Wednesday, May 15, 2002

On Vacation Soon. As I indicated below, tomorrow, my bride and I are celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary. We had hoped to go away last year to celebrate our 20th, but we did something even more fun -- we had a baby. That's right, our fourth child was born on our 20th wedding anniversary -- so tomorrow we celebrate her first birthday as well. In any event, I'm promising to take some time off from work and computers and everything starting Sunday -- so posting beginning this weekend will be non-existent (if I can stay away from the PC).
40 cups in 2 seconds. The NY Times takes note of the mega-churches. There is a note in there that gives me pause: ". . . the Greenlee Communion Dispensing Machine . . . can fill 40 communion cups in 2 seconds." Is this what Jesus intended when He said to "do this in memory of me?"

This isn't a criticism, per se, rather a pause. Per Mark 2:27, God gives Communion to man, he did not make man for Communion. (well, actually He did make us so we could be in communion, but, I think you see what I'm indicating.)
Adam, Eve, and Submission. Mark Byron has a good exegesis of Ephesians 5:21-27. This was one of four passages my wife and I had read at our wedding (21 years ago, tomorrow). There are some that try to use this passage to suggest that women are somehow inferior to men -- I don't buy it, for the reasons that Mark explains, among others.

Another verse relied on by those who, for whatever reasons, try to stir up strife between men and women is Genesis 2:18: "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" The thinking is that a woman is just to be a helper, an assistant, subservient to man. The IVP website has a good rebuttal to this idea in the exposition of this verse. Since the note changes on a daily basis, I will quote extensively:
Are women inferior to men, merely designed to be their helpers? Is it consistent with the biblical text to view men as the initiators and women as their assistants? Is this what makes women suitable matches for men?

The Creator regarded Adam's situation as incomplete and deficient while he was living without community or a proper counterpart. The Creator judged Adam's situation quite negatively: "It is not good."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 expresses this same opinion about aloneness. The wise writer Solomon advised:
Two are better than one. . . . If one falls down, his friend can help him up. . . . Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
True, in Jeremiah 16:1-9 the prophet Jeremiah is commanded by God to remain alone, but this is meant to be a sign that God's judgment on the people is so near that it will not be worthwhile to get married. Nevertheless, the full life is a life that finds its fulfillment in community with another person or group of persons.

In the Genesis story we find that God created a woman after he had created the man. This would end Adam's loneliness and the state that God judged to be "not good." She was to be his "helper"--at least that is how most of the translations have interpreted this word. A sample of the translations reads as follows: "I shall make a helper fit for him" (RSV); "I will make a fitting helper for him" (New Jewish Publication Society); "I will make an aid fit for him" (AB); "I will make him a helpmate" (JB); "I will make a suitable partner for him" (NAB); "I will make him a helper comparable to him" (NKJV).

However, the customary translation of the two words `ezer kenegdo as "helper fitting him" is almost certainly wrong. Recently R. David Freedman has pointed out that the Hebrew word `ezer is a combination of two roots: `-z-r, meaning "to rescue, to save," and g-z-r, meaning "to be strong." The difference between the two is the first letter in Hebrew. Today that letter is silent in Hebrew, but in ancient times it was a guttural sound formed in the back of the throat. The g was a ghayyin, and it came to use the same Hebrew symbol as the other sound, `ayin. But the fact that they were pronounced differently is clear from such place names which preserve the g sound, such as Gaza or Gomorrah. Some Semitic languages distinguished between these two signs and others did not; for example, Ugaritic did make a distinction between the `ayin and the ghayyin; Hebrew did not (R. David Freedman, "Woman, a Power Equal to a Man," Biblical Archaeology Review 9 [1983]: 56-58).

It would appear that sometime around 1500 B.C. these two signs began to be represented by one sign in Phoenician. Consequently the two phonemes merged into one grapheme and what had been two different roots merged into one, much as in English the one word fast can refer to a person's speed, abstinence from food, his or her slyness in a "fast deal" or the adamant way in which someone holds "fast" to positions. The noun `ezer occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament. In many of the passages it is used in parallelism to words that clearly denote strength or power. Some examples are:

There is none like the God of Jeshurun, The Rider of the Heavens in your strength (`-z-r), and on the clouds in his majesty. (Deut 33:26, [author's] translation)

Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield of your strength (`-z-r) and the sword of your majesty. (Deut 33:29, [author's] translation)

The case that begins to build is that we can be sure that `ezer means "strength" or "power" whenever it is used in parallelism with words for majesty or other words for power such as `oz or `uzzo. In fact, the presence of two names for one king, Azariah and Uzziah (both referring to God's strength), makes it abundantly clear that the root `ezer meaning "strength" was known in Hebrew.

Therefore I suggest that we translate Genesis 2:18 as "I will make a power [or strength] corresponding to man." Freedman even suggests on the basis of later Hebrew that the second word in the Hebrew expression found in this verse should be rendered equal to him. If this is so, then God makes for the man a woman fully his equal and fully his match. In this way, the man's loneliness will be assuaged.

The same line of reasoning occurs in the apostle Paul. He urged in 1 Corinthians 11:10, "For this reason, a woman must have power [or authority] on her head [that is to say, invested in her]."

This line of reasoning which stresses full equality is continued in Genesis 2:23, where Adam says of Eve, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called `woman,' for she was taken out of man." The idiomatic sense of this phrase "bone of my bones" is a "very close relative," "one of us" or in effect "our equal."

The woman was never meant to be an assistant or "helpmate" to the man. The word mate slipped into English since it was so close to Old English meet, which means "fit to" or "corresponding to" the man. That all comes from the phrase that I have suggested likely means "equal to."

What God had intended then was to make a "power" or "strength" for the man who would in every way "correspond to him" or even "be his equal."
He's running for President. It finally dawned on me this morning as I was driving to work listening to Jimmy Carter's address to Cuba: "¡Mi Dios! ¡Él está funcionando para el presidente de Cuba!" (My God! He's running for president of Cuba!). Give it up Jimmy -- Fidel will outlast you.

Update. My friend from Cuba advises me that I used the wrong verb above. He said poseer would be a closer approximation of the concept of running for office -- what I wrote is more like he's working or cooperating with the president. So it should say: "...Él está poseído..."

Also, let me make it clear, I did like Carter's speech to Cuba -- maybe all that controversy with bioweapons was just to set up Castro so he could speak a little bit of truth to the people.
'Greedy monsters' ruled church
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — The Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity and later deported by Israel seized church stockpiles of food and "ate like greedy monsters" until the food ran out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry.
They also guzzled beer, wine and Johnnie Walker scotch that they found in priests' quarters, undeterred by the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol.
Prayers needed: for columnist Mona Charen, her son Jonathan, in a coma, her husband Bob and their 8- and 6-year old children.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

The Man from Hope. On May 22, 2001, George Bush nominated Lavenski R. Smith a native of Hope, Arkansas to a seat on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. As of this writing, there has been no movement by Patrick "Stonewall" Leahy on this nomination. Judge Smith served as an Associate Justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1999 until 2001. More importantly, however, from my perspective is the fact that from 1987 to 1991 he served with Ozark Legal Services representing thousands of low-income persons who were in need of access to justice. This isn't a job you do because you want to drive a Lexus or BMW or wear thousand-buck tailored suits. In 1989, the average salary for a staff attorney in Arkansas was about $23,800 [Source: Legal Services Corporation 1989 Workforce Data By State, page 51 from the 1989-90 Fact Book].

So why no hearing? There have been rumblings and undercurrents that indicate the Democrats are particularly loathe to confirm "minorities" who are anything but die-hard leftists, because they don't want to "create another Clarence Thomas."

Hold hearings, Senator Leahy.

Additions. Part of the reason I mention the legal aid work is because of Sen. Leahy's past interest in the subject. Some of you may recall during the Bork Hearings Patrick Leahy spent a round of questioning on Judge Bork's involvement in pro bono activities. Trying to paint Bork as a greedy pig, Leahy argued that Bork had earned $200,000 a year from 1979 to 1981. Bork testified: "Those were the only years I made money. . . There was a reason I made money, but I don't want to go into it here." Those were the years that his wife Claire was consumed by cancer -- the money was to pay the bills.

Also, I should clarify that Lavenski Smith is African-American.

Still More: Jay Nordlinger on Pat Leahy.

And still more on Leahy's committee, from Ann Coulter:
Estrada clerked for Justice Kennedy and has argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court. John Roberts clerked for Justice Rehnquist and has argued more than 30 cases before the Supreme Court. Jeff Sutton clerked for Justice Scalia and has had 15 arguments before the Supreme Court. Michael McConnell clerked for Justice Brennan and has argued 11 cases before the Supreme Court. None of them have even been given hearings by Leahy.
I love the internet. Last thing today at lunch: I really love the internet -- in the past few years I've been able to converse with Gary Wills on the baptism of St. Augustine, Andrew Wiles who solved Fermat's Last Theorem, and Ray Repp, the founder of contemporary Christian Music, among others. I've met a lot of neat people from New Zealand to Bosnia. Now, I've started this wild blog and have been getting some really nice notes from people from all over -- people with incredibly great ideas. (I've yet to receive a bad note). My one regret is that I'm terrible about managing my e-mail -- and therefore about responding. (sorry)

I do want to mention one note I received today that really thrilled me. For years I've been picking up a terrific little journal called the Mars Hill Review in bookstores in bohemian-type places and lately in Borders or Barnes and Noble. [Checking on-line, I see my first issue, which I recall quite clearly, was from 1996. It has a wonderful tribute to Mark Heard.]

So when I finally signed on to my e-mail today, what was there but this really nice note from Kim Hutchins, the founder and publisher of the Mars Hill Review. This blew me away.

If you haven't seen this journal before, you really don't know what you've been missing. I can not recommend this too strongly. Please look at the web-site and then go hunt it down on the newsstand or bookstore -- or order it. They also have an e-mail list you can access from that last page link I provided.
Southern Christians. As I've noted before, the Christian church is booming in the Southern hemisphere -- I see Africa as taking the lead (there are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in England, the US, and Canada, combined). This article takes note of that development. Moreover, I believe that the "West's" commitment to materialism and especially secular materialism will lead to a decline of civilization in the "west," the rise of Christianity in these third world countries will cause them to pass the West in our children's lifetime. Already the African Anglicans are sending missionaries to the US.
Orthodoxy. I have met several people recently who have moved from more-or-less Protestant backgrounds -- all pretty evangelical -- to the Orthodox Church. One of whom was a life-long Pentecostal. I just received a note from an old acquantance that he and his wife both converted to the Orthodox faith. This strikes me as unusual, but according to this article, may not be so. One more thing that should be noted is the rigor of becoming an Orthodox communicant -- it's not just a profession of faith.
Statistical Proof of the Resurrection. Richard Swinburne, a professor of philosophy at Oxford University, determined that there is a 97 percent probability that Jesus rose from the dead. For those of you interested, he used Bayes Theorem, which, if I remember correctly, has been pretty controversial but has come back into use lately. (I remember that it allows, for example, the short-cutting of a test, for example in pharmaceuticals, based on probable outcome, but all that's back in the cobwebs of my brain.)

More by Swineburne. More.
Follow up Taking. Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago has an essay noting his concerns with the Supreme Court's recent takings case, the Tahoe case. He quite correctly observes that "The winners in this case were not some mythical community at large, but only those homeowners fortunate enough to have built their homes before the moratorium was put in place." He further notes:
But once early-bird landowners started to build in the region, the increased runoff of dirt and organic matter into the lake resulted in its eutrophication, compromising its clarity. All the dislocations were created by the incumbent owners; yet none of the options before the planning board required them to cut back on their continued property use.

Instead, the brunt of new restrictions all fell on nonresident property owners, who had caused no damage but who had only limited clout in the planning process. The politics of self-interest are all too apparent: The means of environmental control chosen did more than preserve the status quo on the lake. It conferred a huge windfall on current homeowners. Land densities and housing stock were both reduced. The two forces together drove up the price of built homes, which current owners can capture either by use or by sale. The unbuilt plots essentially are worth nothing.
In his essay, he further shows why the Court was wrong, both from the standpoint of the law and the standpoint of economics. This decision may be seen as a triumph of the "liberal" wing of the Court, but I think it was nothing of the sort.

I maintain, as I did at the time of the opinion, that this is a short-sighted decision that encourages reckless development.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Court Update 2. Four Cases -- Ashcroft v. ACLU the Court upholds, sort of, the provisions of the Children Online Protection Act ("COPA"). A key issue appears to have been "community." Justice Thomas, joined by Rehnquist and Scalia held: "COPA's reliance on community standards to identify 'material that is harmful to minors' does not by itself render the statute substantially overbroad," in violation of the First Amendment. (at 22, emphasis in original.)

O'Connor and Breyer were ambivalent on the community standard. Thomas writes the main opinion, but was not able to convince O'Conor and Breyer. Thomas notes that in prior cases, where pornographers used the mail and telephones, local community standards were upheld and not found to be overbroad. O'Connor agrees with the plurality that local standards aren't a problem, however she disagrees with Thomas' reliance on the mail and telephone cases.

Breyer writes that he "believes that Congress intended the statutory word 'community' to refer to the Nation's adult community taken as a whole, not to geographically separate local areas."

Joining in the judgment, but not the opinion, were Kennedy and Ginsburg. Kennedy writes:
Only by identifying the universe of speech burdened by COPA is it possible to discern whether national variation in community standards renders the speech restriction overbroad. In short, the ground on which the Court of Appeals relied cannot be separated from those that it overlooked.

Justice Stevens, in dissent gets into a discussion of shields and swords noting that a Puritan village turns its community standards into a sword, purging the WWW into a smut-free community. In doing so, he would hand the mechants of pornography an invincible sword to strike down any restriction.

The second case was also porn-related. City of LA v. Alameda Books. The City of Los Angeles relied on a 1977 study which determined that concentrations of adult clubs/theaters/bookstores, etc. are associated with higher crime rates in surrounding communities and passed a law restricting such businesses from being within 1000 feet of each other or 500 feet of schools, parks, or churches. In a 4-1-4 decision, the Court upheld the provisions. O'Connor wrote the plurality decision, joined by Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas.

Kennedy, really turns on a more procedural device. Since the challenge to the law was based on a motion for summary judgement, he said there wasn't enough to throw it out there, that you first have to give the law a trial before shooting it.

No, said the dissenters (Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer). Shoot first, no trial is necessary, the law is invalid on its face.

Third case, Lapides v. Board of Regents of Univ. System of Ga. Nice easy unanimous opinion by Breyer. Here you had a state employee, a University Professor, who filed against the state in state court. The State moved the case to federal court and sought to dismiss. The Supremes held that the State's act of removing a lawsuit from state court to federal court waives this immunity.

Fourth case, Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC is one of those MEGO cases. I'm too ADD to focus on this one. Plus it was written by Souter, the dullest Justice who ever lived. His opinion is 69 pages long . I think only Breyer was able to read it without slipping into a stupor -- which is why he had to toss in a 27 page dissent. Scalia joined the dissent, but I'll bet it was just because Breyer told him the Souter opinion was based on legislative history.

[note: I did my reading and posting my notes here contemporaneously, therefore this particular entry changed from time-to-time, during the hour or so after posting.] BTW, the Lapides case still isn't on the Cornell website. Last Update: I just received this note from Cornell: "We apologize for the delay in transmission of the Lapides summary. We are testing a new system for communication of opinions from the Court, and it was inadvertently omitted." (5/15/02)

Update. I realized last night I should've at least given the bottom line in the Verizon case -- Verizon lost, the FCC won. Here is a news report if you want more details.
Court Update 1. Since I'm not seeing any opinions yet and nothing other than the very brief initial news report, I'm assuming that the Justices may be reading portions of their opinions and/or are releasing more than one opinion today. Here is the website for the current opinions at Cornell, which is very reliable about getting these out quickly. More on these later.
Court Watch. After a brief working break (i.e. no decisions issued for a period of two weeks, I think), the Supreme Court announced a decision in Ashcroft, Atty. Gen. v. American Civil Liberties Union, et al. This was another challege to the Children Online Protection Act ("COPA") enacted in October of 1998. I'm still waiting for a copy of the opinion. News reports have it that the Supremes, in fragmented opinions, directed the 3rd Circuit to conduct further review. It appears that only Stevens would've struck down the challeged sections in their entirety. More later.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

CoverWatch. Newsweek: 39 Days in Bethlehem. Ho-Hum. Time: Spiderman Rules -- so does this cover.
Happy Day, Moms. We had a nice evening on Saturday with my mom and 2/3 of my sisters and my Aunt, all the way from California. My other sister sent a home-DVD from Colorado (what a way the world is changing). On Sunday we're going with some friends out for a wonderful family meal, as is our tradition, to Graves Mountain Lodge. Hope your Mother's day is blessed!