Al Mohler's Celebrity Blog

I really should set up a new category for my blogs to cope with all the anti-Mohler posts I have made.

I was just looking at Al Mohler's blog for today, entitled "The Politicized University and its Future". It's the standard piece of clap-trap that you'd expect from a Republican media outlet.

Except that Al Mohler is NOT a Republican media outlet... not officially at least.

If you read the article in question, it is a standard lament about how America's universities are hotbeds of political liberalism and how they discriminate against ordinary Americans. That's the way Mohler puts it, although a more harsh way would be to say "Conservative Republicans have taken over the Presidency and Congress, and we're working very hard on the Judiciary. Why can't we get Republicans into academic jobs at universities? These liberals must really hate America!"

There are two things that I'd like to say about this.

The first is that university-educated people world-wide tend to be more liberal in their political views, while those who do not have university education are more likely to have simpler, more conservative beliefs. There is actually a causal link between education and liberalism, and it is not because the liberals have taken over education - it's because education produces liberalism.

I went to university between 1996 and 2000. I was aged 27 when I first went in and I was already fairly conservative when I went to my first lecture. Strangely enough I was still conservative when I left in 2000. I had wonderful relationships with liberal professors and appreciated their intellect and arguments. Nevertheless, having studied English Literature and modern Cultural studies, I came to the inevitable conclusion that postmodernism, relativism and the "Death of the Author" were intellectual dead ends with no real use in real life. I still managed to get decent grades though.

Now in 2005, I am probably more "liberal" than I ever have been. But I still reject Postmodernism and all the ideological hooey I learned at uni. Moreover I still hold to Sola scriptura and other stuff that makes me very much a Christian Conservative. Nevertheless I do NOT hold onto right-wing economics as though it has been handed down to us from Mount Sinai. Way too many American Christians are now hung-up on things like the size of government, welfare spending and personal liberty - mantras of the political right, but not of Christianity.

If you're a Christian and you vote Republican because you believe that the best thing for America is for limited government, lower welfare spending and all the other guff that Republicans go on about - fine. Knock yourself out and vote accordingly. But don't try to argue with me that this political stance is Biblical. It is not. I'm not saying that Scripture denies right-wing economics - but I'm not saying that it supports it either. In other words, economic policy is not something that can be determined by Scripture.

When it comes to economics, I'm fairly socialist. I believe in big government, big welfare spending and big taxes to pay for it. I can even find places in Scripture where such an economic model is not inconsistent with God's revealed truth. However I will stop well short of declaring socialism as being God's economic plan for mankind, or that the Bible explicity supports it. The Bible doesn't support Socialism, but doesn't deny it either.

Which brings the discussion back to our mutual best friend Al. Al did lots of good things in the past but he seems to have lost his Bible somewhere. Apart from his papal declarations about how consuming alcohol is sinful, Al has now become a tool of the right. He has become a Republican stooge and is now spending all his time waging the culture war with weapons not found in scripture. He does this to his detriment for he, like James Dobson, is beginning to ignore the gospel.

All this leads me eventually to my second point - and the title of this article. With Mohler now a Republican culture-war celebrity, does he really have time to devote to his own blog? With his traipsing around the countryside doing Rove-knows-what, I suspect that another hand is typing on the Al Mohler keyboard.

When the blogging thang begun to be reported 2-3 years ago, many Hollywood celebrities began to indulge in their own online banter. Partly inspired by the example of recovering ex-trek actor Wil Wheaton, some Hollywood celebs begun to post their daily lives (10am got up, 11am read script, 12pm ran out of meth, 1pm lunch with agent, 2pm bought meth from dealer, 3pm read more scripts, etc) - except of course that many of these celebs couldn't really spare the time doing it themselves (and probably couldn't write either) - so they paid others to do so.

I'm of the opinion that Al has someone else writing his blog - an articulate Republican Christian most likely. Al probably gets an email from him/her once a week where he reads through "his" blogs and then approves some and rejects others. So in a sense, Al is responsible for them, even though he's not writing them. Once in a while he might choose to write his own article just because its easier to write about weighty matters than to get someone else to do it. If anyone out there is experienced in Redaction criticism, you could probably work out which blogs were his and which were the final editors.

If you think I'm cynical - you're right. I'd really like Al to surprise me one day. I'd really like him to come out and say something like "I think invading Iraq was a mistake", or "I feel I can't trust President Bush any more" - in other words, expressions of his mind that do not fit the Republican boilerplate, but are still expressions of his personal political views. There are, after all, plenty of Conservative Republicans out there who are not impressed with the current Bush administration. Is it so difficult for Al to actually express what he honestly believes rather than regurgitating the standard right-wing mush?

As it stands, the stuff coming out of his blog may as well be called propaganda. This does nothing for Al, does nothing to help the Republican party and, much worse, does nothing to help the spread of The Gospel.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Applying Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura is the Christian understanding that the Bible alone is the Holy Spirit's way of guiding the Christian. Only the Bible can bind a Christian's conscience. The idea here is that when God guides, he does not do so apart from the words found in Scripture.

But how is this applied to the Christian life? Here are some examples:

Example 1
You are driving down the highway in your car and you are approaching an exit to a town. You suddenly have an urge to leave the highway and go into the town. You believe it could be the Holy Spirit guiding you. What should you do?

You can choose to exit, or you can continue driving along - the choice is yours. By choosing not to act upon this feeling you are not sinning and you are not ignoring the voice of God.

It is certainly acceptable to believe that God can use these feelings in order for us to do something that he has preordained us to do: You might take the exit and then pick up a hitch-hiker who becomes a Christian because you tell them the Gospel; You might take the exit and be saved from a major traffic pile-up with a fuel tanker that kills dozens of people; You might take the exit and collide with another car, making you a paraplegic for the rest of your life; or you might take the exit and nothing happens except you make yourself 15 minutes late.

God can and does use these strange feelings we might have in order for us to do something that fits in with his sovereign plan (whether we can see it or not), but if we ignore these feelings then it is NOT a sin.

Example 2
You open the Bible and read Mark 1:35 - which is about Jesus rising early in the morning while it was still dark and going off to a desolate place to pray. You conclude that this verse teaches us that we, too, should get up every morning and pray. Is this a correct application of the verse?

No. Even though the application is partly biblical, the verse has not been understood or applied in its literary context. You can't just take a verse out of nowhere and make it say something it doesn't really say.

Of course, praying daily is a wonderful thing and is backed up by scripture. However, this part of scripture does not back it up. We need to remember that when we interpret scripture, we must try to identify what scripture describes, and what it prescribes. Mark 1 is a description of Jesus' early ministry - so we need to work out what it says about Jesus.

What makes the "we should pray daily" application ridiculous is that the logical extreme teaches that Christians should pray only in the morning before the sun comes up - and that they should only pray in a desolate place. Of course, such an application would be impossible to achieve, much less be backed up elsewhere in Scipture.

Example 3
You spend time with another Christian who is a member of the opposite sex. He/she is married but their marriage is in trouble. The more time you spend with them listening to his/her troubles, you feel an emotional bond developing and you become attracted to him/her. You realise that they, too, are becoming attracted to you. After a time of prayer together, you feel that it is God who is drawing the two of you together into a special relationship. Is this what God is wanting?

No. Absolutely not. It does not matter what you "feel", the Bible is clear when it comes to messing around with marriage. Your "special relationship" is likely to further destroy the person's already fragile marriage, and you may also end up committing adultery. Hebrews 13.4 and Exodus 20.14 make God's mind on this absolutely clear. God will NOT guide you into sin.

Example 4
You have run out of pens at home and it is quite irritating not to have one around. While at work one day, you notice a bunch of pens that you could swipe. As you consider this, you feel that doing so would be wrong, and that God is clearly telling you to not take them. Is God guiding here?

Yes. God is guiding here because stealing is against God's law. The reason why you feel that it is wrong is because you know from the Scriptures that God speaks against stealing. God speaks to you now because God has spoken to you before through the Bible about this matter.

Example 5
You are a man. You read in Ephesians 5.22-24 that women should submit to men. Because of this, you decide that you cannot work under a female boss. Moreover, you feel that you should rebuke any woman who disagrees with you. Is this what God is guiding?

No. Ephesians 5.22-24 is about wives and husbands and how wives should submit to their husbands in the marriage relationship. This passage has no other application in the workplace or in relationships with women apart from your wife.

Example 6
You have been brought up in a church that has a very tough stand on drinking alcohol - they believe that Christians who drink alcohol are sinning against the Lord. One day while reading Psalm 104, you come across some verses which indicates that God has created wine "to gladden the heart of man". After further research into the Bible, you come to the conclusion that God doesn't mind us drinking alcohol, so long as we don't get drunk. One day at a friend's place, you have a glass of wine, but feel terribly guilty afterwards for drinking alcohol. You wonder if God is telling you through your guilt feelings that you have sinned by drinking alcohol. Is God saying this?

No. Your guilty feelings are NOT from God. The Bible is clear about alcohol and the study you have done into the scriptures has confirmed God's teaching that alcohol is a gift from God that has to be enjoyed in moderation. The fact that you feel guilty is meaningless at this point, since it is clear that you have not sinned in any way.

Example 7
You are a man. While meeting with your pastor, he announces that he has a prophecy from the Lord about you! He says that God is telling you to find the wife he has chosen for you so that God can do his special work through you. The pastor then says that the woman he has chosen for you has red hair. You know of four young women in the congregation who have red hair, none of whom you have ever considered approaching for a relationship. Should you take this prophecy to be from God?

No. You can marry whomever you darn well please, so long as she is a Christian and she is single. You don't need your pastor to manipulate you into doing what he thinks God is telling you to do. Moreover, God's plan for you has already been worked out in advance and there's no way you can stuff things up and ruin God's hard work. Scripture does not reveal anything about the woman you should marry, just that she should be a Christian and should be single.

Example 8
You feel that God is wanting to do something special in your life. One day you open the Bible and read Psalm 45.5, which says "Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; the peoples fall under you." From this you deduce that God (the King) has decreed that you are to be a spiritual warrior. This means that you will be a great preacher whom God will use to defeat satanic forces and bring many unbelievers to the Lord. Is this what God is saying to you?

No. Absolutely not. If you read the verse in context, you realise that the verse is actually about God. Verse 6 follows verse 5, saying "Your Throne, O God, is for ever and ever". If you think that this verse was written thousands of years ago just for you, think again.

Example 9
You hear a fellow Christian say to an unbeliever that if he/she does not place their trust in Christ, then their sins remain unforgiven and they are headed to hell. Despite sounding harsh, you believe that this is true. Is it?

Yes. The Bible is very clear about the exclusiveness of Christianity and the wrath that is due to those who refuse to repent. John 3.36 is one verse that says this - but there are many others.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Bob and Sally are okay

Sorry about not posting this earlier. Bob sent us this email about Rita:

Very much an anticlimax. Lots of wind and rain from about 10AM to 4PM today but it is now only light winds and little rain. The storm went further east than expected.

No dramas here... The power flicked maybe 4 times for maybe 1/2 a second. Even the cats and dogs were bored...

Houston seem to get away with very little damage and even Galveston, reputed to be flooded suffered little..


Pray for Bob and Sally in White Oak

My brother Bob married Sally from Texas last year sometime. Eventually Bob got himself a Green Card and they both moved to her home town in White Oak. That's in East Texas near the Lousiana border.

According to the latest reports, Rita is heading in their general direction. Hopefully by the time it reaches them it would have decreased to a tropical depression, but conditions will still be pretty windy.

They live on a hill - so there's no chance of flooding for them (125 metres / 410 ft above sea level). But they do live in a mobile home - so there's a chance that they may suffer major wind damage. They're not evacuating because all the filling stations have run out of petrol/gasoline and they have pets.

Bob & Sally aren't Christians BTW.

Rather than asking you to pray and for you to not do it (which is what I'm guilty of when I read bloggers asking for prayer), how about you just pray the following silently:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We pray for Bob and Sally as this Hurricane bears down on them. We ask that you protect their lives and protect their home from being too badly damaged. Help them in this time to pray and to place their trust in you. We ask that if their home is damaged, that you will provide them with the means of repairing it soon. We ask also that they will open their home and the hearts to anyone they can help in this crisis. Please protect their lives, and give them the means to endure. Amen.


Photos of Plaquemines Parish

Plaquemines Parish (pronounced plakkaman's parish) is the "finger" that sticks out of Louisiana south of New Orleans. It was the first part of Lousiana to be hit by Hurricane Katrina and has suffered terrible damage. I've just seen some very interesting photos of the damage:

More images can be found here, here and here.

What happens when people leave your church?

People leave churches all the time. Sometimes they leave them for good reasons, sometimes for bad reasons. Sometimes people leave after having a falling-out with other members.

I just discovered the website of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. One of the pages is entitled "Separation" and is as follows:

We realize that God will move people from Emmanuel in His providence. Some of our members will be moved to another city, others will move to sister churches in Enid, and others will be called home to be with the Lord.

In order for us to keep an accurate accounting of our membership, we ask you to do the following if you separate from the fellowship of Emmanuel for reasons other than death.

  1. Please contact one of the pastors regarding your decision to move.
  2. Unite with a sister church as quickly as possible.
  3. Request from us a letter of recommendation, which we will gladly give, unless there are unresolved church discipline issues.

We ask that you contact us, not because we seek to change your mind, but rather that our relationships with each other will continue and that we might learn how to more effectively minister to our people.

What matters is that you actively worship God and serve Him through the local church. Whether you worship at Emmanuel or another sister church is your decision, not ours. We desire to be in good relationship with all Christians regardless of where they worship.
What a wonderful example this is! This statement makes it clear that they accept the ministry of other churches and that God also works through them.

From the Theosalient Department


If I were British...

Who should I vote for? v2

Your expected outcome:

Liberal Democrat

Your actual outcome:

Labour 11
Conservative -23

Liberal Democrat 83
UKIP -23

Green 63

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For


How Al Mohler could force the SBC to change

With all the talk in Christian blogs directed towards Al Mohler's stance on Alcohol prohibition, I began to wonder what would happen if Al changed his mind.

For those who have come in late, I suggest you read Steve McCoy's posting about what has occurred, along with my first and second responses to this. Of even greater benefit is Imonk's article on this whole fracas.

A brief history of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1980-2005
This episode has revealed to me some of the deep problems with the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is America's largest Protestant denomination with nearly 16 million members - most of whom live in "The South", hence the name. I would guestimate that every single US township of 1,000 people or over has at least one functioning SBC church - such is their reach and influence.

By the late 1970s, the SBC became quite liberal in its theology. This was due to the influence of other mainline denominations over the decades, and many professors of theology who lectured students in Baptist Seminaries harbored grave doubts over basic Christian doctrines (including the inspiration and infallibility of scripture, the divinity of Christ and his Resurrection).

Aware of these massive problems, Conservative and Evangelical Baptists fought very hard to control the denomination. They worked to remove liberal theologians and lecturers and replaced them with those who held to orthodox Christian doctrines. This process also occurred in other parts of the SBC, including overseas missions. It was a difficult fight, but for the first time in history liberal theology within a mainline denomination was slowed, then stopped, then reversed.

Enter Al Mohler
Al Mohler was still young when this fight began, and as time went by he was the fresh, new face of Baptist evangelicals. While the stuffy old liberal professors had been put out to pasture, Mohler and a new breed of evangelical teachers and leaders were ensuring that the gains made by conservatives would become more permanent.

But more was to come. Mohler also became a heavyweight amongst evangelicals everywhere - not just within the Baptist union. He was one of the signatories of The Cambridge Declaration, a document that called American evangelicals back to orthodox Christianity. By being a Calvinist, Mohler also raised the profile of Reformed Christianity, both within the Baptist church and amongst evangelicals generally.

Mohler is now the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, the oldest and most influential seminary in the SBC. More recently, Mohler has been involved with the Justice Sunday movement and is a board member for Focus on the Family. In these last two arenas, Mohler has been playing the part of the Christian "Culture Warrior".

Mohler has come a very long way for someone who is still only 45 years old. Greater things may be in store for him: President of the SBC? Replacement for James Dobson? Maybe even a member of congress?

Politically, Mohler has come a long way - especially considering that Calvinists aren't usually welcome in the SBC.

Why Support Prohibition Al?
So all this begs the question... why is Al Mohler, a Reformed Christian who takes the Bible seriously, taking an unbiblical stance on alcohol? There are two possible reasons:

The first is that Mohler is genuinely convinced that Christians should not consume alcohol. Although he admits that there is no direct bible verse to support his position, he probably uses a range of "related" verses - the same that most prohibitionists use to attempt to bolster their case. If this is Mohler's reason then he has proved himself to be rather limited in his ability to understand and apply scripture. For all the verses that could have some possible distant relation to prohibition, there are a number of verses that directly contradict prohibition. I won't discuss these here as others have done a better job at surveying the Bible's teaching in this area, but I will point out that in order to support prohibition, Christians must contradict the clear teaching of scripture.

The second possible reason is that Mohler is aware that the political forces that support him do not favour alcohol consumption. Apart from the multitudes in SBC churches, he has Focus on the Family to worry about. This means that although Mohler may personally believe that drinking alcohol is fine, he chooses not to reveal it. More than that, he explicitly comes out and teaches the opposite. Why? He aims to please those who support him politically. If this is the case then Mohler is lying when he teaches prohibition - a serious charge.

So the only two options are that Mohler is either ignorant or a liar. Not terribly good for Mohler - hence my call for people to remove his name from their blogroll.

A change of mind?
But let's assume that God speaks to Mohler - either through revelation (he realises that the Bible does not support prohibition) or through conviction (he repents of his lies). What then for Al Mohler?

Mohler has only one choice - he publically recants his prohibitionist stance.

So what will happen to him once that occurs? You can probably be assured that many within the SBC will kick up a stink about how this wine-soaked Calvinist has managed to wiggle his way into the organisation's power structure. People will call upon him to resign as President of SBTS and ensure that he finds no other major position within the SBC. Focus on the Family will probably dump him too. Politically, Al Mohler's career prospects will crash. He may even find it impossible to simply pastor an SBC church.

Considering Mohler's position within the SBC, his removal for opposing prohibition would make national news. Most Americans - not just Baptists - would become aware of what occurred.

But what will happen then? Let's assume that Mohler, as a theologian, releases his own booklet on why prohibition in the SBC should end. He could even make this available for free on the internet for people to download.

Outside the SBC, rules on prohibition are not so strict. Many evangelical denominations do not enforce prohibition on their churches, pastors or members - and many of these people respect Mohler as an evangelical leader and would support him on the issue of alcohol. This means that the SBC would come under increasing pressure from evangelicals outside its walls. Moreover, these evangelicals would rightly call the SBC hypocritical for not following the Bible. As we know, the SBC has returned to a more biblical foundation - and yet its stance on alcohol is anything but biblical. Many pastors, members and leaders will come into contact with these evangelicals, who would rightly claim that Mohler had been forced out simply because he took a stand on the Bible. This would have a huge effect on the SBC, as many of the leaders would begin to openly discuss the situation with other leaders - and maybe even delve into the verses themselves and discover, like Mohler, that the Bible does not support prohibition.

There would also be an effect upon ordinary members of the SBC. It is common knowledge that many church members consume alcohol, and a lot of these people would keep it secret from their church and their pastor. Most of these people are probably living with the guilt of committing a sinful act that is actually not sinful. With Mohler's resignation/sacking for standing against prohibition, many of these church members will be interested in what has occurred. Some may even download Mohler's booklet on alcohol, and then search the Scriptures themselves to discover that the guilt they have has no basis in Scripture. These people would then have more courage to confront the pastor and discuss with him (and other members) what the Bible says.

There are also many nominal Baptists who attend church only semi-regularly. If Mohler is sacked, then the chances are that they would find out as well. Imagine their surprise as they, too, delve into the Bible to discover the truth. Their experience in reading the Bible may even lead to other questions and maybe even a true commitment to Christ.

So if Al Mohler does what is Biblical, and if he suffers for his courage, then we need to realise that his actions may be a watershed in the SBC. Despite failing politically, he would succeed spiritually (after all, the only person he should aim to please is God), and the SBC may be rocked to its very core.

And what will be the long-term result? Alcoholism? Anarchy? I doubt it. It is more likely that the SBC will turn even more seriously towards the scriptures and to the truth that God has revealed to us. Moreover, the crisis would have pitted conservative cultural values against scripture, thus opening the door to more serious analysis of what it means to be a biblical Christian, and further examinations of what is cultural as opposed to what is biblical.

And what of Mohler after his public dismissal? There's plenty of seminaries around the world that would benefit from a man who could teach the Bible. After all, what greater calling could Al Mohler have if not to preach the Gospel and teach sound doctrine?

From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Terry Gilliam Poll

The Terry Gilliam Poll is now over and here are the results:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: 21%
The Fisher King: 16%
Time Bandits: 13%
Twelve Monkeys: 13%
Brazil: 11%
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: 10%
Adventures of Baron Munchausen: 8%
Crimson Permanent Assurance: 5%
Jabberwocky: 2%
Lost in La Mancha Documentary: 2%

And it was me who saw Jabberwocky and Lost in La Mancha - they're part of my DVD collection.

All scientists the world over would concur that Terry Gilliam is the world's greatest film director. This is not just opinion, it is fact. There have been many scientific papers written in journals over the years that have proved empirically how great Gilliam is as a film-maker.

In my humble opnion, Brazil is Gilliam's best film. It's very difficult to find in a video store but it is well worth the price if you buy it. It is an incredibly bizarre movie - like a comedy version of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four - but it grows on you.

Jabberwocky is probably his worst - but it is worthwhile to buy just for the banter between Terry Gilliam and fellow Python Michael Palin (the star of Jabberwocky) on the DVD commentary track.

From the Wikipedia article on Terry Gilliam:

J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books, is a fan of Gilliam's work. Consequently, Gilliam was Rowling's first choice for the director of the first Harry Potter film in 2000. Warner Brothers refused to consider Gilliam as director, instead selecting Chris Columbus for the role. Recently, Gilliam stated in relation to this episode "I was the perfect guy to do Harry Potter. I remember leaving the meeting, getting in my car, and driving for about two hours along Mulholland Drive just so angry. I mean, Chris Columbus' versions are terrible. Just dull. Pedestrian."


Outrageous Bible mistranslations

Here are some re-translated Bible verses that have discovered by various groups and denominations in the church:
Baptists have found this verse:

Mark 1.8
I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with water too. Water is important.
"Free Grace" proponents have found this verse:

Mark 1.15
The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; just believe the gospel and you will be saved - you can repent later if you want to.
Christian members of the NRA discovered these verses:

Matthew 5.38-39
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' And I say to you resist strongly against the one who is evil. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, you slap him harder and on both cheeks. Take him out."
Christian Republicans discovered this verse:

Luke 20:22-25
And they asked Jesus "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not?" But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said "Caesar's." He said to them "With-hold all taxes and tributes from Caesar, for the rich are blessed by God for their hard work and provide employment for the poor. By with-holding these taxes, Caesar will somehow get more money."
Theonomists discovered this verse:

John 18.36
"My Kingdom is of this world, and my servants will fight to the bitter end to make sure I stay king".
Oral Roberts found this verse:

Acts 9.3-6
Now as Saul went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you Lord?" and, lo, Saul's eyes were opened and he beheld before him a 900ft tall man. "I am Jesus. Go and build me a medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After a few years of running massive financial losses, I will shut it down. If you do not do this I will kill you."
Dispensationalists found this verse:

Galatians 3.29
But if you are Christ's, don't somehow think you are Abraham's offspring or heirs according to the promise. All Israel is Israel.
Open theists found this verse:

John 13.38
Jesus said to Peter, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly I say to you that I honestly don't know. I suppose it is possible."
Hal Lindsey found this one:

1 Thessalonians 5.1-2
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you need a lot more written to you. You may be aware that the day of the Lord will not come like a thief in the night, but be preceded by Soviet and Chinese tanks invading Israel to steal their valuable store of potash, as well as some guy from Europe who will be the antichrist. And all this will happen some time before 1990.
Tony Robbins found this one:

Matthew 5.2-12
Unfulfilled are those who are poor in spirit, for they have not reached their full potential.
Unfulilled are they who mourn, for they do not know that they have chosen to be this way.
Unfulfilled are the meek, for they do not know they have the potential to reach higher things.
Unfulfilled are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they are obviously looking in the wrong place.
Unfulfilled are the merciful, for their actions only hurt those they try to help.
Unfulfilled are the pure in heart, for they have yet to buy my new book.
Unfulfilled are the peacemakers, for they have failed to reach their goal.
Unfulfilled are those who are persecuted, for they have chosen to bring this upon themselves.
Unfulfilled are those who are reviled and insulted, for they have not been able to convince others of how wonderful my program is.

From the Department of Attempted Humour

Public Domain Dedication

This work is dedicated to the Public Domain.


Al Mohler - NOT a Pharisee. But...

I retract my claim that Al Mohler is a Pharisee - based upon what the Word of God has taught me about what a Pharisee actually is.

Nevertheless, I am still quite disgusted at what Mohler has done.

One of my readers, "Phil from CA", pointed out on the comments thread that the Biblical definition of a Pharisee was not so much a Christian who is overtly judgemental, but something much worse - in the end, the Pharisees that Jesus spoke against both rejected Jesus as Lord and imposed unbiblical laws upon the people of God that denied Grace and placed the focus on works.

This definition of Pharisee - the Biblical definition - means that those who are "Pharisees" are actually unbelievers.

It was therefore my mistake to class Al Mohler as a Pharisee, since I could be interpreted as saying that Mohler is an unbeliever. I definitely think that Mohler is a believer, and as such does not fit into the definition of a Pharisee.

So if Al is reading this, I offer my full and complete retraction and apologise for labelling him wrongly. I was a bit "hot headed" after reading Reformissionary's post, and fell into the trap of using a term that did not reflect what I truly felt. The really annoying thing is that when Phil from CA reminded me that a true Pharisee was an unbeliever, I said "Of course I know that! Why did I forget??"

Having said all this, however, I still maintain that Al Mohler's position on Alcohol Proscription is wrong. While he is not a Pharisee, his actions are "Pharisaical" in that he is enforcing an unbiblical belief and placing limits on pastors and church members that neither Jesus nor the Apostles or Prophets placed upon the church.

Al Mohler was one of the signatories for the Cambridge Declaration. This is what one section of the declaration says:
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation,which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.

We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.

Yet Al Mohler is enforcing a postion that goes against that which he affirmed back in 1996.

I still ask all my readers to do the following in protest against Mohler's teaching:
  • Remove any blogroll links to Al Mohler's website.
  • To encourage other Christian bloggers who have blogroll links to Al Mohler's website to remove them and to explain to them the current situation. Posting a link to Reformissionary's article would be necessary for them to make this decision.
  • To write to or email Al Mohler and lovingly but firmly rebuke him for his unbiblical teaching.
I've publically retracted my claim that Mohler is a Pharisee based upon the testimony of scripture and offered him an honest apology. Now it's time for Al Mohler to publically retract his statements on alcohol based upon the testimony of scripture and offer all those he has offended an honest apology.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Al Mohler - Pharisee

Al Mohler, a well known evangelical leader in the United States, is a Pharisee.

I urge all people in the Christian blogosphere to examine the reasons why I am making this claim, to write posts explaining your own thoughts, to write emails and letters to Al Mohler, and to remove his link from your blogroll.

Reformisionary, a Calvinist within the Southern Baptist Convention, has written a very disturbing article about abstinence from alcohol in the church. Due to the SBC's return to Biblical Christianity over the past 20 years, quite a number of pastors and churches have enjoyed being exposed to the Word of God, and the power of the Spirit working through the Word as it is preached and examined.

Ironically, one of the results of this move has been the discovery that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is not wrong. In fact, God is seen to be the creator of wine for the express purpose of "gladdening the heart of man" as it states in Psalm 104. I won't go into all the arguments for and against the issue - others have done a better job and I don't want to reinvent the wheel.

The fact is that the SBC has held to the firm belief that drinking alcohol is sinful, and that Christians should be teetotal. Yet the Bible says otherwise.

So where does Al Mohler fit in?

Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. A seminary that is to American Baptists as Princeton was to 19th century Presbyterians. Moreover, Mohler is actually a Calvinist - quite rare for Southern Baptists. He was also a signatory to the Cambridge Declaration. In recent times, Mohler has been involved in the Justice Sunday meetings, my opinion of which can be found elsewhere on my blog. I have also recently criticised Mohler for a recent article he wrote on his blog.

Despite being one of those behind the Cambridge Declaration, Mohler seems to have abandoned Sola Scriptura - the idea that the Bible is the supreme, sole and sufficient authority that determines how to act and what to believe. How do we know this? Because Mohler supports abstinence.

Of course, such an issue may seem minor - after all, there are plenty of Christians out there that hold on to all sorts of things that aren't important. The problem isn't that Mohler supports abstinence, he has now overtly accused those who disagree with it as being disobedient to God and to the leaders in the church that God has appointed.

Mohler admits that there is no biblical backup for abstinence. But then goes on to argue that churches should enforce abstinence on its members and, most especially, those who seek to pastor such churches.

This is NOT a case of Romans 14.13-23. Mohler is not arguing that we should suspend our rights for the well-being of weaker brothers. In his mind, those who drink are the weaker brothers.

Perhaps one of the most disgraceful things to occur was this:
Closer to the end, Mohler told the story of going to lunch for a meeting with a group of evangelical leaders across denominational lines. If anywhere, this is the place for a Christian to show generosity to those who aren't compelled as he is about the issue of alcohol. But as a couple of leaders ordered beer with lunch, Mohler actually spoke up and asked a Lutheran pastor (friend of his) to not get a beer "so that sitting here in this Southern town where anyone can walk in and see this table, people do not then barrage me with phone calls associating me with drinking, which I'm not doing." He finished the story, "I could not allow my own personal integrity to be questioned, I would of had to have left the lunch." (quoted from Reformissionary's web site)

As I point out in the comments thread of this posting, Mohler is acting like the Apostle Peter in Galatians 2 - he separates himself from his bretheren. Where is the Paul to come along and rebuke him?

It does get worse however. Mohler says this:
"I can assure you of this: if you (the audience are seminarians and future Baptist pastors) are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you."

A statement of fact or a veiled threat? If he discovers that one of his students drinks alcohol, will he "turn the screws" to force the student out, or will he ensure that he never gets work in the SBC again? And why? The student didn't sin.

As Reformissionary points out, the issue is not alcohol or whether someone believes in the right thing or not - it's about legalism. It's about enforcing rules that Jesus never enforced for his church. It's about adding to the Word of God, and forcing people to obey the decrees of men. It's about supressing dissent from those whose minds have been informed by God's word.

And, sadly, Mohler appears to show that it's about politics too. I wonder if Mohler actually believes the same as those he criticises, but sides with the abstinence crowd to ensure that he retains his power and position within the SBC.

Please read Reformissionary's post before commenting here.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Avoiding Online Unpleasantness

About six months ago I lurked at number of Christian blog sites, including BHT among others. I had a number of unpleasant experiences in some comments threads and decided to "give up" lurking there. I removed two or three blogs from my bookmarks with the intention of never returning.

But return I have - mainly because I have begun this blog and it pays to get to know other bloggers out there, if only to catch the Zeitgeist. Sadly I have noticed one thing and I urge all Christian bloggers to read the following:

Flaming is a sin.
Disagree all you want - but be nice.
Attack the argument - not the person.
Written responses can sometimes be misinterpreted.

I'm not going to name names, but I will say that sometimes we all need to apologise for being rude or flippant, and sometimes we need to be patient and forgiving.

Just do it people.

From the Department of Wha's Happnin?


Atheists call for day of not praying for Katrina victims

In response to the massive humanitarian crisis that has overwhelmed Lousiana after Hurricane Katrina, leading American atheists have called for a "Day of not praying".

Dr. Winston Dennis, the President of the North American Atheist Society, states that this unusual call is due to the devastation that the country has witnessed recently.

"We've seen images of third-world pain in a first-world country. We have seen mankind at the mercy of nature. This is perhaps the worst natural disaster in our nation's history."

"We therefore call all Americans to not humbly come before their maker, who does not exist, and to not pray for those suffering as a result of this calamity."

Although details are still sketchy, some estimates are that over one million people have been rendered homeless and jobless by the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Bill Patterson, chairman of the New Orleans Unbelievers Association, is concerned that many of his members may never return to the devastated city.

"The meeting hall where we had our weekly discussions of modern philosophy has been totally destroyed. Atheist Orleanians are going to find it difficult to meet again in the place they call home."

Many atheists within the diaspora have managed to express their lack of religious faith with local unbelievers. Alison Steadman, one of the former members of the New Orleans Unbelievers Association, has been greatly encouraged by the warm reception she has had meeting with fellow Atheists in Monroe.

"I've been overwhelmed with love and support", Steadman said "When I arrived in Monroe I thought I would be staying a few days at most. It has been wonderful to experience the love and lack of faith that we all share as unbelievers."

Nevertheless, other Atheists, such as Ray Cooper, have found it difficult to cope with both their change in circumstances and their reliance upon Secular humanism. Now living in a tent in Leesville, Cooper tried to give his lack of religious faith a boost.

"I went to the local meeting of Agnostics Non-anonymous. They were nice people but I was just confused about everything they were saying. They talked about different philosophies, different authors - being there really made me miss our meeting back south"

When told about the day of not praying, Cooper was enthusiastic.

"On that day, you can count on me to not fall onto my knees. I'll be telling everyone I know to join me in not praying for the victims of Hurricane Katrina."

Nevertheless, political opponents of Atheism have spoken against the day of not praying as being "useless".

Don Henderson, Vice-President of Christians for Uncontrollable Gun Proliferation, was angry at the move.

"These people have got no idea at all what they are not doing". He stated. "They don't realise that they, along with all the Feminists, Gays, Blacks, Jews and people who like Intelligent Dance Music are all to blame for this righteous act of God's vengeance for the depraved vile sins of this modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah."

Other leading religionists poured scorn on the activity.

"They think that by doing nothing they will actually help?" laughed Andrew MacLachlan, Chairman of the evangelical charity Christian Objectivists. "You have to pray to God. God changes the way people behave and feel. Are these guys nuts? I suppose they will deserve their eventual imprisonment in an isolated gulag once Jeb Bush becomes President. Awesome!"

The President has yet to endorse this very ordinary day, which is slated for September 29.

From the Department of Attempted Humour

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Pledge problems

The Pledge of Allegiance is again making news in the USA.

Look, I have to admit as an evangelical Christian who does not live in America, I just don't fully understand the huge fuss it is causing.

Here is the text of the pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America , and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
There's a few things that you need to realise about this whole kerfuffle:

  1. The original oath was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. He was a Baptist minister and a socialist.
  2. Originally those making the pledge were expected to make the Bellamy Salute, a hand gesture invented by the author. Unfortunately, it was identical to the Hitler Salute which everyone saw giving Adolf during world war 2. It was replaced by the "right hand over the heart"
  3. The original text was I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Notice that "flag of the United States of America" and "under God" were not part of the original oath.
  4. "Flag of the United States of America" replaced "my flag" so that immigrants could not pledge allegiance to the flag of their previous country. That change occurred in 1924.
  5. The US congress officially recognised the pledge in 1942.
  6. In 1954 the "under God" phrase was added. It was added mainly due to the belief that Communism was essentially Atheistic and incompatible with American values.
  7. President Eisenhower, after signing the bill to add the "under God" phrase, stated From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.
  8. The First Amendment of the US Constitution declares Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
  9. After recent complaints from a number of people who object to the "under God" phrase, the ACLU has sponsored legal action to prevent school students from reciting the pledge of allegiance in its present form - arguing that the "under God" phrase breaches the first amendment.

I have to point out a few things as an outsider here. The first is that the pledge itself is not a prayer and so therefore cannot be defined as such. We can tell that it is not a prayer because the pledge does not end with "Amen". The fact that God is recognised in the pledge does give it religious significance but does not make it a prayer, since the pledge is being directed towards the flag and the nation it represents. A prayer is directed to God, or towards other figures in other religions. The pledge is therefore not a religious activity.

Secondly, I have to concur with the ACLU that the phrase "under God" does violate the separation of church and state. Since the pledge itself is officially recognised by the US government, and because the phrase can clearly be understood to mean the God of Christians, there exists a problem.

The only simple solution I can think of in order to clear up the constitutional problems is to revert the phrase to its pre-1954 text and remove "under God". However, that's not going to please anybody, and I would guesstimate that the majority of Americans would find that unacceptable.

Another solution would be to have "under God" put in brackets so that the millions of Americans who do believe in God can recite this part, while those who choose not to can opt not to say it. This is a compromise solution and probably won't make the ACLU happy since it still appears to favour one particular religious belief.

Changing the pledge may be anathema to many Americans, but we need to remember that the pledge has been changed before, and has only been officially recognised since 1954. These are precedents.

Many Christians see this issue as one of the battles fought in the "culture war". I personally don't see why it is so important, but that is because I am not American - I therefore cannot see it. It is certainly one disadvantage that I have.

Neverthless, despite the problems this pledge may have on my American Christian bretheren, I would urge them wholeheartedly to pledge their total allegiance not towards their country, but towards God. I'm not saying the pledge contradicts this, but I am saying that there are more important things for Christians to fight for.

Please leave comments... I will endeavour to nicely answer any angry queries you might have in response to this article!

From the Department of Wha's Happnin?

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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About that Terry Gilliam Poll...

If you haven't worked out already I now have the ability to create polls for this website, which is why you can see one to the right of your screen.

Terry Gilliam is my favourite director. He is one of the Monty Python team and responsible for some of the quirkiest films in the last 30 years.

If you have seen the Monty Python film "The Meaning of Life", you may remember a 15 minute "prelude" to the film, about a group of aged accountants who throw off the shackles of their corporate oppressors and start sailing their building around and attacking other corporate headquarters like Pirates.

Well, that short "prelude" is called "The Crimson Permanent Assurance". So if you've seen Meaning of Life, you've seen this short film too.


If in doubt, blame the United Nations

One thing I have noticed about American columnists, from both right-wing and left-wing perspectives, is that whenever some form of disaster highlights massive problems with America, at some point these columnists will write something critical of the United Nations.

For example, during the shocking and embarrassing revelations about the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, a number of newspapers ran stories that were critical of human-rights abuses in places like China. Condoleeza Rice, within 3 months of the abuse story surfacing, was going around the world lecturing other nations about how they should treat their own citizens. While these criticisms were taking place, columnists would often refer to the United Nations in the same sentence. The inference was clear - when you blame other nations you must also blame the UN. In the parlance of many American writers, the UN is simply "the rest of the world".

Naturally, it has happened again. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and its role in exposing the poverty inherent in American society, Nicholas Kristof has written an anti-UN piece for The New York Times entitled "Meet the Fakers". In this article, Kristof takes to task a number of countries for failing to look after their own citizens. This is how his article begins:
The biggest gathering of leaders in history unfolds this week at the United Nations, as they preen and boast about how much they're helping the world's poor. In short, it may be the greatest assembly in history - of hypocrites.
The foundation of Kristof's criticism is based upon a new report released by the UN - the 2005 Human Development Report. By chance, I downloaded this document a couple of days ago, so I am in a good position to verify some of Kristof's assertions.

If the report is read objectively and without patriotic or editorial interference, the United States ends up being the greatest hypocrite of them all. The fact that Kristof does not recognise this implies that his criticism is either blinkered, or at least influenced by editorial decisions that attempt to "balance out" any "liberal bias" that the paper might be perceived to have - especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

To be fair, Kristof does criticise America as well - but his article is not about painful self analysis.

Kristof attacks nations like India and China for not improving their child mortality rates. Fair enough I suppose. He also attacks African nations for not complaining about the "brutal black rule" in Zimbabwe. Good idea.

But there's something worrying me here - he's placing a great deal of blame upon developing nations for "not getting their act together". Does that remind you of anything? How about the multitudes of Americans who sat in their couches, watching the poor black folk in New Orleans and saying "They only have themselves to blame!".

Seeing a homeless person by the side of the road and labelling them a "bum" is one thing. It's another thing to use the same term to label poor nations.

One of the great errors in old socialist thinking over the years was the assumption that poor people, when given enough money and certain material needs, will naturally rise out of their poverty and eventually begin to prosper and look after themselves. This was never the case. Conversely, one of the great errors in modern libertarian and neoliberal thinking is the assumption that eliminating welfare dependence will give the poor incentive to prosper and look after themselves. This is also in error. The only possible alternative is to have some form of "Mutual obligation" for both parties - that the government provide the poor with welfare, so long as the recipients engage in activities that will help them to become self-sufficient.

It is essentially the same idea when we look at poor nations. Rich nations need to give generously so that poor nations can rise out of their poverty and become self-sufficient. Throwing money at them will not work, but lecturing them will not work either. Aid to these nations must be tied to structrual changes in their politics and economics, to ensure that these nations are given the chance to be rewarded for stamping out corruption, cronyism, nepotism and for promoting democracy, freedom and the rule of law. I believe that intervention is necessary, but intervention of the kind which I am describing can't work without the commitment to provide substantial amounts of financial aid.

It is in this sphere - financial aid - that America has a problem with.

There's a story by Jesus that helps illustrate this point. In Mark 12.41-44, Jesus saw rich people donating large sums of money into a donation box at the Temple. He then saw a poor widow come along and donate 2 copper coins. Jesus spoke highly of the widow for she had given all she had, while the rich did not.

America gives more foreign aid than any other nation in the world. According to the 2005 Human Development Report that Nicholas Kristof has reported on, America gave over US$16 billion in overseas aid. The next in in line is Japan, with just under US$9 Billion. There is no doubt that the aid that the US has given has been vital in promoting prosperity and freedom around the world - and that the world may have been a much worse place without this aid.

However, America only gaves 0.15% of its 2003 Gross National Income. That's about 15 cents for every $100 America earns. Such an amount is pathetic when compared to other nations. Canada gives 0.24%, Germany 0.28%, Switzerland 0.39%, Sweden 0.79% and Norway 0.92%.

In terms of amount, America gives more than anyone. But in terms of percentage, America gives less than anyone. Italy, at 0.17% and Japan and Austria, at 0.20%, are the next worst offenders.

So while other western nations are generous, America is not. But this is supposed to be the land of philanthropy, of charity and goodwill. Yet it doesn't matter what people believe, the statistics tell otherwise - America is Uncle Scrooge.

The other problem with Kristof's article is that he criticises many nations for their unacceptable social problems. Infant mortality rates, school enrolments and so on - Kristof criticises developing nations for their problem in this area.

The first thing I'd like to say about this point is that these nations may have had much better social conditions if they had received more overseas aid - aid that America is not providing.

The second thing I'd like to say about this is that America itself is not exactly the world's leader when it comes to these same social statistics. It's now safer to be born in Cuba than in the US according to latest infant mortality statistics. About 20% of Americans lack functional literacy skills, compared to less than 10% in places like Sweden, Norway and Denmark. 17% of American wage earners earn less than 50% of median income, compared to 5.4% in Finland, 8% in Belgium and 7.3% in The Netherlands.

All these statistics show that nations which have instituted more widespread social welfare programs are likely to have better social conditions for its citizens. These "tax and spend" measures have given people a better quality of life than anywhere else in the world - including rich America. While it may be an integral part of the American psyche to promote the idea of a self-made individual (which thus reduces the desire for social welfare spending), the simple facts are that government-sponsored programs that intervene in the lives of people for their benefit produce a better standard of living.

In many cases, not only is the standard of living better, but the finances are better too. The best example of this is the Report's section on Health Spending. The combined level of private and public spending on health in the US represents 14.6% of GDP. This can be compared to 9.6% in Norway, 9.7% in France, 9.6% in Canada and 10.9% in Germany. Yet despite the huge sums spent by the American health industry, HIV rates are worse than every other western nation except Spain. The Infant Mortality Rate shows that 6.5 American children die for every 1000 babies born. Compare that to 5.1 in the European Union and 2.77 in Sweden. That's a lot of American babies who die.

The implications of these facts are simple - America is exceptionally good at creating wealth, but exceptionally bad at using that wealth to create a better life for its citizens. Moreover, the alternative offered by the Social market economies of Western Europe, along with their greater generosity to poorer nations, gives them a growing influence in world affairs.

The answer is not for America to divert attention by trashing other nations, as Nicholas Kristof has done. Instead, America must learn to swallow its pride and make pragmatic decisions so that its own citizens may prosper.

There are many nations around this globe who have learned a lot from America - economically and socially. Many Asian nations are prosperous today because of the lessons they have learned from America over the years. Surely the time has come for America to start learning from others?

From the Department of Wha's Happnin?

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Incompetence and Greed

Former head of the International Arabian Horse Association, Michael D. Brown, has finally bitten the bullet and resigned as head of FEMA. I can't say how much this guy can be blamed for the suffering in New Orleans, but there is no doubt that somewhere along the line, FEMA stuffed things up big time. When all is said and done, there is no doubt that many people died because of FEMA's mistakes.

Just today we have learned that 2 million Californians were affected by a major power outage. The culprits, according to officials, were a couple of utility workers who had cut the wrong cable and connected it to another line that could not handle that amount of electricity. According to one report, "(the workers) directed too much amperage into a circuit that did not have the capacity to handle it".

My Dad was an Electrical Engineer. He helped design many of the coal-fired power stations along Lake Macquarie in New South Wales. He retired soon after the old Electricity Commission was corporatised, and thus did not have to suffer too much Thatcherism.

One thing about utilities like power, sewerage and transportation, is the absolute necessity of having built-in redundancies. The idea is that failure is not only expected, but it is planned for. If one part of the system falls over, the very design of the system allows it to continue while the broken bit is fixed up.

In terms of electricity generation, built-in redundancies should exist within the power grid, so that if one idiot of an electricity worker cuts the wrong line and puts it where he shouldn't, then the failure is localised and quickly overcome while the original problem is fixed up.

The problem is that governments, under various guises of philosophical economics, such as those espoused by Reaganomics, Rogernomics, Thatcherism and Privatization, have cut back spending on infrastructure. And, of course, "built in redundancies" are a prime target for cutbacks - mainly because savings can be made by ignoring these redundancies, while at the same time allowing the system to continue normally

Except of course, when something goes wrong.

I'm not an opponent of privatization and corporatisation per se. If efficiency gains can be made by exposing the sector to market-driven forces then I'm all for it. What I'm not happy about is when these efficiency gains are made at the expense of safety and reliability. Moreover, if the sector is more efficient if left in the hands of a government department, then why bother trying to fit it into a market-driven model?

FEMA is probably a good example of a government department that was interfered with too much by those in power. Apart from having massive amounts of money cut from its budget, it appears as though many of the top people were political appointees with little or no experience in managing disasters. So on the one hand you had a government that was cutting its funding, and on the other hand you had top people who could not do the job properly.

Of course, many supporters of small government would argue that, because FEMA is a government run organisation, its inbuilt inefficiency is actually a reason why less money should be given to it, and why disaster relief should be left in the hands of a private agency or charities.

But such an attitude does not take into account that incompetence is something that hinders many bureaucracies - not just those in government. Moreover, cronyism and nepotism - two characteristics of the Bush administration - are not limited to governments either. Why did Lachlan Murdoch have such a position of power in News Corporation? Was it due to his abilities or due to his Father's influence? What about Enron and WorldCom and Qwest? No one appears to be criticising the entire capitalist system as being the cause of such corporate disasters.

We have to understand that, without strict rules and their ability to be enforced, any organisation - whether government or corporate - has the ability to manifest incompetence. By cutting funding and appointing cronies, government departments like FEMA have lost their ability to function efficiently - and people have died as a result.

Let this be a lesson to those who keep chanting the ideological mantra of small government.

From the Osostrian School Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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