Archive for March, 2011

Canada watches its democracy erode

Edmund Burke noted that all that was necessary for evil to triumph was for good men to do nothing. Canadians are certainly good and worthy folks, but they suffer an excess of civil obedience, politeness and lack of civic rage that could be harnessed to combat political atrophy. At a time when Arabs risk life and limb for political freedoms, Canadians seem largely apathetic about the erosion of their democracy.

The centralisation of power in the hands of the prime minister and political staffers – with the resulting diminution of the role and status of cabinet, parliaments and parliamentarians – is common to Anglo-Saxon democracies in Australia, Britain, Canada and the US, but the extent to which constitutional conventions, parliamentary etiquette and civil institutions of good governance have been worn away in Canada is cause for concern.

A minister told parliament she did not know who had altered a document that cut funding to a foreign aid group. Later, she admitted to ordering the changes, but did not know who had carried out the order. Lying to parliament, a cardinal sin of Westminster-style democracy, has become a political tactic.

Following rulings by Speaker Peter Milliken, for the first time in Canadian history, the government and a minister have been found to be in contempt of parliament for withholding information and misleading the house.

The Integrity Commissioner was so inept that she failed to uphold a single one of more than 200 whistle-blowing complaints.

Forced out of office by the ensuing public outcry, she was awarded a $C500,000 severance package on condition that neither she nor the government talk about it.

That is, a public servant paid by the taxpayer was financially gagged by yet more taxpayer money to stop taxpayers finding out what was going on.

When a foreign service officer blew the whistle on the Canadian military handing over detainees to Afghan security forces, in likely violation of international humanitarian law, the government tried to destroy him and refused to give documents to a parliamentary inquiry. The Speaker reminded the government parliament controlled cabinet, not the other way round.

After the last elections, when the opposition parties were close to agreement on a coalition majority government, rather than face the house in a vote of confidence, Harper talked the governor-general into shuttering parliament for a month until he shored up his own support.

Read the whole thing in the Australian

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Why I love Sasktel

I’m an IT consultant.  I need over 300 daytime minutes, caller id, voicemail, text messaging and a big bucket of data.  Here are the comparisons.
All plans have free evenings and weekends.

Virgin Mobile
Plan: Smartphone 80
Saskatchewan Coverage: Very good (same towers as Sasktel)
400 anytime minutes
Caller id 
Unlimited text
2GB Data
Price:  $90 / month

Saskatchewan Coverage: Very good (same towers as Sasktel)
Plan: Voice and Data 60+ (flex plan)
400 anytime minutes
2GB Data
Caller id
Unlimited Text or Unlimited calling nation wide to 5 favourite numbers
Price: $82 / month

Saskatchewan Coverage: Poor
Plan: Build your own combo ($25 voice with doubled minutes and flex data)
400 minutes
2GB of data
Caller ID
250 texts
Price: $95 / month

Saskatchewan Coverage: No local numbers available (same towers as Sasktel)
Plan: Smartphone 80
450 anytime minutes
Caller ID
500 sent text msgs
2GB Data
Price: $95 / month

Plan: Talk, Text and Unlimited Data
Saskatchewan coverage: Very good
400 anytime minutes
Unlimited Text
Unlimited Data
Caller ID
Price: $70 / month

Sasktel definitely has the competition beat on higher end data plans.  There is one company that I’d be tempted to use if they actually had coverage in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Coverage: No Wind “home zones” / just roaming on Roger’s network
Unlimited everything: $45 / month.

The downside to Wind is their phones operate on the same frequencies as T-Mobile which is different from Telus/Bell/Rogers/Fido/Koodo/Sasktel.
This limits the choice of phones you can use.  T-mobile just got bought out by AT&T which uses the same technology as Rogers/Telus/Bell.  WIND will have to upgrade to the next generation and merge with the pack to avoid being isolated with no good phones to run on their network. 

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I think this was engineered for Guantanamo Bay

I removed the Rebecca Black video I had embedded here. After watching an interview with her I felt bad. She is just 13 year old having fun singing. While I think the song is bad she doesn’t deserve the harsh derision she has recieved.

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Winter attack ad


Being honest with each other

If you hang around churches long enough you’ll probably hear people talking about speaking the truth in love. The idea comes from this passage.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Eph 4:15-16 ESV)

According the translators of the NET we are missing a nuance with the typical English translation here. They go with the following:

But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.
(Eph 4:15-16 NET.)

They went with “practicing” rather than “speaking.” Why?

The meaning of the participle ??????????? (al?theuonte) is debated. In classical times the verb could mean “to speak the truth,” or “to be true, to prove true.”… In the NT the only other place the verb appears is in Gal_4:16 where it means “to speak the truth.” However, in Ephesians the concept of “being truthful” is the best sense of the word. In contrast to the preceding verse, where there are three prepositional phrases to denote falsehood and deceit, the present word speaks of being real or truthful in both conduct and speech. Their deceit was not only in their words but also in their conduct. In other words, the believers’ conduct should be transparent, revealing the real state of affairs, as opposed to hiding or suppressing the truth through cunning and deceit.

Perhaps the real thrust of what Paul is saying is that in order to grow in maturity we must be transparent, honest and straightforward in our words and deeds. This would include our faults and weaknesses. That is a challenging take on this passage and I think it fits very well. In my church experience people don’t grow until they can be honest with themselves and others. People aren’t honest unless they know they are loved and feel like they won’t be judged if they reveal their weaknesses and faults.


Coop posts on oil and the future

Coop has a long post on the realities of oil supply.  It is timely given the current situation in the middle east.  The reality is our world could change dramatically in a matter of weeks or even days.  Oil supply is so tight that if another major event causes a lose of production there would be an world wide oil shortage.

Opec claims it has about excess capacity of about 4 million barrels a day.  World demand is about 87 million b/d and Libya’s contribution is about 1.5 m/b.  Half or more of Libya’s production is offline.  There is some breathing room but there are good reasons to doubt Opec’s assertions that can deliver an extra 4 million b/d.  No one really knows how much capacity if left in world oil production.

If the upheaval that has spread through the Arab world were to reach Saudi Arabia and significantly cut their oil production the world would been in an immediate shortage.  The price of oil would skyrocket, the stock markets would drop, and many things that we take for granted in our society would become more complicated.  Western and eastern nations alike may become desperate enough to engage in military action in order the pacify the region just to restore the flow of oil.  The world would look to the Americans but America is tapped out financially and already engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The world is very much asleep on this issue. 

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The love huperbole?

Literally it means to throw beyond.  It was more commonly understood as “beyond comparison” or “excessive.”  It can been used in a negative or positive sense. 

Here are four positive examples of how the word is used.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
(2Co 4:7 NET.)

For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison
(2Co 4:17 NET.)

even because of the extraordinary character of the revelations. Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me — so that I would not become arrogant.
(2Co 12:7 NET.)

But you should be eager for the greater gifts.
And now I will show you a way that is beyond comparison.
(1Co 12:31 NET.)

The way that is beyond comparison is love.

As I consider what should be central in the life of the church it is passages like 1cor 12:31 I find compelling.  The word used to describe the importance of love is also used to describe the power of God, the glory produced by suffering and the character of the divine revelations that Paul received.

I’d say that puts Love in pretty high standing.

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An attack ad on attack ads

I like it.

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Does church need to be biblical?

Does it really matter if what we do in church matches up with scripture? I remember sitting down with a prominent local church pastor about the fledgling house church network I was part of. He told me he didn’t believe that the bible should inform the way we “do” church. I was a church conference sitting down with a number of different church leaders and denominational folks. One prominent denominational leader told me the exact same thing. He said the bible does not speak to how we do church.

I’ve never really understood this line of thinking. I understand that the New Testament church was established in a radically different time and place than we are now. If we were to copy the New Testament practice for practice we might miss the original intention of the apostolic leaders. There are some practices that just don’t mean the same thing today that they did in biblical times. We know women were instructed to wear a covering on their head. The reason why women were instructed to wear head coverings (1cor 11) is lost on us. I remember having to teach on this chapter of Corinthians and I hoped to find a good explanation for this practice and I couldn’t. We assume the Corinthians knew exactly what Paul was talking about but this practice just doesn’t translate in to our context.

What if we run in to a passage that describes the function, value or nature of the church and it is applicable regardless of the cultural or societal context? Let’s consider one such passage in the next chapter of 1Corinthians.

so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(1Co 12:25-27 TNIV)

Obviously this applies to us here and now but does it speak to church practice? I believe it does. The first objection I know some would make is that Paul isn’t speaking to the structure of the church just the attitude, ethics and values of the people in the church. I would agree to a point but we must remember that our forms and methods reflect what we value in the church. If the central expression of church requires nothing other than attendance, singing and listening from most people what message does that send? Does that communicate that there is equal concern for everyone in the body? Is it right that we value certain aspects of church ministry so much that we don’t have the time or the resources to ensure that everyone is cared for even a little bit?

Looking at this passage it is easy to gloss over it assuming Paul being unrealistically idealistic. How can everyone in the church be equally cared for? It just isn’t feasible. It isn’t unrealistic when we consider that the church in Corinth met in homes. It is easy to understand how in that setting people could have not just known one another but actually had an active concern for each other. I’ve personally observed the sincere and genuine sadness that people feel when one or more of our church members can’t make it because we tangibly feel the loss of their contribution.

Such passages of scripture seem overly idealistic when looking through the lens of contemporary church practice, but if we view it in the context of their actual church practice they are very realistic. I think we have a generous amount of freedom in living out the values prescribed in scripture. 1Cor 12 could be lived out as a group of house churches networked together or a larger church with a significant investment in small groups. My only concern is that we faithfully live out biblical values and structure our activities so they work with, not against the natural function of the church.

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The Wiki Gnomes on Hell

If you are interested in a quick over view on the historical Christian beliefs on hell Wikipedia as a nice little summary.

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