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2.28.2006    |    Friends
Richard Cohen, one of my favorite left-leaning pundits, reminds us, in his column today, something the president's supporters already knew: that George Bush is no bigot. The immediate issue is the seeming anti-Arab wave sweeping the nation. Gosh, I wonder why that could be...you don't suppose that dancing in the streets in Arab cities on 9/11 could have anything to do with it?

Well, of course not all terrorists are Arabs. It's just that so many terrorists are, and that they tend to be supported by the people and governments of most Arab states. Dubai may, for now, be on our side in the war on terror, but in the past they've been enemies. Helping terrorists with money laundering and direct funding, and supplying jihadis.

And, please, let's not hear any nonsense about how the 7/11 London terrorists were "British." They were British in name only; they were Muslim terrorists. Just as Mo Atta and his band of merry jihadis spent a goodly amount of time in Germany. They weren't German. They were Arabs, who happened to be living in Germany.

Getting back to Richard Cohen, it seems that he very much likes the worst of the Arabs, the Saudis, and goes so far as to claim that "America has many friends in the Arab world." His evidence? This:
You can go to Saudi Arabia, for instance, and talk "American" at a dinner party -- banter about the Washington Redskins or California real estate prices or, of course, politics. The region is home to many people who have gone to school in the United States and admire it greatly. They are not the majority by any means, but they are important and influential -- and they are being slowly alienated by knee-jerk insults and brainless policies that reflect panic and prejudice.
Poor Arabs. "Being slowly alienated." Well, Richard, perhaps one may "talk American" to some rich Saudis. Can one attend church or synagogue services in Riyadh?

When this is even possible, then I'd consider Arabs to possibly be our friends. Right now, a goodly number of Muslim Arabs appear to be our implacable enemies. Actions always speak louder than friendly dinner party conversation.
2.26.2006    |    Those pesky Nigerians...
...why don't they listen to their social superiors here in America? We're much more advanced; we don't let silly things like black-letter Scripture stand between ourselves and whatever it is we wish to do.

The immediate insult to Scripture comes, once again, from the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, John Chane, who was given space in the Washington Post to excoriate Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria. Why does Bishop Chane do so? Because Bishop Akinola is a Christian who, apparently, believes in Scripture. Bishop Akinola appears to know that homosexual behavior is not consistent with a Christian lifestyle.

Bishop Akinola has, apparently, acted on his bibilically-sound understanding of the Christian faith in that he, according to the very-much pro-Gay Agenda Chane
recently threw his prestige and resources behind a new law that criminalizes same-sex marriage in his country and denies gay citizens the freedoms to assemble and petition their government.
Now, it's possible that Chane is correct in the latter point: denial of what we Americans consider basic rights of assembly and redress of grievances. If so, I'd prefer that all citizens everywhere shared our basic rights.

It's funny, I don't remember John Chane beating the drums to liberate Iraq so that Iraqis could have basic rights of assembly and redress of grievances...Ahh, consistency, the hobgoblin of small minds...

On the criminalization of same-sex "marriages", Bishop Akinola has no choice as a Christian. He must oppose same-sex "marriage", on the simplest of grounds: Marriage is a covenant, sealed by God, exclusively between one man, and one woman.

One is free to call other arrangements anything one prefers. Calling them marriage does not make it so, as much as fuzzy thinkers like Bishop Chance might wish. The fundamental point is that gays are free to do what they like, but they're also free to endure whatever punishments their respective societies mete out for breaking one of God's laws.

Someone like Bishop Chane would doubtless be among those who condone, who are "tolerant" of things like Saudis or other muslims taking multiple wives. It's their culture, after all, who are we guilty white liberals to tell them they're wrong. But when another Purple Shirt in the Anglican Communion starts to read his Bible and, horrors, believes, and worse, acts on what he reads, it's Katie bar the door. Can't have that. Those cute little Nigerians just can't be trusted to be in our Rich White Boys' Club, now, can they?

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2.25.2006    |    Gospel of Judas
This'll be a hard sell: good news about Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the Roman authorities. The standard text is from Matthew 26:
14Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Now, here comes the first translation of a "Gospel of Judas," one that portrays Judas as, perhaps, in the words of the translator, Charles Hedrick as follows:
"Judas is not a bad guy in this text," Hedrick said in an interview. "He is the good guy, and he is serving God."
The Washington Post story in today's edition may be found here, although the basic story has been around at least since last December (e.g. this Christian Century story).

Actually, the basic story has been with us since Judas first betrayed Jesus. Not having read the alleged Gospel of Judas, I can't make any specific comments, and the only thing I'll take (great) exception to is any depiction of Judas as a "good guy". I've always believed that Judas was a necessary agent of God, in order to fulfill the Father's salvation plan, most definitely requiring the atoning sacrifice of His Son.

In other words, if not Judas, it would have been someone like Judas. In reality, isn't it all of mankind that betrayed Jesus by rejecting His message? Or, as we were told in catechism, "for your sins He bleeds." Judas was merely an agent, and God used him.

So, am I saying that Judas is, somehow, off the hook because if God willed this role for him, what choice did he have? Not at all. Judas remains a bad guy; a man who could not resist Satan and chose to betray the One who could. From John 13 we see that Jesus knew full well the who, what, when, and why of His betrayal. And, that the proximate agent was Satan:
26Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Judas played a necessary role in salvation history, but not one that should be celebrated as in any way "good."

Necessary, yes. Good, no. Unless one takes an entirely too-philosophical point of view that calls everything needful "good." I prefer an old-fashioned definition of good as the absence of evil. And it's certain that the betrayal of Jesus was the evil act of a sinful man, Judas.

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2.24.2006    |    Tribal trouble
The continuing sectarian violence in Iraq brought to mind the Valley of Achor (Joshua 7:24-26). According to my study Bible, "Achor" means "trouble", although not in modern Hebrew (roughly transliterated, tsarah). Achan the son of Zerah certainly got his share, since he and his family and all that he owned was stoned to death, and then burned. Ouch.

The Valley of Achan is also mentioned as at the boundary between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (personal note: my family's tradition is that we were of the tribe of Benjamin). Even among the tribes of Israel, there was great strife. It seems that whenever one group identifies itself with itself and forgets the Author, there's going to be some "achor."

Sectarian violence is as old as the hills, and will likely be with us until the end times. What we are seeing now in Iraq might be puzzling to the secular West. For those of us who have read Joshua, and the rest of the story of Israel, it's hardly a surprise. If it seems that God has forsaken Iraq, it's only because its people have done two heinous things.

Firstly, they cursed God's chosen people, the Jews, and expelled them. Secondly, they cling to their religion of hatred and violence, Islam. There are some Christians, of ancient tradition, remaining in Iraq. They, too, have been decimated, and, sorry to be judgmental, but some of the ones we read about are not very Christian (e.g. Tarik Aziz, Hussein's hitman second-in-command, is a "Christian").

The problem is tribalism. Does any thinking person really care, to the point of violence, about which grandson of the prophet Mohammed did some 1300 years ago? And, how can any building crafted by the hand of man be considered more important than the Word of God? As in, worth killing over. Short answer: God makes places holy; men don't.

What's missing today is any sense that God is, somehow, on anyone's side in modern Iraq. My sense is that until Shiites and Sunnis renounce Islam and embrace Jesus Christ as their savior, they will continue to be at each other's throats.

Don't hold your breath. I'm almost to the point of saying we should leave now, before another American loses his life. Almost.

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2.23.2006    |    Sectarian Violence
Today's theme in the world news is sectarian violence. And this time, it's not just muslims exploding at real and imagined slights. We've got idolatrous Shiites rioting because their gold-plated mosque was bombed by other muslims. The good news is that nobody was injured in the mosque bombing. The bad news is that the shittes are mad, and they're looking for payback -- and, guaranteed, people will be hurt.

We've still got muslims all fired up about some silly 'toons (here's a Cox & Forkum cartoon that pretty much sums up this situation).

We've got the expected intolerance of the "religion of peace" in Egypt, where muslims have attacked Coptic Christians. This is, in politically correct fashion, headlined: "Attacks on Copts Expose Egypt's Secular Paradox; Tensions Between Muslims, Christians Grow Violent in Time of More Openness." Note that "tensions," and how, somehow, these, all by themselves, "grow more violent." Tensions don't exist is a vacuum; they are caused by human actions. In this case, the tensions are simply due to muslims, in an officially Islamic state, Egypt, attacking Christians and, as it the norm, treating all non-muslims as dhimmi, i.e. citizens who lack full rights.

All of this is ho-hum, just another day, which happens to have more reporting than is the norm. But there is one more story dealing with sectarian violence that is disturbing to a Christian -- or should be. It is the case of some Nigerian Christians striking back at Nigerian muslims, and killing at least 30 muslims. Why striking back? Because Christians have been the target of muslim violence in Nigeria as part of the Islamic world's convulsions over free speech in the West.

My first reaction, I'm ashamed to admit, was something along the lines of, "it's about time!" Then I reflected, for just a few seconds, and realized: this is not what a Christian does. No Christian may kill an innocent person whose only crime is to be a moslem. We must protect other Christians, it is true. But, absent an imminent threat from that person, it is absolutely wrong to take God's judgment into our own hands and kill him. Or her.

No Christian should do such a thing; no Christiant should applaud it. No Christian can say, "well, they're Africans...that's their way." No. God will punish muslims at the end for their idolatry; it is not for us.

Pray for our muslim brothers and sisters, that they may see the Light that is Jesus Christ. And that they abandon their violent and idolatrous ways.
2.21.2006    |    Why is this even a question?
The Supreme Court is about to consider the "constitutionality" of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (WaPo story here). I use scare quotes around constitutionality because it would seem obvious that the most basic right any of us have is the right to life.

This includes babies who have even a remote chance of viability outside the womb. What do I mean by a remote chance? Perhaps this is best measured by the measures that are often used in the attempt to save the life of a critically injured person. Even when the odds are dismal, the attempt is usually made.

Why is this? Because as Christians and Jews, we must err on the side of life if we are to be faithful to God. Sure, look at all of those resources wasted, the logical absolutist might say. I say, look at how we honor God by trying our best to keep one of His beloved creatures alive.

This is basic human rights philosophy. Love life. Seek to preserve it. Do not condone a heinous act in which an innocent child, which the Post of course must call a "fetus", has his or her skull punctured and brains sucked out.

Choose life, and it shall be given back to thee.

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2.19.2006    |    A not-so-merry minuet
Back in the 1960s, the Kingston Trio, along with many others, sang a delightful little social commentary entitled "The Merry Minuet." Which begins, of course, with these lines:
They're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
There's hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering
With unhappy souls...
From here, the song tells us a few who-hates-who (or is that whom?). Well, now we've got rioting in Africa. We've got rioting in Indonesia. We've got rioting in the Middle East. And, I think there would be rioting in Antartica, too, under the right conditions.

Those conditions? A government that wishes to deflect attention away from its shortcomings, and a discontented populace easily manipulated. For which one may read ignorant and stupid, some measure of both. So, it is muslims who are rioting, world-wide. Yet another insult to their apparently fragile religion, which can take anything -- except criticism.

A Christian may die an honorable death defending his faith. A Christian may, even, die an honorable death extending his faith, as in a crusade, but this has become politically incorrect to state. In today's world, it's much, much, more likely that a Christian will simply become an innocent victim of a crazed muslim mob.

Although, of course, it turns out that most of the "victims" of the Islamic rioting around the world are...Muslims. And quite a few otherwise innocent Danish flags. Note the scare quotes around "victims." Those who allow their passions against free speech arouse them to set fire to motorbikes and embassies and Christian churches, and what-all don't deserve much sympathy. While we should not take joy in the suffering of others, it's hard not to make the observation that most who die, do so at the hands of their co-religionists.

Keep it up, boyos. That's fewer of you to come after us. Perhaps, if enough muslims kill each other, then they'll stop and take a deep breath, and ask themselves, "why are we doing this insane thing?"

Don't hold your breath waiting for reason to overtake Islam. Especially don't wait until the so-called "moderate" muslims convince the bulk of muslims that Islam is actually compatible with freedom.

The evidence to date, after over 1300 years, is that it most certainly can not compete in the marketplace of ideas. Absent conquest by the sword, one must wonder how many fewer muslims there would be in today's world.

[As a side note: the same thing could have been said about Christianity up until relatively modern times. In today's world, Christianity is growing as an idea, and, if one is a believer, by the grace of God. Without the sword.]
2.18.2006    |    "Black letter Scripture"
A commenter, Milton Stanley, noted that he hadn't come across the term before. So, a brief explanation.

Black letter Scripture is a term I've used for some years to describe those elements of Scripture that are, or should be, self-evident. Perhaps self-revealing is a better term, given the source of Scripture. Sort of God's little self-extracting bit of knowledge, like a self-extracting zip file.

This is parallel to what is called "black letter law," which means law that is codified (hence, "black letter") and whose prima facie meaning is generally accepted. Not universally; there will be among us always legal beagles who can argue night is day and black is, if not white, at the least some hazy shade of gray.

Getting back to Scripture, not all that is codified in Scripture is accepted as being part of God's book of laws, of course. Enter into discussion with many Anglican churchmen if you doubt this. Or even some of my Baptist colleagues. But I would argue that goodly parts of Scripture are self-evident, and should be generally accepted.

Among these parts I include things such as the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus the Son of God, the Decalogue, and prohibitions against all manner of beastly behavior. Which, in Scripture, most assuredly includes incest, homosexual behavior, and bestiality. And, among Protestants, it should not be necessary to even provide citations for such things (but, for those who need them, try Matthew 1; Exodus 20; Leviticus 18 for these particulars).

"Black letter" Scripture, all. In that they are written down, in black letters, in plain language, and whose first meaning is quite sufficient. To quote a Fox News host from this morning's show about one of those sins, he kind of shouted something like, "you mean you need a law for what's written in the Bible!?!" Meaning, some things are self-evident from Scripture. Black letter Scripture.

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2.17.2006    |    On my honor...
I happened to think of the Boy Scout Oath, and of how many times I'd recited it without really delving into it. The oath was just one of those things you did in order to get to go on those neat camping trips. Which weren't really that neat, now that I've come to prefer air-conditioning and actual beds. But that's another story.

Consider the Boy Scout Oath:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
Note the concepts that other parts of the world bandy about without reflection: honor; duty to God and country; to help others; to be physically and morally strong.

Yes, I know, it says "straight." No homosexuals in Scouting. Which is the way it should be, since being "straight" had the same sense, whether it's overall morality, or sexuality.

The Oath is just a set of words, unless there is the will to be faithful to them. In retrospect, I now see that it is faith in God that comes first, and is an essential part of being a successful Boy Scout. Or American. Or human being.
2.16.2006    |    "inclusive welcome"
So that's what the PCUSA calls spitting in the face of black letter Scripture. Yes, let's be "inclusive." It's clearly the highest virtue. The story in the WaPo is headlined "Presbyterians Urge Lifting Gay Clergy Ban."

How many Presbyterians, one must ask? As of now, according to the story,
At least 21 of 173 regional bodies in the Presbyterian Church USA are calling for repeal of a ban on clergy and lay leaders living in gay or lesbian relationships.
That's not a large percentage, I suppose. Of course, it did say, "at least." One can almost hear the mainstream media cheering as the Presbyterian Church USA circles the drain, about to leave its Reformation roots.

So much for sola scriptura. We'd much rather be "inclusive."

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2.15.2006    |    "a holy place"
A local church, named Dayspring, has a deer problem. Seems the deer were eating vegetation, probably making their lovely 206 acres look just a little less than perfect. Well, what did they do? From the story in the WaPo:
After more than a year of debate, Dayspring's environmentally conscious leaders agreed that some of the deer feasting on vegetation on the church's 206-acre property had to go.
So, they hired some hunters to thin the deer herd, which was done with efficiency, using shotguns. Oh oh. Enter those who think hunting akin to genocide. Seems that Dayspring is a pacifist-leaning organization, and, apparently, includes some folks who have great problems with killing deer.

One such was Jennie Gosche, who is quoted as saying the following:
I feel that it [hunting] is violent, and I feel that Dayspring is a holy place...I feel that violence is never the answer to any problem.
Well, it's nice to have feelings, isn't it? This is typical of "Christians" who have ignored one of the necessary foundations of the Christ's church: the Bible.

If "violence is never the answer to any problem," someone forgot to inform God of this. Violence, against those who sin, is a constant theme in the Hebrew Scriptures, and is promised at the end times, from God, against those who do not follow Christ in the New Testament. Violence must be for God's purposes, not ours, that I'd agree with. And, to be fair, it's not settled for me as to whether most hunting qualifies as serving God's purposes.

Getting back to Dayspring, this case appears to be an example of obeying God's command in Genesis 1:28:
"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Still, it's hardly black and white. Deer can't sin, lacking souls. These deer do what deer do: they foraged for any food available to them. Open question: does one's desire to have a more aesthetically pleasing plot of land outweigh the right of some of God's creatures to live?

I'm not sure, but my instinct says that those deer should live.

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2.13.2006    |    Think we're so big?
One of the enduring themes throughout Scripture is just how small our earthly endeavors are. We build things, we destroy things, we grow crops, harvest them, eat them, go to war with others for more things and crops. It is easy to forget that none of this would exist but for the words of He Who Is.

The words, that is, spoken by God, that caused creation of our universe. And, of us. One may argue about the details, whether our creation took six days or six billion years, or whatever length of time as we know time. Such arguments may keep some divinity schools open, and provide grist for the mills of human vanity.

I've heard some of these arguments, raging back and forth, between Christians who just know they've got it right in the details. And all those who disagree are tools of Satan. Assuming they believe in Satan to begin with...

To bring us back down to size, to our proper place, these equisite words from the King James Version of Isaiah Chapter 40, one of the most beautiful chapters in all of Scripture:
17All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity...

21Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

...23That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
The prophet Isaiah tells us the remedy for this vanity: wait upon the Lord, know that He is in control, and that all we are, all we have, we owe to Him:
31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
I am humbled by these words. Pray that you are as well.

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2.11.2006    |    God's ethnic cleansing?
One grave problem for modern readers of the Torah is that God's wrath was great, and He surely took it out on those who disobeyed Him. Of particular note is when His chosen people Israel are commanded to take over what became modern Israel, "Palestine", Jordan, and parts of Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon.

God's instructions are plain in Deuteronomy 7:
1 "When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, 2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction.
"You must devote them to complete destruction." Harsh times, one supposes, called for harsh measures? Later in Deuteronomy, in chapter 20, God clarifies what He meant by complete destruction:
16 But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.
God also includes the "why": so that the Isaelites won't be taught those "abominable practices."

A modern term for one people killing all of another so that there will be no intermingling of ideas is ethnic cleansing. And yet it is God who is the author, in the plainest of terms. This isn't a quirk of translation. The essential meaning did not change from the original Hebrew.

This is where so-called mainline churches leave the room. Their God is love, don't you see, and would never ever countenance such a wicked thing as leaving alive "nothing that breathes." This is the same God that sent His only Son to die on the cross like a common criminal, without raising a finger to resist?

Short answer is "yes." God took pains from the creation through this very moment to show us how deadly serious He is. You may wish it were not so. You may claim that, somehow, God was a "vengeful" God in Old Testament times, then, somehow, went on some sort of a heavenly retreat with some Buddhists or somesuch, and became the God of love, who would not harm a fly.

No. Same God. Unchanging. What has changed is that we now think ourselves so smart, so modern, that we can assume that anything that happened thousands of years ago is, somehow, now better viewed through a modern lens.

Yes, it was ethnic cleansing. Why? I can only assume, based on the salvation history that's been revealed to us, that God had to set the stage for Israel and Judah, and thence for the coming of His Son, Jesus. Hence the need to enable the ancient Israelites to get what might euphemistically be termed a "clean title" to the land of Israel.

To the land promised by God for a particular people. For a particular purpose. His purpose; not ours.
2.09.2006    |    "and we esteemed him not"
John Piper's desiringGod should be essential reading for evangelicals. The latest of his "fresh words" is titled "Being Mocked: The Essence of Christ’s Work, not Muhammad’s". From these most refreshing fresh words, some vital clarity on the difference between us and them:
What we saw this past week in the Islamic demonstrations over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad was another vivid depiction of the difference between Muhammad and Christ, and what it means to follow each. Not all Muslims approve the violence. But a deep lesson remains: The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery.

If Christ had not been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was his saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God. Already in the Psalms the path of mockery was promised: "All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads" (Psalm 22:7). "He was despised and rejected by men . . . as one from whom men hide their faces . . . and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3).

...That’s the most basic difference between Christ and Muhammad and between a Muslim and a follower of Christ. For Christ, enduring the mockery of the cross was the essence of his mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:11). During his life on earth Jesus was called a bastard (John 8:41), a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65), a devil (Matthew 10:25); and he promised his followers the same: "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household" (Matthew 10:25).
Back in the bad old days, the Roman Church, having nobody around to tell them that their bishops weren't wearing any clothing (metaphorically, perhaps...), they went around in triumphalist fashion, making an idol of The Christ and conquering and converting in His name by the sword. Not exactly something Jesus would have us do -- certainly not in His name.

The Reformation attempted to set things right, and return the church of Christ to its proper, suffering servant model. That is, we all suffer with Him, serve His people, and die with Him on the cross. Not in triumph, but hated by the world.

Islam took the different path; the path of war, the sword, and idolatry of that which is less than God: Mohammed.

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2.08.2006    |    Yum, Danish Ham
Here's at least one product whose sales won't slip because of a Muslim boycott. Those folks don't eat ham. Right; just like they don't drink alcohol...at least in public. But that's neither here nor there, and hardly the real issue.

I think that anyone with his wits about him, and who knows the difference between noise and information, will know that the riots, threatened beheadings, etc. etc. etc., all from adherents of the "religion of peace," are really just part of the continuing war against freedom. In our time, the West, including Denmark, is free, in ways that no predominantly Muslim nation is, or has ever been.

It is this freedom that is what really scares Muslims. If they had to live in a comparably free society, why, there's a good chance that there'd be far fewer Muslims. Put this a little differently, and imagine that Muslim nations were, suddenly, liberated. And that part of that liberty would be, oh, let's call it a souk of ideas.

In this souk, each person, man and woman, would be able to learn and study all religions, with each faith providing its version of the truth. Now, it's certainly possible that most would remain as they'd been born; that's the nature of intellectual oppression suddenly removed. But it's also likely that within a generation or two, a majority of people would choose a faith that most appealed to their sense of God and what He requires of us. I suggest that those with peace in their hearts would not choose Islam of their own volition.

Getting back to present reality, those offensive cartoons were just that: offensive cartoons, and were I a believer, I'd be insulted. I might even write a nasty letter to the editor of any media outlet that published them. However, if I cared a shred about liberty, about freedom of the press, I'd understand that I can't control what others think and believe. And that our right to express even an offensive thought is much more important than a Muslim's right not to be offended.
2.07.2006    |    War on terror?
One of the worst formulations of the Bush administration is that we are in some "global war on terror," GWOT in the acro-speak that bureaucrats often use to avoid speaking the bald truth.

Well, it is certainly true that we are against all forms of terrorism, whether committed by home-grown anti-government morons (e.g. the Oklahoma City bombing) or the now more usual kind committed by Arabs and Muslims. No, not all Muslims are terrorists. Just that most terrorists these days happen to be Muslims.

Some otherwise sharp observers of today's world, like Joe Carter over at Evangelical Outpost, have fallen into the acro-speak trap. That is, the trap of assuming that we are, somehow, at war with "terrorism." For example, in a recent post, Joe wrote "The West is at war with terrorism, not with Islam."

Joe Carter is hardly alone. It is politically incorrect, in extremis, to state what should be obvious: we are at war with Islam. Or, more accurately, Islam is at war with us. Since its founding by the Man with the Sword, Mohammed (peace be upon him indeed, the bloody murderer), Islam has expanded at the point of the sword, unrelentingly, stopped only by force of arms.

The problem for today's West is that we've short memories. Since the last Islamic waves of conquests were defeated half a millenium ago,* we've tended to forget that Islam hasn't. Islam has its peaceful adherents, to be certain. Just as Christianity has its men of violence. The problem with this is that both peaceful Muslims and warlike Christians are at odds with their respective foundations.

Christianity was born in the peace of Jesus' ultimate sacrifice for a sinful people, a sacrifice undertaken without resistance. In contrast, Islam was born in war, and has practiced war without relenting since its founding. It is only because it has failed to keep up with the West militarily that it has not conquered us. Not for lack of will.

We are at war with Islam. The sooner we accept this, internalize it, and act on it, the sooner we will be able to deal rationally with Muslims. Until we do, while we pretend we are, somehow, and illogically, at war with a tactic, terrorism, we are bound to fail.

Think about our war with the Nazis. an analog might be that we declared ourselves to be "at war with blitzkrieg." This formulation would have been just as meanlingless as a "war on terror." We are at war with those who would subjugate us under Islam, not just with the methods they use. Terror is but one of their methods. Others are immigration and demographic immolation in Europe.

Let us be clear, and, as we must, fight Islam with ideas, with economics, with the sword when needed. Always with love, but also with the unfailing protection of those who do not wish to place their necks under the harsh and violent religion that is Islam.

* Two normitive dates are 1529 when the Ottomans were held at the 1529 Siege of Vienna, and the 1492 reconquest of Andalusia, when Ferdinand and Isabella finally, after many centuries, expelled the Moors.

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2.06.2006    |    "blessed shall you be in the city"
Cities are sometimes thought of as evil, dirty, and smelly places. Places that put your mortal soul, along with your worldly body, at grievous risk. Well, I'm here to say, nuts to that. This is part of a long-standing utopian stream of thought that blames one's surroundings for one's downfall.

In America, we've got the Jeffersonians, who claim that only the sturdy yeoman, tilling his plot of land, can be pure. There's also the Walden Pond crowd, who first attend Andover and Harvard (or schools like them), then have the leisure to appreciate the glories of unsullied nature. You know, these are intellectual first cousins to those who would keep the world pristine and undeveloped so that swells like them can enjoy it.

Here in the real world, we've a living to make, people who need to be dealt with, machines and other things that need to be designed, built and delivered. Not to mention that we need to share our culture with others. Enter the city, much despised, but, by God, where I live and where I've always lived. Along with tens of thousands of my good friends.

Cities can be snares, and it's for certain it is easier to slip and fall when many temptations are placed before us. On the other hand, those who think they will remain pure and unsullied by taking themselves out of the city don't understand that the fault lies not in the environment, but in our very nature.

We are fallen, and, as we used to say, we could foul any nest. Just give us a chance, and we'll mess up anything. Are we then doomed? No. The remedy is both simple, and all but impossible to fulfill under the Law. But God has told us, in clear terms, what's required. From Deuteronomy 28:
1 And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God. 3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.
All but impossible to fulfill. But there's really good news in the form of the Good News. Jesus Christ has made the necessary payment, on our behalf.

Because of His sacrifice, Christians may be thought to have an easier time of it. After all, we're told, all one need do is believe in your heart that Christ is Lord, and confess Him with your lips. I've been on both sides of the Law, and, friends, being a disciple of Christ is, if anything, even harder than being under the Law. it's one thing to have a rule book that one must follow. It's quite another to go through your days trying to live as Jesus would have us live. Hoping against hope that you don't disappoint the One who died, knowing all the while how unworthy of His sacrifice we are.

Jesus did not subtract anything. He did add His grace, for which I am thankful. No matter how hard the trip becomes.

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2.05.2006    |    Same old, same old
Here's one of the offending cartoons, depicting Mohammed as the terrorist that he most certainly was. Ol' Mo went about the Arabian peninsula slaying the infidels by the hundreds, if not thousands. Those who submitted to his will, lived.

One of the things crushed in the beginning of Islam appears to be freedom. If anything is certain, it is that today's followers of Mohammed do not provide for freedom to criticize their faith or their prophet. Of course, Muslims are also great hypocrites, for they routinely criticize, and far worse, those who do not share their beliefs. In fact, it is against the law to preach Christ as Lord and Savior in many such places. In otehrs, it may be legal, but downright hazardous to your health.

Here in the West, we've learned that to earn respect, one must also give it in return. This is the first lesson. The second lesson is that by continuing to commit acts of terrorism, even against the embassies of those now-secular and overly tolerant nations in Scandinavia (WaPo story here), Muslims simply reaffirm the accuracy of this particular image of Mohammed with a bomb on his head.

The message to the world's Muslims must be: first, lighten up, and stop reacting with violence to any criticism. It only confirms the worst about how people depict your prophet. Second, read some true Scripture and find out what the true spiritual descendents of Abraham are about. You might find that love conquers all and is far mightier than the sword used by Islam.

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2.03.2006    |    Muslim idolatry
The facts are ugly enough. The latest violent reaction of the religion of pieces to images of their beloved prophet is expected. Here's one non-apologetic take on that story.

And, friends, it's already old news that Muslims will desecrate Christian and Jewish symbols in a heartbeat, if they can't find an actual Christian or Jew to slaughter. Some of us fight back, imagine that. So much easier to simply attempt to cower the secular and post-colonial guilty white Euros.

Now, as despicable and predictable as the Islamic reaction is, has anyone sat down and thought about what this reverance of a man, a mere mortal, is? Islam, on paper, forbids the making of a graven image, as, of course, does our faith -- Exodus 20:4.

One of the things that Christians have done is have loads of images. The usual justification for having statues, paintings, frescoes, and Jesus bobblehead dolls for the car, is that the pesky commandment about "graven images" (KJV) was just relating to worship of those images. Not their existence.

Islam, however, treats old plundering Mo(hammed) as if he were God. No images. You say nice things, like that "PBUH: that invariably follows his name (I always think of the "poobah", as in "grand imperial poobah", a term of derision). Worse, it's a major crime, a capital offence, to say anything bad about the moke. Under Islamic law, that is.

What does it say about a religion that treats a mere human as being worthy of this kind of deification? Answer: Idolatry. Which is the best one-word description for Islam.

Oh oh, fatwa coming from those peaceful Muslims...
2.02.2006    |    "the Christian middle"
There's a longish piece on John Danforth in the Sytle section of today's Washington Post (where else but Style?). The title, and the fact that it appears in the far-left corner of the WaPo called "Style", is more than a little snarky: "'St. Jack' and the Bullies in the Pulpit; John Danforth Says It's Time the GOP Center Took On The Christian Right." From the story, the essence:
Jack Danforth wishes the Republican right would step down from its pulpit. Instead, he sees a constant flow of religion into national politics. And not just any religion, either, but the us-versus-them, my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God, velvet-fist variety of Christian evangelism.

As a mainline Episcopal priest, retired U.S. senator and diplomat, Danforth worships a humbler God and considers the right's certainty a sin.
The article is, basically, about what a nice fellow John Danforth is, and what knuckle-dragging troglodytes those beastly evangelicals are.

Now, to me, the term "mainline Episcopal priest" could just as easily have been "priest of Satan." Speaking of Satan, the article touts one of Danforth's new best friends, Jimmah Carter, worst ex-president, ever (and a really lousy president when he was in office). Carter compares us evangelical Republicans (yeah, I'm one...) to the left's second-best bogeyman:
In an interview, Carter praises Danforth as "one of my heroes" and says modern-day fundamentalism is identifiable by superiority, exclusivity and narrow-mindedness. The current alignment reminds him of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's red-baiting frenzy of 50 years ago. He says the country licked McCarthy and will beat the Christian conservatives, "once the American people realize accurately what is happening."
Yes, McCarthy is only second best. Hitler is number one on the left's cheap shot roster.

John Danforth may be a fine, upstanding man, and I used to respect him. But it appears that he's fallen into the trap of politicizing Christianity, which is the crime he accuses us of. How so? Because he urges that we all become "moderate", and should occupy "the Christian middle."

Sounds like someone who is embarrassed by the Gospel, in that it might offend some. This story merely reinforces what has become apparent: "mainline" churches are no longer Christian. They are high-toned, self-righteous social clubs.

Of course, I'm a Baptist, so I just don't see that political triumphalism that the left complains of. What I see a lot of is old-fashioned humility, and the serene knowledge that while we must be humble and attempt to walk in God's ways, our God is anything but humble.

Mr. Danforth, we're ever so sorry that your God is "humbler." Perhaps you've been at too many country club luncheons, and have confused your social class with the Almighty.

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2.01.2006    |    Not a parody
Saw the ad on a Metro bus this morning; all I caught was the tagline: "We All Have AIDS." Googling like any good computer user, I find that this is part of a campaign sponsored by Kenneth Cole in order to, from the Henry J. Kaiser "Family" Foundation (sorry for the scare quotes, but read it and you decide if they're not just right):
foster needed solidarity and to bring light to the devastating stigma associated with those living today with HIV/AIDS.

...The campaign exemplifies a unified response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, asserting that if anyone has AIDS we all do, and if it exists anywhere it essentially exists everywhere.
Ahh, pure victim-speak. At first, I thought this was a reference to the scatalogic parody, "Team America: World Police", which has a lovely little sendup of "Rent" in its big musical production, "Everyone Has AIDS". Well, life imitates art, so they say.

The point of Team America, and my point are the same: AIDS isn't something you catch without doing something you oughtn't be doing. Except for a tiny, tiny proportion of innocent victims, AIDS is a disease of homosexual men, men and women who have promiscuous, unprotected sex with multiple partners, and intravenous drug users.

In other words, these are victims of their own bad choices. I didn't make them make those choices. I don't have AIDS because they do. And I feel not the slightest tinge of guilt for saying so. No matter what some weak-minded fashion mogul claims.

Now, regardless of guilt, all who have AIDS deserve our compassion, and the best medical care that we can give them. But let's not fall into the intellectual mush of calling these people "victims" of anything other than their own sins.

What an old-fashioned notion: we reap what we sow. Which very much includes me and my own sins. But I surely don't expect those with AIDS to accept my sins. That's already been done for both them and me by one Jesus Christ.

Turning to Him, accepting Him as your Lord and Saviour, would be the best medicine I could ever remmend to anyone who suffers. From anything.

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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.