Monday, February 26, 2007

Another Jesus Conspiracy Theory

Easter must be around the corner because here comes yet another conspiracy theory around Jesus. This time it's about a tomb that supposedly contains the bones of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and their family and... we've heard it all before.

Canadian director James Cameron, of Titanic fame, and another Canadian director, Simcha Jacobovici, are responsible for this latest bit of irresponsible journalism. The Discovery Channel is being criticized for its sensationalism and lack of ethics in airing the documentary.

So, what of the claims? Israeli archeologist Amos Kloner, who was in charge of the 1980 investigation of the tomb which is the subject of the new claims by Cameron-Jacobovici, said "The claim that the burial site has been found is not based on any proof, and is only an attempt to sell." Archeologist Joe Zias, who spent a quarter-century at the Rockefeller University in Jerusalem, said "Simcha has no credibility whatsoever."

If you recall back in 2003, it was broadly reported that the remains of James, the brother of Jesus had been discovered - a claim that was disproven and demonstrated to be a fraud (see picture above). Jacobovici is still a believer in the fraud - likely because it helps with this current deception.

This is all so repetitive and typically inflammatory. Two years ago we had ABC's special that challenged the facts of the resurrection; last year we had NBC's "Dateline" featuring Michael Baigent and his claims in "The Jesus Papers;" and let's not forget "The Davinci Code." Now this from the Discovery Channel. I've also got a collection of magazine covers from "Time" and "Macleans," etc... with cover stories with titles like "The Shaman Jesus." Anybody see a trend. It's interesting that all of these "breaking" stories happen to coincide with the Easter season. No coincidence there I'm sure.

Why the media wants to jump on the bandwagon with these fringe players is beyond me, especially when their claims fly in the face of evidence. You can check out some more commentary at "The Point," if you like. Let's leave the last word to archaeologist Amos Kloner, who made the find in the first place: "I refute all claims and efforts to waken a renewed interest in the findings. With all due respect, they are not archeologists."

Kyoto - Less Than Useless

I've been listening to the continuing discussion about the whole global warming debate and, I've got to say, the whole thing is kind of sickening. The Canadian scene has its clowns in the Liberal party who admit that they never intended to fulfil their commitments when they signed on to the Kyoto Accord, and yet pushed through a bill in parliament, along with the NDP and the Bloc, to try to force the Conservatives to do just that. Sheer hypocrisy!

In the U.S. you've got the grandstanding Al Gore, making political hay out of the issue with his movie/documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," while living the life of luxury in a greenhouse gas producing mansion. One of a few he owns. I'm just waiting for his announcement that he's running for President again. He was treated like a rock start during his recent speech in Toronto, with $20 tickets going for up to $750. One young ecofan breathlessly declared that she would be willing to give all she had for the privilege of hearing him speak.

I think my new hero is Lorrie Goldstein, a columnist I've admired for years. He's been going against the grain on this issue for quite some time, not concerned about how many enemies he makes.

Let's cut to the chase, though, on global warming, or, even better, pollution and the care of the environment. Is there a problem? Yes, there are many problems. We have been happily polluting our planet for generations and we need to change. We need to adapt our lifestyle so that we are not contributing to the problem. We need to find and take advantage of alternate forms of energy. We need to invest in scientific means of reversing the damage caused. We also need to calm down and stop being foolish.

As I stated in an earlier blog, immediate drastic action would not result in any improvement in greenhouse gases for a hundred years. It would, however, devastate our economy and likely produce a fallout which would inevitably hurt the poor in our societies more than anyone.

I agree with Goldstein that "We should withdraw from Kyoto and set our own course. Yes, let's address greenhouse gases but, even more important, smog, which really is killing us right now, end multi-billion dollar tax subsidies to Big Oil and Big Auto and use that money to help average Canadians retrofit their homes for maximum energy efficiency."

We need to stop jumping on bandwagons and think. The Kyoto Accord is a disaster, designed merely to give publicity to the problem. Fine - now we see the problem. Kyoto is not the solution. How can we expect to fix it when the worst offenders are not required to lower greenhouse gas emissions? It's unfair and stupid for Canada to be expected to meet its requirements when the real offenders are making the problem worse. It's like plugging a small leak while blowing a big hole in the other side of the boat. Let's use tax incentives to encourage individuals and businesses to lessen emissions and to find scientific solutions to the problem. But first of all, let's stop lying to the public - the Kyoto targets were never going to be met, and the signers knew it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Agony Of Defeat

Ouch! I had the privilege of coaching my son's Senior High School basketball team this year. Tonight we were eliminated from the playoffs with a 1 point loss. It's one of those defeats that stays with you for a while. You know - the "woulda, coulda, shouldas."
Watching the reactions of the team, and even thinking about the emotions I was experiencing, makes for an interesting study. Some get angry, some seem emotionally devastated, some try to laugh it off; some point fingers, others take responsibility; some look for reasons, some shrug their shoulders. It really is a microcosm of life.
It got me thinking of how people react to the failures and disappointments in life. We all have them, or will have. How people respond to failure says a great deal about them and also has a great deal to do with the kind of person we become. I'm reminded of a leadership development lesson I listened to quite a few years ago called "Failure Isn't Final." I believe it was one of John Maxwell's Injoy Life Lessons.
What I remember from the lesson is that many of the greatest leaders in history endured failure after failure and defeat after defeat and yet used those experiences as building blocks for future success. Look at Abraham Lincoln as an example. His mother passed away when he was only 9; he was a part of some failed business enterprises; he lost more elections than he won; he endured seasons of unpopularity, and yet he is remembered as one of the greatest Presidents in American history.
Someone said that when you fall, you might as well pick up something while you're down there. A wise person does that. They are able to look objectively at their own failure and learn. What was the cause? Was it lack of preparation? Was it bad timing? Was it a character issue? Was it simply an unfortunate series of circumstances? What difference does it really make in the big picture of things?
Someone else said that "It's not what happens to you, but what happens in you that matters." There's a lot of truth in that statement. The best that we can do with failure is to let the wounds heal and then look for the lessons; improve ourselves and prepare for the next time. It doesn't change the fact that losing hurts, though. Ouch!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Video - Regrets of a Father

I found this video on-line that I wanted to share. It speaks for itself of the pain and regret that many fathers feel who have chosen abortion. This clearly and painfully illustrates one of the biggest social issues of our time.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith

By now everyone would have heard of the premature passing of Anna Nicole Smith at only 39 years of age. She's shown (at left) with her most recent companion, Howard K. Stern, and her now 5 month-old daughter Dannielynn. She died on February 8 from as yet unknown causes. Her life is a sad story that just keeps on getting sadder - even after her death.
She went from a small-town girl in Texas to topless dancer, to Playboy Playmate of the Year, to the bride of oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, who was over 60 years older than she was. A law-suit is still ongoing over how much money she will receive from Marshall's estate. At issue is a lower court's ruling that she receive $474 million. This is where the story turns very sad, very fast.
Anna's son, Daniel, passed away in September at the age of 20. A jury inquest is still under away over the circumstances surrounding his death. So, Anna's death has left a 5 month old as the potential heir of an estate approaching half a billion dollars - now here come the vultures. So far three different men have lined up to say that the child is, or could be, theirs. First is the obvious one - her most recent companion Howard K. Stern. Next was Larry Birkhead, an ex-boyfriend who has gone so far as to obtain an injunction holding Anna's body for ten days in case DNA evidence is necessary to prove that no-one switched babies! The latest in the story is 59 year old Prince Frederick von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, who claims a ten year affair with Anna. Let the lawsuits begin.
"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction."
- 1 Timothy 6:9
Why do people think that money buys happiness? What is it that convinces us that more is better? If we look around and ask some questions, we find that the wealthiest people are often the most miserable. Jesus said in Luke 12:15: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
The Bible teaches us that money and possessions are means to an end, and not an end in themselves. A worldview which sees this life as all there is tends to keep us focused so much on what we're trying to get that we forget, or never bother to think about, why we're here. It reminds me of the old Epicurean philosophy "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
This is the dark side of the American Dream, that a beautiful young lady like Anna feels that she has to do whatever is necessary to "make a name for herself." Sadly, she died young and seemingly unhappy, much like her heroine and role model, Marilyn Munroe. Now the drama being played out around her resembles a tragic comedy - but there's nothing funny about it. Let's hope that this baby grows up with someone who actually will love her, and not simply see her as a meal ticket. The odds don't seem very favorable right now.
Jesus taught in "His Sermon on the Mount" that we shouldn't amass treasures on earth, but should lay up treasures in heaven. It was the martyred Christian missionary Jim Elliot who said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." We'll end with these words of advice from Albert Einstein: "Try not to be a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Superbowl XLI

Coach Tony Dungy leads his Superbowl champion Indianapolis Colts in a prayer of thanksgiving after their victory on Sunday night. I figured I'd post the picture since it didn't make it into any of the newspapers I've seen. Congratulations!
I thought you might like this link to the top ten Superbowl ads of all time. After all, don't most people watch the game for the ads anyway? Here it is: SUPERBOWL ADS!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"Yes - But Is It True?" - The Global Warming Debate

Ever since the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the rhetoric on Global Warming has reached a fever pitch. Even the fire-breathing "Global Warming Deniers" - the Conservative Party of Canada - are now making noises that something must be done to protect the environment. I guess that the dramatic increase in crazy weather patterns is pushing people over the edge.
Canada is in for a tidal wave of (dis?)information on the subject over the next little while. The challenge for all of us is to discern truth from alarmist propoganda and prudent response from knee-jerk reactionism. There are a number of issues and questions involved.
  1. Is global warming occurring? The answer to this is obviously "yes." Science has demonstrated that the average temperature has increased by about .6 degrees Celsius over the past 30 years.
  2. What causes global warming? This is where the debate begins. Scientists know that greenhouse gases are a major cause of global warming, and greenhouse gases are caused by Carbon Dioxide and Methane, as well as other factors. Solar activity has also had an effect on global warming.
  3. Who is responsible for the greenhouse gases? Good question. Much of the blame has been placed on the burning of fossil fuels, which produces carbon dioxide. Methane is also a chief cause. So, the lion's share of the blame is laid at the feet of the developed nations who have been pumping it out since the Industrial Revolution. there are other natural causes, of course, such as peat bogs and cows producing methane.
  4. What to do? Here's the big question. Experts admit that even if we were to eliminate emissions immediately, the effects would continue to worsen for 100 years. This is due to the fact that these gases take so long to dissipate. The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce emissions through a "carrot and stick" approach of rewarding countries who meet their targets and penalizing those who fail to do so. Criticism of the protocol includes the claim that the "Carbon Credit" transfer system amounts to a transfer of wealth to the developing world by the industrialized nations. Then there's the question of effectiveness. The U.S., which hasn't ratified the Kyoto Protocol, has done far better with its targets than Canada, which did ratify.

Let the debate begin. Al Gore's surprise blockbuster "An Inconvenient Truth," which some claim plays fast and loose with the truth, has certainly helped to bring this to the forefront of public consciousness. In Canada, Stephane Dion became the leader of the Liberal Party largely on the basis of his emphasis on environmental causes. This even though Canada's environmental record worsened while he was environment minister and his party was in power.

The noises being made by the Liberals are that they are planning to take some radical steps to change things in Canada. Charles Adler managed to extract a picture of the future from Mark Holland, a Liberal MP and adviser to Dion. Apparently the Liberals would place severe limits on the Alberta oil industry in order to meet targets. There's no mention on how the economy might recover from such a shock to the system, nor what difference this would make in the long run since China is now preparing to open scores of new fossil fuel-burning plants. (China is not considered a developed nation under Kyoto.)

I think it's important to take a step back from the precipice here and look at a more balanced approach. It will do no good to destroy the world's economy with reactionary policies, especially since there is a great deal of disagreement out there (see Larry King debate) about what the right solution may be.
We are in this boat partly because we have been bad stewards of the planet. We've been belching out pollutants for 300 years without thought to the consequences. Add to this the destruction of the rain forest, clear-cutting of timber and pollution of our waterways and it's no wonder we're in the mess we're in. We've built our economies by allowing industry to profit without responsibility. Having done so, it's equally irresponsible to turn this around on a dime. Prime Minister Harper stated the obvious recently: "The problem is enormous. It's large, it's long-term and there are no quick fixes to this," Harper told reporters in Ottawa last Friday. "You can't just snap your fingers and reduce Canada's energy use by one-third in the space of a couple of years."
The Liberals are being hypocritical in pushing this issue, seeing that emissions rose to 27% above 1990 levels while they were in power. Yet something obviously must be done. Is nuclear power safe enough for its use to be expanded? Does that create a whole other range of problems? What pressures or rewards can be brought to bear on industry to eliminate unnecessary waste? How can processes be refined to be as fuel-efficient as possible? Is there any scientific research promising solutions to this issue? Questions, questions, questions.... There are no simple answers.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Deserved Praise

"Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17)

I came across a natural follow-up on the last few blogs with the latest recipient of the Wilberforce Forum Award. Each year since 1989 Prison Fellowship has given the William Wilberforce Award to that one person who has made a substantial difference in the face of formidable societal problems.

The winner this year is a man of whom most people would likely never have heard. His name is Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission and champion of the ongoing struggle to end human trafficking.
Like Wilberforce, Haugen found himself face-to-face with an issue from which he could not retreat. In 1994 he was on temporary reassignment from the U.S. Department of Justice working with the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda. The horrific scenes which he visited as he collected evidence would not allow him to return to normal life. The more he read his Bible, the more verses like the one above would speak to him. He decided he had to act.
He surveyed more than sixty-five organizations representing some 40,000 overseas missionaries and relief workers and Haugen found numerous examples of modern-day injustices for which there seemed to be no remedy. Issues like child prostitution, the murder of street children, persecution, etc... abounded, yet those who were aware of the problem lacked the resources or the power to affect change.

So, in 1997 Haugen formed the International Justice Mission (IJM), a human-rights organization founded to seek justice on Christian principles. the organization includes lawyers, criminal investigators, and government relationships workers who defend and rescue victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression around the world. Their four-fold purpose is:
  • Victim Relief - Relieve the victim of the abuse currently being committed.
  • Perpetrator Accountability - Bring accountability and just consequences under the law to the specific perpetrator(s) of abuse.
  • Structural Prevention - Prevent the abuse from being committed against others who are also at risk by strengthening community factors that are likely to deter potential oppressors, reduce the vulnerability of at-risk populations and empower local authorities to stop such abuses.
  • Victim Aftercare - Provide access to services to help victims transition to their new lives and to encourage long-term success.
Haugen is an author of two books: Terrify No More and Good News about Injustice. The advice is not to read them unless you're prepared to do something with what you learn. You will be changed.
Congratulations to Gary Haugen. I hope we hear a lot about the success of his organization. they're helping to make the world a better place.