Archive for November, 2013

It’s Not Me, It’s You

November 29, 2013

Or maybe it’s me, not you.  I can’t tell what Walmart’s CEO was getting at in his statements defending the decision for Walmart to open at 6:00 PM Thanksgiving evening.  

His defense is that “the market moved”.  What does that mean?  Is he blaming Walmart’s decision on you and I as “the market”?  Somehow knowing that shoppers would rather be out fighting in stores than at home for dinner with family, he reluctantly came to the decision that Walmart needed to open early?
Is the market the calendar, with several fewer shopping days than last year?  Had the calendar not shifted, Walmart employees (and Macy’s, and JC Penney’s, and Target, and Best Buy, and Toys R’ Us, and others, according to this article) wouldn’t have had to open early?
Or is the market those other stores, some of who announced much earlier in the year that they were going to be open on Thanksgiving?  And why don’t you hear an outcry about all of those merchants?  Why only Walmart?
I find it ironic that in an era where the traditional family has been obliterated by divorce, abortion, pornography, and a relentless war on gender and sexuality in general, there is such an outcry over this desecration of family time?  
We generally eat our Thanksgiving meal earlier – more like lunch than dinner (more recuperation time, and the possibility of enjoying leftovers on the same day – WINNING!).  Would such a practice legitimize stores opening on Thanksgiving evening?  Don’t get me wrong – I think stores should be closed on major holidays.  But I also think they should be closed on Sundays as well, yet people are quick to argue that this would be hurtful to people who depend on working on Sundays for income.  What about those folks who depend on the overtime and other perks they get for working on holidays?  Would the argument be as feverish if we were talking about Easter rather than Thanksgiving?
Who is really to blame? 

Diplomatic Shuffles

November 28, 2013

An interesting diplomatic row.  

The US is shuffling embassy locations.  A Washington Post article proclaimed that Obama is shutting down the US embassy to the Vatican.  It cited a number of previous diplomats to the Vatican, chronicling their outrage at this turn of events.  While the article points out that the embassy is being relocated to the larger US embassy facilities to Italy, the headline certainly doesn’t give that impression.
Another site posted a story highlighting the relocation aspect and rejecting the idea that the embassy was being “closed”.  It also claims that plans for the move began under President Bush, when buildings adjacent to the US embassy to Italy were acquired.  However, it’s fuzzy what this means.  Were the buildings acquired under the Bush administration with the goal of relocating the embassy to the Vatican, or for some other purpose?
Things I’d like to know more about:  how many other countries include their Vatican embassies on the site of their embassies to Italy?  How long has the US maintained separate embassy facilities?  Why is the move being acted upon at this point in time?  Are there other considerations other than financial?  Is this just a bunch of headlines designed to sell papers/online advertising – or are there deeper considerations?  If it’s just a change of location, why are so many prior ambassadors – appointed under both Republican and Democratic administrations – seeing this as an affront?

Wet Bar Wednesday

November 27, 2013

Tequila long has been my liquor of choice.  It began late in college when it seemed apparent that it was not a liquor to be trifled with.  If everyone else was going to treat it so carefully, I decided I would cozy up and get nice and friendly.  Of course, at that time Jose Cuervo was the tequila of choice for many bars, and the age of more refined tequilas hadn’t quite begun.  Tequila at that point in time deserved some of the bad reputation it enjoyed.  

But it can’t be denied that the taste of tequila can be very overpowering, and making it palatable to folks who don’t seek it out precisely because of this taste can be challenging.  One attempt to make it more palatable is to cover up the taste, sometimes through sweetness.  But if you’re not a big fan of over-the-top sweet drinks, say, like my wife, then finding other combinations becomes important.  Long Island Iced Teas are one great way to do this.  Another is the frozen matador.
  • 1.5 parts tequila (many folks will insist on white or plata tequila, but use what you like)
  • 2 parts pineapple juice (get something that’s just pineapple juice, no added sugar, like this)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (again, squeeze your own or buy something without added sugar)
  • 1 piece of pineapple for garnish
Put the first three ingredients together with some ice in a blender and blend to a slushy consistency.  If you’re feeling lazy, you can just shake the ingredients with ice (or mix directly in the glass if you  prefer, just make sure you stir well).  Put the pineapple chunk/wedge/whatever on a toothpick and lay across the top of the glass for garnish.
Normally pineapple juice would be too sweet, but the lime juice (unsweetened) cuts that sweetness, providing an interesting set of flavors that pair well with the tequila.  


November 26, 2013

Some of you may have heard the story last week of a waitress in New Jersey who was stiffed on a tip because the family she was serving wanted to express their disapproval of her gay lifestyle.  The waitress posted a copy of the receipt to a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered (LGBT)web site and it went viral, provoking mass outrage as well as copious donations to the waitress.  

Except that’s apparently not what happened.  The family in question has produced their copy of the bill, showing that they tipped close to 20% on the meal.  Their credit card company has also verified that they were billed for a larger amount than what appears on the copy of the slip posted to the LGBT site.  The restaurant can’t apparently produce their copy of the receipt, and is conducting an internal investigation while the waitress retains her job.  
I can only imagine how quickly a waitress would have been dismissed for refusing to serve a LGBT party at a restaurant, or making false claims about their treatment of her.  Interesting that despite the publicity and what appears to be a blatant smear attempt on her part, she’s still working at the same restaurant and the same position.  Isn’t that curious?  Indeed.

One is the Loneliest Number…

November 26, 2013

…but man, I suspect it’s a very common one.

This article and author have gone viral, and I picked up on it today through a Facebook post.  It’s an interesting article.  Response has been interesting as well.  She’s apparently been gifted with tens of thousands of dollars in the past week and is negotiating a book deal.  She has also had more than a few critics who challenge her self-portrait as one of crushing poverty and bleak subsistence living.  If you read her blog you pick up a few more tidbits of herself that don’t make her entire life seem like one long set of failures and economic obstacles.  
But that’s not really my concern.  What’s challenging for one person may not be for another, and I doubt there’s a foolproof, objective quantifier for what constitutes poverty and disadvantage.  So much of that has to do with who we are as well.
And what this author seems to be above everything else is alone.  Parents were unreliable.  Husband was (is?) helpful only to a point.  But no mention of broader community.  Broader family network.  Friends.  
No larger support network of people who could come along side her to help.  An assumption that she must die as she lives, alone.  
When  I began this blog what seems like a lifetime or more ago, community was a key interest of mine.  What is meaningful community – particularly meaningful Christian community?  How do we go beyond Sunday morning smiles to engage in one another’s lives in meaningful ways?  I’ve been blessed in the intervening years to see repeated examples of just that – Christians who are family not by blood but by community.  It’s a beautiful thing.
And, like this woman, I continually run into people who talk about the hardness of their lives and the difficulties of their conditions and situations.  One of the first things I talk to them about is community.  Have you plugged in to the Rescue Mission?  They’ll feed you two meals a day free, plus other services.  Are you a part of a church?  Yes, you’re welcome here.  I’ll make sure that you are welcome here – here’s my card to give to anyone if they hassle you.  Invariably the answer is no.  Sometimes Hell No.  Sometimes stronger language than that.  Sometimes there are promises to check out these options, but I never see or hear from them again.
People are people and community is hard and plugging in to a new place is hard and probably more so by multiples of a thousand if you’re homeless and struggling with basic hygiene.  Yet I continue to believe that it can be done, and that when it is done, lives can be changed.  Both in terms of desperation and economic issues, but more importantly in terms of hope for the future – not just next week or next year or the next decade, but for eternity.  
I’m happy that the author of the article has had an outpouring of financial and emotional encouragement.  The Internet makes it very easy to do that.  People become aware of a situation and it’s now so very easy to send five bucks or five hundred bucks.  Money can help a lot of things.  But it can’t replace belonging – temporally or eternally.  For that reason I’ll continue to encourage people looking for help first of all with invitations and directions to places where they can form community.  I’ll help out with a sandwich or some gas or a room to stay as well from time to time, but the most telling indicator of a person’s real need level, in my experience, is how they respond to information and invitations that won’t just alleviate hunger pains, but could change their lives.

The State Giveth…

November 24, 2013

…and the State taketh away.  

This ruling doesn’t surprise me.  I can’t even particularly argue against it, though of course pure self-interest would suggest I should.  It makes me more interested in what motivated the government not quite 60 years ago to make housing allowances tax-exempt for clergy.  I’ll confess that I don’t understand it, other than that there are plenty of pastors who aren’t paid enough for what they do.  Then again, that’s true of a lot of people across a wide spectrum of occupations, so it really doesn’t make much sense.
I do think it’s funny how the judge was outraged at the estimated $2.3 billion dollars in tax revenues the current system didn’t collect over a five or six year period of time.  That equates out to about $500 million dollars a year, if I’m not mistaken – possibly less.  Considering that the US government just issued $1 TRILLION dollars of new debt, eliminating the clergy housing exemption isn’t really going to do much to help our national deficit.  
Then again, I’m pretty positive that the deficit isn’t the motivation behind this ruling, as I’m equally sure that an economic surplus wasn’t behind granting the housing exemption in the first place.  It’s just interesting how quickly things change.  

Reading Ramblings – December 1, 2013

November 24, 2013

Date:  First Sunday in Advent, December 1, 2013

Texts:  Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13: (8-10)11-14; Matthew 21:1-11

Context: With Advent we begin a new liturgical year.  As we concluded the liturgical year with readings anticipating our Lord’s return, we begin the liturgical year in remembrance of his first coming in humility.  We also begin a new three-year lectionary cycle, having just concluded year C and now beginning year A.  Regardless of the cycle, the season of Advent is one of preparation, and historically shares much with the season of Lent that precedes Easter.  Both seasons emphasize personal repentance and preparation.

Isaiah 2:1-5—The book of Isaiah opens with a damning critique of God’s people.  God’s people reject God’s entreaties for discussion of their behavior, and the hint of judgment is already laid out.  Chapter two moves to a vision of how things will be one day in the future.  The people of God will again be faithful and their God will dwell with them in fullness and truth, a beacon to peoples of all lands who will come to learn the way of the Lord.  The divisions of mankind will be brought to an end in that day, which is the Day of the Lord. 

The arrival of our Lord will bring about a new state of reality for all of creation, where all is restored to the harmony and perfection that existed prior to the fall into sin in Genesis 3.  That day will be a day of judgment for those who reject the Lord, but it will bring about peace and joy for those who trust in him. 

Psalm 122— One of the songs of ascent that were recited and sung together by pilgrims en route to Jerusalem for holy days, this song emphasizes the beauty and specialness of the City of God.  It was likely recited as the pilgrims arrived in Jerusalem proper, and emphasizes that the reason for the specialness of this city is the House of the Lord, the Temple.  It is not enough simply to be in the city, the goal is to be at the Lord’s House.  Jerusalem is praised for the design of the city which affords protection and reassurance to those who visit, for being a city of worship because of the pilgrims that throng it for holy days, and it is a place of judgment as embodied in the Davidic kingship.  Pilgrims are then exhorted to pray for the city, that it continue to be a place of security and fellowship in God.

Romans 13: (8-10)11-14—The assigned readings for the day oftentimes indicate an optional set of verses, denoted in parentheses.  These are optional usually to keep the amount of reading on a given Sunday to a manageable amount (though what any group of people considers manageable has decreased markedly over the centuries!).   Romans 13 is best known for the first seven verses and the exhortation to obedience to civil authorities.  Verse 8 shifts the focus from civil law to religious law, as evident by citing portions of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) as opposed to sections of Roman civil law. 

Yet at least in theory, the two laws should not be far removed from one another.   Civil law functions best when it is based on the revealed laws of God.  This is not to advocate for a theocracy, but rather to affirm that the law of God is not arbitrary—it is woven into creation itself and therefore all people benefit when we live according to these laws.  That law is ultimately based upon love for neighbor. 

Verse 11 shifts thought again.  We are obedient to the law of God as well as civil law because we are not asleep—we know that our Lord is going to return, and that return only draws nearer to fulfillment.  As such, we must live as those who are awake, rather than those who claim the cover of night as a means of hiding their deeds, or who seek to claim ignorance as a defense for their lawlessness.  Rather, the Christian is to live as they have been shown to live by God himself, in anticipation of the return of the Son of God.  This means that when civil law conflicts with divine law, or permits or advocates for what is contrary to the divine law, the Christian must continue to adhere to God’s law.

Matthew 21:1-11—It may seem odd to be reading a passage associated with Palm Sunday, but it describes what is anticipated in Isaiah 2, and is the perfect fulfillment of the joy and excitement hinted at in Psalm 122—the coming of the Lord to his city and people. 

This is the proper response of God’s people to his coming—joy and elation, praise and thanksgiving and worship.  This is not the forced pantomimes of a subjugated people.  This is not the false enthusiasm of people who have guns pointed at them just off-screen.  This is authentic joy!  This is the creation rejoicing at the presence of it’s creator!  Did everyone in Jerusalem that day acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God?  No, yet many of them undoubtedly found themselves cheering and celebrating alongside those who did. 

Our anticipation as Advent begins is for the return of our Lord.  We mark the historical reality of his Incarnation with a time of preparation.  The presence of God demands that we examine ourselves and recognize our need for his presence, as well as our unworthiness to stand in his presence.  Our anticipation is guided in self-examination and repentance, as well as in joyful thanksgiving for the forgiveness and grace that the arrival of our Savior 2000 years ago made possible.  Our recognition of our own shortcomings, failures and flaws would be crushing if not for the promise of forgiveness in the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return of the Son of God. 


Movie Review: Hunger Games: Catching Fire

November 23, 2013

My wife and I recently watched The Hunger Games and enjoyed it, and decided to make the premier of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire our first date night in a long time.  It was a good choice.  The movies are the first two of at least four that are based on a wildly successful (at least in America) book series.  We haven’t read the books, or heard of them until the first movie came out and made a big splash.  If you aren’t familiar with either, there’s a good chance someone else in your life is.

Without giving too much away, the movies/books are set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future.  Probably America, but I don’t know that this is ever explicitly stated.  Seventy-four years prior a massive conflict of some sort was finally won, and the peace established a totalitarian regime.  Currently headed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland in the movie), the elite of this regime live in lavish idleness in the technologically advanced Capital City.  The rest of the population, divided up into twelve different districts, each one apparently focused on producing a particular kind of natural resource, lives in serf-like, subsistence-level poverty, eking out a meager living through illegal hunting and black market production.  
Every year The Hunger Games are held to commemorate the victory.  Each District selects two Tributes, a boy and a girl, by lottery.  This pair is sent to Capital City to prepare to compete in The Hunger Games for that year.  Twenty-four Tributes enter a vast, natural & technological landscape, but only one is to emerge alive.  They must battle one another to the death.  The winner is exempt from all further Hunger Games, is paid lavishly, becomes a mentor to future Tributes from their District, and functions as a perpetual public relations face for the regime.
The representatives of District 12 are Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) & Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).  Since they are the main characters of the new movie, hopefully I’m not spoiling anything by revealing that, contrary to tradition, both of them survive the first movie and the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games.  
Their survival poses a bit of a problem for the ruling regime, though.  Katniss in particular has become  the inspiration for a growing rebelliousness in the oppressed populations of the Districts.  As such, she (and Peeta) pose a danger to the regime, who must deal carefully with them to avoid creating martyrs out of them while still thoroughly killing them.  The solution is to make them both return to the Seventy-Fifth Hunger Games, and die there under ‘natural’ circumstances.  
There are two more films in production, so you either have to read the books or wait another two years to see how everything wraps up.
These are great popcorn movies – nothing terribly deep going on here, just good entertainment.  Characters and situations are all rather one-dimensional.  Katniss is really the only character that we see much into.  She is a strong, determined yet frail young woman.  She’s trying to sort out who she is as a person, but now also has to figure out how to comport herself between the affections of two young men, and the affections of a nation that looks to her for inspiration as well as the wariness of a regime that threatens not just her but everyone she loves.  
What should you consider if you’re debating whether to let your kids watch it, or watch it yourselves, or want to try and converse with kids/grandkids about it?  
Outside the disturbing premise of kids battling kids to the death (and some of the kids are pretty young), the movies are pretty squeaky clean.  Opposed to the heavy emphasis on relationships in other series such as the Twilight series, Katniss isn’t sure how she feels about herself, let alone anyone else.  She likes both guys in different ways, but frankly is too overwhelmed and freaked out to dwell on those emotions.  Outside of a couple of a kiss or two in each movie, there isn’t any of the sexual material so common in movies.  In this latest installment, there is a scene of implied nudity.  It is done about as tastefully as you can handle such a situation – meaning the emphasis is on humor rather than eroticism.  Unfortunately, it’s completely unnecessary and irrelevant.  Either a major subplot in the book is being trimmed back to a few seconds of snickering, or it’s just a completely out of place moment.  
I don’t remember much in the way of profanity or vulgarity otherwise.  The violence is mostly implied, and certainly not the blood and guts close-ups and slow-motion shots that a hard-core action movie contains in abundance.  
My main complaint is the dynamic of the men in this story.  Katniss is a strong female lead character and so the series is undoubtedly very appealing to young women.  That’s all well and good.  Unfortunately, the men contribute very little at all to the story.  Katniss is forever saving them, and none of them really contribute much of anything substantial to her or her survival.  She is alone at best, and at the worst of times is having to compensate for the compromised health or safety of her male counterparts.
This is just a reversal of the sexism decried in previous generations of movies.  It isn’t an improvement, just a reversal.  It would be really refreshing to see a better balance, where both sexes were contributing meaningfully to mutual survival.  
There is no mention of God in the movies.  While Katniss and her companions are clearly behaving in a way contrary to the desired values (or anti-values) of the ruling regime, no explanation is given for how and why they can act as they do.  If it’s a natural, inborn thing, one wonders why others don’t act similarly.  It’s not really surprising to see a popular film or book where God could easily be an interesting character but isn’t, but it’s noticeable all the same.  
The movies are pretty good.  I would hope the books are even better.  I don’t see particular harm in letting your kids or grandkids see this movie or read the books.  Then again, we let our kids watch The Lord of the Rings movies, so you may not want to make us your benchmark on this sort of thing.  

Splitting Heirs

November 22, 2013

A member gave me a newspaper clipping of a letter to the editor someone had written to the local paper.  The writer makes the argument that it is irrational for Christians to object to abortions, since there are countless miscarriages that occur before parents even know they’re pregnant, and therefore don’t mourn the passing of.  If God allows such things to happen, it can hardly be seen as sinful to object to humans performing abortions.

This sounds like a compelling argument, and the writer implies through it that a fertilized egg is not actually a human being until some later, arbitrary point in development (they do not specify what that point is for them).  They also implicate the Creator as uncaring or unloving or inept for allowing babies to abort spontaneously at very early stages of development.  There is finally reference to traditional Catholic teaching on the fate of such babies  as eternal limbo, based on Mark 16:16.  
What is the Christian response to this argument?  We begin by laying out what the Bible says on the matter – and we don’t shortcut.  
  1. God created all things, and created them good and perfect.
  2. Mankind rebelled against the divine order of creation, thereby casting all of creation into a state of imperfection and rebellion against the good, perfect, natural order of things
  3. God promised that there would come a time when order is restored
  4. The beginning of the fulfillment of that promise occurred with the incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, and his perfect life & ministry, innocent death and resurrection on the third day, followed by his ascension into heaven and promised return
  5. When Jesus returns, we will experience in full the reconciliation of all creation that his death and resurrection have effected already in actuality (with his resurrection as the first demonstration of this)
So we have a situation where we know that things are supposed to be a certain way, and yet they are not.  Christians assert that life begins at conception.  Without other interventions or aberrations of the process, conception normally results in the birth of a human being.  That human being didn’t transform into a human being from something else at an arbitrary point before (or after) birth – they were human from the moment Mom and Dad’s respective DNA contributions resolved themselves into a unique, new set of genetic material.  
We know how pregnancy is supposed to proceed and culminate – with the birth of a healthy child.  But it doesn’t always proceed this way, as the author notes.  Sometimes, for a variety of reasons both known and unknown, the process is interrupted and does not complete as planned.  Does this mean that the fertilized egg was not human in every sense of the word?  Hardly.  It just means that sometimes that human life is lost before we’re ever even aware that it existed.  Our awareness of it’s existence is not what makes it human.  
We would not claim that spontaneous miscarriages are the norm, regardless of how often they occur.  Clearly, they are an aberration, evidence of the natural process gone awry.  Again, this is separate completely from parental knowledge of the child’s existence, or parental attitude towards the child’s existence.  From the most basic scientific understanding of the process, a miscarriage is exactly that – something wrong in an otherwise normal process.  
Does the fact that a human life sometimes does not develop fully justify knowingly and intentionally ending a human life?  I don’t see how this logically follows.  If we would acknowledge that, for a couple hoping for a baby, a miscarriage is an aberration (whether or not the couple know they were pregnant or not), then how can we suddenly insist that the abortion of a pregnancy is somehow normal or natural?  
We’ve already said that Biblically speaking, creation isn’t working the way it should because of sin.  So we should expect that there are problems in creation, such as the spontaneous miscarriage of a baby.  Does this make God guilty of this?  Is God responsible for the loss of these lives?
In the broadest sense, yes, because nothing occurs without the permission or volition of God.  He allows the effects of sin to continue to play out in creation.  Yet He has also promised that this will not always be the case.  God is not unwilling or unable to stop sin and the consequences of it – He has instead told us that He will address the problem fully in his timing, which we must presume (if we posit the existence of a personal, loving, all-powerful God) is better than our ideas of what the best timing would be.  
However the blame for the problem of sin and brokenness in creation must be laid back at the feet of humanity – both Adam and Eve initially as well as every person who has lived after them (with the exception of Jesus).  We are bound up in it, but we entered into it initially willingly.  As with any argument that attempts to hold God responsible for the effects of sin, we conveniently remove ourselves from the picture first, as if we do not in very personal as well as less personal ways contribute to the ongoing brokenness of the world within and around us.
The Christian response to the fact that there are spontaneous, unknown miscarriages is that this is part of being in a sinful world.  It is not an indication that these children were not human.  And while we may not know about them, the God who created them does, and they will not remain lost forever.  
As to the Roman Catholic teaching on limbo, this is a bit trickier, as there are apparently several different kinds of limbo in Catholic teaching.  Limbus Paternum is described as the abode of the dead in Christ who are awaiting his Second Coming.  Anyone who dies in Christ enters this temporary limbo where they are happy, where their condition in limbo is indeed temporary, and where there status will change (to appropriate Facebook-isms) to eternal bliss after the Day of the Lord.
Limbus Infantium is taught to be the abode of those who die in original sin prior to being baptized, but without additional personal volitional guilt & sin.  Catholic teaching on this subject has changed over time.  Prior to Augustine it was assumed that babies who died prior to baptism would not be allowed into heaven (since Catholic teaching interprets baptism as a requirement for salvation), but they would enjoy an eternity of happiness outside of the presence of God.  Augustine at first agreed with this but later denied it and insisted that anyone who died prior to baptism was damned.  Thomas Aquinas broke away from this approach nine hundred years later or so, returning to an insistence that those who died unbaptized would not suffer in eternity, but could also not enjoy the full presence of God, either.  It is unclear if the Church has an official stance on the matter, but that many Catholic theologians favor Aquinas’ more moderate views on the subject.
As a Protestant, I’ll argue that where Scripture is silent we should not speak, and that I disagree with Catholic teaching that baptism is required for salvation.  This teaching is contradicted by the thief on the cross in Luke 23, unless we posit (without any basis for doing so) that the thief had been baptized at some point previously.  
What I can assert is that the God who created all things good and was willing to sacrifice his own Son to save us can be trusted to do the right thing for t
hese very young children who die before they are even known to be present.  I can also assert that this God in no way will accept abortion as a suitable practice.  That human life is destroyed unknowingly at times through unintentional natural (or unnatural) processes is not a justification for the intentional destruction of known human life.  

When Voluntary Isn’t

November 20, 2013

Just saw this article and this one, regarding drivers forced off of the road by uniformed police officers and into a parking lot where they were solicited for a “voluntary” contribution of blood, saliva, or breathalyzer tests.  

This was not a new iteration of a sobriety checkpoint, but rather a means of getting people to participate in a “voluntary” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey.  The survey is nothing new, occurring first in 1973, then 1986, 1996, 2007, and now 2013.  But the methodologies have been different.  Also interesting is the increasing frequency of this survey. 
Ostensibly, the purpose of the “voluntary” survey (which, did I mention, people were forced into at least hearing about participating by uniformed off-duty police personnel, who look IDENTICAL to on-duty uniformed police personnel, since the uniform is the same?!) was to generate a random statistical sampling of how many people are driving under the influence.  
I presume the survey was anonymous, however they’re taking samples from people in their cars.  Their cars are registered and therefore it’s pretty easy to identify who it is they received samples from.  People were paid for their “voluntary” contributions.  Breathalyzer participation wasn’t compensated, but according to one article, it wasn’t voluntary either, having already begun prior to the consent form having been signed.  I presume that nobody was arrested based on the results of their tests.  
I also find it interesting that the NHTSA claims that no DNA has been collected, although each of these collection methods would (in my admittedly limited understanding) provide material for DNA sampling.  
So we have a government agency collecting physical evidence from people who have been forced into an area where at the very least they get the impression that their participation is required (uniformed police personnel), and where some data is collected even before or without their signed consent.  The information isn’t truly anonymous because the data is collected in vehicles presumably registered to the person or someone very close to them, making them identifiable.  In addition to the readings on blood alcohol content or the presence of drugs in the system, it’s possible that enough material to run DNA testing could also be generated from the samples.
Golly, nothing to worry about there, folks!