Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

CSI: New Orleans

Arianna Huffington says that now is definitely the time for finger-pointing, because you want to investigate the crime scene while the evidence is still fresh (She mentioned characters from CSI: Miami and Law and Order).

So I have some observations.

First, New Orleans was built at sea level, but the ground in a delta sinks. It gets replenished by the flood waters that come with new soil eroded from upstream. Thus the Egyptians count on the annual flooding by the Nile to renew their agricultural land. New Orleans took the opposite tack and built levees to protect their children from the flood waters. As a result, most of New Orleans is below sea level. That makes them dependent on the levees to stay dry the way Holland depends on dikes.

Second, the Army Corps of Engineers has been asking for years for the money to build up those levees. Instead the Bush Administration cut their budget 40% this past year.

Third, when the Governor of Louisiana asked that an emergency be declared two days before the hurricane hit, President Bush complied, but FEMA did nothing. Michael Chertoff had the authority to send them in to get ready, the way they did with the four hurricanes in Florida in 2004, but they did nothing.

Fourth, when the Mayor of New Orleans declared a mandatory evacuation, the buses and trains stopped running, stranding everyone without cars or money for gas to get out.

Fifth, the 300 or so school buses sat idle, because there were no drivers available in a category 5 hurricane. All the city bus drivers who could were put to work evacuating people, but where was there to evacuate people to? There was no upstate location set up to take in evacuees. The Super Dome was set up for them, they thought, but that was before the hurricane and flood kept electricity, water, and sewer functions from working.

Then the oil companies that "coincidentally" had shut down half the country's refining capacity for "maintenance" weeks before the hurricane hit so that they could jack gasoline prices up over $2.00 a gallon now gouged the price up to over $3.00 because of the refinery shutdowns in the Gulf area. They would prosecute Lowe's for raising the price of a generator under those conditions, yet they let the oil giants get away with the same kind of gouging. We see who owns this government.

So it was a national disaster, and a national disgrace.

Under every picture of Katrina's destruction is an unwritten caption: "Your tax cuts at work."

And every gasoline price sign that says $3.oo a gallon or more is a Democratic campaign poster for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Intelligent Design?

It has always bothered me when people try to draw limits around the power of Almighty God.

The latest insult to the Lord is the idea of Intelligent Design being taught as science. Of course you can't look at the intricacy of creation and not see the hand of a Creator. But that doesn't mean this is science. God is too large to be placed under a microscope.

Once in my college years I was hitchhiking and got a ride from a Baptist preacher. He was talking about a number of things while we rode, but one thing he said was he couldn't understand why anyone would go to school to be a preacher.

Another time I heard people talk negatively about a preacher who wrote out his sermons in advance.

Why must God be confined to the realm of the miraculous? Why isn't He Lord of the brain as well as the heart? Why is the Holy Spirit confined to controlling my tongue on Sunday morning but not my pen on Thursday night?

And why did God have to confine Himself to creating the world in six human-sized days, just because some human felt that was a good explanation of the universe he saw? Why can't God use the natural means and processes He Himself created? And where in the Book of Genesis does it claim to be a science textbook? I have read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation multiple times and have never encountered such a claim.

The mistake people make is trying to squeeze God into narrow limits, and saying science can't go past those limits, either.

Look: Here is how it is. God did not reveal one truth in science and a contrary truth in faith. Science and religion don't cover the same territory. Science looks at what and how. The Bible looks at Who and why. If you read the Bible through, you get a picture of God slowly and gradually revealing Himself to his people until He sends His Son into the world and the church grows in response. What does that have to do with science?

God is capable of using scientific processes to get His work done. He has done miraculous healings among other people, true; but He healed me of cancer by guiding the surgeon's scalpel. Either way, it is God's work, and praised be His name.

So God can use the natural processes He invented and established to bring about His creation. The best explanation for the way He did it that science can discover so far is evolution. If another scientifically testable theory comes along that explains the available fossil and DNA evidence (not to mention anatomical evidence--do you still have your appendix?), then the majority of scientists will probably accept that theory as a working hypothesis.

Meanwhile, we know evolution is a fact: I read in 1969 that it took a stronger dose of penicillin to cure a dose of syphilis than it did in 1960. Bacteria are evolving because of the overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial soaps now. The human being is still evolving, too. The human face is flattening, which is why so many people have wisdom tooth trouble. I had an impacted wisdom tooth; my daughter has two, and my son has two or more. The wisdom tooth is evolving away from the mouth.

It would be the height of arrogance to believe that God is through guiding evolution and that the present human animal is the absolute pinnacle of creation. Eventually, perhaps we will evolve into beings that can learn to live without war, and for whom hunger among their race would be anathema.

May it be so.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Chavez vs. Robertson

In Yahoo News 8/29 is a report that Hugo Chavez is offering help for Katrina's victims in Louisiana. This came after he offered discounted eye surgery for Americans who couldn't afford it and discount gasoline from a Venezuela-owned Citgo refinery.

Pat Robertson called for Chavez's assassination last week. What did Jesus say about turning the other cheek?

Here's the url: