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In Defense of Whataboutism

Baseball fans have watched the following scene unfold many a time: Pitcher throws a fastball. Umpire says it's Strike Three. The batter is out. An argument ensues, the batter insisting that the pitch was low. Umpire ejects the batter. Manager comes out and argues, then gets thrown out himself. Most of the time, players and coaches don't argue balls and strikes, but when they do, why do they do it? In post-game comments, it's usually something along these lines: We don't mind if he calls the low pitches as strikes. But he called that same pitch a ball when the other team was batting.  In other words, there’s an expectation that the umpire will call it the same way for both teams.   It's not an unreasonable expectation.  There's a parallel here with the social media comments about current events, particularly over the last year. Perhaps the most common examples are the social media conversations involving frustrated citizens complaining that (a) BLM rioters didn&
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Donald Trump: Is He Our Generation's Josiah or Jehu?

As you take in the following, I'd suggest you not focus on the recent events in Washington at the Capitol building.  That's what's on all of our minds now, but in the long run, it's best to consider the entire Trump era, not just the freshest memory.   As the Donald J Trump presidency draws to a close, I'd like to take a stab at an objective consideration of his time in office, but with a twist: I'll be making a comparison between Trump and two Old Testament kings: Jehu and Josiah, to see which one of these historic kings more closely matches what we have observed in our nation's president over the past 4 years. Why hold Trump up against these two guys? In the case of this particular president, many of his biggest supporters have been bible-believing voters. Criticisms of Trump have been, more often than not, focused on his character. In his defense, many evangelicals have employed comparisons to imperfect bible characters, including kings such as Solomon, C

These Nameless Things, by Shawn Smucker: A Review

There are a few writers out there who come up with an original idea, flesh it out well in their first book, and then churn out more stories that are nearly identical to the first one. Shawn Smucker is not one of those writers. His newest, These Nameless Things , is the third Smucker book I have read, and each has been great, and none of them are alike. That's a great thing. Of course, it means I cannot help you out by comparing it to any of his earlier novels. If I were to compare it to any other stories, the closest I could come is that it contains elements of Dante's "Inferno",  "The Lord of the Rings" (because there's a journey with obstacles to overcome--no elves or wizards), "Lost" (the TV series), and "The Fisher King," a 1993 movie starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges. I mention "The Fisher King" because that one is a story about how we can simultaneously have to face the consequences of our actions while re

Outbound Train, by Renea Winchester

In "Outbound Train", Renea Winchester takes the reader on a journey into a small town, during a simpler time. But don't let that description let you get too complacent: hurtful things happened to innocent people 50 years ago, just as they do today. The wounds went just as deep then as they do now, left the same kind of scars,  required the same kind of care, and carried the same hope of redemption, as similar events in modern life (or in bigger cities). In other words, "Outbound Train" has a particular setting, but the story is a universal and relatable one. Winchester's novel begins with a pretty difficult-to-read act of violence, then explores the c onsequences of that violence in the lives of the victim, Barbara, and her family members. Beyond that fateful night, and the enormous changes that it brought into the life of Barbara, the book describes a certain hopelessness that can set in to residents of the town of Bryson City, North Carolina. Perhaps

7 Things I Hate About the Covid 19 Situation

"A hug is good for the soul."   Many years before reality TV was a genre with a name, I was watching "Love Connection" (a dating show) late one night. The host asked the man and the woman how the date went, and whether it ended with a kiss. They both said it had not, and there probably wouldn't be a second date. However, the man said it had ended with a hug. The host turned to the woman and asked "Was that OK? Was a hug appropriate?"  She answered: "A hug is always appropriate. A hug is good for the soul." It took me a decade or two to appreciate the wisdom in that powerful statement, but it's very true: a hug is, in fact, good for the soul, whether it's between two people who just met, or two longtime, intimate friends or loved ones. I was reading the details of a widow of a Covid 19 patient this week. They had been married for 4 decades, and were living in a retirement home. When he was on his deathbed, Covid 19 was suspecte

Learning From Josiah

Let's start by asking you to think of one great man from the Old Testament. Who comes to mind?  When I ask myself the question, the first man who comes to mind is Moses, or possibly David. Or Daniel or Isaiah. Maybe Samuel, Elisha, or Elijah. These guys are pretty much the upper echelon of God-following men in the years prior to the arrival of Jesus. They are Hall of Famers. If, instead of those men, you thought of Josiah, pat yourself on the back. Josiah doesn't get as much attention as the others, but his actions and dedication to God were remarkable. He was a true hero of the faith. To understand why, you'd need to recall what events led up to Josiah. Go back to the Exodus: the Israelites, after years of slavery, were led out of Egypt by Moses. When they arrived at the edge of the promised land, Joshua led them into their new/old homeland. Once they fully occupied the land, Joshua gathered the leaders of each tribe together, and gave them a talking-to.  This is in Jo

But I Had No Idea

Like most Americans, I grew up with some idea of what the birth of Jesus looked like: a hotel with a "No Vacancy" sign, a barn out back, three Wise Men outside, bearing gifts. I thought I knew what it was like, but upon further review, I learned that I had no idea. Jesus was most likely born, not in a barn next to an inn, but in the part of a house where the animals are kept. The Wise Men may not have shown up till Jesus was a year old, or older. There weren't 3 of them. I thought I knew what it was like, but I had no idea. And if you think we have no idea what went on, consider Mary and Joseph; though they had more revelation than any other human at the time, they had no idea what they had signed up for, and what their lives would be like as a result of being entrusted with this particular baby.  I recently re-watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love the Council of Elrond scene, the one in which several leaders, wizards, and soldiers discuss the need to tran