Friday, April 18, 2014
“To know oneself, is above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against the Truth, and not the other way around.”- Flannery O’Connor
From a USA Today article by Lori Grisham
Someone has recently taken up permanent residence on a park bench outside St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, N.C.
It's "Homeless Jesus," a bronze sculpture by Timothy Schmalz installed in February, which depicts Jesus lying on a park bench under a blanket. His face and hands are covered. His feet, wounded from the crucifixion, are exposed.
"It makes people think about their faith commitment and the plight of the homeless in this country," the Rev. David Buck, St. Alban's minister, told USA TODAY Network.
It's "life-size, interactive, and in keeping with our church's commitment to social justice," he said, noting that the church considers art to be connected to spiritual growth.
The community, which Buck describes as "affluent," has mostly expressed positive reactions to the piece, he says, adding that everyone from atheists to conservative Christians have expressed admiration.
"We wanted to remind ourselves that our faith expresses itself not in beautiful buildings only, but mainly in care for those less fortunate, the marginalized," he said.
A plaque near the sculpture calls the artwork a "visual prayer" for Kate MacIntyre, a member of the church who died in 2007.
A church member gave the statue as a gift in memory of Kate MacIntyre, a former member who died of cancer in 2007. MacIntyre loved public art and helped start art initiatives in the Davidson community, Buck said.
"Homeless Jesus" cost $22,000, but the church did not foot any of the bill, according to Buck.
I guess I just don’t have a Christian heart. Whatever faith I profess must not go deep enough. Because my reaction to the above report was “really?” While I do believe that Christians (and people of all faiths along with ethical atheists and society in general) should do their part to help those who are less fortunate; how much help is enough? And what sort of help should be offered? When does help just become a way of enabling those on a self-destructive path to enjoy a more comfortable ride? And when does help redirect someone to a better life?
There are a lot of causes for homelessness. Many of the homeless have mental problems. There are drug and alcohol abuse issues. And many of these are veterans. A high percentage of kids who grow up in foster care, end up on the street when they are too old to remain in “the system”. There are the teenage runaways and sexually abused. A disproportionate number of LGBT young people end up on the street. (Ironically many of them rejected by Christian families and communities that now buy $22,000 bronze art pieces to remind themselves not to neglect the homeless.)
We can “think about” our “faith commitment” and the “plight of the homeless”. And perhaps thinking about it will make us feel better or feel worse or just feel. We can also do something by providing basic food, clothing and shelter to those in need. In the grand scheme of things it really does not cost us that much to help the homeless and Jesus pretty much commands us to do so. But don’t play the “Jesus was a homeless person” card. Jesus was much more than a person and although He did not make it His home, He owns this planet and all of creation. In this Easter Season, I don’t see Jesus sleeping on a park bench. He has work to do. We all have work to do.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25: 34-40
Saturday, April 5, 2014
I read an article this week about Global Cooling. It was written by Keith Schaefer, Editor/Publisher, www.oilandgas-investments.com and titled “Global COOLING – The Real Inconvenient Truth, Part 1.” I must say that Part 1 left me looking forward to Parts 2 and 3. It also led to me look up some other reports regarding the subject of Global Cooling. There’s a lot out there on both sides of the argument. I’m not sure what to believe, but the Global Cooling arguments are starting to make a lot of sense to me. In addition to Schaefer’s recent article, I would also recommend one written last year in Forbes magazine by Peter Ferrara, “To The Horror of Global Warming Alarmists, Global Cooling Is Here”,(http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2013/05/26/to-the-horror-of-global-warming-alarmists-global-cooling-is-here/).
If forced to pick a side in the debate, I come down on the side of Global Cooling. Do I think human activity is having an impact on the earth’s environment? Yes, of course. But compared to the impact of ocean temperature cycles and sun spots, we are just a blip on the map of climate change history. When one reads the reports and reviews the data, it makes some sense that we are heading for a period of significant global cooling. After providing a summary of warming and cooling periods since the Middle Ages, Schaefer makes the following observations about more recent temperatures:
1. Temps continued to fall from 1953 until the mid-1970s – despite rising CO2 levels. This was during the single most industrializing time on earth—and temperatures fell while CO2 levels rose.
2. Another point: if CO2 emissions cause global warming the layer of the atmosphere 5 to 10 km (3-6 miles) above the earth where CO2 interacts with sunlight should be warming more quickly than the earth’s surface. In fact, temperatures at these levels have been unchanged since accurate balloon measurements became available 50 years ago.
3. There has been a large outcry about the decline of Arctic Ice. While Arctic sea ice extent is just above average levels, Arctic sea ice is near record thickness: the volume of ice in the Arctic last fall was 50% higher than 12 months prior, following a very cold summer in 2013 in which temps climbed above freezing only 45 days compared to an average of 90 days. I bet you didn’t read about that.
4. There’s a lot of ice at the other end of the globe too. In eight of the last ten years global sea ice extent has bested the 30-year average, aided by an Antarctic sheet that in October hit its highest extent since record keeping started in 1979.
5. The Northern Hemisphere had its second, third, and fourth highest snow extents on modern record in 2010, 2011, and 2013. In the United States 2013 brought the largest year-over-year drop in temperature on record and the winter is on track to be labeled the third coldest in 200 years.
Evidence of this cooling is everywhere – even if politicians and the media try to pretend it isn’t. Of course, the media has short memories. Only 40 years ago, in mid-1974 Time magazine ran a cover story entitled “Another Ice Age?” noting a 12% increase in New Hampshire snow cover in 30 years.
Conclusion: over the last 1,200 years the earth has been through several pretty extreme temperature swings. What gives?
The answer lies with the sun. Cold periods coincide with solar minimums, which generally happen every 150 to 200 years. Warm periods coincide with solar maxima, which happen every 700 years or so.
And then there is this from the Ferrara article:
The increase in global temperatures since the late 19th century just reflects the end of the Little Ice Age. The global temperature trends since then have followed not rising CO2 trends but the ocean temperature cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Every 20 to 30 years, the much colder water near the bottom of the oceans cycles up to the top, where it has a slight cooling effect on global temperatures until the sun warms that water. That warmed water then contributes to slightly warmer global temperatures, until the next churning cycle.
Those ocean temperature cycles, and the continued recovery from the Little Ice Age, are primarily why global temperatures rose from 1915 until 1945, when CO2 emissions were much lower than in recent years. The change to a cold ocean temperature cycle, primarily the PDO, is the main reason that global temperatures declined from 1945 until the late 1970s, despite the soaring CO2 emissions during that time from the postwar industrialization spreading across the globe.
The 20 to 30 year ocean temperature cycles turned back to warm from the late 1970s until the late 1990s, which is the primary reason that global temperatures warmed during this period. But that warming ended 15 years ago, and global temperatures have stopped increasing since then, if not actually cooled, even though global CO2 emissions have soared over this period. As The Economist magazine reported in March, “The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750.” Yet, still no warming during that time. That is because the CO2 greenhouse effect is weak and marginal compared to natural causes of global temperature changes.
At first the current stall out of global warming was due to the ocean cycles turning back to cold. But something much more ominous has developed over this period. Sunspots run in 11 year short term cycles, with longer cyclical trends of 90 and even 200 years. The number of sunspots declined substantially in the last 11 year cycle, after flattening out over the previous 20 years. But in the current cycle, sunspot activity has collapsed. NASA’s Science News report for January 8, 2013 states:
“Indeed, the sun could be on the threshold of a mini-Maunder event right now. Ongoing Solar Cycle 24 [the current short term 11 year cycle] is the weakest in more than 50 years. Moreover, there is (controversial) evidence of a long-term weakening trend in the magnetic field strength of sunspots. Matt Penn and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory predict that by the time Solar Cycle 25 arrives, magnetic fields on the sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Independent lines of research involving helioseismology and surface polar fields tend to support their conclusion.”
And if you have 75 minutes to invest in the subject, the documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle" is an eye-opener.
Perhaps I am being overly influenced by the winter of 2013-2014 here in North America. While we experienced one of the worst winters in recent memory, other parts of the Northern Hemisphere had record warmth and little moisture. There are plenty of data points from the last 50 years that point toward global warming. But I am inclined to believe that something else is going on over time that has gone on before. Our lives are short and we view our time here as special. As our scientific knowledge grows, we come to believe that we know cause and effect. And knowing cause and effect, we should be able to find solutions. Or can we? If today’s climate is too hot or too dry and we can’t fix it, where does that leave us? And if over the next 150 years the winters get longer and colder and humans can’t fix that either; perhaps they will just blame us for going too green, too soon.