Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas time

Haven't updated my blog for a while, because work has been busy. We just moved 400 prisoners from one prison to another in 1/2 a day. Preparations for the move have been very busy.

One of the biggest issues has been helping people, both staff and prisoners (we call them "residents" at our special Re-Entry Facility here), deal with change.

Change, whether good or bad, causes stress. A little stress is good, as it can cause us to step up to a challenge and improve. However, stress over a long period of time can cause health and mental issues. Helping 400 people to adjust to a new environment, which is smaller and requiring a lot of fixing up, means lots of adjusting. While they wait for school, programming and prison jobs to come up, they often sit in boredom. If not handled right, it could be the setting for big tensions and problems. A form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can occur through a long period of stress.

Christmas can also be a stressful time. We often have high expectations of happiness and joy, hopes of family togetherness, and perhaps a wish for the perfect present. Disappointments are often equally high during this time, as family strive to get along with each other, the dinner may not turn out as good as hoped, and the PSP does not show up under the tree.

In any time of stress, it is important that we review our priorities and responses to events. What type of thinking can best enhance our experience, and reduce the stress? In this, Christ set a perfect example. When times became difficult and overwhelming, he often wandered off on his own to ponder, meditate and pray. Time to get our thoughts back in order, to re-establish our base, is very important in handling stress.

So, make sure you take time during the Christmas rush to slow down, pause, relax your brain and body, and get back in tune with God.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Global warming on hiatus?

The news is out. Computer hackers broke into the system for the UN's Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England and put 160 megabytes of emails and info on the Internet.

Among the emails are admissions by the pro-Global Warming scientists that much of the data they were collecting did not show any warming, and so they were working together to suppress or fix the data to their liking.

Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" has likely become very inconvenient for him, as the skeptics now have strong evidence that there is a global conspiracy afoot by pro-climate change scientists and politicians to grab up power by unethical cheating.

Senator Inhofe (R - OK) is going to call for an investigation. As a long time skeptic, who was often mocked for his stance, perhaps he will see his reputation restored.

While I do not deny that climate change can occur, or that man may influence it, we need to take a step back and restudy this claim. The reality is, previous periods of warming have been beneficial to life on earth. Cooler periods, such as the mini-Ice Age, have brought major death (black plague in Europe in the Middle Ages, for instance). The last big Ice Age 12,000 years ago wiped out many species of animals. Meanwhile, the warming periods increased productivity and raised the living standards of most Europeans and others.

Don't forget, in the 1970s everyone was concerned about Global Cooling. The issue of any climate change must be considered, given our many coastal cities, etc., but we need to make it an issue of real and quality science. Allowing a group of frauds, whether they are scientists or otherwise, to threaten vast amounts of our global economy, simply based upon bad or fraudulent data, is unthinkable.

The question is: will Al Gore make a statement reassessing the issue he so strongly has made and "earned" a Nobel Peace Prize over?

Monday, November 09, 2009

20 Years Ago: The Berlin Wall fell

I entered the US Air Force in 1982. I won't forget the year in South Korea, guarding the perimeter of an Air Base. Or standing inside the small building in Panmunjom, where discussions are held between North and South Korea, with Chinese and North Korean soldiers standing nearby watching us. I can't forget the tensions of the Cold War that began a decade before I was born.

I'll never forget President Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg gate saying, "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

No one in 1988 would ever have expected the change would come so quickly.

And I'll never forget the joy in the faces of people in East and West Berlin, as they climbed the wall, used picks and sledgehammers on it, and flooded through the gates into each others' open arms after decades of separation. The Soviet Union collapsed soon afterward, giving freedom to millions and an end to the Cold War. Liberty is an awesome feeling, especially when you have seen it from the other side of a concrete wall for years.

I still have my little piece of the Berlin Wall.

The small piece of concrete is in my bedroom, in my Dad's old jewelry box with his old tie tacks and favorite memorabilia. He died 20 years ago this year, as well. 1989 was a poignant year for me, filled with sadness and happiness. But with the range of emotions comes the hope of brighter futures, where walls come down and people embrace in unity and friendship.

Christ brought forth freedom from death in the future resurrection. It will be a day when the walls of Hades are torn down and we will be able to embrace deceased friends and relatives once again. And the freedom will be an awesome feeling.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Are Gnostics a form of heresy?

On her blog, April DeCondick (Professor Rice Univ, scholar on Gnosticism) has been doing a few interesting blogs lately. Recently, she gave a quiz on her blog to ask "how gnostic are you?" I scored a 10, a reformed gnostic.

The discussion on that thread was interesting as a LDS friend of mine, Stephen and I discussed why and why not Mormonism could be seen as a form of modern Gnosticism.

April is now asking if Gnosticism is heretical, and why? She notes the former discussion, showing that Mormonism is different from Orthodox Christianity, for many of the same reasons Gnostics were considered heretical anciently. Thoughts and comments?

The Forbidden Gospels: Are Gnostics heretics?

While I do not believe in many of the specific things that Gnostics stood for, I do believe that there is always a sense that orthodoxy really delimits the believer of God. Margaret Barker (OT scholar and Methodist minister) notes that the Deuteronomists of Josiah's day were the orthodoxy that Jeremiah warned about. They changed the temple rites, removing angels and the Tree of Life from its center.

While we should not be so open minded as to let our brains fall out, perhaps a new review of ancient things can enlighten us as to what the Bible historically has to teach us.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Is it Time to Clean House?

Today, the Daily Beast and other news sites are telling of a classified report that was leaked onto a public server. The report, "Committee on Standards Weekly Summary Report" details that over 30 House members are being investigated for serious crimes, including illegal defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling.

On the list are Charley Rangel, Maxine Waters, and many others in both parties.

Many on the list are the same ones designing the stimulus package, health care package, and other bills going through right now.

The House of Representatives are to represent their constituents, the people who actually vote for them. It seems that many Congressmen and women are confused and are now representing the lobbies and organizations who open up their purse strings. Isn't it time we demanded honesty in our officials? Shouldn't we demand good character from the people representing us?

Whether we vote Democrat, Republican, or Independent, shouldn't we expect high standards from the people who lead our nation? It doesn't matter how good a person looks on television, or if we agree with their political platform, a crook is a crook, and we need to replace that person. Character matters if we want to have real reform and change in our country.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are you a Gnostic Christian?

I read a variety of blogs, including several on ancient Judaism and Christianity. One of my favorites is from April De Condick, a professor at Rice University and scholar on Gnosticism.

She has just blogged, asking if you are a Gnostic, and giving a test on it. Points are on the left side of each statement. You just add up the points (0-15) on the things you agree with, and that gives you your status. I scored a 10, reform Gnostic, which makes sense given Mormonism is not in the traditional Christian realm.

Try your hand at it:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top of the octogenarian pile

Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been given top honors as Slate magazine's most influential person over 80 years of age. At 82, he's a youngster compared to several others on the list. However, he is the only one to preside directly over millions of people. In the last year or so, his influence has affected people in many places. He was involved in the controversial Prop 8 vote in California, encouraging Mormons in the state to stand for traditional family values.

Slate magazine article

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Divide and Conquer

In the news lately is a discussion of how the Obama administration is on the attack with certain groups, such as Fox News, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the insurance industry. Their modus operandi is to divide and conquer: separate the the "bad guys" from the "good guys" in a group, and constantly disparage them.

To the White House press, they've insisted that Fox News does not report on real news, and that real media would only report what was given them by the White House. Instead of dealing directly with the Chamber of Commerce, they deal with individual companies. They separate insurance companies out from the rest of the health industry.

This attempt to divide and conquer has a long historical basis. If you can divide your enemies, they cannot long stand against you.

The Jacobins used this strategy during the French Revolution. Initially, they began their attacks on the royalists, those loyal to the king. They enlisted the help of the media of the day, the newspapers, and the mobs. Turning the mobs first against the "far right" royalists, allowed them to have moderates join them in their overthrow of the Bastille and the execution of the royal family.

Once the royalists were either dead or in exile, the Jacobins continued in their grab for absolute power. They now focused on the moderates. Moderates fled in droves. The French hero of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette, fled to America and lived there several years until the dust settled.

The Jacobin revolution continued, gaining steam as the mobs went from one extreme to a new extreme. Instead of "liberty, equality, fraternity" the French Revolution turned into a slaughter. Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities clearly showed the differences between London and Paris: civilized versus savage, law versus chaos, rule of law versus mob rule. Innocent people were guillotined in Paris, drowned by the shipload off the coast, and staked down en masse in the country side to be killed by cannon. Kangaroo courts replaced courts of law. Mobocracy determined who was the "bad guy" from day to day, with the rules continually changing.

The only thing that could stop the run away train was to impose a dictatorship. Napoleon Bonaparte was able to establish order where the Jacobin radicalism could only create chaos. Real freedom would have to wait for another day, decades later.

The American Revolution was different. With the creation of the Constitution, rule of law was quickly established. Though imperfect, it allowed a framework within which individuals could attempt to succeed in their personal endeavors. Allowing for amendments, means allowing for change as needed, but it would be careful and deliberate change. When followed as written, it did not allow room for mob rule or extremists to gain control. This is why health care has taken time to work: Congress is made up of a variety of individuals who are to represent their constituent base. Radical change does not happen often in this realm, enabling a stable foundation people can rely on and expect.

However, if certain radical political groups on the right or left were able to "divide and conquer" effectively; gaining power over the press, over business, and over the minds of the people, we could easily see ourselves devolve into the Jacobin madness that destroyed any hope of a successful French Revolution. Such madness occurred in some regions during the collapse of the Soviet Union, allowing radicalism to prosper for a time, only to collapse and be replaced by a strong dictatorship, once again.

While President Obama may not be a radical, there are plenty of radicals on the left of him, who would love to gain absolute power of the process. Nancy Pelosi is just one of many who would love to impose their form of radicalism on the nation. Let's ensure we all stay well informed on the issues, knowing all sides of the debate. And let's ensure no one is out to demonize or destroy our nation piece by piece, as the Jacobins did during the French Revolution.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Clement of Alexandria and the Secret Book of Mark

Ancient Letter, Modern Mystery: The “Secret Mark” Translation - Biblical Archaeology Review

The above link at Biblical Archaeological Review contains a letter, supposedly from Clement, discussing the various Secret Books of Mark that came up in his day. Clement was a disciple of Peter. He explains that Peter and Mark (also Peter's disciple) wrote copious notes on the gospel. Mark took these down to Alexandria, where he wrote a secret gospel. Gnostic groups, including the Carpocratians, obtained a copy and adulterated it to fit their own beliefs.

Still, Clement states certain things that are true about the original Secret Book of Mark:
1. There were secrets taught by Jesus to the initiated, things which were "not to be uttered."
2. Only a few were allowed to know the secrets, while most Christians were to only know the basics given in Mark's regular gospel.
3. The secret truths led the initiate "into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils."

He mentions one story from the Secret Book of Mark, quoting from it, concerning a young rich man who Jesus raised from the dead. Then Jesus taught him the secret things, "And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God." The Carpocratians and others used this to claim Jesus was having late night romps, but Clement and Mark knew that the secret initiations required the teachings to be done like this. LDS will note how this sounds like their temple initiatory work.

Once again, Joseph Smith "guessed" right on several things:
1. Some important teachings of Jesus and his disciples are not to be found in the Bible.
2. These important teachings included secrets that were to be kept from the world, and even from the regular members of the Christian Church.
3. These ancient teachings (veils, linen cloth, secrets that are unutterable) make sense in a modern LDS temple context.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama - Nobel Prize Winner

Yeah, yeah, I know it's been forever since I've blogged here. But others' blogs are so much better than this one.

However, I wanted to note Pres Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize today.

Many are wondering what he could have done to deserve it. I think I have the answer:

1. It is a consolation prize from the people of Scandinavia for giving the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro.

2. It is Scandinavia's way of saying thanks for not bombing them after humiliating him in front of the world.

Anyway, either/or works pretty well for me. How about you?