Archive for July, 2009

Outliers is the latest in a series of captivating books by Malcolm Gladwell dealing with how things happen, how people succeed, and how decisions are made (his other books are Tipping Point and Blink). Gladwell begins Outliers with the remarkable story of Roseto, Pennsylvania. Nearly all the citizens of Roseto are descended from immigrants who came from Roseto, Italy, back in the 1880s. Roseto became famous in the sixties, after Dr. Stewart Wolf began to research the reasons for the remarkable health of the citizens.

Astonishingly, virtually no one under the age of 55 had ever died of a heart attack. And for men over the age of 65, the death rate from heart attacks was over half the rate for the rest of the nation. In fact the death rate from all causes was 30 to 35 percent lower than everywhere else in the country. Further, there was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. No one had ever been on welfare. Peptic ulcers were unheard of. The main cause of death was old age. People died of old age and virtually nothing else.

When Dr. Wolf began to look into this, he and his assistants thought that the people must have been following certain Old World dietary practices that had been brought over from Italy. But it wasn’t the case. Rosetans didn’t even use olive oil, they cooked with lard. Their pizzas were not thin and vegetarian as they had been in Italy, they were made of thick bread dough and were covered with sausage, pepperoni, salami, ham, and sometimes even eggs. The sweets that were only eaten on Christmas and Easter in Italy were eaten year round in Roseto. The doctors were shocked to find that 41% of their calories came from fat. And Rosetans were not big on exercise – most of the citizens were overweight and many were heavy smokers. Their good health wasn’t due to diet or exercise.

The docs then turned to genetics. If the answer wasn’t diet and exercise, maybe it was simply the fact that the Rosetans had incredibly good genes. But when they checked on their relatives that lived in other parts of the country, they found that those who lived elsewhere didn’t have good health, but were pretty much like the rest of Americans, sharing the same health problems.

Maybe it was the region itself, the doctors guessed. Was there something about the environment that was giving them such good health? Maybe it was a matter of living in the foothills of eastern Pennsylvania that made them peculiarly strong. But when they checked the residents of the closest towns, which were the same size as Roseto, populated with the same sort of hard-working people – people who lived in the same foothills, with the same climate, water, and surroundings – they found that residents in these towns had death rates from heart disease that were three times that of Roseto.

It was only after this that the doctors realized the secret. It wasn’t diet, exercise, genes, or location. It was Roseto itself. The people there were all Christians. They all worshiped together regularly and knew each other and took care of each other, and loved each other. They had had real community.

Gladwell notes, “Living a long life, the conventional wisdom at the time said, depended to a great extent on who we were—that is, our genes. It depended on the decisions we made—on what we chose to eat, and how much we chose to exercise, and how effectively we were treated by the medical system. No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community.”

It turns out that the secret to health and long life was something most Americans don’t have and many have never known: fellowship. That was what was present in Roseto and God was blessing them with life and peace (that’s my conclusion not Gladwell’s).

Life is not the result of diet, exercise, or following some technique. Life is a gift from God. And it is a gift that God gives us through other people.

The message of Outliers is a Biblical one (though it’s not really presented in those terms). The message is this: Nobody makes it on his own. Everybody who succeeds, does so because he received a lot of timely help from a lot of people. Or, we could put it this way: Every successful individual owes his success to the love of others. Love gives life.

That’s true for all of us all the time. God says so.

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Here’s the problem with word studies:


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Time magazine’s latest issue lists “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”.

Guess what #3 is.

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Baboons are so cute.

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I still remember what I was doing when I heard about the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was 40 years ago today and I was playing in a pickup basketball game with some old teammates. We had taken a break and I walked outside the gym and turned on the radio in my car . . . and heard the amazing news. Later that evening I saw the video and couldn’t believe it. I stood outside that night staring at the moon trying to imagine what it must be like to be standing up there looking back at Earth. And I wished I could have been there.

The next day at my summer job (I was working on a crew building a section of I-10 in Spanish Fort, Alabama) I couldn’t wait for the lunch break when I got to sit and talk with our resident guru, Solomon. Solomon was in his 70s, still working as hard as ever, and every day at lunch he would regale all us younguns with stories. At lunch that day I asked Solomon what he thought about the moon landing. He didn’t hesitate in replying: “It didn’t happen.”

What? Solomon, what do you mean it didn’t happen?

“It. didn’t. happen. No suh. Didn’t happen.”

Solomon, it was televised. We all saw it. How can you say it didn’t happen?

“Two reasons. First, remember, the earth and the moon, they both movin. You ain’t tellin me that the first time you shoot at something like this, you’re gonna hit it.”

I had to admit, I’d not thought of that.

“Second, they said that camera that showed them walkin on the moon and all, that camera cost 3 million dollars, they said. And they said they left that camera on the moon. Now, are you gonna tell me you’d leave a 3 million dollar camera behind?”

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to believing a conspiracy theory.

Solomon never believed that the moon landing ever happened. Neither did my grandfather. “They did it all on a TV set in Arizona,” he said. “You young people believe everything they tell you and everything you see. Just because it was on TV doesn’t mean it really happened.”

I was reminded of Solomon (and my Pawpaw) when I saw that there are still those around who refuse to believe that men walked on the moon. It’s funny but there’s something to learn from this.

I used to think that Solomon and my grandfather were just stubborn and naive, unwilling to embrace the new technologies and unwilling to conceive of the new possibilities which lay ahead of us. But I’ve come to appreciate their reluctance to believe anything they saw or heard. They had a perspective that used to be common, but now is practically lost altogether. I don’t mean that I think they were right about the moon landing. I do believe we really did make it there. But I’m talking about their reluctance to believe everything they saw on TV or heard on the radio or read in the newspapers.

There once was a very healthy skepticism regarding what was reported by the media. The older generation knew how easy it was to be deceived and misled by reports AND how difficult it is to get the whole story. They knew that some men lie. Even reporters. Even governments. They may have been stubborn and unreasonable at times, but I think their skepticism was much healthier than the attitude we see all around us today — i.e. if it’s on TV (or in the newspaper) it must be true. Solomon and my grandfather rejected the saying “seeing is believing.” They knew that wasn’t always the case.

At that point both Solomon and my grandfather were on to something. And I guess that makes me appreciate conspiracy theorists. As wacky as they sometimes are, we need them around. They serve to remind that sometimes the media do indeed misrepresent things in an attempt to mislead us. Sometimes. And even governments have been known to do the same. So, as we commemorate the Apollo 11 feat, let’s also remember to give thanks for all those who remind us not to be too gullible in regard what we see and hear. Seeing ain’t always believing.

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One more comment on the book, Talent is Overrated before I move on to Outliers. This book has basically the same message as The Talent Code: The key to reaching world-class levels of performance is hard, “deep” practice and expert coaching. Probably the most valuable section concerns the nature of effective practice, what Colvin calls “deliberate practice” (practice which develops skills to a high level). I like this because it can be applied to so many areas of life. Here are the five traits of “deliberate practice”:

1. It’s designed specifically to improve performance. And this almost always requires an instructor. Left to ourselves, we tend to practice only what we do well. A teacher can force us to work on our weaknesses. Colvin notes, “anyone who thinks they’ve outgrown the benefits of a teacher’s help should at least question that view. There’s a reason why the world’s best golfers still go to teachers. One of those reasons goes beyond the teacher’s knowledge. It’s his or her ability to see you in ways that you cannot see yourself. . . deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work on them.” (pp. 67-68)

2. It can be repeated a lot. “High repetition is the most important difference between deliberate practice of a task and performing the task for real, when it counts. . . Top performers repeat their practice activities to stultifying extent.” (p. 69)

3. Feedback on results is continuously available. “You can work on technique all you like, but if you can’tsee the effects, two things will happen: You won’t get any better, and you’ll stop caring.” (p. 70)

4. It’s highly demanding mentally. “Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. . . . A finding that is remarkably consistent across disciplines is that four or five hours a day seems to be the upper limit of deliberate practice, and this is frequently accomplished in sessions lasting no more than an hour to ninety minutes. The best violinists in the Berlin study, for example, practiced about three and a half hours a day, typically in two or three sessions.” (pp. 70-71)

5. It isn’t much fun. “Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands. Instead of doing what we’re good at, we insistently seek out what we’re not good at. Then we identify the painful, difficult activities that will make us better and do those things over and over.” (p. 71)

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Summer fun

Having fun in the sun? Be sure to remember some basic safety rules . . . . . . uh . . . . . . nevermind.

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A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a University student who grew up in Geneva. When he told me where he was from, I asked him if he had ever heard of John Calvin (he was not a Christian). He reacted to my question as if I had connected jumper cables to his ears, “Calvin! Calvin! We shall NEVER get away from Calvin!”

I thought then that if the mere mention of your name causes someone to get a huge case of the vapors over 450 years after your death, you must have done something right. Most men who lived half a millennium ago have been completely forgotten. The bear mention of Calvin’s name still gives men the sweats.

Calvin’s work will never be forgotten — and justly so. What a work it was! I’ve heard ministers complain loudly about having to prepare two sermons each week. Here’s Calvin’s work week:

His schedule from 1541 to 1549 involved three weekday sermons given at five in the evening and three Sunday services (one at daybreak, one at nine o’clock, and one at three o’clock).
On the days he did not preach, he lectured at the academy.
On Thursday he met with the elders.

After 1549, Calvin preached at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on the Lord’s Day and gave one sermon each weekday every other week (Monday through Saturday) — he preached ten times every 14 days.
During the week he preached on the Old Testament and on Sundays, from the New Testament — sometimes expounding the Psalms on Sunday afternoons.

Here’s a list of the books of the Bible he covered in his weekly Sunday sermons:

He preached through the book of Acts (from 1549-1554—189 sermons);
the Pauline Epistles (from 1554-1558—65 sermons);
the Gospels (from 1559-1564).

During the week he preached through Jeremiah and Lamentations (up to 1550);
the Minor Prophets and Daniel (1550-1552);
Ezekiel (1552-1554);
Job (1554-1555);
Deuteronomy (1555-1556);
Isaiah (1556-1559);
Genesis (1559-1561);
Judges (1561);
I Samuel and II Samuel (1561-1563);
I & II Kings (1563-1564).

In addition to all this, he carried on a voluminous correspondence; wrote commentaries; composed rebuttals to the errors of opponents; fended off slander, rumors, and personal attacks from innumerable enemies; dealt with numerous controversies; taught at the academy and daily cared for an invalid wife (who was bed-ridden the last four years of her life before her death in 1550).

AND he did all this while enduring terrible health himself. Calvin had a very weak constitution and spent nearly every day of his adult life in pain; daily having to bear up under some illness, ailment, or physical discomfort. Which makes all that he accomplished all the more amazing.

Ok. So I repent of complaining about how much I have to do. Compared to pastor John’s schedule and his trials, I’ve spent my life on the beach.

July 10 is the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth. Let’s pray that the Lord will enable us to can get something done.

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Kill the swine

Uh, no. That’s NOT the wicked witch of the West, it’s Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Ginsburg, silly. But then again . . .

Justice Ginsburg just gave an interview to the New York Times Magazine (to be published this coming Sunday) in which she acknowledges she always thought that abortion was originally intended to rid the world of those sorts of people that the rest of us don’t desire to be around.

Here’s the quote from the interview:

Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.”

In fact, of course, Justice Ginsburg’s perception was absolutely right. Just ask Margaret Sanger. Planned Parenthood’s mission was to eliminate “genetically inferior races” whose tendency to be fruitful and multiply upset the members of the genetically “superior races.” Justice Ginsburg is simply honest enough to admit that this was the plan all along.

[thanks to Ty Seal for making me aware of this article; read George Grant’s Immaculate Deception for the truth about Planned Parenthood]

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ok, we’ve had a little discussion on the Facebook page about the top five Pixar movies and here’s my top 5 (and the order is not significant):


Directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Score by Michael Giacchnio


Directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
Score by Michael Giacchino

The Incredibles

Directed by Brad Bird
Score by Michael Giacchino


Directed by Andrew Stanton
Score by Thomas Newman

Finding Nemo

Directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Score by Thomas Newman

so, whatchoo think?

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Boy, July is just chock full of wonderful things isn’t it? Fireworks, watermelon, picnics, and getting to hear Christians rejoice over the destruction other Christians suffered in the 19th century — what could be more fun that this?

What’s that? You didn’t catch the last one? Oh sure you did. Who has a “patriotic service” nowadays without including a stirring rendition of Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (preferably with lots of violins and trumpets)? Well, nearly everybody, that’s who.

I just watched a special “Celebrate America” worship service from a prominent church which included (with full orchestration) a rousing performance of this “hymn.” Brought the congregation to tears and to their feet with a standing ovation. It gave me shivers too . . . of a somewhat different sort.

“The Battle Hymn” was written by Mrs. Julia Howe, wife of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, medical doctor who had gained a world-wide reputation for his work with the deaf and blind (and not-so-well-known secret supporter and co-conspirator with John Brown, the terrorist whom Dr. Howe and five other wealthy New Englanders — the notorious “Secret Six” — secretly funded for the purpose of starting a slave revolt in the South). Mrs. Howe had been reared in a solidly Christian home, but, like so many of her contemporaries, she had rejected Biblical teachings for the new Unitarianism that had become all the rage in the middle of the 19th century.

As a Unitarian, Mrs. Howe had rejected the Calvinistic training of her childhood and no longer believed in a literal coming of the Lord or a final day of judgment as both the Bible and the historic Christian creeds taught. Neither she nor her husband believed in special revelation or biblical salvation. Her faith rested in the “law of progress” and the perfectibility of man. God’s judgment was meted out here on earth by men who acted as His appointed emissaries. Thus, in her famous poem, the “Lord’s coming” is seen in the coming of the Union armies, trampling out the South, which is viewed as the spawn of Satan, the vineyard that must be trampled by the Northern armies as the rod of God’s wrath.

The second verse of her poem expresses her faith. She sees Jesus in the watch-fires of the Union army (“I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps”). Those fires are like an altar on which the wicked will be sacrificed (“they have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps”). The Union army is the arm of the Lord to carry out His righteous judgment against the South (“I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps; His day [i.e., Judgment Day] is marching on”).

The third verse of the “Hymn” is a tad too blatant even for evangelical taste, so it is commonly omitted in hymnals (and in the bombastic choir renditions): “I have read the fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel. As ye deal with My contempters, so with you My grace shall deal; Let the hero born of woman crush the serpent with his heel. Since God is marching on.” Here Mrs. Howe gets explicit regarding what she’s talking about in her poem. The gospel is writ not in the Scriptures but in “burnished rows of steel” (the shining bayonets of the army). The army’s job is to bring in the kingdom by destroying God’s “contempters” — the better they do that, the more grace they will receive and, further, as they do that, they, as the ordained representatives of the Savior, will fulfill the promise of “crushing the serpent.”

Mrs. Howe was not being sacrilegious — at least, not in her mind. She openly rejected Christ and the Biblical gospel. She did not believe in the need for forgiveness or grace in the Biblical sense. After the war, she stated, “Not until the Civil War did I officially join the Unitarian church and accept the fact the Christ was merely a great teacher with no higher claim to preeminence in wisdom, goodness, and power than any other man. . . . I threw away, once and forever, the thought of the terrible hell which appears to me impossible.” The only salvation that could be obtained was that of ridding the world of those miscreants who disagreed with her and her Unitarian friends. She believed that the destruction of the South was a major step forward in the “redemption” of our country and the world (and to Julia, anytime you have the opportunity to cleanse the world of Satan’s children, it stands to reason that you should take advantage of it, regardless of how it is to be done).

Mrs Howe’s righteous indignation against the slave-holding South did not carry with it a corresponding respect for the black slaves, however. In a private letter she gave her opinion of the slaves. They are “as ugly as Caliban, lazy as the laziest of brutes, chiefly ambitious to be of no use to anybody.” She concluded by wondering if compulsory labor was not better than no labor at all. In other words, since good help is so hard to find, maybe slavery ain’t so bad after all.

So, given these facts, why is it that Christians now sing this song with tears in their eyes and the swelling feeling of nobility in their hearts? Probably for the same reason we have worship services devoted to the praise of our country rather than to the praise of God. We love to feel good. Most of all, let us feel good and noble, and if possible, superior to those who disagree with us. Yep. That’s our chief end. And we’re all convinced that God understands.

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It’s been a while since I praised the mainstream media (hint to aspiring writers: understatement is a very effective device) but this week’s Time magazine has a cover story on marriage that is worthy of praise. Caitlin Flanagan writes “Why Marriage Matters” and it is one of the most pointed rebukes to the modern propaganda against marriage that I’ve seen in a long time and, at points, it is astonishing in its straightforwardness.

Flanagan uses the recent, highly publicized infidelities of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, and reality TV star Jon Gosselin, who recently announced his separation from his wife Kate (mother of their 8 children) to address the crisis the institution of marriage faces in our country. Here are a few quotes from the piece:

“Sanford told reporters the affair had begun ‘very innocently,’ which reveals that he still hasn’t been honest with himself about the willfulness of his actions. When a married man begins a secret, solicitous correspondence with a beautiful and emotionally needy single woman, he has already begun to cheat on his wife.”

“In the e-mails exchanged between the governor and his girlfriend, they trip over themselves to praise the other’s virtues. She was ‘special and unique,’ ‘glorious’; he was a man of emotional generosity who ‘brought happiness and love to my life.’ These two humanitarians were engaged not only in worshipping each other’s high-mindedness but also in destroying another woman’s home, hobbling her children emotionally and setting her up for humiliation of a titanic proportion.”

Ms. Flanagan punctures the myth that single mothers can make up for the absence of a father:

“Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. ‘As a feminist, I didn’t want to believe it,’ says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. ‘Women always tell me, “I can be a mother and a father to a child,” but it’s not true.’ Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. ‘The mom may not need that man,’ Kefalas says, ‘but her children still do.’

She gives a fatal wound to the idea that marriage is no longer necessary: “There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage.” What about co-habitation? Flanagan asked Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation if a father has to be married to the mother of his children to have a positive effect upon the children?

“Not if he behaves exactly like a married man. If a man is willing to contribute 70% of his income to the child’s upbringing, dedicate himself around the clock to the child’s well-being and create a stable home life — a home life that includes his actually living there with mother and child — he might be able to give his child the boon of fatherhood without having to tie the knot. But that rarely happens. When children are born into a co-habiting, unmarried relationship, says Rector, “they arrive in a family in which the principals haven’t resolved their most basic issues,” including those of sexual fidelity and how to share responsibilities. Let a little stress enter the picture — and what is more stressful than a baby? — and things start to fall apart. The new mother starts to make wifelike demands on the man, and without the commitment of marriage, he is soon out the door.”

Where are we headed? Flanagan is not ambivalent:

“The fundamental question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of the century is this: What is the purpose of marriage? Is it — given the game-changing realities of birth control, female equality and the fact that motherhood outside of marriage is no longer stigmatized — simply an institution that has the capacity to increase the pleasure of the adults who enter into it? If so, we might as well hold the wake now: there probably aren’t many people whose idea of 24-hour-a-day good times consists of being yoked to the same romantic partner, through bouts of stomach flu and depression, financial setbacks and emotional upsets, until after many a long decade, one or the other eventually dies in harness.

Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation’s own safe passage into adulthood? Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can’t be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children’s lives — that’s the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.”

Ever think you’d hear this kind of straight talk from the “mainstream media”? Me neither. So, thank you, Caitlin Flanagan. It’s encouraging to hear these things said in public, out loud, where a lot of people will have to hear them . . . and, it’s about time.

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[FV post warning: Feel free to ignore if you’re as sick of hearing about this subject as everyone else is]

Well, just when I get to thinking that everyone is tired of Federal Vision stuff, the various Presbyterian and Reformed denominations have their General Assemblies and Synods. I don’t know why I continue to hope that someday, someone will take the trouble actually to check out what I actually believe (is that too much to ask?) rather than taking the slanders and misstatements of others at face value. But it’s obvious that this ain’t gonna happen.

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church passed their anti-FV position statement endorsing all the previous misjudgments and in the process giving a reading list that consisted exclusively of the critics’ opinions (really nice work, guys, thanks a lot for the help there). But really, this was expected. The ARPs have never had a dog in this fight and so, for them to repeat what they’ve heard is understandable (though still, somewhere along the way, we ought to be able to expect better from someone, right? . . . Ok, I’ll drop it).

But then comes the United Reformed Churches at their annual synod passing a fairly detailed (and error-filled) report on the FV. It’s an amazingly incompetent piece of work from men who ought to know better. Pastor Bill DeJong has taken the trouble to give a brief evaluation of the report (and in the process, saving the rest of us a good deal of time and labor). Please read Pastor DeJong’s posts to get a feel for what now passes for ecclesiastical studies.

Then to top it all off, Dr. Scott Clarke of Westminster Seminary (the one west of Philadelphia) has rebuked John Piper for having the temerity to invite Doug Wilson to his conference. Doug has replied to Dr. Clarke’s post here, inviting a “real” examination once and for all on his views by the URC “bigboys” (instead of just having to face all those pansies who examined him in the CREC). I sincerely hope that Doug gets some response, but, as John Calvin once said, “Lotsa luck on that one, babe.”

Of course, Doug’s request will be ignored and it will be ignored not only because the URC has no jurisdiction over Doug and most of its ministers have no interest in doing this — but primarily because that’s not the way this game is being played. In case you’re interested in trying your hand at this, here are the rules:

1) We get to “study” your views reading any questionable or unclear statement in the worst light imaginable
2) We ignore all your efforts to explain things that appear unclear to us and act as if your explanations are merely disingenuous double-talk
3) We are under no obligation to call or write you (and we won’t, so don’t get you’re hopes up) to request further clarification before we denounce you for your heterodoxy
4) We get to write a report which accuses you of all the errors we assume you believe and pray that we’re right just in case someone, somewhere along the way, bothers to check out our accusations.
5) Finally, we get to act baffled and astonished when you refuse to accept our ungrounded accusations as proof of your evident errors (and pretend to be amazed that you won’t admit to the truthfulness of all the declarations that have been made against you by all the ecclesiastical bodies that have said the same things we just repeated in our report).

Oh yes, and one more thing, 6) We get to ridicule your protests that you haven’t gotten a fair hearing. What a joke! You guys are a scream! You refuse to listen to all these unquestionably Reformed people, when all of us are playing by the rules! You guys really are hopeless!

I guess this must be a really fun game, considering the number of people who are playing it.

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Today is the day we celebrate the approval of the Declaration of Independence. The story is more interesting than we usually hear, however. Here’s a brief synopsis:

The last paragraph of the Declaration (which announces that the colonies are free and independent states) was adapted from a motion that had been brought by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7. Lee had been authorized by his state (which had been meeting in Williamsburg during the month of May to determine its relationship to Great Britain) to present the resolution. He made this motion:

“That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”

The motion was seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts and the debate began. The chief opposition came from the delegates of Pennsylvania, New York, and South Carolina, whose legislatures had not yet made up their minds regarding their future course. There was no doubt that the majority of the delegates favored independence but it was important to present to the world a united front, thus the delegates were willing to wait to achieve unanimity. For this reason the vote on the motion was postponed until July 1.

On July 1, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to resume debate on Lee’s motion. At the end of the day, the vote to approve the motion was 9 to 4 (Pennsylvania and South Carolina opposed; Deleware, which only had two delegates present who disagreed with each other, and New York’s delegation who had still not received direction from their legislature). Again, the final decision was put off till the next day.

That evening, the South Carolinians decided to drop their opposition for the sake of unity. The majority of the delegates from Pennsylvania also decided to support the resolution which brought the number of colonies in favor of approval to 11. The Delaware delegation was stilled deadlocked, however, so a message was sent to the other delegate who had not been able to attend the convention, Caesar Rodney. The weather was so terrible the evening of July 1, no one thought Rodney would be able to get to Philadelphia. But Rodney rode all night through the storm, 80 miles, and arrived at the convention just in time to break the tie of the Delaware delegation and vote for independence. New York had still not received instructions, but in spite of this, it was decided to bring the motion to the floor for a vote. The motion passed 12-0 with New York abstaining (New York did finally vote in favor of independence on July 19). The vote of July 2 meant that the colonies were no longer colonies of Great Britain but free and independent states. There was now no turning back. (John Adams always believed that July 2 should be observed as Independence Day, since that was the day on which the colonies became “free and independent states”).

When the vote was announced, a solemn silence filled the room as the magnitude of what these men had done settled in. John Hancock broke the silence by remarking, “Gentlemen, the price on my head has just been doubled!” Samuel Adams then rose to speak: “We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and . . . from the rising to the setting sun, may His Kingdom come.”

Congress ordered that the Declaration be authenticated and on July 4, President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson signed it. An order went forth to print the document and it was printed that night by printer John Dunlap. On July 5, Congress ordered copies of the document be sent to the various legislatures, assemblies, and conventions of the colonies. The Declaration was read publicly in Philadelphia on July 8 and in Boston on July 18. In the days following, it was published in newspapers throughout the land.

On July 19 when Congress received word of New York’s approval of independence, it resolved that the Declaration be engrossed on parchment with the title, “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” The copying was probably done by Timothy Matlack, who had served for a time as assistant of Secretary Charles Thomson.

The Declaration was then signed by all the delegates on August 2, 1776. The men who signed it knew full well what it meant to affix their signatures to this document. If the fight for independence failed, they would all be put to death for treason. This provoked John Hancock to observe, “We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together.” Benjamin Franklin hearing this, replied, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

Legend has it that as the delegates lined up to sign, Benjamin Harrison, who was a rather large man, remarked to the slender Elbridge Gerry, “I shall have a great advantage over you Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead.”

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland stepped up soon after this remark to affix his name to the document. After he signed, someone said, “Carroll, you will get off easily; there are so many Charles Carrolls in Maryland they will never know which one it is.” At this remark, Carroll walked back up to the table and seizing the pen again stooped and wrote under his name, “of Carrollton” so that there would be no mistaking his identity.

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