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News That Illustrates for Sunday, January 5th - January 12th

Worst Product Flops from 2013, Human Rights for Chimps, and a Nazi-themed Café

Crystal Balderdash: 2013's Worst Predictions
The Nobel laureate Daniel Kahnemann once said, "You can make predictions, and a year later people won't remember them." But that didn't stop Politico Magazine from listing the worst predictions of 2013. Here's #1 on their list of worst predictions—"The Obamacare Rollout Will be Great." Slate writer Matt Yglesias said, "I wanted to once again take the opportunity to lay down a marker and say … that Obamacare implementation is going to be a huge political success." Not quite. In May of 2013 Salon's Blake Zeff emphatically declared, "Anthony Weiner can actually win the NYC mayor race." A month later, talk-show host Glen Beck predicted that something terrible would happen to the U.S. Government. Beck claimed that this unnamed disaster will "take down the GOP, it will take down the Democrats, it will take down many members of Congress." Hum, I wonder what all that was about. And, finally, there was the science journalist Clive Cookson's confident assertion about life on Mars: "I predict that by the end of 2013 we will have firm biochemical evidence for biology on Mars." Financial Times, Dec. 30, 2012.

PREACHING ANGLES: God, omniscience; Future; New Year's; Predictions

The Worst Product Flops of 2013
And speaking about "worst lists," Wall Street 24/7 ran an article about the seven worst product flops of 2013. Nintendo's Wii U topped the list. The article noted, "The anointed successor to Nintendo's wildly successful Wii game console, the Wii U was launched late last year with all the fanfare expected of one of the three big players in the console arena." But as of the 3rd quarter 2013, the Wii U still had a negative impact on Nintendo's profits, posting an $81 million quarterly loss. Then there was Yogawear's debacle of rolling out their new line of high-end yoga pants, which were so sheer that they were see-through. Then the company's founder told a TV station that, "frankly, some women's bodies just don't actually work." Nice try there, dude. The list also includes Disney's film "The Lone Ranger," a star-studded $250 million extravaganza that was panned by critics and moviegoers and lost about $190 million. It just goes to show: even really smart businesses produce some flops—just like even dedicated Christ-followers will also display some spiritual flops.

PREACHING ANGLES: Failure; Mistakes; Redemption

Sign Language "Gibberish" at Mandela's Funeral
The recent funeral for South African leader Nelson Mandela confused deaf viewers of the service as the interpreter was signing only "gibberish." He "was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for," said Deaf Federation of South Africa's national director. Confusion persists as to exactly how and why a man who did not know sign language shared an international stage with President Barack Obama and others, meaninglessly waving his hands around to the frustration of deaf viewers around the world. What a powerful image of how our communication often breaks down. In our relationships with others (spouses, children, friends), when are we just "waving our hands around" without actually communicating anything to others?

PREACHING ANGLES: Communication; Misunderstanding; Relationships; Words

Human Rights for Chimpanzees?
Keep this story in mind if you're preaching about the sanctity of human life. James Emery White writes, "An animal rights group has filed what it claims is the first U.S. lawsuit seeking to establish the 'legal personhood' of chimpanzees. At issue is a 26-year-old chimp named Tommy. A New York State court is being asked to declare Tommy 'a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.'" Another article reports: "'Tommy' and other chimpanzees are the subjects of several lawsuits [initiated by the Nonhuman Rights Project] … seeking writs of habeas corpus and 'immediate release from illegal detention' … The chimps in the cases are owned by a roadside zoo, Stony Brook University, and a private individual who keeps one at home. The NRP's press release alleges that the chimps at the zoo have been neglected or abused. But the ultimate goal of these lawsuits is to force inclusion of animals, along with people, in the moral community." There's a difference between "animal welfare" and "animal rights." "Animal welfare" implies that we have a solemn duty to treat animals with respect and use humane methods of husbandry. In contrast, "animal rights" is an ideology that places animals in the same category and with the same rights as human beings. White adds, "What is at hand is the very definition of human identity. Which is our soul."

PREACING ANGLES: Abortion; Dignity; National Sanctity of Life Day

Nazi-themed Café Illustrates Cultural Disconnection
For most Americans or Europeans, the idea of a café decorated with the military regalia and swastikas of Nazi Germany is unimaginable—or at least impossible to envision without an agenda of hatred behind it. But for Indonesian small businessman Henry Mulyana, it's (allegedly) just a marketing strategy. Both the tasteless theme and the fact that it is actually attracting customers is a bizarre example of a cultural disconnect—tapping into a story that might be a marketing ploy for some, but is repugnant for others. Further evidence is the fact that Mulyana seems so mystified by the protests at his establishment's SS uniforms and draped Nazi flags. If Mulyana is really "no fan of Hitler," then why the theme? It's obvious that he's deeply disconnected from the culture of Nazi Germany, and of Western nations still nursing the wounds of WW2. Makes you wonder: What cultural disconnects might Christians have in today's culture? How can we seek to understand the ways our words and actions are perceived by others? Are we putting up cultural "swastikas" out of failure to engage those outside the church?

PREACHING ANGLES: Culture; Evangelism;

"Banished Words" Show the Annoying Power of Language
Lake Superior State University recently published their 39th annual list of "Banished Words"—or at least all the words they'd like to banish because they're so annoying. Topping their list is "selfie," a term that received more nominations than any other. Top contenders for that spot included "twerking," "hashtag," "twittersphere," "on steroids," and so-called "suffering suffixes," including "-mageddon," and "-pocalypse." Perhaps it's the superficial nature of the selections that bother us so much. Some terms just have the ability to get under our skin in ways that others don't. It's a reminder of the power of language to persuade, to impress, and to annoy. What words would you like to banish from the church lexicon? Or from your personal vocabulary? Are there any solid biblical/doctrinal words that get under people's skins? Words that require a better explanation from us?

PREACHING ANGLES: Communication; Doctrine; Speech; Words

Advice from the World's Oldest Living Man
Carmelo Flores Laura of Bolivia has the birth certificate to prove that he's the world's oldest living man. Born in 1890, Laura is now 123-years-old. In case you want to live to 123, you may want to follow his rules for longevity ("rules" which are picked up by observing his life):

  • Stay married (his wife died when he was 113).
  • Eat lots of quinoa, skunk meat, foxes, and lizards.
  • Never eat pasta or sugar.
  • Never be lazy.

Aside from his first guideline ("Stay married") Woody Allen's advice might apply: "Anyone can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred." Seriously, though, and with all due respect, I'm not sure if eating lots of quinoa, skunk, fox and lizard was exactly what Jesus had in mind when he promised us "abundant life," which isn't the same thing as a long life.

PREACHING ANGLES: Abundant life; New Year's

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