Top Posts of 2018

The end of the year is always a good time to look back over the past 365 calendar days of your life in general, but it is even better for a lowly blogger, because it gives you fairly quick and easy post. So, with that, my top most read posts in 2018:

  1. Book Review: Sapiens
  2. Biblical Studies Carnival 150
  3. Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple
  4. Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
  5. Book Review: We’re Pregnant
  6. Book Review: Believe Me
  7. Book Review: Practicing the King’s Economy
  8. Book Review: Darkness is My Only Companion
  9. Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines for a Godly Life
  10. Book Review: Four Views on Hell

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see Sapiens once again leading the pack (despite being published over two years ago), as it is led last year and is my all time viewed post since I discovered that WordPress gives me stats. As I’ve said since then, I’ll write a follow up soon.

My second and final Biblical Studies Carnival was the only non book review post in the top 10 (one of only three in my top 25, my post on Trump and the Supreme Court was 17th this year, and the picture from my 10th Anniversary was 21st).

Only four of the book review posts were actually written this year – We’re Pregnant, Believe Me, Practicing the King’s Economy, and Darkness is my Only Companion – inexplicably all coming in a row. So, that’s half of my top read being actually written in the year, I have no idea if that is common or not, but it sounds about right.

The next five most popular actually written this year included the above two non book review posts and three book reviews – Fall of Hyperion, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, and On Pills and Needles.

By all reasonable logic, if I want this blog to grow (which I do), I should do more book reviews, however, as I’ll discuss in a few weeks with my reading goals, I will have less book review coming this year and plan to write on a few more random topics. One of my writings on Thessalonians came in at 34, while my Money in Marriage ranked 37. I’ll have more on this in a later post, but I plan to do more writing and less reading in 2019.

So, that is it for 2018. I appreciate everyone who has read or commented on my posts. Thanks for playing along, I’ll try to do better next year.

 

Excruses 9/21/2018

A few thoughts from this article about the Pledge of Allegiance:
Manual of Patriotism sounds like something from the propaganda arm of the bad guys in a dystopian novel.
The guy who pushed for the pledge, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist and Baptist minister; something you probably wouldn’t hear of much today. Also, with the NFL starting we are back to talk about kneeling during the Anthem and disrespecting the flag, it’s good to remember that if you weren’t doing the Bellamy Salute, you were also disrespecting the flag. In case you are curious, here is that salute:

Also your reminder that ‘under God’ was not added until 1954.
Of course the Pledge was challenged at some point –

In 1926 the American Civil Liberties Union aided a case in Denver of a Jehovite child who was suspended from school for refusing to salute the flag on the grounds that doing so would be “idol worship.”
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reiterated that “under God” was not a religious claim, just ceremonial deism.

Just ceremonial, we even acknowledge that it is pointless (that quote broke a little funny and I can’t fix it, obviously O’Connor was speaking much later about the 1926 case). I do find it an interesting question, should we as Christians pledge our allegiance to an inanimate object, and one that is entirely unrelated to Christ?  I’ve written about flags before, will probably have to again, but you can check it out if you want to know more.

It is always interesting to see articles like these. I read a good bit about personal finance and even subscribe to a few Financial Independence podcast, but I don’t really see it catching on or becoming mainstream.

But then there are articles like this. Sure, debt for a phone, everyone will be retire soon.

Why not go into debt for a phone, especially when half the calls will be spam by next year anyway?

Back to money, before I wrap up, why are people like this even married? The Biblical concept of marriage is that you become one flesh, things are now ours, not mine. If I didn’t have this view, I just don’t think I’d get married. How do you justify keeping property and retirement in separate accounts but say you want to live your life together?

I think I’m going to do a whole post about this next week, but a survey recently showed that religious Trump voters tend to be moderate compared to the hard rightness of non-religious Trump voters. Among the findings, religious tend to be more accepting of all religious and racial minorities, support more immigration and trade, and see ‘whiteness’ as less important. At least for the first and last ones, I hope that is because we see each other and ourselves as made in God’s image and belonging to Christ. More on that later.

As a city planner, this is something I’ve been aware of for some time – the problem with roundabouts is you. There is some interesting history there as to why some people might be scared, but I think it has more to do with fear of change. I remember when the first one was built in the city in which I work, about 10 years ago, we were told people would die and their blood was on our hands. Of course, accidents went down and average traffic speeds increased.

 

 

Excurses

Articles
Koinonia was the winning word in the spelling bee.

Trump as George Costanza.

Trevin Wax on Fahrenheit 451’s recent screen adaptation. I think the book is one of the more frightening and accurate of the mid century dystopian future novels, check out my review for more.

Speaking of dystopian. Here’s another another article about the misuse of additional verses. Also, if you are just interested in hearing more of the depressing, shameful, and embarrassing situation, check out this short article from the AP. These actions are far worse, but previously in the week, Sessions used Romans 13 to tell people to submit to the authorities. This is fine, he is correct, this is the meaning of this verse, but where was this verse under the last President?

Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

Books
Relatedly, I finally received a review copy of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, which you can pre-order now and will be available next Thursday. I hope to have my review up the day before.

I’m about 600 pages into The Stand, and the first 250ish are all about the disease spreading, all during June. Well, it is June right now, and the past week or so, almost everyone in my office has been sick, all with similar symptoms and honestly it started to freak me out a little.

Podcast
Whitehorse Inn discusses Christianity in North and South Korea.

It may sound strange to recommend listening to a podcast where someone is being given a tour, but I enjoyed it. If you like bourbon/whiskey or visiting distilleries/breweries, you will too. Also, if anyone from Wild Turkey happens to be reading, I am open to sponsorship’s (I know how much brands like to be involved with religion and politics, especially with from a site with seven readers).

Excursus 6/8/18

Reading
Probably the biggest news this week came from the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jack Phillip, a Colorado baker who refused to make a specialty cake for a gay couple’s wedding. This is an interesting case with a unique ruling, and I’m not sure what to think about all of it. There is a lot going on here, but a few points from the beginning: he apparently didn’t refuse to sell them any cakes, he refused to make a cake specifically for their wedding (or, really for their reception that was held a little over a year later), and offered them names of other bakers who would make them a cake. So, part of the argument his attorneys made was free expression based on cake decorating being an art (what a time to be alive). I wonder if the fact that he didn’t refuse any service to the couple, just the decorating, and that they insisted he be their baker, not any of the others, factored into the Court’s decision.

The biggest factor seemed to be that the court found inconsistencies from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, from the article –

Kennedy noted that the commission had ruled the opposite way in three cases brought against bakers in which the business owners refused to bake cakes containing messages that demeaned gay people or same-sex marriage.

Also that Phillips himself faced discrimination from the Commission, noting –

The Commissioner called baker Jack Phillip’s faith “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”  He compared Phillip’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” to slavery and the Holocaust.  As a result, Justice Kennedy argued in his majority opinion: “the Court cannot avoid the conclusion that these statements cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

It seems the court looked at the results of the commission as discriminatory (or handled very poorly/illegally), that he didn’t refuse all services, and that decorating the cake falls under ‘expression as an artists’.

To me, the most important thing is the Court recognizing the inconsistencies. The commission was fine with a few other cases who refused to make a cake when they weren’t Christians. There have also been a case of a Muslim baker refusing service (entirely) to a gay couple, that hasn’t (not to sound too Foxnewsish) been covered much in the news. Personally, I wonder if there is a case to be made for extra protections for extremely minority religions like Islam, however I doubt there are any legit legal ones. However, there seems to be the bigger issue of what level of non-service is allowed? An incident last year where a coffee shop owner who was gay kicked a pro-life group out because they were Christians (I’m not linking anything because the only articles I found were rightwing sites or far-left site that celebrated the incident); it is unclear whether the group was causing a disturbance. When you compare that to the Starbucks case recently, it would seem you can’t even kick someone out for not being a paid customer.

While I fully support churches and and pastors from not preforming ceremonies for certain people, purveyors of other goods and services make me nervous. Maybe it is because I’m from the South, and the concept of ‘no X allowed’ whether X is Muslim, gay, or Christian, just really hits me the wrong way. I do see the slippery slop argument on both sides. Can you ban gay people from your restaurant, can you force a Muslim to draw a picture of Muhammad? It is a strange, delicate balancing act and I wish people would recognize the nuance in their discussions instead of just attacking each other as seems to be the go to in these cases.

That was longer than I anticipated so, on to other things I’ve been reading or listening to.

In the ‘not understanding the Bible, but a huge fan of Christian Nationalism’ category this week we have Franklin Graham holding rallies, with this brilliant quote –
“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless,” Graham told a group of supporters, according to the Times.

Word

Rethink Now has a list of the Seven Books Every Christian should read. I’ve only read on (Mere Christianity) and really only plan on reading two others on the list, I hadn’t even heard of some of them. Thoughts?

I finished reading Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, so look for the review next week.
I also started reading The Stand a few days ago, and while I’m over 300 pages in, that just means I still have almost 800 to go.

Finally, have you ever looked at a clock (especially an analog) and it seems like the at which you looked last longer than the other movements? That is because your mind didn’t register what you saw at first, then interpolated it back as the time you first registered in a phenomena known as Chronostasis. Not really related to anything, but interesting nonetheless.

Podcasts
Whitehorse Inn has some thoughts on Finding Jesus in the Psalms. I didn’t start reading the Psalms until about a year, year and half ago. They are incredible, especially for understanding emotions for yourself and your expression to God. It is also a massive book, the longest in the Bible. Psalm 119 itself is longer than James, but somehow in many churches (baptist and non-denom) we miss them almost entirely.

The Gospel Coalition has a talk from Don Carson, What is an Evangelical. Among others, he points out the sociological, political, and linguistic issues with the word. It will be interesting to see what Christians (at least American Protestants) call themselves in the next generation, or the following one, especially after the damage Trump has done, but also due to the word expanding to mean so much, that it basically no long means anything.

Top post of the first half of 2018

I noticed many other bloggers do something like top post/most read of X year or the more prolific ones do a top of the month, or even week. I always kind of wondered how they knew, and that’s when I discovered the depth of the stats pages blogging platforms provide. I brought this up to Mrs. MMT and she thought it was stupid…that I didn’t know this was a thing. To be fair, she is an accredited PR professional, and my desire in life is to be a monk, but with sex, and fishing, and college football. Wait, where was I?

So I dug into my stats, and up until a few months ago, my most viewed overall (and winning by far and away for most views the day it was posted) was the time almost two years ago that I hosted the 2016 August Biblical Studies Carnival. That has since been passed by what is also my most read post of 2018 so far. My top five most read of 2018:

  1. Book Review: Sapiens
  2. Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple
  3. Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
  4. Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life
  5. Tie – 10 Year Anniversary; Book Review: Four Views on Hell; Book Review: Darkness is My Only Companion

Why these posts? I have a few ideas, we’ll start from the bottom. Interestingly, Darkness is the only book review to make the list that I actually posted this year, so it’s probably there just due to recency. Similarly, Anniversary was post two weeks ago, and probably brought more of my Twits than book reviews due to the pictures of me and the Monday Morning Wife. Not sure about Four Views, other than Hell is weird and people have questions about it. Feels pretty cool that people found me from that.

My guess is that Imperfect, and the two disciplines books were popular searches due to Lent. I’ve already stated, I don’t know how to do Lent, but I do have two thoughts to help. First, you are probably looking up Lent because of fasting. I’ve heard nothing better than this Theocast podcast on fasting. Their idea that it isn’t necessarily about giving up food (Protestant view), but more about reclaiming time is fascinating. Second, if you are deciding which book to read, I can help. Imperfect is not about spiritual disciplines, but is still awesome and you should read it, and I’ve already written a post about why you should read Godly Man over Christian Life (though, if you are a woman, it’s still a better book).

So, this brings us to Sapiens. Why? Well, my stats pages tell me the terms searched that led people here, and basically, it was people searching for a ‘Christian review’ of the book. I was shocked/proud to find out that if you google this, I’ll be one of the top 5 or so (it changes) links shown. That’s really cool, but people were probably disappointed in what they found. I didn’t write a ‘Christian’ review in the sense people were probably searching. I mean, I am a Christian and I did review the book, but I think what people were look for was a Christian response. So, as a man of the people, I plan to write a Christian response to this book based solely on my guess what people were actually questioning (off the top of my head, it’s evolution).

Two final thoughts – I do Advanced Review Copy book reviews for a few publishers, but of the six book reviews that have brought the most readers this year, only one (Imperfect, from Baker Books), was one of these. Second, the May 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival is up over at 5 Minute Bible.

That’s it, those are my top five as of June 1, 2018. I plan to do an end of the year post for the most read of 2018, so stay tuned I guess. Thanks everyone who reads or follows me and I apologize in advance to anyone who found my by accident. I’ll try to do better next time.

Remembering My Grandmother

No book review today, as I am heading to a funeral. Louise Dueree “Dee” Turner, my grandmother, died on Monday morning. She would have turned 90 this August, but even more amazingly, in less than two weeks, she and my granddad would have been celebrating their 73 anniversary.

I lived next to my grandparents from about eight years old until I left for college, and when school was out of the summer, my brother and I spent our days with them. They lived on a little more than 30 acres and she had numerous gardens in which she grew Day Lilies. For decades she sold the flowers, but mostly the bulbs for others to plan in their gardens. Later in life, I’d come across people from surrounding cities and all they knew about my area was an old lady that sold bulbs to their garden clubs. One lady actually remembered there being two little boys running around the gardens.

Along with selling flowers she was in charge of the church kitchen that made the Wednesday night meals every week. She was an incredible cook and well known for her abilities. One of my favorite memories about her is the pancake breakfasts she would cook every Christmas morning. They also hosted massive Easter and Labor Day celebrations at their house that would have dozens and dozens of people attending, including her sisters and my dad’s cousins and all their children. She loved the beach and for years they and all her sisters and their husbands spent October in New Smyrna Beach. All this despite have had three hip replacements, she was so active she wore out her first one and needed a replacement.

Mrs. MMT actually lived with them for a little over two months while I was away at grad school and right before we were married. They watched old movies with Clarke Gable together and my grandmother enjoyed having her there so much, she would often try to convince me to have us live there for a while after we were married.

She first started showing signs of Alzheimer’s about eight years ago, and unfortunately it only become worse. She hasn’t recognized me or Mrs. MMT in a few years and while she always loved seeing Sprout, she was never entirely sure who she was. Maybe a year or so ago, she starting not knowing my parents and this past January we moved them to an assisted living facility with memory care from the house they built more than 40 years ago.

My granddad woke up around 5:30 on Monday and my grandmother told him she was cold, he got her a blanket and told her he loved her and went out to watch TV. When he checked back in on her a little bit later, she was dead. In some ways, it is comforting to know that she went quickly, and that if she suffered, it didn’t last long. However, for him, it happened too quick. He told me yesterday that he wished that he had been able to hold her just one more time.

As we talked about her yesterday, he said that she was a great wife and mother, that they had a long happy life, and that he could not have asked for anything more. Best of all, and the most comforting, is that I know we will all see her again. She’ll have no more hip pain, and she will remember everyone when we all meet again.

Dee Turner
August 31, 1928 – May 28, 2018

Stuff From the Week

Articles
NFL to make players stand for the anthem. The owners know their fans are mostly conservative, holding libertarian and small government values, with focus on individual rights, so they are making people stand up during a song about the government. It is almost as if the fans are actually more upset about something else.

Speaking of something else going on, White Evangelicals lead the way!…in rejecting refugees. We were the least likely group survey to support taking in more refugees. For the group that says we take most seriously Biblical Literatlism, we don’t appear to be very good at the whole caring for the widow/orphan/poor/foreigner thing or loving our neighbor. Seemingly unrelated to the article as a whole, they point our towards the end that when asked in 2011 about personal indescritions by the president, we, more than anyone else, said it mattered, but in 2016, we said it mattered the least. The author is clearly pointing it out to kick whatever little shred of moral authority we have left right in the balls. It is pretty embarrassing, and yet another reason we continue to lose the upcoming generation.

Speaking of lost generations, according to the federal reserve, about 40% of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency. On the whole, we remain terrible with money.

Quickly – of course Amazon is recording out conversations, apparently if the president blocks you on twitter it is a violation of your first amendment rights, hopefully the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre will win their case against this nut job, and finally, apparently even the American Military has studied the ‘strategic implications of American Millennialism.’

Podcast
I was going to recommend this Intelligence Squared Debate podcast about denculearization of North Korea, but now the summit has been called off. I didn’t really have a strong stance one way or the other, and after listening to the debate, I’m not sure that has changed. However, there is a lot of good information if you are interested in current foreign affairs. The problem is, our new cycle and events in the world happen too fast. I listened to this, then heard this genius say we should use the ‘Libya Model’ and assumed Kim would call it off. If you don’t know, Moammar Gadhafi was Libya’s leader before he was sodomized by a bayonet and dragged into the street and killed. I’m not foreign policy expert, but that seems like something Kim wouldn’t like to participate in.

Mortification of Spin was an episode up about church polity (governing/administrative structure of the church). It isn’t so much about types of church polity as it is about having an Elder board. Overall, it is an interesting topic to me, and one I’ve gone back and forth on over the years.

Stuff from last week

I haven’t been posting much recently, partly due to time and partly due to disinclination, but last week a came across a few things I found interesting, that I thought I’d share. The plan was for it to go up on Friday, but the Monday Morning Wife and I had our 10th Anniversary and I got distracted.

Russell Moore spoke on The Gospel Coalition Podcast about the obstacles of religious liberty. Depending on your perspective, it’s not what you think. I thought the points he makes about us looking too much for the government to help us and enforce our view of morality were really good; though he does fail to note the painful irony that some of the biggest pushers for ‘religious liberty’ and government enforced morality are often the most ardent anti-government.

Somewhat related, Theocast talks about losing a generation at church. I’m less concerned than most people, though probably not concerned enough, because I think it is inevitable. We were never a ‘Christian Nation’, whatever that means, but for the most of our history, we’ve been a solidly Christian culture, but we aren’t any more. This means we are shedding some of the cultural only hanger’s on. I guess I should care more, but I don’t.

The other thing that stuck out to me about this particular episode was the lack of political honesty. There is one quick mention/jab about not agree with ‘they younger people’ and their politics, but no real discussion about the impact politics has played on losing more and more young people. When I was growing up, Monica Lewinsky was the worst thing ever, a national moral tragedy. Many of the same people publicly deriding Clinton are now, 20 years later, some of the most vocal supporters of Trump. A democrat being immoral is cause for massive public outcry, but these people really don’t seem to give a shit how many hookers and pornstars a republican bangs. All these leaders have traded in the Gospel of Christ of the promise of power from Christian Nationalism, and we are the lost generation?

I could go on and on about this, because it pisses me off so, but if the ‘church’ keeps acting like questioning the Moral Majority or St. Ronnie is blasphemy, and cannot have adult conversations about political issues such as healthcare, minimum wage, income inequality, etc. without resorting to beating up tired old strawmen or just screaming ‘socialism’, we are going hemorrhage anyone under 65 faster than we can imagine.

Speaking of being somewhat bad with economics, I started a new book – Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give
It seems really good so far, except they seem to think per capita GDP is useful measure, confuse mean for median, don’t accurately represent inflation, and ignore income inequality. I guess this isn’t surprising, because those things tend to get political, and they state at the beginning, they don’t want to do that, for, you know…reasons. Anyway from a Biblical prospective, it is pretty interesting so far, especially the focus on community.

I haven’t written many reviews lately because I’m still trying to power through this – 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology I’m a big fan of theology, and the part where he gets rolling are really good, but it is slow going as it is a bit repetitive, a little redundant, and well, over 400 pages.

Lastly for books, I read Notes From the Underground, which is really interesting, but I have this copy – Notes From Underground And The Grand Inquisitor. I recommend against this as the second half of the books is an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov (Everyman’s Library), which I already own.

Finally, you may have seen that we moved our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There is plenty written out there about the political consequences of this, but I found this article from a Catholic viewpoint to be interesting. If you didn’t grow up in the dispensational work, or studied your way out, Christian Zionism can seem really odd, so I appreciate the view from someone else.

That’s all for now, hopefully, I’ll have some reviews up soon.

10 Year Anniversary

I don’t typically post personal things, especially pictures or anything that could constitute ‘social media’, that’s not the point of a pretend theologian. However, today is actually my 10 Anniversary. Look at these young, sexy, jackasses:

There is a lot I could say here about the ups and downs of marriage; the struggles and blessings; expectations vs. realities; or even about marrying the greatest woman I know, but I’m going to take a hard pass on all that and just post the pictures. We dropped Sprout off with my parents today, to have a couple day staycation alone, and my parents live on the same street as the wedding venture in which we were married. So, after dropping her off, we swung by and took a picture in front of the alter.

The day we were married 10 years ago was a pretty, picture perfect day of 73 degrees, sunny, and probably only 60% humidity or so.  Today was hot and rainy and we didn’t really think ahead to dress up or anything, but here we are:

20180517_125320

Mrs. MMT is beautiful as always, and I look basically the same as 10 years ago, just older and fatter. I could write pages and pages about the years we’ve spent, and I still can’t believe it’s gone by so quickly, but for now, three cheers for 10 years.