Saturday, December 15, 2007


Do eighteen formative years in the “Tall Corn” state qualify one to claim a degree of expertise in the “what makes Iowa tick” department? Since every person’s own life experience governs their opinions and reactions it probably does not. Still, it does not totally invalidate some personal observations.

Social difficulties of epic proportions were present in my formative years on a national and international scale. Born in 1932, I am today still reflecting the lessons learned in the Great Depression. I detest waste, and continue, at my personal peril, to clean up every morsel on my plate. My father, with a very young podiatry practice, waited hours between patients, and became a model airplane builder par excellence. He built from plans, not kits, from raw balsa, tissue paper and long strings of rubber bands. At the age of nine-and-a-half years, I saw the country plunge into war unlike anything which has been seen since. As a Des Moines Register paper boy, I had the very first look of the day at the news before anyone else in town during the struggle. On a scorching Iowa day in August 1945 I shared with the citizens of the rural community I call home, West Liberty, Iowa, the joys of Japan’s surrender and sober reflection upon the cost.

Our high school graduated twenty-four students in 1950. Today, I still number the bulk of them as my closest and dearest friends. Scattered from Virginia to the desert Southwest and into the deep South, we all still keep in touch along with the handful remaining in Iowa. In retrospect, I see our class motto as having been prophetic: “Tis the set of the sail and not the gale, which determines our destiny.” Materially, almost all have done extremely well.

I firmly believe that Iowa in the thirties and forties – and other rural areas nationally for that matter – provided a substantial base for their subsequent success. The opportunity for spiritual enrichment was constant. A sense of the presence of God as the directing factor in our lives was ever present. The creeds varied but God did not. Many of my classmates were active participants in their individual churches and most remain so to this day. This factor underlines the importance of forcing potential presidents to square their views on faith with the general population.

This necessity is not overblown. While serious theologians may find Iowan’s opinions naïve and amateurish for the most part, they will not easily be changed. To ignore a reasoned sincere response to their feelings would be political suicide. To pander and attempt to gain cheap acceptance would also be a disaster. For most of the candidates – regardless of party affiliation – to deny Divine guidance as a necessity for good government would represent the poorest of choices. To project faith as the primary engine of executive ability would be equally foolhardy. Watching them collectively walk this tightrope is immensely entertaining. It is probably satisfying to fans of diversity to see this collection of mainstream Protestants, Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims Agnostics and Space Invaders vie for the top job through faith. Oops, I almost forgot to include the Church of Global Warming.

The inflated importance of the Iowa Caucus is largely situated in its position as the first. In itself it will neither make nor break any candidate – Des Moines Register opinion not withstanding. It all does serve to further elevate the self importance some Iowans have as a result of having heard throughout their youth how accomplished they are. After all, Garrison Keillor assured them on PBS that all of Lake Wobegon’s kids were above average. The fact he broadcast from Minnesota didn’t faze them. Then we are faced with the matter of trusting any state which dedicates an Interstate (I-80) rest area to a former US vice-president who was an avowed communist, with critical decisions which affect the country as a whole. That in itself takes the “warm and fuzzy” out of the equation for me.

Although national security, taxes, health care, etc. claim a large share of interest in the state, one other issue is close to paramount. Perhaps even eclipsing faith is the matter of continued production of excessive amounts of corn with government subsidies, to provide the basis for its questionable use in ethanol enhanced fuels. The fact that it is economically unfeasible, escapes the selfish interests of the growers. That t-bone at $12.95 a pound (and rising) comes to you courtesy of the ethanol lobby. Thus the question for the electorate becomes one of God meets mammon, who wins? Trust me; this will be a major issue in the minds of more than a few Midwestern voters.

Last, but certainly not least, a major concern in Iowa is immigration. Due to a burgeoning poultry processing industry, there has been a major shift in the presence of immigrants, both legal and illegal in Iowa. In a Restorationist view, we are bound scripturally to obey the laws of the land. In a misguided effort to avoid any accusation of racism, many Iowans tolerate the influx of illegals and the incumbent costs of their maintenance – schools, health care, added crime, etc. In a state dominated by faiths with affiliation to the World Council of Churches and their all-embracing attitudes, the public solution is obvious. In the privacy of the voting booth, other solutions may prevail. Since most of the candidates would prefer to waffle their way through the issue it will be harder to detect a clear cut preference.

I am sorry to say that the Iowa I knew as a boy has all but disappeared. I can only pray that the residual remains of the values I learned and came to cherish still remain in the hearts and minds of electorate. We shall soon see.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TV Writers Strike!

Network TV shows have writers—who knew? And I thought all that talk show blather came right out of their squash. Were you deceived, as I was, thinking all that brilliant repartee was dreamed up by the star of the show? Is it possible that Leno and Letterman are not actually responsible for that rapier sharp wit? Apparently, all of the well-coiffed, slickly garbed, golden tongued hosts are now revealed to be as clumsy as the rest of us in forming ideas on the fly. Their principal talent is now revealed to be only their timing and the ability of a fourth grader to read off a teleprompter. In itself a considerable ability, but is it worth the millions?

Evidently it is, because we dial in by the legions to hear that mindless drivel every night. Surely tens of millions of viewers can’t be wrong. The commentary on news, politics, religion and of course, constant sexual innuendo, pollutes our homes and worse, our minds. We willingly adjust the remote to provide not just talk shows but also sitcoms rife with endorsement of one deviant life style after another. The supposition is that the fabric of American culture is exposed and contemporary problems are addressed. As I look at our home and those of our closer friends, I fail to see the similarity.

As we bow our heads to give thanks to God for our meal and other blessings, most of us are not interrupted by the entrance (stage left) of some guy in a pink short skirt, carrying a Gucci bag, screaming for attention. Our subsequent table talk is not devoted to “green” issues or sis’s upcoming abortion. We do not discuss some impending deceit to advance the family’s fortune or status. We see the father in the household as a benign counselor and a strong figure to lean upon. We view the mother as his helpmate with the softness to absorb the daily cares and the wisdom to advance the family’s growth and development. I truly believe our close friends and neighbors more nearly mirror the popular culture than those who run from one crisis to another.

Do we live in a bubble? Well, yes and no—we, like many Saints, exist in a world rife with many problems in which we choose not to participate. After exposure to the word of God it is apparent that many of today’s young families shun the dysfunctional approach to family life. Thankfully, our faith tends to insulate us from many outside perils. This solid core of belief in God and the constant desire to live His way and please Him serves us well in maintaining the stability of our homes. That stability is the cornerstone of our church and our nation.

Obviously the media at all levels thrives on controversy and human suffering. Who wants to see a news release about the fellowship and warmth of a successful church dinner? Is the presence or lack of paprika on deviled eggs a subject for “Sixty Minutes”? Take two of each and make your own decision. The onset of the strike has revealed much about our family’s viewing habits. We had to wait until a Monday night when Leno features “Headlines” to figure out that it had begun.

Upon the loss of Leno's "Headlines" I realized I was being deprived of a personal favorite. My beloved Packers had not been affected. Discovery and the History channels were still educating me. The activity on the Animal Channel was still delighting me and whetting my appetite for the “Puppy Bowl” (if you love puppies and hate football, this has to be on your agenda) on Super Bowl weekend. C-Span was still a snoozer. “Casablanca” reruns along with other oldie favorites were still being aired on Turner Classics. The Weather channel continued to be alarmed over a half inch rain in Galveston. The “Mythbusters” proceeded in their desire to blow themselves up in pursuit of truth. I even caught Tiger making yet another 45’ putt. It also provided an opportunity for Oprah to go on the campaign trail for Obama. It really didn’t matter all that much.

Since I don’t trust any TV news I have no idea what the impact has been in that area. We get all our news from trusted sources on the net. Yes, they exist. I recently published a picture of a restoration of the cross on Saint Mary’s church in Baghdad which I doubt anyone saw on the nightly news. It didn’t involve suicidal Islamic fundamentalists or US military failures, so therefore was not newsworthy.

For those of you who are getting sick of re-runs, you have my sympathy. I don’t wish anything to cause you pain. For those of you who didn’t notice the absence of the writers, I applaud your viewing choices. This prompts a recommendation to all; you might think about settling down with a “Good Book”. By the time you read—and understand it—the strike will be over.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Out of My Depth

In 1979 a very close friend called with a request to meet for lunch at a popular Baton Rouge eatery adjacent to the LSU campus. I agreed and further denied that I would be bothered by the presence of a visitor from out of town. Once there and introduced, I was delighted to be with this seventy–seven year old man with the distinguished appearance and razor sharp mind. Lunch was accompanied by continuous conversation between two men who, it developed, were light years apart in background but shared many mutual interests. I detected in his speech and manners some European background and pursued it to find he was a naturalized Hungarian. Anecdotes of Europe flowed from there. When the waiter cleared the table, I regretted seeing the end of the opportunity to be with this remarkable gentleman.

Even had I not later been apprised of his standing I would have found the experience uplifting. Afterward, I learned that my luncheon companion, Eugene Wigner, visiting from Princeton, was a leading light in the Manhattan project, an intimate of Albert Einstein, and one of the (if not “the”) leading experts in the field of quantum physics. In 1963, he had won the Nobel Prize for physics and numerous other awards on both a national and international scale. None of these associations and honors was even hinted during our two hour lunch. The mere definition of quantum physics would have escaped me anyway so I’m happy he chose not to “talk shop.” Happily, I pray, he lived well until his death in his nineties.

This happy memory was recalled because of a recent discussion regarding materialists' evaluation of the human mind. They triumphantly enjoy the success of computers to defeat even the brightest at chess. They predict, as a result, a machine driven society with the capacity to solve every vile human condition from warts to world hunger. It would be delightful if true. However, it’s far more complex than programming the movements of the bishop and the rook. Obviously a computer, with a massive memory, can certainly best any human mind on a subject with a predictable mathematical outcome. Can it detect the sensation of cozy warmth of seventy-one degrees as opposed to the chill of sixty nine? It becomes even more complicated when you check the thermostat and find that the actual temperature is neither one. While the brain’s chemical reactions may be quantifiable, the overall sensations are not so easily catalogued.

One barrier to the materialist is the issue of free will. If all behavior were mathematically predictable it could be expressed as law. If not, it could be described as random. The governing factor then is freedom, or in Restorationist’s parlance, "agency". An inner sense, devoid of mathematical probability, then rules the behavior. “If it feels good, do it!” That cry from the sixties underlines the antithesis of the materialist’s goals. We are governed by that force of will rather than a conditioned response to a set of data. Hence, we are free to exercise our free will, and also bear the responsibility. Otherwise we could claim every misdeed to be the result of being “hard wired” to misbehave. We are men, not robots, and we have choices.

My dog and my computer have much in common. They both respond (mostly) to my commands. She will come, sit, stay, etc. in concert with the training she has received. The more training she received, the more responsive she became. This does not speak to her “feelings” for me but rather, to her intensive training. Of course she greets me in a state of obvious joy which I realistically attribute to her desire for treats, companionship and a good ear rub. Does she “love” me or is it a conditioned response? Ego aside, I think it is the latter. The computer is in the same mold. Open, file, print, copy, paste—whatever I request it does without complaint. All though both have occasional lapses, neither makes a bad decision. Neither is governed by free will.

The computer recognizes truth but it cannot recognize “meaning". This is the critical separation between man and all else. The crucial fault in materialism must lie in the failure to recognize “meaning” and “will". It is easy to see why a mathematician might be unable to understand such a nebulous concept. Research indicates that not all these scholars deny it. My luncheon companion, with impeccable credentials, is credited with since writing that materialism is not “logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.” It’s easy to imagine his measured tone as he said it. As a Hungarian Jew in the thirties, he and his family were expeditiously converted to Christianity. When hostilities ceased, he did not return to the original faith.

Why then is it necessary to address this issue of materialism? If we have no opportunity for making decisions, there is no foundation for judgment. Lacking that, we may only be seen as “machines” without agency and consequently without salvation. For believers, this seems an elementary exercise. For those swept up in the fever of "science knows all," it is a recipe for disaster in the afterlife as well as the here and now. The entire fabric of our society depends on the decision making process to differentiate between right and wrong. We cannot hide from these responsibilities. Our God who made us also provided the platform to exercise these daily decisions we make for good or ill. Given the end result, the matter becomes all the more critical.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday Morning Rant (16)

It’s another beautiful day in the Ozarks! It has been raining off and on all night and the temperature is now hovering around 32 degrees. This is the same recipe which brought us the ice storm in January. That resulted in eleven days without electricity, heat, water, phone, internet and, for part of the time, access to the outside world. It was an adventure which wreaked havoc in our beautiful forest and provided cleanup employment until Labor Day. There was, as always, an upside in that we now we have confirmed that God helps us in adversity. The experiences of January left us far better prepared to face this or the next crisis if and when it develops.

No, we did not go out and buy a generator but we now have in stock, propane, kerosene, water, batteries, lanterns, cooking gear, chain saw, carbon monoxide detector, and non-electric heaters. We have these in sufficient supply to be able to share some of these resources, if necessary, with neighbors. As a result of the January storm, our local electric co-op replaced over 2000 service poles which were toppled. Hopefully, this new infrastructure will better withstand the ravages of nature. Since our Constant Companion is with us, we really have nothing to fear.

We readily recognize that our preparation makes survival possible but when we are yoked with God as well, it all becomes bearable. Actually, the quiet time provided opportunity for reflection free from TV and the “net.” This is the point where I remind you of Jack Jones’ (my late stepfather) oft heard refrain; “Everyone should have as much!”
A dear friend from Independence favored me with an offering she found touching. I opened the video and was treated to a story which restored my hope in America, youth in general, and brought back memories of a time of crisis for many of our citizens. I urge you to click on it and further challenge you to not be affected by it.

For the curious, Spade, Texas is a community of 100 souls in the panhandle south of Amarillo. The ever diminishing population of this high plains town caused the merging with another school district and thus the circumstance which is the subject of the video.
I am constantly on the alert for pithy sayings and sound bite wisdom. Often they encapsulate profundity well past the bulk of the message. One of these came across the desk and I must share it. “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

Whether it is just a simple smile, a pat on the back or some tidbit of joy from an experience with Jesus Christ, the beneficiary can reap an untold measure at little or no cost to the giver. In no way are we diminished by the enhancement of others. To not share our joys and the “Good News” has always seemed an act of selfishness. It’s just a thought.
In discussions around the dinner table, we have come to the conclusion that during this season, nearly every one has become distracted. I pray that Yule tide has prompted everyone to withdraw into contemplation about the advent of our Lord and Savior. Oh that it were so. As a natural cynic it seems more logical that shopping, decorating, preparation for guests, etc., are more likely the cause of the distraction. That’s not all bad. I have found over the years that personal shopping trips have placed in my thoughts a greater appreciation of others. To not think of them and understand their needs and desires results in folly in the holly on Christmas. One of my sons (about six at the time) opened a present from a distant relative and exclaimed, “Oh boy, one of them!” While the remembrance was appreciated, a little more thought to the recipient would have been welcome.

When we moved from Las Vegas, we did not bring the Christmas decorations. I can’t say for sure that their omission was intentional but I have often wondered if their inclusion in a move to Mount Zion was inappropriate. On the bluff below the house I have installed a herd of lighted moving deer. That’s it! No Santa, no wreaths, no tree, no cascading icicles, no 100 yd. strings of blinking colored lights, no Rudolph or other external decoration on the house. The serenity of the deer herd seems to project the message of the season better to me than the immense display I used to have. Formerly, the house looked like a cross between McDonald's and Caesar’s Palace.

In any case, the season has brought a blessed quietude to the boards and the rancor has abated. Granted, the problems have not been solved, only shelved and it seems the spirit of the season will prevail for the time being. I plan to enjoy this while it lasts. I can only hope the peace brought by the celebration of our Lord’s birth affects us all and leads to solutions in good spirit and reason.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon