Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day!

OpinionJournal, again:
Today, April 22, is Earth Day, which has been marked each year since 1970 as a day of reflection on the state of the environment. At least that's the idea, so let's begin with some figures.

Since 1970, carbon monoxide emissions in the U.S. are down 55%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Particulate emissions are down nearly 80%, and sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced by half. Lead emissions have declined more than 98%. All of this has been accomplished despite a doubling of the number of cars on the road and a near-tripling of the number of miles driven, according to Steven Hayward of the Pacific Research Institute.
All this and more can be found in the PRI's 2006 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators [PDF].

One of my favorite charts in the report:

Automobile Carbon Monoxide Emissions Rate per Mile [Source: CARB]

Friday, April 21, 2006

Recommended Weekend Reading

Daniel Henninger at OpinionJournal writes about bloggers using the web as public therapy and self-medication:
The human species has spent several hundred thousand years sorting through which emotions and marginal neuroses to keep under control and which to release. Now, with a keyboard, people overnight are "free" to unburden and unhinge themselves continuously and exponentially. One researcher quotes the entry-page of a teenage girl's blog: "You are now entering my world. My pain. My mind. My thoughts. My emotions. Enter with caution and an open mind."

The power of the Web is obvious and undeniable. We diminish it at our peril. But what if the most potent social effect to spread outward from the Internet turns out to be disinhibition, the breaking down of personal restraints and the endless elevation of oneself? It may be already.
VCR opines about the causes surrounding the decline and fall of mainline denominations:
We the local congregation folks have lost membership because somehow we have failed to make it clear how important the local church is for spiritual development. Worse, I suspect that we have spent so much time arguing over doctrines and policies that we have forgotten how to care for people at the local level. And so, families with cancer, drug addiction, alcoholism, work stress, birth defects, divorce, and all other manner of ailments go to that electrifying worship experience because there they can at least forget about it all for a little while.
VCR agrees with Bill Hybels regarding the importance of local church ministry, but thinks churches can become too large. I think the answer to the mega-church question is the implementation of effective small group ministries. Such a shift requires a radial cultural change in the larger church. Many churches are able to manage the small/medium (Pastor-centric) to large (program-centric) structure through changes in leadership and implementation of necessary administrative structures. The shift to "very large" is much more difficult, because cultural changes have to take place in the way parishioners relate to one another. Leaders of these large church must do whatever they can to make the mega-church seem as small as possible if they hope to provide any sense of local church community to members. The answer is implementation of effective small group ministries. Be prepared for the years of work necessary to complete the culture change.

Last Thursday, Maundy Thursday, N. T. Wright delivered his frank assessment of the "gospel" of Judas (translation available here):
I was studying this newly discovered little tract, the ‘Gospel of Judas’, yesterday morning, and reading what some of its editors had written about it; and there crept over me the horrible sense of a lie cheerfully told, a lie which people are eager to believe, a lie which could sap the vital energy of the church and individual Christians unless we name it for what it is, see the danger, and know why we reject it. There is a willful blindness about today which is uncomfortably like what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians.
For some reason the term "willful blindness" reminds me of Lenin's purported term "useful idiot."

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Sunday, April 16, 2006


The Garden Tomb
Originally uploaded by chadly7
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. - (Mark 16:1-8 NRSV)