Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"Freedom is on the March"

Most people assume I'm a Republican. Most of the time I sound like one, but I'm no Elephant. Of course, I'm no Donkey either. So what am I? I am a Libertarian. Here's why. Did you know that in the state of Texas we license interior decorators? Yes, in Texas you could be fined if you accept payment from someone for telling them what color draperies would look good with a certain style and color of carpet – unless, that is, you first secure the government's permission to make that judgment. In almost every state in the nation, you can't pay someone to clip your fingernails unless the government approves. You can't even give someone five bucks to wash your hair without violating the law! Last week when I went to get a hair cut I saw a new sign on the counter. It said, "State health and safety regulations prohibit persons other than the customer from entering the styling area." So now Holly can't go back with me and make fun of my haircut! Tell me, please, why do I have to go to the government to get a list of people who are "approved" to massage out a cramp? Now look around your office. See any doorknobs? Knobs – not those lever things. They're illegal in workplaces you know. You or your boss could be fined for each knob. There is the chance, you see, that someone with a disability might try to open one of those doors someday and they might not be able to turn that troublesome knob. Recently a "friend" in a "nearby city" (I'm being vague just in case the government is monotoring this communication under Patriot Acts I & II) rented the office space right next to their existing office. Same building okay, just with a door between the two offices (just like two adjoining hotel rooms). While down at city hall getting a certificate of occupancy my "friend" mentioned that he was going to remove the door - just knock out two hinges - and the clerk told him he had to buy a $75 building permit. So, like good Americans, we proudly removed the door with no permit. Ironically, this "nearby city" is one of the most conservative cities in America. I could go on and on. That's why I'm a Libertarian. Like I've said before, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is like the difference between diet Coke and diet Pepsi. Until one of the major parties takes a stand against the inane regulations that make criminals of us all, I'll continue to be a Libetarian. Remember the movie "The Patriot?" At first Mel Gibson's character will not fight. He asks the townspeople, "Why exchange one tyrannt 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrannts one mile away?" The question still stands.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Merry Christmas

In December 1980, Ruel Lemmons, editor of the Firm Foundation (a Church of Christ publication) wrote the following editorial. It is one of the best takes on Christmas I have ever read:

"We are again at that time on the calendar when the western world pauses to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was born in the world. The date makes little difference. We heartily agree that some other time of year suits the occasion best, but that makes little actual difference. We also agree that the celebration of a special religious holiday has no foundation in scripture, and that it had its sources in pagan rites and apostate festivals.

Personally, I am glad that the world, bent on carnage and drunk on hedonism takes time out to acknowledge that God sent His Son in to the world. Even atheists, like the stones on the ground, cry out. We deplore the fact that men make merchandise of the occasion – as the moneychangers took advantage of the opportunity in the temple – but even they help the world to stop and take note of God’s gift to man. In a world of war they talk about peace; in a world of hate they talk about love; in a world of sorrow they talk about joy. All the advertising, all the decorations, all the plans for family gatherings call attention to the fact that there is something better in the world than the rat race.

A lot of attention is given in the Bible to the birth of Jesus. The gospels abound in details. The numbering, the birth, the stable, the flight into Egypt – there was a lot of excitement in both heaven and earth when God sent His Son into the world. Without controversy the greatest event in all human history was heralded by the star that shone over Bethlehem. One might argue the merits of the cross as the greatest, but had there been no manger there would have been no cross. With the coming of the Son of God in human flesh a love was born that the world had never before known. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” With all we think we know about love, we can grasp but a very small concept of that love. No wonder the angels sang!

The eloquence of tongue and pen have been exhausted in paying homage to the babe of Bethlehem, the man of Galilee, and the lamb on the cross. Limited as we are in our humanism it is impossible for us to grasp the full significance of what God did in Christ at that time. About the best we can do is acknowledge that if he had not come into the world we would die without hope of heaven. He was the light shining in the dark place. “They that sat in darkness saw a great light.” We can understand the love of a mother for her child. We can even understand the love of a man who might give his life for his country. But it is beyond us to understand the love of a God who would rob heaven to bless earth; empty glory to fill us with glory. It was no natural affection that made God send Jesus into the world. What He did at Bethlehem matured until it became what He did at the cross. It is fitting that we should pause and take note that we didn’t earn it; it was an act of grace.

History is sometimes turned around by the smallest of events, and destiny is balanced on the point of a pin. The almost totally un-noticed event of Bethlehem has affected the world more than all the battles that were ever fought or all the governments that have ever convened. For four thousand years sin-cursed man had hoped for the seed of woman that would bruise the serpent’s head, and the two thousand years the Jews had looked for a Messiah. But when he came they didn’t recognize him. He came in the seclusion of a stable, in the darkness of night, and in the guise of a man. The greatest forces of all time do not come with powerful explosions or the noise of racing chariots; they come on silent wings. The power of love is such a force. And grace and goodness make little racket.

In a night without light, came the Light. In a world without hope, hope was born. In the midst of despair, there was the singing of angels. They had but a star, but we have the Light of life. The hopes and fears of all the years were pinned, whether the shepherds realized it or not, upon a little baby in a young mother’s arms. That is where hope still lies. Wise men brought him gifts. But their gold, frankincense, and myrrh have long since turned to dust. It was the best they had, and they set precedent for our giving gifts, but they gave only gifts that perish. We have an opportunity to give a living sacrifice. If giving is the test of loving, then let us give the consecration of our lives. He himself has said, “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man would lay down his life for his friends.” After all, it isn’t the gaudy tinsel in which the gift is wrapped, nor is it the extravagant price paid for it, it is the heart that is given with the gift that really makes the gift worth receiving."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Lovely Wife

If you haven't done so yet, please check out Holly's blog - Confessions of a Preacher's Wife. It's right at the top of my list of links. She'll make you laugh and cry and think all at the same time!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How to Save the Country

People always wonder what they can do as “little” people without power to make our country better. The answer: Change the little things first. Most people who are worried about the direction of our country think that all the battles are big ones. But we cannot win any of the big ones if we keep losing the small ones.

Here’s one. We are again faced with the mind-numbing delusion of people everywhere saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Nothing is quite as narcissistic as the policy that because there are non-Christian shoppers, a store may not say “Merry Christmas," and because there are non-Christian employees at a company, its Christmas party may not be called one. Who do 5 percent of the shoppers and employees think they are that they feel empowered to demand that the other 95 percent not celebrate their party with the name that they want, or receive a greeting that is appropriate to the occasion – shopping for CHRISTMAS gifts. After all, gift-giving is a practice deeply rooted in the meaning of Christmas.

“Ah, yes, but we want to be inclusive,” “sensitive” people will say. But, dear Mr. or Mrs. Sensitivity, how is inviting a Jew who does not celebrate Christmas, to the company's Christmas party not inclusive? Isn't inviting that person by definition inclusive? And if it isn't, perhaps to be really inclusive, given that Jews keep kosher, you'll have to refrain from serving shellfish or pork products. And you better not serve coffee or any other caffeinated products because of the Mormons. In fact, to be really inclusive, you better drop the word “holiday” altogether. Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden from celebrating holidays. So maybe the sensitivity crowd should just call it a “party.” But even that might not be inclusive enough. What about those who are forbidden to party (certain fundamentalists and Jews who are in mourning)? For their sakes, let's not even call it a party.

I have always believed that unless the majority is engaged in evil, you honor their wishes. If a religious or non-religious minority member can't abide the term “Christmas,” it is entirely their problem, not the majority's. Demanding that the vast majority of one's fellow workers or shoppers deny the holiday they all celebrate just to make a few people more comfortable is morally indefensible. It is also dishonest. What December holiday is it, after all, if not Christmas? The winter solstice? Martin Van Buren's birthday? Constitution Day in Uzbekistan?

Fight back calmly and politely. But fight back. Do not be deterred by being a called a bigot. Wanting a Christmas party or a store clerk to say “Merry Christmas” hardly makes you a bigot. It is the person who wants “Christmas” dropped who is the bigot. Furthermore, few non-Christians actually object. The vast majority of Jews, whether or not they celebrate Hanukah (which is a very American Jewish holiday), at least honor Christmas, as do the vast majority of blacks, whether or not they celebrate Kwanza. After all, most American blacks are Christians, and Kwanza is a holiday invented in the sixties. And ask why “Happy Halloween” is acceptable. That will reveal a big American secret: Conservatives (such as Christians who do not celebrate Halloween) are usually far more tolerant of things they disagree with than their opponents are. Do not be intimidated by anti-Christian animosity that masquerades as “sensitivity” or “inclusiveness.” Merry Christmas friends.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Thoughts on General Motors

I've been hearing on the news all day that GM is going to close 12 plants and lay off 30 000 workers. I feel for those workers, their families, and their communities. If only their unions hadn't pushed for the kind of health coverage they now get - but I digress. GM has been losing market share every year for a long time now. Why? Because they build cars people don't want. I know that where I live in west Texas it doesn't seem that way since every second person has a Chevy truck. But here's my experience. A month ago my wife (Holly) was rear-ended as she was entering our driveway. While her Nissan Murano SUV was being repaired we rented a fairly new GMC Envoy. At first glance it seemed to be a nice vehicle - until we had to drive it for 2 weeks! When we got the Nissan back after 2 weeks it was such a step up - the Murano is smoother, has a more solid feel, better steering, better handling, more rear leg room, more cargo room, the engine is far more advanced, not to mention the CVT transmission, the interior materials and ergonomics are clearly superior to the GMC, and it gets better gas mileage. And, the Nissan is $6000 cheaper than the GMC. Brand loyalty and emotional appeals to "buy American" cannot overcome the vast differences in quality and function that now exist between American vehicles and their Japanese and German rivals. That's why GM is losing market share. It's still sad, but that's "where the rubber meets the road."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Real War of the Worlds

All week long I’ve been hearing the ruckus in the news about the Iraq war, and faulty intelligence, and torture, and oil, and blah, blah, blah. So I’ve decided to take a big picture approach. With the almost daily bombings in Iraq and Israel, the recent bombings in London, the current riots in France, the suicide attack in Jordan, and our own precarious political climate, it occurs to me that the world's future is being decided at this time. Moments like this are extremely rare in history. There are now three ideologies competing to shape the future of mankind. They are militant Islam, Western European secular socialism, and American Judeo-Christian values.

Though most people ignore the fact, almost all of the world's Muslims believe that all of mankind should be Muslim. This, in and of itself, is not troubling - after all, most Christians would like the whole world to be Christian. What is troubling is that if only 10 percent of these Muslims are prepared to use violence to impose their religion on others, we are talking about 100 million people. This is the reason about one million non-Muslim Sudanese have been killed in the last 15 years. This is the reason for the violence in Nigeria - Christians there are also resisting the violent imposition of Islam. This is the reason for Islamic terror - to weaken those countries that stand in the way of an Islamic takeover.

The second ideology seeking to dominate the world is secular socialism as practiced in Western Europe and supported by leftist elites in our own country. This is the reason for the anti-American demonstrations in Europe. Most of these anti war types could not care less about the wars of the world. They have been silent throughout the mass murder of Sudan's blacks, during the genocide in Rwanda, during China's crushing of Tibet, and during Saddam's wars against Iran, Kuwait and the Kurds. American and European “peace” activists have found those atrocities and wars boring. European socialists and their American supporters are as passionate about secularism as Muslims are about Islam, and they want to dominate the world as much as militant Muslims want to. Their vehicles are the United Nations, the European Union, international treaties such as the Kyoto Protocols, and international institutions such as the International Criminal Court in Brussels.

While Islam and socialism dominate many countries, the third ideology is unique to America. There is no other country that claims to be Judeo-Christian, and defines itself as good. Other countries laud their greatness, not their goodness, and there is a big difference (Nazi Germany was great, but not good). This is why America so often “goes it alone” - with the partial exceptions of Israel and Britain, no other society has the same values as we do. It is thus sad that these values are not secure in America. Many Americans, including almost its entire intellectual class, are as hostile to Judeo-Christian values as the militant Muslims and European socialists are. Almost no one is teaching the next generation of Americans what is unique about American values. American children are mostly educated by people who believe in Europe's values, not ours. The American way of life can only prevail if Americans believe in it. That is why, as important as the military battles against militant Islam are, the most important battle is the ideological one within America – a battle that is far from won. This is why I have so much contempt for politicians of both parties. They are too obtuse to see the big picture because they are too busy yapping at each other’s heels over complete nonsense. Given that only America offers a viable alternative to both militant Islam and secular socialism, if we lose the battle here, humanity has a very dark future. To quote Reagan, “If we fail, we will sentence our children to a thousand years of darkness.”

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Use and Abuse of Scripture

I believe that our familiarity with scripture borders on contempt. How often do we go back to texts we think we know and read and reread? What are we thinking during the scripture readings on a Sunday morning? Have you ever complained that a preacher read too much scripture? Just last week I got a note from a member asking me not to read so much scripture! Then I think of my trips to Zambia. I wish you could see the faces of Christians pleading with us to send Bibles. I wish you could have heard one African brother telling me that the only Bible in their congregation belonged to his father way back in 1937. I wish you could have seen the men frantically writing down every text we read because they had no Bibles to read it for themselves.

I see example everywhere of the abuse of scripture, some obvious, and some subtle. I have heard scripture rapidly quoted with anger and bitterness by people using the Bible as their own personal machine gun to win an argument, and I have debated with an atheist on historical inconsistencies they happened to uncover in the Bible. These examples have one thing in common – these people were quoting scripture without having a relationship with the author of scripture. You must have a loving relationship with God in order to understand His revelation to us!

I have observed two very extreme, very opposite ways of reading scripture, and I believe they are both dangerous:

1. Pattenism:
By this I mean reading scripture for the sole purpose of extracting rules and procedures, and guidelines. This is dangerous because scripture then becomes cold and lifeless. Passages can be ripped from their literary and historical contexts, and we tend to focus on the question, “Does the silence of scripture prohibit or allow something?” – a question that the Bible itself does not answer. Reading the Bible this way can make us intellectually lazy because if the Bible is reduced to a collection of facts to be learned, then you can only know so much, and once you have all the facts and rules down there’s not much left to do but argue with anyone who disagrees.

The other way of misusing scripture is even more dangerous:

2. Subjective Emotionalism:
When I am around students at ACU I often hear the phrase, “God laid it on my heart.” However, what they think God laid on their heart is sometimes heresy. God could not have laid on their heart something nearly as vapid as what comes out of their mouths. One of my theology professors told me that one time a young married couple came to see him, and the wife boldly declared that God had spoken to her – she was to abstain from sex with her husband. The teacher asked the husband, “Has God spoken to you about this?,” and he said, “NOPE!” And the teacher said, “Now this is interesting. Do you know that God has addressed this topic directly in scripture?” (see 1 Corinthians 7:5) A woman was claiming a “revelation” from God that directly contradicted scripture!

This is the danger of treating the Bible as a “living document.” When reading scripture becomes a private, purely emotional, application-only experience you also rip passages out of their contexts, and force those passages to say things they were never intended to say. Looking for “personal meaning” in scripture is like interpreting a piece of modern art at the museum – “whoa, that’s cool – never saw that before.” This way of reading scripture perpetuates the trendy myth that the sole aim of Christianity is to develop a “personal relationship” with Jesus, but when you find an unintended application in scripture you are committing violence against the integrity of the text. For example, I was sitting in on a small group study some time ago, and we were studying one of the prophets – a text where the prophet was condemning Israel, Isaiah I think. And people were saying, “Us Americans need to change. Look at this message from God. God will destroy our nation if we continue to sin and act immoral” – and I felt foolish pointing out that the prophet was speaking to Israel, not the United States. God has no covenant with the United States. The "new Israel" is the church, not America!

Here’s my point. I basically believe that scripture cannot have a meaning that the original author did not intend for the original audience to understand. I know that earns me the label of being a historical-critical reader of scripture. It’s just that I’ve seen so much abuse of scripture I want to be sure I approach scripture with humility and give the text the respect I claim to have for it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I Voted!

Well, my friends, I voted today for the first time ever in my life. Yes, I'm 31, and I have never voted before today! South Africa's first free election was held in 1994 - 2 months after I left, and I only became a U.S. citizen this February. So today I fulfilled my civic responsibility (depite my dualistic Augustinian leanings) and voted. How did I vote on Prop.2? I voted Yes - but I really thought about it first. Yes, I know homosexuality is bad, but ammending the constitution deserves plenty of thought.

And now for some random thoughts:

Why I hate the media reason number 1: All week I've been hearing about "French youths" rioting. You mean little Pierre and Jacques and Marcel and Alphonse are upset over not being admitted to the annual fĂȘte de la pomme, du cidre et du fromage at the Place de la Marie? (translation: cheese eating contest.) No, no, no! These are Muslim youths rioting as part of a long-term strategy of testing French resolve because they believe all of "Christian Europe" ought to be Muslim. The French have been weighed on the scales of history, and they have been found wanting!

And about the obscene profits of "big oil." Just so you know, I worship at the altar of the free-market. I am a Libertarian, a member of the Acton Institute, and friends with members of the Cato Institute and the Federalist Society. HOWEVER, the oil companies do not operate in a free market. They are heavily regulated by congress, fuel is taxed through the roof, and six companies (Conoco-Philips, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Shell, Total-Fina, and BP) collude with each other in what amounts to a virtual monopoly. Our economy is intertwined with the price of fuel. It costs about $4 to remove a barrel of oil, and it sells for $60. Don't give me supply and demand rationale. The oil market is artificially manipulated. When gas goes from $1.50 to $3 in the space of one year, and profits go up by 75% something ain't right! And don't forget one more thing. God is always on the side of the poor. Read Micah and Amos. Those are some real "family values" my Republican friends.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Liturgical Dancewear" ?

I know that this blog community likes to share examples of the shallowness of modern evangelicalism, so here's one I have to share. This morning I found a new catalogue in my church mailbox - "Spiritual Expressions. Liturgical Dancewear for 2006." Check out www.spiritualexpressions.com for a good laugh.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why I Believe in Providence and Free-Will

After some recent political rants, I want to return to some theology. What is my theology of providence? What about suffering? The million dollar question is why do good people suffer? The most consistent challenge to belief in God has been the problem of evil and human suffering. The essential beliefs Christians hold about the nature of God seem incompatible with the evil that is so prevalent in the world. We believe that God is good (omnibenevolent), all knowing (omniscient), and powerful (omnipotent). The difficulties are, therefore, if God is good, and loves humans beings, why doesn’t He always act to deliver those He loves from suffering? And, if God is all-powerful, is it not reasonable to expect Him to deliver His people from suffering? Without dismissing these concerns, a better question for people of faith might be, what can God accomplish by allowing suffering? Human survival is one answer. For example, pain exists as a biological warning system. If I place my hand into a fire, I will recoil, but imagine the horrific result if my hand felt no pain! Pain and suffering often lead to growth in knowledge and power. Athletes know that temporary pain will lead to a stronger body. The world needs a system of ordered regularities – the “laws of nature.” Pain is the price of an ordered universe and human free will. Also, is it true that a good person must necessarily always stop pain when they have the power to do so? For example, when my mother first took me for immunizations, the needle being jabbed into my arm hurt! I was suffering, and my mother did nothing to stop it. So, was she a good mother or a bad mother?

Here are some central questions. Can God be in control of some things without constantly being in control of everything? Do humans have free will in a created order governed by God? What is the nature of divine sovereignty? Is it to alleviate personal suffering on an individual basis, or is there a higher purpose? Scripture provides some answers to these questions. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22, it was to teach Abraham that freedom from suffering is less important than God’s covenant. The story of Joseph, and his rationale to his brothers is Genesis 50, teaches that the suffering of individual people sometimes brings about good for God’s collective people. Job teaches that we are God’s, to do with as He pleases. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). God is our Creator. He graciously gives us life, and every breath is a gift from Him. I have no “right” to expect one more breath! In the New Testament, the example of Christ teaches us that freedom from suffering is less important than God’s redemption of the world. In John 9 Jesus’ disciples ask him why a certain man was born blind. Did he sin, or did his parents sin? “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).

Can we make deals with God? This question is not often asked as bluntly, but it is asked implicitly. The belief that good people should not suffer because of their own righteousness is rampant in both Jewish and Christian life. Many people of faith believe that they should be able to avoid the calamities that afflict the less pious. This, in essence, is attempting to make a “deal” with God – “I’ll do what you want so that you will do what I want.” Believers, as well as non-believers, seek to reconcile the existence of God with the fact that good people suffer. But an equally appropriate question is, “Why shouldn’t good people suffer?” Rabbi Harold Kushner once asked, in this regard, “Should a pious person be able to go out on a freezing night without a jacket and not get sick?” And yet many Jews and Christians believe that if one observes God’s laws it is therefore unjust for the righteous to suffer. But unjust according to who’s definition of justice? This attitude may help to explain why unjust suffering can be so devastating to people’s faith. For many religious people, the problem of how a just, loving, and powerful Creator can allow terrible injustices is compounded by their belief that if they suffer while doing good, God has reneged on a “deal” with them. But the purpose of religion is to change the behavior of the believer, not God’s behavior. God will reward good and punish evil in the afterlife, not necessarily in this life. If God always rewards the righteous in this life, then the opposite must also be true – suffering is punishment from God. This belief is as prevalent as it is wrongheaded and cruel. I have heard Christians tell people who are suffering that if they prayed more and got closer to God their suffering would be alleviated! This belief renders the question, “Why do good people suffer?” self-contradictory. Those who believe that being righteous will protect them from suffering have already answered the question – if you suffer, you’re not a good person! The answer is not to make deals, but to understand God’s providence. Divine providence is rooted in the character of God, particularly His love. God’s desire to love and to be loved caused Him to create, and His continual desire to love causes Him to interact with that creation. Out of His love, God created humans as moral free agents because virtue cannot be coerced. Divine providence does not imply a tyrannical God who controls the universe at every level. In His great love, God has granted to humanity the power to choose its own destiny through choices. For me, a “puppetmaster” God negates the concept of love (for further guidance watch “Bruce Almighty”). Our understanding of providence provides answers to the tragedies of life by informing the Christian community that love is central to the nature and character of God, and love implies risk since refusal to control another being is a demonstration of love for that being. The outcome of God’s work in the world is not a foregone conclusion since God’s actions are predicated on human decisions. Even His plan for the redemption of humanity had the potential for failure because it depended on choice. In a Christian sense, providence means that God is more concerned with the eternal state of humanity than our temporal level of comfort. This understanding of divine providence is inextricably intertwined with the theology of creation. If God refuses to act as a universal tyrant, determining through foreknowledge, the course of every event, then the world He created necessarily has the potential to evolve freely. In such a system, humans have the intrinsic capacity to commit evil. The dialectic of good and evil is built into creation from the beginning. In a sense, God’s great love makes Him subject to His own creation. He is grieved when evil is committed, He changes His mind when pressed, and He is moved to act when we approach Him in prayer. Believing that God is tied to His creation because of love has implications for how we interact with creation. Any view of providence must dismiss the Deistic view that God has created, and then moved on, never interacting with His creation, but rather watching from afar. On the other end of the theological spectrum, determinism also tends to negate the love of God. In a word, I believe in free will because of LOVE.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Internet is in Danger

I won't go into too much depth here, but you need to know that the machinery is in motion to turn the operational control of the Internet over to the United Nations. It's "unfair" for the U.S. to control all this information and technology. Where can this go? Let's consider for just a moment the document that Bill Clinton called the greatest document ever written by man in support of human rights and freedom. That would the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document is supposed to be the great international blueprint for human rights around the world. The document says that it represents “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” Does the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights protect free speech? Well, in a word, yes it does. Article 19 says that everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression. So far, so good. The declaration also says that everyone has a right to rest and leisure and a right to a standard of living. Interesting. It also says that all mothers and children are entitled to “special care and assistance.” Problematic to say the least, but let's go to Article 29 Paragraph 3. “These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

Do you need to read that again? This one clause negates every single right recognized in this so-called “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” You have no freedom of speech. You have no freedom of expression. You have no right to property. You have no right to your precious “standard of living” - you have nothing if your exercise of those rights interferes with the goals of the United Nations.

Now, back to the Internet. When the United Nations gains control just how far will it go? Will it start censoring the Internet to make sure that nobody posts any information or opinions that might interfere with the “purposes and principles” of the United Nations? There is talk, for instance, of a world-wide income tax to fund U.N. operations. Would I be allowed to post an opinion in opposition to this scheme? Are you worried? You should be, especially when you consider that more Americans are concerned about Tom Cruise impregnating Katie Holmes!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

American Myths – for the Thinking Person

In keeping with the theme of this blog – “hostility toward every form of tyranny over the mind of man,” I would like to correct what, in my opinion, are three American myths. Let’s work backwards.

Myth # 1: George W. Bush is a conservative.
Don’t get me wrong. I like George Bush. Sure, he’s an evangelical Christian, and he has an “R” next to his name, but conservative? By what definition of conservative? Radical leftists and socialists call him conservative, but this only serves to demonstrate that anyone can be “conservative” or “liberal,” depending on what they believe in relation to you. So what non-conservative things is “W” guilty of?
Cozying up to the Clintons.
Support for moderate rather than conservative Republicans in state primaries.
Allowing Ted Kennedy to write the education bill.
Throwing obscene amounts of money at education – something the imperial federal government has no business in.
The Medicare prescription drug benefit – an unnecessary and bloated entitlement.
Too few tax cuts.
Micromanaging an armchair war in Iraq – and making a mess of it.
Throwing Israel under the bus with the “road map” to peace, including pressuring the Gaza pullout.
Throwing vast amounts of money at Katrina relief.
Being the biggest spender in all of U.S. history – he has not vetoed a single spending bill, including the pork-laden highway bill.
Being AWOL on border security.
Signing the Campaign Finance Reform bill – a brutal assault on the 1st Amendment.

Myth # 2: Republicans are racist while Democrats care for blacks.
Going way back, the Republicans (Lincoln) freed the slaves, and 100 years later Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act despite severe Democratic opposition in the Senate. The Democratic Party had a stranglehold on the south during the 50’s and 60’s – they (Gov. Wallace) were the ones blocking the school door, while Republicans (Eisenhower) forced integration. Today, Democrats still keep blacks on the plantation of dependency, and the results are disastrous – see recent events in New Orleans. Affirmative action, likewise, smacks of the bigotry of low expectations.

I could go on, but due to all the banter about Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, the next myth is the real issue I want to get to.

Myth # 3: The Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857 prolonged slavery and declared the intrinsic worth of blacks to be less than that of whites by way of the infamous two-fifths clause.

Please, I beg you, continue to read! Why? Because George W. Bush has already appointed 2 justices to the Supreme Court – people who will profoundly affect our lives for decades. Bush said, in one of the 2004 presidential debates, that he would never appoint someone who would rule the same as the Dred Scott decision. I understand that was code language to pro-life evangelicals, but Dred Scott was a GOOD decision. “How?” you ask. “How, by declaring a black person to be the equivalent of only two-fifths of a white person, was that a good decision?” This does not mean, as modern school textbooks assert, that a black person, as an individual, was thought to be intrinsically worth less than a white person. It had to do with a fight between the northern and the southern states over the issue of political representation in Congress. The south wanted to count its blacks as whole persons to increase its power because representation in Congress is apportioned on the basis of population. The northern states wanted blacks to count for nothing - not for the purpose of rejecting their humanity, but to maintain an anti-slavery northern majority in the Congress. It was a Pennsylvania abolitionist, James Wilson, who proposed the three-fifths compromise. The effect was to limit the south’s political representation and its ability to protect the institution of slavery. Even Frederick Douglass called the three-fifths clause “a downright disability laid upon the slaveholding states which deprived them of two-fifths of their natural basis for representation.”

Just remember, you really have to ask hard questions and dig a little deeper to understand history.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Are All Sins Equal in God's Eyes?

Most Christians, particularly Evangelicals, instinctively believe that all sins are equally bad in God's eyes. This, no doubt, stems from our understanding of sin as something that separates one from God. Any sin, no matter how small, separates us from God. In terms of sin and salvation, that is sound Christian doctrine, but still, the belief that all sins are equal in God’s eyes makes little sense. If they were, that would make us humans more just and more intelligent than God. After all, our legal system differentiates between petty theft, speeding, and murder. We even have gradations of murder – 1st and 2nd degree murders. We don’t believe that all crime is equal in the eyes of the law. So, do Catholics who believe it is a sin to use birth control believe that God considers birth control as wrong as murder? Do Jews who believe it is a sin to eat non-kosher food equate doing so with committing rape? Do Evangelicals who believe it is a sin to gamble believe that God views a night at the blackjack table as sinful as abusing a child? For me it is sad when religious people depict God in a way that renders him less intelligent than his creations. Sure, we humans think that murdering a family is worse than taking a stapler home from the office, but God doesn't! The Bible seems to be clear when it comes to the hierarchy of sin. God abhors the deliberate infliction of unjust suffering on fellow human beings. There are some legal differences between the Old and New Testaments (e.g. divorce), but they agree that God hates evil and loves goodness. “Love your neighbor” is the great rule in Judaism and along with love of God (also from the Old Testament) is the central rule of Christianity. God did not destroy Noah's generation because they ate forbidden foods or took home cheap objects from the workplace. He did so because it was violently evil. So to discern what the greatest sin is, we begin with it having to do with evil actions. But that is not the end of it. Even among identical acts of evil, there is one category that I believe is worse than any other: evil committed in God's name. In John 19:11 Jesus told Pilate that those who had delivered him up (the Jewish religious leaders) were “guilty of the greater sin.” It is laughable that Evangelical Christians would continue to believe all sins are equal after Jesus used the phrase, “the GREATER sin.” It betrays a lack of clear thinking.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"I Pledge Allegiance . . ."

If you are a conservative, evangelical Christian and fellow Republican you are probably about to get angry. So, read the quote by Jefferson at the top of this blog. Okay, now read it again. We now have another federal judge who has said that it is a violation of our constitution for a school operated by government to require the students attending that school to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I happen to agree! Why? Because our constitution makes it clear that the government should not engage in a coercive exercise where people, in this case children, who are essentially under the control of government employees must acknowledge God. From 1892 to 1954 the words “under God” were not part of the Pledge. Back then we were not atheist and we were not “kicking God out” of anything as those currently going into irrational convulsions assert.

Here's some history: The pledge was written in 1892 by the socialist Francis Bellamy. He devised it on the occasion of the nation's first celebration of Columbus Day. Its wording omitted reference not only to God but also, interestingly, to the “United States.” It said, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The key words for Bellamy were "indivisible," which recalled the Civil War and the triumph of the Union over states' rights, and "liberty and justice for all," which was supposed to strike a balance between equality and individual freedom. By the 1920s, reciting the pledge had become a ritual in many public schools. The campaign to add "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance was part of the flood of religiosity of the early 1950’s. It's unclear precisely where the idea originated, but one driving force was the Catholic fraternal society the Knights of Columbus. In April 1953, Rep. Louis Rabaut, D-Mich., formally proposed the alteration of the pledge in a bill he introduced to Congress. The "under God" movement didn't take off, however, until the next year, when it was endorsed by George M. Docherty, the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Washington that Eisenhower attended. In February 1954, Docherty gave a sermon - with the president in the pew before him - arguing that apart from "the United States of America," the pledge "could be the pledge of any country." He added, "I could hear little Moscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity." Perhaps forgetting that "liberty and justice for all" was not the norm in Moscow, Docherty urged the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge to denote what he felt was special about the United States. The ensuing congressional speeches offered more proof that the point of the bill was to promote religion. The legislative intent of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our government upon the Creator,” and to “deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism." In signing the bill on June 14, 1954, Flag Day, Eisenhower delighted in the fact that from then on, "millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."

This had not always been the case, however. In 1943 Chief Justice Robert Jackson wrote the following when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to force school children to recite the Pledge: “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Look, the First Amendment isn’t rocket science. The balance between the Establishment clause and the Free Exercise clause depends on government neutrality. Government, and public schools ARE government, cannot be hostile to religion, and they cannot endorse religion. Agree or disagree, as least you have some facts and historical perspective.

And, one more thing. Should Christians pledge allegiance to any earthly flag or government or nation anyway? Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Caesar (government) may have your money, but only God is entitled to your allegiance and full devotion.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The "Religion of Peace" - at it Again.

For a brief moment today the news media got off the New Orleans story to show us pictures out of Gaza. The last Jew left last night, and turned the lights out, apparantly. The Palestinians looted the Jewish "settlements," and destroyed the synagogues. They ripped the Jewish holy places to pieces by hand! I was overcome, again, with an overwhelming sense of sadness, and then anger. We can't enter mosques because we're dirty, inferior "infidels." British police have to remove their shoes before entering a Muslim home - to arrest suspected bombers! Our soldiers have to wear gloves when handling Korans at Gitmo. Mosques are used as holdouts for insurgents in Iraq, and we dare not bomb them. Has the world gone mad? God help us!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Church History - What's the Point?

Hello. My name is Charles North, and I am a historian! Wow! I feel so good with that off my chest. Why study church history? Because we are not disconnected from the past, despite the need that every generation has to reinvent the wheel. People a lot smarter than you and I have already given answers to all the questions we are faced with today. “There is nothing new under the Sun.” For us to be purposefully ignorant of history, particularly the people and forces that have shaped the church over the past 2000 years, is just like self-inflicted amnesia or Alzheimer’s. I have just started teaching a Wednesday night series called "Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity." Here are my thoughts from the opening class.

There is a broad cultural shift that is taking place before our eyes. My parents were born in 1952. By the time my kids are adults, that world will have vanished forever. Culture, and technology, and politics, and communication, and travel, and religion have changed more rapidly than we can comprehend, and it aint slowing down. The world we were born into has already vanished, and it is not coming back! There have only been two other times in human history that this has happened – when Rome fell in the 5th century, and the period of Reformation in the 16th century. The world changed in one generation, and we are now living through the same kind of cataclysmic change – and it’s not just technology, it’s the way people think and believe because of the tension between modernism and postmodernism. Modern thinking recognizes that we no longer live in the Dark Ages. We no longer live in a time when magic and superstition make sense. We are a people of logic and reason. We believe that if there is a problem we can solve it through investigation, reason, and science. This is the foundation of American thought – progress toward a better life through science and technology, understanding and knowledge. Newtonian physics gave us the tools to make sense of the world. And then the 20th century happened – WWI, WWII, communism, terrorism, genocide. In the world of science, the theory of relativity unraveled our sense of certainty, and now quantum theory has shown that there can be effect without cause. Human cloning and stem cell research has given us more problems than solutions. So, has the world gotten better through progress? Think of what we’ve seen in New Orleans the past week – human civilization is a precariously thin veneer. Now that we understand so much about diseases, people don’t die anymore? But they do, don’t they? Now that we understand so much about psychology, we don’t have crime anymore? But we do, don’t we? Now that we have science and technology, and people are better educated, our world is more moral, right? No! And the postmoderns say, “Now you’re gettin it.”

The postmodern mindset says life is not about getting smarter, or being more right in this world of rational thinking that has not delivered what it has promised. But we have even gone beyond a postmodern world – we live in a post-Christian world. Christian thinking, and Christian values, and Christian morality are no longer the default mode of western civilization. Think of secular western Europe. People don’t visit those magnificent cathedrals to worship, they go to look at art and architecture. Closer to home, think of when most of you were children. There was nothing to do on Sunday but go to church. Everything was closed. Decent people observed the Sabbath and removed all temptation from those who did not. You prayed in school as routinely as you pledged allegiance to the flag. You memorized the 10 Commandments alongside your multiplication tables. And today? Look around. A few weeks ago Holly and I were talking with her grandmother, and she asked us what we were doing on Sunday evening, and I said, “I’m taking Holly to see a movie.” She stared at me with a blank look, and asked, “a movie -- on a Sunday?” Did you see that just yesterday the California legislature passed a bill allowing homosexuals to marry? I’ve got some bad news for those of you who are politically active in this regard. I’m with you all the way. I think that gay marriage is one of the stupidest and most ungodly ideas around, but we have lost that fight. Gay marriage all across the U.S. is inevitable. That snowball has gotten too big and gained too much momentum – it cannot be stopped. Why? Because we live in a post-Christian world. Christianity is no longer the solo voice, it is one of many voices making up a chorus of confusion.

This is not all bad news. The sooner we can admit that we are no longer under the warm and cozy protection of culture and government, the sooner we can engage the world as a counter-cultural force and practice real evangelism and discipleship the way God intended for us to, and the way the early church did. Right now, most of us are disoriented. Builders, in Medieval Europe, as they prepared to build a cathedral, made elaborate plans to lay out the foundation with the front facing east – towards Jerusalem, the orient. Before sun up, they would drive a stake into the ground that looked like a giant sewing needle, and the builder would peer through the “eye,” waiting for the sun to rise. As the sun peered over the horizen he would move that stake until it faced east. He oriented the foundation. To be disoriented is to be confused about which direction is east. It is to be off balance, unsure of ourselves, unclear over where we have been and where we are going.

To reorient ourselves, we need to return to Jesus’ parting words in Matthew 28:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" – nothing that happens to us is ever outside the reach of his sovereignty. The good, the bad, the ugly, the ups and the downs – Christ rules!

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" – Our purpose is to convert the world. It is to take the name of Jesus to every corner of the world.

"Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" – However we deviate from God’s plan, however we sin, however many times we mess up, we are sustained not by our wisdom, but by the presence of Christ.

But above all, here’s why we ought to study the history of Christianity: Alongside all the noble examples of heroism and faithfulness and discipleship, we also see a full accounting of human wrongdoing. We could respond with despair, or we could say that for 2000 years weak elders and weak deacons and weak preachers have ministered inadequately to weak and broken churches, because though the church is God’s idea and creation, it is made up of people, and people always mess up. But, the past 2000 years proves one thing – the promise of our Saviour has been fulfilled: “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Real Solutions

Just so you don't think I'm one of those irritating whiners with no solutions, here's what the Feds (ie the president) could have done: On Tuesday the President could have ordered an immediate deployment of a minimum of 50,000 military troops, with a full complement of amphibious vehicles, into the city with a commitment during a television address to the entire nation to order as many more troops as proved necessary. The President could have showed up in New Orleans, as he did in New York City after 9/11, to lift the morale of the city by holding the people and wading into the flood waters. The military could have deployed thousands of life rafts in the water logged neighborhoods so that people could have saved themselves from the flood waters. Hundreds of Greyhound buses (not the yellow school buses we've seen) could have been ordered to the city to evacuate the refugees who had been too poor to leave the city in the first place. The Secretary of Defense could have ordered abandoned military bases all across this nation to be opened and readied to receive the refugees from Katrina. Adequate food could have been airlifted into the city (we've done it before when other nations and cities were in trouble). People are living on rooftops with no food or water. People are still dying in the streets! Come on! The quote of the day from yesterday was from a man trapped in his apartment, on a cell phone. He said, "I expect Jesus to come back before the military get down here." Oh, no wait, Mr. Chertoff just said, "We're not going to tolerate lawlessness." Riiiigh! I'm wondering how much longer Americans will tolerate our government?

Bitter Disappointment

I am so angry and heartbroken, plus my mind is racing in a caffeine-induced sprint, so anything is likely to come out of my keyboard. And, as an ordained minister in the "Church of the Painful Truth," I am, for today, not fazed by political correctness, sensitivity, or any other namby-pamby, mealy-mouthed dribble we're all so accustomed to. Fine, with that disclaimer stated, let me vent.

I am going to do what I have always thought distasteful - whine, publically criticize the president in a time of national crisis, bash the military, and be insensitive toward the "refugees" from New Orleans.

Watching Mr. Bush give his "speech" yesterday was painful. He seemed way over his head, as did the other clowns we have running the country. He basically said nothing. Just more meaningless slogans of the "freedom is on the march" variety. Mr. Chertoff suggested that people log onto a web site to find out where to go for shelter. Talk about being out of touch. This man is the secretary of Homeland Security! Please, Mr. Bush, I used to trust you - please say and then DO something meaningful, please!!!

Speaking of doing nothing, why are people wandering around New Orleans a full three days after the storm with no food and water, sleeping in car garages, sitting on the interstate, and avoiding gangs of looters and car-jackers. And why are people allowed to shoot at rescue helicopters, lay seige to hopitals, and car-jack ambulances? And why are bloated corpses still lying on pavements? And why the hell are the New Orleans Police ransacking the shoe isle at the WalMart along with the other thugs? Because our entire military is AWOL. Don't make excuses for them, I'm really not interested. We have the most powerful military in the world with the best equipment. They need to be in there with water and food and with bullhorns telling people what to do. Right now there is nothing - just thousands of people wandering around the flooded streets of what was already a city plagued with violent crime with no clue what to do. If our military can't restore order in New Orleans, how can they do it in Baghdad? Oh, and the looting you're seeing on CNN is petty - think of the real crime going down right now. The "perfect" murders being committed, the bank vaults being taken by crime syndicates - get it? Where is the military???

One more thing. Houston, you have a problem! Right now there are hundreds of busses on the highway transporting refugees from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. How many people are going to be bussed to the Astrodome? Twenty thousand? Thirty? Many, perhaps most of these people have nothing left in New Orleans. They have no homes to return to, no personal belongings, no jobs. There is no reason for them to go back, and there is no law that can keep them confined to the Astrodome. They're not under arrest. They will be free to leave when they wish, and go where they want. These aren't the cream of the crop. Some of the people who will take up residence may have been looting jewelry stores in New Orleans yesterday. Many are from the various New Orleans welfare housing projects. Are you ready, Houston? What should be done with all those people? How about some of our military installations? Many of these are slated for closing. They have empty barracks, unused mess halls and all of the medical and sanitary facilities you might need. Katrina refugees could be moved in. While there they could gain experience working to maintain the facility as they live and learn basic economic survival skills. This is what I mean when I say, "Mr. Bush, do something!"

Oh, and one more thing. Remember that Exxon-Mobil is still swimming in record profits!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Hurricane From Hell

I had no idea that I would witness the virtual destruction of an American city this week. New Orleans is practically gone. The looting is so bad now that police are being shot and beaten if they try to restore order. Martial law has been declared for the first time in 60 years. I understand people stealing food, but why the TV’s? Where are they going to plug it in? God help us if we have a real terrorist attack. God help us!

Have you heard the name Harvey Jackson? He was wandering aimlessly down a flooded street in Biloxi with his small grandkids when a CNN reporter asked him how he was doing. His reply made the reporter cry and it should rip your heart out. His wife recently had a stroke and couldn’t move her legs, so they remained in their house. When the water flooded the first floor they moved to the second floor. When water flooded the second floor they moved into the attic. Harvey Jackson then had to make a hole in the roof. He and the kids climbed onto the roof, but by the time they tried to pull his wife out, the water had already reached her. They struggled. He pulled. She pushed as hard as she could. He clung to her hand. And then she begged him to let her go and take care of the kids and grandkids. He wouldn’t. He clung to her until the house split in half and she was washed away! And here I am worried about $3 gas!

However, on a separate note, could we please build some new friekin refineries now!!! It’s not a supply/demand problem – it’s a supply problem! Mexico has given us millions of their unwanted citizens; I say we take their oil in return! They’re swimming in black gold down there.

And, speaking of other countries, take a guess how many other countries have offered help to us? I’m still waiting. Oh, you can’t come up with a list? That’s because there isn’t one!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Louder the Commercial, the Dumber They Think You Are

Last year I made this observation as it relates to political ads, but I have this theory about car ads on radio and TV as well. The louder and more obnoxious the advertisement, the dumber the dealer thinks his customers are. When you hear about a commercial with a background of loud noises, and two announcers screaming phrases like "$99 down, $99 a month" over and over, or when you hear announcers screaming idiotic, mindless phrases like "All credit applications accepted", you know that you are listening to a commercial for a relatively inexpensive car, the type of car generally purchased on credit by someone at the lower end of the economic scale. Take the high-end cars like Mercedes or BMW. You will never hear commercials for these automobiles delivered in a screaming, obnoxious fashion. Why not? Because the dealers know that the type of person who has worked hard enough to afford a decent car is going to be turned off by a commercial that screams at them. Just an observation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Where would you most like to live?

I knew Abilene (where I live) was a conservative city, but here’s the hard evidence, according to recently released research conducted by a group called “Voting Research.” I thank my friend Travis for the heads up on this. It’s an interesting list of America’s most “conservative” and most “liberal” cities. Where would you most like to live? Come on, be honest!

America’s 25 Most Conservative Cities
(in descending order)
1 Provo, Utah
2 Lubbock, Texas
3 Abilene, Texas
4 Hialeah, Florida
5 Plano, Texas
6 Colorado Springs, Colorado
7 Gilbert, Arizona
8 Bakersfield, California
9 Lafayette, Louisiana
10 Orange, California
11 Escondido, California
12 Allentown, Pennsylvania
13 Mesa, Arizona
14 Arlington, Texas
15 Peoria, Arizona
16 Cape Coral, Florida
17 Garden Grove, California
18 Simi Valley, California
19 Corona, California
20 Clearwater, Florida
21 West Valley City, Utah
22 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
23 Overland Park, Kansas
24 Anchorage, Alaska
25 Huntington Beach, California

America’s 25 Most Liberal Cities
1 Detroit, Michigan
2 Gary, Indiana
3 Berkeley, California
4 Washington, D.C., Dist. of Columbia
5 Oakland, California
6 Inglewood, California
7 Newark, New Jersey
8 Cambridge, Massachusetts
9 San Francisco, California
10 Flint, Michigan
11 Cleveland, Ohio
12 Hartford, Connecticut
13 Paterson, New Jersey
14 Baltimore, Maryland
15 New Haven, Connecticut
16 Seattle, Washington
17 Chicago, Illinois
18 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
19 Birmingham, Alabama
20 St. Louis, Missouri
21 New York, New York
22 Providence, Rhode Island
23 Minneapolis, Minnesota
24 Boston, Massachusetts
25 Buffalo, New York

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Those Who Bless the Jews, and Those Who Curse the Jews

While listening to talk radio over the past few days I’ve heard a lot of people insist that our support for Israel is “costing too much” in terms of American lives lost and gas prices. Not that I was alive then, but in 1973, during the Arab embargo on oil exports that followed the Yom Kippur War, many Americans had to deal with gas rationing, and various setbacks to the economy. As a result, some called for our abandonment of Israel for the sake of oil. Jerry Falwell was a dissenting voice. He said that he would sooner give up his car and ride a bicycle than yield to Arab blackmail. Citing Genesis (12:3), he explained that God “will bless those who bless the Jews and curse whoever curses the Jews.” I know that many people dismiss this idea as more quaint than believable. So, is this verse biblical poetry or verifiably true?

I am increasingly convinced that it is verifiably true. I think of Spain, for example. One of the world's mightiest powers and most developed cultures in the 15th century. In 1492 it reached its zenith when it sent Christopher Columbus on a voyage that changed history. But the same year, it also expelled all its Jews and intensified the Spanish Inquisition against the many forced Jewish converts to Catholicism. Spain then descended into a 500-year status as “the sick man of Europe.” I think of Germany (and Austria) as the cultural and intellectual center of Europe, if not the world, before World War II. Then Germany murdered nearly every Jew in Europe. Germany lost over seven million people, was divided for a generation, and while it now thrives materially, culturally Germany has become irrelevant. Think about the world today. Look at who blesses the Jews and who curses them, and then decide whether the verse in Genesis has validity.

It is the United States that has, since its inception, most blessed the Jews and that does so almost alone today - in its support of the Jewish state against those who wish to exterminate it. By almost any reckoning, America has been, and remains, the most blessed of countries. And it is the Arab world that curses the Jews. It rivals Nazi Germany for the intensity of its Jew-hatred. Look at its state. According to Arab scholars appointed by the United Nations to report on the state of Arab society, that part of the world lags behind the rest of humanity, including in most instances sub-Saharan Africa, in virtually every social, moral and intellectual indicator. And there is no question but that its half-century long preoccupation with destroying Israel has only increased the Arab world's woes.

No one can prove it is God who actively blesses those who bless the Jews and curses those who curse them. But at the same time, the evidence historically and this very moment suggests that there is a real connection between the state of a society and its treatment of the Jews.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Goodbye to Gaza

I am more angry than I've been in a long time! Why? Because today the government of Israel handed out eviction notices to the Jewish "settlers" in Gaza. It occurred to me that what I am witnessing today, in my lifetime, is cataclysmic. On this same day in history (the 9th of the month of Av, according to the Jewish lunar calendar) the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple, Jews were evicted from Spain, and 50 000 Polish Jews were killed in the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis. The same thing happned today - not on the same scale, but it's the same old story all over again. Only this time it wasn't the Romans or the Spanish inquisitors, or the Nazis - it was Ariel Sharon and the Israeli government. Can a nation commit suicide? Apparantly so! People are digging up the bones of their loved ones before they leave for fear that the Palestinians will desecrate their graves. What a sad world when the dead cannot even rest in peace. I saw a woman on television weeping, and asking, "How can I pack up 20 years in 2 days?" How is this any different from what Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe?

I felt ill when I saw Hamas celebrating victory in the streets! Because of pressure from our own government, particularly Condaleeza Rice, the terrorists have received a message: suicide bombers work! Now let's go fight that war on terror! After all, haven't you heard? "Freedom is on the march."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Objective History? According to Who?

Sorry about the tone of that last post - I haven't been that aggravated since the November elections. Politics sure can bring out my mean streak. So, let me be more thoughtful here. I think of myself as somewhat of a historian. There is an interesting perception out there that history is about facts and dates and events. In other words, history is objective. But is it? I am always amazed that you can present 2 people with the exact same set of facts, and they will come to 2 different conclusions. In other words, interpretations. People bring their own background and frame of reference to EVERYTHING. Everyone has "baggage" - even journalists! So try this litmus test (and if you read this post, please comment on what your initial reaction was):

HISTORICAL FACT: Martin Van Buren's vice president, Richard M. Johnson, who served from 1837-1841, was married to a black woman, and yet the pair won the 1836 election because of electoral victories in the southern states.

In asking people how they take this, most inevitably say that she was probably hidden from the public during the campaign. Most people didn't know about this or they (southerners) would not have voted for the Van Buren/Johnson ticket since they were such racists. However, a few people, of which I am one, have a different interpretation. I believe that this is evidence that maybe whites in the antebellum south were not as racist as we have been led to believe, institutional slavery aside. A very different take, isn't it? So what happened in 1836? Johnson's wife was a big issue. During the election Van Buren's opponents reminded voters that Johnson's wife was a "Negro." Johnson fought back, pointing out that it was not uncommon for plantation owners to have relations with their Negro slaves, the only difference was that he had chosen to marry his wife in holy matrimony under the eyes of God. And still they won the southern vote! Here's a good rule of thumb. The winners of every war write the history. How's that for objective?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Congress: A Gang of Thieves

Today President Bush signed the recently passed highway bill. The $286 billion transportation legislation is so overloaded with “pork” that it contains 6,371 pet projects for all 535 members of Congress. How nice. Aren't you so glad that our politicians are confiscating our money to buy votes from people in their districts? So what else is new? One of the more outrageous examples is funding for a bridge in Alaska, secured by Republican Representative Don Young. $231 million will go for a bridge near Anchorage to be called? You guessed it – “Don Young's Way.” The irony! Another outrage is $2.3 million for landscaping along the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California. If that doesn't make him spin in his freshly dug grave for awhile, nothing will. This bill shows more than any other that the Republican Party has abandoned its quest for limited government. Aside from national security issues and a few other things, we have reached a point in our political landscape where there is no difference between a Republican and a Democrat. It’s as if two gangs of thieves have combined forces against us. I have more respect for street hookers and their pimps than I have for our “representatives” and their campaign managers!

Monday, August 08, 2005

My Vent!

Allow me to vent for a minute. I just got my credit card statement for the time I was in Africa. In South Africa I used my MBNA card to withdraw about $40 from an ATM. Added to that was a $10 “foreign transaction fee.” That’s 25% of the actual transaction amount! Plus, because they received my July payment 2 days late, I was slapped with a $39 late fee. In my naivety as a new American I thought I would get cut some slack on the 4th of July!

Okay, so today I heard a report on the radio about how consumer watchdog groups are noticing a spike in credit card interest rates and hidden discretionary fees. In response banks have said, “the fees are legal, fair, and appropriate because credit cards represent significant unsecured debt.” Well yeah, that’s because these people are idiots! Anyone can get a credit card. My two cats can get credit cards. Today we got a pre-approved credit card in the mail for “Tamara North” – odd, since my wife’s name is Holly. Every time a college kid buys a textbook they get a credit card application in the bag. That’s why the high interest rates are justifiable. I suppose 18-23 percent for unsecured debt is fair given the high risk. So what’s the rub? Didn’t our Republican congress just pass a massive bankruptcy reform bill, signed by president Bush, making it easier for lenders (including banks and credit card companies) to retrieve debt? So when the risk factor goes down, so should the interest rates, right? Oh no, up, up, and away they go! Again, the consumer gets hosed.

So next time some wild-eyed, conspiratorial, crazy leftist accuses Republicans of being in the pockets of banks and “big business,” don’t dismiss them immediately. Oh, and while you’re thinking about that – really thinking about it – as you put gas in your car, keep in mind that last fiscal year Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, posted a record profit.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Greater Vision

Yesterday my "co-evangelist," Mike, and I delivered a joint sermon titled "A Call to a Greater Vision." I think we really challenged the church to be more Christ-like. So, here are the main points from that vision. Are these all NT principles, or did I pull this out of my head?

We want to be a church that:

• Promotes unity by focusing on Christ.
Jesus is the core of the gospel message. The whole human drama pivots on the life, and the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. He is the target around which everything else revolves. We need to be known as a church committed to holding up Christ, and preaching Christ, as we say with Paul, “for I resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

• A diverse church, reflecting the racial and social demographics of our neighborhood.
I’m not talking about the kind of enforced diversity and inclusion that our culture champions. I’m talking about us living the truth of the gospel, because if we are clothed with Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

• A church committed to biblical authority, resisting the pressure to conform to cultural relativism or blind traditionalism.
We have always said that we take our stand on the Bible, but it is an ideal that has not always been lived up to – in our desire to be faithful to scripture there are two extremes we want to avoid: We do not force scripture to conform to our modern culture, and at the same time we need to avoid the opposite extreme – forcing scripture to say things in order to hold up long-held traditions, some of which need to be left in the past.

• A church whose worship pleases God, edifies visitors, and equips Christians to lead holy lives and be evangelistic.
Worship begins and ends with God. He is the center of our worship because He is present when we worship. Worship is not so much about checking off a list of activities as it is about God taking my life and shaking it up until my priorities are the same as His. Worship must bring to an end the idea that I am at the center of my own life. Worship has got to lead to changes in my life and behavior.

• A church that promotes spiritual growth among believers.
I’ve heard it said that the modern church is a mile wide but only an inch deep. We want to be known as a church where converts are taught and nurtured and where, together, we never stop growing, and we never stop becoming more and more like Christ.

• A church that meets physical and spiritual needs.
If we are going to be like Christ, then we have got to stop, like he did, and meet people’s needs with whatever means we have.

• A church that provides ministry opportunities for all members.
We want to be the kind of church where there are no pew-warmers, where everyone has something to do, where people feel like they are a part of something special and meaningful because we are not a club, we are the body of Christ on earth, and every one of us has a part to play in God’s redemption of the world.

• A church that promotes healthy families.
By God’s design the family is the building block of our society, and we want this community to know that this church welcomes all sorts of families, and that this is a place where fathers and respected, and mothers are honored and children are loved and nurtured.

• A church committed to more intimate fellowship with each other, and more effective witness to the world.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Whenever God calls someone into a relationship with Him, He always puts that person into a group of like-minded others. This is why the NT speaks of the “family of God.” We are bound together by faith and blood. We have been commanded to love each other, to live in harmony together, to forgive, and encourage, to serve, and lay down our lives for each other, to share our possessions. In a world that is characterized by loneliness, isolation, and self-centeredness, we are supposed to provide a striking contrast.

We followed by calling the church to engage in 40 days of prayer so that God will bless our vision and evangelistic effort.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Arab-Israeli Conflict by the Numbers

Okay, I'm still having serious Africa withdrawals everyday, but let's shift gears for a minute. Since the recent London bombings (which are especially disturbing to me since our team travelled to London the day of the bombings) I've heard all the usual tripe about how support for Israel (and now also the Iraq war) have brought this on the British. So, naturally, in my compassionate-conservative attempt to understand the underpinnings of why young Islamo-fascist goons turn violent, I have pondered the "Arab-Israeli conflict." Thanks to the genius of Dennis Prager, who offers up the following succinct by the numbers analysis, it all makes sense to me:

Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Old Testament: over 700
Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran: 0
Number of Arab leaders who visited Jerusalem when it was under Arab rule (1948 to 1967): 1

Number of Arab refugees who fled the land that became Israel: approximately 600,000
Number of Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries: approximately 600,000

Number of U.N. agencies that deal only with Palestinian refugees: 1
Number of U.N. agencies that deal with all the other refugees in the world: 1

Number of Jewish states that have existed on the land called Palestine: 3
Number of Arab or Muslim states that have existed on the land called Palestine: 0

Number of terrorist attacks by Israelis or Jews since 1967: 1
Number of terrorist attacks by Arabs or Muslims since 1967: thousands

Percentage of Jews who have praised the Jewish terrorist: approximately .1
Percentage of Palestinians who have praised Islamic terrorists: approximately 90

Number of Jewish countries: 1
Number of Jewish democracies: 1

Number of Arab countries: 19
Number of Arab democracies: 0

Number of Arab women killed annually by fathers and brothers in "honor killings": thousands
Number of Jewish women killed annually by fathers and brothers in "honor killings": 0

Number of Christian or Jewish prayer services allowed in Saudi Arabia: 0
Number of Muslim prayer services allowed in Israel: unlimited

Number of Arabs Israel allows to live and vote in Israel: 1,250,000
Number of Jews Palestinian Authority allows to live in Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory: 0

Percentage of U.N. Commission on Human Rights resolutions condemning an Arab country for human rights violations: 0
Percentage of U.N. Commission on Human Rights resolutions condemning Israel for human rights violations: 26

Number of U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Middle East between 1948 and 1991: 175
Number of these resolutions against Israel: 97
Number of these resolutions against an Arab state: 4
Number of Arab countries that have been members of the U.N. Security Council: 16
Number of times Israel has been a member of the U.N. Security Council: 0

Number of U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel: 322
Number of U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemning an Arab country: 0

Percentage of U.N. votes in which Arab countries voted with the United States in 2002: 16.6
Percentage of U.N. votes in which Israel voted with the United States in 2002: 92.6

Percentage of Middle East Studies professors who defend Zionism and Israel: approximately 1.
Percentage of Middle East Studies professors who believe in diversity on college campuses: 100

Percentage of people who argue that the Jewish state has no right to exist who also believe some other country has no right to exist: 0
Percentage of people who argue that of all the countries in the world, only the Jewish state has no right to exist and yet deny they are anti-Jewish: approximately 100

Number of Muslims in the world: more than 1 billion
Number of Muslim demonstrations against Islamic terror: approximately 2

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Little Girl Who Made Me Cry

I'm finally home in good ole Abilene, Texas. The last four weeks have been a whirlwind. When I got into Dallas on Saturday afternoon I felt like I needed to wrap my head in duct tape to keep it from exploding. So many far away places, so many people, so many experiences and emotions, good food, bad food, no food, dust and dirt, at least one "near death" experience, a meeting with a traditional tribal chief, and almost every other experience you can fit into four short weeks. Sometimes I felt like an American visiting Africa, other times I felt like an African who lives in America. To recount all the experiences and emotions would take forever, so let me put the crux of the trip into this little nutshell.

Tuesday, June 28th: We drove to the Chadiza district on what may or may not have been a road to do 2 medical clinics - one in Chadiza, and one in a little village called Kabvuwa right on the Mozambique border. You cannot imagine a poorer or more remote place on earth. The crowd welcomed us with a song, and then we got to work. We dispensed pills, we cleaned sores and burns, and we pulled teeth. With my preaching duties done for the day I decided to help one of the nurses (Laurie Hanson) with wound care. A young girl, maybe 10 or 11 years old, wearing a bright blue shirt came to us with a severe infection in her eyes. They were swollen, and full of puss. With water and cotton swabs we cleaned out her eyes. The poor girl was clearly in severe pain. But when I looked her in the face, and we made eye contact she flashed me a beaming smile like I had never seen before. It was a look of relief and gratitude and true happiness. In the poorest, most remote spot I had ever been to a little girl showed me true happiness. The emotion of the moment flooded over me, and I couldn't hold back the tears. I had to sneak around the corner and sit in the vehicle for a few minutes so the rest of the team wouldn't see me not smiling.

I'll never know that little girl's name, but that's why we keep going back to Zambia. Despite the bad food and rough roads, that's why we go. God bless Africa.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane"

Goodbye friends. Our plane (777) departs DFW at 4:35 pm today. I am so excited, I can't even eat breakfast. I have one whole case full of medicines. This trip is going to be so great. It's always good to be back home in Africa. We will arrive in Malawi on Thursday morning, and then drive over the border into Zambia. The Lectureship will be held Friday through Monday (I think I'll preach/teach twice a day), and then we hit the road with the medical team. We'll see some pretty remote villages. After criss-crossing the country I'll arrive in my hometown of Port Elizabeth, South Africa on July 7. I'll check in then. Goodbye and God Bless.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Africa is Calling

Well it's only 6 days before I leave for Zambia. I can't get any work done I am so excited! I really love to travel and to meet people. Two years ago John Hanson (team leader) and I kept a journal. Here's a short excerpt from one of the days we travelled up the Zambezi River to a little village. I felt like David Livingston! Anyway, enjoy the read. This is what I have to look forward to:

Day 14: Sunday, June 29, 2003.
"What a beautiful morning. After a good breakfast, we set off for the river and on to the next leg of our adventure. The boat ride down the Zambezi was magnificent. The river was fairly calm, but you could see how strong the current was, and we would not want to challenge that kind of power. The scenery was without equal, and it was neat to see all of the villages on the side of the river with their hand-dug wooden canoes. Along the way, we saw about 4 pods of hippos, a herd of water buck, and some impala, and then a large troop of baboons. Some of the hippos were out of the water, and it was neat to see such a huge animal running quickly to the safety of the water. After a fifty-minute boat ride we arrived at the Kavaramanja area. We tied the boat up to a tree on the bank, and scrambled like goats up the steep bank to continue on foot. The trail followed a dry sandy creek for about a mile to the village. Along the way we found several elephant tracks and a fish eagle came soaring close overhead. He looks very similar to our bald eagle. As we entered the village we were met by Daniel Mulenga, a principal of the school and a member of the church. He escorted us to his house where we waited for the congregation to assemble. The church met under the largest fig tree that any of us had ever seen. Moses Hall brought the lesson to about 30 people. After the service, the people asked lots of questions, primarily about baptism. One man, named Peter put on our Lord that day when we returned to the Zambezi River and then walked up stream about half a mile to a sandy beach. While Wellington performed the baptism, we kept watch on some nearby reeds to ensure a crocodile did not come our way. We also kept a sharp eye on the river itself in case one came from the deeper water. Africa still holds many surprises for us."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Aid to Africa

In response to the U.N., Tony Blair and George Bush discussed ending poverty in Africa this week. This is a stage-setting visit for the upcoming G8 summit in Scotland. Now Rick Warren and other evangelical leaders have drafted a letter to President Bush urging him to double the amount of U.S. aid to Africa.

Since this blog is dedicated to “hostility toward every form of tyranny over the mind of man,” let’s get our minds straight on this one because this guilt trip we’re all on is tyranny over the mind. But first, this disclaimer: Africa is not the "cause of the month" for me. I love Africa. Africa is my home. I was born in Africa. I lived in South Africa for the first 20 years of my life. The sounds, the smells, the tastes of Africa are real to me. And the people are wonderful. They are full of joy. They are welcoming and hospitable. I’ve been to Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. I’ve seen the Cape of Good Hope, climbed Table Mountain, smelled the pines of Tstsikamma, seen Victoria Falls, and stood at the convergence of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique in the Luangwa Valley. I’ve gone by boat up the mighty Zambezi to villages like Kavaramanja, Chadiza, Kalomo, Lundazi, and many others. In 12 days I’m going back to Zambia as part of a team to help train preachers and take medical care to remote villages.

So, with my credentials as a “compassionate conservative” in hand, I need to say that anyone who believes President Bush's Africa initiative will amount to more than a hill of beans is whistling Dixie. Most of Africa is a continent without much hope for its people. Let's look at it.

According to the Hoover Institution, two-thirds of African countries have either stagnated or shrunk in real per capita terms since independence in the 1960s. Most African nations today are poorer than they were in 1980 - by very wide margins. Poverty is not a cause but a result of Africa's problems. According to the Netherlands-based Genocide Watch, since 1960, around the time of independence, about 9 million black Africans had been slaughtered through genocide and mass murder. The Democratic Republic of the Congo leads the way with 2,095,000, closely followed by the Sudan with 2 million, Nigeria and Mozambique with a million each, Ethiopia 855,000, Rwanda 823,000, Uganda 555,000 and hundreds of thousands more in other countries. There are a couple of especially sad observations one can make about this ongoing tragedy. The first is that if an equivalent number of rhinos, giraffes and lions had been similarly slaughtered, the world would be in an uproar. We'd see demonstrations at the U.N. and African embassies. The second is there was one African country that was the focal point of mass demonstrations, moral outcry and economic reprisals. It was South Africa – my childhood home. But was South Africa the worst in terms of black lives lost? It turns out that about 5,000 South African blacks lost their lives during apartheid. Do you see anything wrong with that picture? World silence in the wake of millions upon millions of black lives lost on the rest of the continent, but world outrage in the case of South African apartheid and 5,000 lives lost? Might it be that us white Africans are held to higher standards of civility, thus our mistreatment of blacks is unacceptable, while blacks and Arabs are held to a lower standard of civility and their mistreatment of blacks is less offensive? This is the bigotry of low expectations, an annoying trademark of the smarmy do-gooders.

But wait, there’s more. According to the World Bank it takes two days to incorporate a company in Canada. In Mozambique, it takes 153 days. And Mozambique's company law has been unchanged since 1888. In the midst of the unending demands that Bush do this, Blair do that, do more, do it now, would it be unreasonable to suggest that, after 117 years, the government of Mozambique might also be obligated to do something about its regulations? Meanwhile, next door in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's government is being given hundreds of thousands of tons of emergency supplies from the UN's World Food Program. At the U.N. the head of the WFP emphasized that the famine was all due to drought and Aids, and nothing to do with Mugabe's stewardship of the economy. I guess no one remembers that during the 2002 G8 summit, also devoted to Africa, Zimbabwe's government ordered those commercial farmers whose land had not yet been confiscated to cease all operations. Until the do-gooders of the world get serious about the thugs in power, their efforts will remain a silly distraction.

President Bush is pledging to send more foreign aid to some African nations. But foreign aid goes to governments. So instead of helping the poor, foreign aid has enabled African tyrants, like that Stalinist Mugabe, to buy cronies and military equipment to stay in power, not to mention establishing multibillion dollar “retirement” accounts in Swiss banks. What African countries need, the West cannot give. What Africans need is personal liberty. That means a political system where there are guarantees of private property rights and the rule of law. If you’re living in some impoverished African village, would you want any “wealth” if there is the constant likelihood that the government, or some irate chief, or some marauding tribe will come through to rape the horses and ride off on the women (a line from the "Three Amigos" in case you’re wondering)? The Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Wall Street Journal, lists Botswana, South Africa and Namibia as “mostly free.” World Bank GDP rankings put Botswana 89th ($2,980), South Africa 94th ($2,600) and Namibia 111th ($1,700). Is there any mystery why they're well ahead of their northern neighbors, such as Mozambique 195th ($210), Liberia 201st ($150) or Ethiopia 206th ($100)?

The lack of liberty means something else: A nation loses its best and brightest people first. According to the 2000 census, there were 881,300 African-born U.S. residents, of whom I am one. Want to end poverty in Africa? The first step must be removing those petty dictators who rule throughout that continent - dictatorial mini-giants like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. Yes there's hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe; but the blame is to be placed squarely on Mugabe, not on a lack of help from the west. The G8 summit? Don't look for any discussion on getting rid of Africa's dictators and warlords. It will all be about wealth redistribution. Hide your wallets while I go to Africa in a few days and offer some real help!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

What Wall of Separation?

I just read a very disturbing article in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. The governor is coming to church in the Metroplex on Sunday. He's coming to sign two bills into law. Rick Perry is going to the Calvary Cathedral to sign bills restricting abortion and setting a vote on a definition-of-marriage constitutional amendment. Even for a governor who says bluntly that he thinks the United States was founded “on Christian faith,” it's audacious to bring a public ceremony into a church. As a preacher I cannot begin to express how this infuriates me, and I’m rarely at a loss for words! This is precisely why I am a proponent of strict church/state separation – the higher the “wall” the better!

Perry called Calvary Cathedral a “great setting” for a bill signing and said he hopes for a “large and boisterous” crowd. Yeah, but why will the crowd be there? To worship God, or to promote the agenda of the Republican Party? The latter would be idolatry! The idea of taking bills passed in the Legislature into a church to sign them into law is so over the top, even for this Republican (and if you doubt my credentials, check out my blogs from during the election).

Note to government: STAY ON YOUR SIDE OF “THE WALL!”

Friday, May 27, 2005

Austin - What a Town

Well, I just got back from Austin. I attended the Sermon Seminar hosted by the Graduate School of Theology from Monday to Thursday. It was an intellectual feast. We just hung out with the Word, trying to be better, more relevant preachers in tune with the demands of the culture. We discussed preaching from Kings and Isaiah, the church vs the culture in Acts, and shaping the church so as to oppose the "principalities and powers" today. Marva Dawn was especially great. Oh yes my friends, things certainly have changed - a female Lutheran preacher lecturing at a gathering of 150 Church of Christ preachers! Nevertheless, I learned so much from this remarkably giften and spiritual woman. I also got to hang out with my best friend James - we ate at some cool local joints and got caught up. I also got to spend some "alone time" at the Barnes & Noble - a rare pleasure. Yeah, I live in a town with no Barnes & Noble!!! Oh, and if you're ever in Austin, you've got to try Amy's Ice-Cream - it's the best I've had in the world!

Only 26 days till we leave for the Zambia mission trip. I'm so excited!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Disrespect for the "Holy Koran"

Secretary of State Condi Rice had something "interesting" to say about those false reports of desecration of the Koran. Rice said "Disrespect for the holy Koran is something the United States will never tolerate." Sorry, Madame Secretary, but there is something a bit unnerving about your statement. If the violence spawned by the "religion of peace" is, in fact, based on the words of the Koran, then disrespect has been duly earned. We enjoy freedoms in this country, and that includes the freedom to "disrespect," as you put it, the Islamic religion and it's holy book. As an American I get to burn, flush, or tear up the Koran with impunity, and there isn't a thing you can do!

Oh, and on this issue of disrespect for the Koran. Here's something I lifted from James Taranto's Wall Street Journal Best of the Web column from Tuesday:

In fairness to Rice, she presumably was referring to government policy, not the actions or opinions of private individuals. Still, by way of comparison, recall that three years ago Palestinian Arab terrorists occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Priests reported that "gunmen tore up Bibles for toilet paper." The Chicago Tribune noted after the siege that "altars had been turned into cooking and eating tables, a sacrilege to the religious faithful." Christians responded by declining to riot and refraining from killing anyone. They had the same response 15 or so years ago when the National Endowment for the Arts was subsidizing the desecration of a crucifix and other Christian symbols. This should also put to rest the oft-heard misnomer that America's "religious right" is somehow a Christian equivalent of our jihadi enemies.

Well said!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Thoughts on VE Day

Before I voice my grievances and challenge conventional thinking on this, let me make the disclaimer that I believe Hitler was evil, and he deserved to be crushed. Also, my family fought WW2. I had a grandfather in the Royal Navy and a grandfather in the RAF. I have even alienated friends by arguing that we were right to drop “the bomb” on Japan, and should have used it on Germany.

However, as the world has celebrated VE Day this week, some things have really bothered me. (If you’re wondering “what’s VE Day”, you won’t get this blog.) Firstly, the image of George Bush standing shoulder to shoulder with Putin in Red Square reviewing troops carrying Soviet flags, and giving defacto praise to unrepentant Stalinists is disheartening. I swear, if I ever hear Mr. Bush say, “freedom is on the march” again, I’ll scream! I wonder, when he looked into “Vladimir’s eyes, and saw the man’s soul,” were Putin’s eyes saying, “you’re no Reagan”? You can’t fight a war to liberate Iraqis from a Stalinist (Saddam), while claiming Putin as your “buddy.” Defending Russia's record in the "Great Patriotic War," Putin declared, “Our people not only defended their homeland, they liberated 11 European countries.” Those countries were Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Finland.

The true story of WW2, east of the Elbe, was not freedom; it was Stalin, the most odious tyrant of the century. Where Hitler killed his millions, Stalin murdered his tens of millions. The summit at Yalta was a betrayal of small nations as immoral as the Munich Pact. So why do we venerate Churchill and FDR? At Yalta, this pair secretly ceded those small nations to Stalin, co-signing a “Declaration on Liberated Europe” that was a monstrous lie. As FDR and Churchill consigned these peoples to a Stalinist hell run by a monster whom FDR affectionately called “Uncle Joe” why are they not in the history books alongside Neville Chamberlain, who sold out the Czechs at Munich by handing their country over to Germany?

Aside from the Holocaust, there are other questions, relating to the actual reasons the war was fought. If Britain endured six years of war and hundreds of thousands of dead in a war she declared to defend Polish freedom, and Polish freedom was lost to communism, how can we say Britain won the war? If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny many times worse, did the West really win the war? It is true that Allied troops liberated France, Holland and Belgium from Nazi occupation. But before Britain declared war on Germany, those countries did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany – on behalf of Poland, whose freedom was lost at the end of the war! Again, why go to war to defend Polish freedom, just to give Poland to Stalin?

The war Britain and France declared to defend Polish freedom ended up making Poland and all of Eastern and Central Europe safe for Stalinism. And at the festivities in Moscow, Americans and Russians were front and center, smiling – not the British and French. The legacy of WW2 is that the British and the French lost their empires, while the U.S. and the Russians emerged as Superpowers. Maybe that’s why we’re so nostalgic about the war. And, are there lessons we can learn relating to our current war of “liberation” ???