. “Over time, to the extent the customer service experience gets worse, it will only increase the shift away from mail to alternatives. There’s almost nothing you can’t do online that you can do by mail.”

The cuts would close roughly 250 of the nearly 500 mail processing centers across the country as early as next March. Because the consolidations would typically lengthen the distance mail travels from post office to processing center, the agency would also lower delivery standards for first-class mail that have been in place since 1971. Currently, first-class mail is supposed to be delivered to homes and businesses within the continental U.S. in one to three days; that will be lengthened to two to three days, meaning mailers could no longer expect next-day delivery in surrounding communities. Periodicals could take between two and nine days.

The Postal Service already has announced a 1-cent increase in first-class mail to 45 cents beginning Jan. 22.

About 42 percent of first-class mail is now delivered the following day; another 27 percent arrives in two days, about 31 percent in three days and less than 1 percent in four to five days. Following the change next spring, about 51 percent of all first-class mail is expected to arrive in two days, with most of the remainder delivered in three days.

via Cuts to first-class mail to slow delivery in 2012 – BusinessWeek.

When I was in graduate school, I used to work for a professor who was editing the unpublished manuscripts of Walt Whitman.  That included some of his correspondence.  We were finding that letters from New York City to Whitman’s home in Washington, D.C., were arriving the next day!  In 1862!  During the tumult of the Civil War!

Yes, electronic communication is making snail mail obsolete.  But it is still necessary to transport “things,” including everything we order online.  Private companies like UPS and Fed-Ex are taking up the slack.  Presumably even the post office will still offer overnight delivery with Express Mail, for $30+ or whatever it costs.  One would think that technology could also offer ways to speed up mail delivery and at a lower cost.  At any rate, this is where we are.  So remember to mail your bills and your greeting cards that much earlier.

Requiring acceptance of homosexuality

Here is a religious liberty case to watch:

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has heard arguments in a religious liberty case that could determine whether a college has the right to require students to profess certain beliefs about homosexuality in order to get a degree.

Augusta State University, in east Georgia, put counseling student Jennifer Keeton on academic probation in 2010 after she acknowledged in private conversations and during class that she disagreed with homosexuality. School administrators claimed Keeton said it would be hard for her to counsel gay clients, a stance they said violated ethical standards for licensed counselors, as put forth by the American Counseling Association.

Faculty members also faulted Keeton for saying she wanted to work with conversion therapy — which aims to help clients stop living a homosexual lifestyle — after graduation. And the faculty feared Keeton might harm middle and high school students she was scheduled to work with as part of her degree plan, said Cristina Correia, the state attorney who argued the school’s case.

“The university has a responsibility when putting students in a practicum and graduating them,” Correia told the court during oral arguments Nov. 29 in Atlanta. “When you have that kind of evidence, the faculty could not, under their ethical standards, put that student in a clinical setting without further remediation.”

After putting her on probation, school administrators required Keeton to complete a remediation plan that included going to gay pride events, attending sensitivity training and writing monthly reflection papers. Keeton declined to participate in the plan, and the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on her behalf in July 2010.

via Baptist Press – Can colleges demand students affirm homosexuality? Court to decide – News with a Christian Perspective.

Cain drops out

Herman Cain has dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination:

In a long awaited announcement Herman Cain stood with his wife Gloria before a crowd of supporters at his campaign office in north DeKalb County, Georgia to say that he will suspend his campaign due to the continued hurt suffered by his family from “false allegations.”

“So as of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign,” he said.

Following revelations that he allegedly sexually harassed several women while head of the National Restaurant Association, and most recently, businesswoman Ginger White’s charge that she had an affair with the candidate for 13 years, Cain’s poll numbers have dramatically declined.

via Herman Cain | Suspends | Campaign | The Daily Caller.

Cain fans, who will you support now?

Bedlam in Oklahoma and in the BCS

The rivalry in my native Oklahoma between the Sooners of the University of Oklahoma and the Cowboys of Oklahoma State divides parent and child, brother and brother.  It certainly does in my family!  The Sooners have almost always been better, but the intensity of the games is such that the Cowboys occasionally stage an upset.  I have proposed, to torment my brother and parents (OSU alums) that the state legislature pass a bill requiring the lower-ranked of the two teams to forfeit the game between them, so as to protect the state’s chances to pursue a national championship and thus improve our image in the hopes of bringing new jobs to our citizens.  (The prospect of “new jobs” can sell any bill.)

But such a bill would have worked against my cause this time.  Oklahoma, ranked #10, would have had to forfeit to Oklahoma State, ranked #3.   The lesson here is to never support a law that would support your narrow self-interest when it could actually cut two ways.  (A good example would be Newt Gingrich’s proposal for congress to limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over certain bills.  Conservatives might like that idea, until liberals do it.  With that power, congress could have declared Obamacare non-reviewable.)

Some Sooner fans took comfort in the fact that OSU hadn’t beaten them in 8 years.  Surely history is on OU’s side.  But that is an utterly meaningless statistic (one of many in sports, as I’ve learned from reading Moneyball).  Those other teams over the last 8 years are not the same teams playing this year!  OSU has never been this good before!

So sure enough, as I thought would happen, OSU utterly pounded OU with a final score of 44-10.

It pains me to say it, but I salute Oklahoma State for this achievement and for improving their program so dramatically.  And though the traditional terms of the rivalry would call for feelings of revenge, expressed in hoping the worst for the enemy team in the post-season, I will magnanimously wish OSU well.

In fact, I contend that OSU should play Louisiana State University, the #1 ranked team in the nation, for the national championship!  LSU already beat the #2 team, Alabama.   It doesn’t seem reasonable to set up a rematch.  What if Alabama were to win?  They would be crowned champion over a team that beat them.  The two teams would have essentially the same record.  It would be much more interesting to watch LSU play against another contender.

Nevertheless, as I just saw on the BCS selection show on ESPN,  the labyrinthine ways of the BCS ranking system have given Alabama .942 points, with Oklahoma state getting .933.  So  the national championship game will have LSU  playing Alabama.  Again.