September 28, 2007
Ben Stein on Intelligent Design
In February, 2008, Ben Stein (yes, that Ben Stein) is coming out with a movie that exposes the scientific community's rather non-scientific silencing of those not towing the line.
Evolution – and the explosive debate over its virtual monopoly on America's public school classrooms – is the focus of the film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."
In the movie, Stein, who is also a lawyer, economist, former presidential speechwriter, author and social commentator, is stunned by what he discovers – an elitist scientific establishment that has traded in its skepticism for dogma. Even worse, say publicists for the feature film, "along the way, Stein uncovers a long line of biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have had their reputations destroyed and their careers ruined by a scientific establishment that allows absolutely no dissent from Charles Darwin's theory of random mutation and natural selection."
"Big Science in this area of biology has lost its way," says Stein. "Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it's anti-science. It's anti-the whole concept of learning."
Nice to see someone taking on this issue in what looks to be a funny and informative, Ben Stein sort of way.
September 26, 2007
A Win for Religious Displays
A Ten Commandments display in Kentucky will remain, beating back an assault by the ACLU.
A federal court in Lexington, Ky., has ruled that the Ten Commandments can remain on display in the Mercer County courthouse, rejecting an attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to have them removed.
“This is a major victory for the people of Mercer County and for all Americans who don’t buy into the ACLU’s extreme misrepresentation of our Constitution,” said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which argued the case for the county.
“The First Amendment was never intended to remove all mention of God or religion from the public square,” said Manion. “The Supreme Court and many other courts have long recognized the foundational role of the Ten Commandments in the development of our legal system.”
Hat tip to Stop the ACLU, where Nathan Bradfield, after making his case for why the ACLU has been wrong in this and other efforts, states:
Those who would argue that our Founders intended to begin a secular nation with secular documents are living a pipe dream. A. H. Everett, said in the Legislature of Massachusetts, “In almost all of the distinguished states, the principal care of the community has been to provide for the support of religion.” Whether out of ignorance or lack of exposure, a minority of Americans neglect every Founder not named Paine, Jefferson, or Madison. And the latter two must be quoted out of context in order fit their secular, separation mold.
I wouldn't go so far as to say the tide is turning against the ACLU in cases like this, because it matters so much whether the judge takes the Constitution at its word or not. But it is good to see.
August 31, 2007
Religious Offense: A Comparison
What happens when art that offends people of a particular religion is displayed? Let's do a comparative look. First, the Christians, in an article headlined, "Christians Mull Offensive Art Works".
The inclusion of two provocative entries in Australia's most prestigious religious art competition has again highlighted the issue of distasteful art and Christians' reaction to it.
Critics ranging from Prime Minister John Howard to church leaders have questioned the appropriateness of the two exhibits -- one depicting the Virgin Mary wearing an Islamic burqa, and another, a holographic image of al-Qaeda terror chief Osama bin Laden morphing into an image of Jesus Christ.
The works, submitted for a 55-year-old annual award called the Blake prize, are on display at a taxpayer-funded gallery in Sydney. Howard has called them "gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians."
"Regrettably, attempts to insult Jesus and Mary have become common in recent years, even predictable," said the country's most senior Catholic leader, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.
"Too often it seems that the only quality which makes something 'art' is the adolescent desire to shock," he said. "If this is the best the Blake prize can do, it has probably outlived its usefulness."
The chairman of the Blake prize, the Rev. Rod Pattenden, said in a statement it seemed that "a real nerve" had been hit.
"I have received several angry phone calls from people claiming religious allegiance who have expressed themselves with clear hatred and violence towards other religious groups," said Pattenden, a minister in the Uniting Church, a liberal Protestant denomination.
Mulling, questioning, and even some angry phone calls over this sort of art.
Let's look at the history of another religion.
The drawings show the head of a turbaned man attached to the body of a dog, in front of various settings including a football goal.
The publication, in the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, came after several galleries had refused to display the drawings, apparently for fear of violent retaliation from offended Muslims.
Early last year, violent demonstrations erupted throughout the Muslim world after the publication in Denmark of 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed which were also deemed blasphemous.
"Alongside the picture, we published a comment piece saying that it was serious that there is self-censorship among exhibition [galleries]," said the Nerikes Allehanda editor-in-chief, Ulf Johansson.
Last weekend, a small gathering of protestors gathered outside the newspaper's offices to demonstrate against the cartoon's publication.
That was followed this Monday by Iran summoning Sweden's chief diplomat in Teheran to express its own outrage. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed "Zionists" for the images but said he would not hold the Swedish people responsible.
Pakistan's foreign ministry said that Sweden's charge d'affaires had promised his government "shared the views of the Muslim community and termed the publication as unfortunate".
In Stockholm, the Swedish foreign ministry said it now considered the matter closed.
But last year's violent protests over the Danish cartoons has showed that initially little noticed drawings can eventually prompt widespread anger.
Yes, well, more than just "widespread anger"; over 100 people died. This particular situation has become an international incident, and it's working, since some places are afraid to display them.
Both situations -- the Christian one and the Muslim one -- are equal in that they offend some people of a particular religion and, in my view, also equal in that they should not be banned. I don't think public money should be financing them (and I have no evidence that they are), but banning insults is, to me, a slippery-slope freedom-of-speech issue.
But there is self-censorship happening in the case of art insulting Islam, not because of any sense of tact or taste (unfortunately), but because of the fear of what its adherents might do. For many, it's not OK to insult Islam because they might kill us if we do. Far too many folks who stand up for freedom of speech or for the arts are more than willing to throw out those principles before the angry mob show up. The "religion of peace" does not have a very good record at handling insults peaceably, with mulling and phone calls.
Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, I'm fully aware that a majority of Muslims don't take up arms over cartoons. But the point is, so many do, and so many Christians or Jews don't, that to the observer of these events, Islam does seem more violent than others.
Is Islam in need of a reformation?
Remains of The Second Jewish Temple Found?
Remains of the Jewish second temple may have been found during work to lay pipes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, Israeli television reported Thursday.
Israeli television broadcast footage of a mechanical digger at the site which Israeli archaeologists visited on Thursday.
Gaby Barkai, an archaeologist from Bar Ilan University, urged the Israeli government to stop the pipework after the discovery of what he said is "a massive seven metre-long wall."
August 29, 2007
Conscience and the Pro-Choice Christian
Russ over at Pro-Life Pro-Logic had a post last month that covered the same topics as those in my response to Anne Rice. While mostly dealing with Christianity vs. the pro-choice viewpoint, he makes a very interesting and thought-provoking connection to the subject of charity to the poor.
The Left has, in my view, a totally one-sided view of poverty. They have abandoned one part of humanity – the unborn (the unseen), for the economically poor (the seen). Mary Meehan, in an article in “The Progressive” in 1980 stated it clearly: “the abortion issue, more than most, illustrates the occasional tendency of the Left to become so enthusiastic over what is called a "reform" that it forgets to think the issue through. It is ironic that so many on the Left have done on abortion what the conservatives and Cold War liberals did on Vietnam: They marched off in the wrong direction, to fight the wrong war, against the wrong people.”
That Christians would follow them off this cliff, given what should be a different view of God's creation, makes no sense to me.
August 24, 2007
Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 2
This is the 2nd and final part of my analysis of an open letter from Anne Rice. Part 1 can be found here.
Anne Rice spends most of her letter covering this issue, and she starts with an assertion that, to me, shows a lack of consideration of the history of the issue.
I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party.
Ms. Rice does touch on these historical issues lightly later on, and I'll hit them more in-depth then, but even looking at how the abortion issue generally falls between the parties today, I don't see this as making sense. What I hear from Democrats are things like John Kerry with this sentiment:
I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views. But I disagree with them, as do many. I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. That's why I support that. I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.
If one's commitment to Christianity should be "absolute", as Ms. Rice has said, there is a big problem with this statement, that is generally the line religious Democrats use when talking about abortion, and that is the canard about legislating one's religious faith, or sometimes call ramming one's religion down your throat. Civil rights are very much a moral issue, but does Sen. Kerry have the same problem with legislating that? No, he's very willing to impose his view on KKK members, and rightly so. It's right, it's moral and it's the law. Legislators all throughout our country's history, and more so in our early history, based many of their decisions partly or mostly on their religious faith. This excuse is disingenuous.
Regarding Hillary Clinton, NARAL gave her a 100% score on her 2006 voting record (PDF), and she's a big supporter of Roe v Wade. See here for other details. You won't curb abortions by voting the way she does. Like her husband, she'll talk the talk, but watch the way she votes.
When voting, as Ms. Rice says, "Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian". If there is a substantial difference between Ms. Rice's vote and Sen. Kerry's or Clinton's vote, I'd like to know what she thinks it might be. Both votes affect more than just the voter, and one's Christianity shouldn't be compartmentalized between private and public life.
In one sense, votes by representatives will, to different extents, reflect the people represented rather than the representatives views. At the same time, by that very title, the representative represents their constituents views and values, and his or her own views are part of that; he or she was voted in partially or mostly because of their views. It's certainly not always a perfect fit between the politician and the constituents, but Sen. Kerry's statement takes his religious beliefs totally and completely out of the equation. If Democratic politicians, in general, can't bring themselves to vote against abortion, how in the world they be better in stopping the horror of it?
I have heard many anti-abortion statements made by people who are not Democrats, but many of these statements do not strike me as constructive or convincing. I feel we can stop the horror of abortion. But I do not feel it can be done by rolling back Roe vs. Wade, or packing the Supreme Court with judges committed to doing this. As a student of history, I do not think that Americans will give up the legal right to abortion. Should Roe vs Wade be rolled back, Americans will pass other laws to support abortion, or they will find ways to have abortions using new legal and medical terms.I agree that repealing bad legislation or overturning court decisions will not bring an end to abortion in and of themselves, but without them, how can we make real headway? For too many people, what's legal is what's right, or at least what's neutral. Our government's laws should reflect our country's shared morality. Do we or do we not value life in our culture?
The idea that Americans will just pass laws to support abortion is akin to saying that kids will just use drugs anyway, so let's give them clean needles, or that they're going to have sex anyway, might as well give them condoms and a clean room. None of those remedies will even stem the tide, so neither is a "solution to the horror". People are going to steal from each other and hurt each other and kill each other anyway; they do all the time. Should we throw our hands up and legalize those actions? And thus, keeping abortion legal isn't going to somehow reduce the number of abortions.
And while we're on the subject, one might ask if I'm also against passing laws against anything I find morally wrong. One might say that I'm inconsistent in my views if I favor the continued legalization of alcohol or tobacco. Fair question. I would also ask the religious left if they are in favor, morally, of state-sponsored gambling, since it's typically politicians on their side of the aisle pushing for state lotteries and the like. Just as fair. Let me answer that by saying that I believe there are some moral issues that should be decided on an individual basis, but there are other issues that should have the weight of our representative government behind them. Whether one drinks wine with dinner is, I think we can agree, an individual choice. Whether one is allowed to be born or not is the first right of them all, without which none of the others matter, and should have the force of government behind it.
And referring back to Sen. Kerry's statement on abortion, I wonder if Ms. Rice finds his comment "constructive or convincing". How constructive to the pro-life cause is that sort of declaration?
And much as I am horrified by abortion, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to abortion.
Try saying it this way: "As much as I am horrified by sucking a living being out with a hose and killing it, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to sucking out living beings with hoses and killing them." Depending on your opinion of the living-ness of the fetus, this is one reading of that statement, and it sounds almost comical, if not utterly incredible. How horrible can you really believe something is if you think we should retain some "right" to it?
And if you don't think the fetus is a human being, then how could it be described as a "horror"? It's no different than cutting off a fingernail. This is a major inconsistency I see with people who say they're pro-life, but think abortion should remain a right. If the fetus is alive, why are you for allowing it to be killed without cause, and if it's not alive, why use the label "pro-life"?
I am also not convinced that all of those advocating anti-abortion positions in the public sphere are necessarily practical or sincere. I have not heard convincing arguments put forth by anti-abortion politicians as to how Americans could be forced to give birth to children that Americans do not want to bear. And more to the point, I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians as to how we can prevent the horror of abortion right now, given the social situations we have.
I have to refer to Sen. Kerry's statement and Sen. Clinton's voting record again. Are they "practical or sincere" with regard to ending abortion? I honestly don't think so.
Ms. Rice is either deliberately framing the issue here to benefit her argument, or is naively parroting Democrat & Planned Parenthood talking points. The point at which the determination of whether or not to have a child is made is at the time of conception, but she doesn't mention this issue of responsibility. She might be talking about it regarding the "social situations we have", but she doesn't elaborate.
If that is what she's talking about, that our overly sexualized culture has to be addressed, then I would agree with that. But again, who is in the better position to work at retreating from that? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us this rise in teen sexualization? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us "free" "love" in the 60s? Was it liberal or conservative values that gave us a welfare system that allows absentee fathers to assuage their guilt? Again, the Republican party has not been completely true to conservative principles, but Democrats are certainly not anywhere near them, and many times deriding them.
And here's a nice irony: "I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians", so her solution to the horror of abortion is to vote for pro-abortion politicians? Completely upside-down.
Do I myself have a solution to the abortion problem? The answer is no. What I have are hopes and dreams and prayers --- that better education will help men and women make responsible reproductive choices, and that abortion will become a morally abhorrent option from which informed Americans will turn away.
I heartily agree that education is one of the keys to this; winning the hearts and minds. But that alone, like overturning bad court rulings, is not enough, yet essentially that's the only solution she talks about, and frankly overturning Roe v Wade by itself would curb more abortions than education itself. (Don't believe me? Say what you want about Prohibition, while it was in force as law there was less alcohol consumption. Generally, people respected the law. Legislation works.) Suggesting this remedy alone, I would argue, is what is not convincing.
Who would fund that education? Can we count on Democrats, who lobby for government money on behalf of Planned Parenthood, be the ones to entrust with this? Hen house, meet fox. Again, the unintended irony (and it is unintended, as far as I can tell) is just all over this letter, and especially with the next paragraph.
There is a great deal more to this question, as to how abortion became legal, as to why that happened, as to why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted, and as to the human rights of all individuals involved. I am not qualified as a student of history to fully discuss these issues in detail. I remain conscientiously curious and conscientiously concerned.
As much as Ms. Rice appeals to history, you'd think she would consider these questions rather important. Who got us into this mess is a serious question that would need to be answered as part of an informed decision as to which party is best to lead us out of it. For the edification of those interested, let's hit all her points.
How abortion became legal, and why it happened: Let me ask which side of the argument the two political parties were on at the time Roe v Wade was decided, and have been since then. The answer is obvious. The only dissenters in that decision were conservatives, and at least one conservative justice voted for it not understanding the gravity of that decision
In his concurring opinion, [Justice Warren E. Burger] explained, "I do not read the court's holdings today as having the sweeping consequences attributed to them by the dissenting justices; the dissenting views discount the reality that the vast majority of physicians observe the standards of their profession, and act only on the basis of carefully deliberated medical judgments relating to life and health. Plainly, the court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortions on demand.".
Apparently, physicians make 1,300,000 carefully deliberated medical judgements a year. So much for that thought. Conservatives, in general, opposed the decision. All the liberal justices voted for the decision.
Why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted: Ask John Kerry, who, in his list of people who the woman should consult about the decision, leaves out the father. This is the standard Planned Parenthood response, supported by the Democrats.
The human rights of all individuals involved: Indeed those of us who are pro-life are very concerned about the human rights of all individuals involved, including the one dead after the abortion. If you consider abortion a horror, I would hope you would be, too. It's not just a question that should be hand-waved away.
And so we wrap up.
But I am called to vote in this, our democracy, and I am called, as an American and a Christian, to put thought and commitment into that vote.
Again, I believe the Democratic Party is the party that is most likely to help Americans make a transition away from the abortion crisis that we face today. Its values and its programs --- on a whole variety of issues --- most clearly reflect my values. Hillary Clinton is the candidate whom I most admire.
The Democrats brought us here, and somehow Anne Rice thinks they're the ones to deliver us from it, too. She thinks a voter should consider their commitment to Christ in their vote, but backs a party that, in general, won't. She values charitable giving, won't support a party who's members give more, and yet supports a party that uses force to collect and inefficiently distribute "charity" money. She believes abortion is a "horror", but supports its continued legalization, and believes that a party that brought us that horror and has huge conflicts of interest regarding solving it will, in fact, solve it.
I repeat: I am a Christian; I am a Democrat. I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
I'd respectfully suggest that Ms. Rice, and any Christian considering voting for a Democrat and for whom these issues matter, reconsider.
August 23, 2007
Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 1
This is one of my longer posts, possibly the longest I've done on the blog. What happened was, I was reading an open letter from a Christian planning on voting a particular way, and as I read further and further into it, one objection after another kept coming to my mind, and one problem after another regarding the writer's reasons kept getting in the way. Finally, I realized I'd have to just set aside some of my typical day-to-day blogging of the link-and-quick-comment type, and go in-depth into the problems I see with the author, and Christians in general, who vote Democratic for specifically Christian reasons, and especially regarding the social issues brought up in the letter. Pull up a cup of coffee and sit back.
Anne Rice is a Catholic author. I'll admit to not being too well-read, but as a Protestant my knowledge of Catholic authors is even more limited. Therefore, I'm not sure how much Ms. Rice's views are mainstream Catholic, although whether or not they are really isn't the crux of this post. I do want to discuss the views she espouses, and espouses quite well as an author. That she is a Catholic and I am a Protestant has really no bearing on my criticism of her recent public letter dated August 10. I know Protestants who would agree with her on these issues, so this is not a denominational thing. She professes Christianity, as do I, and we have very similar goals, as far as I can tell, on the topics she discusses, and yet we're voting differently. Ms. Rice wrote a lengthy letter to her readers on her main web site (no permalink so don't know how long it'll stay on the front page) about why she is endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. They reasons she lists for that endorsement, to me, run completely counter to her list of important issues and goals. If she is truly concerned about those goals, I don't follow her endorsement, nor the endorsement of other of my friends and acquaintances of any Democrat in the current group. I want to address the inconsistencies I see in this post.
Ms. Rice starts out with her Christian and Catholic creds, which I respect and am willing to accept. She talks about how, while the separation of church and state is a good idea, the voter does not have that prohibition, and in fact must consider their vote based on their religion.
Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian. Commitment to Christ is by its very nature absolute.
I agree wholeheartedly. But, she also correctly notes, we have only 2 political parties in this country. (She believes, as do I, that a vote for neither Democrat or Republican, whether it's a non-vote or a vote for a 3rd party, is essentially a vote for one of the two major ones, no matter how you slice it.) In short:
To summarize, I believe in voting, I believe in voting for one of the two major parties, and I believe my vote must reflect my Christian beliefs.
Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
And that last clause is where the disagreement begins.
The first paragraph of explanation deals with giving.
Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving ones neighbors and loving ones enemies. A great deal more could be said on this subject, but I feel that this is enough.
First of all, neither the religious right nor the religious left have a lock on charitable giving. At the same time, as was noted on this post regarding a study by Arthur Brooks, conservatives outgive liberals by quite a significant amount. How does this relate to how the political parties differ in their view of the government's role in this? Ms. Rice, I believe, falls into a trap by simplistically equating the advocacy of government charity with Jesus' admonition to the individual to be charitable. Democrats say the government should give more, so by her reckoning thy are more in line with her Christian view. However, it has always made me wonder how when Jesus tells me, personally, to be charitable, that somehow this means that I should also use the government to force my neighbor, under penalty of jail, to be "charitable". I put "charitable" in quotes because when there's force involved, there's no real act of charity. How Democrat Christians get from point A to point Z on this boggles my mind. Another statistic from Brooks' study brings this point home; People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.
On top of this, the bureaucratic inefficiency filter that we're all forced to funnel our "charitable" taxes through siphons money away from the needy, as does the massive fraud that goes on in a big government program that has little accountability.
Conservatives believe that forcibly taking money isn't charity, and that it is not government's role to rob from Peter to pay Paul, and that the way the government handles this creates dependency and causes further problems, like giving fathers a disincentive to stick around. Because of this, conservatives give more of their own money to local charities where the administrative costs are much lower. The Republican party, the current home of most conservative political ideas in this country, purports to support these goals, and while they don't always follow those principles, they have done better at this than Democrats. An expanded role of government in the area of giving to the poor is not the best way for that to happen, and as a Christian I believe it's not moral to force others to give when they don't want to. Again, Jesus asks me to give; He didn't ask me to force others to.
Ms. Rice, in ticking off a laundry list of values, seems to be falling for the framing of the issue that Democrats have put forth; welfare = caring. There are other ways to care, which can have much better results.
Part 2 tomorrow.
August 09, 2007
A Tale of Two Texts
Glenn McCoy says it all with one picture from August 2nd.
July 31, 2007
Name That Scientist
Jeff Jacoby presents, in a style not unlike Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story", a story about a scientist, and the school that he applied to, that will amaze you.
DID YOU hear about the religious fundamentalist who wanted to teach physics at Cambridge University? This would-be instructor wasn't simply a Christian; he was so preoccupied with biblical prophecy that he wrote a book titled "Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John." Based on his reading of Daniel, in fact, he forecast the date of the Apocalypse: no earlier than 2060. He also calculated the year the world was created. When Genesis 1:1 says "In the beginning," he determined, it means 3988 BC.
So we have a young-Earth guy who seems really into this Christianity thing, and who is applying for a science job at a very prestigious university. Did he get the job?
Hire somebody with such views to teach physics? At a Baptist junior college deep in the Bible Belt, maybe, but the faculty would erupt if you tried it just about anywhere else. Many of them would echo Oxford's Richard Dawkins, the prominent evolutionary biologist, who writes in "The God Delusion" that he is "hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. . . . It subverts science and saps the intellect."
In today's academic climate, things don't sound promising for our intrepid physicist. Religion and science don't mix, so they say.
But such considerations didn't keep Cambridge from hiring the theology- and Bible-drenched individual described above. Indeed, it named him to the prestigious Lucasian Chair of Mathematics....
To find out who this guy was who beat all the odds to get hired, click here for the full column. (And if you're a regular reader of this blog, you may already know the answer. I covered it last month.)
July 23, 2007
A "Subversive" Film
Arnold Kling exposes a new movie.
The Acton Institute has produced the most subversive movie I have ever seen. The Call of the Entrepreneur, which is being released on an agonizingly slow schedule, is a threat to tyranny everywhere, including here at home.
The movie's message is that entrepreneurs are creators of wealth, Wall Street financiers are enablers of economic progress, and the villains of the world are people like the Communist leaders in China and American religious leaders who rail against capitalism.
Here's the short description from the movie's website:
A merchant banker. A failing dairy farmer. A refugee from Communist China. One risked his savings. One risked his farm. One risked his life.
Why do their stories matter? Because how we view entrepreneurs - as greedy or altruistic, as virtuous or vicious - shapes the destinies of individuals and nations.
But there are probably too many impediments to it to be shown widely in this country. Kling explains:
But it has very little chance of being shown in public high schools in America. It is far too explicit. "Call of the Entrepreneur" features the Reverend Robert A. Sirico, including a full-frontal shot of his clerical collar. As producer Jay W. Richards points out, the movie uses "the G word."
As a Jew, I am certain that I missed a number of the religious aspects of the movie. There were subtle references to Christian doctrine that went right past me. Perhaps there are Christians who would be more aware of the context and, based on their knowledge, might even take offense at the film's stance. I imagine that passionate atheists would tend to be turned off. But I think that a typical high school student could be exposed to the religion in "Call of the Entrepreneur" without being permanently scarred or corrupted.
I would argue that "Call of the Entrepreneur" and "An Inconvenient Truth" are both religious films. However, unlike Al Gore's movie about global warming, "Call of the Entrepreneur" steers clear of sensationalism, dogma, and misleading half-truths. It is ironic that public teachers and parents are happy to see "An Inconvenient Truth" in the classroom, but "Call of the Entrepreneur" would probably be greeted with protests if it were shown.
Kling's being sarcastic, of course, but makes his point clear. The more we see government as savior, the less freedom we have. The more the entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged, the better it is for all of us, the poor included. Don't give a man a fish, teach him to fish, and allow him to open his own fish business without excessive interference. That's how freedom works.
July 19, 2007
...And the Walls Came Tumblin' Down
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptists, attempting to clarify the roles of government and organized religion in the new United States, Jefferson wrote this:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Taken out of context, the "wall of separation" line has been misused over the generations. And the context is not just the letter Jefferson wrote, but it is a specific answer to a specific question from the Baptsts. Here is their concern, with emphasis added:
But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.
The Baptists were concerned specifically about the government imposing laws on religion that would tell them what to do with regards to their beliefs and the practice of them. Jefferson said government would not do that.
There could be no real question as to whether or not religion could have an effect on the government, since a chaplain and an opening prayer were part of Congress from the beginning. Jefferson himself used government money for the express purpose of evangelizing the American Indians. This from the man who wrote about a wall? By his words and his deeds, and in the full context of his words, it is clear that the wall he spoke of was one erected around religion to protect it and its followers from government intrusion, but the reverse situation was not addressed but, in fact, encouraged to a point.
I say this as a prelude to this news story coming from the BBC about an event in England that could occur here in the near future.
A gay man has won his case for unlawful discrimination after he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop.
The employment tribunal said John Reaney, 42, was discriminated against "on grounds of sexual orientation" by the Hereford diocesan board of finance.
And what law was broken?
Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation, but the law does contain an exemption for organised religion.
The Church of England has a position on the moral status of homosexuality. It is based on their religious beliefs. But today in England, not even the established church is allowed to act on its beliefs if the government has said otherwise. That "exemption for organised religion" isn't worth the paper it's written on.
This is the beginning of the end of religious freedom, when the government becomes the new arbiter of religious practice. And if you don't think it could happen here, then you're likely in for a surprise when the walls come tumblin' down.
Hat tip: Go, Pundit, Go!
Christian Fantasy Literature, Minus Hogwarts
Someone once said (I'm thinking C. S. Lewis, but if you know the quote, please note it in a comment) something to the effect that we don't need more good Christian literature, we need more good literature by Christians. Does the trend mentioned in this news story portend more of the former or the latter?
Could the next Harry Potter be a devout Christian?
As the days tick down until Saturday, when a breathless world learns the fate of the teenage wizard, a new breed of fantasy fiction, with Potter-style stories, is emerging.
Like the Potter series, it has mystical creatures, macabre events, epic battles and heroic young protagonists.
But, unlike the Potter books, this genre has overt Christian tones: messiah-like kings who return from the dead, fallen satanic characters and young heroes who undergo profound conversions. What you won't generally find: humans waving wands and performing spells.
Christian fantasy, which had been a slow seller, has caught fire recently, industry analysts say, ignited by the success of the Potter series, which has sent some Christian readers looking for alternatives.
What could come of this is a boatload of Narnia knockoffs, most with the same redemption allegory. Now, I'm not knocking the allegory itself, per se; there's certainly nothing wrong with presenting the "old, old story" in a new way. But not everything written by Christians has to be a thin veneer overlaying the New Testament.
And there are a lot of good books written that happen to be written by Christians. In our house, Ted Dekker is a big name, not only for his incredible thriller and suspense novels, but because he went to the same missionary boarding school in Indonesia as my wife and was just a grade or two ahead.
The article notes that the Potter controversy continues (interestingly, Dobson has praises for the series), while the array of other options is on the increase. But with great popularity comes great mediocrity, and just because the author's a Christian doesn't mean it's a masterpiece. But trust me, those masterpieces do exist, and we need more of them.
July 11, 2007
Anaylizing the Pope's Pronouncement
Danny Carlton analyses the Pope's latest document asserting that the Catholic church is the real Christian church and the rest of us are just posers. He thinks, as do I, that this is no real cause for concern among Protestants, since this is essentially a restatement of what the Roman Catholic church has always taught. No surprises there.
Well, except it does get a few folks in a knot. Read the post for details.
July 09, 2007
Why They Hate Us
In case you're still under the impression that al Qaeda hates us because of our foreign policies, here's some perspective.
The leader of an al-Qaida umbrella group in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shiites in Iraq within two months, according to an audiotape released Sunday.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the group Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing for four years to wage a battle against Shiite-dominated Iran.
"We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shiite government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," he said in the 50-minute audiotape. The tape, which could not be independently verified, was posted on a Web site commonly used by insurgent groups.
It is not primarily a political struggle, but a religious one, at least on their part. If attacks by al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia weren't enough to sway opinion, perhaps this might. We are not Muslim, and we're the big guy on the block, so we make an enticing target. But al Qaeda's issue is their form of Islam.
Al-Baghdadi criticized Kurdish leaders for their alliance with Shiites in Iraq's government and accused them encouraging unsavory morals.
"The leaders of apostasy ... have impeded the march of Islam in Muslim Kurdistan and helped communism and secularism to spread. ... They insulted the religious scholars ... encouraged vices and women without veils," he said.
Insulting scholars and missing veils. Does this sound like a political group to you?
June 21, 2007
Christians Persecuted, Major Christian Group Silent
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.
So this is a specifically Christian organization. Yet their "Latest News" page, as of now, has an article condemning the Israeli "occupation" and how it hurts human dignity, but absolutely nothing about this 3-day-old story on Muslims in Gaza attacking a Christian school and church. How about any stories about the endless rockets launched into Israel from Gaza ever since Israel held up their part of the peace process and pulled out? Nothing.
Nope, Israel is the big problem. Odd, then, that those in Gaza are fleeing...to Israel.
Many Christians said they were prepared to leave the Gaza Strip as soon as the border crossings are reopened.
Where they can't get along and where they kill innocents in order to take power, the WCC is silent. But they condemn the country where the refugees flee to. What an awful double-standard.
June 20, 2007
Mixing Science and Religion (It Can Be Done)
Richard Dawkins, scientist, atheist, and author of "The God Delusion":
Refusing to believe that science and religion could ever be happy bedfellows, the self-confessed atheist said that professional scientists who did promote that theory needed to prove the existence of god because it was a scientific question.
Emphasis mine, to point out that there have been many scientists who indeed were very religious. For instance:
Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible — exhibited this week for the first time — lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.
Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law — even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters — and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.
Any scientist who does that today would no doubt be considered a nut by Dawkins and his supporters. And yet I'm certain that Dawkins has no problem accepting the scientific conclusions of someone he'd consider a religious fanatic today.
In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.
"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
In another document, Newton interpreted biblical prophecies to mean that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the world ends. The end of days will see "the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom," he posited.
This is not someone with just a passing interest in a popular religious text of the time, this is someone who takes it seriously. Oftentimes, this sort of religious display is handwaved away as purely cultural, but I don't think you can do that here.
Yemima Ben-Menahem, one of the exhibit's curators, said the papers show Newton's conviction that important knowledge was hiding in ancient texts.
"He believed there was wisdom in the world that got lost. He thought it was coded, and that by studying things like the dimensions of the temple, he could decode it," she said.
The Newton papers, Ben-Menahem said, also complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion. "These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God's actions in the world," she said.
They are not mutually exclusive.
June 01, 2007
Serve Me, Or Else!
Now, would it make sense for used of Macintosh computers to sue software companies that only write for Windows, complaining that they should have equal access to that software as well? No, it would be silly, and certainly not allowed. I mean, after all, those Windows programmers know the PC, not the Mac. You'd want someone who knows the hardware you're using to write for it. And besides, can't a company choose it's market?
Perhaps not. Depends on who you are.
The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued on Thursday for refusing to offer its services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
A lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay.
Define "denied access" for me, will you?
Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option.
They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gays and lesbians denied access to the dating service.
So to "deny access" means to not offer the specific options in a service that you want. Mac users, your time is coming if this lawsuit makes it through the court system.
eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.
There might even be some anti-Christian bias going on here. But that doesn't even really have to enter the picture to show how meritless this suit is, or should be. Using my previous example, would you want Windows programmers writing your Mac software? Dr. Warren has said that he doesn't consider himself an expert in homosexual relationships, and eHarmony is essentially selling his knowledge.
eHarmony could not immediately be reached for comment. Commenting in the past on eHarmony's gay and lesbian policy, Warren has said that he does not know the dynamics of same-sex relationships but he expects the principles to be different.
Let's sue the butcher for not knowing how to prepare tofu.
And this is just silly...
"This lawsuit is about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love," said Carlson lawyer Todd Schneider.
How in the world does one business not catering to you somehow deny you the right to do...anything? The very first comment at the "Likelihood of Success" blog (second link above) puts the lie to this immediately.
I’m happily married now for 18 years, so I have zero experience with the on-line dating world. So it was news to me that eHarmony didn’t offer same-sex services.
But it wasn’t news I learned here. No, I learned it when one of their competitors’ ads came on: a somewhat clever ad where a guy looks at some listings of attractive women, and then says, “Nope. Still gay.” Point made: “Hey, if eHarmony won’t help you, we’ll be happy to.”
So the market has already solved this problem: eHarmony’s business choice created an opportunity, and a competitor is taking advantage of the opportunity. If this leads the competitor to get better known and better liked overall, then you can bet eHarmony will reconsider. If this remains a niche market and doesn’t have any carryover impact on brand loyalty, then eHarmony will continue to ignore the niche, and the competitor will find it a profitable niche to serve.
Problem solved. Leave the courts out of it.
(I've left off the last line of his comment, since it would become obvious where I got the Mac/Windows analogy from.)
If this lawsuit succeeds, it will cement homosexuality as a seriously privileged class, and be a giant step towards telling churches that consider homosexuality a sin that they don't have the religious freedom they thought they did. If this lawsuit does not succeed, it will not be because society is homophobic. When Catholic adoption agencies decide not to give children to same-sex couples due to religious reasons, it's the same situation. And in both cases, the market can, and has, dealt with it. A lawsuit over it is just narcissistic.
May 30, 2007
Freedom of Religion Returning to Texas
The right to freely exercise one's religion outside of the 4 walls of a place of worship was affirmed by the Texas legislature. It's unfortunate that it had to be affirmed at all, but in today's church-and-state climate, it's necessary.
The House embraced legislation Monday that seeks to clarify the rights of Texas public school students to offer public prayers at football games or graduation, hand out religious messages or hold religious meetings during the school day if they want.
Supporters said the Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act, which passed on a 110-33 vote, would protect districts from lawsuits by setting guidelines for students' religious expression while protecting students from being admonished, for example, if they talk about Jesus in an assignment about Easter.
You can't keep people insulated from each other, and this bill takes the common sense step of acknowledging that.
"Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion," Gov. Rick Perry said. "This was a vote for tolerance of diverse views in our education system so that students are not admonished for wishing a soldier overseas a 'Merry Christmas' or for any other harmless forms of expression."
Precisely. The "diversity" crowd is the very group trying to remove diversity in the public square.
The bill has its opponents, who, as usual, use exaggerated language when describing religious speech.
"The intent of this bill is to enable people to impose their religious beliefs on people, and I stand four-square against that," said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who is a Quaker.
"I was one of those students of a minority religion who was frequently subjected to unwanted ... advice and insults when I was in the public schools. I do not believe the intent of the author [to avoid lawsuits]. I believe the intent of the author is to facilitate imposing certain religious values on students regardless of their religious faith."
Sorry, but freedom from getting unwanted advice is not in the US Constitution. Those who insult you because of your faith should be punished by their parents or, for adults, marginalized, but it's still not a legal issue, and it doesn't mean that because some kids were mean to you in school that now all kids must be silenced on religious issues. Bathwater, meet baby.
And rather than dream up your own view of what the bill's author intended, let's just ask him.
Author Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, said repeatedly that the bill "does not allow anything that isn't in the current law."
What the bill does is specify that "a school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint" as long as the expression isn't obscene or vulgar and doesn't discriminate against homosexuals or religious beliefs.
Further, the bill says students may not be penalized for expressing religious views in classwork, and they may organize religious meetings and use school facilities like any noncurricular group.
Not sure why homosexuality was specifically singled out, but this is a good step in the right direction.
Plano ISD has been at the center of this debate since 2003, when school officials told a student he could not hand out candy cane pens with a religious message during a holiday party.
Rep. Burnam can hand-wring all he wants about how hearing religious speech is somehow imposing values onto him (is he that impressionable?), but if we can't give away pens in the name of religious freedom, things really are upside down.
May 15, 2007
Jerry Falwell Dead
Jerry Falwell has died at the age of 73. Love him or hate him, he did have a huge impact on US politics; US News named him one of the 25 most influential people in America in 1983.
Put a person in front of a camera long enough, and you're sure to get fodder for plenty of Saturday Night Live skits. Falwell was certainly no exception to that, and did his share of apologizing for comments he made. Little is typically noted about what he did that didn't cause a stir--schools, homes for unwed mothers, a home for alcoholics--but those weren't headline-grabbing.
Falwell's fumbles were sometimes notable, sometimes infamous (the Tinky-Winky incident, and where he placed blame for 9/11, for examples), but he did get many conservative Christians out of the closet, so to speak, and get them involved in politics.
He was the go-to guy for many media networks whenever a Christian perspective was needed, giving the impression of a monolithic interest group that all thought like him. That's more a reflection on lazy journalists than it is on Falwell, but he handled them with aplomb, virtually always with a smile.
(And now that he's gone, what'll the MSM do for "Christian reaction"? Pat Robertson, clear your calendar. >shudder<)
May 09, 2007
Pope Warns Catholic Politicians Who Back Abortion
Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.
It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.
The Pope was asked whether he supported Mexican Church leaders threatening to excommunicate leftist parliamentarians who last month voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.
"Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ," he said.
"They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church... which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)".
And he took on the motivations of those who pass pro-abortion legislation.
"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation," he said. "We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life...life is a gift not a threat."
"Under God" Gains Ground in Texas
Michael Newdow must be having a conniption.
The Texas House voted early Friday to inject a little religion into the Texas pledge.
House lawmakers voted 124-5 to put the words "under God" in the Texas pledge of allegiance recited by thousands of school children every day. The change mirrors the national pledge, which has included "under God" since 1954.
Under the bill, the Texas pledge would be: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God and indivisible."
The bill still needs a final vote later Friday before it is sent to the Senate.
The bill overwhelmingly passed in the Texas State House, and doesn't appear to have much opposition in the State Senate.
May 03, 2007
ABC to Webcast Christian/Atheist Debate
Kudos to ABC for webcasting a debate between 2 Christians and 2 atheists this coming Wednesday. It won't be on network TV, but will be on their website live. Speaking for the Christian side will be Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (yes, that Kirk Cameron).
Two Christians are meeting two atheists in a televised debate with the subject the existence of God, and Ray Comfort, a best-selling author and expert on Christian evangelism, says he can prove the existence of the Almighty in his allotted 13 minutes – without mentioning the Bible or faith.
"The network originally offered me only four minutes to present my case," Comfort said. "After speaking with Kirk [Cameron, former Growing Pains and Left Behind series movie star] and conferring with the atheists, they settled on 13 minutes. I'm ecstatic. I can prove the existence of God in that amount of time."
The debate will be Saturday in New York, and ABC had originally planned a live webcast of the 90-minute event, but changed plans to capture a larger audience, officials said.
ABC instead will broadcast the entire debate on ABC.com on May 9, at 1 p.m. EST.
The old adage goes that no one was ever argued into heaven, but some are at least influenced by reasoning. I'm not really concerned about what the atheists might say.
The idea for the debate developed after several atheists launched the Internet site Blasphemy Challenge, which offers to send people a DVD if they post on Youtube.com a video of themselves condemning themselves to hell.
The self-described "Rational Response Squad" said its DVDs, "The God Who Wasn't There," was described by the Los Angeles Times as "provocative – to put it mildly."
These guys have some sort of special vendetta against Christianity specifically, and their MO is shock. No, not worried about what these guys will come up with.
May 01, 2007
How Did They Survive Before?
Muslim cabbies refusing to service customers who have alcohol or a dog, even a guide dog. Muslim cashiers refuse to scan pork products. Now, they're asking for, and getting, special ceremonial foot basins to wash their feet just prior to their prayer time.
How did these folks survive 20th century America? Or is this, as the first link asks, a battle of the vision for the Muslim religion? And are the radicals winning?
April 25, 2007
Check Your Religious Beliefs at the Door
Left-wing activists are trying to keep religious ideas from informing anyone's opinion or public behavior.
A coalition of religious leaders took on the Catholic Church, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Bush administration on Tuesday with a plea to take religion out of health care in the United States.
They said last week's Supreme Court decision outlawing a certain type of abortion demonstrated that religious belief was interfering with personal rights and the U.S. health care system in general.
The group, calling itself the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said it planned to submit its proposals to other church groups and lobby Congress and state legislators.
I think these folks would be really surprised to learn how the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers informed their lawmaking.
And it's not just judicial opinions they're trying to censor.
The group also complained about Catholic-owned hospitals that refuse to sterilize women who ask for it, refuse to let doctors perform abortions and do not provide contraception.
"Doctors, pharmacists and nurses are also increasingly exercising a so-called 'religious or moral objection,' refusing to provide essential services and often leaving patients without other options," the group said in a statement.
They don't want religious organizations to be able to practice their religious beliefs, at least (for now) where those beliefs contact the public. Keep 'em in the closet.
As usual, a history lesson would go a long way.
"And now, to make it worse, the government is codifying these refusals, first through legislation and now with the recent Supreme Court decision, where five Catholic men decided that they could better determine what was moral and good than the physicians, women and families facing difficult, personal choices in problem pregnancies," it added.
What lovely anti-Catholic bias and sexism going on from these "tolerant" Leftists. But let's not forget that the 281 House members and 64 Senators were a combination of religions and genders, and that they were democratically elected by the people. Doesn't matter to these folks; any vote for a law that can be traced back to the beliefs of Catholic men should not be counted.
For the two-fer, we have some media bias at work here as well. As noted above, this group is initially characterized as "a coalition of religious leaders", giving it the appearance of broad support in the religious community. Not until the 11th paragraph do we get a hint of the size and makeup of the group. "The group includes ordained Protestant ministers [how many?], a Jewish activist [one], an expert on women's reproductive rights [one, and religious leader?] and several physicians [how many? religious leaders?]." The initial description of the group is charitable in the extreme, but something we've come to expect from our ever-vigilant, left-wing media.
(Hat tip: James Taranto.)
Religious Freedom, Canadian Style
If you are requested to do something that goes against your religious beliefs, and you refuse, but you refer those who asked to someone who will, are you guilty of anything? Perhaps not here in the US, but in Canada, the same-sex marriage legislation's draconian measures consider you so.
A Canadian Christian civil marriage commissioner in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Orville Nichols, could face up to $5000 in fines for having referred a homosexual couple to a different commissioner.
Human Rights Commission lawyer Janice Gingell asked the tribunal to find that Nichols contravened the code and order him to pay $5,000 in compensation to the complainant.
The 70 year-old Mr. Nichols used a clearly religious-based conscience argument for his refusal, saying his faith guides his daily life, that he prays and reads the Bible every day. He told the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal that his faith “takes first place” in his life. He said, “I couldn't sleep or live with myself if I were to perform same-sex marriages.”
The other commissioner to whom the two men were referred performed the ceremony on the same date they requested of Mr. Nichols.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists as its first "fundamental freedom" the freedom of conscience and religion". But for those pushing this agenda, the plain language of a Charter or a Constitution is not worth the paper it's written on, and your "fundamental rights" are not recognized. Americans should take note.
April 24, 2007
Gideons Cleared, then Re-Charged
In February, a couple of folks from the Gideons were arrested for trespassing while on a public sidewalk in front of a school handing out Bibles. A comment on my personal blog to that story noted that the trespass charges were related to the two men staying in their cars on school property after being asked to leave. Well, regardless of the actual act that was the cause of the charges, they have been dismissed by the state.
Only to be replaced with new charges.
"Following the initial motion to dismiss filed by [Alliance Defense Fund] attorneys, the state dismissed the charges but then filed new ones under a different statute," the ADF said.
"The distribution of Bibles on a public sidewalk is not a criminal offense," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. "The attempts by Florida officials to continue pressing for the prosecution of Mr. Mirto and Mr. Simpson is not only blatantly unconstitutional, it borders on religious persecution."
The incident developed Jan. 19, when the two men were distributing Bibles on a public sidewalk outside Key Largo School but did not step onto school grounds, the ADF said. Both men were arrested, booked, and charged with trespassing after the school's principal called police. On March 8, ADF attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and the state did dismiss those counts.
However, it filed new charges under a different law that prohibits anyone from being within 500 feet of any school property, including on public sidewalks and streets, without having either "legitimate business" or permission, the ADF said.
"The facts are clear: Mr. Mirto and Mr. Simpson are guilty of nothing more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights," Cortman said. "For whatever reason, the state is grasping at straws in order to justify the punishment of these men."
The state of Florida is now in the "untenable position of trying to justify the punishment of fundamental First Amendment activities in a quintessential traditional public forum," the law firm said. Under U.S. Supreme Court precedents over the last century, that is a "blatant violation of their constitutional rights."
The school disputes that they were on a public sidewalk, saying that they were in fact on school property, but one imagines that if that were so then the initial charges would have stuck.
April 23, 2007
From the Heart
Our pastor's sermon this week, as I imagine for many pastors, was regarding the Virginia Tech massacre. A one-sentence summary I'd use to describe it (that doesn't do it justice) is "The problem with evil in the world is that it exists and is active, and this is a wake-up call to the church." I want to touch on these two points, and riff off Mark's earlier post. (UPDATE: Audio for the message can be downloaded here.)
What I read Mark as saying is that society wasn't asking the right questions about what really is affecting our youth. There are surface issues that, I believe, are just symptoms, not the causes, that Mark touched on; video games, movies, meds, etc. But in his post was an assumption he makes that I don't think society accepts, at least not like it used to. And without that assumption, even his list of real issues can't be addressed until this one is.
Chuck Colson, in a recent Breakpoint podcast, noted that in at least one society, we can't even agree on this base assumption.
I witnessed an extreme example of this therapeutic thinking during a visit to a Norwegian prison years ago. Throughout the tour, officials bragged about employing the most humane and progressive treatment methods anywhere in the world. I met several doctors in white coats.
That prompted me to ask how many of the inmates, who were all there for serious crimes, were mentally ill. The warden replied, "Oh, all of them." I must have looked surprised, because she said, "Well, of course, anyone who commits a crime this serious is obviously mentally unbalanced."
Stated differently, there is no such thing as sin and evil, and the only reason why people might commit serious crimes is that they are mentally ill. Thus, the best-and perhaps, only-response to crime is behavior modification and all of those other up-to-date psychological techniques.
The assumption I refer to is the existence of evil, and of man's predisposition to it. I know how some folks avoid church because they don't want to hear that, but without understanding the very nature of our being, how can we ever hope to properly deal with it. Here's how Jesus put it in Mark chapter 7.
He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "
Jesus tells us that evil is primarily a spiritual issue, not primarily a psychological one. This is not to say that there are no psychological results of evil-there certainly are--and this does not absolve society, video game makers or Hollywood writers of their role in creating an environment where we marinate in and, in many cases, uphold that which is evil.
While we in American generally allow this idea to have some effect on our thinking, it has been less so during this generation. Colson notes that we're not that much different from Norway, and we, like them and anyone else, have one real way out.
While the Norwegian approach would strike most Americans as very naïve, the difference between them and us is one of degree not kind. We also blame crime on external factors, like mental illness, culture, dysfunctional childhood, and the like.
We are uncomfortable attributing events like this to human evil, much less to a kind of evil that seeks to undo God's creation-what Christians call the demonic.
Yet without this idea, events like this massacre can never be understood. We might learn that the killer was "mentally unbalanced" or on anti-depressants. But, absent evidence that he was clinically delusional, this knowledge will not explain why he walked onto a college campus, locked people in a lecture hall, and killed them
Events like this not only horrify us-they unsettle us. We think of sin and the demonic as not-so-quaint relics from a superstitious age. And even more destructive, random events like this remind us how little we know about ourselves and what we are capable of, as well. But failing to call evil evil misleads us about the world we live in and our need for God's grace, the only real answer and hope for any of us.
We cannot save the house until we save the foundation, and only God, the Master Builder, who drew up the blueprints, knows what can be done.
The families and friends of the victims of the VT shootings, and even the family and friends of the shooter, deserve the most love and grace we can give them. Our desire to help them, grieve with them, and comfort them must come from the heart. But going forward, if we ever hope to rescue our society from further events such as this, we must remember what else Jesus said comes from the heart. It is the hearts of people that need God. The psychological, emotional and physiological will follow, but not until the hearts are changed. That's the church's mission; to bring the God that can change the heart to society.
(One thing I would want to note, lest an incorrect assumption be made; I don't dismiss out of hand the science of psychology; not by any means. I believe it has an important contribution to make in understanding the human mind and how it can be helped. But, using my earlier analogy, modifying the house without understanding the foundation may, in some cases, give us relief from problems without dealing with the underlying flaws, keeping us from seeking the One who can truly help.)
Our pastor asked and answered the burning question: "How long will events like this continue to happen? As long as the church lets them." The "salt of the earth" must not hunker down in its salt shaker. As it was used in the first century, it must be rubbed, not on, but into the meat before it rots any further.
March 07, 2007
First James Cameron trotted out bones to the Discovery Channel and made claims about them--that they were the bones of the biblical Jesus--that not even the man who discovered them claimed. Now ABC highlights a nut in Houston, giving him a platform to be legitimized, who claims to be Jesus. And the Anti-Christ. And who grew up stealing to pay for his heroin addiction. The headline reads, "Jesus Might Be Alive and Well in Houston", giving the story a "hey, it could be true" air.
(Hat tip to WorldViews.)
Amazing how the ever-sensitive media that blushed and turned away when the Danish cartoons of Muhammad came calling have no problem with airing the flimsiest story that calls Christianity into question. The gatekeepers have a very selective gate. As one commenter to the WorldView post said, "Do you think ABC would do a similar story about some character claiming to be Mohammed, Martin Luther King, Abraham etc?"
Yeah, me neither
February 28, 2007
What's Good for the Goose...
Now that James Cameron is making a new documentary suggesting he's found the bones of Jesus, will Andy Rooney now castigate him for making money off of Jesus? He certainly took Mel Gibson to task for this. Think he'll do the same for Cameron?
Yeah, me neither.
February 16, 2007
On Sunnis and Shi'ites
I'll admit to not knowing my Islamic sects, but Mark Alexander at the Patriot Post distills it down to 1000 well-written words. Definitely worth a read.
And while you're there, read the rest of today's digest, which includes news about a push to do and end-run around the Electoral College, notice of a report from UNICEF that says the US and the UK are the two worst places to raise a child, and news of a settlement in a "wrongful birth" case. I suggest you subscribe to their e-mails.
February 01, 2007
Making Peace With Religion and Sexuality
A great article on a Christian dealing with homosexual tendencies at Blogger News Network by Warren Throckmorton, PhD, is a must-read. While I think homosexual activity is wrong, this approach to dealing with it in the Christian life makes sense. As I say in a comment to the article, hetero men have the same sexual temptations (aside from the gender), and have to deal with them spiritually and behaviorally. And just because God doesn't heal a particular physical problem--or take away homosexual tendencies--doesn't mean that He can't or that we're bad people.
Loving the sinner and hating the sin goes for sin in our own lives as well. A healthy love of self includes knowing what your weaknesses are. Just continue to seek out God and let Him work through you. Great article.
January 30, 2007
Religious Freedom Diminished in the UK
Agencies run by churches in the UK can no longer practice what they preach.
Roman Catholic adoptions agencies yesterday lost their battle to opt out of new laws banning discrimination against homosexual couples when Tony Blair announced that there would be "no exemptions" for faith-based groups.
The Prime Minister said in a statement that the new rules would not come into force until the end of 2008. Until then there would be a "statutory duty" for religious agencies to refer gay couples to other agencies.
Why can't that "statutory duty" be good enough? Why is government coercion trumping religious freedom? Predictably, the results of an attempt at "fairness" will chase off the principled.
Last week the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, warned that the agencies would close rather than accept rules that required them to hand over babies to gay couples.
One wonders if, in some quarters, that's the whole objective. I mean, given a situation where there are choices, and there usually are, why would a gay couple seek out the Catholic Church for an adoption agency when there are others that have no qualms about it. It's kind of like the standard answer you hear when folks complain about the content of TV programming. "Just change the channel", the Left dismissively says. But when it comes to their preferences, they won't "change the channel" themselves--choose a different agency--and instead insist that government sanction their choices and force it upon everyone to accommodate it.
January 24, 2007
Good News from the Front
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have opened doors to the spread of the Gospel.
More Muslims converted to faith in Jesus Christ over the past decade than at any other time in human history. A spiritual revolution is under way throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia:
Iraq: More than 5,000 new Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations. ... Also, more than 1 million Bibles [were] shipped into the country since 2003, and pastors report Iraqis are snatching them up so fast they constantly need more Bibles.
Afghanistan: only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000.
Other Muslim countries have also seen tremendous rates of conversion starting in the 80s and 90s. Read the whole article for the stunning numbers from Egypt, for example.
January 23, 2007
Romney Piicks Up Endorsements
We've knocked the idea around about having Mitt Romney, a Mormon, as a presidential candidate for a Republican party that has a majority of evangelical Christians in it. According to Powerline, there are a couple of signs that Romney's political appeal may take precedence over his choice of religion.
First, they are noting (according to the Politico blog) that Denny Hastert will be endorsing Romney sometime today (may have already happened). Powerline notes, "They don't come much more mainstream, middle-American conservative than Denny Hastert."
January 16, 2007
Book Review: Christian Theologies of Scripture
Matt Stokes, former Stone (but always welcome back, dude) got a copy of a book he enjoyed and wanted to bring to the attention of our SCO readers.
I must confess that my knowledge of theology is not particularly strong. That's not to say that I am happy with this state of affairs. I am most certainly not. Yet I have only a passing knowledge of Christian theology, just enough to nod and comment over coffee. I have ideas about what I like and do not like about certain theologies, but it would be a stretch to say that I could adequately promulgate a particular line of theology. Therefore it was to my great relief that I was presented a copy of Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction, a helpful volume edited by Justin Holcomb.
Holcomb is a lecturer at both the University of Virginia and Reformed Theological Seminary, and he has done a masterful job of editing this volume. Within this text the reader finds brief essays outlining a multitude of angles on the subject, from medieval interpretations of Scripture to the approach of the postmodernists in our own time. In between the reader is introduced to all the ideas of names familiar to any adherent and student of Christianity: Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Balthasar and Barth. This review will not examine every chapter, but I do hope to demonstrate some general strengths and weaknesses found in this volume.
This anthology is particularly important as Christians Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox are currently making a concerted effort to understand doctrine outside the parameters of traditional denominational theology. Moreover it is helpful for both the studious believer and the purely academic student of the Christian faith to understand the multitude of theologies that have existed throughout history. This is particularly important as so many of theologies discussed in this book those of Luther, Calvin, Barth, post-modernism, African-American theology and feminist theory remain hugely influential in much of American Christianity.
It is for this reason that I found the chapters dealing with the above topics to be so beneficial. R.R. Renos chapter on Origen was useful, but academic in the sense that one would not immediately recognize Origens influence in modern Christianity. By contrast, Lutherans, Calvinists and students or adherents of the Emergent Church would find chapters specifically relevant to their own callings and pursuits. Of course the purpose of this volume is simply to inform the Christian laymen. This is an academic text, and in this regard, the book is a great success. Desiring a basic understanding of the various Christian interpretations of Scripture, the reader is presented with the historical Catholic interpretations of St. Thomas Aquinas and the later Counter-Reformation as well as the Protestant Reformers and their numerous descendants.
As someone with more conservative leanings in both theology and politics, it is tempting to offer a more detailed analysis of the chapters on feminism and post-modernism. Instead, one can say, as do the authors themselves, that feminism, post-modernism and African-American theologies are so often rooted in experience. This hits, in so many ways, at the dividing line between many believers. What shall determine our theology? Scripture alone, or should experience that of the Church or that of a particular group (women, African-Americans, other minorities) define theology? There is no clear answer in this volume, nor should there be. This is a question for another volume. If it were handled as well as Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction, students of Christianity would be indeed be fortunate.
January 08, 2007
Faith of our Founders
Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost takes an honest look at the religious faith of America's Founding Fathers. His first conclusion is:
With the exception of the handful of orthodox Christians, the majority of the founding fathers subscribed to a religious view that we would nowadays classify as Unitarianism. A rejection of Trinitarianism clearly puts one outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. We should not, therefore, claim that a historical figure is a “Christian” when we would consider someone who held those beliefs today to be a heretic. The leaders during the revolutionary era may have subscribed to a Judeo-Christian view of morality, but few of them were orthodox believers.
However, his second conclusion is:
While we Christians can claim few founding fathers as fellow believers, the atheistic secularist can claim none. Not one of the significant leaders was an atheist, much less subscribed to the modern idea of secularism.
Essentially, Carter says that the whole modern idea of government working from a purely secular/atheist point of view is not something the Founders would have generally recognized as their idea. An "established religion" meant something specific to them, and it wasn''t that government should be devoid of religious influence at all. (Military chaplains were set up by these same fellas, as an example.) The Michael Newdows of the country should take note.
November 30, 2006
Smashing the Charity Stereotypes
The New York Times asked, "Are we cheap?" Liberals give their opinions on that.
"Yes," they say. Former President Carter recently said the rich states "don't give a damn" about people in poor countries. And when it comes to helping the needy in poor countries, U2 singer Bono says, "It's the crumbs off our tables that we offer these countries."
Crumbs because many other countries, such as Norway, Portugal and Japan, give a larger share of their wealth to needy countries.
The United States gave out $20 billion in foreign aid last year, but as a percentage of our wealth, we rank 21st out of the 22 major donor countries.
Actress Angelina Jolie is horrified by it.
"It's disgusting. It really is disgusting," she said. "I think most American people, you know, really do think we give more. And I know that they would if they could understand how little they give and how much more we can afford to give, absolutely, without even noticing it."
But what these folks are ignoring is that America is one of the most generous countries in the world when you look at how we take personal responsibility for our charity. As much as the general consensus has inched more and more towards the idea that it's the government's job, a very large segment of our population understands that "rugged individualism" not only means being personally independent but also means taking personal responsibility for the needy, and not shoving it off onto some other group or institution. Predictably however, those who do gauge things by institutional or governmental charity are blind to the reality of the generous America.
Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute has studied how much Americans give privately in foreign aid. She says it's a myth that Americans are stingy.
"We're one of the most generous people in the world, and that's because of our private philanthropy," she said.
Adelman published her findings in the institute's "Index of Global Philanthropy," which found that while the U.S. government gave about $20 billion in foreign aid in 2004, privately, Americans gave $24.2 billion.
On top of that, immigrants in America send about $47 billion abroad to family members and home towns. That's anything but stingy.
After the tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged approximately $900 million to relief efforts, but American individuals gave $2 billion in food, clothing and cash.
So America's individuals send out more than three times cash that the government does, and continue to give when tragedy strikes. This is not a portrait of a stingy country; that is, if you see the whole picture. And of course, there's more to charity than just cash.
The fact that most of America's charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country.
"No other country comes close," said Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks studies charitable giving and has a new book, "Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide."
"The fact is that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. … They also volunteer more," Brooks said. "Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians."
"Now, you might notice that these other countries have different average incomes or different tax systems," he said. "But even when you take that into account, Americans give 10 times more than the Italians. The fact is, that Americans give on a different scale than anybody else in the world."
The problem with America's reputation comes from its a self-appointed "ambassadors", like Carter, Bono and Jolie, who complain that we don't funnel enough money through a government that siphons off 75 cents off of each "charitable" tax dollar. In the meantime, while Hollywood and the Left trash them, the average American continues to give to charities with a much better value for dollar given. But this generosity isn't even on the radar for those whom the government is the answer to every problem, and who disdained private solutions while supporting public waste.
And who's doing this giving? The aforementioned book by Brooks shatters all the stereotypes and puts those charity ambassadors in a different light. According to Brooks,
- 24 of the top 25 states where people give an above average percent of their income were red states in the previous presidential election.
- Conservatives give about 30 percent more than liberals, even though on average conservative-headed families make slightly less money.
- People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.
- People at the lower end of the income scale give almost 30 percent more of their income than do those who make $1 million or more.
- Religion is the single biggest predictor as to whether someone will be charitable. Religious people give to four times as much to charity, and not just to their own church but also to outside organizations and even explicitly non-religious charities.
Seems like it's not so far off the mark that the more you expect government to do the job of charity, the less likely you are to get involved in local need issues. It looks like what is needed is for these charity "ambassadors" to get more in touch with their ideological brethren. In the meantime, they could stop bad-mouthing the American people, including the allegedly "greedy" right-wing Republican churchgoers. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
November 14, 2006
Moses and The Ten ... Amendments?
Pastor Todd DuBord got a bit of a shock when he did the DC tour recently. When they got to the Supreme Court building, revisionism was readily apparent.
He was most disturbed by what appears to be revisionism in the presentations given to visitors at the Supreme Court. There, he said, his tour guide was describing the marble frieze directly above the justices' bench.
"Between the images of the people depicting the Majesty of the Law and Power of Government, there is a tablet with ten Roman numerals, the first five down the left side and the last five down the right. This tablet represents the first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights," she said.
The ten what? was DuBord's thought.
Indeed, Pastor DuBord has done his research (click here for the PDF of his letter, containing all his information about this and other places history is being erased). The thing is, it's not just a matter of ignoring Christian figures and influences, it's being actively denied,
He then asked, "If there are no other depictions of Moses or the Ten Commandments on the building except on the South Wall Frieze in the U.S. Supreme Court, then what about on the east side of the building where Moses is the central figure among others, holding both tablets of the Ten Commandments, one in each arm?"
"Her response shocked me as much as the guide inside the Court chamber. 'There is no depiction of Moses and the Ten Commandments like that on the U.S. Supreme Court,'" DuBord said he was told.
He asked if there were any pictures of the representation, and she pulled one out.
"Her eyes widened in surprise. There was Moses in photo and description as the central figure, holding the Ten Commandments (tablets), one in each hand," DuBord wrote.
Although there are six depictions of Moses and-or the Ten Commandments at the Supreme Court, the tour guides had been trained to admit to only the one on Moses, he said.
DuBord has traced at least one of the reasons this change has been taking place. Read the whole article or his message to the Court to learn about the letter from the sculptor saying it was the 10 Amendments, but also why this letter's authenticity is dubious (and also about the other letters this same sculptor wrote about similar depictions of his specifically about the 10 Commandments around DC).
One has to wonder why our country's Christian heritage and influence has to be "sanitized", and who's responsible for it.
November 03, 2006
Pres. of Natl. Assoc. of Evangelicals Steps Aside
Rev. Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has left his post while allegations of homosexual sex and meth use are being investigated.
The Rev. Ted Haggard resigned as president of the 30 million-member association Thursday after being accused of paying the man for monthly trysts over the past three years.
Haggard, a married father of five, denied the allegations, but also stepped aside as head of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending an investigation.
"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," he said in a statement. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."
Carolyn Haggard, spokeswoman for the New Life Church and the pastor's niece, said a four-member church panel will investigate the allegations. The board has the authority to discipline Haggard, including removing him from ministry work.
The acting senior pastor at New Life, Ross Parsley, told KKTV-TV of Colorado Springs that Haggard admitted that some of the accusations were true.
"I just know that there has been some admission of indiscretion, not admission to all of the material that has been discussed but there is an admission of some guilt," Parsley told the station.
If true, this is another case of a fallible human being getting caught in sin. The question will be how this is dealt with; how the church and Rev. Haggard deal with the situation. Charges of hypocrisy may be reasonably levelled, but at the same time, all of us, at one time or another, do things we ourselves think to be wrong, whatever our code of ethics. One classic quote from C. S. Lewis in his book "The Problem of Pain" deals with this.
"The moralities (codes of right and wrong) among men may differ - though not, at bottom, so widely as is often claimed - but they all agree in prescribing a behaviour which their adherents fail to practice. All men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt."
We've all failed our own consciences. So levelling a charge of hypocrisy may be correct, but it's just as true of the accuser as of the accused. If the underlying charges are true, then Rev. Haggard should step down from his position of authority, at the very least for the time being and deal with this sin.
What this is not a case of is whether what he preached is the truth or not. It is also not a matter of politics. However, the accuser is trying to cover both those bases.
The accusations were made by Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, who said he decided to go public because of the political fight over the amendments.
"I just want people to step back and take a look and say, 'Look, we're all sinners, we all have faults, but if two people want to get married, just let them, and let them have a happy life,'" said Jones, who added that he isn't working for any political group.
Jones, who said he is gay, said he was also upset when he discovered Haggard and the New Life Church had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.
"It made me angry that here's someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex," he said.
So these are politically motivated and timed charges, and are an attempt to discredit the truth of the matter based on a high-profile bad example. He acknowledges that "we're all sinners", but wants to help make folks comfortable in their sin rather than help them out of it. I'm not saying he shouldn't have brought this to light, but like the Mark Foley scandal, human faults are being used as political tools. Given this, I have some doubt as to the full veracity of the claims.
Additionally, I have to wonder if bringing this to light will really change the position of anyone who was going to vote to ban gay marriage. Maybe a couple fence-sitters, but most folks have a pretty strong opinion one way or the other, and with amendments in other states passing with wide margins, I think this political calculation has some errors.
October 20, 2006
Abdul Rahman Still a Marked Man
Abdul Rahman is a convert to Christianity from Islam, and escaped the death penalty in Afghanistan (in what was mostly a face-saving maneuver by the courts there). See previous SCO coverage of this here and here. Having moved to Italy, he's gone, but not forgotten.
The kidnappers of an Italian journalist in Afghanistan have offered to free him in exchange for a Christian convert who fled the country, an aid agency says.
Photojournalist Gabriele Torsello was seized last week while travelling on a bus in southern Afghanistan.
The kidnappers will free Mr Torsello, a Muslim convert, if Abdul Rahman returns from Italy where he was granted asylum earlier this year, the aid agency says.
Mr Rahman had escaped a possible death sentence for becoming a Christian.
He had been charged with rejecting Islam and released this March after being deemed mentally unfit to stand trial on a charge of apostasy.
(Hat tip: Michelle Malkin)
Rahman still needs our support and our prayers.
NBC Responds to Madonna Crucifix Display
Looks like NBC is responding to pressure not to show the singer Madonna up on a mirrored cross during the upcoming televising of her concert.
After weeks of controversy, NBC has decided not to show pop star Madonna suspended from a giant cross and wearing a crown of thorns when the network airs a special of her "Confessions" tour, a source close to the organization of the event said on Thursday.
The source spoke after NBC announced it had revised the two-hour concert special, which airs November 22, but did not elaborate on what changes would be made.
The source said the portion of the "Live to Tell" song in which Madonna sings suspended from a giant cross and wearing a crown of thorns will not be shown in the broadcast. Instead, cameras will cut to other shots or images while Madonna is on the cross. She steps away from the cross to finish the song.
Whether this means that NBC is developing something of a spine, or if this is purely a financial decision (some affiliates "expressed uneasiness" about carrying the special) is yet to be seen. However, couple this with the addition of a religiously toned-down version of the Christian-values "Veggie Tales" for Saturday mornings by NBC, and the network seems to be moving back somewhat from the general media position that it's OK to offend Christians. Baby steps, but in the right direction.
October 11, 2006
The Source of the Next Jihad
Look to the prisons to find out where our next terror cell may be created.
The spread of an especially virulent form of Islam within American prisons is obvious to those of us who have spent time in these prisons. It’s the rest of American society that is in denial. Now, thanks to a new study, ignorance is no longer an option.
The study, titled “Out of the Shadows,” concluded that “the U.S. . . . is at risk of facing the sort of homegrown terrorism currently plaguing other countries.” The source of that risk, according to researchers from George Washington University and the University of Virginia, is “[America’s] large prison population.”
“Radicalized prisoners” within this population “are a potential pool of recruits by terrorist groups,” the study says. The sources of radicalization are incarcerated Islamic extremists and outside organizations that support them. The report notes that the absence of “monitoring by authoritative Islamic chaplains” permits “materials that advocate violence [to infiltrate] the prison system undetected.”
Some of this material is provided by known al-Qaeda affiliates. It “[urges Muslim prisoners] to wage war against non-Muslims who have not submitted to Islamic rule.” As a former employee of a radical Islamist group who is now a Christian told a Senate committee, “I know of only a few instances in which prisons rejected the literature we attempted to distribute—and it was never because of the literature’s radicalism.”
Would it surprise you to know that a program that's been successful in curbing this radical form of religious zealotry is under attack? The Left in this country just can't abide success when Christianity's involved. And Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship is feeling the heat, although it may be the rest of us feeling it if they are shut out from the countries prisons.
The study recommends the creation of a federal commission to “investigate this issue in depth.” It says that an “objective risk assessment” is “urgently needed” so that “officials [can] address this issue now, rather than [managing] a crisis later.”
I agree wholeheartedly, but let’s get on with this. We already know what the study has concluded. I’ve been telling “BreakPoint” listeners and readers and Prison Fellowship supporters about this for years. Now we have more than anecdotal evidence. We have a study from two prestigious universities on our side.
Still, I can’t help but note an irony here: The largely unimpeded spread of radical Islam through our prisons coincides with increased opposition to the one really successful antidote—that is, the presence of Christianity.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State are so concerned about the spread of Christianity, and apparently not so concerned about the breeding of new terrorists, that they're suing Prison Fellowship in Iowa. They're trying to remove a successful program that is 60% funded by private money. Fortunately, PF has a number of folks in its corner, including the Attorneys General from 9 other states who are more concerned with our safety than they are with a misreading of the First Amendment (essentially the elevation of a phrase in a private letter to that of constitutional law).
Here's to PF's success. It may well be a matter of national security.
October 04, 2006
No, not the dance, the place. (Apologies to Catholic readers, but I just couldn't pass up that headline for a little chuckle.)
Of course, the issue of the eternal destination of children who are unbaptized or who are younger than some age of consent has always been a thorny theological issue in the Christian church in general. While the article's headline suggests that the Pope may be making this ruling based on making outreach in Muslim countries easier, it also notes that he's not ever been convinced of its existence. So I really don't think this is a marketing ploy.
Affecting the Culture
What would your church do to make an impact on our culture, if it had $100,000 at its disposal? One Baptist church decided to make a movie; a high-quality movie with a good message that is competing favorably against Hollywood's offerings.
It was made by a church on a donated budget of $100,000 with volunteer actors, but instead of a low-budget castoff, "Facing the Giants" held its own against Hollywood's big boys in its opening weekend, grossing $1.4 million on only 441 screens.
Officials say the production, by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and ranked No. 12 for all films over its first weekend, even though other films had up to eight times as many screens. Its per-screen average of $3,149 was fourth among the top 10 grossing weekend films.
"I think this sends a clear message to Hollywood that there is an audience who does want to see a positive, uplifting film that promotes faith and family values," said Michael Catt, the senior pastor at Sherwood Baptist and executive producer for the project.
"Hopefully, this will open the door for more organizations to bring other quality-content projects to the big screen," he said.
With the lower cost of entry now that movie production has gone digital, this sort of project is now possible.
I can imagine that some might say that this was money that could have been better spent on other projects. But I'd say that a lot of those projects are being done by other churches. I'm happy to see that, just as with individuals, different church bodies have different gifts, and they should be free to use them as God directs (no pun intended).
Besides, based on the box office receipts, this movie could not only encourage Christians and bring the good news to non-Christians, it will likely bring in more money to be used on more conventional projects.
Proceeds are to be used for a 40-acre youth recreational park planned by Sherwood Baptist in Albany, officials said.
Let's celebrate the unconventional, and ask God for more of it.
September 25, 2006
Sanitizing the Veggies
It might be OK to show Madonna hanging on a mirrored cross, but don't dare let Bob and Larry tell kids that God loves them.
The wildly popular VeggieTales kids videos about vegetables who talk and sing and act out Bible stories are being edited for their run on NBC's Saturday morning educational program time, and the network says it's because of time limits.
But the creator says that's not exactly the case, and viewers will have to decide for themselves whether the result is good or bad.
"VeggieTales was originally created for home video and, in most cases, each episode is over 30 minutes long. As it appears …. VeggieTales has been edited down for broadcast without losing any of its core messages about positive values," the network said.
Phil Vischer, the co-creator of the characters, said that comment was "interesting."
"As a guy deeply involved with the project, I know that statement is false," Vischer wrote on his own weblog. "We sent them our first episode for TV, which was already edited to EXACTLY the right length, and they rejected it because, at the end, Bob the Tomato said, 'Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much.' They demanded we remove that line. The show wasn't too long, it was too religious."
He said the second also was sent edited for perfect timing. The response from NBC was an e-mail with a list of lines that needed to be removed, "each of them containing either the word 'God' or 'Bible,'" Vischer wrote.
My first reaction was to wonder why NBC felt it needed to lie to the public about what it was doing. Vischer himself had no problem with meeting the standards, as long as NBC was being honest about it. Apparently, now they are. Vischer wrote:
So they're being clear now, which is good. Whether or not you agree with their standards or the other shows they air is really a separate issue. They obviously have the right to set their own standards and apply them however they choose. I just wanted to make sure everyone was being upfront about the situation, because, well, I like it when we're all being upfront.
The company's right to set their own standards isn't really an issue. What is the issue, for me, is the fear of offending non-Christians--or at least the fear of turning them off--while at the same time having no issues with offending Christians in prime time. Brent Bozell says it best.
"This is one of those moments where you understand networks like NBC are only talking an empty talk and walking an empty walk when it comes to the First Amendment, and 'creative integrity,' and so on," Bozell wrote. "They have told parents concerned about their smutty programs like 'Will and Grace' that if they're offended, they have a remote control as an option.
"But when it comes to religious programming – that doesn't even mention Jesus Christ – just watch the hypocrisy. Instead of telling viewers to just change the channel if they don't like it, or put in a V-chip for Bible verses, they demand to producers that all that outdated old-time religion be shredded before broadcast," he said.
"It's truly sad this anti-religious hypocrisy would emerge. Today, no one in network TV fears what the children are watching – unless it makes them think about God."
Vischer is thinking that exposure the the "sanitized" Veggie Tales will get kids interested in the DVDs which aren't edited, and so this was a bit of a compromise. In another blog post on this subject, he tackles the issue of "compromise".
Did I compromise my beliefs to edit the shows? Well, there's 'compromise' in the sense of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refusing to bow down, and then there's 'compromise' in the sense of Paul saying he will be "all things to all people." Paul was willing to compromise his cultural values to build relationships with Greeks, Romans, slaves, and anyone else he met along his travels. If they ate meat, he'd eat meat. If they didn't, he wouldn't. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to compromise their beliefs about God. God said "bow to no other god but me" and they intended to follow that directive, no matter the personal cost. So was taking "God made you special and he loves you very much" off the end of these new shows more like Paul's situation? Or Shadrach's? Do the edited shows say anything that I believe is untrue? No. They do, however, stop short of saying things I wanted to say that are very true. Do they go against God's commands? Or do they just respect the boundaries of a foreign culture?
Vischer says it's up to the viewer to decide. Personally, I'm glad to see Bob and Larry getting more exposure, and I think this can ultimately help spread the news. What I'm disappointed, but not surprised, by are the Hollywood standards in place that are just so upside-down. But as Vischer says,
Let us Christians never forget that we are strangers here. We don't fit in.
And that's okay.
September 21, 2006
The "Theocracy" Myth
Joe Carter, in a recycled post at the the Evangelical Outpost which is just as relevant now as when he first posted it, deconstructs the idea that Christians somehow want to establish a theocracy in the United States.
When those of us on the “religious right” hear such paranoid ranting it naturally elicits a chuckle. After all, more than half of American evangelicals are either Baptists or non-denominational. We don’t even want a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church.
But since, as Joe notes, "even the most pernicious lie...contains some grain of truth", he looks into the history of the idea and what folks typically mean by it today.
September 15, 2006
Chaplain Convicted of ... Acting Like a Chaplain
When a Christian prays "in Jesus name", he's just practicing his faith. When an Army Chaplain does it, at what he considers a religious event, he gets fined.
A jury of U.S. Naval officers has recommended a reprimand and a $250 fine per month for a year for a Christian chaplain who was convicted of disobeying an order not to wear his military uniform for media appearances.
Fortunately, this may not be enforced.
However, the jury also recommended the fine be suspended.
But apparently the jury wanted to send a chilling message about religious speech in the military. Is this a shot across the bow?
UPDATE: In the comment section, you'll find a lot more information about this, including from someone who says they're close to the case. This case may not be as much a freedom of religion question as it has been painted by some (including me).
The details of the case give one pause as to why there was a guilty verdict in the first place.
Chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt was convicted of the count, even though he charged that the White House appearance at which he prayed "in Jesus' name" was a bona fide religious event and he had written permission from his commander to wear his uniform at such events.
It could have been much worse.
Klingenschmitt had faced a maximum punishment of a reprimand, restriction to base for two months and fines or forfeiture of pay of nearly $42,000 – two-thirds of his annual salary, officials said.
Klingenschmitt's military lawyer, Lt. Tiffany Hansen, had told the jury that a conviction was enough.
"There was no financial gain as a result of him doing what he did," she said.
"Doing what he did," was to appear at a news conference at the White House with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a WND columnist, to protest a new Naval directive that called for all prayers to be "nonsectarian."
Klingenschmitt told WND that he had been given written permission to wear his uniform at bona fide religious events, and that's what he considered the March 30 appearance. He said he took off his uniform before answering media questions that day.
According to the Navy, you can express your religion freely, for restrictive definitions of the word "freely".
The judge, refusing Klingenschmitt's motion earlier this month to drop the case, concluded chaplains are protected only inside the chapel on Sunday morning. If ordered not to worship in public, and they disobey, chaplains can be punished at a criminal court martial.
"There is no more fundamental right than the inalienable right to worship our creator, and I pray in Jesus name," Klingenschmitt said. "For any government official to require non-sectarian prayers is for him to enforce his government religion upon me, to censor, exclude and punish me for my participation"
Several dozen other chaplains also have joined in a civilian lawsuit that alleges the Navy hierarchy allows only those Christian ministers who advocate only non-sectarian blandishments to be promoted. Those with evangelical beliefs, they say, are routinely drummed from the Navy.
And Klingenschmitt, even though he may get a suspended sentence, could still face repercussions.
"That letter of reprimand will be used in two or three months at an administrative separation board to kick me out of the Navy," Klingenschmitt said Thursday. He estimated he would lose $1.8 million in pension and retirement benefits if he's dismissed.
The military does have to have wide latitude when it comes constitutional rights and privileges, I understand that. But restricting religious speech doesn't appear to me to make much sense. If a Navy officer in uniform were to appear, for instance, at a protest rally, that could be construed as some sort of official position being taken by the military. But when a chaplain gets all religious at a religious event, well, that's what chaplains do. And not all religious events take place inside a church (much to the consternation of church-state extremists). He was asked to pray because he's a chaplain, and a Navy chaplain specifically. And I find it entirely appropriate that he took off his uniform before taking questions that were most likely not going to be religious in nature. He was not necessarily representing his profession at that point.
The fear of religion in this land is certainly not something the guys who wrote the First Amendment would recognize.
September 05, 2006
A Forced "Conversion"
With the return of Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig, there was a tale of a forced "conversion" to Islam. There are those, as the Captain notes, who condemn these men for doing so. I agree with Captain Ed, that we're really in no position to pass judgement on them. Never mind that we don't know what, if any, religion they do adhere to, I have to ask myself how I would react in the same situation. I would sincerely hope that I would have the guts and the faith to refuse, knowing that perhaps it may lead to a rather gruesome and painful death. Would my faith be enough to overcome the very present fear? I hope it would. I hope, but I don't know. I've never been in a situation remotely similar to the one those two men were in. I can say what a Christian should do, but I won't speak ill of someone who has the same human frailties and weaknesses I do.
As an aside, Rev. Sensing notes these confessions, as foreign as this idea may be to Christians, are completely valid to Muslims.
But, let us remember that the basis of Islam, indeed the very meaning of the word, is “submission,” not faith. There is no concept of original sin in Islam as there is in Christianity; indeed, while original sin is the conceptual glue that holds Christian doctrine together, it is entirely rejected in Islam. Christianity teaches that original sin cannot be remitted by any human works, only by the works of God, namely, Christ dying and resurrected. Hence, no deeds human beings can do can bring them to salvation. Thus, wrote St. Paul, “If you believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.” Note the order: confession follows a change of heart, an affirmation of belief. Without the change of heart the confession’s utterance is of no value.
But in Islam, the confession’s utterance is unconnected to a change of heart. In fact, a change of heart is wholly irrelevant. The confession stands alone and its only point is that it is done, not that it is believed. The entire edifice of salvation theory in Islam is built on one thing alone: human submission to perform deeds ordered by Allah. Islam does not teach that Allah desires human beings to love him; they are commanded to obey.
Christians are to obey God as well, but out of love. It should come as a response to the relationship.
August 31, 2006
Changes in China?
More religious openness in China? Could be happening.
A Christian author has been permitted to sign his books at a press conference at the Beijing International Book Fair, a first, according to Chinese officials.
"This is the first time in the history of China that an international religious leader has been permitted to sign copies of his book in a large public secular venue," said Shen Weiping of the China Association for International Friendly Contact.
The signing was by evangelist Luis Palau, whose book, "Riverside Talks: A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian," was released Wednesday at a Beijing news conference cut short when the crowd of journalists, photographers and television crews rushed the stage to get autographed copies and interview the authors.
It's the first time such a book has been issued in China, according to Craig Chastain of the Luis Palau Association, because it has a clear statement of the beliefs of Christianity and a description of how to become a Christian.
There were 500 copies of the book prepared for the book fair, but they were snatched up immediately.
I suppose this could be considered propaganda, but considering the description of the book, I kinda doubt it.
Palau wrote the book with Zhao Qizheng, the vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and former minister of information for the People's Republic of China.
As he used the book, Palau also used the press attention to explain what is meant when Christians say they follow Jesus or have peace with God.
"I believe with my whole heart that God loves China. I believe He has a special message for China and wants nothing more than to share His love with the entire nation," Palau said.
Zhao told reporters that the book – as well as his friendship with Palau – models how two people with different ideologies and backgrounds can have a dialogue and be friends.
The book was started several years ago when Zhao suggested a project to build bridges and mutual understanding, and the two held a series of face-to-face conversations.
Tapes of those meetings were turned into book form.
The project, the authors said, is a dialogue, not a debate between opposing perspectives – an atheist and a theist, a scientist and a Christian evangelist, a Marxist scholar and a religious scholar, a leader from the East and a leader from the West.
They exchanged ideas and beliefs on ethics, politics, atheism, Confucianism, Chinese and Western cultures, the Bible, religion, history, creation, philosophy and the relevance of Jesus Christ to society.
A book that describes a discussion of the Christian faith with a member of the Chinese government is certainly a big step forward. Yes, they apparently cover a wide range of topics, and perhaps the Christian message of saving from sin is spread thin among all the other information. However, it sounds like it presents the Christian perspective on a number of other relevant topics, something that many Chinese may not otherwise get exposed to. It could break down the disinformation they may have heard. This is certainly a good first step.
Hopefully also, a good first step toward the end of the persecution of Christian in that country.
August 18, 2006
Unconstitutional by Association
A recent court ruling claims that, while a religious display might not be unconstitutional in and of itself, if too many religious people get near it, it becomes unconstitutional.
The ruling from the Fifth Court of Appeals said the display of a Bible on public ground in Houston to honor the founder of a mission has to go, not because it was unconstitutional itself, but because it became unconstitutional when a Christian group rallied around it.
The pastor's group said that means any monument, building, or even feature of nature is an illegal "establishment of religion" if a church ceremony is held there.
"Connecting the dots between the eminent domain case, which says all of your churches are up for grabs if a town wants a mall, secondly you now have been told you do not have constitutional rights in the public square," Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Conference, told WorldNetDaily.
"Any kind of an event is okay, as long as you didn't express any religious faith. What is that telling you?
Welch told WND that the court's conclusion was "ludicrous" and if followed logically, could mean that a religious rally at any public building would therefore make the building unconstitutional so it would have to be removed.
The Bible was installed on county property about five decades ago in honor of William Mosher, the founder of Star of Hope Mission, and was replaced in 1996 with donated funds. However, an atheist challenged the monument, and on an appeal from the District Court decision that the Bible was unconstitutional, the appeals court carried the argument further.
Its ruling said that the monument became an unconstitutional "establishment" after a 2003 rally was held by Christians to defend the display. That rally involved prayers and clergy, the court noted.
"The ramifications of this tortured decision are breath-taking and without any historic or legitimate Constitutional rationale," said the pastors' organization. "For the court to state that if a private citizen exercises his or her First Amendment rights of religious expression and assembly on public property, that any monument, building or fixed item of any kind that contains religious references becomes 'establishment of religion' is simply irrational."
Even if you don't think that such predicted persecution "followed logically" from such a ruling, the ruling itself is awful. It's certainly one that, if it stays in force on appeal, makes the constitutionality of any sort of religious display, even in a religious context, subject to the whims of judges. Is that what the First Amendment means by "free exercise" of religion?
August 17, 2006
A Civil Society Approach to Welfare
I'm a little behind in my podcast listening since having gone on vacation, but I listened to one this evening from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Father Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, gave a 40 minute talk on "A Civil Society Approach to Welfare" (link is to the mp3 file). It's an absolute must-listen for a Christian considering caring for the poor, the morality of the welfare state, the waste of the federal "solution" to this, and the unintended consequences.
One of the very many good points that Sirico makes is that governmental social services, by their nature, cannot minister to the whole person. The spiritual side is ignored, and in many cases (Sirico suggests that it may be in the majority of cases) there is a deeper moral issue that has caused the poverty. (Most of our own problems, indeed, reflect a personal issue with sin.) The church is the best party to deal with this, but when the government steps in, it siphons off funds that would go to faith-based organizations, and turns many of those organizations into lobbying groups for more welfare instead of groups that actually do anything. Social services that ignore the spiritual nature of man in essence treat him as cattle. When the cows are cold, we put them in the barn. If they're thirsty, we give them something to drink. Nothing wrong with doing that for people, but people aren't cattle. There's a dimension that is ignored by government a thousand miles away (or even government down the street).
This talk is absolutely chock full of great points. I wish there was a transcript that I could post excerpts from, so you'll just have to listen to it. Really. And if you have a podcatcher, pick up their feed.
July 24, 2006
Da Vinci Part Deux
"The Da Vinci Code" was just fiction, right? No harm done. No one would actually act on it, right?
A California woman publishing a novel similar to "The Da Vinci Code" claims she is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Kathleen McGowan of Los Angeles is making the statement as her work, "The Expected One," becomes available this summer.
"I don't want people to think I'm claiming to be some elitist figure in the [Jesus] bloodline," McGowan told the Sunday Times of London. "But what I'm saying is that Mary and Jesus had children and after 2,000 years of procreation there are probably millions of descendants around the world. I believe I'm one."
This would never have been published if not for Dan Brown's success.
McGowan submitted her proposal to publishers in 1997, and says, "I was laughed out of New York City. ... I was told nobody would ever publish a book claiming Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene."
Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" asserted that after the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus' child, moved to France with the help of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' uncle. She purportedly lived among local Jews and gave birth to a daughter named Sarah.
A former editor for the Irish News in Belfast, McGowan originally published her version herself last year after selling shoes on eBay to pay for research. Though it sold only 2,500 copies, the rights were snagged by Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
The publishing house has already spent seven figures acquiring the rights to the story, and will spend another $275,000 on marketing.
The book is based on a prophesy that Ms. McGowan considers true, and in a Rev. Moon-like move, sets up the prophesy in such a way that she possibly is one to fulfill it.
She says the book's title refers to an ancient prophecy about a woman chosen by divine providence to bring the real story of Mary Magdalene's life to the world. But she won't say whether or not she considers herself "The Expected One."
"I'm not grandiose about this, and it concerns me a lot that I could be portrayed that way," she told USA Today. "I don't want it to appear that I'm standing up and saying I'm the expected one. That's a dangerous, ego-driven kind of thing."
(As I understand it, Rev. Moon prophesied about a coming prophet of God that was rather specific, and that he himself fulfilled.)
So now, in addition to the many fooled by Mr. Brown's book (a book that, while fiction, he claimed was mostly the truth), we have another book and possible movie that may bring in more, and confirm the "faith" of those already in that camp. The church needs to speak with a louder voice on this, lest we give up the saving of the gullible and the ignorant. I understand the reluctance of some churches to deal with transitory pop culture fads and deal more with the eternal. I hear the best way to learn to spot counterfeit money is to educate yourself primarily on what a good bill looks like, but this phoniness is being passed around at an alarming rate.
July 20, 2006
Why Did God Create Oil?
Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty brings together the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a disconnect in environmentalism's disdain of nuclear energy, his answer to "Why did God create oil", and Mr. Fusion. If we want cleaner sources of energy, we need to be willing to accept them. It's not enough to be against a particular means of energy; you need to be for something to replace it.
July 13, 2006
Diplomacy and Christianity in North Korea
Rick Warren has accepted an invitation from North Korea to speak there. According to writer Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, in an interview printed yesterday in Christianity Today, this is most likely just a propaganda play and a possible diplomatic connection. He'll preach to a pretend church to help the North Koreans "prove" they have religious freedom. But supposedly this is one of the only real channels the North Koreans use with the West. Boyd-MacMillan says that Billy Graham did this for years, so let's hope this is some way to ratchet down the tensions.
Boyd-MacMillan talks mostly about what it's like for Christians in North Korea in this interview and some of the challenges in doing evangelism there. Very informative
June 21, 2006
Christian Film PG Rating Update
An update to the story about the movie given a PG rating due to religious elements.
In the last week alone, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which oversees the rating board, has been swamped with more than 15,000 e-mails arguing that "Facing the Giants" deserves a more family-friendly G rating. The complaints — the number of which may be 10 times the previous record for reaction to a ratings decision — say the movie is being unfairly targeted for its religious themes.
The filmmakers say they were told that those themes had prompted the PG rating. MPAA officials deny that was the reason.
Across the Internet and on talk radio, religious groups and conservative commentators have seized on the rating flap as evidence that Hollywood is anti-Christian. And the third-ranking House Republican has written to MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman demanding answers.
"This incident raises the disquieting possibility that MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and mindless violence," said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
The MPAA is denying they based the rating on the religious content.
Joan Graves, chairwoman of the MPAA's rating board, said Tuesday that the decision had nothing to do with Christianity but was based on football violence as well as the inclusion of mature topics such as depression and infertility.
In a rare interview granted in an attempt to defuse what she calls a controversy born of miscommunication, Graves said that although infertility and depression are involved in the coach's "crisis of faith," the religious story line itself did not raise a red flag.
"If we see somebody on the screen practicing their faith and indicating they have a faith, that's not something we PG," Graves said, adding that the board's goal is simply to alert parents to content in movies that they should research.
But the filmmakers stand by their original story.
A spokeswoman for the filmmakers, however, said they had expected a PG rating because of the infertility subject matter, but that's not the reason they were given.
"When we asked what the reason for the PG was, we were told it was the religious content," said Julie Fairchild, the spokeswoman. She added that the rating board representatives they spoke with "didn't even mention the infertility."
On the upside, some think the rating will be a draw for some demographics.
Ironically, some Christian groups believe the PG rating — not to mention the publicity — will attract more teenagers, who typically shun G-rated films.
"I think that a G for a lot of teenagers is the kiss of death," said Bob Waliszewski, a media specialist with Focus on the Family, a Christian group.
Waliszewski screened "Facing the Giants" and contends the PG rating isn't warranted. But, he said, "it's a case where unfairness will probably be a blessing in disguise."
June 19, 2006
PCUSA Identity Crisis
The Presbyterian Church USA is having an identity crisis on multiple fronts. First there's the question of homosexual clergy.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), severely split over homosexuality, would maintain its ban on gay clergy but allow some leeway in enforcing it under a proposal headed to a national assembly vote on Tuesday.
A key committee, which divided 30-28, proposed keeping on the books a church law mandating that lay officeholders as well as all clergy restrict sexual activity to heterosexual marriage.
But another bill would give local congregations and regional "presbyteries" leeway on whether to require that rule in all cases.
A committee minority plans to propose an alternate to that proposal. Ten conservative Presbyterian groups have warned jointly that approval of what they call "local option" would "promote schism by permitting the disregard of clear standards of Scripture."
Facing seemingly endless acrimony on gays and other issues, a special task force spent four years pondering how the denomination could remain united. Its report to this assembly included the compromise plan to keep the sexual law intact but allow local flexibility in applying it.
Liberal caucuses protest that this will leave injustice in place. Conservatives call it an illicit means for the national assembly to rewrite church law.
Second, there's the issue of male vs neutral wording.
Another bill that could prompt intense debate would encourage gender- neutral worship language for the divine Trinity _ for instance "Mother, Child and Womb" _ alongside the traditional "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
(I guess here, the identity crisis is a question of God's identity. How would the Spirit be a "Womb", exactly?)
Third is the issue of financially supporting Israel.
The delegates also will consider a proposal to soften the 2004 assembly's decision to selectively pull Presbyterian investments from corporations involved with Israel.
I don't think that we as Christians are required to support every single action taken by the political rulers of Israel. Heck, I don't think Jews should. But divesting money from Israeli companies or companies that do business there seems rather counter- or non-productive, regarding either how the government acts or regarding the special place Israel holds in the Christian faith.
The thought is that the PCUSA may split over these issues.
UPDATE: Solomonia has more information on the divestment policy, including accounts of the recent discussions.
June 08, 2006
Rated PG for Realistic Depictions of Faith
Depiction of religion--religion is really believed and acted upon, not just mentioned or scorned--now is enough to incur a PG rating for a movie.
A new family film featuring miracles and a pro-God theme has earned a rating of "PG" from the Motion Picture Association of America due to fears it might offend people who have no faith or a different faith.
The decision surprises many who believed the "parental guidance" warning was reserved for the likes of violence, foul language and nudity.
"Facing the Giants," the story of a Christian high-school football coach who uses his undying faith to battle the giants of fear and failure, was given the rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, the group which brands films according to their content.
"It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about," film spokesman Kris Fuhr told the Scripps Howard News Service.
Fuhr noted the association "decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions. It's important that they used the word 'proselytizing' when they talked about giving this movie a PG."
Imagine the TV version if this movie. An announcer intones prior to the show, "This movie contains uplifting scenes, raw faith, and answers to prayer. Viewer discretion is advised." What is with this fear of religion?
June 06, 2006
"Why I Published the Muhammad Cartoons"
The culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that originally published the particular group of Mohammed cartoons, says that European political correctness is to blame for the riots, not his newspaper. It's a question that was on a lot of peoples' minds and he answers "Why I Published the Muhammad Cartoons". Flemming Rose lays it on the line for Europe.
And yet the unbalanced reactions to the not-so-provocative caricatures -- loud denunciations and even death threats toward us, but very little outrage toward the people who attacked two Danish Embassies -- unmasked unpleasant realities about Europe's failed experiment with multiculturalism. It's time for the Old Continent to face facts and make some profound changes in its outlook on immigration, integration and the coming Muslim demographic surge. After decades of appeasement and political correctness, combined with growing fear of a radical minority prepared to commit serious violence, Europe's moment of truth is here.
Rose goes on to explain his hippie creds, and his eventual awakening to the lie of a leftist, utopian bliss. That relates to Europe's current problem, as exposed in the riots, because he shows how out of that mindset came incorrect views on the integration of immigrants.
This kind of thinking gave birth to a distorted approach to immigration in countries like Denmark. Left-wing commentators decided that Denmark was both racist and Islamophobic. Therefore, the chief obstacle to integration was not the immigrants' unwillingness to adapt culturally to their adopted country (there are 200,000 Danish Muslims now); it was the country's inherent racism and anti-Muslim bias.
Sound familiar? Sounds like the "why do they hate us" blame-America-first mentality we hear from the Left in this country. There's nothing wrong with legal immigration, but integration with the culture of the new host country, including accepting a shared morality and value system, is critical. Instead, Europe became a continent of self-loathing, and there are many in America who think we should take that route as well.
A cult of victimology arose and was happily exploited by clever radicals among Europe's Muslims, especially certain religious leaders like Imam Ahmad Abu Laban in Denmark and Mullah Krekar in Norway.
"A cult of victimology". Sounds so familiar.
The role of victim is very convenient because it frees the self-declared victim from any responsibility, while providing a posture of moral superiority.
And again, such familiarity. It's as though Rose is reading from the playbook of our very own American Left. Never mind self-determination; there's got to be someone to sue or blame or stick it to. Let someone else pay for it or provide it or do it instead. This kind of thinking, Rose contends, led to the sort of riots and killing and mayhem over cartoons. They didn't happen here, and America is clearly to the right, politically speaking, of most of Europe. Those two facts are not coincidence.
So what's the answer? Rose answers this first by noting what the problems are.
I am a Dane because I look European, speak Danish, descend from centuries of other Scandinavians. But what about the dark, bearded new Danes who speak Arabic at home and poor Danish in the streets? We Europeans must make a profound cultural adjustment to understand that they, too, can be Danes.
Our melting pot in America has aided us in this. We didn't have as much of that to overcome, though it certainly did exist and still does, but to a lesser extent.
Another great impediment to integration is the European welfare state. Because Europe's highly developed, but increasingly unaffordable, safety nets provide such strong unemployment insurance and not enough incentive to work, many new immigrants go straight onto the dole.
Professing to be caring, they instead discourage self-reliance and encourage slothfulness. We, too, have this problem. Should society care for its needy? Absolutely, but not on a way that bankrupts society both financially and morally. As Rose notes, however, we are still ahead of Europe in this respect.
While it can be argued that the fast-growing community of about 20 million Muslim immigrants in Europe is the equivalent of America's new Hispanic immigrants, the difference in their productivity and prosperity is staggering. An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study in 1999 showed that while immigrants in the United States are almost equal to native-born workers as taxpayers and contributors to American prosperity, in Denmark there is a glaring gap of 41 percent between the contributions of the native-born and of the immigrants. In the United States, a laid-off worker gets an average of 32 percent compensation for his former wages in welfare services; in Denmark the figure is 81 percent. A culture of welfare dependency is rife among immigrants, and it is taken for granted.
In America, for those who can work, there is a big incentive to work. In Europe, there is a disincentive. Again, I don't think these two statistics are a coincidence. They go together.
Rose has other points to make as he discusses how Europe must go forward. But why did he publish the cartoons? His answer is one, interestingly, of inclusion.
Equal treatment is the democratic way to overcome traditional barriers of blood and soil for newcomers. To me, that means treating immigrants just as I would any other Danes. And that's what I felt I was doing in publishing the 12 cartoons of Muhammad last year. Those images in no way exceeded the bounds of taste, satire and humor to which I would subject any other Dane, whether the queen, the head of the church or the prime minister. By treating a Muslim figure the same way I would a Christian or Jewish icon, I was sending an important message: You are not strangers, you are here to stay, and we accept you as an integrated part of our life. And we will satirize you, too. It was an act of inclusion, not exclusion; an act of respect and recognition.
An act of inclusion. Some may find that ironic, and I confess that wasn't the first thing that popped into my head. But it makes sense. If you want equality, you must take the bad with the good, the satire with the atta-boys. If you won't, you don't really want the equality. This doesn't mean you can't protest over the satire, of course. It just means that you must still act within the law if you want the law on your side.
A very interesting piece, and there's quite a bit more to it. Worth the read.
June 05, 2006
Why They Really Hate Us
An editorial in the NY Sun puts the lie to the idea that if we'd just play nice with terrorists, they'd leave us alone.
The arrest of 17 residents of Canada with three tons of ammonium nitrate in a plot to attack targets in Ontario is a reminder of the nature of the enemy that America faces in the war on Islamic terrorists. Contrary to the beliefs of some on the American extreme left and extreme right, the terrorists aren’t simply reacting against the American-led war in Iraq or against America’s support for Israel.
Canada sent no troops to liberate Iraq. Our neighbor to the North so opposed the Iraq War that at least one American deserter fled there for safe harbor, as draftdodgers did during the Vietnam War.And while Canada is mildly pro-Israel, and more so under its new conservative government, its arms sales to the Jewish state are peanuts compared to America’s, and at the United Nations on key votes it’s likely to abstain rather than join the America, Micronesia, and Palau in voting with Israel.
This is in reference to the arrest of 17 Canadian residents "mainly of South Asian descent", a number of whom go the same mosque. According to police, they had a list of targets. "At the news conference, officials emphasized that the targets were all in Canada." Thus these were terrorists who were there, not to use Canada as easy entrance to the US, but to attack Canada itself.
The idea that our Mideast policies or support for Israel were some sort of understandable reason that we "asked for it" on 9/11 are completely, and have always been, wrong. The editorial brings the point home.
What the Islamic extremists oppose in Canada is neither its support for Israel nor its behavior in Iraq but the mere fact that it is not a country governed by Islamic law. An Associated Press dispatch on the bomb plot noted that Canada, with the America, Britain, Spain, and Australia, was listed by Osama Bin Laden as a “Christian” nation that should be a target for terrorism. Nothing short of dropping Christianity and converting to Islam will satisfy the Islamist terrorists.
"Living While Christian" is the charge by the Islamic terrorists, for which their punishment is death. Reasonable debate can be had about choices made in our public policy, and hindsight can be employed ad infinitum, but the reason we were attacked in New York, or on the USS Cole, or even in Beirut, and the reason even Canada is a target, is not because of a policy debate. It's because simply we are who we are, and because we stand for freedom (take a look at these pictures, especially the 4th one down). Certainly that is no legitimate reason for the war that has been waged against us.
May 19, 2006
History Repeats Itself
Comparisons of the Iranian regime to Nazi Germany just got more legitimacy.
Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
UPDATE: Looks like the story wasn't true after all. Hot Air has the details, step by step as the truth came out. My commentary on why we need to take real action against Iran, however, still stands, regardless of whether or not people are being tagged.
"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."
Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."
The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.
Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.
"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."
And guess who's been a big sponsor of this?
The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And the official line is "no comment".
A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.
"We are not here to answer such questions."
The question before the world now is whether history will repeat itself. Is there a diplomatic solution to this? Consider how often Ahmadinejad has been slamming those doors and upping the ante, both in rhetoric and now in legislation.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, protesting the Iranian law and calling on the international community to bring pressure on Iran to drop the measure.
"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."
Mr. Farber said Canada and other nations should take action to isolate Mr. Ahmadinejad in light of the new law, which he called "chilling," and his previous string of anti-Semitic statements.
"There are some very frightening parallels here," he said. "It's time to start considering how we're going to deal with this person."
Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."
He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Outrage, yes, but has that done anything constructive? There are still steps we can take short of war to try to force the issue, but no one has the guts to take them yet. Just issue another report and have another vote and go home thinking you've done something. It's time for action on Iran. The longer we wait, the more strenuous the action must be to make a difference.
But remember that the Left in this country was outraged just over sanctions. Ahmadinejad may be counting on such allies to keep the wolves at bay until he has a nuclear club to threaten them with. And if America doesn't put its weight behind such sanctions, they're highly unlikely to work.
It may be time to choose your weapon. Continuing to watch 1940s Germany replay right before our eyes shouldn't be an option.
May 18, 2006
What's Da Big Deal About Da Vinci?
"The Da Vinci Code" is a work of fiction, right? Right, but it's based on a series of "facts", many of which have been debunked. Thus it winds up leaving to the reader where to draw the line as to where fact stops and the fiction begins, even when dealing with Brown's "facts".
The results, then, are not surprising.
"The Da Vinci Code" has undermined faith in the Roman Catholic Church and badly damaged its credibility, a survey of British readers of Dan Brown's bestseller showed on Tuesday.
People are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children after reading the Dan Brown blockbuster and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect.
"An alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed," said Austin Ivereigh, press secretary to Britain's top Catholic prelate Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
"Our poll shows that for many, many people the Da Vinci Code is not just entertainment," Ivereigh added.
The Edmonton Journal:
Almost one in five Canadians believe that Jesus Christ's death on the cross was faked and that he married and had a family, according to a new poll that challenges the cornerstone Christian belief in the resurrection.
Albertans were most likely to accept The Da Vinci Code's premise, with 22 per cent reporting they believe in a hoax.
See extended entry for an update.
It is true that this book and movie will also cause people to look more closely at the Bible to find the truth, but I believe it will mostly be those who would already be skeptical of Brown's book. But the price at which this is bought--the further distancing from the truth those who haven't made up their mind--seems too high for a Christian to stomach. Saying "it's just fiction" doesn't answer the problem. Saying "I wasn't fooled" ignores the problem. Saying "only the foolish will be fooled" condemns the uneducated and ignorant (something Jesus wouldn't do).
The reason Christians need to make a noise about this is because the truth is being muddled to the point that people are being led away from the truth under the guise of a work that, while covered by the fig leaf of the label "historical fiction", blurs the line between "historical" and "fiction" so profoundly that a significant number of people can't tell the difference.
If someone wrote a "historical fiction" novel about the the battle of Gettysburg with as many problems with the facts as "The Da Vinci Code" has, it would be rightly panned by Civil War historians. It wouldn't change their minds as to the truth of what happened during that battle, but they would be properly concerned that the general public, who didn't have the same information they do nor necessarily the inclination to research it, would tend to believe it. They would try to convince people to stay away from such a movie. No one would blame them. It should be the same for the response you're hearing from many churches (sans any calls for banning books or movies).
And with "The Da Vinci Code", there's far more at stake than simple historical accuracy. There's eternity to consider.
UPDATE: In case you still think that Dan Brown's motive is purely entertainment, consider this quote from an interview on CNN (emphasis mine):
SAVIDGE: Obviously, you were just looking at the Last Supper there. When we talk about da Vinci and your book, how much is true and how much is fabricated in your storyline?
BROWN: 99 percent of it is true. All of the architecture, the art, the secret rituals, the history, all of that is true, the Gnostic gospels. All of that is -- all that is fiction, of course, is that there's a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon, and all of his action is fictionalized. But the background is all true.
This is a book meant to persuade under the guise of entertainment.
May 11, 2006
We Have the Technology, But...
Where is the outcry among activists about the fact that over 2 billion of the world’s citizens do not have electricity, or that over 2.5 billion do not have access to basic sanitation? Where is the outrage that over 4 million preventable deaths occur each year due to tuberculosis and other lung infections stemming from indoor pollution caused by using dung as fuel for fires? What about the 6 million people who die from unsafe water or spoiled food?
These are not hypothetical future deaths; these are real deaths that are occurring right under our noses, which could be easily thwarted if the proper technology were applied to certain poor regions of the world.
Read this article by Daniel Son for the reason these conditions haven't improved when indeed they can.
May 08, 2006
"Day of Truth" vs Journalists and Educators
Religion in schools will not be tolerated. Anti-religious views are just fine.
The Sampson County school system stands behind a decision to suspend a student for passing out Christian leaflets at Midway High School, Superintendent Stewart Hobbs said Friday.
Hobbs said the student was given in-school suspension for insubordination after disobeying the principal about distributing the fliers.
The handouts, which presented a Christian viewpoint on homosexuality, caused a disturbance in the school and prompted some students, teachers and a parent to complain, Hobbs said.
Bias and nonsense, both in the same line of news.
First of all, handouts themselves can't cause disturbances. They are, in fact, simply pieces of paper, incapable of independent action. Yes, I know that all sounds rather silly to have to explain, but the journalist who presumably studied Language Arts got this wrong, and I just wanted to set the record straight if others had the same misconception.
Second, if handing out fliers is "disturbing", then the very same handing out of fliers by students on the previous day's Day of Silence should not have been allowed either. I doubt that's the "disturbance" being referred to, however. Instead, I would bet that there were students who got upset at the contents of these fliers and likely they caused this disturbance. Unfortunately, this journalist did not answer all the proper questions a news article should, and we're left with the impression that the student handing out the fliers was the responsible party. There's your bias; not reporting the whole story and thus implicitly placing the responsibility for the disturbance on the guy voicing non-PC viewpoints.
But the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, said the student, Benjamin Arthurs, was wrongfully punished for expressing his religious beliefs. The group has filed a federal lawsuit against the school system, saying it violated Arthurs' freedom of speech by not allowing him to wear a Day of Truth shirt and to pass out the leaflets during noninstructional time.
"That, in our opinion, is unconstitutional," said David Cortman, a lawyer with the alliance.
Hobbs said the student was allowed to wear the shirt but told not to hand out the fliers. "The only thing the T-shirt said was, 'Day of Truth,' and we felt that was not forcing his religion on others," Hobbs said. The handouts, however, did present religious views, he said.
If you have to voluntarily accept a flier, how is that "forcing" anything? No one is compelled to take the flier. The problem for the school is that religion, to them, has no place in the public square, even during noninstructional time.
Arthurs, a ninth-grader, handed out the fliers following the April 26 Day of Silence, an event promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. He asked Canady if he could wear the shirt and hand out Day of Truth cards, the lawsuit said. He was told he could not wear a religious T-shirt or distribute religious literature because that would be “pushing his religion on others,” the lawsuit said, and “religion is not allowed in school.”
"Religion is not allowed in school"? Banned? You're not allowed to speak about it? I mean, if you can't hand out printed material to those who volunteer to take it, what about actually talking about it? Those who think the First Amendment is doing just fine in America need to know what educators think about it.
Students don't lose their constitutional rights in school, but there are valid restrictions on them while in public school. In fact, I would agree that Arthurs should have been punished for disobeying the administration. If you don't have some semblance of order in school, you soon have little else. So even though I think the rules are being misapplied and use a double-standard, I agree with the suspension. I also, however, agree that the decision and the rules that led up to it need to be dealt with, and if that requires the courts to (hopefully) clarify the Constitution and possibly reverse the punishment, so be it.
Cortman said it is unfair that the school system allowed students to participate in the Day of Silence but did not let Arthurs express his Christian views. Day of Silence is a nationwide movement that allows students to protest anti-homosexual bullying and discrimination. Students hand out fliers and remain silent throughout the day.
So it's not the handing out of fliers that is the issue, and again this points out the misinformation given in the first paragraph of this story. If handing out fliers was a "disturbance", it should have been so on the Day of Silence as well. Thus, the disturbance was most likely caused by other students reacting to these fliers, not the student handing them out (nor the allegedly self-aware fliers themselves). No mention is made of these students or (possibly) teachers that really caused the disturbance. Whether this is due to journalistic incompetence or bias is not known, but it doesn't speak well of the writer.
The Day of Truth, which is held after the Day of Silence, was established by the Alliance Defense Fund to express the Christian perspective on homosexuality.
“School officials shouldn’t be treating religious students any differently than they treat other students,” Cortman said, “and that’s exactly what is happening here.”
According to the lawsuit, Arthurs belongs to the Bible Club, the National Honor Society and Who’s Who of American High School students. The lawsuit says his religious beliefs “compel him to share his faith and to address relevant subjects from a Biblical point of view with other students.”
In the lawsuit, the alliance is asking that Arthurs’ in-school suspension be removed from his record and that the school system write a policy giving students the right to free speech including religious speech.
I remember a video I saw of students praying around a school flagpole before school started in one of the early "See You at the Pole" events. School had not yet started for the day, and the event took place outside, so no disruption of learning occurred and no religion was "forced" on anyone. And yet, students were arrested because educators didn't understand the whole "free exercise of religion" concept. It's been 15 years since "See You at the Pole" got started, and yet the ignorance and double-standards continue (and this ignorance dates back long before that). And still educators keep needing further education on this topic.
This is a sad commentary on the public school system, and further exposure of the double-standard applied to Christians, both in actions taken against them and in the reporting of those actions.
April 27, 2006
The "Tolerance" of Public Schools
Doesn't this school system have anything better to do with its time and money?
After seven years, a court case involving a kindergartner's drawing of Jesus for a class assignment in the Baldwinsville school district will go to trial in federal court in Syracuse.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear the Baldwinsville school district's request to have the case thrown out.
Now a federal judge in Syracuse will have to decide whether the district censored a Christian perspective, said Mathew Staver, attorney for the now sixth-grader Antonio Peck and his mother, JoAnne. He called it good news for Peck and other children in the nation.
"It's huge because if (the decision) had gone the other way it would allow teachers and school officials to treat religious perspectives like they're unwelcome," Staver said.
The details of the "offense" are an example of political correctness and sensitivity training run amok.
In June 1999, Antonio Peck was told to create a poster about the environment. Peck drew a picture depicting Jesus praying and two children kneeling before a rock with the word "savior" on it. The words "The only way to save our world" were across the top, according to earlier reports. Peck was told by his kindergarten teacher Susan Weichert to redo the assignment.
The new drawing had people recycling and throwing away trash, as well as a robed man kneeling with his hands outstretched toward the sky.
The district displayed it along with 80 others in McNamara Elementary School's cafeteria, Staver said. But the picture was folded, hiding the robed man, presumed to be Jesus.
"It makes someone like Antonio feel like he's unwelcome, like his faith is wrong," Staver said.
This was a kindergartner's picture, for goodness sake. The supposed "tolerance" of other views in the school system has reached a new low, and keeps digging with each passing appeal. The school system will simply not allow religion to be tolerated.
Staver said the family ultimately wants the school district to adopt a policy that states "whenever students respond to class assignments they should be able to present religious perspectives," Staver said.
"They have refused to do so," he said.
Is it any wonder so many religious families opt to homeschool?
April 25, 2006
ACLU Loses a Ten Commandments Ruling
The ACLU has lost another Ten Commandments display ruling.
The American Civil Liberties Union suffered another defeat in its quest to bar the Ten Commandments from the public square today as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a display of the Decalogue in Kentucky is constitutional.
In the case ACLU of Kentucky v. Mercer County, Kentucky, the court voted 9-5 to uphold the Foundations of American Law and Government display at the county courthouse.
The display includes the Ten Commandments, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Charta, the Star-Spangled Banner, the National Motto, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, and a picture of Lady Justice.
These kinds of lawsuits should be considered frivolous at this point. The Supreme Court was pretty clear that the Ten Commandments, as part of an overall historical display, isn't a problem. The only reason the ACLU could possibly be continuing this sort of harassment is to drain defendants' money, and hope that such a drain will cause others to cave who would otherwise prevail in court. It's not about (and I don't think it was ever about) what's constitutional and what isn't. It's been about who the ACLU can scare into compliance.
April 24, 2006
"The Da Vinci Delusion"
At about the same time that the movie "The Da Vinci Code" comes out, Dr. James Kennedy's TV special called "The Da Vinci Delusion" will hit local television. Check out the site to find out where and when it will be broadcast in your area.
I heard about this from the April 20th podcast of Active Christian Media, hosted by Stacy L. Harp. It's truly amazing the fully-discredited lies that this book, and thus this movie, will present as "fact". Listen to the podcast for some of the more blatant examples. If you don't want to deal with all the podcast logistics, you can just click on the link that plays the show by itself. However, if you do have "podcatcher" software (lots of free ones out there, not just iTunes), I recommend subscribing to this show.
UPDATE: Stacy has more details in her latest post on Blogger New Network.
April 20, 2006
The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship
A briefing was held recently dealing with the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. This is a short declaration on the matter of caring for the environment in light of the love of God and the liberty He gives us, while considering sound science, sound economics and the needs of the poor. From Amy Ridenour's National Center blog:
Before a packed audience today on Capitol Hill, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA), along with the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the Institute on Religion and Democracy held a lunch briefing at which top theologians and policy experts articulated a vision of Biblical stewardship based upon the Cornwall Declaration.
The title of the briefing was: "Pulpits, Pews and Environmental Policy: How the Cornwall Declaration is helping define the mandate of Biblical stewardship."
If this sounds like an ECI redux, there are some differences.
Speaking about the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), a statement signed by some members of the evangelical community that promotes the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming, Beisner said "[We] disagree with their assessment of the scientific evidence of the extent of human contribution to global warming, their prediction of the impact of climate change on human communities and the rest of the ecosystem, and their prescription of major reduction of carbon dioxide emissions as a solution to the alleged problem. The ECI does not specify how much emission reduction is needed to achieve its goals [to counteract global warming]. [This is] to ignore one of the most important aspects of the climatology debate: How much benefit would be gained at what cost to the global economy. And the global economy is not just an economist abstraction. It is real people who depend on that economy for jobs, income and the food, clothing, shelter, transportation and all other goods that they need."
Sometimes, considering cold economic facts is just as much good stewardship as reducing car emissions or turning off the lights.
I will say this in criticism of the briefing. They're a bit too critical of the ECI.
Paul Driessen, senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality, admonished celebrities, media and wayward religious leaders who are "twisting common definitions of ethics, morality, social responsibility and compassion for the poor to justify global warming agendas."
I respect, and in some cases know, some of the signers of the ECI, and I really don't think they're deliberately trying to twist words or have some overarching global warming agenda. Some may, but those I know don't, best I can tell. Now, I think the ECI may play into the hands of those with such an agenda, giving them a supposed common cause with evangelicals, but I don't think that was the intent.
While that part was a little much, Driessen goes on to give some criticism I tend to agree with.
Driessen also noted, "It is often the very policies they promote that actually represent the greatest threats to the world's poor. Over two billion of the world's people still do not have electricity for lights and refrigeration in their homes, for hospitals and clinics, for schools, shops, offices and factories, for wastewater treatment and other modern technologies that we often take for granted," he said. "And yet these poor countries are told they mustn't build coal or gas-fired electrical power plants, because First World countries are concerned about global warming."
Sometimes, turning on the lights is just as much good stewardship as reducing car emissions.
The over 1000 signers of this declaration include a number of people I respect, just as I respect a number of ECI signers. The Cornwall Declaration, however, includes more than just evangelicals. There are Jewish and Catholic as well as Protestant signers. Sometimes, gathering a group like this together leads to a least-common-denominator, watered down mission, but so far it doesn't appear that way.
This Cornwall Declaration is definitely worth a look.
See also: Cybercast News Service report.
UPDATE: Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute has an excellect comparison of the two tacts taken by the ECI and the Cornwall Declaration. His article is "Preserved Garden or Productive City? Two Competing Views of Stewardship".
April 17, 2006
Elegant and Meaningful
My sister and her husband Jim (one of our SCO contributors) hosted a Seder Supper last Thursday. I've attended a number of these in the past. It is amazing how so many of the portions of the Seder point to Jesus. But there was a little preliminary item that a friend of theirs presented before the Seder that I want to write about this time. This friend gave us his "Reader's Digest" version of how he came up with the date of the Last Supper, Jesus' last Seder, which was interesting, but more interesting to me was the information that was presented as an aside on the way to his finding.
In the book of Matthew we find a lineage of Jesus, going back through his father Joseph. In verse 6 we see that Joseph was a descendant of King David (and hence his requirement to go to Bethlehem during the census called when Mary was pregnant with Jesus). Through this we see that Jesus was indeed heir to the throne of David, one of the requirements of the Messiah. However, there a hitch in this lineage. In verse 11 we find that the lineage goes through Jeconiah aka Jehoiachin, and therein lies a problem.
Back in the book of Jeremiah (chapter 22, verse 24-40) God passes judgement on Jehoiachin, prompting an exile to Babylon. But that's not all. In verse 30, God specifically tells Jehoiachin that his lineage on the throne is done.
This is what the LORD says:
"Record this man as if childless,
a man who will not prosper in his lifetime,
for none of his offspring will prosper,
none will sit on the throne of David
or rule anymore in Judah."
Thus none of his descendants will take that throne anymore, as though he were childless. But if Jesus is his descendant, doesn't that therefore void His claim to that throne.
Normally, yes. However, God's amazing plan for Jesus gave Him that right anyway. In the book of Luke, we find Jesus' lineage through Mary.
[Quick aside: Each of the 4 Gospel writers emphasized a different aspect of Jesus. In Matthew, He is King. In Mark, He is Servant. In Luke, He is Man. In John, He is God. A King and a Man have official lineages, but a servant nor God do not. Interesting. Additionally, the lineages, as we'll see in a bit, fit with the portrayal of Jesus in those books.]
This lineage also passes through King David (verse 31), but through a different son. In Matthew, it goes through David's son Solomon, who was David's actual successor to the throne, though it was not a legal succession. Since Solomon's mother was Bathsheba (I Chronicles 3:5), she convinced David to name Solomon as the heir instead of the legal heir, the older son Nathan. And who do we find in Jesus' lineage on Mary's side? Nathan.
Thus, Jesus has both the royal and legal right to claim the throne of David, and also breaking the curse on the royal line since He can claim legal right. It's just one more of those amazing "coincidences" that God works out to show those who are watching that He's in control. Prophesy is fulfilled, not just in and of itself, but in a way that that is both elegant and meaningful. I'm sure some readers have heard this before, but it was new to me (or perhaps I just remembered it this time--the handout helped) and I wanted to pass it along.
Happy belated Easter.
April 11, 2006
The War on Easter
Some folks thought that the "War on Christmas" was mostly a self-fulfilling prophesy by the Christian Right. Think again. At least with Easter, the war's been formally declared.
A media company that produced a best-selling documentary asserting that Jesus Christ never existed today launches its "War on Easter," encouraging volunteer atheists to plant copies of the film "The God Who Wasn't There" in churches across the United States.
Dubbing the effort "Operation Easter Sanity," Brian Flemming, a self-described "former Christian fundamentalist" and president of Beyond Belief Media, hopes to covertly place 666 copies of the documentary in churches by Easter Sunday, April 16. The number 666 is the biblical mark of "The Beast," which also is the name of another film by Flemming set for a 06-06-06 release.
"People go to churches to hide from the truth," Flemming said in a statement. "At no time is this more apparent than Easter, when Christians get together to convince each other that a man died, stayed dead three days, rose from the dead and then flew into the air above the clouds.
"Our nonviolent campaign sends the message that nowhere in the country is safe from the truth. Wherever Christian leaders are indoctrinating children with 2,000-year-old fairy tales, the truth may just find its way there."
Continued the former Christian: "Our 'War on Easter' is of course completely without violence of any kind. Christians believe that beating a man to a pulp and nailing him to a cross somehow solves all the world's problems. Beyond Belief Media does not."
March 31, 2006
God Under the Microscope
A decade or so ago, I recall Paul Harvey talking about a new study. He introduced the story with something like, "And today's story with the most lasting importance may be this..." The study noted that people in a hospital who were prayed for seemed to do better and heal faster than those who weren't, even if they didn't know that they were being prayed for. It might have given me a little lift if not for the fact that it didn't seem to matter to whom the prayers were spoken. It seemed to me that trying to make God do hamster tricks would be useless at the least and counterproductive at worst. If Satan can do wonders, surely he can heal those who are prayed for in the name of a false god and game the results. Prayer is not an exact science. It's not a science at all, frankly. It's part of a relationship, it's a conversation. It's not a precise chemical reaction.
Keep that in mind when you hear this.
Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.
And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.
Because it is the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether prayer can heal illness, the study, begun almost a decade ago and involving more than 1,800 patients, has for years been the subject of speculation.
The question has been a contentious one among researchers. Proponents have argued that prayer is perhaps the most deeply human response to disease, and that it may relieve suffering by some mechanism that is not yet understood. Skeptics have contended that studying prayer is a waste of money and that it presupposes supernatural intervention, putting it by definition beyond the reach of science.
It's not so much that it's in the supernatural realm. It's that studying the actions of a person, God in this case, cannot be done statistically. If someone were to study you and see if you acted the same way to the same circumstance over and over, it would be trivial to foul up the outcome, intentionally or otherwise. And prayer is a matter of faith, but how do you measure or control for that? This study and others like it, regardless of the outcome, are pointless from the beginning. Its core assumption--that God or the supernatural world can be experimented on--is faulty. The article notes that other studies on prayer have shown mixed results, which is what I would expect.
In a hurriedly convened news conference, the study's authors, led by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston, said that the findings were not the last word on the effects of so-called intercessory prayer.
Indeed it isn't. That will come, however. Madeline Murray O'Hare could not be reached for comment. >grin<
As usual, Scott Ott at ScrappleFace puts it all in perspective.
“As it turns out, God was not impressed by our academic credentials, our substantial funding base, and our rigorous study protocols,” said lead researcher Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston. “I get the feeling we just spent 10 years looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”
March 27, 2006
Rahman Case Has Its Upsides
The question of what "religious freedom" means to the Afghan government is still on the front burner. President Karzai is inserting himself into the situation. Diplomacy seems to be doing the job. It's not over yet (in the linked article, the clerics warn of an uprising if Abdul Rahman, a converted Christian, is not executed), but things seem to be getting better little by little. I see some political good in this situation, as the government and the people are being forced to debate the religious freedom issue. Hopefully, they'll take some cues from the countries that liberated them
From my perspective, there is another upside. Afghans are more curious about Christianity.
An Afghan Christian leader in the U.S. has welcomed reports that criminal charges may be dropped against an Afghan convert who was threatened with execution for refusing to return to Islam. The case has prompted strong international condemnation.
Hussain Andaryas said the publicity surrounding the Abdul Rahman case had resulted in a surge of interest in Christianity among Afghans, strong concern for the plight of Afghanistan's underground Christians -- and an antagonistic response from Muslims.
Andaryas runs a collection of Christian websites in Afghanistan's Dari-Persian tongue as well as daily radio programs and a weekly television program.
He is in daily contact with individuals in his homeland, and has been reporting for several years about the risks faced by Afghan Christians -- all converts from Islam and thus considered apostates worthy of death, according to Islamic law (shari'a).
He said the websites typically drew about 300 unique visitors every month, but since the Rahman story emerged had attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.
The number of emails received also has risen enormously, and 13 people are now tasked with responding to them.
The majority of emails are negative and many are abusive, coming from Muslims who felt that Rahman and other apostates -- including Andaryas himself -- should be severely punished.
But there also are many messages of support, he said.
And then there are emails coming from Afghans wanting to know more about Christianity, asking where they can get a Bible in the Dari or Pashto language, or sharing the news that they had become believers in Jesus Christ.
Among the most stirring messages are those from Afghan Muslims marveling about a faith for which a man was willing to die and wanting to study the Bible further.
"I strongly believe God is using this situation for His glory," Andaryas said. "One man's bold step has shaken the world."
While I don't wish persecution on anyone, the threat of death to Rahman plays well into God's hand. Keep this man and the other Afghan Christians in your prayers.
March 23, 2006
The Abdul Rahman Case - Is Democracy Dead in Afghanistan?
The Abdul Rahman case in Afghanistan has captured the attention of the media and the blogosphere, not to mention the White House. Obviously, we at SCO hope that this convert to Christianity is treated with respect and an open mind by the new government there. So far, the messages are mixed, with the option now on the table to declare Rahman mentally incompetent to stand trial so that the world spotlight on this case of religious freedom dims.
There are those on the Left that suggest that this proves the Afghan Experiment has failed. However, I'd say that this only proves that the budding democracy there is, in fact, budding. No big surprise there. I wonder how long they would have given the 13 colonies before declaring our Constitution a miserable failure. You could still own slaves a generation after the thing was signed, for goodness sake. Entire families of Africans had their lives destroyed under a Constitution that said that all men were created equal. Should they have given up on the whole federal government thing and gone back to being under the thumb of King George?
"georgia10", the author of the linked post at the Daily Kos, has this to say:
Declaring this Christian crazy to spare judicial execution does not solve the deeper problem that such undemocratic and immoral action is enshrined in the text of the Afghanistan Constitution, that same Constitution Bush praised as a hallmark of democracy. Is this democracy? Or is this the type of case that reminds us that freedom is not on the march in Afghanistan, no matter how many purple fingers are waived in the air?
It sounds like "georgia10" has given up and sees no possibility of any kind of future for Afghanistan. Might as well have give it back to the Taliban, eh? Does the Left really have that little faith in the democratic process, of working through your own salvation? There's lots of finger wagging in that post, but it's very short on specific (or even general) alternatives. The move from a theocracy to a democracy is not noted in any way as progress. How sad and pessimistic do you have to be to declare failure at every single setback?
So what do we do? I think it's time to handle Afghanistan the way we handle any other democratic country; apply diplomatic pressure. I think the words coming from the Bush administration are what we should be doing, and perhaps negotiating with the Afghan government to try to resolve this in such a way that hopefully it will enlighten some folks there. What would be really great would be for American Muslims to raise their voices against this situation, and note how well they are treated here and how well freedom of religion works when it's properly done.
Self-government is a learned behavior. You don't learn it by voting in a few elections. However (and to "georgia10's" surprise, perhaps), you'll never get there without a bunch of purple fingers first.
Ingratitude Isn't a Christian Value
It's fantastic to hear that the US & UK military was able to rescue the remaining Christian Peacemaker Team hostages. Now, you'd think these folks would be grateful to their rescuers, but it's hard to tell by their statement. The families are certainly to have their loved ones back, and the hostages are certainly glad to have their freedom back. They thank the people who prayed for them. They thank God for sustaining their friends' courage while they were captive. But you'd be hard-pressed to hear any note of thanks to the military folks who got them out. As James Taranto notes, it seems that the people they consider most their enemies are the countries of their benefactors.
It's not clear whom the CPT statement means by "our enemies." But the only enemy they seem to recognize is the U.S. and its allies, whose "occupation" of Iraq is the "root cause" of the ex-hostages' captivity, and whose detention of "thousands of Iraqis" they liken to their own kidnapping and (in one case) murder by terrorists.
But if the CPT is going to "love our enemies," the least it could do is thank them. The statement does not acknowledge that the hostages were rescued by U.S. and British servicemen, or indeed that they were rescued at all; it refers mysteriously to their having been "released," as if the kidnappers themselves had decided to let them go.
This seems to run deeper than a case of simple ingratitude. There is a whole strange worldview at work here--a theology, if you will. We don't claim to understand it fully, but it seems to equate America as the root of all evil and America's adversaries as Edenic creatures--innocents who know not good or evil and thus bear no culpability for their bad actions.
If we have this right, it follows that the CPT Christians see themselves, by virtue of their faith, as being forgiven for being American, or for being from another nation that America has corrupted. This is why they cannot be grateful to, or forgiving of, America: For them that would amount to thanking or forgiving sin itself.
Their kidnappers may have done what they did because of the presence of coalition troops, but without the troops, there would be still be violence done to people in Iraq. It would be state-sponsored, however, which apparently the CPT folks would prefer to violence that results in the ability of the people to determine the course of their own country.
By the way, on my lunch break I heard Limbaugh say that if these people hated violence so much, they shouldn't have accepted the military help that was given to them. A principle's a principle, eh?
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt notes a Bible passage that the CPT folks should get familiar with.
March 07, 2006
China: Better or Worse on Religious Freedom
I've talked a bit before about the engagement vs. disengagement question with regards to China and my blogger-in-law Jim has discussed it, too. As I've noted, people whom I respect have come down on different sides of this issue. Some say that we shouldn't reward China's poor human rights record with Most Favored Nation trade status, as that is like giving the carrot without the threat of the stick. Why move if there's no downside to staying put? Others, like Jim, say that business is the foot in the door for, among other things, Christian evangelism. It's a Trojan Horse of sorts to bring in ministries that would otherwise be kept out. At the same time, this would keep the Chinese government in the international spotlight and bring pressure on them to improve their human rights record. This debate has been going on for a while. It's been a number of years since the Association of Christian Ministries in China worked with Congress to insure MFN status in China. It's now been a full year since China put in new religious affairs regulations, purportedly to bring more freedom in this area.
One year after China’s Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force, Chinese citizens’ ability to exercise their right to freedom of religion remains as subject to arbitrary restrictions as ever, Human Rights Watch said today.
The regulations took effect on March 1, 2005. At the time they came into force, the Chinese government asserted that the national regulations, the first comprehensive set of regulations on religion in China, constituted “a significant step forward in the protection of Chinese citizens’ religious freedoms.”
However, local officials continue to repress religious activities that they determine to be outside the scope of the state-controlled religious system. Their decisions are often made arbitrarily and in a manner inconsistent with the right to freedom of belief or religion. Chinese officials continue to detain and arrest religious believers, close religious sites, and impose restrictions on the movements, contacts, visits, and correspondence of religious personnel.
“Chinese officials claim the new regulations safeguard religious freedom through the rule of law, but the intentional vagueness of the regulations allows for continued repression of disfavored individuals or groups,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “There’s nothing accidental about the vagueness – it gives officials the room they need to legitimize closing mosques, raiding religious meetings, ‘reeducating’ religious leaders, and censoring publications.”
Human Rights Watch said the most significant problem with the regulations is that arbitrariness is implanted in the text. The regulations state that “normal” religious activities are allowed, but then fail to define what the term “normal” means, leaving practitioners unclear about what is allowed and what is banned. The regulations also include other undefined key terms, such as “religious extremism,” “disturbing public order,” and “undermining social stability,” each of which only adds to the ambiguities and the potential arbitrariness of the application of the regulations.
The article lists further examples of how things haven't really changed much. My questions are:
- In spite of the continued religious oppression, are mission organizations still finding significantly more opportunities?
- If further opening of commerce to China hasn't worked to remove religious persecution, shouldn't we then use the stick and restrict it?
- Now that American businesses have a bigger stake in the Chinese economy, do we even have the national will to restrict it? (My guess: No.)
This is a tough nut to crack. Consider this an open invitation for other Stones to post answers to these questions and contrary takes on the situation.
February 21, 2006
The Breakdown of the Nuclear Family
In 6 years, if all trends continue, half the babies born in the UK will be to unmarried mothers. As "progressive" as the UK has been at, among other things, de-emphasizing religious and moral values, this may be a shock, but it's no surprise.
The number of births outside wedlock exceeds 50 per cent in some parts, including Wales. In the North East, it was 54.1 per cent last year.
In London, where a higher proportion of young mothers are Muslims who adhere to more conservative family values, a third of children were born outside marriage.
Now comes the common sense, but is anyone listening?
The figures have alarmed family campaigners, who say the collapse of marriage could have a serious impact on social structures.
They say that most of the statistical evidence suggests that children brought up by married parents do better than those raised by cohabiting couples or lone parents.
This, of course, will be used by "progressives" to further the idea that same-sex marriage is the answer to this dilemma, but this arrangement is little better than a single parent family, as well-rounded children need both a male and female influence. (Here's the report on one study, but there are many more.) The commitment in a "same-sex marriage" is better than none, of course, but as the report notes, there is far more that children need than that.
What we have is a slippery slope. While each person or group moving us down may not be working in concert with anyone else farther up the slope, the effect in any case is to have an incremental push over the course of a couple generations to the liberal side of the spectrum. In order to really make "same-sex marriage" palpable to a majority of people, you have to find a reason for redefining a term that has endured for millennia. Out-of-wedlock births fits that bill, but in order to do that, you have to break down the traditional taboos and mainstream extramarital sexual activity. In order to do that, you have to erode the religious traditions of the country (and sometimes you get the churches to help in that regard, unfortunately).
What it amounts to is the classic entrepreneurial action of creating a need and then filling it. Unfortunately, as people have continued to accept more and more liberal values during this process, countless lives have been destroyed. But with each slip, the proposed "solution" was always sold as being better than what came before. Instead, more and more lives are ruined. I predict that the next "solution" will bring about even worse results.
Campaigners and Church leaders have accused politicians of marginalizing marriage by undermining its legal and financial privileges and shying away from promoting it above other types of family.
Labour abolished the last tax break for married couples, the Married Couples' Allowance, while its tax credit system is said to favour single-parent families.
Ann Widdecombe, a former Tory Home Office minister, said: "After the death of the extended family, we are now seeing the death of the nuclear family.
"The long-term consequences are bad for everyone. A well-ordered society is based on the bedrock of marriage, otherwise we will have increasing social disruption."
The real solution is to go back to what worked, and worked well. Unfortunately, this may take further generations. In the meantime, the slippery slope is further littered with the lives of those who believed in the new "solutions".
February 16, 2006
The Boy Scouts are a Religion?
Do you consider the Boy Scouts a religion? A judge in San Diego said it was, and now the 9th Circuit (oh joy) gets a shot at it.
Arguments in a major Boy Scouts case unfolding in Pasadena, Calif., before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – a case that is certain to be headed for the Supreme Court -- centered on the contention that the revered organization is actually a religion and should therefore not be given a lease of public land.
The case was brought by self-declared agnostics Lori and Lynn Barnes-Wallace and Michael and Valerie Breen, along with a son of each, in protest of a lease of parkland in Balboa Park and Fiesta Island by the city of San Diego to the Boy Scouts of America.
The agnostics sued the city on a claim that the lease to the Boy Scouts – out of more than 100 leases, including to the YMCA, a number of Jewish groups, one of which conducts Sabbath services on parkland, and the Girl Scouts – violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment, and that they are suffering "inferior usage" thereby because they don't want to have to apply for permits, or pay usage fees, to the BSA. The case is Barnes-Wallace, et al. v. Boy Scouts of America, Nos. 04-55732, 04-56167.
A federal judge in San Diego granted the summary judgment to the agnostics, finding that the Boy Scouts are a "religion" because of the Boy Scout Oath, which includes doing one's duty to "God and my country," and the Boy Scout Law, which includes "reverence" as one of 12 precepts. Also, the Scouts require a belief in God as a condition of membership.
The city itself is not part of the appeal. It settled with the American Civil Liberties Union to avoid further expense, agreeing to terminate the lease and to give the ACLU $940,000 in attorney fees. The appeal continues since the Boy Scouts, if they prevail, want to be able to contract for a lease with the city again.
The case has drawn national attention because the federal judge's finding that the BSA is "a religion" imperils the future work of not only the Boy Scouts, but all organizations that recognize a transcendent higher authority, including community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, Alcoholics Anonymous, which works directly with the courts and government, and veterans organizations like the American Legion, whose constitutional preamble begins "For God and Country," almost identical to the Boy Scouts Oath.
That any federal judge considered the BSA a religion is truly unbelievable. But the idea that using the "G" word in a sentence prevents you from consideration at all by any level of government is even more preposterous. When you see how much religion the Founding Fathers allowed for in government by their actions, this can't possibly be a First Amendment issue. At least not the First Amendment the way they intended it to be. But to the "living document" judges, the Constitution means whatever they want it to mean. Today. Until they change their minds. Again.
So much for the Constitution be a foundation.
February 10, 2006
"Cartoon Intifadah" Not Backed Up by Islam's History
Does the Quran prohibit creating any image of the prophet Muhammad? According to Amir Taheri, writing in the Wall St. Journal, no.
There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else. When it spread into the Levant, Islam came into contact with a version of Christianity that was militantly iconoclastic. As a result some Muslim theologians, at a time when Islam still had an organic theology, issued "fatwas" against any depiction of the Godhead. That position was further buttressed by the fact that Islam acknowledges the Jewish Ten Commandments--which include a ban on depicting God--as part of its heritage. The issue has never been decided one way or another, and the claim that a ban on images is "an absolute principle of Islam" is purely political. Islam has only one absolute principle: the Oneness of God. Trying to invent other absolutes is, from the point of view of Islamic theology, nothing but sherk, i.e., the bestowal on the Many of the attributes of the One.
The claim that the ban on depicting Muhammad and other prophets is an absolute principle of Islam is also refuted by history. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers.
He goes on to list a few of the many famous depictions.
Well then, does this have more to do with a deep Muslim resistance to having their religion made fun of? Again, no.
Now to the second claim, that the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. That is true if we restrict the Muslim world to the Brotherhood and its siblings in the Salafist movement, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. But these are all political organizations masquerading as religious ones. They are not the sole representatives of Islam, just as the Nazi Party was not the sole representative of German culture. Their attempt at portraying Islam as a sullen culture that lacks a sense of humor is part of the same discourse that claims "suicide martyrdom" as the highest goal for all true believers.
The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade. Both Arabic and Persian literature, the two great literatures of Islam, are full of examples of "laughing at religion," at times to the point of irreverence.
Again, he offers further historical examples.
So if what some are calling the "Cartoon Intifadah" is not religious in its origin, what is it? Mr. Taheri, explains.
The "rage machine" was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood--a political, not a religious, organization--called on sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood's rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party's 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut.It's political. Much of the defense of Muslims has tried to come at this from one or the other of these perspectives. The fact is that nothing happened for months after the cartoons were first published, and only after a political body called for a response that 10 people (so far) were killed and buildings burned over them. This is a calculated political response, even if it may have gone farther than the Muslim Brotherhood intended.
I'm not thrilled when religion is lampooned, but I understand that not everyone shares the same opinion. One's religion is as personal as one's political opinion and so both are subject to it. Hence, I understand that it's generally all fair game, including my own Christianity. And on the other side, when someone's offended, it is their right to speak out against what they believe to be wrong, whether in fact, or whether it be one opinion vs. another. But this furor is unjustified on many counts. It's has a political origin in spite of claims to the contrary. It doesn't follow Islam's own history. And it has become outrageous in its excess and cruelty.
This may be the oft-cited "less than 1% of Muslims" who are doing all the damage. I can buy that. But how soon will it be before we see this kind of action from the other 99%, rather than just press releases? There has been some, but it's been lost in the din raging over some cartoons.
January 19, 2006
Christian College Enrollment Up
Enrollment at Christian evangelical colleges is on the rise, quite sharply, across the nation. This excerpt from the Grand Forks Herald notes the numbers for Minnesota.
Across the state, and the nation, colleges with ties to evangelical movements are seeing their enrollments soar.
The numbers at Minnesota schools fitting that demographic are up between 28 and 49 percent over the past five years, compared with about 7 percent at other private colleges.
"I wanted to be able to discuss my religious beliefs," said Kristi Rohwer, who is taking classes at Bethel University in Arden Hills. "I feel that you view life and things differently in your education if you can do that. We do discuss our beliefs, and I like it a lot."
The 17-year-old Rohwer, from Forest Lake, is still a student in high school but is taking classes at Bethel through a special academic program. She said she wants to stay at Bethel when she becomes a full-time college student, and she's not alone.
Faith has a strong presence on campuses like Bethel's and Northwestern College in Roseville. Many classes begin with prayer and readily include considerations of faith during discussions about science or mathematics.
January 17, 2006
Reading God's Mind. Again.
Pat Robertson's at it again. "God is mad at America," in part because he does not approve "of us being in Iraq under false pretenses." Further, "he is sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it is destroying and putting stress on this country." Robertson also said that God was mad at black America for not taking care of themselves, their women and their children. He noted that 70 percent of black children are born to one parent.
Expect liberals to get outraged over this in even larger proportion to their reaction to some of his previous pronouncements that weren't as racially charged. This could get ugly.
'Cept it won't.
That's because, in reality, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin said it. It's OK for him to say this because he's black and because he's a Democrat. If he'd been white or Republican and talked about God being upset with blacks, it would have been considered hate speech. And of course, when people invoke God in the name of liberal ideas, in this case on the war in Iraq, you'll hear hardly a peep. The NY Times covered it only to the point of reprinting the AP wire copy, but that's it. In fact, I heard on the radio this morning (from the generally conservative host, not the news folks) that there had been some concern by a black city official about Nagin's "chocolate city" imagery. He wasn't upset at Nagin (he is black and Democrat, after all), but was concerned that such imagery would be taken in the wrong way. Even that little bit of worry wasn't mention by the AP nor the Times. Calling blacks the dark chocolate of the world and whites the white milk raiseth not an eyebrow.
Nope, this is no big deal to <redundancy> the Left and the Media </redundancy>. At least this time it isn't. Frankly, I don't think it's a big deal either. Call me a Lactose-American; whatever. I don't object to colorful language regarding my race. And if Nagin thinks God had a hand in this, that's his opinion and he's welcome to it. But if Newt Gingrich or Bill Bennett or, indeed, Pat Robertson himself had said this, we'd be treated to news articles galore on reaction from the Left, and op-eds expressing outrage. Instead, a little wire copy is dutifully pushed and the case is essentially closed.
Nagin's trying to read God's mind just as much as Pat was, but little will be said about it, other that mostly right-wing bloggers noting the hypocrisy by <redundancy> the Left and the Media </redundancy>. If only they could move on (.org) as easily all the time.
January 11, 2006
Iran's President Acts Like There's No Tomorrow
Why is Iran thumbing its nose at international organizations with regards to its nuclear program? One reason may be that the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, believes that the Shi'ite "messiah", the Twelfth Imam or Mahdi, will be returning very soon. He's making serious preparations for it, including having a special train line built to a holy city involved in the story of his return. Daniel Pipes has the details. If Ahmadinejad believes that the return is imminent, you can see why he may be inclined to ignore all the urgings, reports and diplomatic words of concern over his nuclear aspirations.
January 06, 2006
December 20, 2005
A Tale of Two Trials
Clayton Cramer, on the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial:
It was a controversial idea of human origins--one that offended many people because of its implications for their religious beliefs. The idea had some worrisome baggage far beyond the area of biology. It scared the people in charge of the society, enough so that they felt a need to prohibit it from being taught in public schools.
Whoops, sorry. He's talking about the Scopes trial. Follow the link for an interesting comparison of the two.
December 19, 2005
Church / State Wall Breach
Marc at Hubs & Spokes has hard evidence that the President is again trying to destroy the wall separating church and state.
December 06, 2005
In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Nelson defends The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe against attacks by award-winning writer and atheist Philip Pullman. Pullman pulls no punches in his disdain and revulsion of the story and its themes. Nelson, however, point by point, shows that these attacks are without merit in the areas of sexism, racism, violence, death and love. In more than one case, Nelson notes that the very thing that Pullman professes to dislike about Narnia is also featured in Pullman's own children's literature.
The most ironic portion:
One of the books in Pullman's His Dark Materials series won the 2001 Whitbread Award both for best children's book and for best book of any kind published in England the previous year — the only time the main prize has ever been awarded to a work for children. Pullman wrote the series, he says, because "I really wanted to do ... Paradise Lost in 1,200 pages. ... It's the story of the Fall which is the story of how what some would call sin, but I would call consciousness, comes to us." Over the course of three volumes, Pullman wanted to celebrate, as he thinks John Milton does, our first ancestors' decision to rebel against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.
In Pullman's mind, rebellion from a loving God is better than (or at least a better story than) redemption and acceptance of the gift of eternal life from that same loving God. Read the whole review for some more good irony and a good defense of Lewis' story.
November 14, 2005
Newdow's Latest Target
Michael Newdow has a new target.
"I am about to file to get 'In God We Trust' off the front of our currency," he told the Oklahoman. "I plan to do that this week."
Newdow, of Sacramento, Calif., made the remarks Saturday night shortly before addressing the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma Foundation Bill of Rights Celebration.
"The key principle is that we're supposed to treat everybody equally especially in terms of religious belief," Newdow told KWTV in Oklahoma City. "Clearly it's not treating atheists equal with people who believe in God when you say 'In God We Trust' or we are a 'nation under God.'"
Newdow's claim is that a government that says "In God We Trust" cannot, by his definition, still treat people equally. Is it then also true that a Christian employer cannot ever treat all his or her employees equally regardless of their religious beliefs? Are all Hindus prejudiced by definition? Indeed, are all atheists predisposed to favor those without religious belief over those with it in all their daily dealings?
If this were so, then Mr. Newdow might have a point. But, of course, it isn't true. And if it's not generally true for individuals, then it is even less true of a government that is filled with people of all religious and nonreligious stripes. Further, a national motto mentioning God is a far, far cry from what the First Amendment prohibits; an officially-sanctioned national religion that politicians must pledge to. To suggest otherwise is to not understand what the Pilgrims and others were fleeing; the official entanglement of religion and government (not religion and politics, by the way).
Michael Newdow has no idea what an established religion looks like. And he can thank those mostly Christian Founding Fathers for that.
November 08, 2005
"God or Not" #2
October 18, 2005
"No More Christian Nice Guy"
Bryan Preston has a review of the book by that name. An excerpt:
Modern Christian men, argues Coughlin, have grown up with an image of Jesus as always patient, longsuffering, deferrent and even obsequious and effette. This softheaded, soft-focus Jesus is a false image that removes the very masculine character of Christ's leadership, thereby giving Christian men a false understanding of their role in life and church. Christian men cannot be effective leaders if they're afraid that Christ discourages them from being men. Coughlin argues that the Christian Nice Guy who is a product of this false, emasculated Jesus is unwilling to stand for truth, to battle wrong and to make waves. Ultimately, the Christian Nice Guy lives in fear that he'll upset someone, and so he takes no action even when he sees clearly that something must be done, and perhaps even knows what that something is.
Christ never lived that way. He picked fights with the Pharisees to expose their hypocrisy, used sarcasm to mock their false holiness and their stinginess, and even went on a rampage in the middle of the temple in order to correct gross misconduct. Christ never feared that his actions might upset someone, and in fact at times went out of his way to say upsetting things in order to advance truth.
September 20, 2005
Pope Speaks Out on Homosexual Priests
When I first started blogging, the topic I posted mostly on was the Catholic church's pedophile priest problem, and how the media completely ignored the fact that >90% of the instances were between priests and boys, thus making this as much a homosexual priest problem. Well, today the Pope has reaffirmed the church's stance on the issue.
Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to a new Vatican policy document that bans men with homosexual tendencies from being ordained as priests, reports Catholic World News.
The policy statement is a direct result of the pope's concern about the pedophilia scandal in the church – especially in the U.S.
The new document, prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education in response to a request made by the late Pope John Paul II in 1994, will be published soon. It will take the form of an "Instruction," signed by the prefect and secretary of the congregation: Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Michael Miller, according to the report.
This is not a change in policy. It's meant most likely for the North American churches that have been ignoring it.
The "Instruction" does not represent a change in church teaching or policy, according to the Vatican.
Catholic leaders have consistently taught that homosexual men should not be ordained to the priesthood. Pope John XXIII approved a formal policy to that effect, which still remains in effect. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, that policy was widely ignored, particularly in North America.
September 14, 2005
Federal Judge Rules Pledge Unconstitutional
The Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge today.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge who granted legal standing to two families represented by an atheist who lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."
I'm wondering what federal law enumerates that particular right. Google can't seem to find anything. I'm not saying unequivocally that children ought to be required to do that. I just would like to know the law this judge is citing.
Hold not thy breath.
Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.
You mean the most overturned court in the country has suddenly become unassailable? Here's what one web page notes:
It is often called "the most overturned appeals court in the United States", but the court has a higher caseload than most other circuit courts. From 1992 to 2003, the lowest percentage of overturned appeals by the ninth circuit was 68 percent. The highest was 95 percent. The average percentage of Ninth Circuit Court decisions overturned by the Supreme Court during this time was 73.5 percent as compared to an average of 61 percent by the all the other circuit courts of appeal combined.
(By the way, a higher caseload, with a larger number of decisions, should tend to lower this percentage. The more samples, the more those samples tend to congregate around the average. Thus the higher percentage speaks more to their out-of-mainstream judicial views rather than to their workload. I'm no stats expert (Rick?), but I'm pretty sure I'm right.)
This is a judicial cop-out. "Golly gee, I can't overturn anything by the 9th Circuit!" Hogwash. Overturning the 9th Circuit has become the rule rather than the exception. And if he simply can never break their precedent, Judge Karlton needs to be removed. He's just a walking, talking rubber stamp.
I've talked about the "under God" thing on my personal blog here, and the Supreme Court's view on it here, and I don't think this is going to get ultimately set in stone. For now, this is a case of a judge unwilling to take on a hot-button topic, and instead saying (doing my best Flip Wilson impersonation), "The 9th Circuit made me do it!"
UPDATE: My bad, and I apologize. Judge Karlton is not above the 9th Circuit in the appeals process; he's below it, and thus needs to abide by the precedent set by the 9th Circuit until such time as it's overruled by the Supreme Court. According to this updated news item, the 9th Circuit Court is the next stop for this case:
The Becket Fund, a religious rights group that is a party to the case, said it would immediately appeal the case to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the court does not change its precedent, the group would go to the Supreme Court.
I do believe, however, that the 9th Circuit will continue it's stellar performance of being overturned on appeal in this decision as well. Again, my apologies to the readers and to Judge Karlton.
UPDATE PART DEUX: Rick noted (see the comments) that, according to "The Smart Guys" (a couple of regular lawyer guests to the Hugh Hewitt show, Judge Karlton wasn't bound by the 9th Circuit's precedent because the Supreme Court annulled it (they ruled that Newdow had no standing in the case). Thus the precedent cited by Karlton, legally, doesn't exist. Well, now I'm inclined to take back my apology, but I won't. Obviously, my own knowledge of the situation isn't good enough to pass an informed judgement on it. The "Smart Guys", however, are another story.
August 23, 2005
Mixing God & Science
A very good NY Times article on how scientists can and do deal with a belief in God. A greate quote:
One panelist, Dr. Noah Efron of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said scientists, like other people, were guided by their own human purposes, meaning and values. The idea that fact can be separated from values and meaning "jibes poorly with what we know of the history of science," Dr. Efron said.
Dr. Collins, who is working on a book about his religious faith, also believes that people should not have to keep religious beliefs and scientific theories strictly separate. "I don't find it very satisfactory and I don't find it very necessary," he said in an interview. He noted that until relatively recently, most scientists were believers. "Isaac Newton wrote a lot more about the Bible than the laws of nature," he said.
But he acknowledged that as head of the American government's efforts to decipher the human genetic code, he had a leading role in work that many say definitively demonstrates the strength of evolutionary theory to explain the complexity and abundance of life.
As scientists compare human genes with those of other mammals, tiny worms, even bacteria, the similarities "are absolutely compelling," Dr. Collins said. "If Darwin had tried to imagine a way to prove his theory, he could not have come up with something better, except maybe a time machine. Asking somebody to reject all of that in order to prove that they really do love God - what a horrible choice."
August 05, 2005
The Religous Test
In Wednesday's Washington Post ("Why It's Right to Ask About Roberts's Faith"), columnist E.J. Dionne asks: "Is it wrong to question Judge John Roberts on how his Catholic faith might affect his decisions as a Supreme Court justice? Or is it wrong not to? . . . Why is it wrong to ask him to share his reflections with the public?" It would be helpful, Mr. Dionne concludes, "if Roberts gave an account of how (and whether) his religious convictions would affect his decisions as a justice."
Mr. Dionne's error is found is his own words: "Yes, any inquiry related to a nominee's religion risks being seen as a form of bigotry, and of course there should be no 'religious tests.' " Indeed. And that is the problem, again.
Journalists believe that the religious test clause guards against simple discrimination against Catholics or Jews or any other particular denominations. It does not. It prohibits a probe of what the potential officeholder believes derived of his religious convictions. It is not about what he lists on a questionnaire under religion, as if it were like race or sex. That is why the liberal press has mocked the concern raised by conservatives that the abortion litmus test and other lines of inquiry are a constitutionally prohibited religious test.
(Read the whole thing for more examples and further historical evidence of Miranda's reading of the "religious test".)
One of the commenters at Dean's World seems to have this same misconception. So consider this: Suppose this "religious test" was really a "duck test", such that you could not require a test to see if the potential office holder was a duck. And then imagine a Senator being interviewed after the vote saying, "I voted against this nominee because he looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and thinks like a duck. Now, I didn't vote against him because he is a duck, but because he had those qualities."
That wouldn't pass either the "duck test" nor the "smell test". And questions about John Roberts' religious views won't pass the "religious test".
August 03, 2005
More Christians in China than Communists?
China's rulers are said to be ambiguous about Christianity's growth. Some see its emphasis on personal morality as a force for stability. House churches which go along with the authority and theology of the official organisations are often left alone.
But many reject the party's control over Christian practice and doctrine, and these are seen as a threat. After all, 80 million members would mean there are now more Christians than Communists in China.
Few believe that many of the party's 70 million members keep the faith burning any more.
This year the Politburo made it easier for churches to register, but at the same time launched a wave of persecution of those which refused.
But will this make Christians the new "Falun Gong"?
June 29, 2005
Religion, minus the "G" word
You can write about religion, but don't dare mention..well, you know, the "G" word.
For using the "G" word 41 times in a term paper, Bethany Hauf was given an "F" by her Victor Valley Community College instructor.
Hauf's teacher approved her term paper topic - Religion and its Place within the Government - on one condition: Don't use the word God. Instead of complying with VVCC adjunct instructor Michael Shefchik's condition Hauf wrote a 10-page report for her English 101 class entitled "In God We Trust."
"He said it would offend others in class," Hauf, a 34-year-old mother of four, said. "I didn't realize God was taboo."
Hope the potential offendees never look too close at the money in their wallets. The idea that a report on religion should avoid the word God is akin to writing about the role of government in general without using the words "law" and "order".
I suppose that the teacher can place whatever restrictions he wanted to on classroom assignments. Still, this particular restriction seems one that was designed to ensure failure or at least discourage the topic. The American Center for Law and Justice is representing Hauf, asking for an apology and a re-grading of the paper. Oh, and one other nice bit of irony.
In addition to an apology and a re-grading of Hauf's paper, the ACLJ demands Shefchik "receive some kind of training to sensitize him to the constitutional dimensions of his employment in a public educational institution, including his duty to respect constitutional freedoms of expression."
Sensitivity ought to work both ways.
June 27, 2005
Judgement Day; Muslim & Christian
Don Sensing explains how different Christianity and Islam are by considering what each believes will happen at Judgement Day for each believer. If you're one of those who thinks that Christians and Muslims really just believe in the same deity, you have a big chasm to cross.
Marwan's god wants to know whether he committed mayhem and murder. Christ wants to know whether we fed the hungry and thirsty, welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, nursed the sick and visited the imprisoned.
The contrast could not be clearer.
Suggesting that one god could require such diametrically opposed standards is to make Him just a generalized, all-inclusive guy with no real standards to speak of. That doesn't describe a good God, and it frankly makes it impossible for both religions to be talking about the same one.
UK bank bans Christian group
On Friday I noted a news report about a guy who was fired from Allstate for personal views he held. Today comes word that a religious group is no longer welcome at a bank in the UK for their views.
The Co-operative Bank has asked an evangelical Christian group to close its account because of its anti-homosexual views.
The bank said the opinions of Christian Voice were incompatible with its support for diversity.
Christian Voice said the bank, based in Manchester, was discriminating against it on religious grounds.
It is now waiting for other religious groups with similar opinions to be asked to close accounts, it added.
Christian Voice has held an account with the Co-operative Bank for about three years.
But now the bank has decided the group's stance on homosexuality is so extreme, it has asked members to look for a new bank.
"It has come to the bank's attention that Christian Voice is engaged in discriminatory pronouncements based on the grounds of sexual orientation," a spokesman for the bank said.
"This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity in all its forms for our staff, customers and other stakeholders."
Isn't the removal of someone because they don't think the way you do the exact opposite of "diversity"?
The Supremes & the 10 Commandments
The much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling on the display of the 10 Commandments on government property will, I think, reign in the extremists, but still leaves room for local courts to determine how much religion is too much. I've been really waiting for this ruling in light of the fact that the 10 Commandments, or at least references to them, appear in the Supreme Court itself.
Sending dual signals in ruling on this issue for the first time in a quarter-century, the high court said that displays of the Ten Commandments _ like their own courtroom frieze _ are not inherently unconstitutional. But each exhibit demands scrutiny to determine whether it goes too far in amounting to a governmental promotion of religion, the court said in a case involving Kentucky courthouse exhibits.
In effect, the court said it was taking the position that issues of Ten Commandments displays in courthouses should be resolved on a case-by-case basis.
I haven't read the whole ruling (and probably wouldn't understand a lot of it if I did), but I do appreciate the clarification that the court gave to the Establishment Clause.
"Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious _ they were so viewed at their inception and so remain. The monument therefore has religious significance," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the majority in the case involving the display outside the state capitol of Texas.
"Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment clause," he said.
It has been this misapplication of the Establishment Clause that has given the ACLU their teeth in taking down anything remotely religious from he public square. Just because a text or an idea lines up with someone's religious belief, it doesn't automatically make it an establishment of religion by the government. Take these displays, for example. All the religious displays on that page (and don't forget to click on "Part II") are from Washington, DC, and if the ACLU had been around then, they'd have never been made. Go there now, and be astonished at what used to be considered acceptable religion in the marketplace until people started misreading the Establishment Clause.
I agree with Justice Thomas that "a more fundamental rethinking of our Establishment Clause jurisprudence remains in order." While I was hoping that this would be case in which to do it, it is a step in the right direction.
June 07, 2005
Amy Wellborn on the Pope and Marriage
Amy Wellborn has a nice post on Pope Benedict XVI's recent comments on marriage and family, and Andrew Sullivan's typical hissy fit.
May 10, 2005
A Failure to Communicate
A friend writes:
You may have heard the tragic news of the death of two eight year old girls in Zion, IL. Zion is the town in which I was raised.
While listening to Fox News (while waiting for an elevator at work) the female anchor was interviewing someone and asked a question like the following "since this town was founded as a religious community in the early 1900's has it been difficult to get information out of the town?"
I always found Zion's history interesting.
But, even as a child in the '70s I knew that Zion had been sociologically absorbed into the Chicago metropolitan area. I found the anchor's question amusing since the thought of 20,000 people living a life in no way isolated from the broader economy\transportation system\communication system\etc . . . and could in some way maintain a distinctive sense of community is pretty amazing . . . .
Not only amazing, but perhaps slightly offensive.
So here's the set-up. Scrap all the Red-State/Blue-State stuff. What lack of understanding is evident here? Is it that the coasts can never understand the heartland? Is it that the media elites -- whether conservative or liberal -- can't understand the common folk? Or is that the secularists -- whether conservative or liberal -- will never properly understand religious people?
Or is it something else?
May 07, 2005
The antichrist doesn't live here anymore
No wonder we haven't been able to discover the identity of the Beast. We've been dialing the wrong number!
A newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament indicates that, as far as the Antichrist goes, theologians, scholars, heavy metal groups, and television evangelists have got the wrong number. Instead of 666, it's actually the far less ominous 616.So I guess this means that the Beast isn't R-O-N-A-L-D W-I-L-S-O-N R-E-A-G-A-N or G-E-O-R-G-E W-A-L-K-E-R B-U-S-H-J-R .
Meanwhile, Satanists are taking it in stride:
. . . [S]atanists responded coolly to the new 'Revelation'. Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, based in New York, said: 'By using 666 we're using something that the Christians fear. Mind you, if they do switch to 616 being the number of the beast then we'll start using that.'