7 Quick Takes Friday #9

Check out www.conversiondiary.com for a healthier dose of normality than my 7 Quick Takes.

Before we get into the heavy stuff, I think that this is a darn cool video.  Carl Sagan was a pretty hoopy frood in his time.  This only exaggerates the obvious.


The line between freedom of speech and libel seems to get blurrier in our digital age.  Or does it?  It would seem that schools don’t take kindly to their charges spreading their dislike for their school online in social media arenas like Facebook or MySpace.  Students argue that they have freedom of speech. 

I may be off on this, but I always thought that freedom of speech had to do with just that – speech.  In other words, we have (or used to have) a lot of freedom to say what we want, but that there are certain limitations.  We’re not allowed to spread disparaging comments either through speech (slander) or through print (libel).   While we may be free to disparage a teacher in a private conversation with a peer, we would likely find that if we attempted to make the same comments with a megaphone or a public address system in a crowded place, we could be held liable for slander. 

So why is the Internet different?  It combines elements of both print media as well as large-scale speech.  Could a disgruntled student take out an ad in a local newspaper to insult and make disparaging comments of a teacher without being held accountable for their actions?  Then why assume that they could do so on Facebook – assuming that the comments were publicly viewable beyond their specifically defined friends?  Why assume that you could create a web site designed to humiliate or insult someone, and not face the prospect of having to defend your words (and actions)? 

People need to realize that the Internet is not a bubble – it’s about the farthest you can get from some sort of self-enclosed and private medium.  What you say and do there has the very real possibility of being stored in perpetuity.  Act accordingly!

My denomination – the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod  (LCMS)- is not exactly known for our peaceful and easy-going natures.  The recent decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to no longer treat homosexuality as a sin has definitely thrown the LCMS into a tizzy, where we are likely to remain for some time.  Rightly so, perhaps, but distressingly so as well.  Apparently the LCMS and the ELCA recently voted to continue their cooperative ministries – social ministries – wherever possible. 

I received an e-mail today from a conservative group of LCMS clergy apparently distressed about this decision.  They were challenging this decision, stating that “No institutions or working agreements are more important than witness to the truth.”  I’ll agree with that. 

What does it mean?

More specifically, it got me thinking.  If working together with non-orthodox Christians is a dangerous position to be in, what about working together with non-Christians?  Should we break off any involvement in any humanitarian agency that has not fully and completely accepted our doctrinal stance?  Frankly, we probably don’t have many such relationships in our denomination to break, so it may be a moot issue.

So I began to wonder further.  If working together with someone that you feel is not standing in Biblical truth to minister and provide assistance to someone in need is problematic, do we need to be equally concerned about whom we receive aid from?

The parable of the Good Shepherd commends the actions of the Samaritan – someone who did not hold to the same doctrinal understandings as the Jews of Judea and Jerusalem.  Would Jesus have condemned the priest if he had happened along while the Samaritan was helping the man, and offered to assist as well?  Would Jesus have condemned the priest because he might have given the victim the impression that he was in doctrinal agreement with the Samaritan?  I have a hard time seeing Jesus take that angle.

But what of the victim?  Is there a theological implication for receiving help from someone who stands outside of traditional Biblical Christianity?  Does receiving aid taint my faith, or throw doubt on whether or not my beliefs are in line with Biblical theology?   Maybe that’s where we ought to be focusing our efforts.  Not on scrapping amongst those trying to help, but on educating  victims to make sure they don’t accept help from anyone who does not share their doctrinal stances.

I believe with all my heart and mind that the ELCA has made a very grave mistake.  I’ll grant them the benefit of the doubt that their motives might be good.  But in matters not directly linked to worship or the sacraments or the actual preaching and teaching of the Word, what is the appropriate stance to take?  What is, ultimately, the better witness to the truth?

I thought this was a pretty impressive bit of research.  Of course, it completely ignores the actual issue, which is a lack of parental knowledge (let alone control) of their children’s whereabouts and activities.  Funny, how in an age when  we can locate anyone within a few meters accuracy through their cell phone, suddenly the only way we can control our children’s drinking is by seeing that they do it properly.

It’s not that I’m against the idea of introducing children to alcohol responsibly in the home.  Frankly I think there’s a lot of wisdom there.  But to assume that this will eliminate problem drinking elsewhere seems a bit premature. 

The article isn’t helpful, as it provides no meaningful statistics comparing the behavior of youth who were supplied with alcohol by their parents as opposed to their peers who were not.  It indicated that less that 20% of youth who drank alcohol once a week and were supplied with alcohol by their parents got into violent altercations when drunk, compared with 36% of their peers who had to come up with alcohol on their own.

How are the 20% of youth who are being supplied with alcohol and only drinking once a week getting drunk!?!?  Are their parents giving them enough alcohol so they get drunk that once per week?  More likely, they were still drinking at other times, and were getting drunk during those times, but not getting into fights as often. 

How are parents going to limit binge drinking and restrict their kids to drinking only once a week?  If they could do those things, they wouldn’t need to buy them alcohol in the first place! 

An interesting study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life mapping the demographics of Muslims around the world has been generating some attention this week.  If you’re interested in the claim that 1 in 4 people are now Muslim, you might
find this article interesting.

Because, Lord knows, the only use for an education is to earn a living.

In case you thought that all was peace and calm in the realm of Christian denominations, you’ll be relieved to note that the Anglicans are at it again

And because I feel guilty for being exhausted and having pretty slim pickin’s this week, here’s a bonus Quick Take – perhaps the first ever Bonus Quick Take ever provided, anywhere.  Remember folks, you experienced it here first.  I’ll expect royalties.

I thought this article about people being arrested for using Twitter to help protesters at the G20 in Pittsburgh last week avoid the police was interesting. 

It surprised me that helping avoid arrest might be considered an arrestable offense in and of itself.  But then I realized that if someone has broken the law and you’re helping them to avoid being apprehended, you’ve definitely crossed the line.  But the article’s emphasis on the use of Twitter kind of eclipsed this common sense rule of thumb. 

But, it’s still fascinating to me.  Because tweeting goes out into the Twittersphere, as opposed to specific individuals in any sort of a private fashion (at least that’s my non-Twittering understanding of the stupid service).  It would seem to me that, unless they were specifically talking to people by name in order to warn them away from police, the defendants could just plead that they were simply tweeting about the police locations to nobody in particular.  If they were just sending generic tweets out to the effect of “There’s a group of police racing North on 5th Street past the Starbucks!”, would they still be in trouble?  This article goes into more depth, and seems to bear out my bleary-eyed take on the situation.  The case could set some interesting, if not potentially disturbing, precedents. 

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