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Saturday, July 12, 2003

 
POLLING FOR GOD

"By their fruit you will recognize them."

This UPI commentary caught my attention:

Less than 10 percent of America's teenagers have a biblical worldview, according to a new survey of the California-based Barna Research Institute.

Wow. That's some finding. "Less than 10 percent of America's teenagers have a biblical worldview ..."

What, exactly, is a "biblical worldview"? The commentary does not say, nor does it suggest why such a concept should be so self-evidently defined or so easily quantified.

To try to figure out what, if anything, this alleged finding actually tells us, I checked with the Barna Research Institute, which conducted the poll.

That wasn't much help. I found the quote from George Barna about "less than 10 percent," but it's still pretty general:

Unfortunately, less than one out of every ten churched teenagers has a biblical worldview. In other words, the result of their involvement at a church is that they can recite some religious facts, they made some friends, and they had fun. That’s wonderful, but we also find that most of them have neither accepted Christ as their savior nor altered the basis on which they make their moral and ethical decisions in life. For most teenagers who have spent years attending church activities their faith is not integrated into who they are and how they live.

That last little bit offers a hint of what Barna & Co. mean by a "biblical worldview" -- faith that is "integrated into who they are and how they live." But that still tells us nothing about the content of that faith.

In any case, it's a circular definition. We have only one reliable indicator of the reality of any person's faith or the parameters of that person's "worldview" -- who they are and how they live. Barna does not reveal how he reached the conclusion that any given person's faith or worldview is or is not congruent with the Bible.

He tells us that:

Most of the young people who claim they developed an understanding of the Bible that enables them to make decisions based on biblical principles show no evidence of using that understanding in relation to the core beliefs and lifestyle choices that we studied.

But the institute's Web site does not offer much for telling us what those "core beliefs and lifestyle choices" might be. Selling everything they have and giving it to the poor? Doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly before God? Looking after widows and orphans in their distress? Seeking peace and pursuing it? Establishing right relationships with God, neighbor, enemy and all creation?

Barna doesn't say, but one guesses these weren't among the "lifestyle choices" his poll considered, or why such things are not to be regarded as "biblical" when something extra-biblical, like teetotaling, probably was among the considerations studied.

But again, this is just a guess. Barna doesn't tell us what his list of "lifestyle choices" includes -- thus rendering his poll and his press release utterly useless.

"Follow me," Jesus said, which is both more compelling and more elegant than if he had said, "develop a biblical worldview." Jesus also said that the only way to recognize believers was "by their fruit." Unfortunately for our pollster friends, this is an intractably qualitative measure that defies quantification.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

One wonders how Barna's survey accounts for such qualities.

posted by Fred Clark 5:40 PM

 
WHEN IS A TAX NOT A TAX?

President Bush seems to view the world in stark terms of Good and Evil. Thus his plan for world peace: kill all the Bad People.

And for the president, one of the greatest evils is the idea that free citizens have to pay taxes. Any taxes. Those same citizens, of course, expect a certain level of competent service from their local, state and federal governments, and those governments rely on taxes to fund such services.

Bush and his muppeteers -- Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Dick Cheney, et. al. -- have mostly succeeded in transforming the pubilc's perception of paying of taxes from a fundamental civic responsibility to an onerous, unnecessary and vaguely Stalinist burden.

The anti-tax climate they've created puts elected officials at every level in a bind. Unlike Bush, these officials do not have the option of running up $300+ billion deficits and of foisting off the cost of governance onto future generations by raising, and re-raising, and re-raising the federal debt ceiling. They have to find a way to generate revenue. And, thanks to Bush & Co., "taxes" are off the table.

"Fees," of course, are another matter.

Al Tompkins, of the Poynter Institute, provided a nice rundown of links to articles on the dramatic increase in "fees" in many states -- from Ohio to New Jersey to Indiana to Minnesota to Florida and just about everywhere else.

Read my lips: "No new taxes" means "gigantic fees."


posted by Fred Clark 1:57 PM

 
RESPONSIBILITY

The buck stops somewhere else.

George Tenet, director of the CIA, has accepted the blame for President Bush including discredited evidence -- based on a blatant, obvious forgery -- in his State of the Union address in January.

Tenet hasn't so much "accepted" the blame as usurped it -- from, at least, Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney, both of whom either knew about the forgery, or else were grossly negligent and incompetent for not knowing when everyone else in their offices knew. The president's speech contained more misleading and erroneous material than simply this "one sentence," of course, but set that aside for now.

What's curious here is that Tenet is dutifully attempting to take the blame here despite his having a clearly passive role. The errors and deceptions in the speech did not originate in the CIA (Tenet did not write the speech, after all), nor was the CIA the sole agency with the responsibility to vet the speech for such errors. Yet the administration is attempting to let Tenet take the fall as though it was standard procedure for the CIA to take primary responsibility for the State of the Union.

Odd.

Odder still, some other headlines from Friday's paper:

Phillies batter Mets, Tenet accepts blame

NEW YORK -- The Phillies jumped on rookie Aaron Heilman (0-2) early, sending the Mets to their fifth loss in a row -- all at home. ...

Philadelphia broke it open in the fifth, scoring six times. Byrd hit a leadoff single and Rollins and Jim Thome walked to load the bases. Abreu drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Lieberthal followed with a two-run double -- ending Heilman's night. ...

In a carefully worded two-page statement, CIA director George Tenet accepted full responsibility for the loss, saying his agency "should never have allowed" the Mets rookie pitcher to throw Pat Burrell a fastball over the fat part of the plate in the first inning. ...

The Mets remain in last place in the NL East, despite a payroll well in excess of $100 million. The team's struggles resulted in the firing of General Manager Steve Phillips, but Tenet, again, said he and the CIA, rather than GM Phillips, were ultimately to blame.

"Our agency should never have allowed Phillips to sign Mo Vaughn to a lucrative, multi-year deal," Tenet said, adding that, because the CIA had not aggressively challenged the optimistic New York scouting report on the aging, overweight and injury-prone former slugger, "Phillips had every reason to believe that the first baseman presented to him was sound." ...


= = = = = = = = = = =

Tenet says CIA, not foam insulation, caused shuttle accident

WASHINGTON -- Columbia accident investigators said Friday the foam test that gouged a large hole in a replica space shuttle wing has allowed them to "connect the dots even further" and solve some lingering puzzles.

The experiment not only demonstrated the catastrophic effect of breakaway foam insulation but provided compelling evidence to the identities of a mystery object that floated from Columbia in orbit and the many parts that peeled away from the shuttle as it flew over the United States to its disintegration over Texas. ...

CIA director George Tenet, however, contradicted the NASA investigators' account, saying instead, in a carefully worded, two-page statement that he accepted full responsibility for the tragedy.

"Let me be clear about several things right up front," Tenet's statement said. "First, [the] CIA did not attempt to prevent the launch of the space shuttle Columbia. ..."


= = = = = = = = = = = =

REO Speedwagon, Journey, Styx to rock Pepsi Center

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Classic Rock Main Event tour rolls into town tonight at the Pepsi Center, giving capital area fans a chance to see and hear some of the top-selling bands of the '70s and '80s: REO Speedwagon, Journey and Styx.

In a carefully worded, two-page statement, CIA director George Tenet apologized for the tour and accepted full responsibility.

"[The] CIA failed to act in a timely manner to prevent these 'three bands, responsible for a decade's worth of cheese-laden, bombastic arena rock' from limping across the country and charging citizens $56 for a reminder of how bad FM radio really was back in 1983," Tenet said in the statement.

The CIA director also offered to personally refund the full ticket price for anyone who attended the "Main Event" shows, because, he said, "If someone does something stupid and destructive, and our agency doesn't aggressively fight to stop him from doing it, that makes me responsible. And I accept that responsibility. Fully. ..."




posted by Fred Clark 3:43 AM

 
A LONG WEEK

You're packing a suitcase for a place
none of us has been
a place that has to be believed
to be seen ...

(from U2's "Walk On")

Here and here you can read about a special woman who was deeply loving and deeply loved.

In more than 30 years as a school teacher (and many more as a Sunday school teacher) she touched a lot of lives. If you were one of her students -- in or out of the classroom -- I would very much like to hear from you.

There's a great deal more that I want and need to say here, but I'm not really sure yet that I know how. So, for now, it will be back to blogging as usual -- although I'm still figuring out what "usual" means now.




posted by Fred Clark 3:12 AM


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