Saturday, September 29, 2007

News Flash: Clergy More Prestigious Than Celebrities

US News and Book of Lists has yet another in its endless compendia of social rankings: Most and Least Prestigious Careers.

Per their Seldom-Wrong calculation, priest/minister/clergy is eighth most prestigious, far above actor, entertainer, journalist and athlete, which rank in the bottom ten.

We think that of all the rankings offered by US News and We're Number One!, this is the most bogus. For a test, invite a firefighter (ranked first) and a semi-famous actor (ranked next to last) to a public event and see who gets asked for autographs.

The list is based on survey information, asking people what careers they think are or should be prestigious. The results are clearly the consequence of the tongue-clicking moralism that does not observe what people treat as prestigious but righteously imagines what ought to be prestigious.

But come to think of it, that's exactly the kind of tongue-clucking moralism that drives this blog. So I guess US News and Please Buy This Week's Ranking is Seldom Wrong after all.

Juan Williams on Racial McCarthyism

Justified accusations of McCarthyism against should not obscure other attempts to squelch dissent with unfair, pejorative labeling of those who dissent.

On that subject, the superb Juan Williams offers some timely comments at Time. His dissent is on the subject of race and culture. For that, he has been labeled with a racially pejorative term by people who identify with the socially constructed group that is his own race. The irony is that he, a black liberal, finds common cause in this matter with the white conservative Bill O'Reilly.

Is Hillary Doing Nitrous Oxide?

Connecting Dots: Global Jihad in Decline

We cite with considerable interest Ray Robinson's recent post at American Thinker offering plausible readings of recent events to suggest that American strategies are bringing remarkable success in splitting the global Jihadist movement.

Robinson's reconstruction is the kind of thing one must do when some information is secret and other information is not. It may be therefore in large measure incorrect in detail but still accurate in its major assessment.

If Robinson is right that global Jihad is in serious trouble, it's worth noting that the MSM and the Democrats have recently, by their silence, actually affirmed as much. It's been a long time since we've heard that the War on Terror is actually increasing the numbers and effectiveness of the terrorists. Or at least the frequency of such pronouncements has been diminished.

Friday, September 28, 2007

SWNID's Friday Mix

As the work week ends, here are some quick observations on issues of SWNIDish concern.

Myanmar is once again cycling through protests against the military government followed by brutal crackdowns by the military government. We thank gentle reader ScottL for pointing us to the Guardian's compendium of coverage. This country, homeland of numerous CCU alumni who lead dynamic churches and colleges, is among the most politically and religiously un-free in the world.

In the past the Burmese government has let protests go on for a time and then crushed them relentlessly. It seems the same is happening again. We are reminded of the oft-made observation that Gandhi's tactics against the British in India would not have been effective against Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. So it is with Myanmar, whose rulers are at least as brutal as those.

Informed Christians will want to stay informed on developments.

Economics continues to mystify most Americans. SWNID's sunny disposition is mostly made sunny by things other than economics, but it isn't made any less sunny by an understanding of the economic realities contained in Bryan Caplan's article "The 4 Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters (and We're All Stupid Voters)" from Reason. If gentle readers wonder why our SWNIDish self is so content with Latin American immigrants, South Korean cars, closed factories, rising (and falling) prices, and rampant economic inequality, this article can supply much of the answer.

Presidential politics continues on the same mind-numbingly monotonous trajectory. John Podhoretz today notes the growing inevitability of Hillary v. Rudy. But each candidate seems capable of messing up in a grossly significant way. We believe that Hillary isn't managing to reach out to the independents and moderates she needs with moves like her voting against the Senate resolution condemning MoveOn's Joseph McCarthy-style pasting of General Petraeus, or with her Thomas-Dewey refusal to engage issues in the most recent Democratic debate, or her recent proposal to give every baby a $5000 bond at birth to use for college or a new home.* And Rudy must stop all the goofy stuff with his third wife, like taking phone calls from her while he's making speeches (as if we don't know it's all set up to begin with). It's not as bad as that embarrassing picture from February, but it's right up there.

Our advice to Rudy is this: just be Rudy and quit trying to impress us with what a great husband you are. We social conservatives--at least enough of us to nominate you--are giving you a pass on that. But if you don't knock it off, we'll be driven to Romney, ironically the only frontrunner without marital issues. And any move from Our Man will only serve to elect That Woman. Romney probably can't carry his home state of Massachusetts in the general election.

Meanwhile, we continue to make progress in Iraq. Our long pause in blogging on this issue only served to give gentle readers the opportunity to hear the same truth from a multitude of voices. But today we suggest making contact with the esteemed and influential Fred Kagan, who analyzes the success of the surge. Note well the point he makes: the Dems are now really calling for a return to the tactics employed by Bush before the surge, the very tactics that they once said were failing and that Bush came to see the same way. Dare we say that only the Democratic Party could do such a thing with a straight face?

*Those who absorb Caplan's article will realize that such a move will more likely inflate the cost of college and homes than it will enfranchise more people to become graduates or homeowners.

A Babe Ruth of the New Millennium?

The SWNID household follows closely the developing baseball career of Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Micah Owings, who happens to be the brother of one of Mrs. SWNID's business associates.

We are therefore pleased to note that as the D-backs play under the pressure of a tight pennant race, Owings is turning in heroic performances.

Last night he started for Arizona when manager Bob Melvin made a last-minute alteration to his pitching rotation. The D-backs went into the game only a game ahead of the Padres in the NL West.

And all Owings did was pitch 6 1/3 shutout innings and go 4-for-4 at the plate with three doubles and three RBI.

His batting average in 59 ABs is .339. His slugging average, arguably the most important gauge of offensive effectiveness, is .695. He has four homers for the season, two in one game.

What could this guy do if he took batting practice every day? Could he stand up to the pressure of pitching in the rotation and spot starting in left field on off days?

Owings reminds us of Ruth in every respect except one. Off the field Ruth was a famous reprobate. On and off the field, Owings is a committed Christian.

We know who we're cheering for in October.

Update: The Cubs and D-backs are meeting in the divison playoffs. The SWNID household, former Chicago residents with two degrees of separation from a D-backs player, is conflicted. On the other hand, this means our team must win.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Latest on Spellings and Higher Ed Accountability

We link with little comment, knowing that the segment of our audience that cares about such matters knows what to think about them without our SWNIDish help.

Uncle Sugar is announcing a $2.4 million grant to three associations of colleges, mostly representing big state universities, to fund their development of standard means of assessing college students' learning in such areas as writing and critical thinking.

This is the latest on the struggle between our Title IV funders for what they call accountability and us higher ed "fundees" for what we call educational independence.

No comment, but we'll venture a prediction: by the time this money is spent, we'll be under a new administration with different priorities, and the outcomes of the grants will be so indefinite that the issue will remain about where it is now.

SWNID Links Holy Observer

Meticulous gentle readers will note that we now link "The Holy Observer" web site.

We thank gentle reader Matt C for pointing us to yet another compendium of funny, biting Christian satire. We also post the usual, important warning that satirists often test the limits of good taste and occasionally discover that the boundaries are somewhere behind where they've just gone.

We believe that the Internet has now truly addressed what was once the shortage of self-depreciating, satiric humor among Christians. We therefore urge gentle readers not to join in filling this particular cup to overflowing. To wit: if you are spending lots of your time trying to do what "The Holy Observer," "Lark News," or "The Church You Know" are doing, maybe what you took to be the call of God to such activity is merely the human impulse to imitate what we admire.

We nevertheless welcome gentle readers' sarcastic comments about how this SWNIDish advice applies to SWNID.

Local Youth's Recovery of Treasure Breaks Epic Drought

Cincinnatians are rejoicing that their historic drought has ended. And many believe that a local youth's discovery of his ancestral treasure has everything to do with it.

Yesterday afternoon Stanley Yelnats, a "client" at a mysterious rehabilitation facility for wayward youth, is reported to have recovered a collection of precious metals and jewelry that had belonged to his great-grandfather. Moments later, rain came to our region for the first time since the Gilded Age.

Officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration refuse to speculate on the connection between these events, though local folklorists believe that the recovery of the treasure, accompanied by other remarkable events, had the effect of restoring the balance of justice to our community and so lifting a curse that has existed since the days of Boss Cox.

Will 24 and Prison Break Merge?

The week's most significant news is surely that CTU Superagent Jack Bauer was arrested in LA (where else?) Tuesday morning for DUI.

We've always been amazed at agent Bauer’s ability to drive across the sprawling LA metroplex in a matter of minutes. Now we learn that he can manage it drunk, at least when annoying local police don’t interfere, which is what local police always do on 24.

Agent Bauer was convicted on a similar charge and given probation awhile back. This means he could face the same situation as celebrity substance abuser Paris Hilton, who endured 23 miserable days in jail, with accompanying publicity, for breaking her DUI probation.

Does this event portend the plot and setting of this year’s 24 installment? We recall that 80s favorite Hill Street Blues often took viewers to Frank Furillo's Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Will we meet Jack in a rehab program for elite government operatives?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's Cincinnati's Fault

We awaken this morning to the sobering news that last night shots were fired into two homes in the idyllic, placid haven of orderly and decent Americans, West Chester.

This can only mean one thing: Cincinnati has failed again.

No, this is not an indication that every community has criminals. No, this does not mean that you can run from social problems but you can't hide.

This means that the Cincinnati police and other officials of our blighted inner city are failing in the civic responsibility to confine the bad guys to the city limits, where they can freely prey on people who have no right to expect anything better.

Our advice to residents of our far-flung suburbs is to move even further from the urban core. We understand that global warming is making remote areas of Alaska more temperate. Perhaps, then, one should follow the example of Homer Simpson (click video 6).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Government Continues to Compete with Private Enterprise

One of our greatest disappointments with our 300 million compatriots is their inability to see the disadvantages of government trying to provide goods and services already provided by the private sector. We all know that describing something as "government issue" is to imply that it is of questionable quality, limited utility and minimal appeal. But Americans continue to accept the notion that government issued stuff is somehow a part of their collective salvation.

We cite but two examples, one minor, the other major:

Minor example: The feds have recently unveiled a web site for students and parents to use for comparing colleges. This site, to this point the chief product of Education Secretary Spellings's efforts at reforming higher education, to the SWNIDish eye offers nothing that can't already be found on a host of other, privately operated sites. One need only Google "colleges" to see the many imitators of Princeton Review and US News that have entered the lucrative world of college comparison shopping services. We bet that this new tax-supported web site will have fewer visitors than any of the top five private sites, thanks to its overall blandness.

Major example: HillaryCare 2.0 continues to operate on the assumption that the federal government's health care plans ought to be the foundation of every American's health care. We say that Hillary's insistence that all Americans have the option of buying a plan sponsored by Uncle Sugar will create an inevitable deterioration of the products in the market and a slide toward VA-style care for all but the most wealthy. For more on the false assumptions of HillaryCare, see Mark Steyn's superb Sunday column. But in any case, gentle readers should ask themselves, Why do I want an insurance program brought to me by the people who invented the Form 1040?

Monday, September 24, 2007

How Dry Is It?

An animated map, available here, can tell you.

For Our Fair City, the current rating is "Extreme Drought," which is still short of "Exceptional Drought." SWNID would hate to see what "exceptional" looks like.

But for those worried that we will all starve, note that considerable chunks of the Nation's Breadbasket are well watered.

Also, per the map, the drought is affecting agriculture locally, but it is not creating a shortage of water for other uses.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rather More Ridiculous Than We Imagined

We aren't going to link to more stuff on Rather v. Viacom. Just use Google to search news with the names of the plaintiff and defendant, and enjoy the feast.

But we are going to make the obvious comment: what we've heard about the particulars of Rather's suit confirms and increases our disrespect for Dan Rather. We'll keep our observations to two:

  • Rather says that he was just the guy who read whatever CBS told him to read. He had always represented himself as a hands-on, careful, dogged, incisive, brave journalist. Now we he says he was a flesh-and-blood Max Headroom without the humor.
  • Rather says that CBS prevented him from going forward with his own investigation to prove that the documents were in fact authentic. This is like O.J. complaining that the Vegas police are preventing him from finding the real killer.

We now pronounce this whole affair to be the effective end of network news as a cultural phenomenon. TV news is now officially and finally useful only for on-the-scenes reporting of breaking stories, like the 9/11 attacks. Otherwise, everyone would Rather get the news elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rather Sues Viacom for Intentionally Mishandling Rather's Stubborn Credulity

Remember back in 2004 when Dan Rather still read the news on CBS? Remember when he said that derogatory letters from George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard commander had been discovered? Remember when people noticed that the letters, purported to be typewritten from the Vietnam era, were printed in Times New Roman font with proportional spacing, i.e. the default settings of Microsoft Word but completely impossible on a 70s-vintage typewriter? Remember when Dan Rather concocted implausible conjectural scenarios to explain how the documents could nevertheless be authentic? Remember how the loony left began to describe the documents as true forgeries?

Well, as if that weren't all comical enough, now Dan Rather is suing Viacom, owner of CBS, for "intentionally mishandling" the aftermath of the story.

Well, Dan, we agree. Viacom did mishandle the matter, twice. And they should pay for it.

The first was in hiring you to anchor the news. Your blend of sanctimony, hackneyed homespun metaphors, credulity, and lefty sentiments wasn't exactly what America wanted in an anchor-person. CBS accelerated its long slide into news oblivion with your promotion.

The second was in not silencing you when you wanted to go forward with your ridiculous defense of the documents' authenticity. When Frank Abagnale, Jr., former forger and presently a world-class anti-forgery expert made famous by the movie Catch Me If You Can, made his famous remark about the letters ("If I had done these letters, they would have called the movie Catch Me in Three Days"), everyone knew the game was over. Someone should have told you to shut up and admit that a precious Democrat had done something naughty, and that you were foolish enough to believe for awhile.

But no one protected you from your own worst self.

And for that your lawyers want $70 million? Even we don't think your worst self is that bad.

If, however, you can get a judgment for the stockholders of Viacom for the awful mistake of appointing Katie Couric your successor, we're all for that.

CCU Promo Video

Those who haven't seen this recent CCU promotional video may now do so from the comfort of this blessed blog:

CT on Ministers' Pay

Christianity Today has come out with its latest survey of ministers' pay. With total objectivity as an academician working at an institution that offers graduate degrees for ministers, we draw attention to one aspect of that survey: ministers with graduate degrees make more money than those without them.

Clearly the best way to make money in ministry is not to enter ministry or to leave it. The second best way is to write books and make videos about how God wants people to be rich. The survey also suggests that becoming a Presbyterian is a good pecuniary move. Rejecting all of those options, and we totally favor rejecting all of those options, it appears that going to seminary offers the best prospect for financial advancement.

CCU is currently accepting applications for the seminary's spring semester. Call Alex Eddy at 513.244.8145 to start the application process. Odds that this move will pay off for you are much higher than those offered by the state lottery.

(Sigh) Yet Another Update: We remind gentle readers that the tone of this post is sarcastic and that we do not advocate graduate education in ministry for the purpose of making more money in ministry. Learning is its own best reward. And people who go into ministry and then tried to profit from it are fools.

(Deeper Sigh) Still More Updating: All of which is not to say that ministers don't deserve to be paid, or given raises, or that they should earn less than an amount that will support the prevailing standard of living in their community, or anything silly like that, since the worker is worthy of his wages and those who serve well are deserving of double honor and all that.

So if gentle readers want to know what we really think on the subject, we suggest reading this vintage article by the author with whom we agree most often:

“Monk, Mercenary or Missionary: How Do You Pay Your Preacher?” Christian Standard 123:18 (May 3, 1987) 1, 5-6.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

SWNID Associate Featured in Forthcoming Book

Per the NY Times "Freakonomics" blog, we learn that Robb Kelley, alumnus of a SWNIDishly led discipleship group, is featured in the forthcoming book, Armed America.

Follow the link for the cool photograph and the author's terrific account of Robb's appearance in the book, which we quote extensively:

Robb emailed me saying he’d like to participate, mentioning that he’d like to be in the photo with “a gun in one hand, and a Bible in the other.” He then added that he might be “too scary” for the book. He was actually right along the route I’d already planned through Ohio, so I called and scheduled a shoot with him.

The business about the gun and the Bible and being “too scary” I found intriguing, but when I arrived I found what looked to be a perfectly ordinary college student — in this case, a seminary student studying biblical archeology. He was exceptionally articulate, cheerful, funny, and didn't fit at all the mental image I was expecting after hearing his auto-description. (I find myself stealing his line about subcultures [”I’m from Indiana. The subculture there is not a subculture. It’s the predominant culture.”] in interviews all the time, because I think it’s a really marvelous observation.) He has a really bubbly, uplifting personality; he’s devout but not without a sense of irony. I imagine that he’s going to be the sort of clergyman who will be successful in reaching out to young people. In any event, he seemed to express his religion as being fun, rather than somber, and that peppered his conversation about guns too — guns were fun, religion was fun. I got a “life is good” vibe from him that left me kind of bouncy and energetic on the way out.

That's Robb: a "life is good" vibe just about all the time, leaving everyone else feeling that life is good.

Robb and his beloved Christina are making the matrimonial pledge next month. We wish them a blessed, well-armed marriage.

Tragic Death in Greater Cincinnati Educational Community

Northern Kentucky University is mourning the death of Dennis Weatherby, Associate Provost for Student Success. Dr. Weatherby, 47, died in his home Saturday, after what we've been told was a brief hospitalization for a kidney ailment.

SWNID met Dr. Weatherby just a few months ago, not long after he joined NKU. We had a good time talking about the similarities of our names ("Dennis" and "SWNID," of course, are very similar). He struck me as a person thoroughly committed to helping students overcome obstacles to their success in college.

Today I'm struck by the similarities of our ages. Life is short, often far too short.

Hail, Gentle Readers in Tennessee

A brief SWNIDish foray to the campus of Johnson Bible College last Friday, the purpose of which was to join JBC in celebrating the inauguration of the esteemed and very able Dr. Gary Weedman as president, brought to our attention the high concentration of gentle readers on that campus, Dr. Weedman among them.

We greet, acknowledge and thank you, noble Tennesseans, and express our appreciation for your interest in our SWNIDish bloviations, not least when so many concern our own local politics.

May your tribe increase, but not too much, or we'd have to act responsibly with this thing.

Overheard . . . Not Overheard

Overheard by SWNID on the sound system in the food service area at Thomas More College: WAKW radio, the Cincinnati area's most notable evangelical radio station.

Not Overheard by SWNID on the sound system in the food service area at Cincinnati Christian University: AM 740 Sacred Heart Radio, the Cincinnati area's most notable Roman Catholic radio station.

The Reformation--and the Counter-Reformation--continue.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We give our profound thanks to the student who pointed us to, a small but significant compendium of brilliant satire aimed at the foibles of the contemporary American middle-class church.

We won't even begin to characterize what these guys are doing, except to say that they make us feel jealous and inferior as a satirist.

Check out their videos here. And don't miss the product offering of animatronic Wally the Worship Leader.

Urgent Update and Disclaimer: As our editorial board reminded us, TheChurchYouKnow includes humor that is scatological (not eschatological, and we hope you know the difference) and sophomoric (apologies to you sophomores). Our enthusiasm for the humor should not be taken as an endorsement of the good taste and discretion evinced by every joke, though our own judgment on the subject is obviously flawed enough that we rely on our editorial board for advice on such matters.

Monday, September 10, 2007

More Real Archaeology: Illustration of Matthew 24:15-28 Discovered

At this moment, per Google, the web is filled with 161 news articles disseminating a press release from the Israeli Antiquity Authority announcing the discovery of a drainage tunnel in Jerusalem that was apparently used by the city's residents as a refuge and secret exit from the city during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 66-70 CE.

We haven't read all 161, but of those we've scanned, we like this one best: the report from Arutz Sheva that decorates the story with some touches of Jewish nationalism, like calling Josephus a "Jewish turncoat."

Speaking of Josephus, our frustration with the coverage so far is that it refers to a statement by Josephus about the use of a drainage tunnel by refugees but does not give the specific reference from the Jewish War. We are scholarly enough to want to reread the reference but not scholarly enough to recall it or to locate it. So we appoint willing gentle readers to serve as research assistants to our SWNIDish self and other gentle readers, offering a hat tip to the person who finds the specific passage from Josephus and directs us to the same.

SWNID Declares Downtown Cincinnati on Rebound

Amid the hubbub of Monday Night Football in Our Fair City, we wish to make a typically SWNIDish, contrarian and totally objective Declaration of Reality.

Downtown Cincinnati is on the rebound.

We say this not merely because Cincinnati is hosting two such Monday night extravaganzas this year. We say it not because the Banks project, delays and all, looks to be finally underway.

We say it because of what we observed Saturday night.

Following a SWNIDish whim, we decided to take ourself to the Reds game, accompanied only by our own sparkling personality. Procuring a $5 "outer view level" ticket, and thereby enjoying a superb view of the game, the river, and the summit of Mt. Adams as well as an unobstructed breeze wafting along the top rows, we settled in for a typical experience of baseball disappointment, watching the hometown millionaires commit mistakes in public. We found solitude very pleasant. As an incidental point, we recommend the experience.

But to the point of this post. Our impression of downtown is governed by a wider set of observations than the blessings of a cheap ticket at GABP. The Reds reported attendance that night of about 22,000, which represents, as knowing fans realize, not the turnstile attendance but the number of tickets sold. We'd estimate that actual attendance was considerably lower, maybe half, and would have been lower still had it not been for the modest but vocal contingent of Milwaukee fans who enlivened the atmosphere.

So the game was far from packed. But downtown was jumpin'. Sidewalks were alive with pedestrians, many well turned out and none down-and-out. On-street parking was completely full. Hoteliers, restauranteurs and publicans looked commercially busy. Tables at Fountain Square were significantly occupied.

We don't know what was afoot in our city center. We suspect that there was much afoot, however, and that it is the kind of thing that is generally afoot on what is becoming a typical downtown weekend. In other words, people were there for lots of reasons, not for one big reason.

That's the good news for our municipal prosperity: that it doesn't take a huge event to get people downtown. We hope the trend continues.

Hillary Supporters Find New Drug

For gentle readers' Monday morning amusement, we enthusiastically link this clever video:

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wilson on Christian Hippies and the 60s

Books and Culture editor John Wilson, easily the best read person SWNID has encountered, today writes for WSJ on the habital misunderstanding of the 1960s. Not just the age of turning on, tuning in and dropping out, Wilson's '60s were the era that spawned many a radical Christian movement.

We think Wilson is right. There were lots of serious Christian teens and twenty-somethings in the '60s and '70s (which were the extension of the sixties with increased gloom) who got turned off of the infantile, self-indulgent Zeitgeist and went looking for a different way to express their unease with the state of the world. Informed by faith, some of them went off to do weird stuff like mission work or relief work or other stuff that doesn't pay well.

We recall our own late adolescent quest as a search for something that would bring some purpose to the bleak social landscape of selfish materialism and conformity to cultural or countercultural cliches. That's largely how we ended up as an undergraduate at an insignificant Bible college, reading knickered and goateed Francis Schaeffer and contemplating graduate study abroad to prepare for a wholly nonremunerative profession with negative social status. And we are hardly the exemplar of Christian radicalism for our generation.

There exist today a bunch of interesting middle-aged people who didn't go to Woodstock but in the name of Jesus did go to some other rather odd places and do odd things. Someone needs to start gathering their stories and telling them.

Megabus Beefs Up Cincinnati Operation

Bad news for Pittsburgh and Louisville is good news for Cincinnati.

SWNID favorite Megabus has announced that it is ending service to the former cities but adding a bus to and from Cincinnati. That means three buses per day from the Queen City to the City of Big Shoulders.

Keep riding, Cincinnati!

Music Video Promotes Doughnut Consumption

Efficient, mild-mannered CCU Librarian Jim Lloyd, famous for supplying CCU faculty and staff with periodic doughnut treats and for publicizing the same with song parodies, has now upgraded his operation from audio only to audio plus video.

Here's a link to the amazing musical experience for Windows users. Mac users may link here.

Additional credit goes to Ken Read as guitarist and backup singer and to Dustin Shell as video technician.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

D. James Kennedy Knows What to Tell God When He Asks, "Why Should I Let You into My Heaven?"

Of the obituaries and tributes to the late D. James Kennedy perused by our SWNIDish self today, we most enjoy the tribute from Stan Guthrie of Christianity Today. Like many, Guthrie notes that Kennedy's most important and lasting contribution will doubtless be the creation of the Evangelism Explosion program, by which millions of Christians were trained to do conversational evangelism.

"EE," as insiders refer to it, is famous for the provocative question, "If God were to ask you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" what would you say?" Our sanctified imaginator conjures Kennedy standing before the throne of grace, asked that very question in a wry tone revealing that the Lord knows very well that Kennedy is ready with a strong and certain answer.

Fred's In, Let the Fun Begin

With Fred ("Hamlet") Thompson's announcement of his candidacy on Leno (and let's not forget that it was one William Jefferson Clinton who pioneered the late night talk show as a political platform), one can say that the race for the Republican nomination has genuinely begun.

Meanwhile, we love what the rest of the field did during their debate last night. McCain's remark about the debate keeping Fred up after his bedtime was great fun, as was Our Man Rudy's statement that Fred has done a great job playing Rudy on Law and Order. Couple that with McCain's classy refusal to diss Rudy's national security record while still asserting--cogently but politely--that his own record in the military and the Senate was more germane, and you've got a fine exhibition of what it's supposed to mean to belong to the party whose greatest member coined the phrase "better angels of our nature."

And so we SWNIDishly say, Welcome, Fred. We hope that Thompson proves to be everything that his most ardent fans hope him to be, and more. We need convincing, believing that Thompson is inexperienced as an executive, uncommitted as a candidate and squishier as a conservative than his supporters believe. But if he proves to be the opposite, he can only help defeat the Evil Queen of Condescension, either by grabbing the nomination or by strengthening the mettle of the one who does. Meanwhile, there are still lots of reasons why conservatives love Rudy.

There is an advantage to the perpetual campaign as it currently exists. Candidates have a lot of time to devote to becoming presidential. Let's hope that someone does.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Alan Jacobs On Harry Potter

Ending a long and reluctant process, SWNID has finished the seventh and final (our process was long and reluctant because we were loath to come to the end, where we would never read anything new of our wizard friends) Harry Potter installment.

We would offer our opinions, except that at roughly the time that we finished the book, the vital Books & Culture published the effervescent Alan Jacob's review of the same. We defer to his always excellent judgment, expressed in his always keen prose.

For those who haven't finished Deathly Hallows, we suggest avoiding the review, as it does spoil some stuff.

For those who haven't read Potter at all, we urge that you drop everything and start. To epitomize Potter, Jacob's quotes Chesterton's reference to certain popular literature as a "plainer and better gospel." Those Christians who shunned these books because of magic are surely wrong, and those who suspected that Rowling sought to sneak the essence of the good news past the dragons that guard people's hearts are surely right, whether she fully realized the book's effects in this regard or not.