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9.30.2005    |    "immigrants are not welcome"
In my state of Virginia that is -- if one is to believe what a Democrat from the Peoples Republic of Arlington (Virginia; though it's really Washington DC without the incompetence...) says about Jerry Kilgore, Republican candidate for governor. There is a piece in today's Washington Post, which has a few points about the immigration as viewed through the prism of our gubernatorial race.

The immigration issue is in the context of how Virginia has become a "gateway" state for illegal immigrants, much as Florida and Arizona have been. This is both a state and federal issue that affects us all, and it turns out that Kilgore has some very definite ideas about how to handle it. Most of which will be resisted by the likes of that Democrat from Arlington, Walter Tejada, whose full quotation is:
There's no question that if Kilgore is elected, this will be a state where immigrants are not welcome. The Republicans have already had some success with this, but with Kilgore as governor, it will get worse.

They say [the trend] doesn't include legal immigrants, but that is the mask they like to put on it. Of course it does. This whole sentiment affects how people view immigrants.
Even Democrats are right once in a while: indeed, the "whole sentiment" is colored by our ignoring waves upon waves of undocumented illegals. Don't you love the way some Democrats talk about complex policy issues, as if each would be resolved by who was the most sincere and emotional?

The issue poses grave, and conflicting problems for a Christian conservative. On the one hand, we must be a nation (and a state) of laws, and not of men. To flout immigration law and ignore the problem is to undermine the very concept of law. On the other hand, immigrants, legal and otherwise, are human beings made in God's image. As such, they are entitled to the same respect, and are embued with the same dignity as any of us.

My immediate answer of how to deal with illegal immigrants is to prevent them from entering in the first place if possible. This requires better enforcement at our borders, it requires massive fines for businesses caught knowingly employing illegals, and it requires that no government at any level encourage or facilitate illegals. An example of the last point is a day-laborer center proposed for Herndon, Virginia, a Washington DC suburb, which Kilgore opposes.

It also requires that our law enforcement, at all levels, local, state, and federal, be allowed to arrest illegals and have them deported forthwith. Obviously I do not advocate harming illegal immigrants. Let's, however, not pretend that they have any rights as citizens. Their benefits should be limited those necessary to provide for their immediate health and safety as we send them back to their homelands.

Simplistic, of course. The problem is that we can't catch most of them. And let it be said that many (nominally) Republican businessmen are those who benefit the most from this handy source of cheap labor. The lack of cooperation from businesses that benefit from illegal labor is a prime cause for the flood of them in this area.

The Christian must care for the poor, and must love all as himself. The conservative knows that ignoring laws is a recipe for anarchy. My approach would be to enforce our laws on immigration, dealing as gently as is practicable with those we catch and deport. The problem will likely be with us for a long, long time. That does not mean it can't be solved. Just that it will take some time.

Patience is also a Christian virtue.

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9.29.2005    |    Come for the festival...
...Stay for the good news? The Luis Palau Association is planning a big ol' fiesta down on the National Mall October 8-9,2005. Called DC Festival, there will be all sorts of things, according to a front page story in today's Washington Post:
a skateboard park, a food court, dozens of volunteer stations, two huge tents for hundreds of celebrity guests, three JumboTron screens to project onstage musical performances, and banners bearing the names of such corporate sponsors as Amtrak and the Washington Capitals.
What there will not be will be (again from the Post)
any clue -- not even a simple cross -- to suggest the real nature of the gathering: broadcasting the message of Jesus Christ.
Those pesky Christers, coming in under the radar like that. DC Festival will be what Palau calls "festival evangelism". This appears to be the same impulse that led to guitars during the service, "modern" music, and a general atmosphere of forced hipness.

My first reaction is that DC Festival is eye- and ear-candy; all fluff, meant to attract young people, as moths are attracted to a flame. This is also my second reaction, frankly. But I'm not a young person, and my experience tells me that you can't hide the light of the world that is Christ behind amplified music and extreme sports exhibitions.

Will something like DC Festival bring some people to Christ? Yes. Those whom the Father has sent, and this is the way they will come to Him. Does it take a carnival that appeals to youth do make this so? No, of course not. If it is God's will, it will happen anyway. On the other hand, God does work in mysterious ways, and who am I to say that something that seems, on the surface, to be trivial like a DC Festival isn't what God had in mind?

I guess that what I truly dislike about this festival approach to the Gospel is that it has to dress up the greatest message in all of human history in the trappings of popular culture. One must ask: How can it be a good thing to clothe in such gossamer the awesome message that God sent His son to be tortured, bleed, and die on a tree (Galations 3:13).

The answer, at least for me, is that it is not a good thing. Let Christ's awesome message speak for itself. Nothing on this earth can speak with greater power, majesty, and authority. Certainly not rock music and extreme skateboarding.

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9.28.2005    |    Our friends the Saudis
Here's the headlines a search on "Saudi" yielded on the Washington Post website this morning:
  • 3 Saudi Defendants Dismissed in 9/11 Suits
  • Two Beheaded in Saudi Arabia Over Rape
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Chides U.S. Policy
  • Vote Seen As Breakthrough for Saudi Women
  • Saudi Fighters in Iraq Bring Money
  • Hughes Raises Driving Ban With Saudis
  • Bush Waives Saudi Trafficking Sanctions
In that last story (link here), the "trafficking" is in human beings. The opening paragraph is really all one needs to know about our friends the Saudis, at least their true nature:
President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.
That "closest Arab ally" also says volumes, given that the Saudis are the source of much of the world's Islamic terror, given that the Saudis incite hatred against Christians, Jews, and, actually, all non-Muslims and even some sects within the "religion of peace" who have been at swordpoint with the Sunni branch of this devil's cult.

Well, I suppose that President Bush, having come from an oil-wealthy family, has his personal reasons for keeping the Saudis close. I surely wish that it would be due to the old adage, "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."

I wish. But I think I'd be wrong. My sense is that love of money rules the heart of many of those in power, as it appaently rules the heart of a professed Christian (Bush) who does not lead us in war against the Saudis. Saddam is an evil man. So too is the Saudi ruling family evil, and those who collaborate with them.
9.27.2005    |    Church/State at Dartmouth
Beautiful article by Wm. F. Buckley today at NRO. It concerns itself with what has become, in the words of Noah Riner, the president of the Dartmouth Student Assembly, "a speech culture" in which certain topics and even names are verboten. In this instance, the name was Jesus, held up as a laudatory exemplar by Mr. Riner.

Well, of course, all the right-thinking, meaning un-thinking suppressors of academic speech said all the expected things. That, among other things, the mere mention of Jesus constituted anti-Semitism. WFB correctly, and succinctly remarks that
to eliminate anti-Semitic discrimination should not require the rejection of Christian traditions. The opposite could be held, inasmuch as a Christian who practices discrimination violates not only federal law, but also Christian law.
Some Jews may have rejected Jesus as Lord and Messiah. But He most assuredly has not rejected them. The Jews got first dibs on Jesus' first go-'round. And they'll get first dibs to join with Him at the end. It's only fitting. Jesus was, after all, one of God's chosen people, a descendent of Abraham by the flesh.

Afterword: for more on the hysteria at Dartmouth, see this article, also at NRO, by Stefan Beck. Orwellian is about the right term for what passes for academic discourse on certain subjects.

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9.26.2005    |    Ruth the Moabite
The Book of Ruth is easy to dismiss as one of those interesting books in the Hebrew Scriptures that may seem to be of little consequence. After all, this isn't a recipe for Christian living, is it? And it's all about women and their emoting; not very manly, especially since the Book of Ruth is tucked in among all those Old Testaments books relaying wars, the establishment of kingdoms, and the actions of God in human history. But it is hard to understate the Book of Ruth's importance in salvation history.

The Book of Ruth is the ultimate demonstration of the outreach program of the ancient Hebrews, and a clear sign of Jesus' mission to the Gentiles. For openers, it gives the lie to the notion of a racially pure Jewish nation, and should be read by anyone today who thinks that being Jewish has anything to do with race. Not only that, it also demonstrates how a direct ancestor of Jesus dame from a despised people, the Moabites -- recalling that Moabites all descended from an act of incest (Genesis 19:34-38).

One lesson for me is that our Savior, while without sin himself, did not hesitate to have his mortal self born from a line that included Ruth the Moabite, Ruth the descendant of incest, one of the most heinous of sins. And yet, in Ruth we have the literal seeds for "the root of Jesse", who, of course, was himself Ruth and Boaz' grandson.

Finally, the thought we should all take away from Ruth is the notion of joining the family of God, which many of us, even those who profess to be saved, should do, at least spiritually. Let us always remember these words; words that convey the power of God Almighty to cause us to join to Him. From Ruth 1:
16But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you."

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9.25.2005    |    Gloria In Excelsis Deo
This is the Latin title of one of my favorite Advent hymns, one that is instantly familiar to those who have never darkened a church door. Music by J. S. Bach, lyrics by God. Well, God as given through the Holy Spirit to Luke, in Chapter 2:
11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"
This little bit of Scripture, part of just about everyone's favorite Advent narrative, has a very serious and straightforward Reformed theological implication: God's peace, in the person of Jesus, is not for all.

No, God is not in favor of war. But the absence of war is not the peace that God promises us. Fluffy Bunny Christians and their first cousins, secularists notwithstanding, the peace brought by Christ Jesus does not directly relate to warfare. And it most certainly is not for everyone. That last phrase in Luke 2:14 is the killer: "on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased." This is a stumbling block for those whose knowledge of God only extends to His infinite mercy, and whose eyes are averted from God's likewise unceasing justice.

As our Lord has said, "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Are you among the sheep, or the goats?

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9.24.2005    |    "with God all things are possible"
This is one of those overly familiar quotations bandied about by people who probably don't crack open a Bible from one year to the next. It is from Matthew 19:26, and the context is Jesus telling us that while our salvation may be difficult, God can and will accomplish it. In accordance with His desires, of course...not ours.

The issue of God's ability to do anything arises naturally in the face of "natural" disasters such as Katrina. There is a nuanced article on this aspect of theodicy at Beliefnet. "Nuanced" being used in a negative sense, as the author tries far too hard to accomodate various schools of thought, to the point of incoherence. My greatest beef is that he didn't cite Matthew 19:26, while citing Harold Kushner (saccharine warning; bad things do happen to "good" people, imagine that):
Perhaps we would do well to listen to the likes of Rabbi Harold Kushner, who contends that God is not really as powerful as we have claimed. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures does it say that God is omnipotent. Kushner points out that omnipotence is a Greek philosophical concept, but it is not in his Bible. Instead, the Hebrew Bible contends that God is mighty. That means that God is a greater force in the universe than all the other forces combined.
"God is not really as powerful as we have claimed." Well, guess I just became a Greek. All things are possible with God, just as it says in Scripture. And I stand with Martin Luther's answer to the question, where was God when Luther's son died? Luther's answer, which is the answer to where God is in all human suffering, is "The same place he was when His son died."

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   |    Surely a parody
Just found this at "The Living Church Foundation", which notes that it's been "serving Episcopalians since 1878." Was that the year they went wobbly? Sorry, I digress. The extract is this:
Hurricane Katrina and the place of the Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion will dominate the energies of the House of Bishops as the majority of members along with spouses or partners gather today for the start of their five-day fall retreat at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
So. ECUSA worthies are taking a five-day retreat at a Ritz Carlton, with "spouses or partners." This might be a great parody of the Episcopal Church USA as a church with unbiblical notions ("partners" means "homosexuals") that lives like kings at the top while chiding the rest of us to tithe to the poor victims of Katrina.

It might be a great parody. If it were not true.

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9.23.2005    |    "peace and social justice"
Many, many churches have "peace and social justice" committees, in one form or another, by this, or similar names. It is likely that many of these do very good work, mobilizing their congregations to help "the least of these" (Matthew 25:40). It is also close to certain that many, if not most, of these "peace and social justice" committees are attempts to extend the welfare nanny state approach to problems of race and poverty.

In fact, there is something about the very name, "peace and social justice", that is like fingernails on a blackboard. Principally because these are the inheritors of the "social gospel" movement. See, by way of just one example, this essay on this late 19th-early 20th century phenomenon. The essence, and the massive error, of this movement, no doubt borne fully by today's "p&sj" groups, is found in this extract from the essay:
The historic Jesus came to be seen [in the social gospel movement] as a moral exemplar who had worked for social justice, and the transformation of social institutions, not as the Christ of faith.
It is that last that constitutes the massive error. A "gospel" of Jesus Christ that does not involve the "Christ of faith" is a false gospel.

It is not that good works should not be done. On the contrary, Christians should know from their own experience that such works are a necessary outcome of their regeneration by the Holy Spirit to faith in the Christ. Once you have faith in the risen Christ, and know that He died for your sins, you will become your own "peace and social justice" committee. You just won't necesarily, or even likely, go down that socialist road to secular salvation that is embraced by so many mainline Protestant as well as Catholic churches.

As an example of taking back our Gospel from those who would preach the false social gospel, consider a piece by in today's Wall Street Journal. It's by Iain Smith, a Conservative British MP, and Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). The article gives a "conservative vision of social justice", and its essence is this:
The social justice agenda we endorse is grounded in social conservatism. That means helping the poor discover the dignity of work, rather than making them wards of the state. It means locking up violent criminals, but offering nonviolent offenders lots of help to become responsible citizens. It endorses a policy of "zero tolerance" toward drug use and sexual trafficking, yet insists that those struggling with all manner of addictions can start their lives afresh.
What you won't find in a "conservative social justice" is a lot of whiny and teary searches for "root causes" of crime or bleatings about how not everyone can enjoy caviar with their champaign brunches.

Given what we know about Sen. Santorum, you probably also won't find much effort to end the death penalty in such a social justice approach, either. This is part of the problem for both the liberal (now conventional "peace and social justice" approach) and the "conservative" approach. Both have some merit; the conservative approach far more insofar as it wishes to place the responsibility for the individual's secular welfare where it belongs: solely with that individual.

Despite labels of liberal or conservative, what is sorely lacking in the liberal approach is any true notion of God's justice. The liberal approach is only about mercy. On the other hand, some conservatives often forget entirely about the Lord's mercy and go about dispensing His terrible swift sword of justice.

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9.22.2005    |    Are all businesses the same?
The headline for a front page story in today's Washington Post says it all: In Break With Tradition, Casinos May Get Tax Breaks, Too. The rationale, from White House spokesman Trent Duffy:
...the federal government should not be picking which businesses should or should not rebuild. The emphasis of tax incentives should be to get people back to work, he said, and that means rebuilding structures as fast as possible.
No matter what sort of a business it is. Mississippi, along with other states, plays the hypocrite's game with casinos: just park 'em offshore, and everything's just fine. Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, this means the water-borne equivalent of double-wides, which will never be moved. Except by an act of God.

I'm not suggesting that God had it in for the casinos. That would be too human, projecting onto He Who Is our smallness. Not to mention that there are far too many counter examples of good works on this earth being swept away by the same awesome power of God's nature that destroys houses of gambling and prostitution.

The problem here, as always, is not with God. It is with us. Gambling, to be very unoriginal, is like crack cocaine to state and local politicians. It's a painless, to them, way of raising taxes and providing jobs. Fostering it, while putting on a surface veneer of disdain, is now the norm. Gambling, or "gaming" as its proponents prefer to call it, isn't really gambling for the casino owners, or for state and local politicos. They will win. Always. The losers are those who are not smart enough to know this, and keep coming back for more, on the hope that this time they will win. Some do; enough to keep afloat the wan hopes of the mass of suckers.

The first Bible verse that comes to my mind regarding gambling is the scene beneath the cross, just when Jesus is dying. From Luke 23:34, "they cast lots to divide his garments." "They" being Roman soldiers who had just helped kill our Lord; "his garments" being Jesus'. Great imagery; one I'm sure you won't find in gaudy oilcolors plastered on the walls of casinos.

Christians should avoid gambling, just as they avoid other things that may be legal but most definitely do not promote good stewardship. That is, tend to reduce one's ability to care for their family and to help their fellow men and women who are in need. It's simple: if you blow your paycheck on gambling, you might not be able to pay your rent.

I don't advocate making gambling illegal. Each person needs to control themselves; it is not up to me or the state to do so. I do, however, strongly urge the President and others in authority to not encourage it in any way, shape, or form. If this is the only way that Mississippians can get jobs, better that they get welfare checks. It will be cheaper for society in the long run.

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9.21.2005    |    Harry Reid, "antiabortion lawmaker"
But -- and it's a big but -- according to this story in the Washington Post, Give 'em heck Harry is going to vote against John Roberts' confirmation as the next Chief Justice of the United States. The mainstream media just loves to put little stumbling blocks to those who claim that all Democrats are anti-religion, anti-freedom, amoral baby killers. Harry Reid, however, is none of those things. Except when it comes to placing loyalty to the Donks ahead of his own personal sense of right and wrong.

It is actually kind of sad, a man who will place fealty to a godless human organization (the Democratic Party, very much godless) over his fealty to God. From the New Republic, another center-left publication:
his [Reid's] religious conservatism--Reid is a practicing Mormon--has never interfered with his loyalty to the Democratic Party and its constituent base, especially women's groups.
That last is not very elaborate code for pleasing the abortion-on-demand lobby. Leaving aside the Post's editorializing on the "news" pages about Mormons being religious conservatives, it is quite clear that most Mormons don't vote Democratic because of its anti-God agenda.

Not Harry, however. He's not that kind of a Mormon, i.e. a faithful one. The evidence is the very fact that he would vote against Roberts just to please the left-wing of his party, "led" by Teddy (the White Whale) Kennedy and whose patron saint is now Cindy ("U.S. out of New Orleans") Sheehan. The reason Reid gave was, to say the least, thin gruel. From the Washington Post story:
Reid said he decided to oppose Roberts because the nominee withheld too much information from senators and because government memos he wrote in the 1980s raised troubling questions about his views, especially on civil rights.
Just following the Ruth Bader Ginsburg precedent, Harry. Ginsburg, a far left nominee, said very, very little during her confirmation hearing -- and was approved 96-3. As far as government memos from the 1980s, we presume that means that Harry Reid did not and would not, given the chance, vote for Ronald Reagan. I think we already knew that, senator.

But, Harry, here's the thing: those who win elections are entitled to their own opinions about how far to take what you call civil rights. They have also been given the right, by the people whose will you so clearly wish to deny, the choice of nominees for the Supreme Court. What gets to you is the notion that, just maybe, Judge Roberts is not a fan of racial preferences; that is, he has actually read and understood the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

John Roberts may not turn out to be as conservative as liberals fear, nor as liberal as conservatives fear. By all indications, he will continue to exercise a brilliant legal mind in service of the nation. Perhaps the Harry Reids of the Senate are just too intimidated by such brilliance?

Well, senators, in brainpower as in many things, size does matter.

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9.20.2005    |    "incompatible with Christian teaching"
This is, or used to be, the simple statement that Baptists could agree upon as regards homosexuality. The full statement is, "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." As applied, this should mean that homosexuals are welcomed into our congregations as sinners -- just as I am a sinner, just as you are a sinner.

This is the old but still useful application of the "love the sinner; hate the sin" approach. But, this is where some Baptists may have lost their moorings from Scripture: hating the sin. Or so it might appear, now that acceptance of practicing homosexuals by the American Baptist Churches USA appears to be the case. At least this is the impression one may garner from this story.

Beliefnet writes the story in a neutral tone, but beneath the surface is the thought that those churches who might break away from ABCUSA are the ones causing the problem. The problem, if indeed there is one, is that some Baptist bureaucrats (there's a term that should raise some eyebrows) at ABCUSA may have decided that they are able to negate black letter Scripture on the practice of homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9).

Baptists must be Bible-centered churches, must be grounded in Scripture. While we claim to be a priesthood of believers, and know that we may approach God directly, with this freedom of Christian conscience comes responsibility. The responsibility for proper interpretation of Scripture is perhaps best expressed by 2 Peter 1:
20 no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, the very word, "intepretation", does not have its modern connotation, given the context: all Scripture is, in fact, "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3). To think, to act, contrary to this is to deny the very basis for our Baptist faith.

Which American Baptist Churches USA seems to be doing. May the Holy Spirit grant them the wisdom to see how they deny His holy Scriptures, and return to being truly grounded in Scripture.

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9.18.2005    |    "God is not a Yankees fan"
Well, I used to think He was, growing up in the Bronx. When I first became a baseball fan, the hometown Yankees were not only the team to beat; they were almost a sure bet to get into the World Series. It was easy, far too easy, to fall into the trap of confusing human success with God's plan for the universe. Of course, last fall, when those so-and-sos from Boston usurped the Bronx Bombers' throne, then I knew that God was no longer in his heaven. Leastwise insofar as He actually might care about baseball.

The full quotation in the title is from a Washington Post story about Baseball Chapel. Baseball Chapel's stated mission, from their website, is "To bring encouragement to people in the world of professional baseball through the Gospel so that some become discipled followers of Jesus Christ." The Post story is a nice survey of how that is working for some players and others in the Bigs and in the minors.

The full quotation is from Wayne Beilgard, a chapel leader for the Milwaukee Brewers:
"I get a ton of people saying, 'Hey, Wayne, you gotta pray harder for the Brewers,' " said Wayne Beilgard, chapel leader for the Milwaukee Brewers. "I tell them, 'God doesn't choose sides in baseball. God is not a Yankees fan.'"
Wayne Beilgard's got it exactly right. Not only is God not a Yankees fan, he's not even a Boston Red Sox fan (sorry, John Kerry...). Which brings into question the entire notion of invoking the Deity in a prayer for the victory of any team over another.

God might prefer one group of sinners (any team; any grouping of mere humans) over another. But He will offer His love in the way that best suits His purposes. The hardest truth of all? Sometimes that means your team should lose, in order that they may be better open to God's healing power.

God is not human; He does not respond to threats or bribery or cajolery. No amount of praise (or other alternatives to burnt offerings) was going to get Him to let the Yankees win last year over the Red Sox. It simply wasn't in His cards.

And you'd best believe that the Yankees, and their fans, including yours truly, sorely needed an industrial-sized helping of vitamin "H" for humility.
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9.17.2005    |    Dialogue with the Devil
The latest bit of ranting from the Sunni branch of the Religion of Peace may be read at the indispensible MEMRI. According to the head Sunni terrorist (that's a bit of a redundancy, eh?) in Iraq, the loony-tunes Al-Zarqawi, goes on a full-tilt boogie rant about Crusaders (those are the good guys, namely, Christians) and Shiites, who, while terrorists in their own right, are also the mortal enemies of the Sunnis. All of this dates back to someone who dissed one of Mohammed's concubines, or raped his son, who knows at this point.

These people are, simply, children of evil, and their confused notion of religion is used to threaten and actually justify killing us, and each other. Among the charges against Christians is the notion that Crusaders, have, among other crimes, "filled with...Sperm" the wombs of Sunni women in one of the hellholes of Iraq. This Al-Zarqawi is as moonbatty as Cindy Sheehan, but a whole lot more dangerous.

Here's a taste of Zarky's rubbish:
"Finally, we say to the Crusaders and the Safavid Rafidites (Shiites): Your crime and cowardly deed at Tel'afar will not go without severe punishment, Allah willing. I challenge the government of the descendants of Ibn Al-'Alqami, headed by Al-Ja'fari the Zoroastrian and 'Abu Righal' Al-Dulaimi, to come out of their lairs in the Green Zone [in Baghdad], and to confront the brigades of the mujahideen."
Yadda yadda. We haven't noticed you coming out to fight, Zarky, have we?

Christians must love our enemies, but that does not mean that we help them slit our throats. Our mission in the world is to defend the weak, defend ourselves, defend our faith, against Islam's terrorists. Some of whom openly carry weapons.
9.16.2005    |    Picture this
Imagine, if you can, a small Christian nation that wished to forcibly expel all Jews and Muslims from living within its borders. Further imagine that this nation not only would not grant full citizenship to its non-Christian residents, but made it a practice of spreading the vilest kind of racist propaganda about Jews and Muslims in its schools and media.

Now imagine how quickly that imaginary Christian nation would be roundly, and properly I might add, condemned in the various places where high-minded folk reside and pontificate on the moral ills of the world. Yes, there's nothing the world loves better than to chastize Christians who do not adhere to the universal application of human rights.

Back here on earth, of course, no Christian nation does such things. At least not any longer. Since the Reformation, our faith has been in recovery and has begun the long journey home to our roots. But nations that do this sort of thing, that is, practice ethnic cleansing and open discrimination against residents who do not share the majority faith, do exist. Quite a few Muslim states are like this, especially in their treatment of their Jews.

Of course, since the founding of Israel, most Arab Muslim states have been essentially Juderein. This new tradition, of ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands, continues apace with the birthing of Gaza: No Jews here, any more.

Where is the international outcry? Why is it that Jews, and Jews alone, may be ethnically cleansed from lands in which they had resided for thousands of years? Why is it that Arabs may live freely in Israel, but Jews may not live freely in an Arab Palestine?

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9.15.2005    |    "Unalienable rights"
The full quotation from our Declaration of Independence should be familiar to every American:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights
It is a very good thing that our founders were made of sterner stuff than a certain judge in California. Idiot is not too strong a word for a supposed American who refutes our foundation as a nation under God. Literally, in this instance, where the words, "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are attacked (from the Washington Post story):
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to "one nation under God" violates children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."
Well, it should go without saying that to "affirm God" is merely to affirm being an American. But then you'd have to be an American, and know something about what our nation was founded upon: the Rock that is God Almighty.

The affirmation that we are, in fact, "one nation under God" is to simply acknowledge something that is true. The statement establishes no religion; we're not all going to have to go become Episcopalians or Methodists. Those who think they do not believe in God are free to continue in their mistaken disbelief.

To deny this is to deny the rights that are ours by virtue of our very humanity. Rights that are not granted by any government. Rights that flow from God, to us, and thence to our governments. Not the other way around.

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9.13.2005    |    "engines for positive change"
Thus opines the Washington Post, urging the nation to sail ever onward in uncharted waters, unemcumbered by anything so archaic as a moral anchor. To the destroyers of the moral fabric who write, edit, and publish the Post, legalizing homosexual "marriage" is considered progress.

The "engine" for this "positive change" is the California state legislature. This morning, the California legislature is commended for being the first "state legislature [that] has acted on its own to create marriage equality." "Equality", you see, is always good thing for the Posties and their ilk -- even if it violates our moral bedrock, thousands of years of tradition, and, by the way, common sense.

We are, however, not all equal. Even the dolts at the Post should be able to observe that men are different than women. This is by design. Each has a distinct role to play in our first biological imperative: survival as a species. Even atheists should understand this point, that marriage's primary and fundamental purpose is to provide for the propagation of the species; for birthing and nurturing newborn human beings. Also known as "children."

As an aside, the notion that human beings can be produced ex-utero may be true; i.e. marriage is not a literal requirement to produce new human beings. That something is possible does not make it desirable. It is also possible, for example, to kill all newborn girls, which becomes a possibility if all new humans are produced ex-utero.

But that's not why gay "marriage" is wrong. It is wrong because it is against God's law, in a way that transcends even the black-letter dicta that homosexual acts are an abomination unto God. Although that alone should be sufficient; it is for me. It is wrong because it can never produce a child. It is wrong because it sets up future generations to become divorced from human history; a child raised by two gay people can not be normal in any valid sense of that word.

By the way: the argument that some "normal" marriages are bad, that some children are abused and even killed by their parents, does not negate the argument in logic nor in morality. In case you haven't noticed, we all sin; we all fall short.

I simply suggest here that this action by the California legislature is not an "engine" for "positive change." It is an instrument attempting to chisel away our moral foundation.

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9.12.2005    |    Why Baptist?
Some days, when reading about Biblical literalists, young-earthers, 1611 King James Version only people, as well as those who use the myriad man-made confessions as bludgeons against others, I thank God that my free will led me to become a Baptist.

Now, please note, my use of "free will" is limited in scope to which denomination I find myself at home at. Whatever other things I may be, Arminian isn't among them. My belief is that we are chosen by God, or not, and that our faith is generated solely the result of God's irresistable grace. In short, God is sovereign; we are but clay in His hands.

But here's the thing: I may be surrounded by folks every Sunday who think that they have free will, and that this is what led them to Christ. What's really important is not that they are wrong, and I am right -- or vice versa. What's important is that, however we got there, we share that faith in Jesus Christ.

It also helps that Baptists have laid out, in plain language, some of what sets us apart. Just a few key extracts from the 1963 Faith and Message
(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures. and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.
Finally, but certainly not least, what Baptists have agreed to about the nature of Scripture:
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.
There are many ways one could write this non-creedal creed [humor] hey, Baptists don't have creeds; we have things that we believe and adhere to...[/humor]. This way says it for me.

By the way, when you get many Baptists to talk about free will, and pursue it both Scripturally, and with logic, you may quickly find them agreeing with the plain text meaning of Romans 8:30:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

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9.11.2005    |    Thanking God
Today, being the fourth anniversary of the heinous attacks of 9/11/01, one may hear all sorts of sentimentality, see the tears of the families and friends of those lost that day. This is not to minimize their pain, which is all too real. And it certainly is not to wish for more of the same, but I'd like to see God's love in our losses.

We are trained to seek God's blessings on all that we receive, and to give Him thanks. As the Anglican liturgy goes, "it is right and meet" to thank Him. He is, after all, the Author of all. And that's the point. God is the Author of our joy, just as He is the author of our sorrow.

Let me ask a question: if you believe in an all-powerful, and all-seing God, why does He allow terrorist attacks on our soil? Why, for that matter, did He send Katrina comin' to call on New Orleans? The answer is that God's love isn't all comfort and joy. His love includes the cross that we bear with God incarnate, Jesus Christ. From Mark 8:34-35:
34...If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
It is that simple. And we should thank God in our distress, in our brokenness, for caring enough to refine us through the fire. No, this does not mean that we simply sit back and suffer, or remain passive to the plight of our fellow human beings when they suffer. Jesus would not do, nor countenance this. Neither should we.

But we must also imitate our Lord, as best we can, and thank God no matter what comes our way. That His will, not our own, may be done.

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9.10.2005    |    "Salvation is not free"
Thus opines someone described as "a minister" of a church in suburban Prince Georges County, Maryland, home of the Washington Redskins. The Skins will be playing today, and a story in the Washington Post notes how difficult it's become to get a place to park near the game. At least if you're going to park closer than, say, Philadelphia and take Amtrak in.

Jericho City of Praise is a black megachurch, and is located, according to a December 20, 2004 Washington Post story on a "$36 million campus of buildings." The church is so large that it is able to "lease several thousand parking spaces to the Redskins each fall."

Well, allright. There's nothing sinful about making a few bucks leasing parking spaces. After all, it's not as though those football fans are going to the church to pray. Although there is something really distasteful at the pride of place wealth seems to have at this "successful" church.

Now, getting back to the "minister", who seems to think that there is a price tag on salvation. In context, from today's Post story:
And the Jericho City of Praise church will continue its policy of requiring a Redskins parking permit to use its lots near the stadium, said Bobby Henry, a minister.

"Nothing is free, even in our business -- the church business -- it's not free," he said. "Salvation is not free."
Ahh, "the church business." To be sure, we can't keep a roof over our congregation's heads without money. But here's the thing, my money-grubbing friend: salvation is, precisely, free. It is a gift from God. It can not be bought. Even for a parking space close to where the Redskins play.

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9.08.2005    |    Bibles instead of food?
A criticism that is sometimes laid at the feet of missionaries is that they go to a disaster, preach the Gospel, hand out Bibles, but do "nothing to make the people's lives better." This criticism is sometimes on the mark, but not usually. More to the point, such criticism is usually heard from atheists who don't see that faith, that hope in salvation, is at least as important as wordly needs. If not more so.

Well, it had to surface in the aftermath of Katrina. It turns out that Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers got the message that Bibles were urgently needed by victims of Katrina. Found via the WSJ's Best of the Web, here's the post at Michael Hyatt's blog.

The reaction to Mr. Hyatt's charity is as might be expected: anger, fueled by a lack of understanding of the nature of Scripture. Let's be brutally honest here: it is not sufficient to give Bibles to people who are starving and who need shelter and water to drink. But that's not what Nelson did; they're working with Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, and donations are being made of both Bibles, and the wordly goods we all need to survive in the here and now.

What Christians know already, and which I wish the rest of the world could discover, is that all people need their daily bread, but also the bread of life that can only be found in Christ Jesus. And a Bible is one of the best ways of learning about Him.

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9.07.2005    |    Some humility is in order
Hurricane Katrina should be a wake-up call, a two-by-four upside the head. Not for the usual blame-game reasons of who didn't do what. Rather, to remind us that we are mortal. To remind us that we have failed, and will always fail. Hearings and investigations are promised, even before all have been rescued. This is merely a symptom; some of our officials seem more concerned about their precious reputations than about saving lives.

It is interesting that the single best take on our situation is provided by a former communist, and current oligarch: Vladimir Putin. The context is Jim Hoagland's column today, in which he relates his visit to Putin in Moscow, and brings us mighty Americans back to earth:
The feet of clay of a nation that has regularly vaunted its standing as the world's only remaining superpower have been in plain view in recent days.
How appropriate a simile; in the classic poetry of the Book of Common Prayer, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life." Feet of clay certainly fits us. We, as a nation, were not brought down by a hurricane. We were, however, caught short, and many, many suffered, continue to suffer. We are, or should be, humbled.

The correct take is provided by Vladimir Putin. From the Jim Hoagland column:
"I look at this and cannot believe my eyes," Russian President Vladimir Putin said when I asked him Monday evening about Katrina's damage. "It tells us however strong and powerful we think we are, we are nothing in the eyes of nature and of God Almighty...We are all vulnerable and must cooperate to help each other."
"We are nothing in the eyes of nature and of God Almighty." Now, perhaps it was the translator, but I believe that Putin, as a believer (at least that's the impression he fosters, as having re-discovered the Russian Orthodox Church) meant, not that we are nothing in the eyes of God, that's clearly not true. We are in God's image, after all, and we know that His love for us is boundless (see how you'd measure up to the love in John 3:16). What Putin likely means is that we, as mere men, are insigificant in comparison with He Who Is.

We forget this at our mortal peril.

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9.05.2005    |    "our rights were derived from God"
The full quotation, from President Bush is with reference to the attempt by the ultra-liberal 9th Circuit to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance in 2002:
"We need common-sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God, and those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench"
This common-sense statement has surfaced again in the coming storm over both John Roberts nomination to be Chief Justice to replace William H. Rehnquist, and the forthcoming nomination of, it is to be fondly wished, an originalist associate justice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

The elephants in the room are abortion, the gay agenda, and other so-called "social" issues. All of which are addressed in Scripture, directly, or, indirectly. Hence, the left's intense scrutiny of the "religious views" of John Roberts and any future nominees. All of this is discussed, in what is, for the liberal media, a (somewhat) balanced article in today's Washington Post.

The article gives all sides, and then some. Extremely liberal senators, like Pat Leahy of Ben&Jerryland, and Dick ("our soldiers are Nazis") Durbin of a state that might be embarrassed to be mentioned, if they hadn't also elected Carol Braun and Badact Obama. Naturally, these two worthies, Leahy and Durbin, are also labeled "Catholic", as, of course, is John Roberts. Hence, their to-the-death (of many unborn children, you may be certain) defense of abortion-as-a-litmus test is just fine; they're Catholic, you see, and can't be construed as anti-Catholic.

It is obvious that the knives are out for any nominee who is against abortion. Likewise, any nominee who believes that homosexual behavior is a sin. The phoniness of the Leahys and Durbins of this world is that there would be not a single word said about a nominee's faith if they were a "peace and social justice" Catholic. That is, one whose views were focused on disarming free nations and redistributing their wealth, and never, ever, going to war. Or eating red meat. Or wearing clothing made in sweatshops in Asia. Or investing in Israel. After all, Jesus was a vegetarian pacifist, who marched in favor of ending the Jewish occupation of Jerusalem. Wasn't He?

A nominee's faith had better be the grounding for his beliefs. What better place to find truth than in God's Word? And if a nominee is not grounded in that truth, then he or she is, to use a tired phrase, very much unlike America. And even the liberals are always claiming to want a Supreme Court that "looks like America."

Except when it actually might.

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9.03.2005    |    Something appropriate
In the midst of the could'ves, would'ves, should'ves, and the expected search for people to blame for the misery inflicted by Katrina, perhaps Psalm 46 will remind us of Who is always in charge. More importantly, where to turn for solace.

Psalm 46
1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
11The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
"Be still, and know that I am God." Better advice never recorded. In the meantime, we who are more fortunate shouldn't just sit here quoting Scripture. A short list of places to donate through:Our brothers and sisters are in need. Give of your hearts, give of your prayers, give of your wallets.

Thank you.
9.01.2005    |    "I'm not excusing looting"
Actually, that's exactly what some politicos and pundits are doing. The quotation is from Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who said on MSNBC
"Thousands of people are stuck and stranded without food and water. Now, I'm not excusing looting. I'm not the attorney general. I'm not a law enforcement official. But the situation is, is that people have been without food and water."
One of the verities of politico-speak is that you can take the opposite of what is said as the truth. In Landrieu's case, she is precisely excusing looting, because, after all, "people have been without food and water."

The source for this quotation is a very nuanced article in the Washington Post on the current state of near-anarchy in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas hit by the hurricane. Here, the word "nuance" is not exactly a compliment. Rather, reading this bit of moral vacuity in the Post is merely another sign of their lack of grounding in the truth. An an example, in the print edition of the paper there's a photo of a man hauling a large plastic bag filled with stolen goods. The caption is "People remove items from a New Orleans shoe store." Yes, "remove items." I'm certain that the man's family will enjoy eating those shoes. How very sad that the Post can't seem to call stealing by its proper name.

Getting back to the basic ethical question, it used to be expressed in ethics discussions thusly: "Is it acceptable to steal a loaf of bread if your family is starving?" The answer is, sometimes yes, with several caveats, but, mostly, no. Yes, if this is your last resort and there is no other source of food and if you don't get this food to your family, they will starve and your theft will not harm another. No in all other circumstances. Epecially relevant to the chaos in New Orleans now: if you steal bread for your family, then perhaps someone else's family will die for want of that same bread.

This is why looting after a disaster, especially for scarce necessities (nevermind a fresh supply of Air Jordans), is especially heinous. That looting is worse than mere theft, and constitutes a form of hoarding -- someone else, in just as much, if not more, need as you, will not have access to those necessities.

The looting and other criminal acts, seemingly unleashed by the hurricane, should be no surprise at all to a Christian, at least of the Reformed persuasion. We are, each and every one of us, totally depraved, born that way. Cut loose some of the bonds imposed by normality, and that evil bubbles to the surface, and it's no surprise that many are unable to control it. The pleasant surprise is the number of people whose first impulse is just the opposite -- to render aid.

Don't think yourself immune to the evil behavior shown during the hurricane's aftermath. I surely don't, though I pray that were I tested in this way I would choose the strait path. More importantly, let us all pray to God that those left with nothing will find the strength, whose only source is God, to bear up under their burdens.

In the meantime, be generous; right now money is urgently needed. Also, my church is working with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board to send relief workers; chances are your church or synagogue is doing something. A short list of places to donate through:

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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.