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7.31.2005    |    Jimmah's at it again
The pro-terror network aljazeera is happy -- they've got a pet ex-president in their camp. They quote Carter, speaking at the liberal Baptist World Alliance, in Birmingham, England, as saying
"I think what’s going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the USA...[it is] the cause of terrorism."
Along with the expected pronouncement from the left, that the war in Iraq is "unnecessary and unjust." All of which demonstrates, yet again, that Jimmy Carter is an embarrassment to Americans. If there is a situation where he can find the mote in America's eye, he will highlight it, ignoring the beams that protrude from the eyes of the balance of the world.

Gitmo is a place we keep those who would kill innocents; those who, demonstrably, deny all rights to women and "infidels." If Gitmo were truly an evil, harsh place, might it not have the opposite effect that is claimed by Carter et al? As in strongly discouraging, not encouraging, terrorists to take up arms against us? And, of course, Gitmo somehow caused 9/11, not to mention the hundreds of other heinous acts of terror that preceded 9/11 around the world?

As for the war in Iraq, we presume that Carter and those who support his viewpoint would prefer Saddam's regime. Tell that to thousands of Kurds and Shi'ia murdered; tell that to hundreds of thousands of Iranians (and Iraqis) killed because of his aggression.

The bleats of those who say, "oh no, we don't prefer Saddam, we just don't think war is the answer" ring false. Twelve years of sanctions demonstrated the futility of peaceful means.

As the Preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes (3:8), there is a time for war and a time for peace. Saddam's time had come. It's too late for his victims, but we can ensure that he'll have no more of them.

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7.30.2005    |    Not Valid
In my post earlier today, I noted that "No religion that denies the truth of Jesus, after the fact of his death and resurrection, can be valid." No one who professes Christ as Lord can say otherwise, and remain a truthful witness to Him.

Is this "intolerant?" No. It is simply the truth. We must tolerate all faiths, or no faith at all, under our laws. With the exception, naturally, of faiths whose tenets include killing or converting us by force.

Tolerance is often confused with respect. One may tolerate all kinds of behavior, as in, allow them to exist -- assuming there was any chance of eliminating them in the first place. Respect is entirely different, and as applied to other faiths, implies giving honor and esteem to ideas and precepts that Christians must know to be false.

This is at the heart of the interfaith dialogue dodge that is oh so popular with many Christians -- that we Christians must not just tolerate, but respect, in the full meaning of the word, Islam and other faiths.

In this world, we must talk with Islam and others, if only to achieve some peace between our faiths. But let us never, ever, confuse talking with Islam, or any other faith, with accepting their false notions of God and salvation.

Is it hateful, or, God forfend, "hate speech" (the unlovely PC term for anything that liberals disagree with) to state that Christ is our Savior, none other need apply? No. It happens to be true. But we must never be boastful about it. Christ and our redemption through His blood are a free gift to us, owing to no effort on our part. It would be arrogant beyond belief were we to confuse our acceptance of this gift with its creation and offering by God through His Son.

Christians should, in love, state this truth to those of other faiths. It isn't a case of, "my God is greater than your god", although for some faiths this is also true. It is with love that we hope that those of other faiths would come to see that their salvation is solely through Jesus Christ.

The gift, in short, is available to all whom the Father has called. There have got to be more than a few Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and those who may think they've no faith at all, who we will greet as brothers and sisters in Christ when we go before the Throne.

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   |    Do you solemnly swear...
...or, perhaps not? Another example, were one needed, of the "American Civil Liberties" Union stirring the pot, attempting to eliminate Christianity from the public square.

Why the scare quotes? Well, if it isn't clear by now, the ACLU may be a "union", that is, a gathering of like-minded souls, but it surely isn't American, nor does it protect your civil rights if you are a Christian. The ACLU seems bent on severing America's Christian connection, root and branch. Which is tantamount to declaring us null and void as a nation under God.

America is not, and never will be, a nation under Ganesha or Allah. For the simple reason that we are told, rather plainly and forcefully, that "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex 20:3). And, no, "Allah" is not God, even if the Arabic word translates as "god". No religion that denies the truth of Jesus, after the fact of his death and resurrection, can be valid.

The issue at hand is that the ACLU wants the State of North Carolina to now allow the use of holy books other than the Holy Scriptures as the basis for courtroom oaths (story here). North Carolina already allows those who are not Christian to not place their hands on a Christian Bible, or, for those with no faith, to simply affirm that what they are about to say will be the truth.

As might be expected, there are two sides (at least) to the story, which may be summed up from the News & Observer's story:
Erik Stanley, a lawyer with the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based conservative law group, said the ACLU was trying to erase historic references to Christianity.

"The ACLU is not attempting to bring accommodation. That already exists," he said. "They're trying to erase history. Courtroom oaths have always been done on the Bible."

But Charles Haynes, a scholar at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., said the affirmation oath was designed for people of no faith, not for people of faiths other than Christianity.

"It gives Muslims and Jews the message, 'You are a lesser citizen than those who put their hand on the Bible,' " he said. "Nobody wants to be made to feel an outsider."
I think they are both right. It is troubling not to accommodate Jews, who were the messengers who brought us the Christ, by allowing the use of the Hebrew Scriptures. As for those of other faiths, or no faith, they are accommodated by allowing them to simply swear by their version of God, or to affirm.

Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians need to know they live in a Christian nation. Which is how they get their freedom to worship according to their conscience in the first place. Freedom of conscience was a necessary product of the (Christian) sectarian wars that the Founders were fearful of repeating in the New World. I would claim further that it was the love shown by Jesus for all that was the example used. We Christians may believe that none will come to the Father but through Jesus (John 14:6), yet we also know that judgment on those who have not chosen Jesus Christ as Savior will not be carried by men, but by God (John 5:21-29).

There is something, however, that ought to trouble Christians who are asked to take a public oath. Something our Savior told us in Matthew 5:
33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn. 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply Yes or No; anything more than this comes from evil.
The Christian, then, ought not to worry about oaths, and, frankly, ought not to swear at all for the reasons that Jesus has given us. When we must swear, Holy Scriptures will do nicely. But should not be necessary.

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7.29.2005    |    All GodBloggers Are Baptists...
...and Other Random Thoughts. This is the title of Joe Carter's thought-provoking post today. As a Baptist, I can say that Joe's got a good point, though of course I wouldn't go as far as he does and say "all".

Many, if not most bloggers, faith-based or otherwise, tend to be a complicated mix of hermits and hucksters. If you prefer, in the God business, monks and streetcorner evangelists. In short, many of us guys in our pjs in our dens or living rooms (remember the snide put-downs by the mainstream media during Dan Rather's fall from grace last year?), flailing away at the keyboard, publishing God-knows what tripe, in the hopes of attracting at least three site hits daily.

We want to be out there, mingling with our brethren, preaching the Gospel (even if your gospel happens to be how to give Fluffy her flea and tick wash). Yet, for the most part, we keep on keeping on, typing away by ourselves. Now, for us GodBloggers, does that make us Baptists? Well, I am a Baptist, and therefore, in theory, free from any denominational oversight, but I'm pretty certain I'd be blogging were I Episcopalian or Catholic. From Carter's Post:
Many bloggers, of course, will claim that their sites are exempt from denominational oversight. But should that be true? If a Presbyterian minister writes regularly on issues about religion and theology, why should her writing be exempt from denominational authority? Or what if a Lutheran laymen and a Catholic priest hold a regular open debate? Should they not be held to account as if they were writing in a denominational magazine or journal?
For me the answers are as easy as falling off a log: a big, fat, resounding "No!" As in, all Christians should be free from denominational authority, which is, after all, man-made.

But not so fast, Baptist boy says. Even we Baptists adhere to authority, despite what others may perceive. The difference is that we recognize but one Authority, and but a single source: Scripture. Now we come to a point where I've got to put on the brakes. Baptists may be free from the hierarchical blues, but that doesn't mean we allow Devil-worshippers in the tent. We may not recite any creeds (ugh, creeds), but that does not mean we don't believe every single word in the Nicene Creed (most Baptists I've met say they do). It just means we don't use any creed as a denominational test.

The closest we come to a test is that a Baptist will tend to agree with the notion that the Bible is God's inerrant word about His mighty works. Leaving our denomination free to include unreconstructed Calvinists like meself, and a whole bunch of free-range Arminians.

Makes for interesting discussions at Sunday school. And, getting back to Joe Carter's question,
I suspect that most people will answer "no." They would claim that their blogs are not only not churches or ministries but that they are free from congregational authority, even when they are writing about issues concerning their denomination's view of doctrine. So then is my contention true? Are all GodBloggers Baptists at heart?
Yes, indeed Joe. We GodBloggers are Baptists at heart.

Y'all are finally coming around to our way of thinking...

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7.28.2005    |    Religious test?
The open-mouth-insert-foot senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, is at it again. This time, in his zeal to promote the culture of death in America, he has engaged Supreme Court nominee John Roberts on whether his Catholic faith would interfere with killing unborn babies.

Well, ok, Durbin didn't put it quite like that. What he did do, was sneakier, but this was its underlying message. According to a law professor (via the LA Times), Durbin queried Roberts as to "what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral." Now, you need to know the point of view of the writer, an apparent secular liberal. Why the label of "secular liberal?" Consider the following by the writer, Jonathan Turley, a law professor, on the exchange between Durbin and Roberts:
Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.

It was the first unscripted answer in the most carefully scripted nomination in history. It was also the wrong answer. In taking office, a justice takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. A judge's personal religious views should have no role in the interpretation of the laws. (emphasis added)
Consider carefully that last part: no role for religious views in interpretation of the law. The faithful man would insist that a judge ground his intepretations of the law of men with the precepts of the Almighty. Only a man who worships the things made by man would insist otherwise.

This, then, is the dilemma for John Roberts and for any other man or woman whose beliefs are grounded in faith. We know that the laws of man must be based on the laws of God, else they have no moral grounding. No, this isn't a "theocracy." It is what the American founders envisioned; it is their faith that inspired our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. A John Adams, a James Madison, a George Washington simply would not have understood the kind of anti-God question posed by the Durbins of this world.

Getting past the legalism that there shall be no "religious test" for any office in the United States (Article VI, Clause 3: "...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."), it is clear that Dick Durbin and other pro-death Democrats desire a litmus test on abortion. A nominee's Catholic faith, assuming he is faithful to it, is, therefore, sufficient grounds to deny confirmation.

It is hard to see this as anything other than a religious test. Alternately, if a nominee denies a core teaching of his faith in order to gain an office, perhaps he will have sold his soul to Satan for the pride of achieving a wordly good.

Perhaps in the process losing the Kingdom of Heaven.

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7.26.2005    |    "Islam is a terror organization"
This is the tag line from a local radio talk show host's program yesterday. The host, Michael Graham, has his own blog at the radio station's website, where you can read the context of the quotation.

Mr. Graham has, natrually, attracted the usual haters who claim he is defaming the "religion of peace." A story, in the Washington Post, is titled,"Muslims Call Comments by WMAL Host 'Hate-Filled.'" So what else is new in the world? Islamists continue to be suicide bombers and just plain old vanilla bombers; Muslims, whether Islamists or not, are the vast majority of terrorists around the world, showing no compunction about killing men, women, children, regardless of their combatant status.

Michael Graham's central point is that Islam hasn't come to grips with the fact that heinous acts are committed in its name. Hasn't policed itself, and thrown the rascals out. Perhaps it is because the religion is tolerant of anything done to us infidels, and only intolerant when some of us in the West notice. He says, it isn't that he hates Islam. He plainly says that his only interest "is not getting blown to smithereens when I board a bus or ride a plane."

As for an analogy, consider this from his blog:
If the Boy Scouts of America had 1,000 scout troops, and 10 of them practiced suicide bombings, then the BSA would be considered a terrorist organization. If the BSA refused to kick out those 10 troops, that would make the case even stronger. If people defending terror repeatedly turned to the Boy Scout handbook and found language that justified and defended murder—and the scoutmasters in charge simply said "Could be"—the Boy Scouts would have [been] driven out of America long ago.
Since Islam is, technically, a religion, consider, as a counter-example, instead of the Boy Scouts, it was, say, a large Christian denomination. Let's just say that some Southern Baptists (and you know how cranky some of us can be...) decided to start killing those they considered to be infidels -- which might include Roman Catholics, and would certainly include those pesky Methodists (remember, please, this is fantasy here). Exactly how long do you suppose it might take before the Southern Baptists kicked them out and helped the Federales track them down? Not even as long as it took me to write this, would it take for the condemnations to start.

With Islam, their spokescreeps are offended when a Michael Graham speaks the truth. Where's their outrage when Muslims blow up innocents on a London subway? Or kids getting toys in Iraq? Or an Israeli couple?

There is no excuse for Islamic terror. God has told us, through Moses, "Thou shalt not murder." The God that Muslims worship is, clearly, not the true God. "Allah" is a perversion of our Lord. Jesus preached, and gave, peace with his death and resurrection. Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, has given us only the sword.

Muslims, you have a beef with Israelis for living on land you claim to be yours? Negotiate your differences in peace. You have a beef with Londoners because Britain helped to liberate Iraq? Vote for peacenik MPs. There's a long list of Islamic grievances, not least including some of the same things that we Christians find wrong in the modern world. Rather than engage in the public square, Islam turns almost exclusively to conquest, and when they can't conquer us, suicide bombings and other murders. Murder and mayhem are all that Islam seems to understand.

God will judge Muslims for allowing this; we, in the here and now, must protect innocents against them.

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7.25.2005    |    Not fair, certainly not balanced
Unlike Fox News, so-called mainstream media such as the Associated Press consider Israel to be just like its neighbors, and to be equally at fault for any bad things that happen. Witness the latest headline:

Israeli couple, 2 Gaza gunmen die in new violence

"New violence." So balanced, you'd never know that there were two terrorists who plotted and carried out this attack on a man and woman. The AP also carried the story of those two animals, hopefully the ones killed by Israel, here.

Notice the use of the word "activist" to describe two terrorists, getting ready prior to "attacking an Israeli target." This is what a man and a woman are, in AP-speak, I presume -- targets. And those who plot and carry out such heinous attacks are "activists."

The Christian take on this must be to condemn the Palestinian terrorists, and the so-called Palestinian "government" that continues to allow, if not actively aid and abet such terror. It is still unclear how much of the latter goes on, as it certainly did under Arafat. If the Palestinians are to have a nation-state, they need first to control its terrorists.

It is not that Israel can do no wrong. Scripture is full of examples where Israel has sinned, and been punished for it. Israel exists only at the sufferance of God, in fulfillment of promises made -- and that is the key difference between modern Israel and any of its neighbors.

The Palestinians may simply be yet another idolatrous foe to be dispatched from the scene with God's sanction. Or, they may be a test for the Jews on how they will, as their prophet Micah told them they must, "do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). Either way, we must allow for Israel having a central role in the coming end times, and the fulfillment of Christian prophecy. To do this, she must first be allowed to live in peace.

Our role, in the here and now? Do justice, which first demands that terrorists not kill innocents. And definitely give witness to the fact that the liberal media does not know the difference between terrorists and the innocent.
7.24.2005    |    Matthew 7:15
Which is Jesus telling us, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." There are many false prophets, but perhaps the most insidious are those who claim to preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ -- yet deny Him.

The Mormons are in this category; claiming Christ in their title, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, yet expanding on His Gospel and creating a new gospel out of whole cloth. It now seems that one of their precious fairy tales is coming unraveled.

One of those fairy tales is that, somehow, and absent any archaelogical or other evidence (other than a "prophet's" claims, none substantiated), Polynesians and Native Americans are descendants of a lost tribe of Israel. Well, it seems that a pesky Australian soon-to-be-ex-Mormon scientist, Simon Southerton, is under attack for the heresy of using scientific evidence to debunk a theory what strikes some (ok, at least me) as, well, bizarre. Dr. Southerton has written "Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church". The bottom line? Scientifically, at least, any connections between Polynesians, Native Americans, and Israelites simply don't exist.

Here, the believer has to back up, and remember that that is sometimes what faith is about -- belief in things unseen. Skeptics are always reminding us that we've no modern, scientific proof even that Jesus lived, let alone was resurrected. We have plenty of other proof, for instance, eye-witnesses who later preached the Gospel. Records of activities in and around the time of Jesus. But there's no "hard" evidence, say, for example, a videotape, or photographs, or anything else that would pass a skeptic's muster today.

The Mormon case is different. It is now asking its members to continue to believe a blasphemous addition to Scripture that is directly contradicted by modern science. It is one thing to say, "I believe in this because I have faith." It's quite another to continue to believe something that is a) fanciful to begin with, b) contradicts the fundamental truth of the Christian Gospel, and, c) is strongly refuted by hard, scientific evidence.

We are all entitled to believe what we will. We are none of us entitled to claim that, somehow, God is concealing something by allowing His scientific laws to be bent or broken on behalf of our idiosyncratic reading of Christ and His people Israel. When you do this, you are now in violation of both the true Christian faith, and logic.

And, are exactly what we've been warned against: a false prophet.

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7.23.2005    |    Death Penalty = Idolatry?
Food for thought. Those Christians who think they are comfortable with the state's execution of criminals should read Joseph Bottum's essay in First Things, "Christians and the Death Penalty". The essence of his argument is that, as with the murder of Abel by Cain, the "crying out of the blood from the ground" is such a heinous crime as to exceed the state's authority to carry out. Romans 13 notwithstanding.

From Mr. Bottum's piece, some essentials:
Capital punishment may occasionally be necessary in a modern democracy, but it is never right, for the death penalty is not in a line with other punishments. A five-year sentence and a twenty-year sentence, even a life sentence, are related as more or less severe forms of imprisonment. Execution belongs to another order of punishment.

Without constant pressure from the New Testament’s revelation of Christ’s death and resurrection, the state always threatens to rise back up as an idol. And one sign of a government’s overreaching is its claim of power to balance the books of the universe—to repay blood with blood.
Highly recommended for any Christian who thinks they are in favor of the death penalty. Or for any Christian who thinks they are against it. Read it. You might be surprised; who knows, might even change your mind.

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7.22.2005    |    An Islamic Reformation?
If you google "Islamic Reformation", you will get a huge assortment of information, opinions, and outright fabrications.

Much of it is quite interesting, to say the least. Here, for example, via Front Page, I discoved "Walid Shoebat", a former PLO terrorist-turned Christian Zionist. Go figure.

There are many conflicting opinions, too much parsing of the Koran, too little application of Occam's Razor. My take on the subject is simple, perhaps overly so. But I think that the very use of the term, "Reformation," with the intended comparison to the Protestant Reformation, is not valid.

Some points:
  1. In Islam there is no separation of mosque and state; Islam appears to have never varied from this basic principle.

  2. In Christianity, Jesus himself tells us to "render unto Caesar" (Mt. 22:21); since the mid-17th century, one essential feature of true Protestants has been their intentional separation from the secular government (and one could even argue as to whether Geneva, Bern, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, to take three examples, were ever truly theocracies).

  3. Islam requires that all submit to Islam, preferably by becoming Muslim, but if they do not, then accepting second-class status in an Islamic state, or, if they resist, "cutting of the neck." The dignity of the individual is less important than the unity of Islam. These are impossible to rank in Christianity

  4. Jesus has, properly, shown Christians that all men (and women) are equal in dignity and worthy of God's love. We Protestants may believe that God's judgment will fall on all, but that is up to God to execute-- not us.
  5. Muslims are told by their holy book to include armed force in spreading the faith; Christians who follow Jesus' example will love their enemies; the use of force to spread the Gospel would be an anathema to a true Christian.
Stated differently, the heart of the Protestant Reformation was the recovery of the original, and, in our view, authentic Christianity -- Christianity that is true to the Gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of churchmen. Those who bring up the Crusades*, the Inquisition, and all the other evil perpetrated or allowed by "Christians" must know this: those who did so were Christian in name only. Our Protestant Reformation changed many things, but it could not change the fact that all men are born in sin -- churchmen included. So we Christians acknowledge our sins, and at least attempt to correct our actions. Attempt. We're still trying to get it right, and, though we may fail, at least our theory is good. With Islam, the theory is not good.

We do share some things with Islam, one of which is our belief that our faith is the one true faith -- as they believe theirs to be. We both can't be right. Islam has, since its inception, attempted to prevail by the sword. Christianity, after it became a state religion, and until after the Reformation was well underway, pretty much did the same thing.

Christians, by and large, have become tolerant of false religions in our midst. This, too, is a hallmark of the Reformation, as it now includes the freedom of the individual's conscience to worship as he sees fit. In brief, we are already tolerant of Muslims in our midst; as Londoners should now realize, far too much, in my opinion.

Christians tolerate Muslims in the here and now; Muslims are, shall we say, somewhat less so inclined. If you dispute this, try preaching the Lord's Gospel on the streets of most any Muslim nation -- and be prepared to run for your very life. And it all traces back to their holy book, the Koran.

The only "reformation" that would work would be for Islam to abandon their scripture, or add some new passages that will truly allow peaceful coexistence and recognize that each of us is alike in human dignity -- regardless of our professed religion. However, so long as the Koran is viewed as the literal word of Allah, and therefore unchangeable, they will be a religion of war, and not of peace.

*No, I'm not among those who consider the Crusades to be an embarrassment. Just that there was quite a bit of vile, unchristian behavior during them, to say the least. Then there's that whole indulgences thing for going on a holy war; the whole thing reeks, even if it was simply a reaction to Muslim aggression.

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7.20.2005    |    "Fear God and give him glory..."
...because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water." Thus says the angel in Revelation 14:7. Sinners, if we wait until the time of judgment to "fear" God, it's too late. We must fear him now.

Anybody who reads the Bible should fear God in the sense of having a respectful dread of the future that is in His hands alone. We are to be judged, and that judgment will affect how we spend eternity. So "dread" and "fear" are not over the top. Anything less than this, when we worship God, is just not right.

When we worship we should view God, our Creator, as truly awe-inspiring in a way that makes the current overuse of "awesome" look puny and vapid. One mustn't describe a television show as "awesome", and then use the same word to describe how we approach the Almighty.

And this is the heart of what ails much modern, mega-church (and not-so-mega-church) worship: a lack of the true fear of God, the use of music, feigned hipness (gotta get those twenty-somethings into the pews), and, especially, the sappy every-day-in-every-way-I'm-getting-better-and-better approach to being a Christian -- the "gospel of prosperity" (think Joel Osteen and Robert Schuller).

This may be fun, and it may feel good. But church is not a place to feel good. It should not be a sanctuary from the wicked world. It is not a place of refuge for us. It is not a museum for saints. What church is, or should be, is a hospital for us sinners. A place to worship God through His word. A place to, at least metaphorically, fall to our knees and fear God's judgment on an evil world.

And know that we are very much a part of that world.

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7.19.2005    |    "religion of peace drek"
Excellent post by Discoshaman at Le Sabot Post Moderne. The essence of the post is expressed in the quotation from it that is the title here. My comment at Le Sabot:

I prefer logic to guessing or wishing. Some of us (all, I'd guess) wish Islam were, truly, a "religion of peace" rather than a religion of (body) pieces. Then we could deal with them as merely being in error, and not as enemies of our very being.

Logic, however, dictates that, given a world-wide population on the order of a billion souls, there would be some actions taken to stop the armed aggression against the West. And armed agression is the best name for what is actually going on, notwithstanding the evasion, sugar-coating, and outright denial to the contrary.

Muslims are not a persecuted minority in most of the places they live. They are in charge. In charge of governments, with police and armed forces. Logic dictates that, were they so inclined, they could clean up the viper's nest in their midst.

The condemnations by a pitiful few Muslims give the lie to their being anything other than fully committed to destroying Christianity and Judaism. And any other religion that does not submit and bow down to Islam.

When in doubt, apply Occam's Razor -- make no more assumptions than needed. In other words, the simplest explanation is likely the correct explanation.

With Islam as it has been practiced since its bloody inception on the Arabian Peninsula, res ipsa loquitur.

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7.18.2005    |    Reformation Study Bible
Just received my Reformation Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul and using the English Standard Version. It is a one-stop source for, pardon the expression, Zondervan fans, "The Spirit of the Reformation." The many notes on Reformation theology are crisp and to the point, with more than sufficient Scriptural backing for each issue.

Now, a confession: I'm a Zondervan fan, have both their NIV and KJV Study Bibles, and use them constantly. But since I discovered the ESV, I've been looking for a good study Bible that is both faithful to the Reformation (as Zondervan's study notes are) yet based on the better ESV translation (more on what "better" means to me below).

The ESV sets the new standard for clarity to the modern reader without sacrificing accuracy of translation. Although the NIV may be a smoother read to the modern eye, it must always be a little suspect as to the unintended personal biases that are bound to have crept in as a result of the points of view of the translators. After all, a "thought-for-thought" translation, which the NIV is, has to be colored by the thoughts of the translator. Nothing sinister here; just human nature.

As for the KJV, it remains my favorite for its poetry, and for conveying the mighty and brave faith shown by the original translators in the early 17th century. That said, its English language usage is, of course, dated to the point of being archaic. As a result, clarity of meaning sometimes suffers. With the ESV, I have the same confidence in the overall accuracy as I do with the KJV -- but with much greater ease of understanding.

The ESV Reformation Study Bible has rock-solid exegesis of the basic elements of the Reformed faith, starting at Genesis with the fall of man (our totally depraved natures); ending with fiery judgment at the Throne in Revelation promised by Jesus. I would commend it for any who would call themselves "Protestant." This is not to say that other versions are not worthy -- just that the ESV is the best modern update of the gold standard for God's Word in English -- the King James Version.

I've given it 5 stars (in a review at Amazon.com), although I do have a couple of points that could improve any future editions. First would be to improve the quality of the book as a book. The leather, the binding, and the paper in this Ligonier Ministries Bible are not quite up to what I've come to expect. I would also prefer the words of Christ in red (they are not in this version). These amount to quibbles, and are insignificant in comparison with the Reformation Study Bible's Word in readable and accurate English, combined with an impeccable Reformation understanding of God's message of salvation.

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7.17.2005    |    Hair
Hair, the hippie-themed musical from the bad old days, celebrates, among other things, growing hair. Pretty lame, actually. For those who weren't around in the late 1960s, you need to know that back then it was considered rebellious to grow long hair -- if you were a guy.

The longer the better, actually. It really annoyed the adults, it seems -- at least the ones who saw anything different as a challenge to their authority. Speaking of authority, consider what Paul tells us about hair in 1 Corinthians 11:
14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
Now, consider these verses, written "under the influence", as they say, not of strong wine, but of the Holy Spirit. Then take a look at the image of Jesus, which is fairly typical of the many images of our saviour I've seen over the years. What do all the images have in common? They routinely show Jesus as having long, long hair. Hippie-length hair, in fact. From the musical, Hair, lyrics from the title song:
My hair like Jesus wore it
Hallelujah I adore it
Hallelujah Mary loved her son
Why don't my Mother love me?
So, was Paul confused? Was he in error? What should we make today of a man who shows up in church with Jesus-length hair? Or of a woman who shows up with that funky, mid-1990s Sinead O'Connor look?

The answers are, no, Paul wasn't confused, and wasn't in error. He was simply noting that we go to church to worship and praise God as a community. Not to make waves; not to make a "statement" with our bodies, clothing, or hair. It's about Him, not us. That was the practice in the first century churches.

Today we've a different practice. Those who do show up with hair that seems at variance with 1 Corinthians, we should welcome with open arms -- without even really noticing how long (or short) their hair is.

It is what Jesus would do.

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7.16.2005    |    "A Few Good Men"
Just saw, again, the 1992 film, "A Few Good Men." Great cast. Interesting plot; in general, very well done. Then I realized, which I hadn't done 13 years ago when first I saw it, that this film was a textbook case of Christian-bashing in the popular culture -- although its first nominal target would appear to have been the gung-ho patriotism of the Corps.

It is nominally about a murder at our Marine Corps base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A murder that was officially ordered ("Code Red", and not the Mountain Dew beverage). Rather, a disciplinary tool that was used on a Private Santiago which went horribly wrong and resulted in his death.

There are heroes -- especially the lead counsel for the two Marines who stand accused of Santiago's death -- played by Tom Cruise, as an underachieving son of a late and apparently beloved civil-libertarian who was Attorney General. And then there are villians. Jack Nicholson as the evil and manipulating Col. Jessep, and Kiefer Sutherland, before he became the good-guy agent Jack Bauer, playing the despicable redneck Christian (as portrayed in the film, that is), Lieutenant Jonathan James Kendrick, a Marine lifer from Georgia.

The Kendrick character is portrayed as mean-spirited and a robot, caring only for excessively harsh discipline towards the men under his command. He is a common enough villian for the Hollywood elite (this film was directed by ultra-left Rob Reiner) -- the patriot, the military man, portrayed as just plain nasty and uncaring. And, of course, portrayed as sucking up to his commanding officer (old and crude saying from the U.S. military: "Lick up; kick down").

But consider these two bits of dialogue, obtained from the screen play. Both are spoken by Kendrick:
  • I believe in God, and in his son Jesus Christ, and because I do, I can say this: Private Santiago is dead and that's a tragedy. But he's dead because he had no code. He's dead because he had no honor. And God was watching.
  • I have two books at my bedside, Lieutenant, the Marine Code of Conduct and the King James Bible. The only proper authorities I'm aware of are my Commanding Officer, Colonel Nathan R. Jessep and the Lord our God.
There you have a portrait of the young "Christian" officer: uncaring; unfeeling; as portrayed, a Bible-thumping troglodyte.

The problem is not that there aren't such men. Sadly, there are. But here's the problem in this movie: Kendrick is the only character who says anything about his religious faith. The character is not balanced by others who portray their faith and are seen as good in the movie. The movie is egregious in its bias against Christianity.

The message? Enjoy movies; but always be aware of their messages, especially those that portray so-called Christians in such a negative and one-sided light.

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7.15.2005    |    Looking for God in Harry Potter
More on my favorite wizard and an affirmation that it's not evil to read about him. There's a book whose theme is that there are many pointers to Jesus Christ in the Harry Potter enterprise: "Looking for God in Harry Potter" by John Granger.

Christianity Today has an extract from "Looking" that focuses on the symbolism posed by the varied mythological creatures that appear in the HP seried: unicorns, a phoenix bird, centaurs, and others. As regards these critters, the author makes the point that "Each is a traditional symbol of arts and letters used to point to the qualities and person of Christ." This makes sense to me, and reinforces my approach to the HP phenomenon: Always seek Christ, and you will find Him.

A final extract from the author (also via Christianity Today) is worth noting:
The Harry Potter stories, in their formulaic journeys that end every year with love's triumph over death in the presence of a Christ symbol, find their power and popularity in the resonance they create in our hearts. We connect with them because they point toward the Truth Myth that saves us. The gospel has rarely, if ever, been smuggled into the hearts and minds of readers so successfully and profoundly.
This business of having "smuggled" (almost rhymes with"muggle") the gospel into the hearts and minds of readers caught my eye.

If a Harry Potter book can get people interested in reading Christ's actual gospel, I would be a happy camper. I'm a little doubtful of this outcome, but, one never should say never. Who knows, even despite Exodus 22:18, the Holy Spirit may overlook an overbroad reading of one verse, if a tale about a young wizard can be used bring some to Christ.

Now here's something to ponder: If we are truly predestined for salvation, as we are told by Paul in Ephesians 1:5, is, therefore, Harry Potter a part of God's plan for bringing souls to Christ? Or is the author of "Looking for God in Harry Potter" inverting cause and effect: those who see Christ in the Harry Potter enterprise have already been predestined for salvation?

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7.14.2005    |    "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"
Thus saith the Lord (Exodus 22:18). How about a wizard named Harry Potter? The soon-to-be released sixth book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" raises the question anew for believing Christians and Jews. As a side note, isn't that a curious formulation: "believing" Christians. Actually, there is no other kind.

Scripture is plain; God forbids witchcraft. So how can a Christian read the Harry Potter books or see the movies, other than as an object lesson in avoiding the mark of the beast? I don't know, and here's a confession: I'm hooked on the Harry Potter series. I also see distinctly Christian themes in JK Rowling's works (examples would include fighting evil with good; Albus Dumbledore as a good shephard if not the Good Shephard Christ; Harry himself as a disciple of the Good; disdain for prejudice).

And yet, after all is said and done, there is not a direct acknowledgment of the source of Harry's goodness and power. These are, perhaps, Christian-themed works, but without Christ. Although, curiously, at Hogwarts they do have a "Christmas" holiday, and the characters give each other presents, and wish each other, in the English manner, "Happy Christmas."

There is no shortage of Christians who view the entire Harry Potter enterprise as evil; here's but one example. Before we are so quick to condemn JK and Harry, consider this question: When you download your e-mail, do you actually know how this seemingly simple task is done? Most of us, except for the techie wizards (yes, pun intended), haven't a clue; we simply click on "send/receive" and wait for the result.

To a Christian who lived prior to 1900, this would be indistinguishable from witchcraft. It is, frankly, magical to most Christians today, if they sat down and thought about it at all. Now we all know that e-mail is a tool of Satan...surely he must have invented spam. But the process is explainable in scientific terms, and is like any other technology -- morally neutral of and by itself.

For the "real" magic we find in Harry Potter, the same might apply. The same power, hidden to us muggles, is used for both good and evil purposes. Of and by itself, magic is presented as morally neutral. Sort of like technology.

The logical man's conclusion? Technology and magic are merely different aspects of the same thing: the application of power that we can't truly understand, and either may be used for good -- or evil.

Except, the Christian must remain uneasy at any celebration of the occult in Harry Potter. The reasonable Christian may enjoy the books and movies, but always, always, asking the question: where is Christ? And we must always be mindful that God has prohibited us witchcraft -- if it detracts from His glory, or separates us from salvation through His Son.

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7.13.2005    |    Muslims in the news
Reading today's Washington Post, I was struck by how much of the news and commentary(other than what Karl Rove may or may not have thought) has to do with Arabs and Muslims. We have the following samples:It's a grim picture: Muslims killing children and other innocents; Muslims killing Muslims with darker skins in Darfur; Muslims living in a Western nation without truly joining in the commonweal.

There are two explanations. The politically correct, and guilty white liberal perspective, is that we in the West just don't understand these Arabs and Muslims. We ourselves must have caused this hatred by something we did, or did not do. Alternately, this heinous behavior must be caused by, take your pick, poverty, lack of economic opportunity, lack of health care, etc. etc.

The more likely explanation, and the obvious one, is that at least some fraction of the Muslim world is, simply, at war with the West. Every culture, every religion, has evildoers. We in the West know who and what our demons are, and we do an admirable job of controlling them. Not completely; just rather well in contrast with the past. And most certainly in contrast with the lack of control the Muslim world exerts on its demons.
7.12.2005    |    "God Hates Fags"
This is the title, and the apparent theme, for the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. These folks go about the country protesting, among other things, any grief shown at the passing of an American hero. They also are quick to tell us that the 9/11 attacks, and other terrorist attacks, are simply brought down on us by the wrath of God, owing to our sins. Here's what these kindly folks have to say about the recent London attacks:
Thank God for the bombing of London's subway today - July 7, 2005 - wherein dozens were killed and hundreds seriously injured. Wish it was many more.

"But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction; truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth." Jer. 7:28.
People who put forth this hatred will be judged, just as surely as they claim God is judging our nation for its sins. Here's the difficulty for the believing Christian: isn't there a nagging little voice that says, "hey, these folks are crude and rude, but are they truly wrong?"

Two points. First, God surely will judge the nations, as he has done in the past, surely he will so do in the future. Got that, Westboro and company? God will do the judging. Not thee; not me. That being said, it is clear to me, at least, that there is much that goes on in America and Britain that is sinful. The Westboro folks are not wrong in this. However, on the other hand, and with things of God, it seems there is always another hand, there is the second point.

The second point is that one should not take a single verse and think one thereby knows the mind of God. Yet we must know that God hates sin, and that homosexuality is among them. Homosexuality, not homosexuals. We know this, not simply through a few verses, but through the theme of both testaments. We know that God expects his children to avoid sin. But no matter what the sin, or who the sinner, God loves each and every one of us. God "hates" no person. How could he? He'd be hating himself, as he made us in his image.

God may condemn us to the fire for our sins and lack of repentance at the end, but he will never do so out of hatred. He will do so out of love. And here's something for the "God Hates Fags" folks -- God loves even you, though you hold his gospel up as a source of hatred. It might do you some good to reflect on that infinite love, a love that can tolerate the worst kind of vile behavior.

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7.11.2005    |    Islamic Theocracy in Europe
There's a front-page story in today's Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link; subscription required) headlined thusly:

As Muslims Call Europe Home, Dangerous Isolation Takes Root.

With subheadings highlighting the fact that "politcal Islam" preaches intolerance in France, where the data for the story was obtained.

The thrust of the article is that Muslims in Europe have been ghettoized; they don't wish to or perhaps are unable to because of racism become full citizens of the countries they live in. The biggest single point is that Islam is considered not just a religion, but a full way of life. A way of life that is incompatible, to say the least, with the secular religion that holds sway in most of Europe.

As a Christian reading this, my first reaction was simple: here is the enemy of my faith, attempting to do through demographics and infiltration what they were unable to do one thousand years ago with the sword. After some thought, however, I had a different reaction: these people are merely attempting to live their faith as they believe it must be lived. And by "must", I mean, and they mean, as dictated by God himself. That's a pretty strong must.

This does not mean I think that their faith in any way admirable. It is not; it is false; it denies Biblical truth, all that spew about "the three Abrahamic faiths" notwithstanding. So I have no respect for their faith; just a tolerance that people should be allowed to practice their faith in peace. So long as they leave others in peace to practice theirs -- stories of a "golden age" of Andalusia notwithstanding, the notion Islam will be peaceful and tolerant if (when, it seems) it is in control of Europe is a fairy tale.

It is on this very point where, on final reflection, I realized that the Islamization of Europe will be a true disaster for human rights in that region. The tolerance that we Christians usually afford minority faiths is almost totally absent in Islam as it is practiced today. Islamists, those who don't preach suicide bombings and other mayhem, still preach that Islam is the only true faith. Then they can quote verses in the Koran that call on faithful Muslims to kill the infidel -- if we won't convert to Islam.

The WSJ front-page story is "first in a series." WSJ is generally considered a conservative news outlet, neocon, even, in its support for our war on terror and the connections between Iraq and Islamic terror in general. The concept of Islam as a threat to the Christian (or at least post-Christian) West is not something I expect to see highlighted in the liberal mainstream media anytime soon. It should be.

Side note: The WSJ may be just catching up on Bat Ye'Or's seminal work on the subject: "Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis".

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7.10.2005    |    Moderation
We so-called Christian conservatives, sometimes called "social" conservatives, are advised to be happy with a "moderate" Supreme Court nominee such as Alberto Gonzalez. Let's get the president's choice confirmed; let's be practical. It will be harder for the Democrats to filibuster someone who is perceived as not wishing to end abortion on demand.

Let's just, in other words, bite our tongue about how we truly feel about life and death issues; the end game is to get a Republican on the Supreme Court. The paramount political virtue? Moderation.

In reply, my hope is that those of us who believe that an abortion kills a human being; those of us who believe that sodomy and homosexuality and a host of other perversions remain sinful; those of us who acknowledge that God is the author of us and of our liberties; those of us who know that He will judge our sins harshly when we come before the judgment seat -- we can not accept "moderation" in the tolerance of such sins.

Better to go down in flames fighting the good fight for life, than to meekly say, "ok, some abortion is acceptable; after all, the nominee will be good for business." The problem is that it is God who has told us, through His inerrant Word, that He
knitted me together in my mother's womb (Psalm 139:13).
That's me; that's thee; that is all of us. In the womb He knew us; in the womb He formed us. We are His even before we take our first breath. Which is precisely why it is a heinous crime to kill in the womb.

Moderation in food and drink and in many, many, other things is admirable and to be desired. Moderation in the case of choosing life or death is the path to damnation. There is no choice for the Christian (or Jew, for that matter):
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Choose life; choose Supreme Court justices who are committed to life. Moderation in such a choice is a compromise with death, and violates God's commandment to choose life. And violation of God's commandment is another way of saying sin.

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7.09.2005    |    Sacred space?
Ever been in a great cathedral? They're hard to avoid, if you travel in Europe. No, not that they've got men outside who drag you inside, kicking and screaming against your will. Rather, if you are a Christian, any denomination, you've got a natural curiosity about these monstrosities and their role in the history of the church.

I write "monstrosities" simply because so many of the cathedrals in Europe are so large, so ornate, as to not glorify God but rather the prideful builders. In other words, to my mind, they subtract, rather than add to our worship. And, unfortunately, the confusion of a huge, ornate, temple as a monument to God isn't limited to Europe.

A story in today's Washington Post brings up what I call the edifice complex that so many faiths become ensared in. The story is about the creation of a $4.5 million Syrian Orthodox church, with hand-worked "pale golden marble" quarried in, yep, from Syria, and shipped all the way here to America. The church required the work of many artisans, and they've been at it for four years. From the Post:
The craftsmen were finishing the installation of the new domed altar and arching stone iconostas, an elaborate partition that holds the baptismal font and brilliant painted icons, images of Christ and the saints.

Shalhoub, a Syrian and Orthodox Christian who learned reverence for the ancient stone and for Bible stories from his father and grandfather, stepped back and surveyed the work with pride. (emphasis added)
This "reverence for the ancient stone" says it all. Not to pick on the Syrian church; just that it is emblemmatic of what so many of us do. We revere things of this world, and somehow don't feel complete in our worship until we have a big, ornate "sacred space" in which to pray.

I admire beautiful things as much as the next man. I am respectful of other worship traditions -- to the point where they cross the line to idolotry, the worship of something that is less than God. The Syrians in Potomac, Maryland (where this "sacred space" is located) may have forgotten the Gospel message of Jesus: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

That is all it takes. It doesn't require a $4.5 million church. It doesn't require "pale golden marble." It doesn't require glittering idols called icons. He, our Lord, may be worshiped by two homeless men beneath a bridge. In a park. In someone's living room. In a Baptist meeting house. And, of course, in a big, ornate cathedral or icon-packed church. Although perhaps the glitter in the latter might hinder our seeing Him...

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7.08.2005    |    Romans 13, again
A few months ago I posted on Romans 13, which, to me, looks very much like a redaction to curry favor with the Roman authorities of the day. Be that as it may, I wrote, and still believe, the following:

...we should not give blind obedience to any secular ruler. God, in fact, has also inspired us to not just accept tyranny. A ruler, to retain God's blessing, must be just (see, for example, 2 Samuel 23:3). This is the context for Romans 13 -- not blind obedience to any ruler (can anyone say "Nazis"?), but obedience to authorities who rule justly. In fact, one of the greatest churchmen of the Reformation, William Tyndale, is quoted as saying "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God!", and of course he is correct.

Writing this simply, of course, does not mean I think that it is ever a simple thing to assess whether a given ruler is just in the eyes of God. As Christians, the best we can do is focus on the Kingdom of God, prepare for His return, and in the meantime, resist tyranny where we find it, and understand that just governments derive their true authority from Almighty God.
Now comes a different, and, frankly, more Christian approach from John Piper. I did not agree with all of what Mr. Piper writes, especially where he seems to be endorsing blind obedience to your civic leaders,
because if you don’t, your conscience will condemn you for breaking the higher moral law of God.
Did not agree, that is, until I came upon the crux of his argument: faith and humility.

If we approach our duties and rights as citizens in the secular world with the full realization that we are first and last subservient to God (as are our rulers), then we may simply bear the burdens of the unjust ruler. With faith that God will right all in the end, and with the humility to accept that, in John Piper's words,
Both matter: civil liberties and social justice on the one hand, and personal faith and humility and self-denial, on the other. But in Paul’s mind, faith and humility and self-denial are vastly more important for the Christian than that we be treated well by the government. And the reason is this: Being persecuted unjustly is not the reason anyone goes to hell. But being unbelieving and arrogant and self-indulgent is why most people go to hell. Jesus never promised his people a fair fight. He promised them the opposite: if they treated the master of the house like the devil, how much worse will they treat you. The main issue is not being treated justly in this world by civil authorities. The main issue is trusting Christ, being humble and denying ourselves for the glory of Christ and the good of others.
Despite words to the contrary, I believe the American founders were men of humble faith, trusting in Providence -- not the "me first" types that so inhabit today's halls of government.

Faith and humility. The acid test for how we respond to tyranny. Which I still maintain is our holy obligation under God.

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7.07.2005    |    Heinous
God save and comfort the injured; and take in the souls of those innocents killed. Killed and wounded by adherents of "the religion of peace." The latest atrocity in London strikes home, not least because me and my family have been in most of the target spots. But it strikes home most of all because I am a Westerner, a believer in the God-given dignity of all men, and therefore in the sanctity of human life.

Islamists, again, assuming that they are responsible for this heinous and cowardly act of war, must be assumed to be representative of Islam. If they are not, why on God's green earth haven't the billion or so adherents of Islam, be they truly men and women of peace, put the stop to this terror? Surely the dozens of Islamic nations, with all of their power, should be able to stop this minority? If minority they be. For that matter, why haven't we heard more than a mere handful of courageous Muslims preach against terror?

The silence is deafening, yet speaks volumes. We are, indeed, in a war of civilizations.
7.06.2005    |    "functionally anti-semitic"?
The full quotation, from the Washington Post article, is from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, in response to the latest move by a liberal church, this time the United Church of Christ, to assuage their guilty white consciences:
By treating Israel within a different moral yardstick than the rest of the world, these moves are functionally anti-Semitic, undercut the forces of peace and moderation, and embolden the forces of terrorism
A spokesman for the UCC, which also has demanded that Israel tear down its security fence (more below), uses the smooth language of the master propagandist, using the term "tools of economic leverage" in the UCCs misguided moral equivalency campaign. Those "tools" of course include divestment from UCC financial holdings of any businesses that supply Israel with anything that could be used to protect itself against Arab terrorism. As an aside, might not we be asking, what business has any church with financial holdings in the first place? Yes, yes, I know, can't meet to worship if we don't have a roof over our heads, etc. etc.

Some additional details on the UCC's move from the New York Times:
The church would also invest in groups that promote peace and cooperation and pressure the Bush administration to reallocate foreign aid in the interest of ending the militarization of the region.

The second resolution calls for the Israeli government to stop construction of the security barrier around Palestinian territories and tear it down. Palestinians have claimed that portions of the wall extend into their territory in the West Bank. Israel says the wall has blocked terrorists.

"The wall has devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians," Makari [UCC functionary] said. "It prevents the opportunity for interaction for people who desperately want there to be peace."
Yes, of course. The wall deprives many Palestinian homicide bombers of the chance to "interact" with Israelis. This is patently unfair. This part was noticed by the American Jewish Committee (via the Times):
David Elcott, the American Jewish Committee's U.S. Director of Interreligious Affairs, criticized the measure.

"We understand Christian concerns about a wall, but we believe that saving human lives is more significant than property," he said. "That wall has saved the lives of Jews, Christians and Muslims."
All of which means little to nothing to the moralists of the UCC. After all, most of the lives saved would be Jews, and we know that they're the ones who started this whole business by invading the peaceful Middle East after World War II. Oh, you mean there were Jews in Palestine before 1945? Hebron; hmm, wonder where it got its name...

Peace is a marvelous thing, but without the wall, without the means to defend itself, Jews will have only the peace of the grave. I do not expect a liberal church like UCC to believe what they read in the Bible, but whether they do or not, it remains God's truth. That truth requires Christians to honor the Jews, not only as the source for our savior, but because it is exactly what Jesus himself told us to do (Matthew 25:40;)
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Make no mistake; Jesus here was talking of the Jewish people, his "brethren."

God has not broken any promises made to the people of Israel. They are still His people under the Covenant; come the end times, they will be given first dibs, so to speak, at accepting the savior who came from the root of Jesse. None of this means that the Palestinians should not be afforded every human dignity. It does, however, mean, that while the Palestinians are unable or unwilling to control their evildoers, we do God's work when we help keep Israel safe from them.

The UCC is not about doing God's work. They are about feeling good, making brownie points with "people of color" (an odious term; I've got a color, too...pinkish white) and others on the left who are far too ready to demonize the Jews.

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7.05.2005    |    "I am saved" wristband
Well, now you can show the world that you've been officially saved. You'll have the wristband to prove it. I happened to see one of these bands in a Christian bookstore, and it got me to thinking about election, and that eternally nagging question: how do we truly know we are saved?

My opinion is that we can not know in this life. We may believe we are saved; we may act accordingly, and, as is said, walk in the newness of our life in Christ. What of those of us, which is to say all of us, who stray from that narrow path? Well, we keep asking the Father for His forgiveness in the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6:7-13). Our prayer is that we be forgiven.

But Lord, we sin each and every day, in manner small and manner great. How can we possibly be saved with all of this sin? I don't know. God knows. Perhaps the very fact that we keep seeking His forgiveness, and, it is to hoped, strive to repent of our sins, may show that we have been saved. We are told, by Jesus, that those who have been chosen will perservere:John 10:26-30:
"You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
"No one shall snatch them out of my hand." Not Satan. Certainly not you, yourself -- unless ye think you have greater power than God.

The wristband? Harmless enough. And who knows but that some sinner sees the wristband and opens their ears to hear the Good News. And, in God's good time, be truly saved.

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7.04.2005    |    "Is not the LORD in the midst of us?"
On this Independence Day 2005, it is useful to be reminded of the price of national hubris. Actually, it is always useful, but the lesson is especially meaningful on this day that can so easily be given over to excessive national pride. Make no mistake; I love my country, and think it has earned many of the blessings that God has bestowed on us. It, however, is so easy to forget who is the essential Author of our liberty.

The prophet Micah has told Israel, waxing full of themselves as God's chosen people, that they need to remember who is in charge. And, especially, to remember that one never, ever, should take the Lord for granted. From Micah 3:
9Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
and make crooked all that is straight,
10who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
11Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the LORD and say,
"Is not the LORD in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us."
12Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
"Zion shall be plowed as a field." The antidote, to prevent this? Micah has the answer in chapter 6:
8He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Quite simple to state; quite hard to carry out. But absolutely necessary: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

I believe that America does all of these, in some measure. Perhaps not nearly as well as we should. Especially that business that requires us to "walk humbly with your God." This, of course, means not simply acknowledging God as being sovereign. It means loving Him, and following His precepts, and knowing, absolutely down to our bones, that only He is in charge.

This is the hard part, which I fear America, along with most other nations, is simply not doing. My prayer is that America recover her sense of God and His sovereignty over all, His sovereignty over America. And that we act accordingly.

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7.03.2005    |    "hatred, division, war and greed"
Wow. Somebody has issues here. The entire quotation is from Patrick Mrotek, founder of the Christian Alliance for Progress. This gentleman proclaimed, at a Washington Press conference (via a Wall Street Journal article by Joseph Loconte entitled "From Gospel to Government -- The Angry Left finds religion, and the result isn't pretty.") thusly:
We can no longer stand by, and watch people speak hatred, division, war and greed in the name of our faith."

Double wow. I wish to be cautious in applying labels; I've personally known some fine pacifists who truly believe that Jesus' teachings preclude war as an option. The few honorable pacifists I know wouldn't be caught dead throwing stones like this fellah is doing. Mr. Mrotek (sorry to be snarky, but doesn't his name sound just like a groovy new brand of a portable electronic device?) may be a sincere Christian, but he sure hasn't got that judgment thing down yet.

The group is simply a far-left group that attempts to apply a Christian veneer to the typical MoveOn.org agenda -- abortion on demand, gay marriage, higher taxes on the "rich", racial and gender quotas, the whole enchilada. Oh, sorry. That was politically incorrect, wasn't it? OK, the whole matzoh ball. Which reminds me, though I haven't checked in-depth on the Christian Alliance for Progress website, chances are they think that Israel shouldn't exist and that all right-thinking Americans (meaning, of course, left-leaning) should divest themselves and refuse to give any shekels to any business that does business in or with Israel.

What do these "progressives" want (beside world domination, of course)? Their goal is quite simple, humble in its simplicity: "Reclaim Christianity and Transform American Politics." Nothing more. Nothing less. Since HTML lacks tags for "sarcasm", know ye that that is what is intendend in the last two sentences.

I presume that the reclamation project is to wrest Christianity away from those of us who actually think that it's all about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, who put paid to all of our sins. Those of us who do not discard what have become politically incorrect and inconvenient portions of Scripture. Those of us who, in the first place, acknowledge the Bible as the ground truth for any who would claim the title "Christian."

The left-leaning "progressives" wrap themselves in very selective quotations from Jesus' teachings, just as some so-called Christian conservatives used to and (some) still do to justify things that really can't be justified.

For "progressives", this means, among other things, not mentioning that business about Jesus coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, since that would imply agreeing to what Jesus understood as the basis for that judgment -- Scripture, at least the Hebrew Scriptures. Just to cite a single example, I don't think Jesus would give gays a bye on Leviticus 18:22. Then they turn about and accuse us Christians (oh, did I let slip something of my true opinion here? My bad.) of sowing "hatred, division, war and greed."

This is not just nonsense; it is arrant nonsense (like that word). The approach of these lefties is: You disagree with me? You are sowing hatred and division. Nevermind that it could be me who is the hater here. So, what is the plan of these Christian "progressives"? To somehow get the major liberal party in America, the Democrats, to wrap themselves in this holy "Christian" cloth. And to prevent us knuckle-dragging troglodyte Christians from using faith as the basis for our electoral victories.

Which tells me that these folks have got us trogies backwards. We don't proclaim Christ as Lord in order to win elections. We win elections because we have faith that is grounded in Christ Jesus. He truly is our rock and redeemer. And there's nothing quite like knowing that God loves all of us, even us conservatives, even you "progressives", when we on occasion get thrashed.

If "progressives" are in the God business in order to win elections, how very sad for them. They've lost sight of the end. Or, better said, The End. A sneak peek is available at any who dare to read this.

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7.02.2005    |    Contrarian wisdom?
Ecclesiastes is one of those books from Scripture that has leached into the popular culture, although it was appropriated by folks who likely had little stomach for the book's actual message. Although it's been going on 40 years, the Byrds' popular rendition of some of the lyrics ("Turn, turn, turn") is still in the mainstream of culture, and I suspect that many people who'd never heard it from the Byrds would recognize both the lyric and the melody.

The words are taken, almost verbatim, from Ecclesiastes 3:
1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
You can bet your bong that this last line was used by the anti-Vietnam war movement. And used. And used. Which brings me to the point of this post: Ecclesiastes, a wisdom book, is a simple admonition to mortal man to know that he and his works are but naught in the scheme of God's time. In the phrase that is also overused by those who otherwise may not crack open a Bible, from Ecclesiastes 1:2, "vanity of vanities; all is vanity."

The vanity here is anyone who uses the Preacher's wisdom to forward a secular, political point. The book is about God's supremacy, and man's insignificance. It is also bordering on the absurd to think that we can fathom God's infinite wisdom. How else to understand this Holy Spirit-inspired preaching in chapter 7:
1A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

2It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

3Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

4The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

5It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
This is, to put it mildly, a hard sell. Who among us truly believes that the day of our death is better than our day of birth? Or that we'd all really prefer to go about in sackcloth and ashes? Very few, I'd guess. And those who do would likely be required to undergo therapy. In our society, it's downright subversive to believe that the gifts of secular prosperity, very much including "the house of mirth", are, somehow, things that tend to separate us from God's true wisdom. And therefore to be avoided.

Which is the exact message of Ecclesiastes -- the things of this world that we may prize highly can be those very things counted of no import by He Who Is. Which is a recipe for total separation from Him. Otherwise known as "Hell."

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.