Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In other news, water still wet

Wayne LaPierre said something that was simultaneously simplistic and annoying:

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

These words annoyed me the moment I heard them, but it took an off-handed comment to understand exactly why. When I linked to a news story about this*, and read back that sentence, he smiled wryly and said, “Yknow, I'd accept help from a second bad guy who hates the first one, in a pinch.”

And that's it. There's this common thought that the world is set up like a movie – more specifically, like a Western – where there are such things as bad guys and good guys. As Terry Pratchett once said through one his best characters, “I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good people and bad people. You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.”** Or, to go straight-up biblical, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Reduce that sentence a little: “The only thing that stops a bad guy is a good guy.” Take away the whole firearms issue, and you're left with what sounds like a middle schooler explaining his Batman short story to his teacher.*** It's reductive and silly.

So, let's see if we can save it.

One of the primary things that stops an aggressive attacker with a gun is another trained attacker.”

Okay, this I can work with. It doesn't make my eyelid twitch with cognitive dissonance. It's a little long and and complicated, but inarguable, right? Well . . .

Crisis negotiation began in 1972 as a way to resolve conflicts between law enforcement and civilians without using lethal force. While it's effectiveness is debatable, it is inarguable that violent crime has, despite what you might hear, gone down, and many credit crisis resolution techniques with that reduction.****

The best possible solution to anyone attacking with a weapon is, of course, to prevent it happening in the first place. Needless to say, this is rarely going to involve gunplay.

So, we're left with another rephrasing:

Once prevention and negotiation have failed, an aggressive attacker can be stopped by another trained attacker.”

And this is the problem with press conferences and soundbites. Try getting a single article written about your speech when you say something that boring and dry. Still, we have to try. We have to have a conversation about this, where we're willing to talk using our big-people words, where we speak not in absolutes and certainties, but try to use the study and work of others to help us come to a solution, knowing that any solution we find will not be permanent and will not end violence.

Because this isn't bad guys versus the good guys, and it never, ever has been. There are no white hates, and no black hats, just shades of grey. And, well, some taupe and ecru, for some of the truly exceptional. We're all in this together. All of us. It's high time we started acting like it.

*For those who don't know, NRA President Wayne LaPierre said these words at a press conference, in follow-up to the Sandy Hook shootings. I'm not interested in talking about gun control here, but in case you need that context, there it be.

** Lord Vetinari in “Guards, Guards” – really, the book's a perfectly adequate introduction to Pratchett's Discworld. I prefer to start people off with Small Gods as it's nicely self-contained, but, well, just get started somewhere.

*** Of course, I've now just implied that Batman is a good guy – ooog. Just pretend I said Green Lantern instead. Wait, what's that? He helped the Guardians hide the creation of the Manhunters and hindered their prosecution. Oh, sod. Captain America, then. No, wait, he went directly against a federal order in opposing the Superhuman Registration Act. Huh. Even comic book morality is more complex than Wayne LaPierre's.

**** I have cites for this. Fans of statistics and analysis can check out http://www.eisf.eu/resources/library/hostage_negotiation.pdf. Fans of anecdotal evidence can read http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/answers-about-hostage-negotiation-part-1/. Or read both. The former's dry, but the latter's a good read. There's tons more out there, and anyone looking into what they want to do with their life, or for a second career should take a look.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ingredients for a fall meal

long serrated bread knife
butter knife
measuring cups and spoons
potato masher
sharp knife*
cast iron skillet
Adele's "21"**

Adele's "21"
1. Place CD in player.
2. Press "Play."

1 store-purchased loaf of bread (gotta save time somewhere)

1. Slice up loaf.
2. Spread on butter

3-4 cups of chopped squash*****
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice******
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1. Four months prior: plant squash seeds, water and weed as necessary.
2. Bring water to a boil the stove (use a pot that's one size larger than what you think you'll need).
3. Boil for 6-8 minutes, until the pieces fall apart when pierced.
4. Drain and mash in with all the ingredients

Steak tips
1-2 pounds of steak tips
1. Prepare with your favourite marinade, probably a day ahead or so.*******
2. Set stove temp to 350 degrees and your hottest burner on high.
3. Put your skillet on for at least 5 minutes (up to 10 if an electric stove).
4. Put your skillet in the oven for five minutes.
5. Wrap in foil and let the meat rest for five minutes before cutting.

If you start the water for the squash and the pan heating at the same time, they'll be ready at around the same time as well.

Last ingredient:

Family and/or friends (Substitute strangers as required).

* Seriously, a very sharp knife. It might seem kind of scary, handling a very sharp knife, but the nastiest cuts I've received are from dull knives.
** Can substitute any Motown.
*** May be needed, depending on how well you can handle "Someone Like You."
**** If it's a particularly cold day and your butter's hard-set, put it next to the stove when you start cooking. Near. Not on. Near.
***** Squash should be boiled as little as possible to preserve flavour, texture and nutrition. Cut it up in 1/4 inch cubes.
****** You can substitute trying to measure out a 1/4 tsp of allspice, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg but, really, why?
******* I recommend either this recipe or the house tips from The Sterling Cleaver.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Social Justice

I recently saw online someone using I Thessalonians 3:10 – well, really just the second half of the verse - in an attempt to argue that Obama removing the work requirement from welfare is unbiblical.

For starters, Obama did not remove the work requirement. At the request of the governors of certain states, he granted waivers in how they could distribute their federal welfare dollars, provided that their distribution increases the total number of people they put back to work. Several of those governors are Republican, incidentally, although that I’m aware of, none have sought to clarify what Obama actually granted in regards to welfare.

I am concerned, however, at this use of the verse.

For those not familiar, 1 Thess. 3:10 says, in total, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” The portion that was quoted was the second half, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Had the entire verse been quoted, I’m certain there would have been more questions as to context. It’s quite clear that the writer (Paul) is directing this to a specific audience, and that he is reiterating something he’d told them before. Who was he speaking of? Well, here’s the whole passage:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

       With this as context, it seems clear that we are not talking about the merely unemployed, but of the idle and indolent, and specifically the idle and indolent among the believers. In addition to their idleness, they are “busybodies,” which means exactly what you think it does – they are meddlers, gossips and people who like nothing more than to get in the way. It’s a specific class of people (idle busybodies), called out from the middle of a specific class of people (the “brothers”). (Here, by the way, “brothers” is the Greek work “adelphos,” typically used to refer to either a relation by blood or a member of one’s own religious community)

     So, what is our responsibility to the greater mass of the poor? Well, lets start with Proverbs:

"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."

“He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy."

“He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."

     And the consequences for failing to do so:

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."

     And then Jesus:

"Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"
"Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’"
     Okay. Seems pretty clear. We give to the poor and the hungry, we Christians. And look at that last passage – when you help the poor, it with the specific idea that we will not be repaid, at least not in this life. After all, anyone who has heard and answered Christ’s call has received a gift that they did not earn, that was made available to them when they did not want it.

     There are arguments to be made that it should not then be the business of government to give to the poor, but rather that this is the church’s responsibility. There’s a lot of meat to that discussion, and it’s one worth having*. During that discussion, though, we cannot neglect our duty first and foremost to Christ, and secondly to our fellow man.

     This is not an attempt to sway anyone one way or another in the coming election - each person should be free to vote their conscience, and it would be hubristic of me to think I could change that.

* My conversation on this subject begins with, “What are you doing for the poor, and what more can you do?” and moves on from there. Actions first.

Mayan Prophecies

This blog post is brought to you by the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center and the letters R and P. Because it was written by one of their educators, R.P. Hale.

Comments for Maya Prophecies R.P. Hale

Maya astronomers were really astronomer-priests, or more properly, calendar-priests who alone could interpret the night sky and the calendars—which is why as a class they could become so powerful in Maya societies.

They viewed the seasonal star positions to foretell the rainy or hurricane seasons. This was important because central Mexico to southern Central America does not have the familiar four seasons; rather, their seasons are wet-dry-wet-dry, roughly:

August – October: Major wet season, often with hurricanes
Nov. – Dec.: Two-month dry season
Jan. – Feb.: Two-month short wet season
Mar. – July: Major dry season; extended droughts were serious

Mesoamerican temples—and cities—were almost invariably sited astronomically, most often to solsticial or August 13 sunrise/sunset positions. Those at Uxmal, Chichén Itzá, Palenque and Tikál were sited to these and the four-temple complex at Tikál was sited to multiple Sun positions over the solar year.

August 13 was and remains the most important calendar day to the Maya groups overall. The beginning of the Current Era of the Maya Long Count correlates to 13 August 3114 BC. It does not “end” on 21 December 2012! This cycle completes on 13 October 4772 AD, when this pik’tun period of 20 bak’tuns is completed. Notice that I do not—and will not—use the term “end.”

The units of the Long Count are:
1 K’in = 1 Sun = 1 day
20 K’in = 1 Winal = 20 days
18 Winal = 1 Tun* = 360 days
20 Tun = 1 K’atun = 19.75 y
20 K’atun = 1 Bak’tun = 294.25 y
20 Bak’tun = 1 Pik’tun = 7,885 y
20 Pik’tun = 1 Kalabtun = 157,769 y
20 Kalabtun = 1 K’inchiltun = 3,153,985 y
20 K’inchiltun = 1 Alawtun** = 63,079,702 y

* Not a solar year! The solar year is 1 Tun + 5 days, called the “vague year”
** Pronounced “Ah-lauh´-toon”

And, if that weren’t enough, more Mayan archeological evidence shows we are in the midst of the longest time period ever conceived by any culture:
71,803,130,579,762,893,154,680,634,776 years!
In light of that time span, of what significance is 2012?

The Temple of K’ulk’ulkan in Chichén Itzá is oriented so that on the spring equinox, the temple shadows fall so as to appear that K’ulk’ukan the Feathered Serpent crawls down the staircase of his temple (very popular with tourists today). The Feathered Serpent cult came from the northern lands and wasn’t adapted by the Yucatán Maya until late in their history. Their Feathered Serpent, identified with the planet Venus, became Quetzalcóatl to the Aztec.

The Mesoamerican Venus was never a goddess of love; rather, it represented a bloodthirsty male deity of human sacrifice, war, pestilence, and hard times. Its white color also represented death itself.

The planet Venus was one of the two most important celestial bodies for Mesoamericans overall, and some Maya groups saw Venus as more important than the Sun. One of the Calendar Cycles derives directly from Venus’ sidereal period (584 d).. The conjunction of Venus with the Pleiades (the body of K’ulk’ukan joining with the tail rattles) is a rare event that happens once every eight to ten years—not every spring. It was also part of the Calendar 52-year cycle.

Human sacrifice is always a delicate subject to bring up. All Mesoamerican groups practiced it for over 3,500 years, and the Maya were particularly involved in it—far more so than the later Aztec. Capturing the king, nobles and priests for subsequent sacrifice was the primary aim.

The Palenque Maya viewed the Milky Way as Caban Xibalba – The Road to the Underworld, traveled by the sky monster, and other Maya groups saw the trunk of the sacred ceiba tree that connects the heavens to the Earth and Underworld. The Southern Cross was also a ceiba tree. Ceibas were and remain sacred trees to Mesoamericans. The late Maya knew about precession but made no mention of Sun positions relative to the Milky Way—simply because you cannot see the Milky Way in the daytime! (Reference this to King Pacal’s conquering of Death with the sunrise.)

In the entire Maya record, there is but one mention of the date corresponding to December 2012. This is in the c.740 AD Tortuguero Tablet, which also makes it very clear that, 4 Ahaw 3 K’ank’in—21 December 2012—is but one bak’tun completing among the 20 that make up the pik’tun that completes in 4772 AD. There are seven more bak’tun periods to go until 4772.

The Classic Maya considered the endings of k’atun and bak’tun periods as very important and many monuments commemorate these. If a king lived for a k’atun, that too was commemorated. Celebrations ranged from festivals to making wars on neighboring cities.

The Maya did not vanish: they abandoned their cities and authorities and returned to autonomous pastoral/farming (and sustainable) village life. Their city societies had created all manner of ecological disasters due to overcrowding and overconsumption of resources. There are some 15 million living now, speaking 30 Maya languages.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Frank Turner - Keep My Bones

Although new to the American scene, Frank Turner's old band, Million Dead, for which he was vocalist, seems to have had some amount of popularity. They're punk, which isn't my typical style choice so I honestly don't know much about them. I first heard "I Still Believe" on a college radio station and bought the album it's from, "Keep My Bones," on a whim.

  I loaned this album to a friend who compared it to Mumford & Sons. In the sense that both albums heavily feature acoustic instruments, it's not a bad comparison, but Frank Turner uses a lot more of the instruments of rock (distortion, drums and screaming vocals) than M&S. Many of the tracks lean pretty heavily into rock, sometime veering just a bit into punk (particularly "One Foot Before The Other, which has more than a bit of a punk ethos as well), but with some heavy, heavy dips into folk.

The first song, Eulogy, is short and to the point. It has a little bit of swearing, but it's used to make a point, at least. It also serves as a nice stylistic introduction, with a lonesome sounding acoustic intro that builds up to a crashing rock finale.

The most famous track on the album, at least in the U.S., is "I Still Believe," a song that's in the tradition of "It's Only Rock and Roll" - it's a sort of meta-rock song, a tribute to the power of rock music. I don't often use the term "rollicking," but it applies here. The song has the feel of something slapped together in a club with a few friends, but underneath that there's a deceptive complexity to the music and the themes. I challenge you to not sing along to the chorus.

Overall, though, I have to say my favourite track is "Redemption." I'm a sucker for a sad song, so that problem explains much of it, but it begins with a direct reference to Bruce Springsteen, my favourite songwriter, and moves on in what's either a brilliant paean to his style or a heartbreaking bit of autobiography. Maybe, as with The Boss' best work, it's a bit of both. If I've recently apologized to you for something you'd completely forgotten about, it's probably on account of this song.

There are no truly weak tracks to be found here. "Rivers" is a little on the quaint side, and "Nights Become Days" is a slow song that goes on maybe a verse too long, but the rest is solid. He sings a capella on "English Curse," a daring move for a vocalist who's clearly more confident when he can give a rasping shout over instrumentation, but it works quite well for the song. I wanted to dislike "Glory Hallelujah," a sort of atheist hymn*, but the tune's just so darned catchy. And, well, honest. I do appreciate that.

If you're getting a bit bored of Wrecking Ball and Sigh No More, give this a spin. You'll be very glad you did.

* The chorus includes the rather spare line, "There never was no God." The ungenerous portion of me wants to thank Mr. Turner for using the double negative to inform us of his belief in deity but this is folk/punk, a litter grammatical legerdemain is to be expected.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What I do on 9/11

I remember where I was on 9/11. I think we all do. I don't have much of a ritual around remembering it. I don't watch the videos of the planes crashing, the buildings collapsing, none of that. I just can't get my head around it. It's too big, to unbelievable. It feels like fiction and I hate that, because it's real, the damage that was caused, and the damage it's still causing. These are the things I use to remember it.

Jon Stewart's comedy isn't for everyone, but I get the feeling he's a good deal like me – the sort of person who jokes at the most inappropriate times, particularly at times of stress, as a sort of reflexive thing. This is him not doing that, for once. He's sincere. I appreciate that.

When satire is done well, it makes you laugh, wince and weep. I think The Onion hits all those notes with this article. It's gravestone-black humour, but it does provide a chuckle. And every time, at the end of it, I'm crying too.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Play hooky from evening service

Sorry, folks, I didn't make it evening service tonight. If it helps, it's because we were in my second-favourite church: outside.

More specifically, Brandon, Graeme and I were working in the garden, digging up witchgrass using out anniversary presents from my in-laws - a couple of garden claws and a hoe. For those who don't know, witchgrass is so named because it honestly is a curse on an otherwise conscientious gardener. I'm not 100% sure on the botany of the plant but in essence it's grass that sends out its shoots underground, sometimes yards and yards away from the mother plant. Eventually, they tilt up toward the surface hopefully find a new home.

What this means is that you can either have a garden that looks like it's made on a lunar landscape, with one patch of neat rows of veggies and yards and yards of open dirt around it, or you can deal with the fact that you have witchgrass.

Well, between one thing and another, the last few weeks haven't given me every opportunity I'd like to get after the stuff and we really didn't have the tools for it. One of the presents, a rake-length garden claw, was brutal against the stuff, tearing it up in chunks, leaving behind giant divots that needed to be raked in later.

At first I was weeding between the plants - our tomato plants are enormous and full of berries, so I wanted to be extra careful with them and our broccoli and pepper plants were mostly free of weeds. Once I joined in with the boys, we took out a patch of witchgrass that was probably about ten feet square and did so in about twenty minutes. The boys found all manner of bugs crawling in and around the roots of the plants and were very enthusiastic the entire time, although we did need to take a couple of breaks for water.

Partway through, our neighbour, the boys' uncle, showed up with a rototiller and, well, if we worked fast, that thing worked at the speed of light. The remaining witchgrass was torn up and turned under in five minutes flat. After watering the plants, cleaning off our gear (and our feet) and picking up our green beans, we headed inside with a small tin we'd filled with the last of our greenbeans.

At dinner tonight, I asked Graeme if he'd ever heard the phrase, "fill the earth and subdue it." He allowed that he had, although he thought it was from an episode of Young Justice (hint, it's in Genesis). He said that it sounded mean to subdue the earth, and I agreed that it did sound mean. And then I asked him if we'd subdued the witchgrass outside. He said that we definitely had, and grinned about it. I asked him to chomp down on one of the green beans we'd picked. He did, once, and then chomped the rest of it in just one more bite.

This, I told him, is why we subdue the earth, and teaches us about how to do it the right. We need things from it and sometimes, just sometimes, the things we're given aren't the things we need and we need to make the earth work for us. It doesn't mean we can do whatever we want to the earth and not suffer any consequences, but we do what we need to.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

And now, a word from one of our sponsors

St. Augustine:

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Choosing avarice over wrath

Preamble: This blog entry is my first in a while, so I'm not sure what you might be expecting. I'll be talking about hate speech and, to make it clear just how hateful it is, I'll be replicating some of it. I'm doing this for good reason, but I understand it might still offend you. I'm sincerely sorry if it does, but when talking about hate speech, we need to approach it honestly and without hiding it and without hiding behind it. If I offend, I'm sorry, but I hope I'm able to do more than just offend. Anyhow, carrying on . . .

One of the worst arguments we theists can make against atheism is that a person devoid of religious belief in God is, by default, immoral. First of all, even if that's true, that doesn't prove God's existence anymore than my saying that muffins are pointless unless their chocolate chip has the magic effect of conjuring chocolate chips into baked goods. Secondly, it's simply not true. An atheist might not have the same stance on morality as a theist, but there's nothing to say that their morality must be poor.

Third, how do you compare that? Are we comparing the most morally sound atheist to the least morally sound theist? Because, if that's the case, then there are some particularly misguided branches of Calvinism* that have a lot to answer for.

The basic tenets of Calvinism are . . . complicated. To sum up, people are born not wanting to love God, but God has already picked out the people whom he will cause to love him and only these people will be saved from hell. And there's nothing anyone can do to resist it if picked out, or to be picked out if they are not. These tenets are known as total depravity, unconditional grace, limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. Most churches preach two or three of these tenets, some as many as four, but preaching all five is relatively rare. And when you do, well, strange things can happen.

See, this isn't a loving God. It really can't be. In this scheme, God created humanity and claims to love all of humanity, but has chosen that some of it should spend eternity in the unending agony of hell. This is, by God's definition of the word, not a loving act. I won't get into the long theological debates that surround the various ways that the principle of God's unending love is reconciled with the clear direction in Scripture that not everyone will love God in return**, but hopefully you've got the idea of what Calvinism is. We need to take it one step further to get where we're going.

So, you believe that God calls His own to him, and there's nothing you can do about it. Add in two more things:

1. First, works don't matter. Yes, God calls you to cloth the naked and feed the hungry, but when He said those things, he was only talking about clothing and feeding his elect.
2. You aren't just totally depraved, you're utterly depraved. Calvinism, at its most basic, teaches that we do not naturally love God - utter depravity teaches that not only do you not naturally love God, but that you are naturally and innately inclined to gain pleasure through sin and incapable of doing otherwise. You LIKE being evil.

Congratulations, you're ready to be Fred Phelps. Yep, that Fred Phelps.

For those who don't know who he is, here's his church's website.

(Okay, anyone who doesn't need that link, keep reading. Everyone else, stop and take a breath. That's a lot of hate to read in a very short amount of time. Don't read any more of it than you absolutely have to, just enough to understand that is a very, very unpleasant person we're dealing with.)

I was talking with a friend at church about scam artists when Fred Phelps' name came up. See, when they aren't protesting funerals, the Phelps family is showing up in court to either sue someone who interfered with their protests or getting sued in return. And so far they've remained untouched and won more than a few lawsuits against their aggressors, so the thinking by some is that the Phelps family doesn't really believe that God hates fags, they're just using it to make a profit. Their sin isn't wrath, it's avarice.

I think I've made a pretty good case for why Fred Phelps et al are wrathful*** - good enough that I'll let you fill in any lines you need to on your own - but what struck me was her insistence that the motivation simply couldn't just be wrath, that it must all be an act because no one could hate that much. I even allowed that greed might be a partial motive for the protests, sort of an added bonus ("Yay, we get to be hateful and then sue the grieving family! It's win-win!") but, no, that wasn't enough. My co-worker wouldn't buy it as being anything other than a scam.

We ended the discussion on good terms. Neither of is was really staking much on our side of the argument being "right," or I wouldn't even have entered into the conversation at all, but I was left with a question: at what point did greed become "just greed?" Was it before Gordon Gekko, or around that time? Or is it another one of those cyclical things, where greed had its moment in the spotlight in the self-labelled "greedy 80s") and now wrath is on the rise?

* I think it's possible to argue that there is no variety of Calvinism to which the adjective "misguided" cannot apply. Perhaps a matter for a future blog post.

** If you ask me for my response to the five tenets of Calvinism, my reply will be, "We're born selfish, but, by God's grace, everyone can learn to be otherwise. Everyone." This response is part of the reason theologians don't ask me any questions - there aren't nearly enough angels dancing on pins there.
** Although, to be fair, no more wrathful than their God.