Monday, August 28, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine- a review from Big Poppa

Alright, I haven't seen this movie. But if there is one thing we can all trust from my Dad- Pastor Mike, whom I affectionately refer to above as 'Big Poppa' (and I'm sure I'll be scolded for such a disrespectful moniker later), it is his impeccable taste in fine cinema. I hope that I will find time to go check out this flick soon, in between visiting the sick and poor and evangelizing the masses.

“Little Miss Sunshine” is a must see. Dad, a failed motivational speaker (Greg Kinnear), his once-divorced now in-her-second-marriage wife (Toni Collette), along with her brother (Steve Carell) a gay college professor of Proust living with them under a strict suicide watch, and her Nietsche-loving teenage son, scowling in his self-imposed vow of silence, share a journey in their old VW bus. Joining them is Kinnear’s crusty heroin snorting father (Allan Arkin) recently banished from his assisted living community. They must drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, California because their daughter, the youngest pilgrim in this modern Canterbury Tale, a chubby 7 year old runner up in a local contest, had, at the last minute, been called upon to compete in the 7 to 10 year old “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant. The sojourn ends with a dance routine previously choreographed by Grandpa in secret in their Albuquerque basement. It is the final step in a decent into hell that becomes a true metamorphosis for each one of the family. The routine says more than all the recent media hype surrounding poor little JonBenet Ramsey ever could to our jaded world. This film is conceptually so funny that you smile from start to finish without the help of a single heavy handed one liner. Its “Napoleon Dynamite” with a much sharper point. It speaks more to the human condition than any film I’ve seen this year or last. Sadly the “F word” is sprinkled liberally throughout the dialogue. But you know, some times, in some circumstances, can anything else be said really?

Uh, wow. What are you waiting for? Go check it out.

And please, don't use the f-word. Especially at church.

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Stuck amongst evils...

Well, I don't want our church to lose our non profit status, and the almighty dollar reigns supreme... so I'll not openly support any candidate in the upcoming primary or the pending gubernatorial race. Though, I think I can say that Tom Gallagher whooped up on Charlie Crist in tonight's debate. But, then we must also consider the sad reality that the man who opened up said can of whoop bootie is also facing charges by the Florida Commision on Ethics (aaarrrggghhh...the idea of an ethics commision in todays political climate is laughable to say the least) for trading stocks in two insurance companies that owned subsidiaries that Gallagher regulated as insurance commissioner until 2003. But, people, check the facts- the trades amounted to about $8,200 profit for Mr.Gallagher and will likely amount to him paying a nominal fine. This is hardly Watergate, Whitewatergate, or Monica-gate- so let's all take a nice deep breath.

And it is very true that it is purt'near an impossibility to discover with any real assurance where either of these dudes actually stand on anything. Yes, Gallagher came across as the 'staunch republican' tonight (even though Crist continually reminded us he was indeed a 'Reagan Republican' whilst evading yes or no questions)- but it is hard to deny that he has vascillated wildly throughout his career from liberal to moderate to conservative over the years.

So, we are pinned between a rock and a hard place. So, read up Christians, think, pray, and vote wisely. Remember that we live in one of the states that decides national presidential elections and so holds the fate of the free world in its hands. Get off your lazy evangelical hineys and get the right man in office. And that man is....


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Trashing of Taste and the Triumph of Vulgarity

"Everything is now cast in the image of television. The lines that once divided political conventions and sports events, hard news from TV dramas, the real world from a make-believe world, have become quite thin. Reality making, in fact, is now business. "In the contemporary world," Stuart Ewen, an astute writer on modern culture, says, "where the mass media serve as increasingly powerful arbiters of reality, the primacy of style over substance has become the normative consciousness." More than that, television's reach has also meant "the globalization of show business," James Twitchell charges, and with the dominance of the marketplace in all aspects of our life there has also come the "trashing of taste" and "the triumph of vulgarity." " - David Wells in Losing Our Virtue, p. 85

And, I might add, these 'arbiters of reality' have extended their reach into the Church where style has indeed conquered substance. And how grievous that the arena of truth, the megaphone of the gospel, the family of God's people, the community of worshippers in Spirit and Truth, might become one of the crassest displays of this 'triumph of vulgarity'.


Monday, August 21, 2006

My Real Point Was...

I have enjoyed reading the responses to my article "The Moral Concerns of Those Who Have None" and have learned a lesson from it all. At all costs avoid incendiary issues that are not germane to your major point.

Keith Olbermann's attacks on Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, et. al. were meant to be an introductory note to attract the reader's interest. Ann Coulter's faith, or lack of, and her literary skill, or lack of, had little to do with my major concern: the Left's penchant for feigning moral indignation when they lack true moral concerns. For the record I find Ms. Coulter outrageously amusing and take her extreme statements with a grain of salt as one should with any political satirist from Jonathan Swift to Mark Twain, or more recently, from Will Rogers to Art Buchwald. That she is funny is an added bonus to conservative opinion that sometimes bogs down in the ponderous complexities of a George Will or the sugary sweetness of Dr. Dobson. My intent was not to defend Ann Coulter as much as to expose the pseudo concerns of any number of left wing pundits who espouse for the moment the ethical values of a philosophical system they despise in order to legitimize their own radical views. They are wolves in sheep's clothing, or rather, pagans wrapped in Christian values.

Mr. Olbermann doesn't give a rodent's behind for Ms. Coulter's journalistic ethic, he hates her political philosophy. His accusations of plagiarism are fraud, pure and simple. Webster defines plagiarism as "literary theft." It is "(to) present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source." Particularly in journalism using popularly shared viewpoints illustratively without citation is not plagiarism. In more scatological terms lack of citation happens, particularly in popular discourse. Sometimes its omission is accidental at other times stylistic (a string of footnotes is after all, boring.)

I recently read an essay by Oxford's Dr. Henry Chadwick in which he brazenly (?) used a favorite quote of mine from Edward Gibbon with nary a citation. (cf. Atlas of the Christian Church, Henry Chadwick, G.R. Evans, New York: Equinox (Oxford), 1987, p. 18.) Is the good doctor and consummate scholar a plagiarist? Hardly? It was a simple off handed illustrative comment which in no way effected his essential ideas. He certainly did not intend to pass off Gibbon's monumental wit and wisdom as his own. Ms. Coulter has never been at a loss for original expression however jarring. She is no more a plagiarist than Mr. Olbermann is a moralist.

-- Mike Braun

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Thursday, August 17, 2006


Another blog from my Dad, Pastor Mike Braun.
Laugh. Cry. Kick the dog.
Here goes:

The newest kid on MSNBC's half a block, is Keith Olbermann. In his pursuit of a fair share of the ratings pie Mr. Olbermann is swinging from the floor of late at all comers. His most recent targets were the very hit-able Bill O'Reilly and the irascible Ann Coulter whom he heavy-handedly nicknamed, get ready to laugh, "Ann Coulter-geist." ... Well, at least he thought it was funny. Mr. Olbermann's most serious charge against Ms. Coulter is one of plagiarism. One can only imagine the air time he would have given to Norman Mailer's dangling participles! It seems in her most recent book Ms. Coulter quoted a number of clever remarks, the common faire of pop-cultural reportage, but did so without clearly citing which journal, newspaper article, or stand-up routine originally coined the sayings. I should be quick to point out that all her literary indiscretions were illustrative and had no substantive connection to her major thesis. Someone should advise Mr. Doberman (sorry, its contagious.) as to the true meaning of plagiarism lest all journalism drown in a sea of irrelevant citations and overly precise footnotes. Should Ms. Coulter have used op. cit., loc. cit. or ibid. Mr. Dober... er Olbermann?

In all fairness to Mr. Olbermann he is something of a novice in the political arena, if you don't count his stint at ESPN. He is just sharpening his skills. I'm sure he will become more effective as he hones his anti-theistic barbs. He has yet to miss a moment, for example, in demonstrating how much brighter he thinks he is than the entire Christian right. The theory of Intelligent Design would collapse of its own weight, he is certain, had only its advocates had his advantage of an Ivy League education. Mr. Olbermann is a quick study. He appears destined for bigger things and network doings. He will soon, no doubt, master the full vocabulary of left-wing double-speak. More subtle devices than name punning and exposing stylistic faux pas would certainly become him. There are better tactical bones to chew on Mr. Doberman.
The current tactic against Judeo-Christian ethics on the part of both the Left at home and Islam abroad is the long used ploy of shooting us with our own gun. They disparage Christian civilization and despise Christian values. They seek Christianity’s ruin and then, whenever we retaliate justly or even denounce their ideology, they plead the very same Christian values in their defense. “What concord hath Jerusalem with Athens?” asked Tertullian. “Why are you drawing water from my well... and hewing wood with my axe?”

The Moslem weeps crocodile tears of “Christian compassion” for the suffering of victims and then applauds as his fellows send their own children into our midst with bombs strapped to their bodies. The homosexual demands the Christian right to privacy, the pagan abortionist speaks of a God-given right of choice.

The “Christianized” West, no longer conversant with its own moral principles, is confused and disheveled. Thus we defend the “human rights” of inhuman animals; we advocate the rights of subhuman perverts and compromise with those who would slaughter our own children in the womb. (Those who are shocked by “baby bombs” seem to have no such horror over partial birth decapitations of the unborn.) We foolishly turn the other cheek to our sworn enemy when God expects us to extract a few more eyes and a lot more teeth.

Someone once asked me what Jesus would say to terrorists and violent men. (He was, I believe, expecting a sort of Ghandi-like moment.) I suggested: “depart from me you cursed I never knew you.” They don’t deserve the dignity of Hell but I suppose its the worst that can be done... no wonder it must be eternal punishment.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Premillenial Apocalyptic Scenario for the Future?

Here is what conservative member of the European Parliament had to say about the goings on in the Middle East and European responses to it (his last line is right on the money in my book):

When We Question Israel, We Question Democracy Itself
By Daniel Hannan

It is striking how often Tory supporters of Israel turn out also to be Euro-sceptics, and Tory Arabists to be Europhiles. I first noticed the phenomenon among Conservative MEPs, and assumed it was a coincidence. But, over the past two weeks, the same fault line has emerged at Westminster and, most belligerently, on the Right-wing blogs, which are fizzing and crackling as never before.

The controversy was sparked by William Hague's view that Israel had over-reacted to Hizbollah's attacks. The intensity of the row is curious, given that the current conflict will be over long before Mr Hague is Foreign Secretary. His opinion on the proportionality of the Israeli response is thus in the same category as his opinion on the filioque clause or the identity of Jack the Ripper: potentially interesting, but not immediately important. Yet no Conservative politician can talk about the Middle East without opening a wider debate about the kind of world we want.

Israel is more than a country; it is an archetype. The Jewish state is the supreme embodiment of the national principle: of the desire of every people to have their own state. For 2,000 years, Jews were scattered and stateless, but they never lost their aspiration for a national home - "next year in Jerusalem", as the traditional toast had it. That they have fulfilled that aspiration delights Euro-sceptics, but unsettles Euro-enthusiasts, who believe that national loyalties are arbitrary and anachronistic.

My Dad, Pastor Mike Braun, responds from a more distinctly biblical and prophetic perspective:

This is a very interesting thesis and I whole heartedly embrace it. Israel does embody the “national ideal.” Why? Because the nation of Israel is a product of Biblical thinking. The Bible recognizes nations as the invention of God to order and set the boundaries of the lives of men. Internationalism is a clear cut evil in the Biblical mindset of both the old and New Testaments. World empires are a defiance in the face of God. The cruelty and arrogance of the trans-national amalgamations of Daniel’s politico-beasts from Babylon to Rome serve to show this. The evil of world empire and internationalism is a Biblical theme as early as the tower of Babel and the Exodus struggle for independence from Egyptian imperialism. It includes Isaiah’s understanding of the beastly Assyrian empire as well. Multi-nationalism is abhorrent to the Bible. This fact makes premillennialism a far more attractive alternative to the Romanist amillennial confusion of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. The future, they say, lies in the hands of a great world wide kingdom and not under the yoke of a Jewish king ruling from Jerusalem. You must admit at heart amillennialism has always been an anti-Zionist movement which finds the present state of Israel slightly embarrassing and thoroughly unnecessary.

The fact, namely that Israel embodies the “national ideal,” is a major reason why the modern liberal mind of Europe, intoxicated on internationalism at least from the French Revolution to the present, finds “Zionism” so threatening. I believe this predilection is merging with a new spirit of American internationalism held by more and more liberal elitists in this country. American liberals are turning to international hopes because they realize the masses of the United States are hopelessly committed to the Red State world view. National independence is as strong a desire among most Americans as it is among most Israelis. A national power base resting on a Blue State majority is hopeless. The liberal, realizing this, will work ever more tirelessly to Balkanize the US with foolish commitments to “pluralism” and “diversity.” All the while liberals will seek to force the U.S. Federal government to surrender an increasing amount of its foreign policy prerogatives and place the power of its unparalleled military establishment into the hands of the UN.

Interestingly enough the American left, the UN elite and the British “Europhiles” all find Israel to be as much a bone in the throat as they find the USA to be irretrievably provincial and reactionary. In this they reflect similar concerns of the Vatican who favor Islamic goals to both Protestant and Israeli advancement. Roman Catholicism, the oldest of the empires of the western world, will play an ever greater role in anti-American and anit-Semitic propaganda. It appears that the nation of Israel will one day be the only national entity left standing against the world empires of the West, Rome and the Islamic “Kings of the East.” Sounds like a premillennial apocalyptic scenario of the future doesn’t it? “What rough beast, its hour come round at last slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Some Thoughts on War

Christians often hold to a sort of ‘all war as a necessary evil’ view of combat and military engagement. I will grant that war is necessary because of evil. But it is not evil in and of itself. Our aversion to the hard questions of justice in the world comes out of trite sentimentalism more than anything else; and because of our latent capitulation to a materialist worldview that holds the preservation of life (often one’s own) as the greatest good. But there are ‘goods’ to be preserved and fought for above one’s life. But, we can say that it is good for men to give their lives in order to preserve freedom. We can say that it is good for a policeman to sacrifice his own life for the sake of justice. Likewise, we can say that it is good for a soldier to kill in order to preserve freedom and end tyranny. It is good for a policeman to shoot and kill a criminal for the in order to preserve the lives of the innocent, to protect himself, and to end violent tyranny. It is good for a nation to put criminals who commit capital crimes to death as a just punishment.

Now, the loss of ‘innocent’ life (and this is a debatable term when speaking of warfare against evil regimes that are supported by or endured by a people) or civilian life is a necessary evil. But this doesn’t make war a necessary evil per se. If we are going to say that war is evil, then we must to a degree hold that any pursuit of justice is evil. The pursuit of justice is necessary via more extreme means (by force) because of the evil of men’s hearts.

That being said, I wish more young men would give themselves to missions and the spread of the gospel than to a career in the armed services or the police force [I wish more young men and women would give themselves to missions than being lawyers, doctors, janitors, or pastors!] This is because I believe that evil regimes last a few years to a generation at the most, while the punishment upon evil in hell lasts forever. This horrible reality coupled with the grace of God that has freed us from such a fate should compel us to be soldiers for Christ.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Emerging Paradigms and Consumer Spirituality

“It appears to be correct that evangelicalism is stagnant. Seeker-sensitive churches are picking up on only one aspect of this: the fact that conversions are not increasing, and even here the assumption seems to be that more conversions can be engineered by the right approach, which is really quite doubtful. It is, after all, in the hands of God to impart new life and not in our hands at all. Beyond this, however, the motivating factors appear quite improper. This is undoubtedly a seeker culture, but seekers in this culture cannot come to Christ on their own terms and cannot have the gospel preached to them as if they could. It is true that the Church is in the marketplace of ideas, products, and experiences but to play by the rules of this marketplace is to invite disaster. It is true that society has reorganized itself into regions but why should this be the determining factor as to whether we move from neighborhood churches to megachurches? Should that not be decided by how best to meet the Scriptural objectives for the local church? And the fear about becoming obsolete is a fear that only those truly enculturated ever suffer and it is a telling indication of how deep and pervasive evangelical belief has become.” [David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, pp. 292-293]

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Spurgeon on Imprecation

I'll be preaching on Psalm 129 this Sunday. The Psalmist writes, "May all who hate Zion, Be put to shame and turned backward.Let them be like grass upon the housetops, Which withers before it grows up; With which the reaper does not fill his hand, Or the binder of sheaves his bosom; Nor do those who pass by say, "The blessing of the LORD be upon you; We bless you in the name of the LORD."" A light imprecation to be sure (compared to Psalm 58, 69, and 137 to name a few)- but, nonetheless, we find in the inerrant Word a prayer that those who hate Zion be turned away, that they not receive blessing. How do we reconcile such verses with the call of Christ to 'bless those who curse you' (Luke 6:27-28)? Should we make that hermeneutical blunder which simply write such passages off (as Lewis does in his Reflections on the Psalms) as Old Testament archaisms? How do we remain haters of sin and the strategies of Satan in the world and the hearts of men, yet still seek blessing upon all men through the work of Christ?
Tough stuff. Takes discernment, the power of the Spirit, the mind of Christ, and immersion in the Word of God.

We do need to remember that the prayers of the Psalmist were offered on behalf of a physical nation with boundaries, an ethnic identity, and is a call for justice. We too can offer such prayers that criminals not prosper, crooked cops not prosper in perverting justice, and corrupt politicians come to nothing, or, that the guy who stole my wallet get caught. But in Christ, we see all such sin and struggle through the redemptive promises of God achieved by the cross. We can still pray for justice, and we don't 'overlook' sin, and we can seek civil restitution for crime, and enforce punititive consequences for sin. But, we can 'bless' all men by praying for their souls, seeking their reconciliation with God through Christ, and pleading for God's mercy upon them as he is merciful with us. We also need not be frustrated by these things, knowing that God is going to judge all men and we need not seek to avenge ourselves.

Anyway, I wouldn't say it like Spurgeon did in his comments on this Psalm in the Treasury of David- but that is because compared to the Prince of Preachers I am a total sentamentalist weenie. Here's what he wrote:

"If this be an imprecation, let it stand; for our heart says "Amen" to it. It is but justice that those who hate, harass, and hurt the good should be brought to nought. Those who confound right and wrong ought to be confounded, and those who turn back from God ought to be turned back...This present age is so flippant that if a man loves the Savior he is styled a fanatic and if he hates the powers of evil he is named a bigot...Study a chapter from the "Book of Martyrs," and see if you do not feel inclined to read an imprecatory psalm over Bishop Bonner and Bloody Mary. It may be that some wretched nineteenth century sentimentalist will blame you; if so, read another over him."


Friday, August 04, 2006

Wilson always seems to nail it...

Now, I do not agree with a great deal of Pastor Wilson's theology these days. But he has a way of succinctly and pointedly summarizing the issues. Here is his take on the current Hezbollah-Israel conflict. Please read it.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Women in Combat

I have had this question posed to many times, "Do you believe women should serve in active combat duty in the armed forces?"

I really can't answer the question better than the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood does here:

Please read the full reasoning of the article.

Note the resolutions presented by the Council, with which I am in essential agreement:

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, that we do, with loyal respect and deep concern, warn against and oppose the opening of military combat service to females: because it rejects gender-based distinctions established by God in the order of creation; because it undermines male headship in the family by failing to recognize the unique gender-based responsibility of men to protect women and children; and because it subordinates the combat readiness of American troops, and the national security of the United States, to the unbiblical, utopian, social agenda of ideological feminism; and

Be it finally RESOLVED, that we call upon the President of the United States, each Senator and Representative of the United States Congress, and all military leaders to reverse the present policy and to reinstate the historic limitation of military combat service to males only.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Challenge You. . .

. . . to tell me what could be better than kissing the cheek of your sleeping child.


Herbert's Providence

This morning I came across a wonderful poem by one of my favorite dead poet/pastors, George Herbert (for more on Herbert go here Consider just a portion of his wonderful ode to the glorious doctrine of God’s providence:

O sacred Providence, who from end to end
Strongly and sweetly movest! shall I write,
And not of thee, through whom my fingers bend
To hold my quill? shall they not do thee right?

Of all the creatures both in sea and land
Onely to Man thou hast made known thy wayes,
And put the penne alone into his hand,
And made him Secretarie of thy praise.

Here are two historic creedal formulations of this biblical doctrine:

Westminster Confession - Chapter 5: Of Providence

I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

The Heidelberg Catechism

27. Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. God's providence is His almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with His hand, He still
upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come not by chancebut by His fatherly hand.

28. Q. What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by His providence?

A. We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity,and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from His love; for all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move.

Consider Psalm 104: 24-35 and worship our Almighty God:

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-- living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works--
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD.