The Independent Variable - Matt Haugland

Saturday, December 23, 2006

War on Christmas

I'm a little tired of hearing about the "war on Christmas" every year. I think people on both sides should stop complaining. Christians, accept the fact that Christmas is basically a secular holiday for most people. Quit trying to make other people celebrate something they don't believe in. People on the other side, accept the fact that it's called "Christmas" and that it's related to "Christ". Quit trying to water it down into something that can't "offend" anyone.

To me, Christmas has always been mostly about spending time with family and enjoying gifts and gift-giving and other non-religious things. I've always felt a little guilty about that because of people who say Christmas must be all about Christ.

But recently I realized something. There is a holiday which to me really is all about celebrating Christ's birth. It's called "Christmas Eve". And on the next day, I can celebrate that other (mostly secular) holiday, enjoy it for what it is, not feel guilty about it, and not take a side in the "war" over it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why Israel?

I've always wondered why God would choose one particular nation to be his "chosen people", and specifically why it would be Israel. It seems arbitrary, and frankly, a little made-up. But there are a few interesting facts that make it not seem so unbelievable.

1. The Jewish people are among the longest continuously existing cultures/peoples/nations on earth, despite being among the most hated and never being particularly strong or imperialistic. I'm not saying this necessarily means anything, but it's interesting.

2. Intelligence (at least as measured by IQ) is known to be partially genetic. Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average IQ of any ethnic group in the world, approximately 12-15 points higher than the average population. Jews make up only 0.25% of the world's population (2% of the U.S. population) but 28% of Nobel Prize winners in science (40% in the U.S.). There are a lot of explanations out there for this. I'm not saying it necessarily means anything, but it's interesting.

3. If God's "chosen people" means the people through whom God would reveal himself to the world, no other nation comes anywhere close. Approximately 54% of the world's population claims to adhere to a religion centered around YHWH, originally known as "the God of Israel". That's a majority of the entire world! That's more than just interesting. What percentage of the world today worships the god of the Jebusites or Philistines or Egyptians? How many non-Indian Hundus are there, or non-Chinese Confucianists?

It was prophesied approx. 3,000 years ago that the God of Israel would establish a kingdom (and be worshiped) among all the nations of the earth. How ridiculous that claim must've seemed back then. And yet, this ridiculous claim seems to have come true -- or at least more true than for any other nation that has ever existed.

And when did knowledge of the God of Israel start spreading to the rest of the world? I'll give you a hint: think about what many people will be celebrating on Dec. 25.

(Disclaimers: 1 -- My figures came from various web sites, especially Wikipedia, so don't trust them too much. 2 -- I'm not a dispensationalist or premillenialist. I don't believe there's anything particularly special about Israel (or being a descendant of Israel) today other than maybe a closer connection to the history and culture. Israel was special in that it once was the only nation that believed in YHWH, but that changed a lot after the 1st century AD)

Friday, December 01, 2006


We had 3-7" of snow in the Norman area yesterday. Here are some pictures from around town: