Christian and secular news and commentary that one Christian found important or entertaining this morning:
1. THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS. After yesterday’s Morning Report, Cross and Culture posted this fantastic reflection on the significance of small things. Is it true, as Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, that “Nothing worth doing can be done in a lifetime”? Or can every little thing – even “little” things like doing the laundry and cooking dinner for your children – be significant when done in faith and love?
2. DIVINE SPIRITS. Tim Challies offers his thought on The Search for God and Guinness, a book that tells the story of Guinness Beer and the commitment of the Guinness family to serving the kingdom of God. Guinness has been an established, respected brand for 250 years, and presently 10 million pints are consumed every day. It’s easy to have mixed feelings about a beer company, and I do, depending on the way they advertise their product. Yet the author of The Search for God and Guinness, Stephen Mansfield, makes a compelling case the Guinness brand and family have changed the world. Challies writes:
“Of all the Guinness’s Mansfield introduces in this book, it was Henry Grattan Guinness that I most enjoyed reading about. He was a grandson of Arthur Guinness, the man who founded the original brewery (and, if I have my facts straight, great-grandfather of author Os Guinness). Henry was a preacher and one of the foremost evangelists of the awakenings and revivals that occurred in the middle of the nineteenth century. His name was often mentioned alongside the likes of Moody and Spurgeon. He knew Hudson Taylor and even offered to serve with him in China before eventually founding the East London Missionary Training Institute which trained and sent missionaries overseas. He was, by all accounts, a godly man and one the Lord used greatly in his service. He is a man I would love to know more about.”
Did you know that Os Guinness (whom I greatly respect, even if I do not always agree with him) is descended from the Guinness family? You learn something new everyday.
3. CHRISTIANS GIVE ME GAS? I recently had the privilege of interviewing Michael Yon, who is — I have no doubt — the finest war photojournalist America has had in the post-9/11 era. He is presently in Thailand, but returning to Afghanistan soon. In this dispatch he tells a fascinating story that involves the legendary Nepalese Ghurka soldiers, who fight with the coalition under the guidance of the British, and the most ingenious use of excrement I have ever heard. The Nepalese have accelerated their own economic development through “biogas,” or the production of fuel gas (mostly methane) through the controlled decomposition of animal and human feces. This gives people in remote villages a steady source of fuel, without need of infrastructure, and without the need to take the time and expense to gather up other kinds of fuel. The Nepalese call it “Gobar gas.”
Read the Yon dispatch in its entirety. It’s not short, but it’s worth your time. Who will be the Christian social entrepreneur – or any humanitarian businessperson – who gets behind moving Gobar gas into Afghanistan?
4. JEWS FOR JESUS. I have been talking with the Jewish Portal Manager at Patheos about developing a series on Jews, Evangelicals and Israel. Along the way I came across this explanation, from Joe Carter, of why evangelicals love the Jews. Probably the best short explanation that I have seen. I learned a good deal from it, and I suspect you would as well. Writing like this goes to show how Joe Carter became so successful with the Evangelical Outpost, First Things, and other publishing and political endeavors.
5. A QUANDARY FOR LIBERALS: RIGHTS OR RELATIVISM? Melanie Phillips wrote the controversial Londonistan and All Must Have Prizes. She is a decidedly un-PC writer. Read an interesting interview of her here, regarding her new book on the conflict with radical Islam: The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power. Philips is quite partisan, and some parts of the book (and thus the interview) rehearse points that are made better elsewhere. But I am interested in her treatment of culture. I remember how difficult it was, when I was taking graduate courses at Harvard, for the liberals who wanted to affirm rights for women and gays and religious minorities, and yet also wanted to affirm that we are in no position to judge Islamic culture. Phillips answers the question:
“Why are Western progressives so inclined to defend Islam—you call it a “love affair”—given that progressive values are so often at odds with Islamic values?
Phillips: Well, it’s a puzzle because it is extraordinary to find the left—which is so committed to equal rights, minority rights, gay rights—literally marching arm-in-arm with people who would kill gays and treat women as half the value of men and for whom there is no such thing as religious liberty. There are a number of reasons. First, one shouldn’t underestimate the effect of simple fear. It is human nature to appease and cozy up to the people you fear. [Progressives] think that by reaching out they will kind of neutralize the really bad stuff. Of course that doesn’t happen. What happens is they basically surrender.
Another factor is the terrible moral confusion on the left, which can no longer distinguish between wrong and right, justice and injustice, and inverts it so that it becomes the opposite. And then they can’t deal with the inversion that the Islamic world goes in for, in which the wrong deeds, the bad deeds done by the Islamic world are always someone else’s fault and where the Islamic world is always the victim.
The third factor is a continuity between Western leftists and radical Islamists—they’re all basically in the business of overturning Western values. They don’t see it like that, but that is exactly what it is. So it’s not really surprising that they are drawn to each other.
And the fourth factor is that the progressive left, going back at least to the French Revolution, has always been drawn to nihilism and violence. The reasons why are complicated, but it is drawn to tyranny, to suppression, to violence, and to death cults. Far from being truly progressive, the left has often been on the side of darkness rather than light, historically, when you look at the causes with which they have aligned themselves. And here we are again.”
6. BLACKHAWK DOWN. Speaking of Michael Yon, he recently blogged that the Taliban were getting better anti-aircraft weaponry, and we should expect more aircraft shot down. Sure enough, a NATO helicopter was shot down and four American servicemen killed.
7. EMBARRASSING. Carly Fiorina was caught, on an open mic, mocking Barbara Boxer’s hair. She also disagrees with Meg Whitman’s decision to go on Sean Hannity, but, in spite of the headlines, her comments on that score are mild. It’s not attractive to be caught making fun of someone’s hairstyle as “so yesterday.” I think voters understand, though, that these sorts of things are said all the time – and Fiorina was simply unlucky to be on a live mic.
But one also has to wonder, in situations like this, whether the mic was made live specifically in order to catch comments like this. There is no reason for a live mic while they are setting up the interview. See the video for yourself.
8. EVANGELICAL MIGRATION. Evangelical religious and political leaders met with prominent Democrats in Washington on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, calling for a path to citizenship. AllahPundit at Hot Air raises a good question: if we should welcome the alien and the stranger, regardless of any laws broken, then, when does it stop? Is there any point at which we would say, “That’s enough, we can’t take any more people?” Even if the numbers became so overwhelming that our country were falling apart? In other words, if we simply take the biblical admonition to welcome the stranger as our sole guide in matters of immigration, then why even have borders at all?
9. CAN’T FIND THE NUMBER. Whether one is Democrat or Republican, I think one has to confess that it does seem absurd that Obama has not spoken with the CEO of BP. And the excuses are getting worse. My take is that he was caught on an oversight – he should have been talking with the CEO regularly, but after he was caught, he could not jump straight into a meeting without admitting that he had been mistaken. So he had to delay, and make excuses. Eventually he will meet with the CEO, but must do so in a way that does not look like a confession of guilt.
10. HEAVING BOSOM? More cheap trashing of Sarah Palin.
12. COLUMN OF THE DAY, #1: I admit it. I like Mitt Romney. A lot. And I wish we had someone with his executive experience in charge right now. Mitt is an accomplished crisis manager, and we could use those skills now more than ever. Obama has lovely thoughts on the kinds of policies and the kind of society he wants to see; even when I do not agree with him, I admire his qualities. But I think Obama is a more suitable legislator than President. Talented though he is, he is not really executive material. His instincts are too political, not practical.
Mitt Romney chooses the moments when he will remind Americans of himself very well. This article is a great example. Here is the part I really agree with:
“In a crisis, the leader must gather the experts — federal, state, local, public and private — not to discover who is to blame but to secure their active and continuous involvement until the crisis is resolved. There is extraordinary power inherent in an assembly of brilliant people guided by an able leader. In virtually every historic national crisis, our most effective leaders gathered the best minds they could find…What happens when men and women of various backgrounds, fields of expertise, and unfettered intellectual freedom come together to tackle a problem often exceeds any reasonable expectation. Ideas from one may cross-fertilize the thinking of another, yielding breakthroughs.”
We hear that there is really nothing Obama can do. But the truth is, we don’t know. When a skilled leader gathers together the best and the brightest, and guides them well, we never really know what will emerge from that process. It’s possible that a solution could have been found more quickly if a great leader brought together great minds and pushed them to be even greater as a team than they are as individuals.
Think of Apollo 13. American ingenuity. A can-do spirit. The sense that we can solve any problem if we think creatively, freely, and hard enough. Instead, I fear, this administration is more concerned with political fallout and avoiding blame. It’s a shame. A damned shame.
13. COLUMN OF THE DAY, #2: A look at the potential costs of American bloodlust toward British Petroleum. Are we willing to destroy this company – and all those who depend on its shares – in order to exact revenge or to extract as much money as we can for the sake of the gulf region? It’s not a simple question to answer.