Friday, December 28, 2007

"Dominionism" Decried as Socially Poisonous and Abusive

I like lollipops. But you're not going to convince me with statistics and studies to take that thing and swallow it whole--wrapper, candy, bubblegum, stick and all! Not even if you're the media.

I guess I just don't like being spoon-fed lies. But there are a good number of people in our country and around the world that are open and receptive to anything and everything that a supposedly "credible" source feeds them, because it gives them canon-fodder for their pet-prejudices. These people keep a pocket full of statistics and studies--the best ones are those commissioned by a government agency--to fling in your face if you threaten their delicate emotional opinion when it comes to a certain issue.

The problem: these are most often not thinking people. They don't think! If they do, they are usually operating off of the socialistic, nihilistic grounding they received in the government schools. Naturally they'll reach the same conclusions as their humanistic brethren in the scientific world.

Our nation is becoming more and more hostile to certain core Christian beliefs, which is perfectly natural for a culture that has rejected God as the Creator and Sovereign Ruler, the only source for our view of truth, knowledge and ethics. I'll tell you one thing the humanists hate--Christian dominion. They even have a special term for it now, "dominionism." (I guess they feel more comfortable attacking it if they add the "ism" or something...) Wikipedia gives a much more comprehensive definition than I'm able to present here, but in a nutshell the concept of Christian dominion is seen as an offensive, thoughtless elevation of human interests above the interests of the animals and the environment.

I'll give you an example of this. Someone posted this on a birding list-serve that I subscribe to, in response to a mounting debate on crow hunting, and hunting in general. Since this is such a sensitive topic among online communities like this it's actually banned, but that didn't seem to matter much :) Statements like these are pretty typical:

"I'm horrified that anyone on a bird list would consider killing crows (such a beautiful, intelligent species) or any other bird--even game birds."

"Thanks...for saying how I think quite a few of us were feeling...I,
too, was pretty discouraged and horrified by the recent crow thread. I have come to expect SO much more from this forum...forward-thinking, logical, wildlife/bird sensitive people who think past a nuisance and try to find suitable solutions."

"I am with you...and the other thoughtful people who responded to your
post. I too am horrified every time there is mention of killing on a bird list. It is beyond me to understand. I had a horrific experience a couple of weeks ago in the Skagit. I was admiring a group of stunningly beautiful snow geese, eating in the fields, minding their own business. I was enjoying them through my bins when I spied two hunters hiding cowardly in the irrigation ditch. Then a huge bang and one goose is shot. It did not die right away but struggle to try and fly only to have the dog catch it before it was shot again. It shakes me to my core that humans can be this way."

But this post certainly takes the cake. You remember what I was saying earlier about people thoughtlessly swallowing whatever the media feeds them?

"In addition to caring about animals, I too share your concerns about crimes against children, homeless, the elderly and other defenseless people.

For your consideration, the following article appeared in the October 2007 issue of Animal People.
Animal People investigated the possibility of a cultural relationship by comparing the rates of hunting participation and crimes against children in all 232 counties of New York, Ohio, and Michigan.

In 21 of 22 New York counties of almost identical population density, the county with the most hunters also had the most prosecuted abuse of children.

Ohio counties with more than the median rate of hunting license sales had 51% more reported child abuse, including 33% for abuse and 82% more neglect.

Michigan children were nearly three times as likely to be neglected and twice as likely to be physically abused or assaulted if they lived in a county with above average hunting participation.

Michigan as of 1994 sold twice as many hunting licenses per capita as upstate New York, but had seven times the rate of convicted child abuse, and twice as high a rate of assault on children.

Animal People concluded that the data supported a hypothesis that both hunting and child abuse reflect the degree to which a social characteristic called dominionism prevails in a particular community.

Yale University professor Stephen Kellert, in a 1980 study commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, defined dominionism as an attitude in which "primary satisfactions [are} derived from mastery or control over animals." a definition which other investigators later extended to include the exercise of "mastery or control" over women and children.

Kellert reported that the degree of dominionism in the American public as a whole rated just 2.0 on a scale of 18. Humane group members rated only 0.9. Recreational hunters, however, rated from 3.8 to 4.1, while trappers scored 8.5.

Can you believe that? A prime example of cum hoc ergo propter hoc, a logical fallacy also known as false cause, which argues that two events that occur together probably have a cause-effect relationship. Notice how the author very cleverly transitions from presenting his argument as a possibility, to in the end claiming it as fact. This article is ludicrous! And yet, this kind of media hogwash is being used here to argue against the Biblical mandate for dominion, the exercise of stewardship through legal hunting, even tying these activities to trends of abuse in society. Plus it twists the concept of dominion into a straw man (ie. men deriving satisfaction from lording it over women), which is patently false. This kind of reasoning is both laughable and lamentable, because it shows the shallowness and insane irrationality of our culture when it comes to issues of the environment. Alfred Tennyson expressed it well when he said:

Any man that walks the mead
In bud, or blade, or bloom, may find
A meaning suited to his mind.

Christians need to stand firm and stay committed to their calling as the stewards of the earth. Forget what Animal People Magazine purports as truth--it's worthless. Turn back to a Biblical understanding of dominion. Yeah, the culture is going to attack you--it hates everything you stand for. But notwithstanding, take Genesis 1:28 to heart.

"God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

And might I even suggest that you buy yourself a shotgun, get out in the swamp and make some memories. ;)

God Bless,

Hero Spot

Our family liked this short film so much I had to post a link--it's produced by the Bittner and Lohr families up in Olympia. Fun stuff, enjoy!

Watch it here

Been to Doug's Blog?

I would encourage you to visit Doug Phillips' blog and read his recommendation for closing out the year 2007--it's really excellent.

Three of the Most Important Things You Can Do at This Time of Year

Christmas Portraits

Several days ago I was experimenting with a variety of different lenses on my camera, and had no trouble finding some cute, cheerful faces to photograph. Christianna (our youngest) can be quite a character when she feels she is in the spotlight of attention, and the same holds true when a camera is pointed her direction. This particular evening she was fond of giving me "the lip" whenever I snuck up on her, but she did eventually deliver some real smiles once I got her to pose.

There's no flash in most these shots, mostly because Christianna has an incredible talent for blinking EVERY SINGLE TIME a flash fires. I did manage to catch her unawares in this one.




Dad, Mom and Grandma B. got us a really nice mahogany hammered dulcimer made by Dusty Strings (a Seattle-based company). It's a little tricky to get the right touch and keep a consistent rhythm, but because our instrument is different from other dulcimers in that it's modeled more after the scale structure of a piano (which most of us play), it is easier to catch on. This was really a neat gift, and is sure to add a whole new flavor to the musical pursuits of our family.

I have more posts and pictures on the way, so check back soon. Merry Christmas to you all, and may God bless you in the coming year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


On behalf of Germane Productions (Daniel Bittner, Brian Lohr and the rest of the team) I'd like to introduce you to an exciting new opportunity--let's make a God-honoring, epistemologically self-conscious short film for the SAICFF* next year!

Visit to find out more about Project: Dialtone, read the story, join the forum, and support this project with your talents, prayers, and financial aid (if possible)!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007


...It's been a while. I see there are several dedicated readers that continue to visit the ol' blog, and for that you have my thanks. Remind me to buy you an ice cream cone next time we meet ok?

As the enticing aroma of orange chicken drifts into my room, I'm sitting here questioning whether I have misplaced priorities...shouldn't I be down there? No, I'll post first. :)

Last Sunday we heard a good message relating to the Advent Season and preparation for Christmas, which addressed the topic of how God's people have responded to His mercy and goodness in history. It boiled down to a fundamental defense of the Christmas holiday as a time of joy and thanksgiving for God's gifts--and especially the ultimate Gift.

First of all we need to understand that God's people have a fundamental responsibility to consider what He has done for us, and commemorate special acts of God on our behalf. In the Old Testament we read of Israel using festivals, holy days and monuments to extol the greatness of God's deeds, and the attitude behind this is probably best expressed in the Psalms of David. Consider Psalm 145:1-13.

"I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.
The LORD is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The LORD is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

First David asserts that God is worthy of such praise from His people. But most importantly David clearly communicates that this kind of worship is the only appropriate response from those on whom His grace has been bestowed. It's not optional either.

Does meditation on the works of God, especially the gift of His Son that we celebrate during this season, bring us joy? David writes as though he expected everyone to have the same response of joy that he expresses in this Psalm, and indeed we must.

We know how easy it is to look at the crazy commercialization that engulfs this season and denounce it, but at the same time get caught up in the Christmas rush and lose our focus. What really matters? What's it all about? Most people don't know the answer. Many Christians stay away from Christmas altogether because they believe the season has been drained of all meaning, but is that true? Or has the true meaning just been placed on a shelf to gather dust, while quaint traditions and quotes (which have no meaning apart from their origination) govern the holiday?

All I'm saying is it's time to rebuild the foundation, to rediscover Christ our Savior and refocus our Christmas celebration on Him, instead of surrendering this time of joy and commemoration to the world, which strips it of all meaning and reason. Like David, we must feel an intense need to voice our praise to God, and that can be beautifully done during this special time of the year.

With that in mind let me wish you all a very merry Christmas!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vancouver Lake This Morning

It feels like summer in southern Washington folks--sunny, 70 degrees--we're enjoying it. I took the opportunity this morning to drive out early to Vancouver Lake to see the sunrise and scout for waterfowl photography (and hunting!) areas.

At the first beep from my obnoxious alarm I involuntarily flew out of bed and silenced it...but it was too late. I remembered why I was getting up early and I was already too awake to go back to sleep. My alarm never does any good unless it's out of arm's reach :)

The interstate was really slow as I approached Clark College, but I was able to skip that and get right on Fourth Plain Blvd. which took me out to the Vancouver Lake lowlands. It seemed that the intense fog would prevent a productive morning, but actually it produced some amazing lighting effects as the sun mounted above the trees.

This little Barn Swallow was so cold he didn't want to move, which suited me just fine. I love the light and colors in this photo.

Though I only saw a few ducks (no water yet), geese were flying everywhere and would often come close enough for some decent shots (with a camera you least until goose season opens :)

The main reason I like to get out super early is that (it's good for me!...) wildlife is always more active at dawn and dusk, and the light is much prettier (instead of harsh midday light, you get a more diffused orange glow).

I enjoyed every moment of being out there in the marsh, and when I got to class by 10:00 I couldn't help but wonder if most of my classmates even know what it's like to witness something so beautiful.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Latest Artwork

I recently entered the following paintings and drawings in the American Birding Association's Young Birder of the Year contest (find more about it here). Last year I entered three of the four modules and got second place overall, but this year in a determined effort to achieve first prize, I ambitiously set out to compete in all four categories: illustration, which involves painting and drawing birds that interest you, field notebook, where you observe and sketch live wild birds (this is hard, believe me--it forces you to look very closely and remember the tiniest of details, thank goodness I won an excellent binocular in last year's contest!), photography, and writing essays about your bird-related experiences and observations. The whole project nearly swallowed me alive, but I persevered and pulled it off. Even though I have a procrastination problem, the intensity of those final moments before the deadline really gets me motivated again. I hope you enjoy my work.

"A Matter of Life and Death"--Western Kingbird
graphite on watercolor paper, 9x12"

"Pier Pressure"--American White Pelicans
acrylic on illustration board, 11x14"

"Brer Big-eyes"--Western Screech Owl
pen&ink on illustration board, 9x12"

"Lewis and Clark"--Lewis' Woodpecker and Clark's Nutcracker
pen &ink and watercolor on watercolor paper, 9x12"

"Poised for the Kill"--Peregrine Falcon
pen&ink on foamboard, 9x12"

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jose Can You See?

Jose Can You See?
New lyrics by Tony Polito and Steve Bryant
(The last National Anthem you’ll ever need.)

Jose can you see, there is no fence in sight?
Once we get there, I hear, they will never send us back.
We won’t pay any tax; they won’t put up a fight.
Send all our kids to school, even though it’s just not right.

We can go on welfare; we’ll have money to spare.
Cause Congress is blind and George Bush doesn’t care.
We walked across the border, we didn’t need any boats.
Now the Liberals love us, politicians want our votes.

Hear it sung here

You're Only Young Once

The following is another essay that I entered in the Young Birder of the Year competition a few weeks ago. Hope you enjoy it.


You’re Only Young Once: A Collection of Birding Memories

By Benjamin Berkompas, June 19, 2007

The metronomic beeping of my watch alarm slowly brought me to consciousness, and I drowsily fumbled around on the shelves above me to find the culprit and silence it. By the time I retrieved my watch and groaned at the early hour it displayed, I finally recalled the reason why I had it set for 6:00. Slipping quietly out of bed, I put on some warm clothes, shouldered my camera bag and with binoculars in hand set out through the pre-dawn gloom of the forest toward my destination. The brisk morning air restored me to complete wakefulness. After wading through the dew-laden ferns and grass I was soaked, but on a morning like that you hardly notice. Birds were singing and foraging energetically in the canopy, and after exiting the forest I wound my way through a maze of clear-cut state land dotted with young pine trees and finally reached my familiar little gravel road. The sun had just crested the surrounding hills and bathed the road in golden light. I enjoyed a few hours photographing Golden-crowned, White-crowned and Song Sparrows at my feeding station, nothing really special. Nonetheless, mornings like that remain some of my fondest birding memories. For birders, there’s nothing quite like rising with the sun.

Even though I’ve only been seriously birding for about a year and a half (at the time I’m writing this), I have a certain nostalgia for the “early days,” when I assumed Varied Thrushes must be some kind of Oriole (“they’ve got orange on them, what else could they be!”), and almost every bird I identified was a lifer (“what’s a lifer?” ☺). Everything was new and exciting, and I was blissfully ignorant. It’s kind of embarrassing to share this but in my very first attempt at “birding” I sauntered into the woods, threw some birdseed in a clearing and sat down to wait for the birds to throng to it! Here’s a brief excerpt from my journal, a real-time account of my first glimpse of a Red-breasted Sapsucker:

May 15, 2006
“Leaving the house at about 6:40 a.m., I arrived at my destination on state land at about 7:00 a.m. The weather is slightly overcast and cool—though later it’s supposed to escalate to about 90o… I’m hearing songbirds all around me but have yet to actually see one…wait, I just did. It flew very fast but looked a little smaller than a robin—with a bright red head, and white breast speckle-fading into it’s black body. It didn’t fly like a finch, but very fast and smooth. I didn’t notice it’s call. It may have been some kind of tanager or woodpecker, but it will be hard to identify on so few clues…”

In some ways I think I learned more back then, not only because I was wandering through a vast forest of new information and there was so much to discover, but because I walked with my eyes wide open. Once I stopped trusting my intuition to identify unfamiliar species, I had to observe and remember every possible detail to use later as I pored over Sibley’s. Since I’m the first dedicated birder in the family, I had to start from scratch, but as some of my younger siblings have gotten interested (no, fanatical!) it’s been funny to watch them grow. I’ll be sitting at my desk studying when all of the sudden I hear kids scampering to the window and Zachary shouts, “Hey, Benj! There’s a new bird at your feeder!” Oh yeah, it’s a Black-throated Gray Warbler. “Wow, cooool!”

I said I was learning with open eyes, but the truth is, in birding, your eyes are only as good as your binoculars. Back then my vision wasn’t exactly 20/20! But using an inexpensive Simmons 8x20 binocular was helpful in a few ways; I was able to fully appreciate the leap to a nice antique Nikon 7x35 binocular that my late grandfather used in the military, and then of course the view through my new Leica Trinovid 8x32’s made my jaw drop all the further. If there ever comes a day when I’m not satisfied with my Leicas (like that will ever happen!), maybe a peek through the old 8x20’s will cure me.

Another experience that cracks me up to think about it happened about a year ago in our yard. I decided I wanted to sketch and photograph the birds that frequent our lawn in the early morning, and since they always seemed to be so skittish a blind seemed to be the solution. Well, how does one go about making a blind? Maybe you could construct a simple square frame with sticks bound together and then duct-tape black plastic garbage bags around the outside?... It wasn’t a bad feat of engineering, aside from the fact that it was about 9 square feet and really ugly! The next morning I was up bright and early sitting on a stool in my blind with some birdseed, a sketchbook, digital camera and my laptop to assess my photos. Though it seems pretty silly now, that morning was a lot of fun. I saw and photographed a pair of Mourning Doves foraging in the grass, which isn’t a common sight for us. The blind soon succumbed to the weather, but even though I’ve since replaced it with a Grizzly G-20 pop-up blind, that remains my best birding-from-a-blind memory.

Every winter the Robins hand over their lawn care duties to the Orioles—oops I mean Varied Thrushes!—which are everywhere but extremely wary. After many frustrating attempts to photograph them, I struck upon an idea. A flock of about 12—sometimes as many as 20—liked to congregate on one side of the house to forage in the grass, and happily we have a collapsible canopy right next to the lawn. With my Minolta 5D and 100-400mm lens mounted on a monopod, I crept into the tent, positioned myself in one corner and carefully undid the fastenings so I could peek out. Some of the more alert thrushes cocked their heads but showed no signs of alarm. Then followed a fun hour of shooting. A few days later a lone VATH perched sleepily in the Japanese Maple by our front porch, and I was able to easily capture full-frame images of one of our prettiest thrushes. They sure bring a bit of color to our dreary Northwest winters.

The good memories always last the longest. It doesn’t bring me a lot of pleasure to recall the times I’ve loaded myself up with gear like a pack mule , hiking many weary miles only to come home empty-handed and thirsty. But I’ve been learning every step of the way, and that always involves some ridiculous errors. Remembering the first time I saw a Black-headed Grosbeak, and my first experience photographing hummingbirds with my Dad always makes me glad for those early days. Some things only happens once, and good thing too, or I would still be out in the woods sitting on a stump with a handful of birdseed just waiting.
I've posted a few thoughts on art on my other blog ( Have any comments? Post 'em here, the other blog won't accept them.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I don't know how you feel about confronting people on their beliefs, but please realize that if you don't tell them what they need to hear the chances are, nobody will. Last week, I submitted a binder full of essays and a poem into the ABA's Young Birder of the Year contest (birds are a serious hobby of mine), and I tried to tailor each piece to clearly reflect my faith. At first I questioned this approach. "What if I offend someone, and decrease my chances?" But then I remembered that Christians are not called to blend in and simply tell the world what it wants to hear. I wrote a poem that directly and unashamedly questions the prevalant evolutionary worldview of our day, addressed specifically to bird-lovers. Forgive my freestyle approach to poetry, all I wanted to do was communicate a message.

This Must Be God’s Hand
Benjamin Berkompas, September 23, 2007

No one can truly understand what they see every day,
Although they think they grasp the meaning, the purpose, the end,
They merely grasp the wind, and are themselves
Swayed by every gust that comes from mans’ mouth
Until they humbly bow and recognize
That only One could have done this.

Some point their finger to the sky and stare
At swirling swallows gliding overhead,
Feathers glistening emerald and violet in the light,
But never once do they entertain the thought
That perhaps they have been lied to,
Perhaps they have been wrong.

Could that sparrow on the housetop,
Or that heron in the marsh, or the tiny brown
Wrens that fill the woodland with their song,
Or the dove that sits supinely in the sun,
Could all this be chance, the mere random work of time
An accident?

How can you believe that when you look across a lake
And through the mist discern a mother loon with her young,
Cooing and tenderly caring for their needs,
Or watch a hawk poised alert above a silent field,
Eyeing the grass intently, sensing all movement.
How can you believe that this just happened?

Such intricate beauty, such perfect design
Can it truly be mistaken for random chance and time?
If you still can’t understand, are yet blind to the truth
Find a single feather and hold it to the light;
Each hair dyed a subtle hue, barbs interlocking along a single vein,
Can you ask a clearer sign, or can you not yet see?

What have they told you, why will you not question
All the things you have assumed for years?
You may yet live in a world of man’s imagining,
Blind to the truth that the air that you breath
And the birds that you love are truly nothing less
Than God’s gift from above.

Though truth shines throughout all Creation some refuse to see
That only through design could come such complexity.
You will not know the truth, you will not understand
Until you humbly say, “This must be God’s hand.”
I can leave you with but this one thought,
You and all God’s creatures are part of His eternal plan.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Diamond Lake

Several weeks ago (I know...this is late) our family and our friends the Seiferts did the 6 hour drive down to one of our favorite traditional camping spots, Diamond Lake OR. Located in the south central part of the state, Diamond is a beautiful natural lake sandwiched between two amazing mountains, Mt. Theilson and Mt. Bailey, and offers a variety of recreational activities including fishing, cycling, canoing, birding :), candy shopping, swimming and more. Our family has gone to the same campsite for many years, and we've even claimed a specific spot each time--G 19, a sprawling double-vehicle site near the lake and of course, near the restrooms.

Imagine if you would a 15 passenger van filled with 8 kids and a bunch of luggage, with 6 bikes on top, towing a U-haul trailer filled with food, stoves, mats, sleeping bags, heaters and tents, followed by a truck manned by four guys and all their stuff, with a dog and a tricycle in the bed, towing a 5 passenger boat which held a canoe and a variety of other camping items, traveling down the highway for a couple hundred miles. Pretty wild huh? That's what it takes. :)

While we were there I took a lot of photos, especially of the mountains at sunrise and sunset, but that presented some difficulties. You see, Diamond Lake is surrounded by large expanses of pine forest, so because of the position of our campsite you couldn't actually see Mt. Theilson, though it was directly behind us. Mt. Bailey was clearly visible across the lake, but any time I wanted to photograph Theilson I had to ride almost halfway around the lake (about 4-5 miles one way) to get a good view. Sunset on Theilson is just gorgeous, but getting pictures involved some misery. Let me explain. I had to wear my camera backpack, balance my new 6 lb. tripod on the handlebars of my mountain bike, and ride hard and fast (because I almost always forgot what time it was, and had to hustle not to miss sunset) through clouds--I mean clouds--of gnats in the gathering darkness, trying not to suffocate and to stay on the bike path. Of course, once I reached my chosen location it was all worth it...for a few minutes. Then I had to repeat the process except this time in the dark. If I'd had a gas mask I would have worn it, the gnats were that bad. Despite the inconveniences I got a lot of neat photos some of which I've posted below.

Sunrise, Sunset

Mt. Theilson

Mt. Bailey

Mt. Scott along the rim of Crater Lake (view from Diamond Lake)

Reading around the campfire

Daniel read a classic translation of the tale of Beowulf around the fire for several nights, that was fun.

In the Boat




Zach :)

Danny Seifert

Danny caught the biggest trout of the whole trip

At the North shore beach

A scale model of Diamond lake, complete with weed beds even!

A Brewer's Blackbird

Mr. Seifert


This isn't our dog, but another guy had his Chocolate Lab there and was having it do some pretty entertaining tricks.



Annalyn and Jessica Seifert

Danny and Mr. Seifert


The intrepid crew of the HMS Seaslug, Captain Nol Thrangbar (me :), my first mate Yrakaz (Zach's name backwards), Freida (Aimee), Bjarny (Jeremy), and Gudrid (Rebecca). Beowulf got us into a Viking mood. My name actually originated when Christopher suggested we dive off the dock to brave the waves and battle sea-sprites, but that's another story. :)

At Camp




Christopher, Katrina and Dad

By now you're probably singing, "This - is - the - post - that - never - ends! - This - is - the - post - that - never - ends! - Some - people - started - reading - it - not - knowing - what - it - was..." Alright enough of that. :) After all the post has ended...