Final Questions and Answers

To close out the year, we’ve been watching the last episodes of From the Earth to the Moon.

As each new year brings changes and developments, I can’t help but feel that we have stepped back from human potential. I’m not writing as a humanist, but rather as someone who sees human progress as a positive thing – a greater use of God given talent and ability.  At least by this end of 2008, we are promised the mission of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, to once again map out the surface and find good places for human to land.

2007 was a eventful year, There’s no need to recount all the major news that happened in the world. For me it brought a new job.

What 2008 we don’t know. There is talk of economic recession. There is an American presidential election. The only thing we know is that at this time next year, God will still be on the Throne.

The thing I wonder is whether anyone else’s life will be better because I was there. Will I be a better husband? A better father? A better teacher? Will I demonstrate any human progress of my own? Will history repeat itself and will I chalk these aspirations up as failures this time next year? Or is this the year I make my big move to difference? Will I stop asking all these questions?

I hope that you, the gentle reader, had a good 2007 and wish for you a better 2008. But whatever happens, remember, God is still on the Throne.

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Finding God in Space

One of my Christmas presents was the DVD set of From the Earth to the Moon, the Apollo program docu-drama mini-series Tom Hanks executive produced after he starred in Apollo 13. My wife thought it was new and didn’t realise that I saw it when it was originally released, but she also didn’t know that I wanted to see it again. We have gotten through nine of the twelve discs so far.

One of my Year 7s recently informed me that science has proven that there is no God because people have been to space and didn’t see him up there. Apparently, if there would be any one who would be an atheist, it would be an astronaut. If anything would seem to be the pinnacle of human achievement – of man proving his dependence upon his own scientific prowess – it would be the Apollo program. It took man further than he’s ever been.

On Apollo 8, the first men to reach the Moon marked the occasion by reading from the Bible while in lunar orbit. And not just any part of the Bible. They read from Genesis 1. Frank Borman also read a prayer which was recorded to be played at the midnight service at the Episcopal Church where he was a lay reader. Because they got sued by Madalyn Murray O’Hair over the Genesis reading, NASA got skittish about any further religious expressions being publicly broadcast.

On Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin discreetly took communion inside the Lunar Module shortly after arriving on the surface of the Moon. The Lunar Module pilots of both Apollo 15 and Apollo 16, the late James Irwin and Charlie Duke, both got involved in Christian ministry in life after NASA. Irwin led several expeditions to Mt Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark. This would seem to indicate a belief in the literalism of Genesis.

Though I don’t know Dave Scott’s specific beliefs, when the Apollo 15 commander parked the Lunar Rover for the final time, he placed a small red Bible on the controls. According to Andrew Chaikin, “If anyone should come this way again, he wanted them to understand who had left his machine here.”

Ed Mitchell also has a spiritual side to him, though it has more to do with the paranormal and the power of the mind. He says that his spiritual awakening in space was the same as Jim Irwin’s, “But you express it in terms of your own belief system, your own experience, and your training.” I would say that either common grace allowed him to experience the omnipresent God because he was open to experiencing something outside of himself, or possibly as Dotty Duke once said “It’s spiritual, but it’s not really the Holy Spirit…”

I don’t know about any of the other Apollo astronauts, but these would disagree with my Year 7. Going to space doesn’t disprove the existence of God. For some it has had the opposite effect.

Phase Two

The grandparents have been delivered to their friends near the airport, ready for their morning flight back to the States. It seems strange to have them gone after a week. Child A1 cried for a long time after they left. Child A2 was unfazed, but I don’t think she realises that they won’t be back for six months.

This moves the holiday into Phase Two, marking the rest of the Year 11 mocks and writing the rest of the reports. The reports require the grades from the mocks and the reports are due on the day we go back.

I’m also trying to finish up Bill Bryson’s biography of Shakespeare, so I can justify starting Eric Clapton’s autobiography. I get so many books on the go that I don’t focus on finishing them in a timely manner.

Why I Haven’t Warmed to Russian Spirituality

The United States is not the only nation when religion is intertwined with politics. If anything, it is much more innocuous mix than you will find in Russia, even if it is my own brand of Christianity that is the official Church in all but name. The State helps the Orthodox Church stamp out any other expressions of Christianity and the Church helps the State stamp out any opposition to the Putin regime. Both promote Russian nationalism above all else. This certainly isn’t surprising, as Putin and the Patriarch used to be colleagues in the same firm, well known by the initials KGB.

An Orthodox priest recently emailed me a copy of a Wall Street Journal article which reveals more about this unholy alliance. I have included it in full below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Making Sense of Nonsense

Like the Teletubbies, In the Night Garden will one day make the trans-Atlantic trek. Even though it is produced by the same company, I don’t think it will have as controversial a character as Tinky Winky for people like Jerry Falwell to accuse of sexual ambiguity, so we’ll have to see how well it does. For now, it is all the rage in the UK. Today’s Daily Telegraph has an article on the ITNG phenomenon.

Including in our house. It is aimed at under-5s, though our slightly over-5 is as big a fan. (This could have something to do with the fact that it is the only broadcast television the kids are allowed to watch except on the weekends.) It has something of a hypnotic effect. I hum or sing the music without thinking. I have even been known to hum it in lessons, and I have students who immediately recognise it, as they have little siblings who watch it every evening.

I know all of the characters, and even made up names for some of them. The trio of Tombliboos, are only known collectively on the show, but after I christened them “Dimbo,” “Dumbo,” and “Pombo” in an off-the-cuff remark, my children have received this into the ITNG canon.

Like many other households, our Christmas budget and those of some of the grandparents contributed to the massive income the ITNG creators have received from merchandise licensing.  We didn’t get the £40 Igglepiggle with blanket, but we have a smaller Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka, a Ninky Nonk, five-episode DVD, and perhaps other bits and bobs.

Despite it’s budgetary implication, ITNG is wonderfully devoid of content, making it very good pre-bedtime viewing. There don’t appear to be any dangerous philosophical overtones or an agenda. The only intelligible words are spoken by Sir Derek Jacobi in the voice-over. Otherwise it is all gibberish.

It is all summed up in the words of Makka Pakka: “Makka Pakka.”

Silencing the Voice of Moderation

I just happened to turn on BBC News 24 as the events in Pakistan were unfolding yesterday. Within a very few minutes the news changed from 20 dead and Bhutto escaped, to Bhutto injured and in hospital, to Bhutto dead.

It seems so strange to think that someone I saw not too many weeks ago as a panelist on Question Time has been assassinated.

Bhutto was a voice of moderation in a country severely in need of it.  She was a voice of challenge to radical Islam and to the military control of Pakistan. She was a Western voice in a non-Western culture. A lot of people had a lot of vested interest in her being dead.

I agree with Mike Huckabee that it is not our duty to evangelise the rest of the world with democracy. However, Bhutto had the opportunity to bring certain values of Western civilisation to a place where those values could alleviate suffering and oppression.  Bhutto was a Muslim, but her values were clearly influenced and shaped by her Catholic primary and secondary education.

Hopefully her values through her legacy will carry some weight and some light in the future of Pakistan and make the world a safer place.

Silencing the Truth

News of persecution in Turkey is usually focused on the Armenians. However, it should be remembered that all Christians  have suffered under the Turks. David brought to my attention the murder of university lecturer in the town where he lives in Sweden.

Fuat Deniz was an internationally recognised expert on the Assyrian Genocide. His throat was slit, which is traditionally symbolic of silencing someone. Swedish authorities also believe the motivation for the murder was political. The Turks don’t take too kindly to accusations of genocide. They are willing to kill to stop them.