Archive for May, 2021


May 22, 2021

That’s not intended to be proselytizing (though of course I would be the first to advocate not simply for religion but Christianity). Rather, it’s the name of a great web site dedicated to analyzing media reports on various subjects and topics to point out the “ghosts” in mainstream media – places where religion could have been brought into the report but wasn’t, presumably because liberal media has no interest in talking about religion, or when reporters simply appear to be ignorant about the religious dimensions of a story.

I’ve been following this site for over a decade and greatly appreciate their examination of the media. In case you’ve forgotten, give them a check out!

“How Do You Spell Billiyuns?”

May 21, 2021

Shout out to my all-time favorite comic strip, Bloom County for the title and Carl Sagan for the inspiration beyond that.

Just a little side note to the whole discussion of making vaccines near mandatory, if not by government fiat then by the private market (insistence on proof of vaccinations in order to fly, etc.). There are nine new individual billionaires in the world, executives at major pharmaceutical companies who created and are selling COVID vaccines. The article doesn’t mention how many new millionaires there are related to vaccine production but it seems reasonable to assume there might be more than nine. The article also doesn’t indicate how close these nine people were to the billionaire mark prior to the COVID vaccine production, which I personally would have found relevant and interesting.

I’m not against companies and executives making a profit. I think this is a good incentive to innovate, create, etc. I don’t have definite thoughts on what sort of profit margins are reasonable (like the 30% profit margin the article cites for COVID vaccines). But it does make me itchy when there’s heavy public pressure and possibly even insistence to buy or use a particular product that someone is profiting off of. And I’m sure that 30% profit margin keeps some poorer nations from having access to the vaccines, something some of the companies try to address later in the article by promising 2 billion doses for poorer countries later this year.

I’m trying to think of another situation where people are pushed hard or required to purchase a product or service near universally. Car insurance is the first thing that comes to mind, though I suspect that market is somewhat regulated (does anyone know if this is true?). Still, I could opt not to drive and not have to pay for car insurance then. There are other transportation options available that make this realistic (depending on where you actually live).

Are there other examples that come to mind?

Beyond this, it makes me wonder what kind of pressure comes into play from lobbyists for these companies to keep the vaccine push on as long as possible, including the boosters they are now starting to talk about. Although some people like to talk about just following the science (at least until science says it’s OK to not wear masks if you’re fully vaccinated) reality is a lot more complicated than that.

And a lot more profitable.

End of an Age

May 20, 2021

Roughly 25 years ago I made my first major career transition, moving from a network support role for a major private educational institution to a small company providing cutting edge IT training primarily to corporate customers. I became known within this new company as the Internet expert, though I doubt my credentials were a lot better than most of the other trainers. However my familiarity with the Internet from the pre-World Wide Web version we’re all familiar with today was considered deeply qualifying to make me the Internet expert.

I was sent to Redmond, Washington to be trained by Microsoft, Inc. on their new web browser – Internet Explorer. I had cut my teeth on UNIX command line interfaces and then moved to NCSA Mosaic and then Netscape when the World Wide Web began to be a thing beyond the limited scope of university pages and home pages dedicated to pets.

It was heady and exciting to be sent off for training by the premiere software company in the world. But it also seemed crazy. Someone was going to challenge Netscape’s practically universal dominance of the browser market? After Microsoft had essentially ignored the potential importance of the emerging Internet? Crazy! And yet, a quarter century later IE is still running out there while Netscape is long dead and buried.

I’ve long since moved beyond Internet Explorer. For years I made Google my default browser, enchanted with their early mantra/mission statement of Don’t be evil. They have discovered that this is harder than it might seem, and so I’ve been looking for an alternative. I’ve experimented with Firefox and other options but laziness always drove me back to Google. But now, on my latest laptop, I’ve decided not to download the Google browser and utilize the on-board alternative , Microsoft Edge – the successor to Internet Explorer.

No complaints thus far. Hopefully it’s sucking up less personal data than Google was, but I won’t be shocked to find that’s not the case. But in any event, it’s sad to see that Microsoft has definitely, finally announced the end of support for Internet Explorer. The end of an age…multiple ages perhaps, at least in technology terms.

You’re Welcome

May 19, 2021

Not that I think Dr. Fauci is monitoring my blog, but it was fascinating today to see articles reporting him saying that boosters – third shots – will likely be necessary for people who have already had their two initial doses. In the ongoing struggle to get good information, we are once again fed confusing and contradictory information.

Vaccine efficacy lasts “at least” six months according to Dr. Fauci. He then goes on to assert it is likely to last much longer. I’ve seen more than a few articles over the last year contradicting him, but I don’t know if those articles were specific to the efficacy in patients who recovered from COVID or those who had received the vaccines. I suspect it’s probably the former since the vaccines have been available for such a short time, but I’m curious about his optimism.

The article links to another article from March 2021 (updated in April), which affirms among other things that six months is the longest timeframe recipients of the vaccines had been studied prior to widespread deployment. The article expresses optimism that antibodies and immunity actually will last much longer, but provides no data to support this other than anecdotal evidence from other mRNA trials and experiments. While I hope the optimism is proved accurate, it still seems pretty early for such leaps. And Dr. Fauci’s statements about boosters make it clear that this is more likely the case.

Still no addressing of those who have actually had and recovered from COVID – nearly 10% of the US population alone – other than to insist they should also get the vaccine without any substantive discussion of the antibodies produced in those who have had COVID compared to those who are vaccinated.

But for now, regardless of whether you’ve had COVID or had vaccines, be aware your antibodies aren’t necessarily going to last forever and you’re going to need to get either full vaccinations or boosters – at least until we know more about what we’re dealing with.

The Other Antibodies?

May 18, 2021

According to the World Health Organization, over 32 million Americans have had COVID. That’s about 20% of the total number of Americans who have received both one vaccine installment and about 25% of the total who have received both installments. It’s a sizable group of people.

Although reliable data has been hard to come by from the beginning, data seems to demonstrate that both those infected with COVID and those receiving vaccinations generate antibodies which are supposed to provide protection against severe COVID symptoms, possibly protection against mild symptoms, and possibly protection against re-infection. Not only that, a recent study suggests that these antibodies gradually disappear from people at about the same rate regardless of whether the person had COVID or was vaccinated against it.

So I find it fascinating that while a major media push continues to urge people to get their vaccinations (both doses) and criticizes anyone who is reluctant or uninterested, there is absolutely no data available for how people who have had COVID may alter their social distancing and mask wearing, particularly in light of the Center for Disease Control’s recent proclamations that fully immunized people can dispense with both masks and social distancing in most indoor and outdoor situations. The CDC site says nothing about whether people who have had COVID can similarly do without masks and social distancing. Perusing the CDC site, you’d be hard pressed to know that 32 million Americans have had COVID, have recovered from it, and have the same antibodies and therefore presumably protections the vaccines are supposed to create.

Information is hard to come by. Some reports make it sound as though the vaccines provide better protection than actually getting COVID, which seems counterintuitive to me but admittedly I’m not an immunologist. There are a lot of TV news snippets that address this topic, and given the short amount of time involved there aren’t any good references to support the assertions.

I was excited to find this article from MIT on the topic, however they assert that it’s possible to get re-infected after you’ve had COVID, implying that this doesn’t happen with vaccinated people. However there have certainly been more than a few anecdotal reports of people still getting COVID after getting both doses of the vaccine. The article references this CDC page, but the information here reads strangely to me as well. Experts are uncertain how long any of the antibodies and immunities last, whether from having COVID or from getting the vaccines, because everything was rushed so quickly they didn’t have time to do longer term testing – something this page at least acknowledges to some degree, while still insisting that despite a general lack of knowledge and understanding, you should still get vaccinated even if you’ve had COVID.

At the very least it would be nice to see more discussion on this. Whether from COVID or from vaccines, it seems pretty certain the antibodies created and maintained after fighting off the infection don’t last forever, and probably aren’t reliably around in adequate numbers as soon as six to nine months after infection/vaccination. Which means that in addition to pressuring people to get their first round of vaccinations, they’re going to need to start ramping up a campaign to encourage people to come back in for a booster. Or two. It will be interesting to see how well this is received, as people begin to realize they’re expected (or perhaps even required!) to receive at least one if not two annual boosters to maintain their antibody levels. Will the emphasis on getting flu shots every year make the idea of an annual COVID booster more palatable? For how long? Are we moving towards a general expectation (or requirement) that everyone come in for a shot every year containing whatever new things are believed to protect us?

Curiouser and curiouser.

When Worlds Collide

May 11, 2021

Recently my wife and I were back in St. Louis for a series of orientations preparing us to deploy overseas as church workers in Southeast Asia. St. Louis is where I graduated from seminary. It’s also where two other couples from our small campus ministry in Arizona decided to relocate with us to experiment with intentional Christian community.


It was an amazing experience that spanned three years and was filled with lessons, laughter, and pain. We learned a great deal about ourselves, about other people, about living in close proximity to others, and about what we would or wouldn’t do again in creating another communal living situation. Friends of ours a couple of decades further along in life wryly observed when we told them what we were doing that they had tried the same thing back in the 60’s, and they at least had drugs to help the process along!

But while we were back in March, we met up with one of the two couples who embarked on that adventure with us. They decided to make St. Louis their home. Dear friends that are always a joy to see again, and a friendship that was thankfully not destroyed in some of the difficulties of living with each other.

As we enjoyed dinner with them Saturday night, they mentioned how they had just been part of a podcast on communal living. A text exchange later and the woman who organized the podcast was scheduled to come out again the next day so we could be included in the podcast.

If you’re interested, you can listen to the podcast here. It’s a combination of the initial podcast that we weren’t a part of, as well as some components of our recording edited in. And it’s an interesting spectrum of perceptions and experiences. Who would have guessed that nearly 15 years later we’d be interviewed about our crazy idea and experience?! I take issue with the characterization of Christian community as a hippie venture, despite the fact that some Christians who have attempted communal living have been hippies, and in America hippies are the only other group who experimented much with it (and for very different reasons!). But that’s a small issue I wish more Christians were able and willing to see past.

Reading Ramblings – May 16, 2021

May 9, 2021

Date: Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 16, 2021 

Texts: Acts 1:12-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11b-19 

Context: The lectionary designates this the final Sunday of the season of Easter.  While technically accurate, it’s unfortunate that by falling on Thursday, the Ascension of our Lord is generally overlooked by the Church.  The readings emphasize our relationship to our resurrected and ascended Lord, while carefully avoiding explicit discussion of the Holy Spirit that become more liturgically appropriate next Sunday with Pentecost. The first reading picks up directly after Jesus’ ascension. 

Acts 1:12-26 – Jesus has ascended and told his disciples again that they will be his witnesses.  Already we see the disciples beginning to make connections in Scripture, drawing from Psalm 69:25 for Peter’s first quote and interpretation of Scripture (at this point still just what we call the Old Testament).  The context of the psalm is one of judgment against those who have plotted against God’s people, calling on God to punish them for their unfaithfulness, certainly not a stretch in regards to Judas and his betrayal.  Likewise Peter’s second quote of Psalm 109:8 again picks up on themes of judgment against someone who behaves falsely.  The disciples feel it necessary to restore their number to the one picked by Jesus himself – 12.  There are others who have followed Jesus since the beginning even though they were not reckoned official disciples or at least members of the 12.  Matthias is not mentioned again in Scripture, though Barsabbas is likely referenced in Acts 15:22.  We should presume based on lack of further information these served faithfully as designated.   

Psalm 1 – The opening of the psalter is a call to God’s Word, which will be the theme of the entire psalter.  God’s Word and it’s reliability and necessity for all good things forms a constant theme that is established here in the first psalm.  Two options are laid before the reader – either listening to the ill advice of the world that scorns and mocks God and his Word, or delight in God’s Word and way.  The proper choice is dealt with first.  Obedience to God’s Word forms a bedrock into which our roots may grow reliably and which will provide us with lifegiving water to sustain us in all times and situations.  The wicked are not so, and their shallow roots will prove insubstantial and inadequate, leading to the decay of the person as a whole until they are no more substantive than chaff, the flimsy covering over heads of grain which must be blown away by the wind because it’s worthless.  While the world may seem to run by it’s own rules where evil goes unpunished and virtue is a victim, God oversees all things and can be trusted to ensure things come out right in the end.  Language of the tree is interesting also in light of Genesis and Revelation, which respectively begin and end with a significant tree.   

1 John 5:9-15 – John concludes his letter where he left off last week, talking about witnesses and testimony.  How is it we believe what we believe?  Human sources are of some value, John admits, but divine testimony is far superior to human.  We think of the Father’s affirmation of Jesus at his baptism or on the mount of Transfiguration.  Repeatedly God the Father made clear his testimony regarding his Son.  Will we believe him or not?  If we do not believe him we call him a liar – either He is not who He claims to be or his testimony about Jesus is a lie.  There is no in between.  Trusting the Father’s testimony about the Son means believing it is through the Son we have eternal life.  John has crafted his writing (just this letter, or does he include his Gospel as well here?) in order to build and support faith in the one who reads and hears it.  What greater or more important reason could there be to write?  What subject more eternally important and imminently of greatest consequence?  We should read and hear then in this understanding – to simply enjoy the pleasantness of John’s words is useless and dangerous.  Rather, as we listen and read we should pray that either faith is established or affirmed.  This is John’s goal and it should be ours as well! 

John 17:11b-19 – As Jesus prepares to depart for his ordeal, He prays for his disciples’ protection.  He had afforded them direct, physical protection during his time with them, and John’s gospel records examples where Jesus is threatened, and we might assume by extension his disciples are as well (John 8, 10).  Now his direct physical presence will no longer be with them.  Because they bear his Word, they can expect to be hated by the world just as He has been – the danger is real.  We might expect Jesus would wish to spare his friends the suffering they will endure, and remove them from the world and those threats.  But this is not what Jesus desires.  It is not what is needed – they are to be his witnesses.  He prays for their physical protection, but this is grounded in the larger and deeper reality of their sanctification.  Their sins have been forgiven – they are now holy, made holy by the sacrifice Jesus is about to make.   

We should expect that the Holy Spirit of God is with us today as it was with the disciples 2000 years ago.  This presence should not be thought of as some sort of protection or ward against the troubles and difficulties of life – let alone the express hostility of those who reject Christ.  However we should stand firm in whatever trials and tribulations befall us, knowing we have been sanctified by Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection.  Eternity in his joy and presence await us, and should inform the witness we bear here and now.   

Reading Ramblings – May 9, 2021

May 2, 2021

Date: Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ May 9, 2021 

Texts: Acts 10:34-38; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17 

Context: We near the end of the Easter liturgical season.  The readings become more and more pointed – what is the response of God’s Easter people, how do we live who wait the return of our Lord in glory in power?  We live in obedience.  Freed by our Lord’s victory over sin, Satan and death we throw ourselves into lives of obedience, no longer in terror of the Law’s convicting power – that power has been broken by Christ.  Rather, obedient in the joy of forgiveness and in the acceptance that obeying the law is not simply a matter of personal moral piety but rather of loving our enemy and our God.  Far from being free to determine what love should be or look like, we recognize that the essence of love has always been woven into the Law.  We embrace the Law as the only certain means of loving our neighbor and God properly until we are safely restored to eternal perfection. 

Acts 10:34-38 – Stunned at what God has revealed to him in his vision as well as the words and reception of Cornelious, Peter breaks forth in praise to God.  What was once a curious intellectual string to toy with is now a reality – God truly does not show favoritism, but truly has meant what He has been saying since Genesis 3:15 and his call to Abraham in Genesis 12.  God intends fully to extend his grace and mercy to any who will receive, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality or tribe.  The Jews should have been the first to receive and give thanks, but it was never intended exclusively for them.  Jesus is Lord of All!  This has been clearly demonstrated over and over again as the Holy Spirit of God pours out power and healing and faith on any and all who will receive it, and Satan has been powerless to stop it.  By orchestrating the sacrificial death of the Incarnate Son of God Satan has unknowingly made the Holy Spirit of God’s presence a new reality in creation. 

Psalm 98 – The Lord deserves a new song.  Not because He has done new things, but because the things He has done are marvelous.  Specifically, his strength and power (as symbolized in his right arm and hand) have accomplished salvation for him.  This does not mean He has saved himself – God has no need of salvation!  But rather the salvation He purposed to work on our behalf is what He has accomplished.  This salvation is now made known to all those it is intended for – to the nations, all peoples.  His chosen people have by no means been forgotten or omitted in all of this – it is to their glory that He has brought his salvation – his Incarnate Son – into creation!  So all creation is summoned to join in this song of praise of their king.  All creation should react in praise to the creator and redeemer because God will restore justice to the earth.  Evil will be dealt with once and for all, and heaven and earth will be reunited in peace because of the mighty work of God on our behalf! 

1 John 5:1-8 – We’ve read through the majority of 1 John since Easter.  It is a glorious hymn of praise to God for making us his children, showing us his love, and calling us to obedience as we await our Lord’s return.  There were no shortage of  strange ideas running around at the end of the first century.  People reworking the Gospel of Jesus Christ, altering it to accommodate reason, common sense, even other religious and philosophical beliefs.  And perhaps the most offensive of the Gospel details was the idea that God could be one and yet three, Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.  That God should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Against this sprang up myriad alternative suggestions, primarily reducing the Son to the level of First-Created rather than co-God as John makes clear in the opening chapter of his Gospel.  So here, John reminds his hearers and readers that they do not simply profess faith and love in a God, but specifically in a God the Father and God the Son.  By extension, this means we love all those who make such confession.  Those who confess Jesus as the Son of God, the promised and prophesied Messiah of God are bound together in our identity as children of God, and we are to love each other as John has repeated throughout his letter.  This love, furthermore, is defined by obedience to the commands of God rather than coming up with our own definitions of love.  Our faith and obedience has overcome the powers and evils of the world, grounded in the testimony of God the Holy Spirit himself concerning the bodily incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the means by which God’s mighty arm has accomplished salvation for you and I! 

John 15:9-17 – Continuing from last week’s Gospel reading, again taking place during the Last Supper, Jesus comforts his disciples with his upcoming departure and emphasizes to them the important aspect of how they must be obedient in love.  How many books have been written and seminars given trying to give Christians amazing ideas about what the Christian life consists of!?  How many programs?  How many calls to poverty or chastity or any other aspect of the Christian life.  But Jesus himself emphasizes love and obedience.  The two go together.  You can’t disobey the Word of God and claim to love your brother or sister in Christ.  Nor can you claim to love God if you refuse to obey his Word.  These two are inextricably linked.  His disciples need not seek lives of adventure in service of the Gospel – they won’t be able to avoid them!  And if you and I want to seek out such adventure but leave behind the call to love and obedience, we are missing the mark entirely.  We are to love and obey.  For most people, this is more than enough to keep them fully occupied 24 hours a day, seven days a week without ever needing to seek out greater challenge.  How many husbands and wives struggle simply to love one another?  Or to love their children?  How many have abandoned true love for the glories of becoming a social media influencer, spouting hate in the name of love?   We did not choose Christ, and we do not necessarily choose the life of obedience and love we are to live.  But we are to remember in all things that Christ chose us, and therefore we can trust and follow his Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance in whatever manner that takes in our lives.