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January 2013

Battlefield Earth : A Saga of the Year 3000

Battlefield EarthBattlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This incredibly long (too long in places) novel is set around the year 3000. Around 2000 Earth was invaded by the Pscyhlos, the dominate species in the 16 universes, who destroyed most of humanity. One brave young man among humanity's remnant sets out from a village hidden in the Rockies to explore. This is his adventure as he encounters the Psychlos and then crafts a new future for humanity.

Hubbard can write incredibly well-paced action plots, filled with suspense, which keep you on the edge of your seat and unable to put the book down. The book can also drag and get bogged down in details.

It also could have been four books in a series. When I basically finished what could have been book one, I was really satisfied and would have been really happy with the book up till that point. Some of the later sections are not as interesting, they also become over-complicated, more implausible (admitting surrendering disbelief for all of this of course), and more filled with what seem to be Hubbard's personal views on government and religion (which I could have done without). I also found it to be misogynistic in the way the very few and minor female characters are presented.

But if you like sci fi and a good story with fun characters, then I think you'll enjoy this.

I never saw the film which was overwhelming reviewed as among the very worst films ever made. I can't imagine packing all this plot into a movie. Maybe a multi-seasoned TV series.

View all my reviews



Luke 4:14-21

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational UCC

27 January 2013



    Jesus has come home to Nazareth, this place that is his own place. And it is here in Nazareth that Jesus will inaugurate his mission. He comes home to proclaim, "This is who I am, and this is what I plan to do."

And so he rises to read in the synagogue. What thoughts, I wonder, ran through his head in that moment? Had he prepared this and planned for it? Had he dreamed about this day?

He is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He takes it and finds the part he wants to read and then says,


    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

        because he has anointed me

        to bring good news to the poor.

    He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

        and recovery of sight to the blind,

        to let the oppressed go free,

    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.


    It is a beautiful vision, long articulated by the prophets of old. It is the reign of God on earth, and it is the fervent hope of all humanity. It was the fervent hope of those listening that day, and it remains our fervent hope as well. Good news, release, recovery, freedom, God's favor. Amen

    It is an ancient vision proclaimed by poet and prophet and sung by Hebrew mothers. An ancient vision which expresses a deep longing of the human soul. This ancient vision Jesus proclaims as his inaugural message, while home in Nazareth. It is the year of the Lord's favor, God's party, the Jubilee, the arrival of justice and peace. Let us rejoice, for today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.    



    In the midst of the Second World War, Andre Trocme was the pastor of the Protestant congregation in the southeastern French town of Le Chambon. When France was defeated by the Nazi powers and began to deport French Jews, Pastor Trocme urged his congregation to give shelter to any Jew who asked for it. The village and the surrounding region were soon filled with hundreds of Jewish refugees taking sanctuary. Many were helped to flee into Switzerland, while others hid out. When the authorities learned of what was happening, Pastor Trocme was threatened with arrest. In response, he preached that Christians must do the will of God and not of men. He was later arrested and released and went into hiding. But that did not deter the villagers of Le Chambon. During the years of the Holocaust, this one village is reported to have saved the lives of 5,000 Jews. No other village or town in France demonstrated the courage and conviction of Le Chambon. In 1971, Yad Vashem, the Jewish people's living memorial to the Holocaust, declared Pastor Andre Trocme and the villagers of Le Chambon as "Righteous among the Nations."

Andre Trocme, this great saint who knew something about living the way of Jesus, identified how we should read this story in the Gospel of Luke. Trocme identified "the year of the Lord's favor" which closes this passage with the ancient Hebrew concept of the Jubilee. It was this idea, later developed by the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder in his classic book The Politics of Jesus which has influenced subsequent Christian scholars.

So, you might ask, what, in the biblical tradition, is the Jubilee? For that we have to turn back to Leviticus 25, which is one of the great passages in the Levitical Code. For all those religious people who pretend to take the Book of Leviticus seriously when they think it is speaking about homosexuality, I actually wish they'd take the principles of Leviticus 25 seriously.

    The Jewish law dictated that every seven years the people were to leave the land fallow. They weren't to grow or cultivate crops. They were to give the land a year of rest, eating whatever the land naturally produced. Now, this is a wonderful agricultural principle, but it also says something about creation itself. Creation needs restoration, healing, and redemption.

    The Way of God then took this great agricultural principal, expanded it, and then applied it to the rest of human economy. Because, if one aspect of creation needs restoration, healing, and redemption, then probably all the rest of creation does as well. So, every fifty years the people were to celebrate a jubilee, a time of restoration and renewal.

During the jubilee year, there were four things the people had to do: (1) leave the soil fallow, (2) forgive debts, (3) liberate slaves, (4) and return to each individual his family's property. So any homestead lost because of debt or financial need, was returned to the family who originally settled it.

    This system respected the power of land and property as necessary for well-being. It assumed that everyone was entitled to land and a home, because with land they could support themselves and their family. Without land and property, they could not. Everyone, then, had the right to work, because from the produce of that work, they could support themselves and their family.

For the ancient Israelites, this was an essential component of freedom. A people who had once worked as slaves for others understood that having their own land and property was the guarantee of their freedom. It is a vision we in America, and particularly here in the Great Plains are very familiar with. Our ancestors settled here to provide for themselves and to guarantee their freedom. It is also why we must still struggle to guarantee that no one is discriminated against in employment, for the ability to work and support yourself and own property is an essential component to human freedom. Freedom, work, and property all go hand-in-hand.

One implication of this economic arrangement of the Jubilee year was that no one would be allowed to accumulate wealth in such a way that over the generations it oppressed others and robbed them of their well-being. Every fifty years, every family got a chance at a new beginning.

    It is a stunningly radical economic vision. Scholars debate whether or not the ancient Jews held faithfully to this practice. There are at least a couple of indications in scripture that something like the jubilee was celebrated.

    Whether or not they practiced it diligently, it remained the ideal to which the people aspired and what they deeply longed for. It was the ideal to which the prophets spoke and what the poets sang about. And in their wildest dreams, this jubilee would burst forth, transforming all creation. The lame would dance, the blind would see, the mournful would laugh, the desert would blossom, the mighty would be brought low, the rough places would be made plain, and justice would roll down like waters.


In Jesus' time, the peasant population had lost most of its property. They were suffering under extreme debt, causing many to sell themselves into slavery. The great promises of God, God's powerful acts of liberation and salvation, were being undone by the political and economic system of the Roman Empire.

    In this environment Jesus drew upon the ancient prophetic tradition, the songs of Hebrew mothers, and the dreams of humanity through all time, and he proclaimed the jubilee. "This year will be the year of the Lord's favor," he announced. "I, we, will fulfill these promises beginning right now. Come on and join the party!"

    The jubilee proclamation was central to Jesus' entire message. For example, when he taught in the Lord's Prayer, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," he is referring to the jubilee. That's one reason I prefer "debts" to "trespasses" as a translation of the passage, even though I grew up with and first memorized it as "trespasses." "Debts" captures the fuller meaning of the prayer.

    Jesus didn't preach a Jubilee every fifty years. He dreamed of a human society that every day oriented itself around the values of the Jubilee tradition. Jesus was inviting us to see that every day is an opportunity for restoration, healing, and redemption. Every day is an opportunity for creation to be transformed. Every day God invites us to the party.


    The specific details of the ancient Levitical Code don't fit our contemporary circumstances, but we can find ways to live out these principles. The jubilee tradition has played a surprisingly powerful role in global politics in recent decades. In the 1990's, there was a call for a jubilee to forgive the debts of developing nations. Pope John Paul II and U2's lead singer Bono helped to lead this effort.

    In the early Aughts, the developed nations of the world formulated the Millennium Development Goals. This project aimed reduce poverty worldwide. They set the goal of reducing by half the number of people living on less than one dollar a day, and they set 2015 as the deadline. They also established eight goals which they believed would help to achieve the overall objective of reducing poverty. These eight goals were aimed at reducing hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and fashioning global partnerships for development.

    When these goals were announced, it was with the acknowledgement that for the first time in human history, the technology and financial ability to eliminate extreme poverty actually existed. What was lacking was the political will to carry it out, and the agreement on the goals was meant to help overcome that.

    President George W. Bush enthusiastically signed onto these goals. You may remember his initiatives to fight AIDS and malaria, which many credit with saving millions of lives. Also private entities such as the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative have seriously combated the inequities of our global economic system.

    The latest report from the United Nations reveals that years ahead of schedule, the overall goal of reducing in half the number of people living in extreme poverty has been achieved. Each of the eight objectives has not been met, but work continues, with important advances made in almost every one. The successes that have been achieved reveal how much more successful we could be if we focused our attention and political will.



    Imagine the faith of that young man from Nazareth as he stood up in the midst of that hometown crowd and shared his vision for the world. It was not realized in his time, and it is not fully realized in our time. But he believed it was possible, and so should we. For this is the very heart of the gospel; the ancient vision of poets and prophets; the song of Hebrew mothers; the fervent hope of all humanity; the very essence of who Jesus was and what he set out to do.

    This is the year of the Lord's favor. God is throwing a party, and we are all invited. Pack the picnic basket, grab the lawn chairs and the bug spray, bring along your trumpet, your drum, your harmonica or guitar. It's the time for restoration. It's the jubilee!

Obama's sermon

Diana Butler Bass writes an intriguing piece for the Washington Post, in which she claims that Obama's second inaugural address expressed a new form of civic spirituality in the great tradition of the civic sermon but fully embracing the pluralism of the 21st century.  Please read the essay, but here is an excerpt:

What binds together the variety of American faiths? President Obama insisted that our unity is found in a powerful theme, borrowed from the twin theological sources of his own African-American Christianity and Protestant liberalism: Life is a journey. In both of these theological traditions, one is never fully satisfied with the way things are. We are on perpetual pilgrimage, never arriving to a settled place. We seek deeper justice, greater knowledge of ourselves in and through God, elusive wisdom, and wise action as we sojourn in and through the world. At the outset of the speech, President Obama stated, “Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words [of our founding texts] with the realities of our time.” We are political sojourners.

Texas Board of Education loses much of its power

Michael sent me this article of great news this week.  Very long time (really original) readers of this blog will remember my advocating before the Texas School Board, when I lived in Dallas, on behalf of accurate health textbooks.  In 2004 only one textbook even mentioned condoms in the chapter on sex education.  It was a travesty.  This lower body of government had great power, and fundamentalists had realized it.  At the time they were trying to pack the board (they only had three sure votes at that point, but were able to persuade others), which they were eventually able to do.  Now, the power over textbooks has been removed from them.  This has national implications, as any textbook marketed nationally had to be able to be sold in Texas.  If it couldn't be sold there, it wouldn't make any money.