The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for March 2009

Glenn Beck: If you trust what I say “you’re an idiot”

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Mr. Beck sees himself as “a rodeo clown.” Ironically, he trades in slanted information that many listeners —mistakenly— take seriously.
clipped from thinkprogress.org
beckf.jpg Today, the New York Times has a front-page article on the success of Glenn Beck’s Fox News show. According to the Times, Beck has become “one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative populist anger.” Although he says he believes every word he says, he doesn’t think smart people should actually listen to him:

Mr. Beck says he believes every word he says on his TV show, and the radio show that he still hosts from 9 a.m. to noon each weekday. […]

“At the same time, though, he says he is an entertainer. ‘I’m a rodeo clown,’ he said in an interview, adding with a coy smile, “It takes great skill.” […]

“He added later: “I say on the air all time, ‘if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.’

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New Title, New Look

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And three years in, a little focus seems possible…

I was only guessing at direction when I blundered into blogging in February of 2006. Not wanting to be boxed-in, I chose the most non-committal of titles: Monte Asbury’s Blog.

It has taken years to develop a sense of why I am here. I’m sure it will continue to change. But it looks like, now, I know enough to express a more descriptive name. The About, the profile, and other explanatory pieces will catch up soon; they’ll describe more of what it means.

Most surprising, in this three-year blogging experience, has been the warmth and the brilliance of the friends met on the web.  Thank you for what you have taught me, fellow readers and writers.

I pray that The Least, First will be a source of fuel for the fires that so obviously burn in your hearts. Your thoughts have often ignited mine, and I am grateful.


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Written by Monte

March 28, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Bishop of Chicago: Immigration Raids ‘Immoral’

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Jim Wallis tells of a nationwide tour urging immigration reform that stopped in Chicago:
clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

La Conscience (d'après Victor Hugo)

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Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops … used the occasion to call on the Obama administration to stop immigration raids and urged passage of comprehensive immigration reform […]
[T]he cardinal

“… sought to cast the issue in moral terms, calling it “a matter of conscience” and an important step to creating a more peaceful society. ‘We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear from day to day,’ […]

The continuing raids around the country [are] indeed a matter of conscience. We are taking parents from their children; we are separating families. This is not what in our tradition we should do. Protecting and supporting families and those relationships is crucial. The immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but it must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to “welcome the stranger.”

While I applaud President Obama for repeating his commitment to immigration reform last week, I join Cardinal George in also urging an immediate end to raids.

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It’s an excellent thought. Wrenching families apart is not only cruel, but unwise, even in practical terms. Hurt people hurt people. Strengthening families is, indeed, “an important step to creating a more peaceful society.”

If we’re kind – or even just smart – minimizing trauma will be part of immigration reform.


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The End of Exclusion (Sermon of 8 Feb 09)

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Isolation Room
Image by Victor V via Flickr

With the casting out of the demon on that first Sabbath afternoon of Jesus’ public ministry, his obscurity vanished. Like a cannon shot, news of it exploded through the villages. Here’s what happens next.

Mark 1:29-39 (MSG)

29-31Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.

32-34That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.

35-37While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”

38-39Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shephe...
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About Peter’s mother-in-law:   Actually, she deacons to them.  For reasons of their own (that look a great deal like gender bias!), translators treat the word to mean “became a deacon in a church” when it applies to men, but “waiting tables” when it applies to women (See Richard Swanson: Provoking the Gospel of Mark; A Storyteller’s Commentary, p 108). “In the context of Jewish understandings of the abundance that God created when making the world, the deacon was in charge of enacting God’s created intentions.”  Peter’s mother-in-law was in charge of enacting God’s created intentions.

Likely she was well known for helping others.  Is this why the crowd knew where to show up at sundown? Some think the women who followed Jesus were the reason women dared approach him. Think of the women at the cross who ministered to Jesus all the way through – perhaps greater heroes than we know, and greater shapers of the story than we know.

She’s up, she’s deaconing, and at sundown, a throng gathers at the door. Who can tell me why they came at sundown? Because that’s when the day after the Jewish sabbath began. Jesus had no problem healing on the Sabbath, but the crowds apparently assumed he would. Read the rest of this entry »

EPA returns! ‘Hold’ on mountaintop removal mining

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Good news! After years of forced inaction, the Environmental Protection Agency has come back to life—for the moment, at least—to slow the rapacious practice of “mountaintop removalcoal mining.
clipped from thinkprogress.org

A picture of a mountaintop removal siteWork co...

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In a major reversal of Bush policy, “mountaintop coal-mining permits are being put on hold until the projects’ impacts on streams and wetlands can be reviewed,” the Environmental Protection Agency announced today: […]

Citing its regulatory role under the Clean Water Act, the EPA said the letters stated that the projects “would likely cause water quality problems in streams below the mines, would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities, and that proposed steps to offset these impacts are inadequate.” […]

A midnight regulation by the Bush administration attempted to make permanent its policy of permitting coal companies to strip the tops off of Appalachian mountains and bury watersheds with the waste. […]

Update: “Lax rules by the Bush Administration have made mountaintop removal an American emergency,” JW Randolph of Appalachian Voices tells ThinkProgress. “Today, the people of Appalachia are celebrating.”

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“[T]he EPA said the letters stated that the projects … would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities […]”

Gosh, ya think?

The process, you’ll recall, involves ripping off the head and shoulders of an Appalachian mountain.  On this mountain lives a host of wildlife along with the descendants of Scotch-Irish pioneers who have never known another home, and have little power to prevent the theft of the one they have. The “removed” mountain gets dumped—believe it or not—into Appalachian ravines and streams; they are simply gone forever.

The holy grail of this mountains-to-mudflats search (thoughtful ad-men will want you to know) is “clean coal.”  Coal barons can hire said pretty much whatever they like; they’ve funded generations of Appalachian politicians.  Of course coal is not really the goal, nor do coal barons likely give a rip about how clean it is.   Scraping Appalachia flat – destroying national treasures and poor peoples’ homes – serves one sine qua non:  it makes a few rich people richer.

Even more then, say a bravo! for the EPA.  The permanent destruction of our lands is too great a loss to be ignored.   More millions for millionaires is a miserable trade for a mountain.


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‘All wars are civil wars’

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Oil on canvas

Fenelon; Image via Wikipedia

“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born.”

-17th c. bishop and mystic François Fenelon

“Wars play out a framing story of us versus them that seeks to take precedence over the deeper and higher framing story of God’s global family table, where us and them are equally invited, equally wanted, in the biggest ‘us’ of all.”

-author and pastor Brian McLaren; both quotes are from his Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.

What do you think?
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Written by Monte

March 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Are we better off without prostate exams?

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Guys my age think about prostate cancer.  We get our blood tested.  We present our arses to doctors with long fingers.

But today’s New York Times reports on two large studies, both of which suggest that we may be in worse trouble with the exams than without them.

Compare the lines on the chart at left. The black line represents deaths from prostate cancer among those of us who do as we’re told.  Here’s the funny thing: it’s higher than the red line, in the end—meaning it’s actually a hair less common for those who haven’t been screened to die of prostate cancer!

The second study (beneath the graph) concluded that “for every man whose death was prevented, 48 men received risky and unnecessary treatment.”

Meaning many ended up with impotence, incontinence, or chronic pain who weren’t going to die from prostate cancer in the first place.

Apparently, most prostate cancer grows very slowly; we die from other things before it gets serious enough to nail us.  But if we have exams, and we have it, it usually gets treated with surgery or radiation, either one of which may have more serious effects on us than having the cancer itself.

More studies will come, and the results of these findings may be reversed someday.

At the moment, I’m leaning toward less latex.


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Written by Monte

March 19, 2009 at 11:55 am