Sunday, January 31, 2010

J. Budziszewski's "So-Called Marriage"

I discovered J. Budziszewski reading First Things and I've never regretted it. Six years ago he wrote "So-Called Marriage" for Boundless Webzine, "An Online Magazine for Christian Singles and Young Adults" from Focus on the Family.

One recurring theme of Pastor Zip's Blog is that the arguments to uphold marriage in the West as between a man and a woman are not primarily religious or biblical -- and that Christians must know this. In this article, Prof. Budziszewski takes us to a conversation during office hours between a professor and a student who tried defending traditional marriage in class.
"Could I just lay out my argument step by step?" she asked. "As soon as you spot a problem, you can say 'Stop' and I'll stop."

I smiled. "Just what I was about to suggest."

"Okay. Homosexual acts are morally wrong because — "



"Yes. I agree that they're morally wrong, but that's not the place to start. You probably don't need to make that case at all."

"Why not?"

"Because the question on the table concerns enacted law — marriage law drawn up and enforced by the government — not moral law."

"Shouldn't they be related?"

"Certainly, but not in the way you're thinking. It's not a moral requirement that everything immoral should be illegal."
Why should government protect marriage as a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous relationship between a man and a woman? Read it all here.

Hat tip to TitusOneNine.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rover Spirit Roves No More

2001: A Space Odyssey is a countdown to tomorrow, a road map to human destiny, a quest for the infinite. It is a dazzling, Academy Award®-winning visual achievement, a compelling drama of man vs. machine, a stunning meld of music and motion. It may be the masterwork of director Stanley Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke)…and it will likely excite, inspire and enthrall for generations.
Thus begins the official website of a film I was really excited to finally get to see at the Reseda Theater more than a year after its 1968 release. (Films stayed in circulation longer in those days.)

I was indeed excited, inspired, and enthralled -- and also pretty baffled through much of it. Then again it's not really a film for 10-year-old boys, even in the summer Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon. I really need to see it again. Alas, I expect to be disappointed -- though hopefully not so much by the film itself.

The disappointment I expect will be most heartfelt during one particular scene. It's not a particularly exciting scene, except that it's in the Pan Am terminal at the Space Station. Perfectly reasonable to expect in 1968 for 2001 -- but this is the year 2010. There is no more Pan Am. Worse, no one's flying to the space station, except for a few astronauts on Space Shuttles that don't come close to what they were designed to do.

It's no an accident that, in the NASA section of my I Want to Go! web page (which I partially updated a couple of weeks ago), I highlight the classic 1998 quote from Rick Tumlinson, President of the Space Frontier Foundation:
"Thirty-six years after sending John Glenn into orbit, NASA has finally achieved the capability to send John Glenn into orbit."
We should be snippy, for twelve years later NASA's not much closer. If you'd told me when I was 10 that the reason I'd not been in space by now was that we couldn't do it (rather than because it might be too expensive) I would have thought you were flippin' crazy.

So it was good yesterday to read about something that NASA didn't screw up. Spirit and Opportunity are the two Mars Expedition Rovers that landed on Mars in January 2004, six years ago. They were designed to explore for 90 days.

They're both still running. Not necessarily all that well, of course. Yesterdays news was about Spirit, which has been stuck in sand since last May, won't rove any more. And yet, if she survives the upcoming Martian winter, she'll continue her scientific research of the Red Planet as a "stationary research platform." Meanwhile, Opportunity continues to slowly roll across the Martian surface.

Sure, it should be someone like you or me up there rather than a couple of robots on wheels millions of miles from a tow truck. It's 2010, for heaven's sake; we were walking on the Moon 41 years ago!

But for that, short-sighted American leadership (including Presidents and Congresses) are as much to blame as a space agency that lost its vision. But give the folks at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory a cheer for gettiing this mission righter than anyone could have hoped.

Stay warm this Martian winter, well-named Spirit. And come spring, show us more what you're made of,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Update

Sunday morning as we were making the pre-service prayer requests at Zion, the parents of the Friends of the Children of Haiti medical team leader (read about our connections here) was describing how the team, originally scheduled to depart Peoria for Haiti the next day, was scrambling to find ways to fly into Haiti given the cancellation of flights into Port-au-Prince.

I've been away from Peoria since late Sunday afternoon (I'm in Fort Wayne attending Concordia Theological Seminary's wonderful 2010 Symposia Series -- which, by the way, you can watch live through Friday Noon) so I'd not kept up-to-the-moment.

Turns out the team has been able to get charter flights from Ft. Lauderdale and, on Voices from the Clinic blog, you can read a bit about what they've been doing since starting to arrive at their clinic in Cyvadier on the southern coast of Haiti, which is just outside Jacmel and only 25 miles from Port-au-Prince and the epicenter of the earthquake. There's up-to-date photos from Jacmel and Cyvadier, too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bishop Hanson's Message on Haiti

An e-mailed message from ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson that received this evening:

January 13, 2010

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

The first chaotic reports and images now are coming out of Haiti, documenting the devastation caused by yesterday’s massive earthquake. Haitian officials estimate that more than a hundred thousand people may have died and that the quake destroyed major parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America already is responding through the Lutheran World Federation’s Haiti Program. Given the devastation caused by this earthquake, the ELCA has committed an initial $250,000 from ELCA International Disaster Response for Haiti and has authorized an additional $500,000 as congregations respond both to the immediate needs and long-term rebuilding efforts.

We give thanks to God that LWF staff escaped injury from the earthquake. We also give thanks that we have trusted and effective partners on the ground in Haiti who already are at work helping earthquake survivors. The ELCA is the largest regular supporter of the LWF’s program in Haiti, which helps communities escape the deep poverty in which so many Haitians live. Since staff is already in place, no precious time will be lost in shaping an effective response. The work of providing food and shelter and in helping people to rebuild their lives is under way.

We give thanks also for our partners in this work. The LWF staff in Haiti also was tapped to coordinate the responses of Protestant and Orthodox churches throughout the world through Action by Churches Together (ACT). In addition, the ELCA, in coordination with the Florida-Bahamas Synod, will be working to provide disaster support to and possibly through the emerging Lutheran church in Haiti.

More details of the ELCA's response and a disaster insert for congregational use are posted on as communication channels are restored. Please share with members and friends both the urgent need in one of the United States’ closest neighbors and the effective means by which their church is responding. Please go to or call 800-638-3522 to give toward our response to the disaster in Haiti.

In God’s grace,

Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Haiti's Devastation

There's not much to add to the various news reports of the earthquake destruction in Haiti other than to note Pastor Zip's and Zion's connections to relief efforts.

For over 20 years Peoria's Friends of the Children of Haiti, has been sending medical missionary teams to Haiti several times each year. They have operated a medical clinic in the rural, seaside village of Cyvadier since building it in 1999-2000. Cyvadier is on Haiti's southern peninsula, "25 miles and one mountain rages south of Port-au-Prince," writes the Journal Star's Phil Luciano in today's paper. Luciano serves as president of FOTCOH's board of directors.

The next medical missionary team was scheduled to leave Peoria this coming Monday for its 11-day mission. This team's co-leaders are Zionite Sue Behrens, Director of Emergency Services at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, and her husband Eric, who is also FOTCOH's Executive Director. As of now the team is still going. The clinic has been damaged, but is operating. You can read further updates from Eric and Sue on the Voices from the Clinic blog. Click here if you are interested in contributing to Friends of the Children of Haiti.

Lutheran Disaster Relief is already involved in relief efforts in Haiti, and you can learn about that at The Lutheran World Federation's offices and staff in Haiti were spared, so they are already at work with Lutheran World Relief.. You can contribute directly to Lutheran relief efforts from this page or over the phone at 1-800-638-3522. Lutheran International Disaster Response has already committed $750,000 to Haiti earthquake relief.

There are, of course, many other worthy organizations on the scene now and for the long-term. Support them. Pray for them. Pray for the Hatians.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Complete Christmass this Wednesday Evening!

Celebrate the Revelation
of Jesus Christ to All People!

The Epiphany of Our Lord
(The Festival of the Three Kings)

Wednesday, January 6th, 7:00 pm
Service of Candlelight
Holy Communion
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

1534 S. Easton Avenue (at Hayes), Peoria
1 block west of Jefferson & Western
(309) 637-9150

The Epiphany of Our Lord celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world, recalling the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus at the Holy Family’s home in Bethlehem. This day begins the concluding season of the Christmass cycle (Advent — Christmass — Epiphany) which focuses on the Incarnation — God becoming human in Jesus.

Next to Easter and Pentecost, Epiphany is the most ancient festival of the Church year, having been observed on January 6 in the Christian East since the third century (or earlier) AD — pre-dating the observance of Christmass by a century. The date was derived from the date of the Resurrection (April 6 according to a calendar used in the eastern Mediterranean), which was also taken to be the date of Jesus’ conception. January 6 also coincided with pagan winter solstice celebrations in the East. The theological emphasis of Epiphany was not so much the birth of Christ, but the beginnings of his ministry — that is, his baptism, his first miracle (at Cana), and his revelation as the Savior to all — Jews and Gentiles.

The English word "epiphany" comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means "manifestation" or "appearance" — especially that of a sudden force that rescues an army from defeat. It was the word used when a king or emperor would make an official visit to a city of his realm, particularly to show himself publicly to the people. "Epiphany" is also a word used to describe the moment of revelation, insight, or clarification — the "a-ha!" of sudden understanding.

On the Epiphany of Our Lord we see with the Magi that the Infant Jesus, son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is God the Son come into the world to reveal himself and rescue all humanity (and creation itself) from our Sin. In recognizing the Lord, we humbly offer our gifts to him — and Jesus offers the gift of himself to us.

And, yes, Zion's website is currently down. Our host has been visted by Murphy's Law as they upgrade. But it will be up Real Soon Now, we are told.