mm164: A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

October 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The creation of the United States of America was the result of two parallel streams: the twin manifest desires for freedom of economic opportunity and freedom of religion.

The Bush theocracy would like us to forget the latter. So thanks are due to Jon Meacham in today’s NYTimes, for a useful reminder.

nytimes

By JON MEACHAM

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

According to Scripture, however, believers are to be wary of all mortal powers. Their home is the kingdom of God, which transcends all earthly things, not any particular nation-state. The Psalmist advises believers to “put not your trust in princes.” The author of Job says that the Lord “shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they are all the work of his hands.” Before Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And if, as Paul writes in Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” then it is difficult to see how there could be a distinction in God’s eyes between, say, an American and an Australian. In fact, there is no distinction if you believe Peter’s words in the Acts of the Apostles: “I most certainly believe now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.”

The kingdom Jesus preached was radical. Not only are nations irrelevant, but families are, too: he instructs those who would be his disciples to give up all they have and all those they know to follow him.

The only acknowledgment of God in the original Constitution is a utilitarian one: the document is dated “in the year of our Lord 1787.” Even the religion clause of the First Amendment is framed dryly and without reference to any particular faith. The Connecticut ratifying convention debated rewriting the preamble to take note of God’s authority, but the effort failed.

The founders of this nation were not irreligious men, although a religion that allowed many of those residing in the southern states to reconcile faith with the holding of slaves has to be judged harshly (perhaps a topic for another day).

But they understood, apparently better than many of their modern-day successors, that the freedom to practice one’s religion is a cornerstone of this nation.

After all, flight from religious persecution was and has been a consistent motivation for waves of immigration, both before, and for nearly every year since the signing of the Constitution.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation – New York Times

Messers Falwell, Robertson and McCain: Leave the rest of us alone to practice, or not, the religion of our choice, free from coercion and the pernicious attempts to undermine education in this country with “creation science” and the like.

The founders were not anti-religion. Many of them were faithful in their personal lives, and in their public language they evoked God. They grounded the founding principle of the nation — that all men are created equal — in the divine. But they wanted faith to be one thread in the country’s tapestry, not the whole tapestry.

If you want a Christian nation, I’ve got one for you: France! Should you want a pure theocracy, try Iran! Go hence and prosper, if you can.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm162: Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience

October 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

olpc7926

As the November launch date for the XO approaches, the news, save for the price, keeps getting better.

The XO, as regular reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© no doubt recalls (and such links as this, this and this will help jog the memory), is the long-awaited One Laptop Per Child initiative of Nicholas Negroponte come to fruition.

And now, the respected David Pogue of the NYTimes weighs in with his advance report.

And here’s the essence:

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

It’s a rave review.

nytimes

By DAVID POGUE

Published: October 4, 2007

In November, you’ll be able to buy a new laptop that’s spillproof, rainproof, dustproof and drop-proof. It’s fanless, it’s silent and it weighs 3.2 pounds. One battery charge will power six hours of heavy activity, or 24 hours of reading. The laptop has a built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration.

And this laptop will cost $200.

The computer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the fabled “$100 laptop” that’s been igniting hype and controversy for three years. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) to develop a very low-cost, high-potential, extremely rugged computer for the two billion educationally underserved children in poor countries.

The concept: if a machine is designed smartly enough, without the bloat of standard laptops, and sold in large enough quantities, the price can be brought way, way down. Maybe not down to $100, as O.L.P.C. originally hoped, but low enough for developing countries to afford millions of them — one per child.

XO is a technological tour de force.

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

Of course, XO has its detractors. Gearheads complain that it’s underpowered and fully functioning laptops can be purchased for $400 today. As Pogue points out, missing the point entirely. It’s not for you, guys.

And, ministers of education (and their superiors, I’m betting) in many developing nations apparently feel threatened by the implications of such an interconnected, and Internet-connected, resource in so many millions of hands.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience – New York Times

I hope that every child in the developing world get’s a chance to use the XO — and as I’ve stated here before, a lot of U.S. kids live in developing world conditions as far as housing and education are concerned.

And, based on what we’ve all seen of the value of the dollar lately, $188 is the new $100. So, don’t beat up OLPC on price — ramp up production and watch what happens. And if it doesn’t, based on Pogue’s evaluation, it’s a dazzler even at today’s price.

And imagine some of the older children tuning into UC Berkeley’s YouTube courses. This all can’t happen soon enough. And, you can help!

It’s real people. And I’ll repeat my proposal from last time we discussed this initiative:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond….

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

And we’ll give the eloquent David Pogue the last word:

… Despite all the obstacles and doubters, O.L.P.C. has come up with a laptop that’s tough and simple enough for hot, humid, dusty locales; cool enough to keep young minds engaged, both at school and at home; and open, flexible and collaborative enough to support a million different teaching and learning styles.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE