ere's an odd collection of five mostly-unrelated ideas that are floating around in my head today. We don't have enough blogspace in a normal week for me to post about all five of these topics in discrete blogposts. Four of them are fairly trivial anyway. (The first item is the only one that's truly important.) So I'll just cover them all as briefly as possible in one weekend post:
- I saw a teaser this morning for an upcoming feature on Fox News about the shocking decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East over the past decade. Ten years ago, some 12 million Christians lived in various Middle Eastern countries. They constituted a small and beleaguered minority even then, but today they number fewer than two million. Statistics show, for example, that in Bethlehem (whose population was 85 percent Christian just a few years ago) only 20 percent of the community are now Christians. Half of Iraq's Christian community has either left the country or been killed since the start of the war there. Martyrdoms, such as last April's slayings of three employees of a Turkish Bible publisher, are becoming increasingly common in Muslim-dominated places but are getting little coverage in the American press.
- As of this posting, even Fox's Web site has no articles featuring those data, so we'll watch Fox's Web space. But on the way to looking it up, I found this. Note to the criminal element: I've started carrying a frozen Costco meat chub in my briefcase.
- Have you seen the controversy about Bear Grylls? He's the dude on "Man vs. Wild" who has shown us how to survive in virtually every kind of hostile wilderness. He's a former member of the elite British SAS, adventurer, youngest Brit to conquer Everest, and an Eton alumnus.
I've heard that Bear makes a profession of faith in Christ. Plus, he blogs.
Now, everyone has always known that he has a camera crew with him in the wilderness, because (after all) that's how they make the program. But he solemnly assures us at the start of each episode that the camera crew cannot touch him, help him, or feed himand they supposedly leave him alone in the wilderness at night.
Turns out that might not be completely true.
See: I have watched this guy literally get on his hands and knees and eat the back end out of a dead zebra, drink the moisture from elephant dung, bite the head off a live snake, and munch on maggots from a rotting animal corpse, so I'm duly impressed with his will to survive.
But I'm hugely disappointed to learn that he has sometimes cheated. The scandal gives us a good lesson about the importance of integrity, and how even the smallest of white lies can undermine the cause of truth. If you want a sample of what I am talking about, Google Bear's name and take note of the amazing level of scorn he is receiving for having fudged.
Postmodern society may profess to believe that everything is relative and what's "factual" depends completely on your point of view. But people still won't stand being fooled by someone who deliberately bends the truth. Something in all of us rightly resents that.
- I've read some books lately about the Lincoln assassination, and as I was reading about the conspiracy trial, I came across an eyewitness record of the proceedings by "General Lew Wallace." Something there struck me as familiar, and as I thought about it, it occurred to me where I had heard that name: Wasn't Lew Wallace the guy who wrote Ben Hur? So I looked it up to see if it was the same Lew Wallace. Sure enough. Turns out he was a kind of upscale Forrest Gump. He was a Union general in the War Between the States. He was a participant in the military tribunal that condemned the Lincoln conspirators. He was also a fine amateur artist, and he drew pictures of the defendants during the conspiracy trial. His drawings are on page 96 of James L. Swanson and Daniel L. Weinberg, Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, and they are excellent likenesses.
Later, Wallace served as a secret agent; governor of New Mexico; and US Minister to the Ottoman Empire. During his stint as New Mexico's governor, he met personally with Billy the Kid. (Don't know if he sketched the outlaw's likeness, though.) His life is full of interesting details. If I was still doing the old "Monday Menagerie" posts, he'd make a brilliant subject.
- Speaking of people with multiple claims to fame, I probably need to mention Frank Pastore. Several days ago, Pastore created a furor in the blogosphere (and beyond) with an article critical of "evangelical" postmodernism, which was infelicitously titled "Why Al Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church." The article itself (and the title in particular) is a classic example of the kind of critique that isn't really helpful to anyone. It's the sort of thing that gives angry post-evangelicals a big hammer with which to smash the toes of anyone and everyone who is critical of the Emerging Church movement. It also gives people who ought to listen to their best critics an excuse to blow them off. ("See? This is so typical of what the critics of Emergent are doing.) So let's be clear: It's an article that shouldn't have been written, much less posted online.
That said (and while we're on the subject of post-evangelicals and their hammers), I listened to the iMonk's podcast where he addressed the Pastore article. Of course, iMonk's giddy eagerness to get in on the "dogpile" against Pastore came as no surprise whatsoever. Here's what did amaze me: iMonk didn't seem to have any clue about who Pastore is. After all, iMonk is well-known for being a Cincinnati Reds' fan. Frank Pastore was a Reds pitcher for several years. In fact, Pastore was an ace before Steve Sax hit a hard line drive right into his throwing elbow in 1984. After that, Pastore didn't have the hard stuff anymore, and he was sometimes accused of throwing a spitter.
That's not all. Pastore also holds the world speed record for downing the famous 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo. He inhaled the entire meal in nine and a half minutes. (I'm curious about what technique one would use to stuff down 5 pounds of steak in less than ten minutes. Even Bear Grylls hasn't shown us that yet. My guess: spend five minutes using a very sharp fillet knife to cut the steak into the thinnest, smallest strips possible, then 4.5 minutes eating without chewing.)
Anyway, Pastore is now a talk-show host on a Los Angeles Christian radio station (KKLA). I don't get to listen, because the show intersects with the busiest part of my work day, but I have to say, Frank seems like a spunky and likable fellow, even if he did write an article I really didn't appreciate. Here's his testimony. And here is another version in audio.