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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

Count on It

June 11, 2010
Five years after Hurrican Katrina churches from all over the country continue to send teams of carpenters, electricians, engineers, and everyday folk to the Gulf Coast to help in repairing the shattered lives of people there. The media tired of this story shortly after it began five years ago. But Christians - unlike politicians - are not motivated in their good works either by public opinion or polls.

So don't be surprised when churches all over this country begin taking up collections, gathering all kinds of resources, and sending folks in teams to the Gulf Coast again to help the people whose lives are being horribly disrupted by the oil spill that continues to damage the region. It's what Christians do. If your church has not yet begun to mount an effort, it's simply because no one has thought to bring it up. If you bring it up, everybody will jump on board. It's what Christians do.

Count on it, while BP and the Obama Administration continue their blame-shifting, responsiblitiy-dodging dance, and the situation worsens, churches will be there with real people showing real care and compassion and making real sacrifices to help the people, wildlife, and environment of the region. I have no doubt, either, that they'll still be there long after BP has signed the last check and the President has taken the last bow for saving the region. It's what Christians do.

I don't even know what Christians are starting to do yet for the region, but I'm already bursting with pride to know that we will be there, and we will continue to be there, until we've done everything we can to help return people's lives to normal and to spread the love of Jesus around as far and wide as we can. It's what we do. Don't expect much media coverage, but then, we don't need it.

Send us news of what your church is doing to help people in the Gulf, and we'll publish it in this space and on our website to encourage other congregations to do the same. Pray for the people of the Gulf, and give thanks and praise to God for yet one more opportunity for the Body of Christ to come together and help fellow-believers and other countrymen in a time of deep crisis.

T. M. Moore
As President Obama's approval ratings continue to decline, Democratic lawmakers continue to turn a deaf ear to the concerns of the nation, and Republicans enjoy the favor of the Tea Party movement, many are hoping that the mid-term elections this fall will mark a watershed and turning-point for the country.

They are hoping that the era of big government, big spending, and big deficits will be put behind us and the nation will rediscover the course from which subtle but foul winds have blown it over the past many years. And they are hoping that new faces in Washington will take the helm of the ship of state and sail her back into the friendly breezes of freedom, constitutionality, and moral decency.

I think that all who hope this way will be disappointed.

Politics is not the hope this nation needs. Can Americans really be so short-sighted as to think that Republicans, once in office, will not try to use the reins of power to their own advantage? And do they not understand that this means discovering ways of making government responsive to interest-groups and the media? And do hopeful Americans really think that the majority in this nation, who have begun to suck the teats of entitlement, will be ready simply to turn away from that source?

The soul of the country has been damaged by the false hope of politics. We are becoming, as F. A. Hayek warned, a nation of serfs - ready to give up any freedom as long as someone will promise to take care of us. No amount of new faces in Washington can cure what ails the American electorate.

This is a work only the Spirit of God can accomplish. But He will not begin to do so until we first repent of the idolatry of hoping in government for the wrong things, weep for the compromised and corrupted condition of our souls, and seek the Lord earnestly, day by day, for revival. Short of such seeking, the nation will continue on its course, because politics is a broken stick on which to lean in life for the things that matter most.

T. M. Moore

Oiling Along

June 16, 2010
There's that terrific line in a song of Professor Higgins, when he is describing the expert linguist who thinks he can expose the fraud of Liza Doolittle at her coming-out ball - only to fall flat on his face: "Oozing charm from every pore, he oiled his way around the floor..."

President Obama, oozing charm, oiled his way across the airwaves last evening to re-assure the American public that, while there's still a good deal of damage to come, he and his team are on the job and they're gonna get the bad guys and clean up the mess. And then they're gonna discover new sources of energy so that we don't have to rely on nasty, dirty, beach-fouling fossil fuels ever again.

He had four preliminatry points and one major point. The four prelimiary points were (1) what he and his team have been and are doing to stop the "gusher" (Sara Palin is right - this is hardly a "leak"); (2) that he will "force" BP to escrow enough money to cover all reparations, and have that fund administered by an "independent third party"; (3) that Navy Secretary Mabus is beginning to develop a long-range plan to restore the Gulf; (4) that a reformed Minerals Management Service will begin working with a new National Commission to develop a plan for future disaster prevention.

All this was the warm-ups. Then came the real agenda: comprehensive energy and climate reform. He congratulated the House for having already passed such a bill, and seemed to admonish the Senate for dragging its feet. He nailed "big oil" and all other fossil fuel producers and promised that, like going to the moon, we will solve the problem of alternative fuels.

I hope we will, but I don't think we're going to be able to shut down our need for fossil fuels in anything but a gradual way, over at least a generation, and I don't think we're helping ourselves by vilifying the oil companies and bashing them over and over and over. So can we get past this and begin to talk about all Americans partnering together for a new energy future?

The low point of the speech for me was the end. The President confidently declared that "God is with us" in the midst of this crisis, and that he, the President, is counting on the hope that "a hand may guide us" to a brighter future, and so God bless us, etc.

That struck me as very presumptuous. We are a nation that has slaughtered unborn children like spilled barrels of oil, except with less regret. We have pushed the mention of God's Name off every square inch of public property and out of every meaningful policy discussion. We have derided and ignored His Word, flouted His Law, and sat by while His people were brutally persecuted in countries with whom we do business. And we dare to presume that He "is with us" and "will bless us"?

Mr. President, that's a stretch. You, as a Christian should know better. But, alas, you don't.

T. M. Moore
As I write, South Carolina Democratic Party leaders have gathered in a transparency-proof room in Columbia to decide what to do about the ignoramuses, as they see it, who are registered as voters in their party.

South Carolina Democrats, apparently without threats, bribes, or subterfuge of any kind, nominated one Mr. Alvin Greene to run as the Democratic candidate for United States Senate. Mr. Greene ran a, shall we say, unorthodox campaign, and garnered 59% of his party's votes, soundly defeating his nearest rival.

But evidently South Carolina Democrats do not realize that the Party does not exist to serve them; they exist to serve the Party, which they manifestly did not do on this occasion. So now Party leaders have to set things right; they have to do something about Mr. Greene.

Or maybe they won't do anything at all. But the mere fact that they have gathered to consider whether they might throw out the results of this election and find some other way to get what they, the Party leaders, want, reveals a good deal about how South Carolina Democratic leaders think about their state's Democratic voters.

This is the most egregious act of political hubris we have seen in years. It bespeaks disdain for our democratic polity and an attitude toward the political process that is making the great State of South Carolina look like a banana republic. Shame on Democratic leaders. So they don't like the man their members have nominated for the Senate. So do a better job educating your members! But don't arrogantly suppose that you have the right to call for a "do over" just because the outcome does not agree with your plans.

This reminds me of Ahab, pouting over not being able to persuade Naboth to sell him his vineyard. Who will be the Jezebel behind those closed doors to concoct a solution to the problem of Mr. Greene and his ridiculous supporters?

T. M. Moore

Subjunctive Science

June 21, 2010
Scientists are hot in pursuit of the secrets of life and how to create it. In the July 3, 2010 issue of Science News, Charles Petit reports on one such effort being conducted at the Harvard Medical School, where a team of scientists and graduate students are determined to create life "from scratch" in an effort to show how Darwinian evolution could have developed out of chaos and randomness.

Petit explains that the aim of this effort is "to show how unguided natural events might have led to life on earth in the first place..." To accomplish this the scientists are pursuing a wide range of carefully guided activities to create artificial cells and then teach them how to make proteins.  As Petit writes, "unlike the first time - when life formed on its own - the second time it will get a boost from human ingenuity."

These scientists, and others like them in various labs, believe that order - Darwinian evolution - developed by sheer chance and then proceeded in spite of chance to overcome the very character of chance and create an orderly universe where life flourishes. Petit summarizes their view: "Once you light Darwinian evolution, it takes off."

Just like that? Well, Petit explains, certain conditions and activities must be "firmly supposed" of course. Firmly supposed? Yes, because it is obvious that "higgledy-piggledy chance" no longer rules the cosmos; Darwinian evolution is the order of the day. But then, to get to this conclusion one has to be willing to tolerate a certain amount of "sheer speculation."

So if I understand this correctly, scientists are using highly rational and intelligent procedures, carefully coordinated, assessed, and improved, in order to show how "higgledy-piggledy" chance "may" have created proteins which "might" have led to the beginnings of life.

In language study the subjunctive mood is the mood of "possibility." It does not assert, it proposes; the helping verbs "could," "might," and "may" are present to indicate a degree of uncertainty. But I thought science was the realm of certainty? Would scientists be willing to settle for "applying heat to water might make it change to a gas"? Or "leaping from a seventh story window may cause a body to fall to the earth"?

Besides the fact that the scientists who are conducting these experiments seem blind to their own presuppostion that some kind of order and intelligence had to exist for life to begin, this trafficking in the subjunctive is not typically the way of scientific thinking. It indicates a discipline at work in an area where reach exceeds grasp and "could be" is good enough, if it "seems" to demonstrate the validity of Darwinian evolution. These, of course, are statements of faith, not of proven fact.

Some things, you know, should just be left to God.

T. M. Moore

Why They Hate Us

June 23, 2010
Governor Mike Huckabee is reported to have offered The New Yorker a comment about same-sex marriage that seems guaranteed to offend many readers. As Chris Wallace reported on Fox News last night, the Governor, given a hypothetical choice between having "a torrid affair" with either Nancy Pelosi or Helen Thomas (his own hypothetical), would consider the gay option as preferable.

If what Wallace reported is true (my copy of The New Yorker has not arrived on my Kindle as of this writing), we can count on choruses of outrage from a variety of corners.

Gays, of course, will be offended by the flippant manner in which he dismissed their concerns.

Liberals will object to his having had a joke at the expense of Nancy Pelosi and Helen Thomas.

Most readers will find his comments crude and thoughtless (the "ick" factor).

But what about Christians? Mike Huckabee has endeared himself to many in the evangelical community. Will they defend his remarks, even though he is reported to have said that, if Nancy Pelosi and Helen Thomas were his only female options, well, then he might consider gay marriage as a possibility?

Let's hope not. The reason for opposing gay marriage is much more cogent and considerate than the apparently flip comments of Governor Huckabee. Christians have both prudential and Biblical arguments against gay marriage, none of which require condemning gay people or trashing others we just don't like.

But the fact that this type of comment is reported so often in the media - whether true or untrue, in context or out - is a primary reason why so many people are beginning to dislike Christians and their faith. You would think that in talking with a secular media outlet a believer would try very hard to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove, keeping his speech gracious and edifying, and speaking gently and reverently about those whose views he opposes. However, that seems almost never to happen.

If the world chooses to stay away from Church in droves, it won't be because the Gospel is not as lovely, powerful, and gloriously transforming as ever it has been. It will most likely be because the "earthen vessels" in whom this precious jewel has been deposited are thoughtless, mean-spirited, and afflicted with an advanced case of foot-in-mouth disease.

T. M. Moore

Work with Dignity

June 30, 2010
The Biblical view of work teaches that all work has dignity when it is conducted as unto the Lord, with a view to pleasing and honoring Him and serving the needs of our neighbors. As Luther so eloquently put it, even the humblest milkmaid can work with dignity and joy, knowing that she is serving God and providing a needed service to her employer and neighbors.

Absent that sense of work as a gift and calling from God, the only thing that gives work meaning for many people is either achievement or reward. If the achievement of work is tangible, palpable, visible to others as well as to the worker, or if the reward is sufficiently lucrative to gratify the needs and wants of the worker, that job will be considered to have meaning and, perhaps, dignity.

But there is evidence that a great many jobs either don't pay enough or don't produce enough to give workers the sense of meaning and dignity in their work which they, as image-bearers of God (whether or not they admit it), should expect. One of the ways the marketplace is responding to this is in how jobs are now being titled.

As the "Schumpeter" columnist reports in the current issue of The Economist (June 26th, 2010), inflation of job titles is the newest attempt to give workers a sense of signficance and dignity in their jobs. So secretaries are now "administrative professionals", paper boys are "media distribution officers", those who clean offices are "surface technicians", and the number of "chiefs" and "vice-presidents" and even "executive directors" has multiplied by hundreds of percentage points.

But The Economist reports that all this hi-falutin' re-titling of familiar jobs only has a temporary effect. People will not find meaning and joy in work simply because they have an impressive title. Work is actually devalued by pasting phony names on it, as if to say to the workers, "Look, we know yours is not a meaningful job, so we're going to pump it up a bit with a ridiculous name." At least, that's the message many workers take away.

But work is meaningful. It does have dignity. Work can be a source of great joy and satisfaction, and can render good to many people. But this is only true within the framework of the divine economy. The Christian who does not see his work from within that context is depriving himself of deep satisfaction in serving God and men, and his employer and those served by his work of the best he could possible give.

Let our view of the work we've been given to do, like everything else in our lives, be informed and infused with meaning from God, and our work will have true dignity and lasting meaning.

T. M. Moore

No Thyself

July 02, 2010
It's ten years since the announcement of the mapping of the human genome, and, as humans are wont to do, many are taking the occasion to celebrate and reflect. At The Economist, their response is guarded, but giddy, and in the larger scheme of things, goofy (June 19th 2010).

At last, The Economist firmly declares, human beings are able to confront "the threat and promise of self-knowledge." "Self-knowledge," the lead editorial explains, "is often the hardest to learn and the least welcome, but the brutal truth is the best. Humanity had better hope so, anyway, for the truth will soon out for the entire species."

Especially promising at the moment is the ability to compare the human genome with that of Neanderthal Man, "a true human." These comparisons, The Economist insists, "will do what philosophers have dreamed of, but none has yet accomplished: show just what it is that makes Homo sapiens unique."

Well, no. Unless, of course, you insist on living an "under the sun" worldview where the only thing that matters is, so to speak, matter. Nothing counts but what you can count. Man is only the sum total of all his material parts, including - and especially - the chemicals that make-up his DNA. Once we are able to read and understand all those mapped strands of DNA, we'll really know what kind of being we are, what it means to be human.

But the end of all such materialistic science, no matter how valuable it may otherwise be, can never be complete human self-knowledge. Scientists cannot entertain the idea that human beings are more than merely material creatures, that we have an immaterial aspect - the soul - which relates to God and which is the formative influence in making us what we are. Christians cannot forfeit this idea, no matter how compellingly or scornfully scientists argue against it.

The human genome approach to the ancient challenge to "know thyself" will only leave us with "no thyself" at the end of the search. For God has made human beings a little lower than the angels, in His own image - spiritual beings, first and foremost. And we who understand this had better hold firmly to it, lest they who reject this view decide that our kind represents a genetic wrong turn.

T. M. Moore

A Friend of Liberty

July 05, 2010
Yesterday for our home worship service, I preached a sermon by John Witherspoon, Presbyterian minister, President of Princeton, and the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. He preached it May 17, 1776, and I thought his remarks - at a time of national division, economic downturn, and war - especially applicable to our own day.

His subject was the sovereignty of God over the passions of men. God uses even the worst passions and actions of men for His own glory, and we serve the purposes of God and our nation when we bring our intentions and practices in line with His divine plan. "Nothing is more certain," proclaimed Witherspoon, "than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue."

We may well be reaching that point where the forms of our federal government can no longer contain the rottenness that festers within the soul of the nation. Politics and the courts have not proven to be friends of liberty over the past generations, but supporters of the idea that law must change to fit the temper of the times. In the name of liberty the reality of it may be slipping out of our grasp.

Witherspoon continued, "On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maitain their vigour, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed." He concludes, "That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind."

Sound words, those. Witherspoon's point was that only true and sincere Christian faith can maintain the liberties for which, in his day, good men were even then beginning to lay down their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Law, courts, politics, economics - these are all essential parts of our republic and way of life. But they are not the spine of this nation, merely the changeable outward fashions. Unless a revived Christian faith rejuvenates the bones and nerves of the framework of this nation, our liberties will continue to be lost to ever-expansive government and our own selfish lusts.

With Witherspoon, therefore, let us pray, "God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both."

T. M. Moore

Muslims in Space

July 07, 2010
OK, now suppose you're the President of the United States. And suppose you're trying to make nice with the Muslim world so that maybe they would, you know, help turn off the spicket of new blood into the ranks of terrorism, or whatever.

So suppose further that your tack includes, let's say, making Muslims feel good about their contributions to the scientific enterprise. So you're gonna spend some money, reach out and thank them for preserving the Greek classics and thus helping to lay the foundations for modern science, and, in the bargain, congratulate them for the work some of their best minds have done in, I don't know, math and engineering, let's say. Plus, you want them to know that you, as President of the most powerful nation in the world, and official spokesman for her 300 million citizens, you want them to know that you know what a great contribution to scientific progress the Muslim world has made over the years.

So how do you do that? Here's an idea: Now that NASA has been officially stripped of any ability to put people in space - since, as we know, we can rely on the Russians to get us back and forth to wherever - since NASA has all those staff and computers and stuff, and, well, they're not doing anything in space, how about we get NASA to take as its top priority - not just a priority, but top priority - making the Muslim world feel good about its place in science history? Yeah, that's a good idea.

Is it? Is that a good idea? It is the new mission for NASA, according to the agency's Administrator, who revealed on Monday that President Obama has charged him, not with putting Muslims in space, but with creating a space for Muslims in the history of science.

Well, I don't know about you, but when I don my big white hat, snap on my Cheshire grin, and serve myself a little tea and small pills, this makes perfect sense to me.

I suppose.

T. M. Moore

Miami Bound

July 09, 2010
LeBron James, who for seven years has dazzled the NBA with his skills, yet without leading his Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title, will sign with the Miami Heat for probably a bazillion dollars.

His motivation, as he put it, is to win multiple titles with his pals in Miami. One has to wonder how Miami Heat brass decided he might actually be able to do that, since, in spite of dominating the league in many ways, he hasn't done it yet. Some great basketball players actually do lead their teams to multiple NBA titles - Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, and a few others come to mind. Is LeBron James of this caliber?

Well, who knows? For me the story in this situation is not the move to Miami. It's all the hype and drama surrounding the move to Miami. A good many Americans seem to have cared a great deal about this announcement, or so, at least, ESPN thought. It gave an hour of prime time for Mr. James to set up and reveal his much-anticipated decision. Our local news primed us for this report five minutes into their hour broadcast, then held off the story until half-way through their program.

The amount of money and face time commanded by pop culture in this country tells us a lot about the country. Fun, splash, winning, hype, hip - we're all about such things. But I suppose this facet of our culture wouldn't be "pop" if there weren't such a widespread fanatical attachment to it.

Should there be such an attachment? Should we have loftier tastes in culture? Should New York City have only one classical music station? Should the same poetry books sit on the shelves of my local bookstore, untouched and unmoved for years? Should vampire movies sell more tickets than the local symphony? I may just be whining and complaining out of my own cultural preferences.

But it's a question worth pondering. After all, culture exerts a powerful molding effect on hearts, minds, and consciences. We should all be rather more circumspect about the culture we keep.

But then, that would require something more than fun. That would require thinking, and, for the Christian, learning to think about his cultural activities through the lens of Scripture. But that would require a deep and growing understanding of Scripture. And to get that we'd have to put aside some of the pop culture that commands so much of our time and affections.

Perhaps LeBron James will lead the Heat to multiple titles. I hope I don't care one way or the other.

T. M. Moore

This was a weekend of endings, or near endings. It appears that BP will just about end the gusher in the Gulf by placing a new, 75-ton cap on the persistent well. Spain won the World Cup, 1-0, over The Netherlands. The barefoot burglar came to his end in the Bahamas. The great spy swap brought an end to a sticky situation with the Russians. The end of the first half of the major league baseball season saw the locals 11 games under .500. Did I miss anything?

Kind of makes me wonder what the media will do now that all these big stories seem to be winding down (or, in the case of baseball, taking a breather). There's always lots more going on, mostly little stories about decent people living normal lives and doing good work; but the big stories command the audiences and, thus, the ratings, which are the key to advertizing dollars.

I tend to be a news junkie, if I'm not careful. It takes a lot of time to watch all the news programs now available. Mostly they report the same things, over and over, adding a little debate or panel to break the monotony. If I've seen one program, I've usually seen them all. Surely I have better things to do with my time?

Time is our most precious gift, as Edwards noted. We should use it as good stewards, investing the time of our lives in the progress of God's Kingdom, whether within, in our hearts and minds and consciences, or without, through any of a wide range of good works we might do, if we weren't watching the news.

Being up on the news is important. Being a news couch potato is not a Kingdom vocation. I'm admonishing myself here. But if the admonition gets under your skin, well, I won't mind.

T. M. Moore

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