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The Rapture of the Bees

A mysterious phenomenon has scientists baffled and food-producers worried: ^ Honeybees are disappearing. Beekeepers are opening their hives and finding the bees just gone. The queen may be there, but she's by herself. There aren't any dead bodies. No one knows where the bees have gone off to. As many as a quarter of the world's honeybees have vanished.

This is a problem because as much as one-third of our food supply depends on creatures like bees to polinate the plants so they can reproduce and bear fruit. Some people are panicking on a Y2K scale. They cite Albert Einstein: "if the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination . . . no more men!"

Our human extinction is not necessarily imminent. Other insects, including other species of bees, help out with pollination. Here is an expert who says the issue is overhyped, that bee populations have always fluctuated.

Still, theories abound, from global warming to the proliferation of cell-phones. Could it be that male bees have just had it with the matriarchy of the hive? Could the workers be throwing off their chains? Did Christ come as a Bee to save the bees, and He has raptured His elect before His second coming?

(I know at least one of you readers keeps bees. Bruce, are your bees all there? Do you have any theories?)

Posted by Veith at 07:48 AM

June 01, 2007

Finished

I finished that project I was telling you about, a book on C. S. Lewis's "Prince Caspian," designed to come out in conjunction with the movie, whose release is scheduled for May, 2008. I completed the manuscript on the day of my deadline, so that's a relief.

Posted by Veith at 07:58 AM

^ Death of the Album

On this anniversary of "Sgt. Pepper's" monumental achievement (see below), it is an occasion to mourn the death of the art form of which that particular record was an apex. The album is no more. I'm not talking about what those little CD's did to album cover art, which was another part of "Sgt. Pepper's" brilliance. With music downloading, there is no more any physical object associated with musical recordings, and we are back to individual songs.

Posted by Veith at 07:55 AM

America's Pro-Life Idol

WORLD's John Dawson has written a great story on the background of American Idol-winner ^ Jordin Sparks. It turns out that Jordin--who is the daughter of former NFL defensive back Phillippi Sparks--is a big pro-life activist, who has been singing at anti-abortion rallies for years. She and her family are committed Christians, and she had already been identified as an up-and-coming gospel singer.

I'm just thankful John's article did not come out BEFORE the final competition, or she might not have won. John also identified three more of the top finalists as having similar Christian backgrounds: Melinda Doolittle, Phil Stacey, and Chris Sligh.

No one should be surprised, I guess. Church is just about the only place anybody sings anymore. That and ballgames. Of course, that is changing in many churches, with their piped-in Christian muzak and solo performances replacing congregational singing. But still. . . .

Posted by Veith at 07:46 AM

^ Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play

It was 40 years ago today. The Beatles released "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Part of its genius was to link and orchestrate the different songs in such a way that the album was a unified work of art in itself, composed of all of the diverse songs. The album was more than the sum of its parts.

I remember getting that album. I was 15. I listened to that album over and over again, until I literally wore out its grooves. That must have been the first time I ever seriously listened to music and was the catalyst for my interest ever since.

And it wasn't the whole 60's cultural and counter-cultural thing, to which I was pretty much oblivious at that time. As this column shows, the Beatles turned out what was aesthetically, objectively, good music.

Posted by Veith at 07:36 AM


« April 2007 | Main | June 2007 »

May 29, 2007

Come back soon

Friends, comrades, and fellow travellers, I have a HUGE project that I have to get finished by May 31. It will take every moment, every watt of mental energy, and every syllable of wordsmithing that I can muster. So come back on June 1!

Posted by Veith at 06:43 PM

May 25, 2007

Thanks

I appreciate the discussions of political ideologies that we had the last few days. The whole range of opinions expressed helps us all think through issues. I'm going to make use of that discussion in my next column for WORLD. So thanks.

Posted by Veith at 09:33 AM

^ Power Liberals/Pragmatic Liberals

David in Norcal puts forward the most telling descriptions of "new liberals" of them all. According to him (and he is one), the new liberals are not pacifist (though I'd be curious what war he thinks they would be willing to fight) and are not influenced by the 1960's era anti-war movement (although he might try going to some of the anti-war rallies,where his compatriot tODD got fed up with all of the hippies). He puts the different factions in generational terms, with these new young liberals reacting against their Reagan-era parents. But here is his big insight:

I should mention that "new liberals" like the bloggers, are motivated less by ideology than by simply wanting the party closest to their ideology to win. Liberal bloggers and new liberals, like Rahm Emanuel are practical and would almost sell their souls to win an election because having the right ideals but no power means all the wrong ideals get implemented.

THIS is it and the wave of the future. Postmodernists do not believe in ANY ideology. To them, all ideologies are just masks of power. And while the earlier postmodernists used this insight in a critical way, to show the evils of the existing power structure, it was just a matter of time before some of the people who think that way acted on their presuppositions. Just get power.

Pragmatism is another corollary of the postmodernist critique of all ideologies and metanarratives, as articulated by Richard Rorty. Just do what works. The problem with pragmatism, though, is that it often begs the question, "works to do what?" so that ends and ideologies get snuck in the back door. On the other hand, might pragmatism be an OK philosophy by which to govern, if the goals are generally accepted, such as economic prosperity?

But this may be the political conflict of the future (not quite yet, since most liberals today do have some sort of ideology or remnants of ideology): a party that has an ideology vs. a party that has no ideology. The former will be crippled by ideological disagreements (as we see happening now among conservatives of all stripes), whereas the latter can be, in David of norcal's words "cynical but savvy" and do anything necessary to stay in control.

Posted by Veith at 08:04 AM

^ Libertarian Christians

More from my friend and colleague Rich Shipe:

Here's my bold statement: I don't think it is possible to be a Christian libertarian. It is similar to the impossibility of an athiest Christian. The two things are mutually exclusive. The reason is that libertarianism is based on the idea that man owns his own body. The entire libertarian philosophy is derived from this principle of absolute autonomy. On the Christian side it seems to me that God's "godness" is a fundamental of Christianity that can’t be removed without undermining the whole thing. Man doesn’t own himself, God owns everything because he is God. If we believe in the fundamental existence of God how can we have the autonomy of the libertarian? Usually when I meet Christian libertarians they have many exceptions to their libertarianism which creates inconsistencies. Throwing off libertarianism doesn’t mean we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater though and become socialists. Thankfully others thought of great ideas like limited government, capitalism, federalism, checks and balances, etc before libertarianism synthesized as an idea. Am I off here in some way?

Christian libertarians do exist. I know some of them. But is there a contradiction, as Rich suggests? Or do Christian libertarians just need to explain themselves? The ones I know are resolutely opposed to abortion and take conservative stands on other moral issues. Would a Christian libertarian out there briefly explain your political ideology and how it fits with your theology?

Posted by Veith at 07:45 AM

^ Crunchy-Con Christians

From my friend and colleague Rich Shipe:

I enjoyed and identified with Dreher's Crunchy Cons book. It was especially appealing as a Christian because I often get frustrated with conservative activists that seem to imply that the only institutions capable of doing wrong are governments. In reality Wall Street probably has more impact on our culture and daily lives that Washington. Conservatives tend to have a distrust of government and liberals tend to have a distrust of business. Should we trust either? Can either solve our problems? Big business does constantly advocate for liberal economic policies and I suspect it is because they know they can survive that regulation better than the little guy so it is a way of beating their competition. I wouldn’t advocate the solutions to these problems that a socialist would but we’ve got to at least acknowledge them and guard against favoritism in policy toward that strong and big.

To be against the strong and big on principle, wary of BOTH big government and big business. Good idea? Is there a makings of a "third way" here?

I would also like someone to make the conservative Christian case for eating granola.


Posted by Veith at 07:40 AM

May 24, 2007

^ The Varieties of Liberalism

We have been analyzing conservatism, but we need to be analyzing liberalism. Most experts are predicting that the pendulum will continue to swing back to the Democrats, who, having taken Congress may be poised now to take the presidency.

Liberals too have changed considerably since their glory days from FDR to LBJ. Used to, liberals had their base in the working class, making them somewhat culturally conservative. Now, liberals have their base in the New Class, the well-educated and trendy "knowledge" workers. Used to, liberals were populist; today, they are elite.

By my observations, today's liberals tend to be libertarian on moral issues (do what you want, especially when it comes to sex), and progressive on cultural issues (what is new culturally is superior to what is old). They believe in an activist, do-gooder government (as before). The old liberals also believed in an activist government in foreign affairs and were willing to fight wars. The new liberals, grounded in the 1960's anti-war movement, are essentially pacifist.

Is this characterization correct, do you think? Are there some nuances or even varieties that I am missing? I am not trying to be critical, just descriptive. You readers who call yourself liberals (tODD, Dave in Norcal), help us out here.

Posted by Veith at 09:21 AM

^ Lost gets Found

What used to have been one of my favorite TV shows, "Lost," had been foundering, running down rabbit holes, adding new characters each with a tedious backstory, and adding layers of complexity but resolving nothing. It was said to have jumped the shark. But after wasting much of this last season with a long,drawn-out imprisoned-by-the-bad guys story line and even attempting some stand-alone episodes, in the last few weeks, the old Lost was back, returning to the main narrative, which actually started going somewhere.

And last night, in the season finale, which featured numerous twists and turns, storylines were resolved, mysteries were answered, and it all ended with something no one saw coming: The castaways (apparently!) got rescued! What we thought was a flashback, with Jack turning into a morose, drug-addicted Dr. House, turned out to be a flash-forward! And yet, though he's off the island, mysteries remain.

Last night would have been a good way to end the series. Were promises that the show would go on for three more seasons part of an elaborate hoax to make this ending more surprising? Or will the series indeed go on. We can see the impact of their experience on the ex-castaway's' lives. After all, the mysterious vast conspiracies were going on beyond the island, bringing everyone there for some nefarious purpose. And, as Christians know, you don't have to be on a desert island to be lost.

Posted by Veith at 09:07 AM

^ Obligatory Idol entry

I have been following that show all season, but I've missed every episode since Melinda got voted off, not out of spite, though, out of my Tivo being broken. But, as those who care know, Jordin won.

Posted by Veith at 08:18 AM

May 23, 2007

^ The Varieties of Conservatism

The excellent discussions that this blog is famed for continue on yesterday's "Should Christians Be Conservative?" Read the comments if you haven't already. Of course, one factor in the question is that there are many different kinds of conservatives. There are economic conservatives and cultural conservatives, neo-conservatives, paleo-conservatives, and even "crunchy-conservatives" (the name an allusion to eating granola, meaning those who embrace a simple, closer to nature lifestyle). The new ideological position that is becoming dominant, I think, is libertarianism, which can be found on both the right and the left. Even here there are varieties, including Christian libertarians.

This reminded me that I actually wrote something about this. Delving through the WORLD archives, I discovered that I wrote it back in July 5, 2003! (I will copy it below, for your convenience, after "continue reading.") I think what is happening now is a great conservative crackup, with the different kinds of conservatism--together having been ascendant and triumphant--fracturing and going their own ways, including into the Democratic party. Read this and answer the question, what kind of conservative (or liberal) are you?

Right angles


With multiple varieties of conservatism, the right exhibits far more cultural diversity than does the left | Gene Edward Veith

The political world is commonly divided with a spatial metaphor; liberals are on the left and conservatives are on the right. Political ideologies, though, are more complicated than that. The "left" and "right" model comes from the 19th-century French Assembly, in which those who supported a strong government centered in a monarchy sat on the right side of the room, while those who believed in democracy and a free economy sat on the left.

Where would a contemporary American conservative sit? The monarchists on the right would not approve of someone who believed in limited government. Furthermore, the defenders of aristocratic land-based economics did not approve of the new capitalism that accompanied the industrial revolution.

But if the conservative time-traveler moved over to the left side of the hall, he would squirm at the way the radicals there were willing to throw out traditions, including Christianity. And he would balk at their revolutionary bent, their blithe assumption that they could reinvent society according to some utopian scheme. He would surely get up and leave.

Maybe he would have to hop a ship to America. But even here, his principles of free-market economics, personal liberty, and a limited government would classify him with the liberals of the day. (The word liberal comes from a Latin word meaning freedom, and even today right-wingers find themselves calling for a "liberal economy.")

Today, though, it is "liberals" who want a strong centralized government and a controlled economy, something that in the 19th century would have been staunchly "conservative."
But the complications keep coming. Today many factions consider themselves "conservative," and while they agree in opposing today's liberals, their ideologies are quite diverse. Liberals do not realize that conservatives exemplify, more than they do, their alleged principles of pluralism and cultural diversity.

There are country-club conservatives, concerned with conserving their wealth. There are cultural conservatives, concerned with conserving their American heritage and what they term "family values," a group that often lacks the wealth to receive invitations into country clubs.

Libertarians value free markets, both in economics and in culture. They seem quite "liberal" on issues such as abortion and gay rights and go far beyond most Democrats in their desire to legalize drugs, prostitution, and "victimless crimes." As a rule, libertarian conservatives oppose cultural conservatives but sometimes sound like them in their exaltation of the right to keep and bear arms.

There are also neo-conservatives, mostly ex-liberals "mugged by reality," who retain a belief in an activist government. They agree with liberals that "government should be a force for good in the world"; they disagree with them about what that means. Neo-conservatives supported war in Iraq as a means of improving the world in the Middle East.

They are opposed by paleo-conservatives, who are isolationist on foreign affairs. Patrick Buchanan, for example, opposed the war in Iraq, says immigration weakens the historical American culture, and wants a more or less controlled economy that protects select American workers from global trade.
When Mr. Buchanan launches off against multi-national corporations and NAFTA, he sounds like a leftist, and yet on other issues, such as abortion and patriotism, he is leftism's polar opposite.

There are even "granola conservatives," or, in columnist Rod Dreher's memorable phrase, "crunchy conservatives." These folks resolutely oppose mass society, pop culture, cookie-cutter industrialism, big corporations, and the various travesties of both modernism and postmodernism. They can come across as environmentalists, valuing nature over commercial development, and they tend to prefer organic food. But unlike leftists, they oppose abortion, are skeptical of feminism, and tend to be religious. They are conservatives because they are pre-modernists.

And then there are "compassionate conservatives." They believe, like leftists, in social responsibility, but they believe that the most effective compassion—that which improves people's lives—does not come from bureaucratic government programs, which often make problems worse, but from the private sector, particularly churches.

Christian conservatives can be found in any of these camps, and there are, of course, Christian liberals. This is because Christianity is not an ideology. All of the varieties of Christian conservatives would agree on being pro-life and recognizing moral absolutes and their applicability to society. Unlike some conservatives, they would not idolize their country, since they know their own culture too is plagued by sin, and they would be skeptical of utopian promises from the left or right. They will want to protect the institution of the family.

In practice, of course, the different kinds of conservatism overlap, and some say such differences are exaggerated. But if today's liberalism continues to self-deconstruct and even passes from history, America will still have its share of disagreements.


Copyright © 2007 WORLD Magazine
July 5, 2003

Posted by Veith at 09:21 AM

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