April 25, 2007

Infant Baptism

A post by a friend of mine in Melbourne added to an intense discussion in KCW the other day started me thinking. Chris (my Melbournian friend) made mention of the baptism of the infant daughter of another friend of ours, and how his thinking has begun to change regarding whether baptising infants is a good idea or not. He made some good points.

Infant baptism is one of those internal Christian debates over which many churches have split. I've tended to ignore the issue, mostly because it never affected me much. But Chris' article started me on another search; what is the purpose of baptism? Why do we do it?

There's always the biblical command to fall on; "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit ...". I think that's a fairly good reason to assume it's of some import, anyway. But ... why?? Jesus doesn't say "do it because of this," he just says to do it. And while most people tend not to care HOW it's done (though I've had the "immersion" vs "any other kind of baptism" debate before; it's sort of useless), more people care about the people to whom it is applied. In this case, why would we baptize an infant?

I know the old reasons, primarily that we baptize an infant (or anybody) to save their soul from eternal damnation. I think most of us would now agree that it's not really the ritual of baptism that saves us (or any other "deed") so much as it is the relationship we have with Jesus and the confession that He is Lord. But Chris' post started me thinking: he mentions faith as a communal venture, and in light of that, babies are also part of families, so why shouldn't they be baptized? Again, it's a question of, how do we look at baptism?

Every group has their initiation ritual: the frats have hazing, gangs have tattoos, the Jews have circumcision (I shiver to think of adult men converting, especially in the first century), the academics have the doctoral thesis defense, the aborigines have their walkabout ... every culture has something. Initiation rites are typically used for two reasons. The first is the individual. Having a physical reminder of her committment to the group or culture is important in times of committal stress; if a person doubts her committment, having that physical reminder makes her think back to the time she committed, ergo she thinks about WHY she committed, and this is usually enough to satiate any doubts she might have. Baptism is highly symbolic and as such is entirely appropriate for this instance; I have died to my sin, and am born again in Christ. This is probably why it's not much of an issue for me to debate "immersion" vs. any other sort; I prefer immersion, only because of its symbolic value. I wasn't immersed, by the way, I was sprinkled in true Presbyterian form. But the other forms are just as valid, mostly because it's the symbol, the physical reminder that's important.

The second use of an initiation rite is for the community, and this is where my class discussion comes in. We talked a lot about whether faith is an individual thing vs. a communal thing, and it seems that most tend to think of faith as an individual relationship with God, that lots of people who have that relationship are called a church. It's not necessarily about the relationships between them, in their minds.

Now, I used to agree with that position. I don't anymore, especially after reading through scripture again. We westerners are at a linguistic disadvantage; our verbs do not conjugate the "you all" form like most other languages. In lots of scripture, "you" is realy "you all", but we can't read that because it's not part of our culture. We are highly individualized. Yet the Jews were always addressed as a nation, and Jesus said "you all" in a lot of his commands as well. Don't get me wrong, faith is DEFINITELY - but only partly - an individual thing; you participate in your own destiny. But the community has responsibility for its members. We the church are a single body, not just a random collection of individuals. Our baptism is our common bond, yes, but more than that the world is to know us by our love for one another! I'd say that's pretty communal.

So where do babies come into this? I'm still not sure if this is right, but I'm thinking that infant baptism isn't really about the infant at all; it's about the parents. It gives them - and their community - a physical reminder that they are to care for this infant's spiritual well-being, a time to remember back and say "despite how hard it is to raise her, I made the committment to teach her the ways of Jesus." Does it have to be baptism? No, I'd reckon it's better to do the "dedication" ceremony instead; the baptism is, in my mind, a one-time thing (so it's special, easily remembered). An individual makes the decision to proclaim to the community "I am God's" in their baptism; why take that away from them by making it an infant ceremony? But likewise, it's not imperative; babies won't remember it anyway - but the community WILL (or at least, should).

As I say, it's stuff that I'm still sort of working out, especially in light of the fact that I'm going to be a father in about two months. It's not really a solidified opinion yet (or likely ever will be) so your thoughts are most welcome.

April 24, 2007

A Poem of My Week

Sung to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame":

"Take me out to the classroom
And the library too
Buy me some textbooks some paperbacks
I don't care if they cut me no slack
For it's work, work work for my M.A.
If I don't pass it's a shame
For it's four, five, six weeks or more
Till I sleep again ..."

[Dr. Jerry Walls]

April 19, 2007

Why I'm Not Online Anymore (But Plan to Return)

It turns out that this is a very, very busy time of year. I spent all last weekend apartment shopping, but am proud to report rousing success and we'll be moving into the new two-bedroom place (so Liz can do her nesting thing) over the next month or so. I'm working nearly 30 hours this week in addition to classes (did I mention that I got a job? More on that after the craziness ends, I hope) and doctor's appointments with my now seven-months-pregnant wife. Also, KCW project to finish, books to be read, and in the event of free time, food to be eaten and sleep to be had. And considering the CL610 trip to India over J-term. So I'm snatching a moment to update the blog so that you all know that I'm not, in fact dead, in the bottom of a hole, or otherwise incapacitated beyond the sort of "I'm a student/academic" sense of the word "busy."

For your literary enjoyment, various articles I've read this week.

Patrick over at
Tentpegs has three great posts on the Virginia Tech situation: one, two, and three.

Anchoress has some good stuff on VA Tech too.

The Harrisons have been hiking in Cambodia and Ruth offers some very moving insights.

Chuck Gutenson, an interesting insight into the Democratic priorities regarding campaign funding. Where would you expect to spend the sort of money politicians raise?

In the Global Warming debate,
some don't like the fuss, some change their predictions, and some are just a thumping good read, regardless of whether or not I agree with them.

In the middle east,
Iran may be aiding the Sunnis (shock) and soldiers have been saved by strange things.

Last, but not least, a video provided by Ruth over in Sai Yok, Thailand about the Karen people and their plight.

April 12, 2007


"If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that -- then what else are we missing?"
So said the author of this article on Joshua Bell, one of the world's foremost - if not THE foremost - classical musicians, a violinist who took up the challenge of a classic psychology experiment. He played his violin in a busy commercial center near the mass-transit station to see who would stop and listen. The question on everybody's mind was, if the world's best violinist sat unknown in a subway station or a shopping mall, would the general public recognize his talent for what it was, surrounded not by the typical finery of concert halls and tuxedos and other famous musicians, but by the mundane ordinary things we see everyday and give little thought? Would they see the beauty of his talent?

Turns out no, most don't. In the hours he spent playing some of the most passionate, beautiful pieces known to the classical world, a total of three people stopped to listen; one actually recognized Bell, one was himself a former violinist (who gave up his passion for the mundane world of finance), and the last was a bellhop at work, who yearned to lean out of the lines of his business and go experience beauty.

"For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists."
I admire my friend Sally because she is the sort of person who will stop to listen to street musicians. She recognizes beauty when she sees it and it is more important to her to stop and take it in than to rush towards the next appointment. To her, beauty in itself is more worthwhile a pursuit than the consumeristic trivialities of the postmodern western world. She'll stop and listen, she'll stop and look, she'll go out of her way to find and admire and take in beauty because it's a priority. I want to be more like Sally in that regard, to admire beauty when I see it, to take the time, to make beauty more important than business. It's important.

April 11, 2007

The Problem of Evil: An Essay

Kenji finished filling his cup with Pepsi and placed it on the tray in front of him next to a plate with a pair of pizza slices. He picked up the tray and, careful to avoid several chirping freshman girls in their rush to get to the taco line, paid for his meal and walked into the cafeteria. He searched the room, and noticed his friend Parmenio sitting alone at a corner table fiddling with a pair of chopsticks, the steam from his bowl of chow mein beginning to wane in the darkening light of the mid-afternoon sun. Kenji smirked and walked over.

“You look glum,” he said, “which means that you either just came from that 'world issues' class, or Shawna dumped you again.”

“You know,” replied Parmenio, “I'm still not sure why I decided to take that class. It does nothing but confuse me. And now we're supposed to write a twenty-page paper explaining in minute detail a solution to the problems of poverty. I'm about this close to failing as it is, what with that last paper on environmentalism. Can you believe he actually told me to stop wasting paper with my essay?”

Kenji winced. “Ouch. You should've emailed it to him.” He began stuffing his face.

“No kidding,” replied Parmenio. “He says he won't accept essays like that though. I'm telling you, the man is evil.”

Kenji looked up from his pizza. “Evil? Isn’t that a touch harsh?”

Parmenio shrugged, swirling the noodles around the dish with his chopsticks. “Well, maybe. To tell you the truth I'm not even sure there is such a thing as good anymore.”

Kenji sighed, suddenly aware that his evening had just become a lot longer. “How can you possibly think that there's only evil unless you have something to compare it to?”

Parmenio dropped the piece of beef he'd managed to snag. “What are you saying, that evil can't exist without good?”


Parmenio looked indignant. “Whatever man. You're the philosopher, not me. Maybe there isn't such a thing as a good professor. I dunno. It'd be nice if good would show its head more often, because frankly its existence without showing its face is beginning to feel an awful lot like it doesn't exist at all.” He went back to his attempt to pick up the chunk of beef.

“Rough day?”

“Yeah. No sleep because I had to work on that paper, and Shawna's getting antsy about some trip she's going on – Africa this time, to save some other poor kid from another horrible government – and then I got that other paper back, rubbing salt in an open wound. Now it's festering.”

Kenji rolled up his sleeves, wondering why it felt like the cafeteria had become warmer. “Ok Parm,” he said, “let's talk about it. You say there shouldn't be any evil in a world run by good?”

Parmenio sighed. It was always this way – a careless, offhand comment led to another fruitless debate. He'd begun to loathe the day he'd told Kenji to take that first philosophy class back in their freshman year. At the time, it'd seemed like a good idea, but instead of losing his rather irritating religious ideals, Kenji became more convinced about lots of things he believed, the very things that Parmenio didn't quite agree with. “You're one of those people who believe some sort of all-powerful god runs things, right?”

“That's a crude way of saying it, but you know I am.”

“Ok, and by your definition, God is perfectly good, omnipotent, and omniscient.”

“Right again,” said Kenji, a look of suspicion beginning to creep over his face.

“Would you say that this perfectly good God of yours prevents all the evil he has the power to prevent?” Parmenio paused as Kenji considered this, then added, “because I sure would.”

“I don't know if I'd accept that,” said Kenji, finally, “but for the sake of argument let's say yes. I reserve the right to change my mind later.”

“Fair enough. So this God of yours, being omnipotent and omniscient and all that, must have the power to prevent all evil, right? So if there were a God such as you describe, there would be no evil. But I know that there's evil – I've had a crappy day – so there must be no God.”

“Modus tollens.”


“Your argument, the last bit is modus tollens.”

“What, the 'if Q then ~P, ~Q, therefore ~P?' THAT modus tollens?” Parmenio looked smug.

“Mind your P’s and Q’s,” scoffed Kenji, “it’s the other way around!”

“Sorry. If P, then ~Q, given ~P, therefore ~Q?”

“Closer. Usually we say, 'If P then Q, given ~Q, therefore ~P. See the difference?”

“Um ...” Parmenio paused, considering the diagram Kenji had just drawn on his napkin. “Oh, I got it. Sure. What were we saying?”

“You tried to convince me that because there's evil in the world, there must be no God.”

“Ah. So what say you?”

“You're full of crap.”


“Think of it this way. When you say that 'a perfectly good, omnipotent God would eliminate all evil from the world,' what are you really saying?”

“Are you challenging my premise?”


“Just making sure. Um, I dunno, maybe I'm saying that a good God shouldn't like evil?”

“No, it's more than that. You're saying that you have certain assumptions about what 'good' is, especially in its relationship to evil, and you aren't considering the bigger picture. You have to think of this in terms of the bigger story, not just a so-called 'logical' argument.”


“I'm saying that the world is never that simple. You have to take into account God’s motivations, His emotions, what make him a ‘being’ instead of a machine, his communal nature as a trinity. But above all, freedom. You have to take freedom into account.”

“What's freedom got to do with it?”

“Everything! Go back to the beginning, and suspend judgment for a second. Why would God create the world? He's omnipotent, omniscient, and all those other omni's, and if he’s communal he’s not exactly lonely, so what use is it for him to create a world in which he knows that evil will plague his creation and therefore will plague him?”

“None. I don't understand how you can believe in a God like that.”

“I said you should try to suspend disbelief for a moment.”

“I did. The moment passed.”

“Right.” Kenji paused, looked at the napkin, and then shrugged. “Ok, I guess I'll answer my own question. God is love. The two are inseparable because the ultimate good is love and if God is good then he must be love. With me so far?”

“Yeah, I'd buy that.”

“Have you ever heard the saying, 'if you love something, set it free'?”

“I have. I tried that with my last girlfriend, she didn't stick with me.”

“I know, I had to put a piece of pizza on your desk to get you to smile again.”

“You know, the smile was out of spite, I don't actually like pizza.”

Kenji's eyebrows shot up in surprise. “But you're Italian!”

“So? What's being Italian got to do with liking pizza?”

“You know, I'm not sure. The point is, without being able to freely choose evil – in other words, without even the possibility of evil – God couldn't create a world in which his people loved him back. It’s not that the end justifies the means, it’s just that one necessarily comes with the other, and given the choice, God still wants a world in which people can freely love him.”

“I don't know if I follow. You're saying that since God is love, then he'd want to be loved, but in order for people to truly love him back he had to create beings that could freely choose to love him? Even if only some of them or even none of them in reality actually chose that love?”

“Yes. A created world in which we are free is a natural outpouring of God’s love.”

“Then why couldn't an omnipotent God create beings that could freely choose to love him and would freely choose it every time?”

Kenji paused to consider this. “What you're saying is a contradiction. If God could determine the outcome then it wouldn't really be freedom, would it?”

“Sure it would,” said Parmenio, “because he'd have created them to freely choose it.”

“I don't buy that,” replied Kenji, “it sounds inconsistent to me. Let me ask you this – would you rather Shawna love you because you chose her knowing she'd love you, or do you prefer that she love you despite your obvious flaws?”

“I'm hurt, you think I'm flawed?”

“Just answer the question.”

“Look man, if this is about me not liking pizza, you're the one gaining weight, not me.”

“Seriously,” insisted Kenji, “answer the question.”

“Well ... I suppose if I had to choose I'd say I'd prefer her to love me despite my supposed imperfections. But I also wish I was perfect. And that I could fly or something.”

“I find your lack of wit disturbing,” said Kenji, a hint of a smile in his eyes.

Parmenio smirked. “Even granting that evil was a natural outcome of free choice, why does it have to be so … well, evil for it to work? Couldn’t God have limited the sorts of evil we’re capable of or something? Does it have to suck this much?”

Kenji sighed before washing down the last bit of pizza crust with the rest of his Pepsi. “Again, it wouldn’t be freedom if God put limits on it. We could always choose to be good, but whiny people always insist that the evil they do is not their fault.”

“Well that settles it then,” said Parmenio, “I believe you! There’s a good reason for evil!”


“No, but the look on your face was priceless.”

“Well, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.”


“No. That would really mean I’m tired of arguing, but I’m not. Are you?”

Parmenio sighed. “Honestly? Yes. It would seem that we can run each other in circles of logic and still get nowhere.”

“Finally, something we can agree on,” said Kenji, looking triumphant. “You know, I feel like I missed something, like if I could just say it the right way you’d see what I see.”

“No,” replied Parmenio, “I’m fairly sure that we just have different assumptions from having grown up in different places, done different things, lived in different cultures, and it would take a lifetime for me to be able to fully understand your assumptions, and you mine. Maybe someday.”

“Quite so,” agreed Kenji.

“That, and I have to get going to class.” Parmenio dumped the chopsticks onto his tray and picked up his backpack. “See you tonight.”

“Bye,” said Kenji, “and good luck with that paper.”

“Thanks,” said Parmenio. He paused, before adding, “but I think I may just ditch the class. We can’t solve all of the world’s problems in the classroom, I think it’s going to take going out and actually doing something about it instead of just talking; one more paper won’t solve poverty. Maybe I’ll go with Shawna on her trip instead, I might still be able to get the money I paid for the class back.”

“Good on ya,” said Kenji. “Maybe there’s hope for us yet. See you later.”

April 9, 2007

Theology Quiz

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Roman Catholic


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal






Reformed Evangelical


What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

April 8, 2007

Faith of the Fallen

My wife and I found ourselves at the local Super Wal Mart today to get some groceries for dinner and I couldn't help noticing that everybody there seemed so ... so sad. Now, I'm not the type to frequent Wal Mart, mostly because I find the environment to be less than conducive to mental activity of any productive sort (the fact that I can crank out that sentence after visiting the place is miraculous enough), but I always get some sort of headache from the flourescent lighting.

But when I mentioned to Liz my observation, she gave me the look and said "well of course, it's not just because it's Easter, it's always like this here.

What first made it catch my attention was the checkout line. I'd had a hunch before that, mind you, but when we got to the counter, the girl checking out customers had a look on her face I've seen before, only it wasn't on a clerk, it was on a homeless guy in Melbourne. The look screamed "hopelessness" at me, though I couldn't imagine her scremaing at all, because that would have taken energy and, you know, what's the point?

That's when I started looking around the store and seeing the look, to varying degrees, on almost everybody. The lady behind us, a pair of guys a few aisles over, a manager working with a customer, a family here, a teenager there. No matter what their age, weight, or dress style, the look was present in some form.

It bothered me. On the one hand I've heard lots of harsh things about Wal Mart from lots of different people, things about where they get their products, how they treat their employees, and how we should boycott them because of it. A friend of mine once told me to go so far as to pay double the cost for our food, just avoid WalMart at all costs. I'm beginning to see what she meant.

But it also made me think about Easter in a new light. I don't know if you can be a missionary to Wal Mart, but there must be a way. I think Jesus would've gone to Wal Mart; not because he loved the products or the way they treat their employees, but because there are people there that need the hope that he can give.

Maybe Jesus would've been the one upbeat greeter at Wal Mart, or the one happy sales clerk, or the one helpful stock person who you remember every time because, come on, he does his job well. Thinking like that I managed a cheerful smile and a "thanks for your help!" to the girl as we left. It hardly phased her, though she did manage an exhausted "you're welcome, have a nice day." This is the south, they have to mind their manners.

We talked on the way home about it, how it seems like nobody cares there anymore, how hope seems to have fled those bleak white aisles. But I wonder, has it? Or is it there and we're not looking hard enough? The worst that humanity has to offer has already been had - we nailed God's son to a cross and let him suffer and die. We aren't capable of much worse than that; there IS nothing worse. And yet we don't see the hope that came when Jesus defied the death we imposed upon him and




Our hope is already here, we have but to seek him. The redemption of our world has begun, and he who redeems has asked us to take part. Sometimes in the darkest places it may seem that it's deserted us, but fear not, hope can no longer die. Take heart.

Happy Easter, everybody.

April 5, 2007

Utter Hillarity

In a mostly unprecedented third post for the day, I bring you lots of other funny things that I read today. The first is the top five of the top ten april fools pranks through the twentieth century. At least, my five favorites.

-- In 1957, a BBC television show announced that thanks to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Footage of Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees prompted a barrage of calls from people wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti at home.

-- In 1996, American fast-food chain Taco Bell announced that it had bought Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, a historic symbol of American independence, from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Outraged citizens called to express their anger before Taco Bell revealed the hoax. Then-White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale and said the Lincoln Memorial in Washington had also been sold and was to be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial after the automotive giant.

-- In 1998, a newsletter titled New Mexicans for Science and Reason carried an article that the state of Alabama had voted to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the "Biblical value" of 3.0.

--Burger King, another American fast-food chain, published a full-page advertisement in USA Today in 1998 announcing the introduction of the "Left-Handed Whopper," specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new burger included the same ingredients as the original, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. The chain said it received thousands of requests for the new burger, as well as orders for the original "right-handed" version.

-- Noted British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on the radio in 1976 that at 9:47 am, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, in which Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, would cause a gravitational alignment that would reduce the Earth's gravity. Moore told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment of the planetary alignment, they would experience a floating sensation. Hundreds of people called in to report feeling the sensation.

Next, I bring you undeniable proof that George W. Bush, or perhaps one of his predecessors, was responsible for sinking the Titanic:

Coincidence?? I think not. (via anchoress)

The Beauty of Solar

My KCW Professor found this rather wonderful article about the things we can do to start conserving electricity. Now, ok, it's not perfect. The rather obnoxious suggestion was made that we should avoid having children. I'm sure my unborn daughter would love to hear that; "sorry honey, we'll never give you a little brother because it'll save us some electricity." Nope, don't like that much at all. Al Gore isn't really my favorite guy, either; but truth be told, despite that the man can be a menace, he does have some good things to say. The other thing I'd suggest is that the suggestion to replace your light bulbs with CFLs (Compact Flourescent Lights) is probably not the best way to save electricity, since, while it does save power, also is a known cause of skin cancer. And they hurt your eyes; I never run the ones we have because I get headaches and dizziness from them.

But aside from that, read it and read it well. Again,
the link.

Flying over Africa

This picture makes me laugh. In fact, every time I've looked at it, I laugh. So I thought I should share it. Spread the joy, folks.

April 3, 2007

I Have the House to Myself

On the one hand I think the following video is utterly rediculous and horribly insensitive (it is, after all, the Onion, a fake news program). On the other hand, it has a weird, almost creepy grain of truth to it. You decide.

This next one ... well, after you watch it, there are currently six more episodes to be found on YouTube, and you'll end up watching them all.

Liz went up to Indianapolis for the weekend and then down to St. Louis, both for the purpose of spending some long-awaited time with her sisters. I, on the other hand, have spent the week battling homework, the internet company (to get our internet back), and lonliness. But out of these things come the occasional work of art:

Understand - despite two and a half years of marriage to a fantastic woman, given dire circumstances, I can still cook a decent meal for myself. I just wanted you to know that. It's a survival thing, obviously, but I'm very proud of my teriyaki chicken and white-wine zucchini.

April 2, 2007

Chasing the Dawn

I had the opportunity to help some friends get to the airport today. They were on their way home for a family emergency and needed to get to Louisville - an hour and a half away - for a 6:25am flight down to Texas. The thing about driving at the horrendous hour of 4am is that everything seems to take less time because my mind is a bit slower ... taking the curves on back roads, for example. However, I love driving when it's dark out, especially if it's mindless highway driving. It's cooler, I get the road to myself, and it gives me a chance to listen to music, to think, to reflect.

As has happened so often lately, I ended up thinking about poverty again. It seems that the question of poverty keeps coming up in my life these days. I'm not sure why this is, unless it's God trying to get my ever-elusive attention, but suffice it to say that enough people have brought up conversations relating to this topic that I've spent significant time in thought about it. I was first dismissive, thinking that my gifts are not particularly directed in the direction of alleviating poverty. This view has since gone in the "naiive" pile. Everybody can use their gifts towards poverty elmination, because everybody plays a part in its existence.

The thing you have to understand about poverty is that it's not just about people who don't have enough stuff. Poverty - like everything - is the result of a complex set of interrelated circumstances, and as is often the case, the problem is not actually poverty; poverty is merely a symptom of a greater cancer permeating this planet: human pride, greed, and ultimately, broken relationship. As Rob Bell says, "this is about that."

In the Ultimate Reality, the one intended for this earth, people were not meant to depend solely on themselves; they are meant to be interdependent. We serve others, and the others serve us (though we aren't to serve just so we can be served); instead of everybody fighting for scarce resources, everyone is satisfied AND in relationship with one another. But we don't live in that world.

Anymore. Yet.

The problem is that at some point the Ultimate System broke down; someone decided to do something for herself alone, and then one by one humanity followed suite. It only takes one person to put a kink in the perfect system, which is why it only works when everybody is cooperating; mutual interdependence. I keep wondering how this could ever happen again. Maybe some people can start setting the example and gradually others will catch on. Which is where the church comes in, the model of the alternative, even at our own expense, even if we're taken advantage of by others.

But people have to want the change to happen. Oddly enough, that the best way to introduce change is to get people to help themselves - a paradox. By taking the initiative to help others they help themselves in the long-run. But they have to want it. And often they have to learn it, which is once again where we come in.

Handouts are a good thing sometimes; disaster relief, for example, is compassionate aid at a time when people have no ability to help themselves. But the best way to get them back on their feet is not to give them lots of the finished products - that makes them dependent on you while unable to return the favor. The best way is to help them rebuild their means of providing their own resources. Instead of providing only food, it is better to provide the means of producing food - education, some equipment, and even a market in which to sell or trade goods eventually provide a more sustainable positive long-term outcome.

As I drove home, travelling east, the sun started to rise. I was surprised that it came up as late as it did - 7am, as I was on the final leg of the trip. It had been cold when I got in the car, but I noticed that as I had travelled it had gotten cooler, not warmer. It reminded me that the sun rises when it's darkest and coldest; it doesn't warm up until the sun is up. There's an answer there somewhere.

The problem is that situations have to get worse before they get better. There's no instantaneous solution, and people don't like that, especially people who are suffering. If they're desperate enough, they just might want to embrace a solution that will actually improve their situation for the long-term, but most Americans aren't that desperate; and we tend to ignore the ones who are, or make them more dependent on our handouts. Einstein said that the nature of the solution to a problem is of a different order entirely from the cause of the problem. The solution to poverty is not a matter of material resources, or of redistribution of wealth, it's a matter of initiative; if people - both the poor AND those that could help them - care about the solution and are willing to work for it, it will happen.