Dispatches from Outland
A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants. Copyright © 2003 Roy M. Jacobsen.

Friday, May 03, 2002  

Best of the Web Today has an interesting bit on libertarians, incest and cloning:

Incest horrifies us because it violates the boundaries that define the most fundamental human relationships, those on which both social cohesion and individual happiness depend. The relationship between parent and child, or brother and sister, is fraught enough without introducing the elements of sexual possessiveness and jealousy that a love affair entails. If children result from an incestuous union, the family tree becomes a horrific tangle, in which parents are also aunts, uncles or grandparents.
Cloning raises a similar set of problems. Suppose a couple decide to produce a "son" by cloning the husband. Who are the resulting child's parents? The man and his wife, who are raising the child? Or the man's parents, whose coupling produced the boy's genes? Suppose instead of cloning himself, the man clones his father. Suddenly he's his own grandpa.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 2:32 PM

Song of the Day: (near sighted girl with approaching) Tidal Wave by Daniel Amos.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 2:13 PM

Book Notes Department: My notes on Chapter 1 of

The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding how God Changes Lives
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding how God Changes Lives

Chapter 1: The Secret of the Easy Yoke

We often make much of the cost of discipleship, but we would be better off to consider the cost of non-discipleship. Proverbs 13:15 (and much of the Old Testament) tells us the way of sinners is hard, and observation confirms this. The "cost of discipleship" is small compared to the soap opera of "normal human life."

Jesus said "my yoke is easy"(Mt 11: 29-30), but something about the way we go about it prevents us from experiencing the reality of that statement. Therefore, we give up on obedience as being too hard and unrealistic.

However, his offer still stands, and applies to us here and now. So what is the secret?

When a child idolizes a sports hero, he tries to do everything the way the hero does it. But the success of the athlete isn't merely in the visible behavior during the game, it's in the long hours of disciplined practice, training and preparation that the fans don't see.

"But grace does not mean that sufficient strength and insight will be automatically 'infused' into our being at the moment of need. Abundant evidence for this claim is available precisely in the experience of any Christian." (pg. 4)

We need appropriate exercise in godly living. Jesus' life exemplifies this. 30 years spent in obscurity, and after baptism, 40 days in solitude fasting. Even during his ministry, he spent much time in solitude and prayer. The "secret" of the easy yoke is in living life as he lived it--his whole life, not just when he was in the spotlight.

We want to do what is right, but we don't want to devote our entire lives to it. "We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it a reality." (pg 6) "Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering." -- Carl Jung (quoted on pg 7)

Jesus' statements about turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, etc., aren't commands, per se. They are the behaviors to expect "of a new kind of person--one who . . . seeks . . . to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has." (pg 7-8)

"The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting his way with us." -- Oswald Chambers. (In other words, it is descriptive, rather than prescriptive.)

If we wish to follow Christ--and walk the easy yoke with him--we will have to accept his overall way of life totally. It's more than just asking WWJD at the "moment of truth." The ability to make right choices is rooted in the overall life we live, in our inner balance and connection to God. The choices when we're "on the spot" should be the natural outcome of who we are.

The secret of the easy yoke is learning from Christ how to live our total lives. "It is the intelligent, informed, unyielding resolve to live as Jesus lived in all aspects of his life, not just in the moment of specific choice or action." (pg 10)

As always, email me with your comments.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 6:50 AM

Thursday, May 02, 2002  

"Whoa!" Department: Mark Shea and Anne Wilson have noticed, oh, let's call it "shadows" of the Incarnation (note the capital I) in The Matrix. Join the club. When my friend Bob and I watched it, that's just about all we could talk about afterwards. Roberto Rivera has an article that discusses it at length.

BTW, when I read Mark's little note, the BlogSpot banner at up at the top of the page was an ad for . . . The Matrix on DVD. (But none dare call it conspiracy!)

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:25 PM

Great Minds Department: Mark Butterworth is thinking along the same lines as I was with my earlier post on praiseworthy ends gained by dubious means. He isn't pulling any punches:

There is nothing they will not say to get what they want. They hope by whining and whining on about LIFE SAVING, COMPASSION, RESEARCH, SCIENCE they will wear mature thinking down and get to stay up as late as they please creating and destroying as many living embryos as they like.

What zombies these people are. In fact, why don't we start calling them that? Label them as Zombies for wanting to feast on living human flesh, those who are dead to reality and the sacredness of human life.

I hadn't seen Mark's blog, Sunny Days in Heaven, before a few minutes ago. Another one for the permalinks.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 2:04 PM

Minute Particulars takes my question about the term "Christian Blogs" and runs with it.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 1:56 PM

Suppose for a moment that a scientist announced that he was on the brink of an incredibly important breakthrough: a treatment that would cure spinal cord injuries. Such a treatment would benefit thousands, perhaps millions, of people and their families. (I have no idea how many people fall into this category, but it would be big.) But suppose that, in order to bring this treatment to fruition, the scientist said that he needed to perform experiments on humans, and that what he wanted to do was to deliberately inflict spinal injuries on people, and then test his treatment on them. "We can use convicts, or perhaps some homeless people."

I hope we would condemn this man and his proposal as monstrous. Despite the fact that he offered us a solution to a terrible problem, the means he proposed to bring us that solution should make us recoil.

This is, seemingly, the position we are in now. Cloning proponents are dangling the carrot of "life-saving" treatments that may (and that is a very big "may", deserving an extended discussion on its own) come from embryonic stem cell research. But the moral nature of the means they're asking us to accept can not be blithely ignored.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:00 AM

The Professor is taking some heat for his latest TechCentralStation column. Reynolds seems to think that the Presidential Council on Bioethics is nothing but a sham because President Bush has had the nerve to speak his mind about cloning, without waiting for the council to say something.

Little did the critics realize that it didn't matter - because the president was going to announce his views before the council had a chance to make any concrete recommendations anyway. But that is exactly what has happened: President Bush has announced his support for legislation that would criminalize cloning - even therapeutic cloning - without waiting for advice from the Council on Bioethics.

Ordinarily, Glenn is a pretty astute comentator. But it seems that when cloning is involved, he goes daft. I'm not the only one to think so. Ben Domenech offers a lengthy take-down:
To say that Bush's comments are inappropriate -- or that his public statements somehow show the Kass commission to be nothing more than a political straw man -- ignores the clear factual history of both presidential commissions and Executive Branch standard operating procedure. In case Reynolds has forgotten, past Administrations didn't just stop having a policy on an issue while commissions deliberated. When the Kissinger commission was deliberating, Reagan didn't stop having a Latin American policy in the meantime. When I served in 1998 as a member of one of President Clinton's (many) commissions on Social Security, I didn't expect Clinton to stop talking about Social Security until the commission sent him the report resulting from our deliberations.

Orrin Judd weighs in as well:
Mr. Reynolds here renews the bizarre argument that President Bush should have taken no action in regard to bioethics until his commission reported on its deliberations. Perhaps his objection is best dealt with by analogy. A wild fire is burning in your neighborhood, approaching your house. Fire officials are meeting to determine the best course of action to contain the fire. In the meantime, do you : (a) do nothing until the experts weigh in; (b) at least try to rescue some valuables and take whatever reasonable steps you can to protect your house?

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:36 AM

Wednesday, May 01, 2002  

I should mention that MartinRothOnline has posted "The Semi-Definitive List" of Christian Blogs.

I dunno, Martin, can a blog be "Christian"? I can see calling a blogger Christian, but I have a bit of trouble hanging that label on a thing. Maybe it's just me...

Anyway, there's more blogs than you can shake a stick at over there. I've just scratched the surface, and there's good stuff out there.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:36 PM

Book Notes Department: This is a new feature. When I read some books, I take notes. Here are my notes from the introduction to The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard.

The cause of the human condition is a spiritual one. Modern solutions fail to address that. The solution must be a spiritual one, but Christians are wrapped up in the same problems plaguing everyone else. Is Christianity a failure?

Not if it does 2 things:
1. Take the need for human transformation seriously, “as a real, practical issue to be dealt with in realistic terms.”
2. Clarify and exemplify realistic methods of human transformation. Show how ordinary humans can, through grace, change.

We can become like Christ “by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.” Jesus practiced:
Solitude and silence
Simple and sacrificial living
Intense study of and meditation on God’s word
Service to others

This kind of living is contrary to “powerful tendencies around us.” “Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different.” (pg. x)

“We have simply let our thinking fall into the grip of a false opposition of grace to ‘works’ that was caused by a mistaken association of works with ‘merit.’” (pg. x)

We can’t seem to make the connection between grace and what we do. We all (Christians and non) long deeply to live as our hearts tell us we should.

“The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.” (pg. xii)

You can order the book online from Barnes and Noble. Click here: The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding how God Changes Lives
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding how God Changes Lives

Comments? Drop me a line. alexander-beetle [at] yahoo.com (The obfuscation of the email address is to foil spam-bots. If you know of a better way to do that, drop me another line.)

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:29 PM

Famous Dead Guys With Blogs Department: G. K. Chesterton's Blog

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 11:01 AM

I'm a dad. I have three kids: two girls, ages 14 and 11, and a son, age 8. If I had had a camcorder and the requisite computer hardware/software combination, I would likely have created something much like Gnat-O-Vision.

Warning: "Awwww!"-inducing cuteness ensues. Also, the movies weigh in at about a meg apiece.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:52 AM

A friend of mine who works for InverVarsity Christian Fellowship says that Gen X and Gen Y kids (and I do wish someone would come up with a better term) can hold two incompatible thoughts in their heads and not have a problem with any tension between the two. For example, you should be tolerant of all belief systems, except for Christianity. One sees exactly this kind of thing going on when it comes to pedophilia, as Mark Shea points out so clearly:

The next step, once it is made incontrovertibly clear that the overwhelming preponderance of abuse cases are homosexual in nature is for the Dissident Sexuality At All Costs Crowd to play the "What's so wrong about sex with children?" card and trot out the useful word "taboo." The fascinating thing will be to see how they continue to damn the bishops for failing to restrain what they will increasingly say is no big deal.

Update: Ben Domenich has a suggested "better term":
"The better term you're looking for is "Millennials" -- that's for those of us born 1980-and beyond."

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:23 AM

Tuesday, April 30, 2002  

Song/CD of the Day: Amarok by Mike Oldfield.

There aren't any lyrics to this one, really. And it's not just a song... well, actually it is, but it's the whole darn CD, as well. [WARNING: Blatant commerical plug ahead.] You can get it here at Barnes and Noble.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 3:48 PM

I was deeply saddened to read that Robert X. Cringley's infant son, Chase, died of SIDS. Some people are paralyzed by grief. Cringley is not one of them.

SIDS was a popular medical research subject from 1985 to 1995. In those years, parental abuse was finally identified as a common cause, and certain techniques were developed to help babies stay alive. The most common technique was to remove all blankets and toys from the crib, and to keep the baby on his back. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are twice as likely to die of SIDS. Sleeping solely on their backs reduces the incidence to about one in 2,000 babies. But strict back sleeping also has a developmental downside because apparently the route to genius is best traveled on the belly.

There have been few advances since 1995, and this very lack of progress has led to reduced interest in SIDS research. Yet my unblanketed, backsleeping little Chase died anyway, so I think there is much that could still be done. The old, broken-down engineer in me says it is time to build something.

Read the piece. See if you can help.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:30 AM

A week or so ago, Aussie blogger Martin Roth contacted me and several other bloggers with a decidedly Christian bent with a few questions about being a Christian blogger. He's written up an article summarizing the responses over at MartinRothOnline.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:19 AM

Monday, April 29, 2002  

USS Clueless asks the timeless question: Were Kofi Annan and Arthur Pewtie separated at birth? (OK, he doesn't phrase it quite that way.)

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:08 AM

Palestinian Children

"But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." -- Matthew 18:6.

(Link courtesy of A Voyage to Arcturus.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:39 AM

Just received a note from Brad Pardee:

Volume 3, no. 4 of "One Man Watching" is up!

In the sidebar, I look at the TV show "7th Heaven" and its handling of interfaith relationships, and in the main article, I look at the way some are using the sex abuse scandal as flawed basis for calling for changes to the priesthood. An appearance of "Others Worth Watching" points to a new book that I have found quite riveting and that I think you might appreciate as well.

One Man Watching is an example of what's good about the internet. It gives guys like Brad (and all us bloggers) an avenue to reach the whole wide world. Take a peek.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:28 AM
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