Monthly Archives: May 2010

Gearing Up

At 9:10 this morning I came back to the apartment from an exhilarating bike ride. I hadn’t ridden a bike for a very long time before that. Maybe six or seven years, really. I used to dabble in mountain biking with a friend of mine. He was the real cyclist; I just came along, but had a great time doing it. In those days, I had a bike that suited my needs, for the most part, but never really had a high caliber bike. My last bike was a Huffy from Wal-mart, and though I loved it, it barely made the cut after Ben and I started hitting the trails.

But as I was saying, I went on a ride this morning. I rode to Lake Murray, rode the lake loop, and rode back home. For those who are tempted to be a smidgen impressed, I must admit that I only live about a mile and a half from the lake.

Yesterday I bought the bicycle from Trek, right down the street from my apartment. I was deliberating whether to get a mountain bike or a road bike. The advantages of a road bike on paved streets are easily felt. In terms of resistance, there’s just no comparison to a mountain bike. But I didn’t know what kind of biking I would be doing. I needed something more versatile. You can always get away with riding a mountain bike on the street and then hit the dirt with no problems. Try a road bike on the dirt, and you’re in for a bad ride. The best thing is to have two bikes, but I can’t have two bikes; I had to choose, and ultimately the versatility of the mountain bike won the day. Already, after her maiden voyage, I’m glad I have the knobby, 2-inch tires, when I veered freely off the paved loop at Lake Murray and ventured a little off-roading.  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

A Tinkerer, an Approximator, and a Blunderer

So-called theistic evolutionists, have the problem of splitting the difference between belief and unbelief in the Bible. They want to accommodate what they’ve been told is the evidence for evolution while still holding to God’s revelation. But such juggling just looks silly, especially when science doesn’t require (quite the contrary) belief in evolution. Scientists and thinkers on both sides of the debate can see the inconsistency of the theistic evolution position, and here is where atheist Christopher Hitchens and I can agree. In his book God is Not Great, Hitchens says:

The very magnificence and variety of the process [of evolution], they now wish to say, argues for a directing and originating mind. In this way they choose to make him out to be a tinkerer, an approximator, and a blunderer, who took eons of time to fashion a few serviceable figures and heaped up a junkyard of scrap and failure meanwhile. Have they no more respect for the deity than that?

To which creation scientists would give a hearty amen. Hitchens dumps the God hypothesis for Darwinism. Creation scientists dump Darwinism for God’s Word, and get a powerful, if growing and adapting (shall we say evolving?), model of origins to boot. I almost prefer Hitchens’ outright denial to the Quasimodo theory of theistic evolution that in two ways seems to insult God. The first, Hitchens clearly pointed out. The second is that (since they believe the Bible is God’s word) it doesn’t quite trust God.

To Dream, Perchance to Succeed

The American dream, as it is called, seems to be the object of universal scorn, condemned from both inside and outside the church. Indeed, in some circles, faith in an American dream is no doubt considered the very litmus test of naiveté. This may be because such derision is in vogue, or because the American dream is an easy target; I don’t know.  But I do know this attitude toward the dream makes me sad, especially when it has for its object so noble a thing. But I think it’s not unlikely that the dream being criticized is deeply misunderstood.

What do dogs, “2.5” kids, the suburbs, and white picket fences have to do with the American dream? Well, very little. (I hate whenever someone says 2.x kids; every time I see it used, it is used as mockery.) The American dream, as I see it, is not primarily about one’s own success or comfort as it is about the wellbeing of one’s children, and dedicating one’s exclusive love to one’s spouse. That is, it is not centered around the self, as many seem to think, but around the family.  Surely, one’s own financial success is closely related to what a person is able to provide for his or her family. But therein lies the reason for seeking such success and why that success is tied as it is to the American dream—for the sake of others, namely one’s own dependents: one’s children, one’s wife, one’s husband.  The people you love and care for the most. Is the longing for this, the working for this, so wicked?  Would you aspire to raise a family in squalor?  If you did, why would your aspiration be more praiseworthy?  That’s what I can’t figure out.

If there is anything wrong with the American dream, it is that it is poorly named. It is the American dream to us only because we are American, but the dream is not uniquely American. Not at all.  It is universal in its scope, and is realized in countless forms in countless cultures around the world. It means the hope for a decent life, relative comfort, and opportunity for your posterity.  It is nothing more or less than is wanted by almost everyone. In fact, I have to be honest here: I find slinging mud at the so-called American dream to be one of the most judgmental exercises one can engage in. It is basically making a sin out of one of the most cherished and honorable goals that reside deep within the soul of man.

God may call Christians to abandon the American dream. He may call them to abandon a life of relative comfort, or the raising of children in a livable neighborhood. He may call them to celibacy. If this happens, jump ship and leave the American dream behind, by all means. You will not regret it. The point I wish to make is merely that such calls are the minority of cases and are not more holy than the call to plant yourself in the culture and city where you find yourself (be it in San Diego, Dublin, Tokyo, or Ulan Bator) and to work with your own hands and raise and love a family. That is what, and that is all, the American dream is.

The President’s Advice

Last Saturday, while I was at the beautiful Palomar Christian Conference Center, President Obama addressed the graduating class of the University of Michigan. He was there, not a little nauseatingly, awarded an honorary doctorate degree for, well, nothing really. And while his transparent attempt at this address to reposition himself as a centrist will probably fail (since, as he has been President for over a year, we have seen him in action) he did nonetheless make one statement that bears repeating. Said the President,

Still, if you’re someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.

Whether the President practices what he preaches here is irrelevant. What he said is good and true, and he’s got me.

Now, I’ve got a lot to say about Obama’s gross exaltation of government and his attempt to preempt criticism. But I do appreciate what he said about interacting civilly with a diversity of people and opinions. I also appreciate his comments about participation in public life and politics, including staying informed, paying attention, and contributing to the system.

Our freedoms, he concluded, did not come easy, “none of it was preordained.”  He said,

The men and women who sat in your chairs ten years ago and fifty years ago and one hundred years ago – they made America possible. And there is no guarantee that the graduates who will sit here in ten or fifty or one hundred years from now will enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that we do. America’s success has never been a given. Our nation’s destiny has never been certain.

Amen. And if we as Americans take this to heart, we will, I think, find the motivation to care about politics. Looking back at the birth of the United States, and the freedoms and form of government the Founders believed in, should give us the spirit to contend for the long life of “the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world” (Ayn Rand).

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