Favorite Bad Amazon Review

This is now my favorite 1-star book review on Amazon. It’s a review of R For Dummies, a book on the R statistics programing language:

If you’re looking for a book to explain the letter “R” to you, keep looking, this isn’t it.

I hope that person eventually found what they needed.

Prayer for Finals Week

It is finals week here at Oklahoma Baptist University. Here is a prayer for students:

Dear students,

May God calm your anxieties,
refresh your minds,
and honor the faithfulness
you have shown this semester.

Remember that God has gifted you
more than you can imagine,
and you are capable of more
than you’ve ever dreamed.

May the great wisdom of the Father,
the incomparable love of the Son,
and the mighty power of the Spirit
be with you all this week.

Amen

Real Riches

A propensity to hope and joy is real riches; one to fear and sorrow, real poverty.

David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, Part I, Essay 18

Thoughts on Trump and the Johnson Amendment

Some thoughts on President Trump’s Executive Order on “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” that was recently issued:

First of all, the President’s executive order doesn’t change anything about religious leaders engaging in political action from the pulpit. This is from section 2, the relevant part of the order:

The Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury.

All it says is that speech that has so far been considered consistent with the law should continue to be considered consistent with the law. Nothing changes, so foes of the Johnson Amendment should be severely disappointed. It is, like much of what seems to be coming from Washington these days, Shakespearean: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Given recent discussions, it appears that the current law is severely misunderstood by many. Most political activity by churches is, and has always been, completely legal. Churches and leaders have always been allowed to speak on issues, legislation, and most matters of political concern. What pastors are not allowed to do is to campaign, in their role as pastors, for candidates. That is, they are to refrain from partisan campaigning in exchange for the tax-exempt status of their churches.

Regardless of Johnson’s motivation for desiring this (which, knowing Johnson, was likely not altogether virtuous), it is a good thing. Granting tax-exempt status is subsidizing religious activity – churches, synagogues, and even mosques get services from the city for which they pay nothing, services like police and fire protection. For these free services, only one accommodation is required, that is to refrain from campaigning for candidates.

The law in no way restricts the free speech rights of anyone. Churches are always welcome to give up their tax-exempt status. Churches should just not expect citizens to pay for their campaigning by means of that tax-exempt status. If the current law is changed, then note that citizens will be subsidizing, through the taxes which pay for police, fire departments, etc., the political campaigns of candidates that they do not support.

O'Connor on Evil

What has given the South her identity are those beliefs and qualities which she has absorbed from the Scriptures and from her own history of defeat and violation: a distrust of the abstract, a sense of human dependence on the grace of God, and a knowledge that evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.

Flannery O’Connor, “The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South,” in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, eds. Robert Fitzgerald and Sally Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1969), 209.