Does Using the Interstate Highways Make Me a Socialist?

Last weekend I went on a road trip with some of my fellow faculty and students.  We enjoyed passing through parts of six states on the Eisenhower Interstate Highway system.  I was about five months old when the Republican president from Abilene signed the bill that made the interstate highway system possible.

Was it socialism?  If socialism means centralized planning, massive public (i.e., taxpayer) investment, and government control–then the interstate highways were absolutely an experiment in socialism.

Think of how the private economy could have built a highway system.  Landowners could have built roads on their own property and chosen whether to retain the exclusive use or to lease or sell access.  They could have negotiated agreements with their neighbors.

Or corporations could have attempted to buy up long contiguous strips of land and build private highways.  They could then sell access for a profit.

When you think through all the ramifications, it is hard to think of any practical way that private initiative and private funding could have built the kind of highway system we have today.

A little more than fifty years ago our president and congress made the decision to provide every citizen with universal access to travel in every state. They even have interstate highways in Hawaii–think about that!

Acquiring the land did require federal seizure of private property.  Therefore, building the Interstate Highway System was promoted as a military necessity.  The main impact, however, has been economic rather than military.

The internate highway system was a massive project in social engineering, involving a massive public investment of funds–and it has been a massive financial success.  Nearly all of the growth in prosperity in the past fifty years has been directly or indirectly related to the interstate highways.

But now it is time for a new economy not based on the automobile.  Is it time for a new investment in the future?

Money that is wasted by short-sided politicians will certainly be a drain on my grandchildren.  But wise investment in the future could lead to increased prosperity for the next generations.

A year ago I visited the decaying ruins of state socialism in countries formerly dominated by the Soviet Union.  I don’t want any part of that.  But I also don’t want to label any public investment in the future as socialism.  Someone has to rebuild the infrastructure, fund education, and prepare the way for the economy of the future.

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day

The day before Easter Sunday we helped Alex and Margaret burn the pastures.  Not a scorched-earth tactic, it is actually an environmentally friendly, natural way of managing the prairie.

Alex and Margaret send this message:

EatingWell This Week

Happy Earth Day All!!        Do something green today- recycle if you are not, drive less-walk or bike more, take your sack lunch,
pick up someone else’s litter, Carry on the spirit!!!!
It can start a snowball effect!!!!!
Margaret participated in the first Earth Day, back in 1971.  She was a student back then, full of youth, energy, and idealism.  She still has those same qualities, to which she has also added wisdom.

Have You Had that Talk with Your Son?

It used to be parents found it difficult to have “the talk” with their adolescent children–the talk about “the facts of life.”  I can remember when I was six or seven years old taking family road trips and stopping for a restroom break.  I remember asking my dad what those vending machines were for (the ones that said, back then, “Sold only for prevention of disease.”)

My dad would get embarrassed and say, “uh, we’ll talk about that later; they’re waiting for us in the car.”

The book of Proverbs in the Bible portrays a father talking with his son about some important facts of life, warning him of the pitfalls that await a naive young man.  Of course he warns him about being enticed by a wicked woman, the one who says,

Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love!  My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey (Proverbs 7:18-19).

He warns his son that her house is a highway to hell (Proverbs 7: 27).  But earlier in the book he warned his son about another danger that entices many young men–violence.  The words of the foolish young men, the youth gangs that prowled the streets of ancient Palestine, are similar to the words of the foolish woman.

Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul . . . throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse (Proverbs 1:11-14).

Today is the tenth anniversary of the murders at Columbine.  If it wasn’t hard enough to talk to your kids about sex and drugs, parents now have to talk to them about murder and violence.  But we can’t afford to be silent.

Don’t Serve the Devil

In the Greek New Testament the word for devil is diabolos (el diablo in Spanish); the basic meaning of the word is “slanderer,” or “one who throws accusations around.”

In the Hebrew Bible the character ha-Satan makes a very rare appearance in the book of Job (the descendants of Jacob didn’t spend much time thinking about the devil). 

Satan in Hebrew means “the adversary.”  He does appear in Job in an adversarial, accusing role.  He slanders Job, saying the holy man only serves God for selfish motives.  The Lord defends Job’s honor by letting the slanderer tempt Job–and Job said “thanks a lot!”

In the book of Revelation the devil appears once more as the one who “accuses the brethren day and night before God.”  The devil is most true to his name when he is slandering someone.  So it makes sense to say that slanderers are serving the devil.

Last month when I went to a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls at a seminary in Kansas City, it was the weekend after a pastor in Illinois was murdered.  He was an alumnus and adjunct professor at the seminary.  A group of picketers showed up to slander him.  This particular group of slanderers loves to quote from Romans chapter 1.  But they skip over the verse about “slanderers” or “revilers” as the King James Version has it, who are condemned as sinners, along with the “insolent” and the “ruthless.”

Of course that family of picketers is well known for their ruthless publicity stunts.  They are the ones who threatened to picket at the funeral of the Amish girls who were murdered in Pennsylvania a couple years ago.

What bothers me is that otherwise well-meaning, kind and gentle people engage in the sin of slander, in the form of spreading rumors without checking the facts.   A current rumor goes like this: a famous fashion designer admitted on the Oprah show to giving a percentage of the profits to the church of Satan. is a good source for checking out rumors and urban legends.  Since–as anyone who knows me will gladly tell you–I know nothing about fashion or fashion designers, I went to Snopes.  It turns out the the designer in question has never been on the Oprah show.

Why would I trust Snopes rather than some other internet source?  I can give two answers.

1)  They document their sources.

2)  Suppose I didn’t know who was telling the truth?  I would still have to say, “If I don’t know for certain, I have no right to slander someone based on something I read on the internet or heard over coffee with a buddy.”

So if you are worried about people worshiping the Devil, at least don’t serve him yourself by doing his work for him.  Don’t pass on rumors.  If you hear something that concerns you,  check it out from some reliable sources.  Why not go to your local library and ask the reference librarian for help?

In Memory

My aunt Alice pass away this morning, a few months after being diagnosed with cancer.  My mother and their youngest sister were with her when she passed.

My mother has lost three sisters younger than her (all to cancer), a younger brother and an older sister to heart attacks.  My mom herself is doing fairly well after having bypass surgery just before Christmas.

They used to all get together when one had a birthday–it reminded me of Job’s children in the Bible.   My mom now has one sister remaining in the Kansas City area, one in Chicago, and a brother in Cabool, Missouri.

Aunt Alice was unlucky in love, betrayed by two men in her life.  In between the two brief, unhappy marriages she raised a learning-disabled son, our cousin Brian.  Her life wasn’t easy; yet, she always seemed cheerful; she was always fun loving.

She was a believer and follower in Jesus.  As our family celebrates Good Friday and Easter, we will remember the promise, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

The Queen’s Charm

Royal Hugg  courtesy Huffington Post

Royal Hugg courtesy Huffington Post

Some media pundits wanted to portray it as a breach in protocol when the First Lady touched the queen of England.  But according to witnesses, the queen herself initiated the mutual exchange of affection.

I am glad the queen had the good grace to recognize an American ceremonial ritual.  The two women have a lot in common.  Neither was elected to any political office:  They both hold ceremonial and symbolic positions, and in that sense, they do represent their people.  The American First Lady is the closest thing to royalty that we have.

We call her first lady, not in the sense of “your ladyship,” but according to the quaint, almost obsolete custom of referring to any respectable woman above the age of–oh, 25 to 30 (maybe younger if she is married and has children) as a lady.

Of course, it would be unconstitutional to address Mrs. Obama as “Your Ladyship” or to use any other title of nobility.  It is unconstitutional for us to recognize or bestow such titles; so if Mrs. Obama had breached royal protocol, she would have been in compliance with the document her husband has sworn (both on-camera and off) to uphold.

But there was no constitutional crisis and no social faux pas.  Both women seemed to share genuine affection for one another.

I’m Hooked

I met a new writer today, and I’m hooked.  A link on another site led me to the “Omega Course.”   Helen Ingram is using the blog format to write a novel about Jesus and Magic.

A year ago I was in Scotland and learned that the church there was using the Alpha Course as a nonthreatening way of introducing people to the life of following Jesus.  The Alpha Course has been around for a while, and it seems to be fairly popular.

The Omega Course is a way of introducing interested readers to the life of scholarship about Jesus and biblical studies.

It’s a success.  Helen has got me hooked.  I like her writing.

Of course, in the upside-down world of blogging you have to go back to the beginning and start reading from the bottom up.  The first post is “Biting the Bullet” from February 15, 2009.

Announcing the IBF

gospel-globeMy colleague the Vagabond Professor and I like to give visual-aid assignments to our students.  The photo above is one of my students, Kasey,  with his Gospel Globe.  I have in my office a replica of the Moabite Stone, some Egyptian papyrii, and the bulla from the seal belonging to Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch.

Since creating replicas can be a valuable educational experience for students, today we announce the founding of the Institute for Biblical Forgeries, the IBF.  The IBF will include a lab for the fabrication of authentic facsimiles, a greenhouse for growing papyrus, a clay pit for mining cuneiform tablet grade clay, a scriptorium, a pottery wheel, a bronze smelter, and other necessary technology for producing authentic facsimiles.

We are negotiating with the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University on the prospect of breeding parchment-grade livestock.  The Department of Genetics has also expressed an interested in research on the feasibility of splicing caprine genes into strawberries with the aim of producing vegan parchment.

In addition to producing replicas for educational purposes, the IBF will sponsor an annual colloquium for the serious purpose of studying the phenomena of actual forgeries in classical antiquities, ancient art, and biblical-related studies.  A world class team of experts will be invited as participants.

Finally, a generous bequest by the Bernie and Ruth Madoff Foundation, will make possible the construction of the Museum of Biblical Forgeries.  Scholars are currently investigating future acquisitions.  According to Beni Eretz,

We want to be absolutely certain we are dealing with a genuine forgery before we make the acquisition.  It would be a real embarrasment to find out something on display as a forgery turned out to be authentic.