Monday, July 30, 2007

On censoring what other people write

I am gradually losing patience with the ongoing movement in some corners of Christianity to ban writings without giving them a fair examination. A few days ago I saw a really pathetic example of this.

sgntim-th.JPGWhile I was having a cup of coffee in a coffee shop I saw two elderly men walk in, approach a rack of free literature, deposit a stack of magazines called "Signs of the Times", and then leave without buying anything. (I've seen these magazines in the shop before, but never saw who put them there. The magazine is a Seventh Day Adventist publication; some of the articles are interesting, but some of them leave me cold.)

A little bit later, a man who was an adherent of a rival Christian sect, came into the shop, saw the magazines, and removed the whole stack from the shop. His justification for taking them was that they were free. I don't think he needed twenty copies for his "reference library." I don't think he planned to read it twenty times and needed a fresh copy for each read-through. He just wanted to stop other people from reading the magazine. How sad.

It is ironic that the magazine featured as its lead story an article about the dangers of reading Harry Potter books. The article pointed out the incompatibility of Christianity with witchcraft and sorcery (I'll buy that much) and went on to argue that the Harry Potter books might get young readers to want to read more about Wicca (It's a bit of a stretch, but even accepting it for the sake of argument, I find it hard to picture children seeking a real-world Hogwarts being satisfied by the rituals of Wicca. And when do those Wiccans play Quidditch?).

The writer closed by saying that his son would grow up not reading Harry Potter. I disagree with the article's author about the risks of reading these books, but he is nevertheless exercising his own parental control over what his child reads or watches on TV. He is not making a general attempt to silence people with whom he disagrees. He is simply offering to the reading public his own reasons for avoiding the Potter series.

The self-appointed magazine-confiscator is a different story, stretching the commandment against theft to permit him to try to control what other adults are able to read and weigh for themselves. What a shame that he does not offer his own viewpoints on whatever makes the Sevent-Day Adventist magazines so threatening to him.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Things that have made me busy recently

I have not blogged much lately because of a lack of time to sit down and write here.

The major activity over the last couple weeks has been the Vacation Bible School we held at Central Presbyterian Church July 16-20. We did Avalanche Ranch and had a great time.

Photograph of Vacation Bible School banner, Tarentum, 2007It seems that many of the VBS curricula being marketed offer a banner that can be used for advertising, sometimes as part of the kit, sometimes as an additional purchase. It is my impression that most of these are absolutely too small to be of any real use. This year we had a banner made for our VBS and hung it on the front of our building. The volunteers who put it up did a great job, and it think it worked as a way to communicate the excitement about our VBS to the neighborhood.

VBS sign, Tarentum, 2007We also were blessed by an artist who had started coming to the Tuesday Evening Meal and Ministry. She volunteered to put some artwork on a sandwich board sign we put out along Fourth Avenue. Transporting the sign to and from the artist was an interesting operation that we can simplify if we fix the existing sign so we only need to transport a panel for the artwork.

Vandergriftpool.JPGThe weather before our VBS was very hot. On July 8 I and some friends discovered the Vandergrift area pool. This pool is a real treasure that is not far away at all, but getting to it means driving out into the country away from Pittsburgh. It has a water slide, a diving area, and attentive lifeguards in each of the areas.

I have been continuing with my cardiac maintenance program three days a week. After being at a plateau for a couple months I think my weight is starting to drop again, and I am noticing that I am exercising at a higher level without feeling that I am straining myself. Early this week someone emailed me a story about the AHA's new guidelines for resistance training for cardiac patients. It fascinated me that the story was talking about ideas the staff at the Cardiac Rehab program at AKMC had already been telling me for months.

photograph of flooded bathroomHeavy rains on Tuesday night caused some flooding at the church, and a number of volunteers came out to help clean up the storm water that was a couple inches deep in the bathrooms. Although we did have more heavy rains during the week, we did not have to deal with any more flooding, and it did not dampen the spirits at the VBS.

During our VBS week I shifted to the afternoon cardiac maintenance program, and met a new group of folks, some of whom were people who went through cardiac rehab at the same time that I did.

photograph of quilt, "Turkey Gobbler" by Sandra StivensonGoing to the Alle-Kiski Medical Center regularly meant that on Wednesday I saw the quilt show from the Pieceful Patchers Quilt Guild in the hallways at the hospital. The VND had a nice story about this show, with photographs in the print edition in the Ticket Magazine. You really ought to see these quilts in person. Many of them reminded me of a display of fabric sculpture I saw a few years ago elsewhere. For example, "Turkey gobbler" was a very three-dimensional piece, with the tail feathers standing out from the quilt.

photograph of child riding ponyYesterday afternoon at the end of the VBS we offered pony rides at the church. Many of the children stayed for the rides.

Last night I volunteered at a book release party for the new Harry Potter book. The party was at the Penn Area Library in Harrison City. They put me in charge of the Quidditch contest, which the Hufflepuff house won. (Each child had five chances to throw a very bouncy rubber ball into a cauldron.)

photograph of teen wizard volunteers at the Penn Area LibraryThe teenagers who were helping with the party for the younger children really got into their parts.

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