Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Christianity is necessarily individual and communal

John Stonestreet with a good reminder that Christianity is inherently communal... iblically, Christianity has essential components that are individual and communal/relational. (E.g., Acts 2: 47-47 has a call to individual salvation followed by a call to join a new community.) Ignoring one or the other, two errors follow.

First, people imagine that they're Christian solely because they belong to a group-- e.g., they were born into a "Christian" family or they belong to a church. Second, people imagine that they can be a "Lone-Ranger Christian". Instead, the Triune God is, in Himself, relational-- and following the "one anothers" of Scripture require community.

Monday, January 21, 2019

trying to live up to this quote...

It might sort of strange to say (an/or think), but I'm trying to live up to this quote from C.S. Lewis:
“Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth…Their very voices and faces are different from ours; stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off…They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognized one of them, you will recognize the next one much more easily…In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.” (Mere Christianity; Book 4, Chapter 11)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tired of "How-To" books? It's time to read a "When-To" book!

In one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits, a character is a few seconds late with a funny line, making his comments a missed opportunity or an occasion for embarrassment. An announcer's voice pipes in to promote a product that moves time back by a few seconds. The character uses it and suddenly becomes the life of the party. The moral of the story: timing matters. 

Timing is the subject of Daniel Pink's When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. His book is an easy read and based on a survey of the relevant research. Many of the findings run counter to conventional wisdom. But beyond interesting, it's highly applicable. 

Pink has written a "when-to" book, instead of much more popular "how-to" books. Timing is both art and science. To help with both, he uses Part 2 of each chapter-- what he calls a "Time Hacker's Handbook"-- to provide helpful hints on how to manage time more effectively. (Most of the book is focused on individuals, but still applicable to organizations and groups, but chapter 6 is devoted explicitly to the timing of teams within organizations.) 

Time and timing are important themes in Jewish and Christian theology. God's creative work is divided into periods of time-- the six "days" of Creation and a seventh day for rest. The Hebrew term "yom" is often translated "day" in English and them imagined as a 24-hour time period. But yom is used in five different ways in just the first two chapters of Genesis. In any case, whether a literal day or some broader time frame, God's creative activity begins with distinct periods of time. 

Pink describes the creation of synchronized time with the invention of clocks via pendulums (5, 11). In this, his book is similar to two other great books: Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman on the origins of dictionaries and James Scott's Seeing Like a State on the origins and importance of maps. With each, we depend on the innovation to a degree that is difficult to fathom. What would life be like without maps, dictionaries, and clocks?

Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, time continues to be a key player. First, in terms of theology and theodicy, Habakkuk, Job, and the Psalms wrestle with the questions of "why" and "how long". Often, a trial is manageable, until it lasts too long. 

Second, sin is often defined in terms of time. In I Samuel 13, Saul starts his downward slide by impatiently offering a sacrifice instead of waiting a bit longer for Samuel. In Joshua 7, Achan takes from that which had been dedicated to God after the victory at Jericho. If he had waited one more battle (at Ai), he could have had what he wanted. 

Or think about the classic example: Abraham knows that a promised son will come from his loins, but Sarah and Abraham rush the timing by going through Hagar. Not only are the results sobering (the Arab/Israeli conflict that emanates from that fateful decision), but their ignorance for years that they had done anything wrong (they don't know until Isaac is explicitly promised).  

There are more positive examples in the Christian Bible / New Testament. Think of Paul following the Spirit's lead for both timing and direction on his missionary journeys. And certainly in real life, we can think of many examples where a moment failed or worked because the timing was wrong or right. 

In chapter 1, Pink describes the daily cycles in our moods (10-13). For most people, mornings and evenings are good, but afternoons are a lull. It does vary a bit by individual-- and in particular, by "owls" who do better at night vs. "larks" who do better in the morning (27). The probability of your bird type is dependent on when one is born within a year and gender (29). And it's not all bad news for the afternoons: although a poor time for analytic thought, it's a better time for creative thought and insights (21, 25). 

Throughout the book, Pink relates the research to ideal or at least improved business practices. Companies should be wary about when they field "earning calls" that will influence their stock prices (17-19). He describes a "Hospital of Doom" with lousy metrics that derive simply from standard afternoon vs. morning performance metrics (49-53). And he notes that scores on standardized testing vary significantly with time of day (23). 

In all cases, Pink offers suggestions for avoiding and offsetting the problems created by time. Hospitals use checklists after noon to counter late-day sluggishness (51-52). Some schools start school later (for high school), test later (especially for younger children), and use breaks to accommodate "chronobiological" tendencies (57, 88-93). Try to use "strong-future" language-- another reason to avoid passive tenses (215-218). 

Chapter 2 is devoted to the importance of breaks (60-62, 75-82) and naps (66-70)-- and how to do them well. This was reminiscent of David Randall's book, Dreamland which focuses on the science of sleep. My favorite observation was to take short naps (I learned this from Randall), but then to double-down with some pre-nap caffeine. I was also surprised to learn that lunch is more important than breakfast (64-65). Once Pink describes how breakfast had been researched, it was easy to see how its importance could be exaggerated, confusing correlations with causation. 

The heart of the book, Chapters 3-5, is structured around beginnings, middles, and ends. Get off to good start. Avoid the potential slumps and embrace the potential sparks of your middles. Use endings to "energize, encode, edit and elevate". Most of these are relatively obvious insights-- at least, after the fact. But if you're looking for good how-to advice through when-to counsel, the details in Pink's When will be worth your time. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Winchester's "The Professor and the Madman"

The Professor and the Madman is Simon Winchester’s 1998 account of the world’s most impressive dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Winchester details its origins and development, focusing on its chief editor (Professor James Murray) and one of its chief contributors who was a “madman” (Dr. William Minor). Mel Gibson bought the movie rights immediately, but the film is just now being released with Gibson playing the part of Murray and Sean Penn as Minor.

Let’s start with the statistics about the OED: It had 12 “tombstone-size volumes.” (25) It took 70 years to complete and was finished in 1928 (25, 103). The first portion (“fascicle”) was published in 1884—352 pages, describing every word from A to Ant (147), which later became 15,000 pages (149). The original had 415,000 words, 1.83 million quotes, and 178 miles of type. In constructing it, they only lost one word: “bondmaid.” (220) There were five supplements after the 1st edition—and then a 2nd edition, a half-century later—which extended the work to 20 volumes (25).

The OED’s novel, guiding principle was to collect quotes for every use of every word (25, 86). Winchester describes it as an amazing work, especially in its time; “the unrivaled cornerstone of any good library” (26); “a last bastion of cultured Englishness, a final echo of value from the greatest of all modern empires…the most important reference book ever made.” (27) His advice: “admire it as a work of literature” and “marvel at its lexicographical scholarship.” (27)

OED was in the works for 22 years, before the project got underway in earnest at a meeting on Guy Fawkes Day in 1858 (77-78, 107-108). Winchester describes the brief first phase of a handful of editors, focusing on Frederick Furnivall who was enthusiastic but struggled with organizing the task (108-110). Phase II and the bulk of the work was completed with James Murray as editor (110-112), until his death in 1915.

Winchester helpfully charts the history of dictionaries—why they would desirable, early efforts at (far) paler versions, and how to accomplish the work (80-97). He notes that Shakespeare had access to a modest thesaurus but no dictionary; you couldn’t just “look something up.” (80) The first effort is probably a Latin dictionary from 1225 (83). In 1604, Robert Cawdrey compiled the first English dictionary—a 120-page book of 2,500 “unusual” words. (Not surprisingly, unusual words were the focus of early dictionaries.) This was the catalyst for 150 years of diverse efforts (84), including thorough work by Nathaniel Bailey (88) and culminating in the majestic work of Samuel Johnson (89).

Winchester also details a debate about the worthiness of dictionaries. For example, Jonathan Swift thought they would add unproductive fixity to the language and debated Johnson on this (91-92). But the free market agreed with Johnson (93). And his dictionary was the standard, until it was replaced by the OED.

There are other considerations in making a dictionary. For example, no words in a definition can be more complicated or less known than the word being defined (151). (This reminds me of my old friend Dave Borden and a lousy dictionary he had: he looked up ostentatious and the definition was pretentious; he looked up pretentious and the definition was ostentatious! He promptly ripped it in half.) And Winchester is good at describing the difficulties one would not expect—for example, the intricacies of a word like “art”—which turns out to be difficult to define, in all of its many uses (153).

As Furnivall had done, Murray issued an appeal for help, providing detailed instructions. The response was amazing, but the project was far larger than Murray imagined. At this point, Winchester re-introduces us to William Minor—whose history is developed earlier in the book. Minor responded to the appeal and became one of the two most important contributors.

Minor was housed in a relatively comfortable wing of the prison. He still had his military pension which gave him some resources, mostly spent on books (120). He occupied two cells—one of which contained his library, writing desk, and chairs (120, 122). (He later donated all of his books to Murray’s library, where they are still housed today [215].) He also had art supplies, played the flute, had a collection of hard liquors, and paid a servant to do tasks for him (122). A bit more than a cot and three squares!

Minor was extremely smart, organized, and dedicated to the task at hand. But he was also insane—with occasional, dangerous, and bizarre delusions (123-125). He had been a doctor and Civil War veteran who went from quirky to crazy and murdered a man in England, resulting in his imprisonment. He was diagnosed at the time with a form of dementia; Winchester describes him with modern terms: schizophrenia and PTSD (211, 213). He also notes the deadly irony that advances in health and hygiene did not match advances in military equipment for that war (52)—what might be considered part of its judgment against our country for slavery.

Minor developed a relationship with and sent money to the murder victim’s wife—who brought him books and visited him in prison (126-127)! This surprising relationship brought a sense of normalcy to his life. Along the same lines, he saw the invitation to join Murray’s project as “a long-sought badge of renewed membership in the society from which he had been so long estranged.” (133) This led to 20 years of work—from 1885 to 1905, where he contributed mightily to the OED (138, 146). Aside from its sheer volume, his labor of love was relatively valuable because he organized his effort in a unique way, cataloging interesting words and quotes in the books he was skimming, rather than looking for a particular word or letter (139-143).

The best part of the story: since Minor’s address was so basic (Broadmoor, Crowthorne, Berks), nobody knew for years that he was in an insane asylum. Winchester details the eventual meeting between Minor and Murray in chapter 9, laying out the legend (168-174) and the more-likely details (174-177) of the discovery about his housing arrangements. The catalyst was a party in late 1890 to celebrate the OED project and those who were crafting it. Minor did not show, only offering a vague explanation about “physical circumstances.” (163, 168, 171-177) (Another insane person who contributed about as much as Minor also did not attend; Winchester gives Fitzedward Hall a brief mention here [166-167].) Murray follows up, visits the address, and learns the truth about Minor’s insanity and imprisonment. They enjoyed years of visits afterwards.

Life get increasingly strange and depressing for Minor at the end. Winchester details Minor’s autopeotomy—in a chapter titled “the unkindest cut.” (190-194) Ouch! He connects the surgery to a new religious fervor and self-condemnation over masturbation and lust. In March 1910, a new warden orders all of his privileges to be removed (198). In April 1910, with declining health, his brother was able to persuade Winston Churchill to allow him to return to America (198-200). The end is a story of failing physical health and mental health that continued to decline.

Perhaps an even unkinder cut is one of omission: Minor died in 1920 and is buried in a rough part of New Haven, CT (the home of Yale University): “he died forgotten in obscurity and is buried beside a slum.” (219) Hopefully, Winchester’s book (and Gibson’s movie) will bring recognition to this strange and productive man’s life.


Whoa. Now, here's a hero in the face of government-sponsored injustice, systematic oppression, and Sodom/Gomorrah-level gang violence-- and with a Jesus-like response at the end to the persecutors.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

shame and its potential role in salvation and sanctification

Adding stuff to my Bible study notes this AM, including this article for my notes on Habakkuk. I don't recall this episode at all. (And I had forgotten about Justin Sacco as the first prominent example of "internet shaming.") But Thomas' account was a riveting read from a few angles. Her ending was especially powerful, focusing on Oscar Wilde's similar circumstances and thoughts on the topic of suffering's potential role in our salvation and sanctification.

An excerpt: "Ironically, the disagreement [with] Todd...was over my belief that suffering is sometimes necessary for personal growth, and an essential part of God’s plan for our salvation...The irony, of course, is that there is no belief my brush with online shaming confirmed more. I had heard the maxim that there is no humility without humiliation—how true it proved. My first reaction to the video was to feel aggrieved, thinking that I did not deserve what was happening to me, but on the Day of Judgment all my sins will be shouted from the housetops, and Todd’s rant will sound like a retirement luncheon toast in comparison. Of course I deserved it, and worse; most of us poor sinners do."

Wow, there is someone who understands sin, mercy, and grace. I'm glad that she is so comfortable in the goodness of God's Kingdom. If I don't get to meet her in this chapter of our eternal life in Christ Jesus, I look forward to meeting her in the next.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Coolidge v. Davis in the 1924 Presidential Election

This is the longer review that will appear in the IPR Journal. From this, there should be two op-ed pieces-- one focusing on Coolidge, Davis, and LaFollette; the other focusing on a compare/contrast between Coolidge and Reagan.

The High Tide of Conservatism: The Presidential Election of 1924

The consensus on the 1924 presidential election is that it was a conventional campaign with dull candidates. But Garland Tucker brings both to life in The High Tide of Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election. Everyone knows Calvin Coolidge because he won, but John W. Davis was a notable man in his own regard. And the race was noteworthy (if not unique) in that both parties chose conservatives who favored limited government, leading Tucker to the title of his book. 

At least by modern standards, Coolidge and Davis were boring in terms of character; Tucker describes both in glowing terms. There was no scandal in Coolidge's years as president and he was "an icon for those solid American values of honesty, hard work, self-reliance, and thrift...Coolidge was the real thing." (6) Davis was "a man of unimpeachable integrity, immense personal charm, and extraordinary legal ability". And they both ran clean, respectable campaigns.

The general election was not particularly exciting either, since the economy was booming and a popular incumbent was seeking a second term. But the Democratic convention was electric and "the most divisive" in American history: 15 days with nine days of voting and 103 ballots before Davis was chosen (10, 97). 

Of course, with a popular incumbent running for a second term, the result of the GOP convention was a foregone conclusion. But Senator Robert LaFollette's 3rd-party campaign as a Progressive began there—another intriguing piece of the puzzle. He led the Wisconsin delegation to the convention as a "favorite son"—a ceremonial candidacy by one who can’t win. But the state's delegates were "subjected to incessant heckling" and the GOP's continued move away from Progressive principles were catalysts for LaFollette’s run as a Progressive (173). 

LaFollette ran an impressive race, but overcoming the prosperity of the Coolidge economy—especially with a Progressive set of policies—was always a long shot. A more likely scenario was for LaFollette to win enough electoral votes to send the election to the House, but this was too much to accomplish as well. Still, he earned 16% of the popular vote, won his home state, and finished 2nd in 11 states (228). 

LaFollette also made things much more difficult for Davis, siphoning far more votes from him than Coolidge. Comparing Presidential and Congressional vote percentages, about three-quarters of LaFollette's vote would have gone to Davis (237). But in terms of the electoral college, LaFollette's votes seemed to be decisive in only three states. (Tucker provides a helpful appendix with this information.) 

Some of the voter partisanship from a century ago is amazing. Davis dominated in the South, including 97% of the vote in South Carolina. But he earned 10% or less in five states including 8% in California. Overall, Coolidge crushed Davis 54-29%. 

While the final outcome was hardly in doubt, there were significant side issues that led to fraction and finesse. Prohibition, the League of Nations, and farm interests were all prominent, but the KKK was probably the most interesting issue. Davis was "the only candidate who spoke out forcefully against the Klan." (187) Coolidge didn't need to devote much time to oppose it, since his party handled the issue well. But the struggles with racism in the Democrat Party led to a difficult decision between principle and finesse. Progressive LaFollette and all the other Democrats candidates chose finesse. 

The Ebbs and Flows of Political Progressivism

Progressive politics had dominated in the earlier decades of the 20th century—as Progressive ideology had grown in influence since the late-19th century. William Jennings Bryan had been an early political catalyst—most notably through his "Cross of Gold" speech at the Democrat convention in 1896. But Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson brought different versions of Progressivism to prominence, power, and policy. (Tucker describes William Taft as somewhat conservative, but in practice, mostly going along with Progressivism, through his "conscientious enforcement of Roosevelt's reforms" [17].) 

After the Civil War, Democrats dominated the South, but rarely appealed to enough voters to win the White House. The exception was the popular conservative governor of New York, Grover Cleveland, who won twice. But with Bryan's speech, energy for Progressivism broadened appeal for Democrats, eventually culminating in Wilson's victory. The GOP's overall post-war dominance also led to corruption and cronyism—and a subsequent emphasis on reforming government by Roosevelt. 

But then the tide turned. Roosevelt’s influence faded with his death in 1919—and Wilson was quite unpopular by the end of his term in 1920. The country "seemed exhausted by the exhortations of Roosevelt and Wilson for activism, reform, and government intervention." (17) World War I and the Russian Revolution were fresh in the mind of citizens. They were suspicious of Wilson's League of Nations (23). And the economy was in a sharp recession—with unemployment as high as 20% after GDP had shrunk by 17% (25). 

Tucker cites a line by Warren Harding, the GOP victor in 1920: "America's present need is not heroes but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration...not surgery but serenity." (23) All of this set the table for the pendulum to move back toward conservatism in the 1920s, but also helps to explain the potency of LaFollette's campaign. 

John W. Davis

Tucker portrays Davis as a great statesman. As Solicitor General, he fulfilled his office without bias, even when it meant arguing in favor of more expansive government that he personally opposed (121). He spent considerable money out of pocket to support the underfunded embassy in London (127). In returning to the U.S. in 1921, he was broke and decided to return to private law practice to rebuild some wealth (132). He was a potential nominee for the Supreme Court and Tucker opines that Davis would have accepted if it had been offered when he was more financially secure (136-137). 

In terms of his views on political economy, Davis saw himself as a "classic liberal." (279) He later opposed the New Deal (6) and formed the "American Liberty League" to organize more opposition (273-276). He broke with FDR so strongly that he was labeled "Public Enemy #1" inside the White House. He defected to the GOP to endorse Alf Landon in 1936 (276-277) and then Wendell Willkie in 1940 (279).  

Davis' character was so strong that the Democrats chose him to oppose Coolidge based on "confidence in his character rather than of studied agreement with his views." (98) Tucker argues that it was "more a tribute to his ability and personal characteristics than any kind of ideological victory." (101) That said, while Davis' nomination as a conservative can be seen as a fluke, it's still worth noting that there was plenty of room for him in the Democrat party of the time. 

Davis argued 140 cases before the SCOTUS—more than anyone except Lawrence Wallace and perhaps Daniel Webster. His last two cases were his most famous. He successfully opposed the Truman administration's seizure of the steel industry during the Korean War (282). But the second was one of two late blemishes on his public record. He argued for the defendant in Briggs v. Elliott, the South Carolina companion of Brown v. Board of Education (283). Davis argued on the legal and constitutional merits of the position, focusing on states rights (284-289). The other, clearer blemish (not mentioned by Tucker): he served as a character witness for Alger H
iss in 1949.

Coolidge and Reagan

Tucker paints Coolidge as a largely consistent conservative of a limited-government and classical-liberal sort. Still, there were exceptions. In a long quote analyzed by Tucker, Coolidge favored limited government except "protective" tariffs and to "assist the farmers" (217). (Tucker does note that Coolidge vetoed the McNary-Haugen farm bill, subsidizing domestic production to sell overseas, as a "radical intrusion of the federal government" [257].) 

But usually, Coolidge preferred limited government, emphasizing the role of individuals and the private sector, and the ethical and practical limits to government intervention (215). He saw "economy in government as a cardinal virtue." (250) For example, on his last day in office, he vetoed a civil service retirement bill that he saw as profligate (296). He decided not to run for another term in 1928, thinking it too long for one to serve in power (291-292). (Unfortunately, Tucker attempts this to contemporary politics by imagining the contemporary GOP as a party of similar conservatives [306].)

In his foreword for the book, Fred Barnes opens by noting Reagan's respect for Coolidge, replacing Truman's portrait in the White House with Silent Cal's (1). Early in his presidency, Reagan had a Coolidge moment when he fired the striking air-traffic controllers. Coolidge had cracked down on a police strike in Boston when he was governor of Massachusetts in 1919 (1). He had said that "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anytime, anywhere." (160) Especially in the wake of concerns about the Russian Revolution, Coolidge's stand caused him to emerge onto the national stage (20).

The two were similar in terms of style and approach. Like Reagan, Coolidge was "a successful and able politician" (5). Like Reagan, Coolidge was effective with public relations and modern technology—then, radio and photography (31, 211, 239, 240). Reagan wrote much of his own material for radio addresses; Coolidge was the last President to write his own speeches (36). 

Tucker argues that Coolidge was better than Teddy Roosevelt in terms of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. "He tended to work intensely, but quietly, on a problem until he became convinced of the correct plan of action and that the time for action was at hand. Then, he acted decisively." (21) Tucker describes Coolidge's approach as: "be cautious, move slowly, consult the law, and then act decisively and articulate it clearly." (160) Similarly, Reagan was known for careful thought and listening to the excellent advisers he had gathered around him. On matters of principles in economics and foreign policy, he was thoughtful but principled and firm. 

Like Reagan (and JFK), Coolidge's most valuable contribution to the history of economic policy is his work on marginal tax rates. He reduced the top rate from 77% to 25%, resulting in greater tax revenues (an early illustration of the Laffer Curve or what Amity Shlaes notes was called "scientific taxation" at the time) and a long period of prosperity (3-4). For example, the Dow Jones increased six-fold from mid-1921 through late 1929 (258).

Tucker notes the debate (among historians) about the economy of the 1920s, ranging from materialistic excesses that supposedly led to the Great Depression—to what Paul Johnson glowingly called "the Last Arcadia", a time of amazing productivity, progress, and income mobility (37). 

But what is apparently debatable among historians is not nearly as debatable among economists. Harding's response to a severe recession in 1920-21 was to reduce spending (by 40%), decrease tax rates, and otherwise allow the economy to adjust on its own. He was the last to deal with a recession through laissez-faire policies. As usual, the recession was sharp and nasty, but short. Coolidge followed by decreasing marginal tax rates more dramatically and reducing the tax rolls by one-third (251-252). 

In 1929 and the decade of economic woes that followed, Hoover and FDR went the opposite direction—with numerous tax increases, increased spending and regulation, laws that forced prices and wages upward rather than allowing them to adjust to the downward adjustments inherent in a recession (260). 

It is somewhat reasonable for non-economists to imagine the Great Depression as an effect of a market-based 1920s cause. But no other recession has looked like the Great Depression. So, those who understand economic policy know that the many interventions of government are responsible for the length and depth of the Depression. (The Great Recession is similar in this regard—tons of government intervention that injected all sorts of uncertainty into private investment decisions, reduced the market's normal adjustments, and greatly slowed the recovery.)

Tucker quotes Paul Johnson who described Coolidge as "the most internally consistent and single-minded of American presidents." (5) Depending on how the two are judged, it's not clear whether Reagan rose to Coolidge's level of philosophical consistency. But Coolidge served in less challenging times—a smooth set of current events, a friendly Congress, and a reigning ideology that fit his views more easily.  

Coolidge was forced into the presidency by Harding's death in 1923 and had to handle the difficulties of the scandals in Harding's administration. But his problems paled next to what Reagan inherited: a moribund economy (high unemployment and tepid growth), profound economic troubles (high inflation and foreign investment deficits), an established welfare state (post-FDR and post-War on Poverty), much higher levels of faith in and dependence on government, and immense foreign policy challenges (an inflamed Middle East, a weakened American military, and an existential threat in the USSR). Moreover, Reagan had to govern along with a strongly Democratic House, necessitating compromises that he might not have made in Coolidge's times. 

The good news for Reagan: the challenges he faced and the recovery he led make it easy to recognize him as one of our nation’s best presidents. In contrast, Coolidge's success in quiet times makes his greatness more subtle. Thankfully, Tucker's book educates us about the life of John W. Davis and the presidency of Calvin Coolidge. 

Billy Crystal vs. Billy Graham

It's common to imagine that "purity" (defined as avoiding trouble and mostly avoiding relationship) is the goal of behaviors/attitudes between men/women (other than one's spouse). Instead, life which is comfortable in the goodness of God's Kingdom will be much more even-handed. (Some may not be able to get there, at least easily, given past struggles, but that *is* the goal.)

Helpful thoughts from today's CT email on the Billy Crystal vs. the Billy Graham rules...

In the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal’s character dismisses the possibility of ordinary, platonic friendships between men and women. “The sex part,” he insists, “always gets in the way.”

In Why Can’t We Be Friends?: Avoidance Is Not Purity, writer and theology blogger Aimee Byrd draws a parallel between this “Billy Crystal Rule” and the more familiar “Billy Graham Rule,” which forbids one-on-one time between men and women who aren’t married to each other. (Although Graham instituted this practice for reasons that went beyond guarding against personal sexual temptation.)

Reviewing the book for CT, Gina Dalfonzo points out how widespread observance of the Billy Graham Rule can undermine the gospel imperative of treating each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

In a word, it’s not about fear or avoidance. ‘We should model sibling solidarity, in which siblings honor one another, have affection for one another, live in harmony, promote familial unity, mature together, and treasure our special sibling relationship. Ancient siblings lived by this ideal, and they were tied only by a narrow bloodline...But ours is the bloodline of Christ, which carries with it victory over sin, grace that abounds, transformative sanctification, and life everlasting.’”

Sunday, December 30, 2018

"Chevy drivers"

Daniel often cracks on "Chevy drivers". And locally, there do seem to be a high proportion of CD's who drive in a notably poor manner. So, it's become a bit of an inside joke for us.
Of course, it could relate to the number of Chevies on the road. I don't see data for cars on the road. (This might be close but I can't access it.) But car sales in 2017 is close enough for my purposes here-- to note that: 1.) Chevy, Ford, other American, and Toyota are about the same; 2.) Honda and Nissan are each about one-third lower; and 3.) other foreign are about the same as the first category.

On our recent trip to south Alabama, I decided to keep track of slow folks in the fast lane by vehicle type. (Of course, the states in which we drove may not be representative and older vehicles sold at different rates than today, but...) 

"Other American" was the worst category by far-- and Chevy was worse than Toyota. Nothing else really stands out. Here are the results:
-other American: 19
-Chevy: 11
-Ford: 8
-other foreign: 7
-Toyota: 5
-Honda: 4
-Nissan: 4