March 2005

Postmodern background : Wednesday, March 30, 2005

March 29 2005 by

Postmodern background : Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Postmodern background

In his article on postmodernism, Richardson made a fine case for the value of our stories, but he missed the topic's background. The following may fill that gap.

To start, let's consider the essentials of Christianity. Christians believe there is a God and that we are reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ, who is both wholly man and wholly God. Christians know this from Scripture, our final authority.

Christianity spread (especially across Europe) until the 18th century when a modern worldview emerged from the writings of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Modernism's new closed system could consider only the empirical evidence of particular objects. Its authority was limited to the senses. Modernism could study the evidence of the historical Jesus, but was unable to consider His divinity. It could critically study the text of the Bible, but was unable to contemplate its Truth. Obviously, it would be illogical for people to call themselves modern Christians.

Ultimately modernism reduced people to mere machines. People such as Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche reacted against modernism; but rather than return to Christianity, they chose the antithesis of modernism. Their views are the foundation for postmodernism. Postmodernists reject modernism's objective facts by regarding only subjective feelings. They reject modernism's search for empirical facts by considering only issues of power. And they reject modernism's logic by becoming absurd (as in "the theater of the absurd"). As Richardson said, their only authority is their own stories.

Examples of postmodernism include Pollack's art of random paint drops on canvas, Cage's music of recorded silence, and Warhol's eight-hour movie of a man sleeping. For those who call themselves postmodern Christians, there's the real danger of becoming absurd.

But there is hope. The good news of Christianity is that God can redeem us from all our isms, including modernism and postmodernism.

Ed Johnson

Buies Creek, N.C.

3/29/2005 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments

The State Lottery - Three Bad Options for 2005 : Monday, March 28, 2005

March 27 2005 by

The State Lottery - Three Bad Options for 2005 : Monday, March 28, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005

The State Lottery - Three Bad Options for 2005

Legislative Information Network

Lottery Update

(The following news and opinion includes excerpts from the Legislative Information Network newsletter provided by the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs of the Baptist State Convention.)

From the March 28, 2005 issue:

There have been important developments this week regarding the state lottery. Earlier this week, Speaker Jim Black announced that he planned to bring up the lottery for a vote in the House next week. At about the same time, Rep. Owens, sponsor of one of the lottery bills, was telling a reporter that he thought there were only about 50 votes for the lottery in the House (out of 61 needed for passage), with 15 to 20 members undecided or uncommitted. Speaker Black later amended his timeline to span the next two weeks. Late in the week, the Speaker announced that he would name a House Select Committee on the Lottery, whose task would be to recommend a lottery bill to the full House.

While these developments may seem confusing, they should make clear that the lottery debate is heating up, and we could see a lottery vote in the coming weeks. Please take a moment to communicate with your legislators, especially your member of the House, that you oppose the lottery in all its various forms.

From the March 24, 2005 issue:

State-run lotteries have become the most popular form of gambling in this country, with at least half of US citizens playing in any given year. In 2003, total spending on lotteries was nearly $45 billion. Forty states plus the District of Columbia now run lotteries.

As the General Assembly settles in for its 2005 session, the lottery is once again on the front burner. Support is fueled by the state's continuing budget shortfall, combined with the presence of lotteries in all surrounding states. A lottery always appears to be an "easy" source of money to legislators looking to balance the state's budget while fearing the political backlash from increasing taxes. Gov. Easley, a long-time supporter of a lottery, continues to support it.

What's New This Year?

There are three different structures for the lottery this year. (See "The Legislation," below.) One possibility is a local option lottery. Another bill would create a lottery without any referendum.

Lottery supporters have finally accepted what opponents have been saying for years, that a binding referendum is unconstitutional. Speaker Black has acknowledged this truth, even being quoted in the Winston-Salem Journal this week saying that the referendum was just legislators "trying to duck the vote." None of the introduced bills has a binding, statewide referendum.

North Carolina is now surrounded by lottery states. Supporters are harping on the idea that North Carolinians are already playing the lottery, just in neighboring states.

The Legislation

Three bills have been introduced this session. In the past, lottery bills have been 20+ pages long, filled with details about the lottery. Only one bill is like that this year.

H 3, Local Option Lottery, would establish a lottery in North Carolina as soon as the voters in 25 counties approve it. Lottery tickets would be sold only in the counties which had chosen to vote on it and approved it. Those counties would get 25% of the net proceeds on a pro rata basis. At least 50% of lottery revenue would go for prizes. Up to 16% could go for administrative costs, except more could be used in the first year of operation. Lottery sellers would get to keep 6% of their sales revenues, with a 1% bonus for high sales. The money allocated to the counties would be for school construction. The remainder would be for the state "to establish or enhance education programs." There would be no statewide referendum.

Supporters of this approach have already tried to get several local boards of commissioners to sign up. So far, lottery opponents have turned out in large numbers in four counties (Martin, Alexander, Lee, and Brunswick), and no county commissions have yet voted to endorse the local option plan.

H 223, 2005 Education Lottery Referendum, would call for a statewide, apparently non-binding referendum. Funds would be designated for education, specifically to establish a statewide prekindergarten program, to reduce class sizes, and to provide "more one-on-one instruction ... so that more children will stay in school, graduate, and go on to college." (An almost identical bill from 2001 included "stay out of trouble" in that list of what the lottery would enable more children to do.)

For those of you familiar with the lengthy lottery bills of past years, which contained pages and pages of details (how much for prizes, how the Lottery Commission would be set up, whether minors could buy lottery tickets, etc.), this bill is "lottery-lite." It fits on one page and merely says that there shall be a referendum on the lottery, that the lottery will be for the purposes mentioned above, and that the money from the lottery "shall supplement and not supplant" other education money (a totally unenforceable provision).

As for the details of how much money would go for advertising, how much to the out-of-state company operating the lottery, how much to prizes, what kinds of games could be played, etc., etc., these questions would be worked out in legislation to be adopted after a referendum has been held. In effect, these bills say to those citizens concerned about the details, "Just trust us." So it could also be called the "pig-in-a-poke lottery."

H 493, NC Lottery for Education, does contain many pages, but no referendum. It would initiate a lottery on a straight up-or-down vote by the General Assembly. The bill also sets up how the lottery would operate. Included are the following provisions:

It would be a misdemeanor to sell lottery tickets to those under 18, but the bill specifically permits those over 18 to give tickets to people of any age.

At least 50% of revenue would be paid out as prizes. At least 34% would be used for scholarships and other authorized uses. No more than 16% could go for administration.

The "public purpose" of the lottery would be to provide scholarships for NC citizens to attend NC colleges and universities. Money is to supplement and not supplant other state funds for college scholarships (still an unenforceable provision).

Scholarships would be available to students at public and private NC schools. The amount at public schools would be equal to tuition, plus mandatory fees, plus a book allowance. At private schools, the amount would be equal to tuition at UNC-CH, plus a book allowance.

Reasons for Opposition

There are a host of reasons for opposing a state lottery. The reasons are not new, though some of the supporting evidence is. The following is a "cafeteria line" of reasons. Some may be more important to you than others; you may not even agree with all of them. But the diversity of reasons is representative of the diversity of the opposition to the lottery.

Gambling is wrong, and the lottery is one form of gambling. This is actually the position of the state of North Carolina right now. Gambling is illegal, and there are criminal penalties for engaging in gambling activities, including numbers games that are really privately-operated lotteries. (A small exception has been carved out for non-profit bingo and raffles and for small-prize beach bingo.) If a lottery were to be adopted, the General Assembly would have to exempt the state lottery from existing criminal laws regarding gambling, but those laws would still remain on the books. In fact, H 493 contains just such a provision.

Regardless of what is said, lottery revenues don't necessarily help education. The pattern in other states has been that funding from the state's budget drops about as much as lottery revenues provide to a dedicated purpose. In other words, if lottery revenues are dedicated to education, the legislature then fails to increase budgeted spending for education. The result is that, a few years later, education is no better off financially than it was to begin with. What this does is to free up money in the state's budget for other uses, which may or may not be worthwhile, but are almost certainly not as popular as education.

A complex mathematical analysis reported in the Winter 1997 issue of State and Local Government Review (published at the University of Georgia) concluded:

In the years following the initial use of the lottery, the rate of growth in education spending declines. . . . This study indicates that states without lotteries actually maintain and increase their education spending more so than states with lotteries. . . [C]itizens should recognize that claims that lotteries will improve education funding are likely to be as misleading as their odds of winning those lotteries are meager.

Another problem for education is that lottery income has the potential to erode public support for school funding. Before there was a lottery in Florida, voters approved 21 of 22 bond issues. After there was a lottery, only 3 of 15 bond issues and tax increases for education have been approved. One study of Florida voters who voted against a local sales tax increase for local schools found that 80% gave the same reason for their opposition: the availability of the lottery. The St. Petersburg Times noted in 2003, "The lottery provided the Legislature an excuse to take away from education. While lottery dollars came in the front door, the Legislature took away dollars out the back door. Besides the loss of budget share, the Florida Lottery has a secondary bad effect - it has added to voter reluctance to support other ways of increasing school funding."

Lotteries prey on poor people. People in poverty are perhaps most vulnerable to the appeal of a lucky payoff; they are also those who can least afford the 50% loss which is suffered by players taken as a whole. (Remember, only 50% is paid back as prizes.)

The evidence on this point is incontrovertible. It is consistent over time and in various states. Early research showed that there were many more lottery outlets in poor neighborhoods, with a decreasing number of outlets as the economic status of the neighborhood rose. Later research showed that poor people spend a greater percentage of their incomes on lottery tickets than do those in higher brackets. Additional research now indicates that poor people are spending more per person in absolute dollars (not just as a percentage of income) than are others.

For example, Michigan's Booth Newspapers found that per person sales in inner city Detroit were three times higher than per person sales in the suburbs. The Atlanta Constitution, reporting on the Georgia lottery when it was relatively new, found similar results: In ZIP Codes with average household incomes over $40,000, average annual per person sales were $97. In ZIP Codes where the average income was under $20,000, average per person sales were $249.

More recent data are consistent with these earlier findings. In Lexington, Kentucky, 79% of the money spent on lottery tickets in 1997 was spent in ZIP Codes where per person incomes were below the county average. Similarly, 47% of Maryland's most frequent lottery players come from households earning less than $20,000 a year.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, established by Congress during the Clinton administration, found that the poorest lottery players not only spent a larger percentage of their incomes, they spent more in actual dollars. Those with household incomes under $10,000 spent more per person ($597) than those with incomes from $10,000 to $24,999 ($569) and considerably more than those with incomes of $25,000 to $49,999 ($382), $50,000 to $99,999 ($225) and over $100,000 ($196).

Lottery proponents say "So what?" Some even go so far as to say that concern for the impact of the lottery on poor people is paternalistic. ("Poor people are capable of making their own decisions. If they choose to waste their money on lottery tickets, that's their right.") This argument ignores at least three factors: 1) The state has already made the determination that gambling is a bad thing for everybody. That's why it is against the law. 2) The role of the state vis-�-vis its poorer citizens has historically been to lend a helping hand, through education, cash assistance, food stamps, housing assistance, and other programs. The role has not been to sucker them into wasting their money on foolish spending. 3) The impact of advertising changes the role of the state from one of neutrality to one of manipulation.

Millions of dollars of advertising will be used to convince all citizens that a lottery ticket could be their ticket to Easy Street. Earlier lottery bills would have permitted advertising costs up to 4% of total revenues. Thus, if the lottery were to take in $1 billion annually, which proponents claim, the state could spend $40 million in advertising. To put that in perspective, spending by the Burr and Bowles Senate campaigns last year totaled $26 million. That's for entire campaigns, including staff salaries, consultants, etc., not just for advertising.

And what is the content of these ads? A lottery billboard in a Chicago ghetto proclaimed, "This Could Be Your Way Out." A TV ad in Connecticut included someone saying, "When I was younger, I suppose I could have done more to plan my future. But I didn't. I guess I could have put some money aside. But I didn't. Or I could have made some smart investments. But I didn't. Heck, I could have bought a one-dollar Connecticut Lotto ticket, won a jackpot worth millions, and gotten a nice big check for twenty years. And I did! I won!" An announcer intones, "Overall chance of winning is one in thirty."

States are not subject to federal truth-in-advertising laws and regulations. They are free to deceive and mislead in a way that businesses could not.

Look, too, at the timing of these ads. An advertising plan for the Ohio SuperLotto advised: "Schedule heavier media weight during those times of the month where consumer disposable income peaks. . . Government benefits, payroll and Social Security payments are released on the first Tuesday of each calendar month."

Lotteries unfairly benefit the not-poor. As if it weren't bad enough that the state would be using misleading and dishonest advertising to convince poor people to waste their scarce financial resources on lottery tickets, research indicates that those benefiting from lottery revenues are disproportionately not poor. For example, Booth Newspapers found that Detroit residents contributed $104 million to Michigan's school aid fund through their lottery purchases. But the Detroit public schools received back only $80 million from that fund. The remaining $24 million ended up with other, wealthier school districts.

The New York Times noted in 2001 that "[Georgia's HOPE] scholarships represent an enormous transfer of money - $1.2 billion since 1993 - from lottery players, who tend to live in the poorest counties of the state, to 504,000 college students, who come from the wealthiest counties."

Lotteries give compulsive gamblers easy access to the object of their compulsion. A 1999 study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago concluded that that there are 51/2 million pathological or problem gamblers in our country, with another 15 million at risk. A companion report by the National Research Council estimated that 1.8 million American adults and up to 1.1 million adolescents age 12 through 17 engage in severe pathological gambling each year. While this addiction may not be as visible as that of alcoholics or drug addicts, it can be just as devastating.

A 1995 study of compulsive gamblers found that:

34% had lost or quit a job because of gambling.

76% had missed time from work.

44% had stolen from work to pay gambling debts.

21% had filed for bankruptcy.

18% had had gambling-related arrests.

16% said they had divorced because of gambling.

16% had attempted suicide.

66% had contemplated suicide.

79% said they wanted to die.

For compulsive gamblers, nothing could be worse than making the object of their addiction as convenient as the check-out line at the grocery store and then bombarding them with millions of dollars of slick ads.

As suggested by the National Research Council study mentioned above, the problem of gambling and gambling addiction is creeping into younger age brackets. Studies now indicate that the rate of compulsive gambling among teens is two to four times higher than the rate for adults.

A lottery sends mixed messages about how people should get ahead in life. Our society, using ideas as old as the Bible, has taught the importance of hard work, education, frugality, and saving as the avenues to a "good life." The lottery says, "Forget about all that, and buy a lottery ticket." How ironic that the benefits of a lottery are supposed to be for education!

A lottery reduces consumer spending on other goods and services. The lottery doesn't create any new money. It merely reallocates how money is spent. A dollar spent on a lottery ticket is a dollar that can't be spent on new shoes, groceries, restaurant meals, movie tickets, charitable contributions, or any other discretionary spending. A study in the Tidewater area of Virginia proved what would seem to be self-evident: consumer spending dropped by an amount roughly equal to lottery ticket sales.

The lottery creates a new tax, with a very high tax rate. It is ironic that legislators tout the lottery as an alternative to raising taxes and that many in the public are gullible enough to buy that argument. Supporters say that the lottery is not a tax because paying it is not mandatory. But the lottery tax is like the excise tax on cigarettes or beer. You can choose not to buy those products, but once you have chosen to make the purchase, you have no choice about paying the tax. The rate of taxation would be set by the General Assembly and would be that part of lottery revenues which go for state purposes (such as education). In most NC lottery bills, this rate of taxation is 34%.

How sad that legislators (and the public at large) are not willing to pay for needed programs through a fair and equitable tax structure but prefer to impose a regressive tax that falls most heavily on those who are poor and those who are addicted!

Local option is just another gimmick in the ongoing search for legislative approval. Because a county's take from the lottery would be based on sales in that county, the local option lottery would pit one county against another. In the end, the largest counties would end up with most of the counties' share, even though local-option supporters are currently targeting small counties. In addition, as local governments have learned in recent years, their share of lottery money could be taken away in future years if the General Assembly and the Governor wanted the money for something else. Finally, counties, which together would get less than $100 million, would suffer a loss of local sales tax revenues because of money diverted from other purchases to lottery tickets. The NC Budget and Tax Center has estimated that local governments could lose about $13 million in annual revenues.

Some will argue that a local option lottery would be like local option alcohol sales. However, it is important to note that the state doesn't advertise alcohol sales or encourage people to "buy a fifth to help the schools." In addition, as long-time followers of local option alcohol laws know, there will end up being a host of "creative" ways around counties which don't want to play. ABC laws now include special provisions for tour boats, recreation districts, residential private clubs, interstate interchange economic development zones, national historic landmark districts, small cities, small towns, ski resorts, small resort towns, townships, beautification districts . . . Well, you get the picture.

Supporters' Arguments

Lottery supporters make only two arguments:

1. The lottery would provide needed money for the state. Proponents claim that the state would net at least $340 million in the first year of operation. While $340 million is not to be sneezed at, it should be remembered that the state's General Fund budget for FY '05-'06 will be about $17 billion.

2. We're losing too much money to adjacent states with lotteries. Proponents claim that North Carolinians spend $300 million annually on lotteries in the border states.

But, keep in mind three things. First, assuming that North Carolinians win lotteries as frequently as residents of the other states, $150 million of that money is coming back to our state as winnings.

Second, if North Carolina starts a lottery, it will contract with some corporation to handle the operation of the lottery. In other states, these contracts have been for tens of millions of dollars. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in 2003 that a Nevada corporation hoped to contract with Tennessee for "$200 million or more" to set up and run that state's new lottery. None of the companies running lotteries is located in North Carolina, so that money would go out of state just as surely as the money lost to the Virginia lottery.

Third, the argument about neighboring states is a two-edged sword. If North Carolina gets into the lottery game, it will still have to compete with those states for players, competition that would require more advertising and larger prizes, both of which could reduce the state's anticipated lottery revenue. Residents of Charlotte will still go to South Carolina for lottery tickets if they think the SC lottery is a better deal or more fun to play. South Carolina bought into the lottery because of concern about lost sales to Georgia, only to see people on the border continue to play the Georgia lottery for its higher jackpots.

The Lottery and the Bible

There is no verse in the Bible that says, "Thou shalt not have a lottery." But this is not to say that the Bible lacks guidance on the question of state-sponsored gambling. Consider the following Biblical teachings:

ultimate and complete trust in God, not in anyone or anything else, including Lady Luck.

concern for the poor and condemnation of the rich who take advantage of the poor.

protection of vulnerable people. In biblical times, that meant especially widows, children, and immigrants.

condemnation of greed and materialism.

concern for healthy families, strong marriages, and well-nurtured children.

Even without a "Thou shalt not gamble" verse, there is ample reason for people of faith to oppose a state-sponsored, state-advertised, state-benefiting lottery.

What to Do

Contact your state legislators (both senators and representatives). Tell them why you oppose the lottery and ask them to vote against it. You may also want to contact the Governor and the leaders of the House (Speaker Jim Black) and Senate (President Pro Tem Marc Basnight) to let them know that you disagree with their support of the lottery.

If you don't know who your legislators are, go to the General Assembly website . Click on "Representation" at the left side of the homepage, then again on "Representation" at the top of the next page. Or call your local board of elections.

All legislators can be called through the General Assembly switchboard - (919) 733-4111. It is open during normal business hours.

To write legislators, you can use the following address: Rep. (or Sen.), North Carolina General Assembly, Raleigh, NC 27601-1096, (ZIP Code for Senate is 27601-2808). To contact by e-mail, go to the General Assembly website to get addresses. (Most follow the pattern but a few deviate from the pattern.)

Lottery supporters are well-funded. We rely on the deep commitment of a large number of lottery opponents. What you and others like you do can make the difference in keeping North Carolina out of the lottery business.

Portions of this report are based on the following documents:

"Would a State Lottery Tax Be a 'Jackpot' for Public Schools? Don't Bet on It." BTC Reports from the NC Budget & Tax Center, March 2005.

"Lotteries and State Fiscal Policy." Background Paper from the Tax Foundation, October 2004.

"Why a Local Option Lottery Is Bad for North Carolina." Citizens United Against the Lottery, March 2005.

3/27/2005 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments

Enjoyed reading South Africa Journal : Friday, March 25, 2005

March 24 2005 by

Enjoyed reading South Africa Journal : Friday, March 25, 2005
Friday, March 25, 2005

Enjoyed reading South Africa Journal

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the South Africa Journal submitted by Tony Cartledge as he and his niece Kristen have traveled and experienced South Africa. I know Kristen well as I have a daughter a year older than she is and they played tennis together throughout middle school and high school. What a wonderful experience for the both of you! I have shared this web site with many of my friends and family. Thank-you Tony and Kristen for the difference your experience has made in the lives of those you saw in South Africa, and to those of us here as we were allowed to share the experience through the written word. God bless.

Joy B. Milner

Hartwell, Ga.

3/24/2005 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments

Nineteen appointed at IMB service : Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 23 2005 by Tom Creech

Nineteen appointed at IMB service : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Nineteen appointed at IMB service

By Tom Creech
Special to the Recorder

CHARLOTTE - Nineteen couples that have felt God's call to overseas missionary service were appointed and introduced to a large crowd at Charlotte's First Baptist Church on March 15th.

The couples are going to seven different areas of the world where the International Mission Board (IMB) has a presence. Some of the areas represented are the Pacific Rim, South Asia, Western Europe and South America. Many of the couples will be serving in areas of the world that have been restricted, as far as publicity of their presence is concerned, due to potential harm from religious extremists.

Jerry Rankin, president of the IMB, gave the traditional charge to the new missionaries and presented them with certificates of appointment. All the couples gave brief testimonies touching on when they first felt that God might be calling them to missionary service.

Rankin, in his introductory remarks, said, "There's nothing more exciting than sending out missionaries all over the world."

Gordon Fort, vice-president of Overseas Operations for IMB, reported that more than 30,000 people a day are coming to Christ in China. Furthermore, during the past five years, IMB missionaries and their overseas Baptist partners have baptized nearly 2 million people and have planted more than 28,000 new churches, according to IMB reports.

Rankin's charge centered on "raising the dead." He referred to Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead. "We're sending you out to 'raise the dead,' - those who are dead in trespasses and sins. Christ is sending you to roll away the stone."

Rankin asked appointees: "How do you unbind the people from all of the traditions and superstitions that have held them captive for years? By teaching them the word of God."

The couples, during their testimony time, expressed many and varied ways that they, individually and as couples, received the Lord's call to full-time missions. Many of them had served as journeymen and on short-term and summer missions trips prior to receiving their call. Aaron Krug will be working in the IMB Regional office in Germany, creating multi-media training materials and witnessing tools for Baptists in the United States who plan to go to Western Europe on mission. He was called while attending a Baptist Student Union retreat at Ridgecrest in 1996. He went to China on mission trips in 1997 and 1998. His wife, Amanda, was called to mission service while on a summer mission trip to the Philippines.

Adam and Rebecca (last names not used for security reasons) met at a World Changers event in Norfolk, Va. in 2000. They both spent two months in the Pacific Rim area in the summer working with Muslim students. During that time God affirmed their calls to international missions. Adam, who's finishing his master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rebecca will be returning to the Pacific Rim area, where Adam will be a strategy coordinator, leading a team of native believers to start new churches.

First Baptist Church in Charlotte had been petitioning the IMB for about eight years to be a host church for an appointment service, according to Jim Cashwell, minister of adult education and missions at the church. Nine to 12 months ago, the IMB informed First Baptist that they would like to hold their March 2005 appointment service there. "We're grateful to be a part of this," said Cashwell. "We are a mission-minded church."

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Tom Creech | with 0 comments

Don't pop the top on beer alcohol content : Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 23 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Don't pop the top on beer alcohol content : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Don't pop the top on beer alcohol content

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Those who enjoy getting drunk will have a faster inebriation option if lobbyists for so-called "craft beers" succeed in persuading the North Carolina legislature to lift the current six percent cap on alcohol content for malt beverages. Some "craft" or "specialty" beers contain as much as 21 percent alcohol by volume.

N.C. House Bill 392 and Senate Bill 735, currently under consideration, would amend the definition of a malt beverage to allow unlimited alcohol content. State law currently defines a malt beverage as "beer, lager, malt liquor, ale, porter, and any other brewed or fermented beverage containing at least one half of one percent and not more than six percent" alcohol.

The amendment would delete the words "and not more than six percent," allowing brewers to pack as much punch as they like into beer, generally the most readily available alcoholic libation.

Proponents argue that lifting the cap would promote the craft and specialty beer industry, benefiting the state's economy and providing a wider range of sipping options for beer connoisseurs.

The move would indeed broaden the options of high-alcohol brews - and make them even more available to high school and college students, many of whom already find beer easy to get.

According to facts and figures compiled by Mark Creech, executive director of the North Carolina Christian Action League, beer accounts for 67 percent of the alcohol consumed in America, and for 81 percent of alcohol guzzled in hazardous amounts. A culture of heavy drinking on many college campuses results in an average of 1,400 student deaths per year, not to mention "a distressing number of assaults and rapes, a shameful amount of vandalism, and countless cases of academic suicide" (Henry Wechsler, Dying to Drink, Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study 2002).

Supporters of the measure, whose misleading spiel is available online at, argue that students would not like the stronger taste of stronger brew, or would not be able to afford it's steeper price. Au contraire! When the state of Georgia was considering a similar measure, the University of Georgia's student newspaper (for which I once wrote sports stories) touted the possibility with this headline: "Excitement Brews Over Alcohol Level: Students looking to get a better buzz out of their beer may soon get help from the state government" (

Want to find the hottest spot for beer-loving college students in Michigan? Try "Ye Olde Tap Room," which the Detroit News describes as "the ultimate hangout for college students" ( The bar serves more than 260 craft beers from around the world, in addition to home brew from Michigan.

With their romantic mystique and powerful punch, highly potent craft beers have taken the college world by storm - in states where they are available.

Whether or not it improves the economy, popping the top on alcohol content in beer will have one certain effect: more dead and injured students, children, women and men on North Carolina highways.

In addition, the whole concept of removing the cap on alcohol in beer will render North Carolina's Alcoholic Beverage Control stores superfluous. Why bother going to an ABC store (where one can buy more than 200 products with less than 21 percent alcohol, so I've read), when you can buy high-octane beer at the convenience store?

Students are not the only population segment in danger of getting drunker than they intended when drinking high-alcohol beer. Older adults who are accustomed to drinking one or two beers and then driving home could unwittingly get behind the wheel with a much higher blood alcohol content and much slower reflexes than they're accustomed to.

I don't need to cite sources for the danger of beer with a bigger bang. When a drunken man killed our daughter Bethany in 1994, he had spent the morning drinking "Bud Ice." So-called "ice beers" were just coming into vogue and were being heavily promoted at the time - but the marketing-savvy beer companies didn't bother advertising that the new beers also had twice the alcohol content of regular beer (the better to addict you with).

The 29-year-old factory worker who killed our daughter may have downed the same number of beers he was accustomed to drinking every morning when he got off the night shift - but he soaked up twice the alcohol, resulting in a .203 blood alcohol content several hours after the crash.

What North Carolina needs to do with beer - since outlawing it seems out of the question - is to tax it to the gills and thus discourage its consumption, while boosting tax revenues and righting a long-standing preferential tax inequity at the same time. As reported previously in this column (Feb. 5), the current beer tax of a nickel per bottle has not been raised since 1969, while inflation alone should have increased it fivefold.

The last thing our state legislature needs to do is pop the cap on beer alcohol content, thus opening the door to a consequent increase in all the misery it will certainly cause and probably decreasing tax revenue, since less beer would be needed to turn out the mental lights.

The beer lobby is strong, however, and apparently has many lawmakers safely in the can. It is essential that state senators and representatives hear from the local citizens who elected them as well as the lobbyists who provide free beer for their parties. Visits, phone calls and letters have more impact than e-mail, but any interaction will help. Contact information for all state lawmakers can be easily located at

Tell them to keep the lid on.

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Boiled corn and mealie pop : Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 23 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Boiled corn and mealie pop : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Boiled corn and mealie pop

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

A foray to South Africa provided the opportunity for gustatory adventures while I was learning more about ministry needs in the country and helping to lead a conference for religious communicators.

On a previous trip to the country, I had noticed women selling boiled corn had set up small stalls on the side of the road. Most of them use old, rusty oil drums to contain a wood fire in the bottom, topped by a pot of boiling water for the corn, which is cooked complete with the shucks, silks and whatever worms happen to be on board.

I wanted to try it, and since March is late summer in South Africa, the crop was in.

Credo Mangayi, my host, agreed to stop at a stall in Hammanskraal, and we paid a lady the equivalent of 65 cents each for two huge ears of white corn. She shucked the corn for us, and carefully removed the silks. She sprinkled salt on each ear from a plastic bag and rubbed it in by twisting each ear in her hands before popping them into a plastic bag.

It could have used some butter, too.

And some Adolph's meat tenderizer.

The corn was tasty, but each kernel was the size of an M&M, and very chewy. Credo said that when he's on a long drive and needs something to keep him awake, he gets an ear of corn to chew on and it lasts for hours.

I can believe it.

I got more pleasure from a plate of mealie pop, saut�ed vegetables and stewed chicken parts, which we enjoyed at Mary Lwate's "Good Hope Community" in Mabopane, where she provides food and shelter for some 200 children in a three-bedroom house.

Mealie pop, a staple food for the poor, is made of finely ground corn, boiled in water and cooked to the consistency of very thick paste. The taste is rather bland, but it goes well with whatever toppings or side dishes are available, and it really "sticks to the ribs."

Add a few stewed chicken feet, and life is good.

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Baptist history: confessions of faith : Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 23 2005 by Carol Crawford Holcomb

Baptist history: confessions of faith : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Baptist history: confessions of faith

By Carol Crawford Holcomb

When Baptists talk about confessions of faith, someone usually asks what is the difference between a confession and a creed. It is true that confessions and creeds could both be described as concise statements of belief, but the difference hinges upon how they are used.

Baptists originated in 17th-century England when state churches crafted creeds that carried the force of law. These churches imposed penalties upon those such as Baptists who dissented from accepted doctrine or practice. Baptist confessions carried no punitive measures, but rather affirmed what a group of Baptists believed in a specific time and place. Creeds connote coercion while confessions suggest voluntarism.

The story of Baptist confessions begins with two Englishmen, John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, who founded the first Baptist church in 1609. Smyth wrote a short statement of faith in 1609 to explain his views to the Dutch Mennonites. His confession countered the prevailing Calvinism of the day by affirming free will and denying the existence of original sin. However, historians consider Helwys' "Declaration of Faith" written in 1611 to be the first Baptist confession of faith. Because Smyth and Helwys held that Christ died for all people (general atonement), this original group of English Baptists became known as General Baptists.

The earliest Particular (Calvinistic) Baptist churches emerged during the tumultuous years leading up to the English Civil War. The attitude toward Baptists in the 1630s and 1640s was decidedly negative. Baptists were accused of publishing "seditious pamphlets," of conducting "night meetings of naked men and women," and of promoting "licentious spiritual marriages." English authorities disrupted Baptist meetings, assaulted church members, and often placed them in jail.

Because of these accusations and persecutions, seven Particular Baptist churches issued the "First London Confession" in 1644 to set the record straight concerning their beliefs and practices. The document reflects the Reformed emphases of original sin, particular election, limited atonement, and lack of free will. Thus, the thorough Calvinism of the First London Confession demonstrated that Particular Baptists were in step with the larger Puritan movement and commended them as orthodox to their contemporaries in England.

Under King Charles II all those who dissented from the Anglican pattern experienced persecution. Particular Baptists again felt pressure to state their agreement with their fellow dissenters - Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The framers of the "Second London Confession of 1677" patterned their document on the Westminster Confession and retained the wording of the articles that agreed with their faith. Particular Baptists demonstrated their agreement with the Reformed tradition to minimize persecution.

The first Baptist association in America was organized in Philadelphia in 1707. Elias Keach and his father, Benjamin Keach, revised the Second London Confession to form the "Philadelphia Confession of Faith," which was adopted by the association in 1742. In addition to aiding in apologetics and education, this confession served as a basis of union for merging groups. This was the primary confession for Calvinistic Baptists until the Second Great Awakening.

About the time Philadelphia Baptists were adopting their confession, the revivals of the First Great Awakening produced a new strain of Baptists - largely converts from Congregationalist churches. These new "Separate Baptists" rejected confessions of faith in the colonial era because they had experienced them as tools of coercion within Congregationalism. This Separate Baptist tradition profoundly influenced Baptists in the South.

In response to the doctrinal diversity in their state, New Hampshire Baptists adopted a softened form of Calvinism in their "New Hampshire Confession" of 1833. The doctrines of free will and divine election were equally acknowledged along with perseverance of the saints and the judgment of the wicked. In the 20th century when Southern Baptists met to draft a confession in response to the bitter struggles over fundamentalism and evolution, they turned to the New Hampshire confession as a guide. The result was the "Baptist Faith and Message of 1925." The SBC adopted this confession along with a preface that contained five articles enumerating the limits of confessions of faith, stating strongly that the "sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists" is the Bible. "Confessions are guides," continued article 4, "having no authority over conscience."

Unfortunately, the Baptist Faith and Message of 1925 failed to eliminate the conflicts within Baptist life. The churches greeted the document with a "tremendous outburst of silence." When tensions resurfaced in the 1960s over the authority of the Bible, the convention called a committee to revisit the confession. The committee was comprised of the presidents of the various state conventions and chaired by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Herschel Hobbs. The SBC adopted the committee's work as the "Baptist Faith and Message of 1963."

The revision preserved the flavor of the 1925 confession while nuancing the traditional Calvinism and expanding the doctrine of God. The confession also included two additional statements on the scriptures: "the Holy Bible is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man," and "the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ."

The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message remained the doctrinal expression of the SBC until 1998 when the new fundamentalist leadership of the SBC thought it necessary to revise the document to better reflect their beliefs. The convention approved a full revision in 2000. Among other changes this revision deleted the above additions on the scriptures - effectively removing the Christological criterion for interpreting the Bible.

The most glaring additions were social and ethical articles - including statements defining marriage and family, requiring wives to "graciously submit" to their husbands, and excluding women from pastoral ministry. Upon its completion, the SBC leadership used the confession as an instrument of conformity, compelling denominational employees to sign the document as evidence of their orthodoxy. Ultimately, the convention extended the policy to include missionaries, many of whom resigned from their ministries rather than sign the new confession.

Baptist churches and individuals have drafted confessions of faith since 1609 for a variety of reasons. Individuals and associations adopted confessions for polemical and educational reasons. In times of persecution, confessions functioned as apologies, answering false accusations and offering testimony of the Baptist faith to all who could be persuaded. The Baptist identity was forged in the fires of persecution brought about by their refusal to conform to the creed of a state church. This historical experience shaped their views of religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and confessions of faith. The theology expressed in these confessions is quite diverse, and there have been instances in which Baptists have used their confessions as creeds. Yet, the prevailing Baptist approach has been that confessions are merely guides and that the sole written authority for Baptist faith and practice is the Bible.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This is the first in a series of articles that will address contemporary issues from the perspective of Baptist history and heritage. They are being presented by the Baptist History and Heritage Society, headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., Holcomb is assistant professor of religion at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, and vice president of the Baptist History and Heritage Society.)

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Carol Crawford Holcomb | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for April 10: Impartial Love : Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 23 2005 by Phillip Hamm

Family Bible Study lesson for April 10: Impartial Love : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for April 10: Impartial Love

By Phillip Hamm
Focal Passage: James 2:1-13

Real Faith Rejects Favoritism

James 2:1-7

We've all had the experience of running to the window as a moving truck passed by our house. As we peer through the curtains we notice that the family moving in has skin a shade darker than ours and possibly speaks a different language. We think to ourselves how nice it is to live in area where people of all races and ethnic backgrounds can live in the same sub-divisions.

We remember hearing of a time when this type of fairness would not have been extended to this family and wonder in disbelief of how such times ever existed. We would never think of stopping a family from moving into our neighborhood just because they speak with an accent or have a different skin color.

But what if that family walked into your church on Sunday? What if their children sat next to your children in Sunday School? What if their baby shared a cup of "gold fish" with your baby or grandbaby in the nursery?

Some people respond to a situation like this by putting on a spiritual facade. They say things like: "I think they would be more comfortable in a church with people like themselves." What is really meant by this statement is that they would be more comfortable if the individuals would go to another church.

Favoritism is not a new problem faced by Christians. In fact James dealt with the same type of issues by telling readers of his letter, "have you not shown partiality among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:4 (NKJV). Favoritism has no place in a Christian's life. Looking down on someone because of their ethnic background, socio-economic level, or any other reason is always contradictory to scripture. God never puts limits upon who He will accept; therefore, neither should we. The only way to overcome favoritism is to ...

Fulfill the Law of Love

James 2:8-11

We were taught as children that we are to "love our neighbor as ourselves." James repeats these words of Jesus in verse 8. He then continues to say that when we show favoritism, or do not love people equally, we are clearly sinning. We know that loving people whom we like is easy, but why would we love people when it is hard? Why should we fulfill the law of love when it might cost us something? The greatest example of this love is a parent.

A 36 year-old mother was discovered to be in the advanced stages of terminal cancer. One doctor advised her to spend her remaining days enjoying herself on a beach in Acapulco. A second physician offered her the hope of living two to four years with the grueling side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She penned these words to her three small children: "I've chosen to try surviving for you. This has some horrible costs, including pain, loss of my good humor, and moods I won't be able to control. But I must try this, if only on the outside chance that I might live one minute longer. And that minute could be the one you might need me when no one else will do. For this I intend to struggle, tooth and nail, so help me God." (Focus on the Family, May 1985) This mother understood the pain that came with loving.

This type of love is the example that God has set for His children. He loved the world so much that nothing could keep Him from expressing His love to us, not even the pain of the cross. The Bible clearly says that God expects us to treat everyone the way He treats them, with love and fairness.

You could show favoritism to people who share the same skin color, speak the same language, or bring home the same paycheck. It's easy to favor those who are like us. However, I'm thankful that God does not wait for us to become like Him before He shows us love. He even showed us mercy when we were considered His enemy. (Rom. 5:10) Therefore, the only way to overcome favoritism and receive mercy from God is for us to ...

Show Mercy

James 2:12-13

Notice that in verse 13 that James says, "judgment is without mercy to the one who shows no mercy" (NKJV). In other words, God will use the same standard to judge us that we use to judge others. Therefore, we are to be sure to welcome all types of people to find hope in God's church.

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Phillip Hamm | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for April 17: Controlled Speech : Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 23 2005 by Phillip Hamm

Family Bible Study lesson for April 17: Controlled Speech : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for April 17: Controlled Speech

By Phillip Hamm
Focal Passages: James 3:2b-12; 4:11-12; 5:12

The Potential of Danger of Speech

James 3:2-6

One of the first opportunities I had to preach was when I was about 17 years old. I had worked very hard preparing the message for our Wednesday night service. After I had preached my heart out, for a total of about 10 minutes, I offered the invitation. Shortly after the service a dear women, who obviously did not have the gift of encouragement, approached me and said: "Phillip, if you would have been the least bit interesting, I think people would have paid attention." Ouch!

But the words of "encouragement" only increased. On the next occasion that my brave pastor let me preach, another dear brother approached me and commented that he had just sat through "the worst sermon he had ever heard."

I really don't think either of these individuals ever meant to hurt me. Looking back they were probably true statements. Regardless, the words were painful.

All of us have been on the receiving end of some painful words. I would even guess that the most painful things that we remember from our past are likely hurtful words that somebody spoke. Yet why are we so likely to be hurtful ourselves? Is there any hope for controlling what we say?

Avoid Destructive Criticism

James 3:7-12

James admits in 3:7-8 that controlling the tongue is very difficult. He continues by pointing out how unfitting it is for a Christian to speak words that hurt while using the same mouth to bless God. So what is the solution?

James is right; no man is powerful enough to control the tongue, but our God is able. The only way to see God victorious over this point of weakness is to surrender daily this area of our life (Luke 9:23).

Tell the Truth

James 5:12

There will always be those dear brothers and sisters in Christ who use honesty as an excuse for hurtfulness. "No thank you, I didn't like the first serving you gave me." "A person your size really shouldn't wear pants like that."

James tells us in 5:12 to always be people of integrity with our words. This passage, however, does not give us the license to be hurtful. Instead, the passage gives us the command to be people of integrity. "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no" (James 5:12, NKJV).

So, how does real faith affect the way we speak?

Unfortunately having a real faith doesn't promise that we will never suffer from "foot and mouth" disease. We will suffer the embarrassment of saying things we never should. A real faith as described in scripture does, however, give us the ability to keep from having to remove our foot from our mouth quite as often.

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Phillip Hamm | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for April 10: Speaking of Commitment : Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 23 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for April 10: Speaking of Commitment : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Formations lesson for April 10: Speaking of Commitment

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 2:1-13

I grew up in a church that believed in commitment. We were frequently inspired toward devotion to Christ in the words of a hymn that we sang together with gusto, "Give of Your Best to the Master."

It challenged me as a young person to give the strength of my youth in obedience to the Lord. It continues to beckon me to throw my "soul's fresh glowing ardor into the battle for truth."

Such was Paul's call to Timothy and the faithful saints in his circle of believers. They had encountered what we all find in life sooner or later. It is easy to give "fresh glowing ardor" while singing songs of joyful commitment within the safe confines of our church congregation.

It is hard to maintain fervor in the face of real life suffering out in the world such as Timothy was witnessing and experiencing. It must have been unnerving to see a man of giant faith such as the fearless Paul imprisoned in chains like an animal.

Suffering stymies us, stumps us, haunts and wears us down.

Seeing beyond suffering

Paul wrote to help them see beyond the suffering with a focus on what it was all about. We read this with great interest because we all want to make sense out of suffering.

My observations related to suffering begin with the realization that everyone suffers. God is love, and still all God's children suffer. God is all-powerful and answers prayer, but still His children suffer. God is with us in our suffering and even grieves with us; but still His children suffer.

So, I have reached the conclusion that God must see suffering differently. It appears that He looks beyond suffering to what it accomplishes. It is the way Jesus faced the cross. The writer of Hebrews (12:2) proclaimed that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

On the one hand, Paul's letter to Timothy gives direction on how to face suffering, but on the other hand we could do the scripture injustice if we seek to put all earthly sufferings into the same context as that of Paul's hardship.

Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, so he was not writing primarily about facing the suffering that we more frequently encounter of sickness and loss. He was writing to help Timothy to gird up his soul and throw himself into the battle against spiritual ignorance.

Commitment to purpose in suffering

Paul's letter to Timothy provides a two-fold approach to the way Christians are to face the world.

We are to fearlessly share the marvelous gospel of Christ in the face of whatever hardship may be the result of our faithful witness.

We may also respond to all suffering as an opportunity to witness with dignity, devotion and determination like that of a dedicated soldier, farmer and athlete.

I'm reminded of a poem for which I do not recall the author, but I recall the words because they have encouraged me: "I'm thankful for the bitter things. They've been a friend to grace. They've driven me from paths of ease to storm the secret place."

The hope of the gospel is that suffering is not senseless and meaningless when entrusted to the Eternal God of love and grace revealed in Christ Jesus. For believers, bitter things only drive us closer to the Lord through whom we know we have the victory in the long run.

We can and should "endure everything" in order to reach those whom God is seeking. We can and should be faithful in any type of suffering as a witness that Christ has given us a goal of eternal worth.

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Julia S. Ledford | with 0 comments

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