Monday, August 28, 2006

Muppets Singing and a Rabbit Blowing Raspberries

Earlier this month my wife's family visited us for two and a half weeks. That was very nice.

Since they left I have been busy writing a sermon and catching up on chores that did not get done while they were here. (Not that I minded.)

But I also have been dilenquent in blogging about silly links! However, I've been busy and only have two.

A friend sent me this Google video link of the Muppets singing "Mah-nah-mah-na". Now the song is stuck in my head. Things could be worse.

There probably cannot be a bad picture of a cute rabbit sticking its tongue out.

I leave soon for a week of travel, to a cousin's wedding. Blogging will be light until next Wednesday.

UPDATE: Here's the animated image to match the Muppet song. I would give credit to whomever made it, but I have no idea who did.

UPDATE: The aboe Google video link has gone bad.  Here is the YouTube link.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 16

I attain utmost emptiness and observe single-minded quietness by contemplating how the ten thousand things all operate and then return to nothingness.
Indeed, all things flourish and then return to the root from which they sprang. Returning to the root can be peaceful if one has surrender and trust.
Surrender and trust are a constant law. Knowing this constant is enlightenment. Those who do not know this constant run foolishly into disasters. Knowing this constant we endure, accepting things as they are. Therefore we are unprejudiced and all-embracing, as is Heaven. By showing grace as Heaven does we become great and one with the Way. Abiding with the Way forever, we are safe and whole even after losing our body.

Accept that things flourish and then fade.
Choosing whom or what you want to see flourish will cause you trouble.
Simply show grace to everyone.
Become one with Yeshua as he abides in you.
Then your life will be great and your fading will be peaceful.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Two Meals and Malnourished Churches

Sunday morning I had breakfast at Albertson's with a friend who is a disabled woman who asks for money on a street corner. (I'll call her Ann in this essay.) She's looking for a church. Her old one closed down about a year ago, and she misses worshipping in a group and having that kind of socializing. Messianic Judaism does not interest her, so I am helping her find a church.

She is afraid of trying new things. Her fear is largely understandable: if a sidewalk is uneven and her electric wheelchair gets stuck, what would she do? The world is a more genuinely threatening place for her.

We walked to a church before our breakfast to say hello to the pastor. Meeting an individual is much less scary for her than visiting a group. By the front doors someone who was arriving early for the morning Bible study smiled at her and said, "I saw you, but it was too much trouble to stop at the intersection." He gave her $2.

My friend has visited that church before, and its people drive by her every Sunday, but no one from the church has ever stopped to chat with her at her corner. (There is a parking lot which makes stopping easy. But it takes a few minutes.) She was grateful for $2, but saddened that although she rarely makes more than $10 in a day at her corner that option seemed a safer bet for income than visiting a church, based on past experience. She also does not want to feel like an irritant: like someone only receiving help because her presence is making people feel guilty.

After breakfast she had a small panic attack and decided not to visit that church. She went back to her corner. I tried to use my phone to pay her phone bill. Then went back to the church to visit its Bible study and prayed by myself a bit. Among other things, I prayed for God to use that church as he wants to. I donated some money; it did not seem proper to ask God to invest in something which I was unwilling to invest in.

Then I went back to my friend at her corner. We talked and prayed more. I told her that the automated phone bill system had told me someone had already paid that bill; maybe it was a computer error, or maybe someone had anonymously helped her. That was encouraging to her. She told me that she wants to visit a church even more strongly, but still needs to work herself up to it a bit more. We'll try again next Sunday.

I had three objectives in mind while meeting with my friend:
  • enjoying eating and talking and praying together
  • building her desire to find a new church
  • helping her feel that God was caring for her through many people, not just me
  • myself meeting the pastor and having some excuse to do lunch with him some day
Even though she did not visit that church (except briefly saying hi to the pastor) all those objectives were accomplished. It's just sad that the third goal was accomplished through what was possibly a computer error.

Tomorrow I'll phone some of my pastor friends and see if any of them can commit to their church helping Ann, as a church. I sent out an e-mail earlier, but got no responses.

Ann does not need much to suppliment what she receives from social services. She is a kind person, prays earnestly, and can do work on the phone or with a computer mouse (but not many hours or she would loose her social services support). There must be a church in town near a bus line that would be a good fit. Once an e-mail I sent out resulted in a recliner for her apartment, from a church that had a chair to spare.

Today I had lunch with a homeless fellow who lost his last three jobs (in short succession) when the employer found out about a back injury from a previous job. He is living in a tent as he waits for his lawyer to settle the worker's compensation claims. He has a better corner than Ann and can get $20 on a good day. It pays for his bus fare, food, toiletries, candles and batteries, and perhaps some day a decent pair of shoes.

He also would enjoy going to church, but did not know where to go. He knew churches that were collecting money to fund church programs and pay salaries. He did not know of a church to go to for caring people, legal assistance, or a pair of size 10 shoes with decent arch and heel support. There are such churches, but word-of-mouth is failing to link their people with his needs.

I had not met him before, and do not know how much to trust his story and apparent integrity and sobriety. I bought his lunch (fish and chips). He introduced me to a very relaxing and out-of-the-way bench beside the creek near the fish and chips restaurant. We prayed. I gave him a little money but not much.

I have a friend who is an elder at the local Chinese church and an acupuncturist. This homeless guy knew that acupuncture might well help his injured back, but had no idea if his insurance covered it (one completed claim ensures him full coverage for back care but this might not apply to acupuncture) and had not thought to inquire. My friend said he would not mind having this guy stop by with his insurance card and checking out his coverage. If that actually happens I might offer to take him shoe shopping.

Eugene has a pastors' prayer group that meets monthly to pray for the city. That's how I have friends who are local pastors.

As I write this I am not worried about either of these needy people. They both have stories of God's care for them and trust that God will continue to care for them. What I am worried about is whether either of these needy people have visited my pastor-friends' churches, and if tomorrow's phone call will be of any more help than the unanswered e-mail.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 15

The most ancient followers of the Way were subtle in mystery and profound in discernment. Too deep to be understood, we are forced to only describe them.
How cautious, like one who walks a frozen stream in winter!
How alert, like one who fears his enemies on all sides!
How courteous, like one who is a guest!
How yielding, like ice about to melt!
How whole, like uncarved wood!
How open, like a valley!
How mysterious, like muddy water!
What clears the muddiness? Be still and the muddiness will clear itself.
What gives patience? Have confidence that the right action will present itself.
Those who followed the Way did not desire to be full. Indeed, because they were not full, they waited like a seed, hidden ready to sprout at the best time.

How can we be like the apostles?
We can imitate their virtues.
They were often in danger yet always generous;
always proclaiming truth yet not always understandable.
Most of all, they did not live for themselves,
but patiently followed Yeshua, waiting for him to use them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 14

Looking, we cannot see it. It is called invisible.
Listening, we cannot hear it. It is called inaudible.
Grasping, we cannot touch it. It is called intangible.
As these three properties are unfathomable, they indeed merge into one.
Its rising is not bright, nor is its setting dark, yet continually and unfathomably it rises and then returns to nothingness.
Thus it is called the formless form, the imageless image, unfathomable and unimaginable.
We approach it but cannot see its face. We follow it but cannot see its back.
Yet if we cling to the ancient Way to manage our lives, we will understand the origins of creation. The Way has a thread of the very beginning.

Yeshua is approachable yet hidden.
We cannot make him reveal himself,
even though we are able to follow him.
By clinging to him we understand him,
as well as ourselves and creation.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Vicarious Apologies

Here's another story from my days of preschool teaching.

My favorite thing about teaching preschool was that the children were young enough that I could do vicarious apologies. For example...
Steven is in a bad mood and takes something from Desha. Desha gets upset. She runs to me and tells me what happened. (I probably saw anyway, having Teacher Eyes in the back of my head.)

I ask her what she wants. In the beginning of the year she would say she wants the thing back. Later on, after being in my class a while, she would say that Steven should apologize and give the thing back.

I ask her to wait while I talk to Steven. I go ask him, "Are you ready to apologize to Desha?" He knows what I am talking about. (He's probably been watching us ever since Desha ran to me.) But he is in a bad mood. He frowns or pouts or says, "no." I look at him for a moment, then tell him that I'll apologize for him.

I go back to Desha. "Steven's not ready to apologize," I tell her. "Can I apologize for him?" Desha agrees; she's only three or four, and has no reason to think this plan is at all odd. So I say, "I'm sorry I took that thing. I'm in a bad mood. I don't know why I'm in a bad mood. Maybe tomorrow bad moods won't make me rude. But today my bad mood made me rude and I took your thing. I'd rather be friends than have your thing. If I give it back will you forgive me and be my friend even though I'm in a bad mood?" Desha agrees.

I go back to Steven. "Everything's better," I report. "You and Desha are friends again. It's still her turn with that thing."

And that's the end of the problem. Steven immediately is acting friendly and sharing. Desha too. They are only three or four, and are proud of doing what's right, having friends, and sharing. These are much more important, rewarding, and enjoyable than having a thing. Anyone can have a thing, but not just anyone can apologize so nicely, share so well, and be such good friends.
Unfortunately, now I'm a minister and that trick does not work any more. I think. Fortunately, everyone in the congregation is such a wonderful person filled with God's Spirit, so I have not had to mediate any conflicts that would have provided opportunity to check if I could still do vicarious apologies.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 13

Honor and shame are both sources of pride.
A disaster has value as your own body.
What is the meaning of: "Honor and shame are both sources of pride"?
Receiving honor or shame will threaten humility by causing you to worry about yourself.
That is the meaning of: "Honor and shame are both sources of pride"?
What is the meaning of: "A disaster has value as your own body"?
The reason why I suffer disasters is that I have a body.
As soon as I have no body—or if I had no sense of self—what disaster could I suffer?
Therefore, only he who is willing to give his body for the sake of All-under-heaven may be entrusted with All-under-heaven.
Only he who can give it with selfless love is worthy of ruling All-under-heaven.

When we look at Adonai and not ourselves,
We experience divine grace, and care not about honor or shame.
Whose judgment matters besides Adonai’s?
What in this world can harm us?
Yeshua was willingly to selflessly suffer death for the sake of the world.
So the Father deemed him worthy of ruling the world.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Amazonian Ninja and Lockpicking

Hee hee. sells ninja equipment. That seems very silly for some reason, probably related to the way ninjas are no longer about assassination.

I wonder how long it will be until they sell bump keys?

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 12

The five colors blind the eye.
The five notes deafen the ear.
The five flavors cloy the palate.
Galloping and hunting madden the mind.
Goods that are difficult to obtain invite crime.
Therefore the Saint cares for the belly and not for the eye.
indeed, he rejects the one and chooses the other.

Excess corrupts.
It causes the pleasant to become repulsive.
This is why people who think prosperity
beyond having their basic needs met helps them
to achieve joy, place, or purpose become insatiable.
Wanting more than enough will always lead to
wanting too much.

Praying for Iraq

I spent some time last night reading about the current news in Iraq. The issues to pray about do not change much, so I admit to usually not staying very on top of the news.

Here is what I found out about the two main issues:
  • Compared to earlier this year the fighting between Shiite and Sunni is intensifying. This struggle is still shaping politics, and is also ruining the economy. It is increasingly Iraqis versus foreign rebels. The Iraqis are fortifying the border as other countries are sending yet more fighters to the border who are ready to join the rebels.
  • The U.S. government is (of course) still spending a lot of money, and apparently doing so habitually rather than trying to be creatively efficient in its use. Its plan is stable and threatened primarily by expenses.
What other war issues am I forgetting to pray about? (Besides the personal issues of how individual Iraqis are doing.)

UPDATE: Interesting discussion about Iraq in the comments to this post about Israel and Lebanon.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Photos from North Israel

Michael Totten has another excellent post: news, pictures, and commentary.

Little Kids with Big Words

This came up in conversation yesterday...

When I taught preschool, I enjoyed teaching the little kids big words. Their parents, the other staff, and I all found it quite amusing to hear a three-year-old tattle by whining, "He's being vituperative," or lament a failed attempt at sharing with "She's being petulant and won't play nice."
I'm a little sesquipedalian, short and stout,
this how I quiddle, this is how I shout.
Being nascent while not culpable is the best.
So cute yet enervated, time to rest.
So, what big words would you like little kids to use?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 11

The thirty spokes that join a cylinder make it a hub, but using the cart relies on the hub’s empty interior.
The clay is molded into a vessel, but using the vessel relies on its empty interior.
Cutting doors and windows makes a room a house, but using the house relies on the its interior.
While what is outside gives definition, an empty interior makes things useful.

To be useful to God we do not need to abandon our individuality,
but we do need to empty ourselves so we may be filled with the divine.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Some random links from the past few days

I can't always make up witty sentences to connect the unrelated but worth-visiting web pages I come across. Sorry.

Funny: Star Trek "Inspirational Posters"

Sad: the unfortunate pride of Lieut. General Dan Halutz

Intriguing: The Uses of Anti-Semitism

Disturbing: "True Muslims" video (warning: link has sound, as well as being disturbing)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 10

Can you cling to the One to harmonize your spirit and physical self?
Can you focus so your breath relieves tension, as an infant’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision to see yourself clearly?
Can you love the people and rule a state without clever manipulation?
Can you humbly accept when Heaven gives and takes away?
Can you remain detached and inactive when enlightened and seeing far in all directions?
When you produce and rear:
Produce but do not claim the result.
Work but do not rely on the result.
Grow but do not control.
This is hidden virtue.

Yeshua asks us to let him care for us.
Our spirit, body, and concerns are in his care.
By accepting, we increase in perception, selfless love, humility, and stability.
Again he asks us what we strive for and worry about.
Only if our gain, work, and growth are his will they last eternally.

Just a Hedge!

Charles Johnson points out how Palestinian security officers imitate the Tick comic book's ninjas.

Neither of those parties notices this, but you have at your disposal my mis-spent youth: ever vigilant to make these important cultural connections.

Back to Politics as Usual

The war has stopped for now. Israel is once again involved in a ceasefire with shooting. And again a terrorist group it fought is claiming to be both victorious and the victim.

The rest of Lebanon is certainly the victim. (Remember the old maps that compliment the latter article.)

It is still a time for prayer.

UPDATE: Nasrallah reminds us Hezbollah cannot quit, for it has been insulted.

UPDATE: Noah Pollak writes that the current ceasefire really favors Saudia Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, and in the long run the most important victory might be the timely combination of crippling Hezbollah and showing the "rational actor" Arab states that the U.S. and Israel are happy to favor them when Iran hits the fan.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias writes that the leaders of Hezbollah and Israel did not expect or desire the kind of war that happened, which is why the wishful thinking of the ceasefire was so readily accepted. He describes France as the hero: neither Hezbollah nor Israel could suggest a cease-fire; whomever did would end the current fighting but look foolish; France valued the short-term saving of lives over the saving of face and was willing to accept the international ridicule of wishful dreaming for the sake of temporary peace.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Two Amazing Bloggers

Michael Totten travels in the Middle East and writes about it. During the past few days his writing has been amazing. The most interesting news I have read during the past two days are this and this.

Sandmonkey lives in Egypt and also writes about politics. He also writes well, and says things no one else is saying. This and this are sad. This and this are sadly funny.

Leaders and Diplomats

This morning Instapundit led me to this article by Michael Gerson, and this reply by Bill Quick. Both are commentaries on President Bush's foreign policy.

Both articles made me think about the seventeenth chapter of the Tao Te Ching. I'll post my translation and commentary here, ahead of schedule:
Optimally, people do not even know they are under authority.
Next best is to love and praise the rulers.
Next best is to fear them.
Worst is to despise them.
If those in authority do not trust the people to act correctly, then the people will not believe that those in authority are acting correctly.
Thus wise rulers think more than they speak, and value their words. And the work went smoothly, was completed, and the people all thought: "We have done it ourselves!"

When in a position of authority, when possible act as Adonai does.
He rules all, but may be ignored.
He is worthy of love and praise,
but willing to let people take credit for his work.

He gives people too much freedom,
knowing the only other option is being a tyrant.

Make few rules, and let people decide how to do the work you want done.
Allow me to paraphrase one point: A leader cannot be a diplomat, and vice versa.

A good leader, especially in a democracy, is open and honest with the people about his or her goals and plans, strengths and weaknesses, resources and needs. A diplomat is often successful precisely for hiding this information.

A lot of what both of the above articles are saying is that President Bush has been trying to be both a leader and a diplomat, and thus he is doing neither with integrity.

By keeping too much information secret he has made it impossible for the American people to know or trust his plans. By revealing too much he has shown neutral and enemy nations why he has not lived up to his bold proclamations from his State of the Union addresses. Thus his middle-ground approach has made his allies more confused and his enemies more confident.

How did past presidents handle this tension between leadership and diplomacy?

UPDATE: Okay, I agree that our president is not the only one confusing his allies and making his enemies more confident.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 9

Better to stop filling than hold aloft a vase filled to the brim.
A sword too long tempered will soon loose its edge.
A house too full of bronze and jade cannot be guarded.
Confidence placed in wealth and honor will reap calamities.
The Way of Heaven withdraws once work is done.

Excess corrupts. Security comes from timeliness.
Yeshua did his work and ascended.
Had he not departed, his work would have been ruined.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Groups that Support Israel

The MJAA does a lot to support Israel. It runs three programs to help all Israelis:
  • the Joseph Project, which brings immense amounts of finanical aid in goods to poor Israelis
  • the Nehemiah Project, which offers financial aid in money to poor Israelis
  • the Messianic Israel Forest Project, which plants trees in Israel
two programs to help Jews make aliyah:
  • Operation Tikvah, which helps Ethiopian Jews make aliyah
  • the Russian Emergency Aliyah Fund, which helps Jews in the former Soviet Union make aliyah
and a program to help Messianic Jews in Israel:
  • the Messianic Jewish Israel Fund, which helps Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel
Not only does the MJAA do so much, it also does it quite efficiently. For example, every $1 contributed to the Joseph Project brings about $100 of goods into Israel. The goods, cargo ships, and crew for the ships are all donations, so only fuel for the ships needs to be bought with the contributed funds.

Since the MJAA does so much so well, most Messianic Jewish congregations (including P'nei Adonai) do not have their own programs to support Israel. They just have programs to help people locally, and contribute to the MJAA efforts.

In fact, the MJAA does so much that I have not paid very much attention to other groups supporting Israel.

I know about the Joseph Storehouse, since I've met the people who run it. They do wonderful work, but don't have the leverage of the huge MJAA efforts.

I know about Bridges for Peace, because they come to Eugene to give presentations. They do not work with Messianic Jewish organizations. Their primary work is to promote communication between Christian and Rabbinic Jewish groups (for which any cooperation with Messianic Jewish groups would only be a hinderance). They also give charitable aid to Israel's poor and help Jews in the former Soviet Union make aliyah (a sensible duplication of the MJAA efforts since back when Bridges for Peace was founded even those Christian groups that wished to support Israel would usually have nothing to do with Messianic Judaism).

I know about AIPAC, because since my mother passed away I get her copy of this group's newsletter. They are the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in U.S. politics.

I know about Sar-El, which helps people volunteer in Israel. Some of Eugene's teenagers have participated in their programs.

I know about the traditional organizations used by larger Jewish community, such as the JNF (I may still have that old blue-and-white tzedakah box somewhere), Jewish Federations, AFMDA, and others.

I know about many groups (or individuals that online rally a group) who support Israel by sharing current things to pray about. I've stopped paying attention to these. I have found I now normally hear news through other friends and pro-Israel blogs earlier and more accurately than as shared by these "prayer networks".

Last week, because of e-mail and blogging, I happened to come across a bunch of other groups supporting Israel, which I had either never heard of or never looked at closely. Here are some of them:
  • Voices for Israel shares Israeli music (for example, this video of Chazak Amenu) and helps publish music written by Israelis who have been killed by terrorism
  • the organization AISH supports Jewish education, and is known in the internet for its short pro-Israel videos
  • the ICEJ seems to be a lot like Bridges for Peace; since it's 4 years younger I'm not sure what it's about
I also found out about some organizations that share news from or about Israel without that bias caused by accepting Arab myths. These include the Israel Project and Stand With Us.

So... what other notable groups am I missing? (And check out the videos! Both links open to HTML pages, not directly to the videos.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 8

The highest potential is like water, which benefits all things without ever striving. Water stays in the lowest places which all men loathe. Therefore it comes near to the Way.
What one values in real estate is the location;
What one values in the mind is depth;
What one values in relationships is kindness;
What one values in speaking is integrity;
What one values in ruling is orderliness;
What one values is business is efficiency;
What one values in action is grace.
Indeed, by not striving one remains blameless.

Anything can become the best it can be
without taking away from other things.
Examples of merits independent of comparisons:
good land, wise minds, kind hearts, kept promises,
peaceful places, effective businesses, timely deeds.
Don't compare yourself to others and covet their virtues.
Realize your potential by humbly walking with Adonai.

PEW Survey

This PEW survey is slightly interesting. I was most intrigued by this chart that compares how many Muslims and Christians in different countries identified with their religion more than their national identity.

Something Else Light

Whew. Enough of politics. How about Escher trickiness done with legos, and Star of David a crop circle?

UPDATE: A Firefox logo crop circle in Oregon. Cool!

American Jewish Demographics

Hm. Yesterday a friend from high school and I were discussing the influence of Orthodox Judaism in the U.S. and Israel. I did some internet searching, and found out some things that were surprising to me.


An article by Michael Medved (2006) cites that no companies owned or run Jews make the Fortune 100 list of largest corporations. It adds, "at most six (including Home Depot, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers) could classify in any way as 'Jewish companies'". Medved also discusses media influence in Hollywood, which is minor compared to what it used to be.

(As far as new media influence, this is difficult to measure because the American mainstream news media has completely bought into most Arab myths, and often people trying to refute these get bundled into some sort of "Zionist influence" or supposed conspiracy even if they are simply pro-history instead of pro-Israel.)

Yet this article by Lenni Brenner (2003) says that Jewish individuals are 25% of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, and cites sources claiming that for the 1992 presidential election, Jewish individuals contributed between 50% and 60% of democratic noninstitutional campaign funds, and about 25% of Republican noninstitutional campaign funds.

(Democratic and Republican 1992 campagin funds were a total of $130 and $90 million, respectively. I cannot find what percentage of these totals were noninstitutional campaign funds.)

(Messianic Jews are notoriously lacking wealth. Most Messianic Jewish congregations do not even own a building, and I know of only two congregations that have received large donations from members typical of what I saw happen routinely in the Reform Jewish world. I know of only one IAMCS Messianic Jewish congregation that has received financial help from a Gentile church. In contrast, there are a few high-profile look-alike churches that decided to do Jewish stuff which have unintentionally created a myth among American Rabbinic Jews that Messianic Jewish congregations are all pet projects of Gentile churches.)


All the articles I read agree that currently about 2.5% of Americans are Jewish, which equals about 5.3 million American Jews.

Yet according to Brenner's article, Americans, on average, think the country is 18% Jewish.

About 10% of American Jews are Orthodox. This is then about 0.53 million people. And about 200,000 of these are Hasidic Lubavitch.

A 2001 survey found 30% of American Jews were Reform, 24% were Conservative, and 1% (each) belonged to Reconstructionist and Humanistic Judaism. (This means about 36% of American Jews are not affiliated with any Rabbinic branch of Judaism.)

(That survey measured American Orthodox Jews at 8%, which fits with how the Orthodox have been growing most quickly of these since 2001.)

Brenner's article states that about 46% of American Jews belong to a synagogue, and of these 39% are Reform, 33% are Conservative, 21% are Orthodox, and 7% are of other branches of Judaism. (This is compatible with the first survey, which counted about 320,000 American Reform Jewish families that belong to a Reform synagogue; the math produces a resonable 3 people per family.)

In summary, for non-Messianic American Jews we have about:
  • Reform: 1,590,000 total, of which 951,000 belong to a synagogue (60%)
  • Conservative: 1,272,000 total, of which 804,000 belong to a synagogue (63%)
  • Orthodox, including Hasidic Lubavitch: 530,000 total, of which 512,000 belong to a synagogue (97%)
  • Other, including Reconstuctinist, Humanistic, and non-affiliated: 1,908,000 total, of which 171,000 belong to a synagogue (9%)
(Worldwide, there are a bit over 500,000 Messianic Jews in congregations. There are about 200,000 people in Messianic Jewish congregations in America, but only about half of these are Jewish by lineage.)

(Note that for semantic-demographic purposes all Messianic Jews by definition belong to a Messianic Jewish congregation. Why? Well, very few Jews who believe in Yeshua attend a Rabbinic synagogue. This leaves three groups of people who believe in Yeshua but do not participate in Jewish culture and are only "Jewish" by bloodline: those who have left their Jewish heritage and belong to Christian culture, those who have left their Jewish heritage and belong to secular culture, and those who do not know they have Jewish lineage and belong to either Christian or secular culture. Since nobody is counting any of these three groups, for semantic-demographic purposes everyone ignores them and pretends there is nothing Jewish about them, even though individuals among these three groups may say they are Jewish, and even though others of Jewish lineage who never participate in Jewish culture are counted as Jewish. No one ever said demographics is fair.)

Support for Israel

In a 2005 article, a poll showed that 82% of American Jews support Israel, including 63% who say they do "strongly". Clearly support of Israel's right to exist is high.

The number of "strong" supporters was, interestingly, not highest among the Orthodox. That article says, "Conservative Jews are most likely to be strong supporters (76 percent), followed by Orthodox (62 percent) and then Reform (60 percent)." A different 2005 poll has Orthodox support highest for never dividing Jerusalem, and building the security fence.

(Messianic Jews probably measure in at 75% or more. I have no idea about Reconstructionist.)

(The identification as "Zionist" is quite different. In the past few decades that term has somehow within the American Jewish community shifted in meaning from "supportive of Israel's existance" to either "supportive of everything Israel does" or "believing all Jews should move to Israel". Brenner's article overlooks this while discussing how few of American Jews identify as Zionists.)

My Reaction and Conclusions

The popular idea of most American Jews being part of some sort of wealthy Jewish community that is politically influential is clearly nonsense. Even the idea of Jewish companies being significant is outdated.

Yet among the subset of Americans who are wealthy and policially influential, Jews have disproportionate financial influence (25% of the Forbes 400 list, yet responsible for more than 25% of noninstitutional campaign funds).

As far as I know, I've never met any of these wealthy few who dominate American politics, Jewish or not. But in my personal experience I've seen that Jewish people of my much lower financial bracket are much more likely than average to spend money on politics. So I wonder if the cited disproportionate financial influence is sustainable (i.e., the Jewish political movers and shakers are unusually wealthy among the Forbes 400 list) or not (i.e., they are just spending more on politics than the others on the Forbes 400 list and will thus run out more quickly, and may lose their influence any time other Forbes 400 people become as politically generous).

Also support for Israel is high among American Jews, and Israel is a major (set of) political issue(s). When we combine Jewish political funding and the amount of time politicians spend talking about Israel, it makes sense that a typical American overestimates Jewish influence in politics.

But I was startled to read that the size of the Jewish population was so dramaticall overestimated. (An average guess of 18% means many people thought even higher than that! Where do these people think all those Jews live? Do they think New England is entirely Jewish?)

And I knew most American Jews were Democrats, but I think most Americans would be surprised that financially the Democrats receive way more funding from American Jews than the Republicans (more than twice as much if both parties have a similar percentage of noninstitutional campaign funds).

I had no idea that half of America's Orthodox Jews were Hasidic Lubavitch. Since the Hasidic Lubavotch are growing in size much more rapidly than Orthodox overall, it seems likely that within the next 10 years the Messianic Jews in America will outnumber the non-Lubavitch Orthodox. I know communication is becoming more amiable between non-Lubavitch Orthodox and Messianic Jews; I wonder if this is related.

I knew that the more-or-less 100,000 Messianic Jews of Jewish lineage in America were a much smaller number than other branches of Judaism. But I would never have guessed in synagogue attendance we are only behind Reform Jews by a factor of ten, and non-Lubavitch Orthdox by a factor of three.

UPDATE: The only local statistic I can find is that according to this Jewish Data Bank report (warning: PDF), Eugene had 3,250 Jews in the year 2000.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 7

Heaven is long-lasting and Earth abides.
What is the secret of their durability?
Is it not because they do not produce for themselves that they last so long?
Thus the Saint puts himself behind and finds himself at the head.
He puts himself outside and yet he is safe and secure.
Is it not because he meets others' needs that his needs are met?

The sun and rain and soil give without judging,
without preference, and only to others.
When we also give freely
we become leaders provided with peace.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

1930s Palestinians and Current UN Policy

The U.N. avoids defining terrorism. It has member-states belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which excuses terrorists whom it sees as "engaged in so-called 'struggles against colonial domination and foreign occupation.'"

This linguistic issue is one aspect of Israel's current war. The issue is actually about historical revisionism.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, anyone living in "Palestine" was called a Palestinian. For example, the Palestine Post contains many references during these decades of "Jewish Palestinians" and "Palestinian Jews", as well as the equivalent phrases with Arabs. The U.N. General Assembly Resoultion 181 (November 29th, 1947) even speaks of "the two Palestinian peoples".

It is true that during those decades the Arab Palestinians outnumbered the Jewish Palestinians. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Intermediatearticle on Zionism, in 1914 there were about 90,000 Jews in the land, by 1925 there were 108,000, and in 1935 there were 300,000 (of which 100,000 were in Tel Aviv). Compare this with Justin McCarthy's records which have 1914 total populations of the land as 657,000 Muslims Arabs, 81,000 Christian Arabs, and 59,000 Jews. But these figures are only estimates and not very trustworthy.

What is surely known is:
  • After the Romans re-named the land Palestine (as a snub to the Jews there), Jews had continual presence in the land. (One small example.)
  • In the years before 1948, there was no such nationality as either "Israeli" or a "Palestinian". The land was part of the Ottoman Empire and then the British Mandate, and was inhabitied by people whose nationalities and ethnic identities had names other than "Israeli" or "Palestinian".

The earliest occurance I can locate of the term "Palestinian" being used to refer to only Arab Palestinians is the Fatah Constitution, from the early 1960s. Why did this change go uncontested? In 1948 the Jewish population of the land jumped on the chance to remove the Roman snub and call the land Israel again. Notice that Israel's Declaration of statehood never uses the words "Palestine" or "Palestinian" even though these applied equally well to Jews in 1948. It thus seems this Jewish population did not care about being disenfranchised when Fatah decided that "Palestinian" should refer only to Arabs: at the time it fit Israel's own political agenda, although in the decades since it has caused great public-relations damage.

(Israelis have commited other public-relations blunders. The word
yashav can be translated as "sit, settle, or reside". The Zionists' pride in turning malaria-infested swamps and barren land into arable farmland prompted the English translation "settlements". If only the word "residences" had been chosen instead!)

Before 1948, the Zionists bought the land they lived on. Often they had to pay two or three effendis (Moslem land-owners) who all claimed ownership. The originally peaceful relations between Zionists and effendis turned sour in the early 1900s as the region's felaheen (Moslem serfs) found Zionist villages and cities better places to live and work and gain education. Any land-owners losing serfs face trouble.

The 1917 Balfour Declaration, although much spoken about, did not specify the land to be given to Jews. The equivalent promise from the British to the Arabs in 1915 was similarly vague. Although neither Jews nor Arabs were promised anything concrete, let alone all of Palestine, both populations began pressings claims. Thus the two vaguely conflicting British promises sparked further ill-will among the two communities.

(Britain's problem-making continued as oil was discovered in Arab lands. Its favoring of the Arabs cummulated with Britain's notorious "White Paper" of 1939, which, in violation of the League of Nations mandate, crippled Zionist efforts and doomed millions of Jews trapped in Nazi-occupied Europe by preventing them from making aliyah.)

A specific promises of land to the Zionists happened at the Peace Conference of San Remo (1920) but this territory was later reduced by the League of Nations (1922) and then the United Nations (1947).

By 1948, the parts of the land that thrived did so because of Jewish effort on land paid for by those Jews. If the Jews of Israel did "take" land from anyone in 1948 when they were given a state, it was the British who were the previous owners (and gave it as a gift). But since the land actually given to the Jews in 1948 was comparatively worthless to what they had themselves established, and the actual gift was much smaller than the original promise, it would be more accurate to say that Britain took land from the Zionists.

The "Palestine Refugees" (from all I can find, a group not called "Palestinians" for another decade and a half) have become a complex issue since 1948. The only point this essay has made is that an accurate consideration of history shows they are facing neither "colonial domination" nor "foreign occupation."

The myth that claims they are facing such oppression is what allows the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and thus the U.N., to avoid defining what is a terrorist. Thus that myth is what protects these terrorists from fiercely toothless U.N. threats.

More significantly, that myth is largely responsible for creating an unfair bias against Israel in many of America's Democrats and in many otherwise fair organizations and news agencies.

(For broader and more-or-less accurate historical summaries, see MidEast Web and thus DU post. For an example of Zionist extremism as unhelpful as the Arab myths, see here. The site Palestine Facts is too big for me to proof-read all of its contents, but it seems accurate from what I have read.)

(Israel has been both generous and harsh to these refugees. I am not claiming these refugees have not been mistreated by pretty much everyone. But realize that Israel was prevented from integrating the refugees into normal society, and historically the refugee's leaders have been the worst factor in why the huge amount of financial assistance and UNRWA business helps the refugees so little.)

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 6

"The valley spirit never dies": this refers to meekness mysteriously victorious.
"The doorway to meekness mysteriously victorious": this refers to the root of Heaven and Earth.
Like lingering gossamer it is always present but barely noticeable. Yet it can be drawn upon inexhaustibly.

Yeshua allows humility to overcome iniquity
and meekness to overcome tyranny.
His presence is often overlooked
yet his power is infinite!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Kick Turn Success

Today I spent a couple hours at Churchill school's skate park.

I can finally kickturn 180 degrees. It turns out this is quite a bit easier in a bowl than on flat ground; on flat ground there is too much of a temptation to overemphasize the wheelie. In a bowl I could ignore all I had been previously told about starting with my shoulder and following with my hips, and instead take some new advice about keeping shoulders, hips, and skateboard always lined up.

I also got down the basics of pumping, but did not get the timing correct enough to reliably gain height. At least I can go forwards and backwards over flow now.

By the way, pumping badly is a lot of exercise. Each time you skate up or down a curved side of the bowl you stand up from squatting. This means that for each U-shape you make you are standing up from a squat four times, and that happens every few seconds. Until I learn better timing so I can be using my energy efficiently, this is exhausting to practice!

I wrote earlier about carefully choosing to not care if I ever do well with skateboarding. This is still true; it is nice to be able to do more things on a skateboard, but the ability to do more has yet to make spending time on a skateboard more fun than it intrinsically is already.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 5

Heaven and Earth lack empathy: they treat all things as destined to be burned.
The Saint lacks empathy: he treats all people as destined to be burned.
Between Heaven and Earth is like a bellows. Empty and inexhaustible, the more it works the more it brings forth.
Many words are soon exhausted; better to preserve a middle course.

Love and compassion are virtues.
But sympathizing with other people's wants
only enables their insatiability.
All in this world is temporary vanity besides basic needs,
relationships, and knowing Adonai.
Explain this by enjoying life while living simply,
and by embracing hardships without self-mortification.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Iraqi WMD Issue

I thought I was done blogging for the day, but I guess I was not.

I do not understand the furor over finding or not finding post-2003 WMD in Iraq. Saddaam had the responsibility to prove he lacked them. He would not, so that motivation for the war was sensible. Historically it was also secondary to promoting democracy in the region.

Anyway, has the U.S. found post-2003 WMD in Iraq? An AP article in today's online version of Eugene's Register Guard claims not. But at different times, ABC News, CNN News, Fox News, a BBC reporter, and others have claimed that WMD and equivalent programs have been found. Have these old findings been disproven, or are they simply being ignored by my local newspaper?

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 4

The Way is like an empty vessel which, when used, cannot be filled.
Fathomless, it seems to be the origin of all things!
It blunts sharpness, it unties tangles, it tempers brightness, it unites the world into one whole.
Hidden in the depths, yet it will last for ever!
I do not know whose son it is; it seems to be the common ancestor of all, the antecedent of all things.

Yeshua gives inexhaustibly.
His beginning is before creation,
and he will outlive this world.
He is Creator and Sustainer and Lord.

Something Light

Whew. Now you see why it took a few days to put those recent posts together. If you need something less serious, try cloud pictures.

August's War

People have been asking me what I think about the current Israeli war.

First I'll share some links:
  • Pajamas Media compiles articles from all over the internet.
  • Vital Perspective has interesting summaries.
  • Arutz Sheva has a strong anti-appeasement bias but a website that is easier to navigate than the Jerusalem Post.
  • InfoLive has live television from Jerusalem, for those who speak modern Israeli Hebrew.
  • You can write to your senators and urge them to support doing what is right.
Second, some comments:
  • Lebanon is a no-win situation. In the past 10 years is has been abandoned by Israel and neglected by the U.N. The peaceful part of its population was unable to evict Hezbollah and is now unable to flee to safety.
  • This war is not a case of two democracies going to war. Lebanon is not a democracy: just look at who has been in charge since the kidnapping.
  • All countries agree that Israel entered the war in self-defense. This means Israel may keep any territory it acquires. Thus in their support of Hizbollah, Syria (near) is being very quiet while Iran (farther) is speaking loudly.
  • Israel has the right to self-defense. And a right to self-defense that does not include the military occasionally killing civilians or making other mistakes is not actually a right to self-defense; governments do make mistakes (and fall into traps?)
  • It would be proper and helpful for Israel (and the U.S.) to help with rebuilding Lebanon
  • Attacking cities should always be a last resort. But Hezbollah has no military strategy to disrupt; they just have a media strategy and lots of ball bearing filled rockets.
  • Israeli soldiers are being incredibly brave. Especially considering Israel not send in any ground troops, and do to Iran what Iran is threatening to do to Israel.
  • This is not the prophetic battle of Gog and Magog described in Ezekiel 38-39. That happens after Yeshua's return.
Third, a general theme that is especially timely to share this weekend (of Shabbat Nachum). The time for peace is in the "latter days" and has not yet come. The time for comfort began with the announcement of the Messiah's first arrival. Adonai is currently empowering his people to bring comfort, not peace. This is true interpersonally and also politically.

Messianic Jewish resources

Bob Grechesky is putting together a website,, with sermons from prominent Messianic Jewish speakers. He is asking for feedback on the site and the sermons. (Since I don't record my sermons, there is no hope of mine being archived there.)

I also was told of a website,, at which sheet music for Messianic Jewish songs is being shared. So far it is primarly Israeli musicians who are participating.


New Past-Times Update

After some more time on my skateboard, I can not regularly do a kickturn of more than 90 degrees, but only very rarely a full 180 degrees. I am becoming increasingly convinced that all skateboard tricks (warning: links have sound) are primarily about balance. As my balance improves, everything else I try comes almost without thinking.

(Aren't those skateboard videos amazing?)

I can find very few videos of Chinese brush painting online. (Link has sound, obviously.)

Defining the Geek

What is a geek?

Shamus tried to create a definition. Spurred by his attempt, I did too. My version tries to separate geeks from people who enjoy non-geeky intellectual amusements (i.e., many theologians and philosophers) and those who partake in solitary intellectual entertainments (i.e., people who have read or seen The Princess Bride but never quoted it in conversation).
geek (n):
A person who entertains himself/herself primarily through the communal creation of or participation in one or more fictional settings. The settings used may be intended for future reality (i.e., settings of inventors, programmers, etc.) or may simply be established for amusement (i.e, settings of gamers, anime fans, etc.). The community of direct interactions may be small (two people playing a game whose setting was established by a wider community) or large (all the programmers who contribute to Linux).
Anyone else have a definition of geek?

Kiwanis Talk

Here is my draft of the talk I gave last Wednesday, at the local Kiwanis club. The actual talk was slightly different, of course. Notably, the last bulleted lists was something for which I explained each part of each item in more detail.

While wondering what I should talk about, I realized that if any of you were already interested in my faith you would have already visited the congregation I lead, and for those who are not interested it is not appropriate to use this forum to try to get you interested. I should talk not about my faith, but about some insight is provides about things you value as Kiwanis.

Two of the six objectives of Kiwanis are:
  • To give primacy to the human and spiritual rather than to the material values of life.
  • To promote the adoption and the application of higher social, business, and professional standards.
I would like to discuss a spiritual, high standard: be perfect!
  • Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Adonai appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Walk before me and be perfect..."
  • Matthew 5:48 "Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
What should we do about this apparently impossible standard?

Fortunately, when you examine the Hebrew and Greek vocabulary, the words translated "perfect" always more accurately mean to be complete and whole (tameem, shalom, teleiōs, katartizō, artios).

What is being a complete person like and how is it done? This is too much to discuss in half an hour. So I will limit the topic to the most important, core issue.

Scripture repeatedly teaches us that the journey towards being complete as a person begins with more completely loving God. Loving God with everything we are is called the greatest commandment. If we can do this we will have trust and hope, and we will also have inexhaustible love for our neighbors. All the other religions I know about agree in their own way that loving the divine is the beginning of personal completeness.

So a religion, especially one that is familiar with Deuteronomy 6:5 and Luke 10:27, must ask a question: "In loving God, what parts of heart, soul, and 'much-ness' (resources, everything else) do we not use often enough?" Or equivalently, "What practices can we use to ensure we are loving God as completely as possible?"

Messianic Judaism has developed a few answers, which I will discuss in a moment as the core of this talk. I ask you to consider two issues as I proceed. First, can any of these practices I share inspire you to express love for God (or people) more fully and deeply? Second, which insights do your faith and culture have to share?

So, here are Messianic Judaism's answers. Again, we are considering how to love God (or people) not only for its own merit but because it is a step towards becoming a complete person.
  • in expressing love combine prayer, liturgy, music, dance, study, Torah obedience, service, celebration, and sacrifice
  • scripture makes sense in its Jewish context, with Hellenistic thinking
  • attend appointments God made as well as asking God to attend our appointments
  • see its communal mission as bringing victory and transformation and context to communities
  • very efficient charitable works

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

After Three Stings

Benadryl topical gel is great. The yellow jacket stings never hurt much but they kept me from sleeping well because of the itching. Yesterday I got some Benadryl topical gel and slept much better.

My talk at the Kiwanis club went well today. I'll share more tomorrow. It has been a busy day. Bedtime now...

UPDATE: Nope, Thursday turned out to not be a computer day...

UPDATE: Nor Friday or Saturday...

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 3

Not honoring talent ensures people will lack rivalry and contention..
Not prizing goods that are difficult to obtain ensures that the people do not become robbers.
Not displaying what is desirable ensures that the people do not covet..
Therefore the Saint, in the exercise of government, empties their desires and fills their bellies, softens their ambitions and toughens their bones. This ensures that the people remain free from yearning and coveting, and prevents those who yearn from any ado.
Practice Non-Ado and everything will be in order.

If we have our basic needs met,
all we need to achieve joy, place, and purpose
can be obtained through experiencing
the limitless grace and presence of Adonai.
People who think having more than this is needed
to achieve joy, place, or purpose are insatiable.
Catering to them does not really help them.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Are our gain, work, growth, and successes all his?

Of the chapters of the Tao Te Ching that I have worked on, the second one challenges me spiritually the most.

Clearly my gain, work, growth, and successes are not all Yeshua's. How does it matter that I put forth effort towards non-eternal things?

I try to keep my home tidy and my yard nice. These chores have no trouble reminding me of their ephemeral nature. Doing laundry, washing dishes, and sweeping the front steps are all necessary work unrelated to my relationship with Yeshua.

I try to be an effective math teacher and improve my teaching. Clearly Yeshua's pedagogical style is not appropriate for a community college remedial math class. This work and growth and success are very different from his, and of no eternal benefit.

I try to exercise a lot. I like being in good shape. I enjoy biking and skateboarding when I can do these instead of driving. But this also has a benefit that is not eternal. Similarly, I have hobbies I use to relax, such as my new dabbling in Chinese brush painting.

In most other things I can claim to be trying to have my gain, work, growth, and successes be Yeshua's. The best way I know to become a better minister or better husband or better friend is to become more like Yeshua and do these as he would.

My challenge is to not get emotionally wrapped up in success or failure of non-eternal issues.

For example, I am happy with what I learned about math teaching last term, but paid far too much attention to this. I went beyond noticing what was helping certain students and figuring out how to best put more of that into my class, and began to stress about it. The stress did not help my students or myself. (No, I don't think my students noticed my stressing out.)

In contrast, as I am starting to learn skateboarding and Chinese brush painting I am carefully choosing to not care if I ever do well in these activities. They are for relaxing (and exercise), and as effective whether I remain a novice or gain in ability. And my wife can attest how much I have become less of a neat freak at home.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 2

Everybody in the world perceives beauty as beauty, and thus ugliness is understood.
Everybody recognizes the good as good, and thus evil is known.
For indeed:
Hidden and manifest produce one another.
Hard and easy complete one another.
Long and short are relative to one another.
High and low depend on one another.
Tone and voice harmonize with one another.
First and last follow one another.
Therefore the Saint manages his affairs without ado, and spreads his teaching without words.
He accepts how the teeming demands are temporary:
He produces but does not claim the product.
He works but does not rely on the result.
He grows but does not control.
He accomplishes his task but does not dwell upon it. Indeed, because he does not dwell on it nobody can ever take it away from him.

Things are relative only as part of eternal Truth.
Humility sees the eternal. Don't react to the temporary.
Selflessness is more than denying our desires:
identify with Yeshua, not what we do or experience.
To relate to Yeshua was to relate to the Father.
Do we similarly represent Yeshua?
Are our gain, work, growth, and successes all his?
Nothing else lasts eternally.