Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Culture of Gestures and Posturing

The Eiffel Tower will switch off its lights for five minutes, with the hope "to call attention to energy waste." The blackout comes as a result of the attention given to the "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" meeting in Paris.

While one can understand the environmentalists' hopes that the gesture will draw attention to the issue of global warming, one must ponder the efficacy of such a measure. If climate change is such an important issue, how will such a small gesture have any meaningful impact? The same article states that, "The Eiffel Tower's lights account for about 9 percent of the monument's total energy consumption of 7,000 megawatt-hours per year." The five minutes amounts to nothing in comparison to those figures. Granted, this is a publicity stunt, but if the French are so worried about climate change, shouldn't something more drastic be done to the Eiffel Tower's energy consumption?

I do not wish to address the politics or realities of climate change, rather, I wish to expose our culture's failure to address matters in meaningful ways. What kinds of demands do we make to solve problems? Think of some of the more pressing issues of our time. What is the solution to the Iraq War? The answers are generally either more troops in Iraq or to bring the troops home--as if either alone will bring peace to Iraq.

  • What of the state of our nation's schools? Solutions are always presented in financial terms--as if money will solve all the problems faced in the public school.
  • Poverty? Give the poor more money through tax breaks, welfare programs, subsidized housing, etc.
  • AIDS, Cancer, Disease? Wear a ribbon to "increase awareness" and increase research funding.
  • Crime? More money for more police.
  • Racism? Increase awareness, sensitivity training, legislation, MLK Jr. Day, etc.

We are a culture that promotes symbols and gestures rather than thoughtful, deliberate, and meaningful action. Symbols can be helpful, and gestures can promote change, but neither can replace insightful introspection and deliberate action.

This is why it is so silly to turn off the lights of the Eiffel Tower for five minutes--what will it really do? We will hear about it for a few days leading up to it, and the day afterwards, but the news cycle will move on to something else and this will be long forgotten. The Eiffel Tower will continue to use nearly 20 megawatts per day.

More Charity Towards N.T. Wright

I came across a good call to charity towards N.T. Wright via N.T. Writes. Wedgewords writes that it is impossible, "to have a conversation about Wright without having to gear up for war." That is precisely my experience. Every time I quote Wright, or mention his work, I cringe, expecting an onslaught criticizing Wright's dangerous theology.

Wedgewords goes on to write that the pervasive attitude and reaction to Wright is, "juvenile, sinful, and suicidal for the Reformed world. "

I suggest reading the whole post. He has two good quotes from Wright himself there worth reading.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It Isn't Enough

The Star Tribune has an editorial response to Governor Pawlenty's budget proposal. As one would imagine, their position is that Pawlenty isn't spending enough money. The last paragraph really sums it up perfectly:

"That means it may be up to Minnesotans who expected more from state government this year to convey that message to their representatives. These are the good years in the economic cycle, and the top earning years for the big boomer generation. These are the years to fill the granaries -- that is, to build the infrastructure, tune up health care, and invest in the human capital that tomorrow's prosperity requires."

It is there, plain as day, they want to take money from the top tax bracket to give it away to everyone else--all for the "children," or as they say, "human capital that tomorrow's prosperity requires." What more needs to be said to prove that they are nothing but socialists at the Red Star?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pawlenty on Education

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has some new initiatives for the new state budget. The Star Tribune lists one particularly bad idea at the top of its article on Pawlenty's education initiatives from his State of the State speech.

The article states, "Gov. Tim Pawlenty called Wednesday for a modest increase in school funding and bonuses for schools that require students to complete a year of college before they get their high school diploma."

Under Pawlenty's plan, students who have completed their high school degree and met all standard requirements would now be required to complete one year of college before they receive their diploma! This would mean that high school is no longer a four year institution, that there must be oversight and accountability outside of the school district. Colleges and universities will have an expanded role in the education of all students.

This is presumably already happening in some schools in the state. It seems that Pawlenty and others are beginning to recognize that students are no longer learning adequately from public schools, and now colleges will essentially be required to educate all students.

The initiative is optional, but extra funds are promised to schools that increase graduation requirements. It is difficult to imagine school districts disregarding the plan when it means additional funds. The idea is flawed in multiple ways:

  1. Public schools should be held accountable for the inadequacy of what is taught and learned in their school systems. Adding one year of college shifts the responsibility to another party, requiring the student or taxpayer pay for something that shouldn't be a requirement.
  2. Not all students are college material. This flies in the face of the rampant egalitarianism of our culture, but it is undeniable.
  3. The demand for college education will soar, and as demand increases, the cost of college will increase even more rapidly than it already is.
  4. Colleges will become further subsidized by government rather than stand on their own merit in the education marketplace.
  5. A college education is already becoming ubiquitous to the point of near irrelevance and this will further erode the quality of college education.
It is time that public schools, teachers, administrators, and the NEA be held accountable for the inadequacies of our public education system. It is time for real change--not shifting responsibilities.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blind Squirrel, Meet Acorn

I have been following David Plotz's "Blogging the Bible" for months now. Plotz is a non-practicing Jew who is reading through the Bible for the first time and blogging on his reflections upon each book.

His most recent blog is written in response to the final chapters of Isaiah. In addressing 55:8-9, he writes an interesting passage:

Here's an interesting rebuke to those who would try to interpret or explain God. (A rebuke, in other words, to people like me.) "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." According to Isaiah, our efforts to humanize Him, to turn Him into a friend or a relative, even to understand Him, are doomed. The impossibility of imagining God may be the essential theme of Isaiah. Isaiah objects to any effort to contain, reduce, limit, represent, or explain God. (This is the source of his rage against idols.) Once you accept that He can be limited, faith is compromised.

Much of our understanding of God is founded upon, "our efforts to humanize Him, to turn Him into a friend or a relative, even to understand Him." It us not just us moderns that are guilty of this, as this passage from Isaiah should make clear.

Yet theologians like Greg Boyd are guilty of this very thing. Read the last sentence of Plotz's again. "Once you accept that He [God] can be limited, faith is compromised." That is an amazing rebuke to Open Theists like Boyd who seek to limit God's foreknowledge. What is surprising is that the rebuke comes from a nominal Jew, reading his Bible for the first time.

But, as is said, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. Even a first time Bible-reader can discover a deep truth in the Bible unknown to a theologian with a PhD.