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Thursday, November 29, 2012

PZ Myers, Guru of Hate

Can this angel get off the ground? Or
out of the gutter?
 
Introduction: Some time ago, I challenged biologist PZ Myers to a debate over the impact Christianity has had on women.  I meant that challenge sincerely: I would not issue such a challenge to someone I couldn't (at the time) have seen myself on a stage with, however unlikely it might be that he or she would accept.  I also make hypothetical travel plans to Minnesota, thinking about what else I might do along the way.  (I've always wanted to see if I could find more of the dinosaur fossils I brought back from eastern Montana on my last visit 30 years ago, for instance.) 

I later came to think that it would probably be wrong to debate Myers. I have come to see PZ as a bad person, a character who serves much the function of a Rajneesh or a Mao in Gnu society, who should be exposed, and probably not treated with the respect sharing a public forum (were PZ bold enough to do that sort of thing) would imply.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Grand Inquisitor & Me

I finally get to check this number off my bucket-list: getting citing as an authority midway between Tomas de Torquemada and Richard Carrier.

Moderation in all things, that's my motto. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

G. K. Chesterton's Everlasting Man: "One of the best books of the 20th Century"

Mature wisdom touches
childlike wonder in
The Everlasting Man.
"One of the Best Books of the Twentieth Century"

1 1/8th Top Review (233+ / 5-)

*****

This is a book that everyone ought to read two or three times at least. It is a crime that such nonsense as Conversations With God, or better but still relatively shallow introductions to comparative religion like Religions of Man, seem to be better known. Here you will find a description of Christianity and its relation to other faiths strong and fine as aged wine. I don't know of anyone who writes with this much class in the modern world. Having ordered the book for our college library, I tried not to mark it too much, but found myself putting ink dots on paragraph after paragraph of material I wanted to quote. He rambles a bit, but I think there is more wisdom, humor, and insight in a single page of this book than in whole volumes that are better known in our days. Imagine if, after reading David Barry and laughing your head off, you wanted to go out and kiss a blade of grass or be amazed by the water running in the river instead of (say) looking up at the sky to make sure there aren't any mackerel about to fall on you. G.K.Chesterton makes his readers laugh themselves sane. And sanity is a rare and wonderful thing in the modern world.

Chesterton's archeology and contemporary references are a bit dated, of course. But even there, what goes around often comes around. Chesterton leads off with a story about Grant Allen, author of a piece of heresy of that time called Evolution of the Idea of God.  More recently Karen Armstrong wrote a book with an almost identical title and thesis, History of God, and was greeted in the press as a bold thinker. (Note: Robert Wright's subsequent The Evolution of God would continue the theme, also to be found in rather different forms in Dawkins, Pascal Boyer, and Daniel Dennett.)  Chesterton kindly and elegantly refuted her error, and those of other modern skeptics, decades before they were born. Admirers of Bishop Spong in particular should read this book. Chesterton was not a scholar of comparative religions, of course, and he may have oversimplified a few things, but I think got the big things in true proportion better than anyone.  The plan of the book is simple. In the first half, Chesterton describes man, particularly in his religious aspect. In particular, he explains four universal elements of human religion: mythology, philosophy, demonism, and an awareness of God that one finds in almost every culture around the world. The tendency in the modern world is to ignore the last two elements when they occur outside of Western culture. But I have found in my own studies of Asian cultures and religions that Chesterton's description of human religion fit the facts extremely well.  The second half of the book is about Jesus and the movement he founded. I like what he says about Jesus best, and wish he had spent more time on that and proportionally less on European culture. A few of his racial or cultural assumptions do not come across well in our age. It is worth remembering how the face of Christianity has changed over the hundred years since this book was published. Then Christianity was almost exclusively a Western religion, while now two thirds of the believers in the world live in Africa, Latin American and Asia.
If you are interested in a more detailed discussion of some of the points Chesterton brings up, I suggest Don Richardson's Eternity in Their Hearts, another of the most overlooked works of the 20th Century. I have also just written a book called Jesus and the Religions of Man, that covers in more detail some of the same territory.

Note: I first posted this review in June of 2000; it remains among the highlighted reviews on Amazon.  I've added a few updates, here. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Christ Liberates Humanity: 133 proof texts.

Twice in the last few days I ran into some version of Christopher Hitchen's aphorism, "Religion Poisons Everything," and responded with incredulity.  Of all the historical claims out there, it seems to me this is among the easiest to disprove. (Not even counting the almost-literal sense in which, for instance, religion has not yet frozen the liquid iron whose circulation creates the Earth's magnetic field, or cause any stars to explode or any comets to leave their orbits.)

Limiting ourselves to human history, I am tempted to respond by appealing to all the wonderful things Taoism or Confucianism have done for East Asia -- to catch the fanatics off-guard, and try to shock them out of the little worlds of prim skepticism in which they imprison themselves.  It is painful to think how arid the history of Chinese art would be without the fantastic bronzes of ancient Chinese graves, with which aristocrats set themselves up for the next life, the bold colors of esoteric Buddhist mandalas, the misty, myterious landscapes of Zen painters, or Chinese rock gardens, suffused with Taoist readings of the natural landscape. 

But the title of this blog is Christ the Tao.  And I do think Jesus Christ is the source of near-universal  liberation, that has overthrown oppression and made the world a dramatically tonier address in our little galaxy. 

Let's begin with the second and more substantial of these two challenges, from the Bengali atheist, Taslima Nasreen, who also quotes PZ Myers, and my initial "shoot-from-the-hip" reply.  After that, in answer to follow-up queeries, including the question of whether I've actually read any history books, and my purported errors might not be explained as simple ignorance, I'll offer a list of 130 texts, mostly books, which show how the Gospel has changed the world.

My hope is reading some of these books will put even atheists in a cheerful mood to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Christmas being just around the corner. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Marx, the Mob, and Missions"

One section in our new book, Faith Seeking Understanding, that would make a great movie, is Chapter Four: "Marx, the Mob, and Missions," by Bill Prevette.  The title gives you just a glimpse of Bill's amazing story.  The sets are worthy of a Bond flick: gangsters in the Caribbean, the Pacific Crest Trail, fishing in Alaska, a coup in Cambodia, with flash-backs to an orphanage in North Carolina.  This is, after all, an Assembly of God missionary we're talking about. 

So it is hard to decide which section to excerpt.  Iny-Meeny-Miny-Mo.  Buy the book, and read Bill's whole story, plus Plantinga, Rausal, Yancey, Stark, Adeney, Richardson (a movie has already been made of his life) and others besides. 

Bill and Ky Prevette
Ancient mariners often labeled the margins of their known world by writing on maps, “Here there be monsters!”  I began sailing Dragonfly toward my own far edges (and monsters) when I began offering charters around the Caribbean.  St. Martin provided a good base for operations, as it was a playground for the rich and famous from Europe and the East Coast of the United States.  I made connections with unethically wealthy people and learned how to set up “front businesses” for laundering money.  I flew in and out of Miami and offered to move any commodity or product for a price.  I thought I had hit the “big time.”  Lyrics from one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs sum up this phase of my life fairly accurately: “I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast.”  The more I consumed, the greater became my addiction to hedonism and power. 

In the summer of 1982, I helped sail a classic Sparkman and Stephens yacht, let us call her Mystic, from the Caribbean to Martha’s Vineyard. The yacht was due for a major overhaul at a shipyard there and it’s owner, “Vinny,who treasured it greatly, flew to Europe and left me in charge.

As you might imagine, the logistics of lifting a twenty-ton yacht out of the water are complex and expensive. On this occasion we had a disaster, the marine railway malfunctioned and the lifting equipment failed. To our horror, the shipyard owner and I watched Mystic plunge from the shipping cradle into Vineyard Haven Harbor.  She sank to a depth of fifteen feet; her magnificent interior, electronics, engine, and period furnishings fully saturated and altogether ruined by the salt water.

On receiving news of this calamity, “Vinny” immediately flew to the scene and was murderous with rage; no financial settlement would be quench his Italian temper. I felt as if I had become a character in Good Fellas or The Sopranos.  It became clear this situation was unraveling and someone was going to be seriously hurt.  It dawned on my cocaine-saturated brain that if I continued in this lifestyle, I was likely to end up either with a bullet behind the ear or spending the rest of life looking over my shoulder . . .

Desperately wracking my brain for solutions, I remembered the words of a mature and sober friend: “Bill, with your willingness to work hard, you can build a good career and make plenty of money legitimately.  You don’t need to bend the rules to be successful” . . . I called Bob from Vineyard Haven, told him of my fears and asked his advice.  His answer was quick and to the point. “Get yourself on the first plane you can!  I think you know where this is headed.  For God’s sake, use your head – come here and we will talk.”  This time I listened . . .

I flew to Seattle, where Bob welcomed me into his home.  He offered me honest employment remodeling one his factory warehouses.  He told me I would be working alongside a concrete contractor.  Since the opportunity gave me “safe, mundane” space to sort out my next move, I gratefully took the job.  

Occasionally during these stressful months, I called Ky.  She had been chasing her own monsters, living in a New Age community in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, experimenting with mental telepathy and psychic massage. Ky had always been drawn to spiritual encounters; but as far as I was concerned, all religion and spirituality, no matter what the source, was a sham. On our last call, she said she had “found Jesus.”

I scoffed and ridiculed her. “Sure, everybody finds Jesus – just check out your local jail – but what difference does it make to any of them?” I ended the call in anger.  In my experience, Christians were hypocritical, deceived simpletons who wouldn’t think for themselves. But despite my ridicule, Ky began to pray that I too would have a reckoning with the Living God.

Shortly after arriving in Seattle, a letter came from Ky.  She had sent it to Martha’s Vineyard, the last known address she had for me, and it had been forwarded. I was surprised to hear from her and opening the letter brought additional consternation as it was written in a language that sounded strange to my ears:

“Praise God, Hallelujah! How are you, Bill?  We were in church tonight and our pastor gave a word of knowledge.  He said, ‘someone is praying for a man named Bill and he is going to come to know Christ through a man named Bob.’ I was so excited to hear this because several of us are praying for you regularly.  I don’t know what is going on with you, but I believe that our friend Bob is going to have an influence on your life for Christ.  Are you planning a trip to see Bob in Seattle? . . . ”

What bizarre code was this? I knew Ky was involved in something she described as a “Bible-believing, Pentecostal church.”  Weren’t these the people who handle snakes and speak in strange tongues?  The letter made no sense.  Ky was in Marin County, California; neither of us had seen Bob in years or spoken of him in our intermittent phone conversations.  The letter was dated the day before Mystic sank . . . How did Ky know I was going to Seattle before I did? And what in the world was a ‘word of knowledge’? . . .  I surmised that Ky’s psychic practices were bearing fruit.


Postscript: Faith Seeking Understanding is a unique new book featuring insights from such Christian thinkers as Phillip Yancey, the eminent sociologist Rodney Stark, philospher Alvin Plantinga, Oxford historian of science Allan Chapman, anthropologist Miriam Adeney, quantum physicist Don Page, and many other thoughtful people. It's a great Christmas gift for all kinds of people, including pastors, students, missionaries, and non-Christians who want an intellectually-rewarding yet low-key, noncombatative approach to Christianity.  The book will not be available on Amazon until early 2013.  You can order the book either from William Carey Library, or from us.

If you order from us, the price is $13, plus $3 shipping. We are also offering a special deal this Christmas: just add $10 and no extra shipping, for any of my other books, or a total of $58 + $3 shipping, for all six. This is a great package for students, pastors, or church libraries.

Our mailing address is Kuai Mu Press / PO BOX 403 / Fall City, WA 98024

Monday, November 19, 2012

Did God Evolve? Yahweh vs Robert Wright.

The following review was originally published as a daily column for First Thing's "On the Square,"August 25th, 2009.  Three years later, I find this review particularly interesting for the stress it lays on Wright's attempt to tell a coherent story of religion.  I argue that Christians need to tell such a story, a better one than skeptics like Karen Armstrong or Wright have been able to tell. Older versions, sketched by the likes of J. N. Farquhar, James Legge, and G. K. Chesterton, are still fascinating and useful, but in need of updating and careful modeling of a coherent and enlightening Christian theory of religion, in light of criticism.  This is the main project I have been working on, these past several years.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this, which touches on one aspect of my proposed solution.  -- DM 

Did God Really Evolve?
     


Robert Wright
Historians of God most often gather to bury, rather than praise, their Creator; Karen Armstrong, Pascal Boyer, and Daniel Dennett being recent examples. Robert Wright offers an interesting break in the pattern with The Evolution of God.

Wright, in his own way, is solidly in the materialist camp. In an earlier book he told how, like E.O. Wilson, he abandoned his Southern Baptist roots when he discovered evolution and recognized its power to tell the story of life. But he left God with regret. And today, it seems, “we need a god whose sympathies correspond to the scale of social organization, the global scale.” Wright looks at religion not with one eye shut and the other twitching down the sights of a Civil War–era carbine (signed personally by Colonel Ingersoll) but with eyes open to both the genius and inhumanity of man. His sketch thus rises not only to the dignity of error, but also to significant flashes of insight.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How Missions, not "Enlightenment," creates Democracy.

Robert Woodberry
Lately I've been reading four very different works that demonstrate the same point: how biblical teachings have liberated a huge portion of humanity, even non-Christian societies, and how the Gospel continues to have this effect.  Two of these works are contemporary mission stories: Melanie Kirkpatrick's Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad, and Brian Hogan's autobiographical There's a Sheep in my Bathtub: Birth of a Mongolian Church Planting Movement

The other two works are historical, and more academic.  One is a manuscript kindly sent me by Oxford historian Allan Chapman, of his new book refuting "Enlightenment" charges against Christianity about science, and showing how the Gospel midwifed the birth and nurtured the growth of modern science.  Lacking permission, I won't be quoting that book, which is due to be published next year, but I may refer to some of its contents.  The other work is a cautiously-phrased, extensively-footnoted, and mathematically-sophisticated article entitled "The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy," by Robert Woodberry, a political scientist at the University of Singapore.  (Woodberry tells me he plans to publish a more accessible book arguing the same ideas.)

All four tend to confirm, in different ways, the thesis of a fifth book that I finished a month or two ago: The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by my friend, the Indian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi.  The Bible is, it seems, responsible for most of the good parts of modern civilization, the reform movements Enlightenment philosophers often take credit for, and that get discussed in text books and lectures with nary a positive mention of Christianity.  (I may deconstruct one particularly aggregious CNN smeer against Christianity in a coming post.) 

Woodberry's article will be the focus of this post, illustrated and extended by reference to the other three.  (Vishal's book, and the new book on Christianity and the history of science, will be reviewed separately, the Lord be willing, in the future.)   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ralph Winter: Apostle of holistic Christianity.

Dr. Greg Parsons, Executive Director of the US Center for World Missions, contributed a fascinating biographical sketch of Ralph Winter to our new book, Faith Seeking Understanding: Essays in Memory of Paul Brand and Ralph D. Winter.  I especially appreciated what Parsons said about Dr. Winter's love of learning, his passionate quest for deeper and holistic understanding of the patterns of life from a Christian perspective, a quality in Dr. Winter that I had the chance to observe, as well.  The following exerpt explains how that quality led to the creation of the Perspectives course, in which I and a few other contributors to Faith Seeking Understanding sometimes teach. 

As a student Winter observed that Christians seemed to avoid the sciences, and scientists avoided issues of faith . . . He had learned at Caltech about the academic achievements of great scientists such as Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, William Thompson (Lord Kelvin), James Clerk Maxwell and Sir Humphrey Davy.  But Caltech did not mention that each of them were also men of faith. He discovered to his surprise that  Newton had spent twenty years studying the life of the apostle Paul. Faraday was an ordained preacher who taught from the Bible every Sunday . . .

Why, he wondered, was this separation so pervasive?  Even when science was taught at Christian colleges, there was no clear connection with the faith of those involved.

Ralph wondered, “What would a regular ‘secular’ history course look like if also studied from ‘God’s’ perspective?” He had surmised that fifteen out of seventeen Evangelical students were in secular schools. He decided to prepare history lessons from a Christian perspective and meet with a handful of willing students at USC each week.  Winter learned a great deal from this experiment, and this led to an ongoing, as yet unfulfilled, vision to meld together faith and “secular” disciplines. Later he wrote:

God has given us two “books.” 1) the Bible which is a Book of Revelation, and 2) nature, which is His Book of Creation. He does not want us to slight either one. Yet the sad situation is that, in general, one major human tradition (the scientific community) is studying the second and despising the first, and another human tradition (the church community) is studying the first and ignoring the second. Yet, both are essential in understanding God and His will . . . The Bible itself affirms the second, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament displays His handiwork (and) there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.’
In many ways, this holistic view of Christian thought was an outworking of  Winter’s own expanding studies.  He attended seven different schools (including Cal Tech, Columbia, Cornell, and Princeton Seminary), and earned degrees in Civil Engineering, Teaching English as a Second Language, Linguistics, Anthropology, Mathematical Statistics, and finally Theology . . .
 
One of Winter’s best-known legacies, one that expresses the holistic passion by which Winter saw life, is the study course (and book) called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.  Each week a different instructor exposes students to a broad range of experiences, ideas and insights, building off material in that week's reading.  Some students are still in high school, while others are senior citizens, businessmen or women, or people in full-time ministry.  In 2011, almost ten thousand students took the course at over 200 locations.

Winter believed in lifelong learning.  A little box from Amazon.com , sometimes not so little, would show up at his home every other day or so. The box would contain books on science, history, and other subjects.  Over one three month period, when Winter was 83, he acquired sixty new books this way!  The rate was about a book every other day for many years.


Postscript: Faith Seeking Understanding is a unique new book featuring insights from such Christian thinkers as Phillip Yancey, the eminent sociologist Rodney Stark, the great philospher Alvin Plantinga, Oxford historian of science Allan Chapman, anthropologist Miriam Adeney, eminent quantum physicist Don Page, and many other thoughtful people.  It's a lovely book, a great Christmas gift for all kinds of people, including pastors, students, missionaries, and non-Christians who want an intellectually-rewarding yet low-key, noncombatative approach to Christianity.  You can order the book either from William Carey Library, or from us. 

If you order from us, the price is $13, plus $3 shipping.  We are also offering a special deal this Christmas: just add $10 and no extra shipping, for any of my other books, or a total of $58 + $3 shipping, for all six.  This is a great package for students, pastors, or church libraries, maybe a bit much for a single non-Christian. 

Our mailing address is Kuai Mu Press / PO BOX 403 / Fall City, WA 98024


[1] Ralph D. Winter, “Ten Frontiers of Perspective”, a morning seminar, August 20, 1999, revised January 21, 2003, 8. (W1042.14

Friday, November 09, 2012

America's War on Children.

Like every great nation, the United States has committed great sins from time to time.  Our first great sin was chattel slavery.  Beginning in part with the Quaker Benjamin Lay in a suburb of 18th Century Philadelphia, an army of Christian reformers in the English-speaking world, then outside it, set their faces against this sin, sacrificing time, money, and reputation to bring about the liberation of Africans, and slaves of all races in every part of the world.  America suffered its worst rending in the course of repentance, our bloodiest and most horrible war. 

Our second great sin, no doubt, was mistreatment of Native Americans.  (Or first, the dates are fuzzy, but clearly we continued robbing Indian land decades after the War Between the States.)  Michael Medved argues, in Ten Big Lies About America, that the extent of that crime is often exagerrated.  No doubt he is right, and certainly far more Native Americans died of Old World diseases than were killed intentionally.  And it would be a gross mistake to portray the indigenous tribes themselves as peaceful noble savages: a rough rule of thumb seems to be, the higher the American civilization, the more beating hearts its gods required to renew the universe.  But that's no excuse.  Americans often murdered Indians and stole their land, even relatively peaceful, settled tribes like the Cherokee and Nez Perce.  This was undoubtedly a terrible crime.

Mostly, America has repented of those sins, and the races have made peace. 

But could we now be committing a sin every bit as great?  Might the repentance required to recover from our third great sin be as deep and as heartfelt?  Could it be that, while the church seems to have been marginalized in modern American society, with few prominent public spokesmen (no Augustine, Anselm, Wilberforce, Jonathan Edwards, or even Billy Graham to focus the attention of the public on behalf of the full claims of Christ), the Gospel remains precisely what is needed to keep America from collapsing in on itself, and devouring its children?  Let me propose that such a role still lays claim on the Church, as it did in the days of Bartholome De Las Casas, Benjamin Lay, William Wilberforce, and Charles Finney.  Our calling now, as then, remains to preach and model repentance, and lead America, however painfully and expensively, out of abiding sins of oppression.  But let me also suggest that just as in the days of Wilberforce, because we have deep-seated interests in continuing to sin and oppress, repentance will not come quickly or easily. We will be despised, called names, perhaps even treated with violence.  But it is the duty of the Church to call our nation to repentance, whether in a short or long period of time. (As it is the duty of Christians in other nations where the same sins are being committed.) 

Our greatest social sin is no longer racial, but generational. 

We are gravely sinning against our children. 

The issue that comes to mind for many Christians, when I say that, will be abortion.  But let me propose that abortion, including partial-birth abortion, is not the only or maybe even greatest manifestation of that sin.  In fact, it is part of a coherent pattern, that makes the full extent of the crime even clearer. 

I propose that three crimes against the next generation are complementary manifestations of selfishness and oppression:

(1) The abortion of unborn children. 

Let us admit that modern Americans have become tone-deaf to the cries even of full-term babies allowed to die after they have been unsuccessfully aborted, as Barack Obama voted to allow in the Illinois legislature.  We do not hear them, anymore.  We think those who call out for them are affecting concern, maybe out of a desire to oppress poor women. 

In ancient Rome, Christians stood against abortion and infanticide. One has to assume the Gospel is still doing some good, because at least for now, society generally frowns on the latter. 

(2) The national debt.  If a child survives the abortion mills, we present her on birth with a present: a bill for all the spending we're doing on ourselves before she was born, that she will carry like a millstone around her neck for the rest of her life: $100,000, perhaps, or $500,000 for a family of four, some even say $1,000,000.  It is like  

Massive deficit spending is like selling our children into slavery to satisfy our own "needs."  What moral right do we have to spend so much, and ask our descendents to foot the bill?  The will also, of course, undermine the nation, along with the demographic implosion.  But we must face this, and recognize it as not merely bad policy, but morally wrong.  John McCain called it "generational theft," but I think the long, strange adjective diluted the heinous character of the crime.  We have become a nation of thieves.  Our victims are our own children. 

(3) Single parenthood.  Not only do we present surviving newborns with a bill they may never be able to pay, we also ensure that fewer and fewer will know what the word "Daddy," "Mommy," or in some cases either, means.  This ensures that lacking one or more parents, many grow up without the blend of love, structure, imagination, and discipline children need to thrive in our increasingly challenging world.  Thus, we create a disfunctional, often addicted underworld that loses the dignity of self-support. 

But the bigger crime, in my view, is to steal parents from our children.

I've sometimes felt nonplussed, substitute teaching in schools, at the difference between how Established (liberal) ideology seeks to protect children from some obvious, and some fanciful, dangers, while doing little to warn them of even graver dangers.  I'm glad Health teachers warn children against the dangers of smoking and drug use, and that this message is seconded in assemblies and by means of public notices.  What about sex, though?  Don't STDs also maim and kill?  Don't girls with babies wind up poor and dependent?  Don't children without Dads go into life with a distinct disadvantage?  Aren't they being ripped off in the most fundamental way?  Yet far too little is said to students about the dangers of careless sex lives, which one can observe already in high schools, even middle schools, to some extent.  ("This is not a movie theatre," I've been constrained to tell some students in class -- I would gladly say more, if I could.) 

Even Barack Obama can be understood as a lonely man, his faults perhaps traceable to "dreams of a father" who was absent in real life.  One can admire him for overcoming that dissability and for being faithful to his own children, even while abhoring many of his policies, as I do, which I believe undermine families.  But it was a crime for his father to walk out on his kids, a dastardly crime -- worse, maybe, than having your slave master sell you down the river to Louissiana, because he was his own master, and betrayed his own children.  And it is a sin more and more common in America today. 

We may be too close to these sins to recognize their full evil, the full toll in broken lives, spiritual wreckage, and ended dreams.  But is it likely that even chattle slavery, or the Indian Wars, damaged as many lives, as the toll of our present "War on Children?"

We have all met some of the victims of that warfare.  We are, indeed, all being victimized by the National Debt, and will probably soon see the whole world impacted, as select parts of it have already been impacted -- here a Greece in flames, there a Spain or Ireland in despair.  Yet the debt continues to grow, and no one now in power seems inclined to try seriously to reverse course. 

So if you have ever daydreamed about living in some heroic era, when you could stand and fight against some great evil -- the Titans, the Nazis, chattel slavery, the Inquisition, Attila the Hun, or Roman legions -- take heart!  Your hour of heroism may be at hand. 

This is part of the calling of the Christian church in our age: to stand up for our children. 

We will be despised and hated for doing so, as Christians who followed their Lord have often been hated. 

We must show that we stand for love, not because we hate those we stand against, or think ourselves better than them.  We must remind our opponents that by the calling of God, Christians have thus stood for two thousand years, from the time Jesus told the lynch mob, "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone," liberating a girl condemned to death, to the rescue by Christians of North Koreans who escape that evil regime into China at this very moment.  (About which I plan to write soon.) 

Despise Christians who stand up for the little ones, Western World, and you despise the source of your moral life, and which remains (not America, though America has often been an instrument through which God has worked) the genuine hope of mankind. 

More about that, here

Postscript: Several websites have linked to this post, and some interesting comments have appeared, below.  Here's a bit of backdraft from one of the comments. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Perspectives: Makah salmon


Here's how the Makah Indians cook salmon -- fourteen fish around a fire, the juice dripping down the cedar stakes.  Yes, they tasted delicious. 

The venue is a fire on the beach side of the old Airforce Base in Neah Bay, Washington, where I lived for several months more than twenty years ago, now.  Wow!  I ran the basketball program -- those young Makah toughs would be 40 years old, now! 

Ham Green, Makah story-teller, logger, truck driver,
preacher, you name it. 
The Makah were one of the only tribes to hunt the big whales.  A few years after we left, they carved a cedar tree and went out and killed a gray whale, again. This episode prompted much anger from the liberal suburbs of Seattle, which decided it preferred whales to Native Americans, if push came to shove.  I would often stroll down to Cape Flattery and sit on the cliffs, watching the surf run through sea caves, and keep an eye out for seals, otter, and whales as they came near the shore to scrape themselves.  Cape Flattery is the Northwest corner of the continental United States, and appropriately grand, in a fog-through-gnarled-cedars kind of way. 

Postscript

Postscript: Well, Barack Obama has again shown himself the better politician. Trillions added to the National Debt. No plan to reform Entitlements, even though they are rapidly going broke. High unemployment. The Middle East coming to another unchecked, violent boil, the man's policies (in as much as anyone can figure out what they are) in shreds. No plan for his second term, but to protect policies that he does not dare mention on the campaign trail -- an unpopular, expensive, bureaucratic, and ineffective health care program, and vast "stimulus" spending that disappeared like water into the sand. Partial-birth abortion as a Constitutional Right.

So how did he win? As I said, he proved himself the better politician. Not the wiser, kindlier, more honest, or more responsible person.  For the second time, Obama has demonstrated how irrelevant those qualities can be to winning higher office, if not positive impediments. Obama beat honorable, decent, and capable opponents by scaring old people into thinking they would lose their Social Security, women into thinking they would be forced to be barefoot, silent, and pregnant, college students with fear of losing free government subsidies, and people in general, with hatred of the rich. (Waving around a plan to raise tax rates on the very wealthy, and pretending it was a serious policy proposal to solve the National Debt, when he knew full well that it was nothing of the sort, which is one reason he didn't push it when the Democrats owned the House. But as a political gimmick, it seems to have done its job, which was to focus attention on Mitt Romney's culpable wealth.)

Romney put people out of business.  He has off-shore bank accounts.  He outsourced to China.  He's a near-criminal, almost guilty of murder, and his running mate wants to push old ladies in wheelchairs off of cliffs. 

Lies and slander. Slander and lies.

A classical, and effective, formula in politics, since people settled down and formed the polis

Of course, Obama also had a few other factors in his favor, outside of his control. Americans like to give their presidents a full eight years, if at all possible. Growth in the Hispanic population gave Obama New Mexico, and probably helped in a few very close races. A nicely-timed storm proffered the opportunity for Barack to put on work clothes and "look busy," as the bumpersticker puts it, along with a bear-hug and silly flattery from the governor of New Jersey. (Who might just as well go over to the Democratic Party now, if he continues to maintain further political ambitions. Well, maybe best to wait a few months, for propriety.) An obsequious press, which refused to confront Obama with the scandals of Benghazi, Iran, National Debt, or anything else.

All hail Caesar Obama!

Sic gloria transit mundi.

This, too (and maybe America, as the great power and relatively benevolent it has been) will pass.

On the other hand, if Alexander Solzhenitsyn could stand with truth and nothing else, and face down the Soviet Union, maybe it's too early for us to give up, too. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

I predict: Romney 51, Obama 48

But Romney might lose even with a "winning" margin that large. 

How could that happen?

Romney's margin in the Republican states tomorrow will be overwhelming.  Obama's margin in the Democratic states will be solid but less overwhelming. (Here in Washington State, I guess 10%, a relative nail-biter. We might even wind up with a Republican governator.) 

If Obama can still pick off two of the three biggest states up for grabs tomorrow -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida -- he will probably win. 

He may win those two states by a very slim margin (read: jump off the sidewalk quick, or get trampled by the mobs of carpet-bagging lawyers).  If he pulls that off, by hook or by crook (as the Democratic party did here in Washington State, eight years ago, and as they did in Minnesota, four years later), we might have to put up with an angry lame-duck president who "lost" not by a few thousand votes, as George Bush did in 2000, yet pulled out an Electoral College victory, but who was repudiated by the American people (whom I don't think he likes very much, to begin with) in a pretty resounding manner. 

In which case, we can look forward I think to a lot more imperious sneering, long golf vacations, fewer hurricane photo ops, and policies unleashed from any pretence of either trying to solve our dire long-range problems, or bowing to the will of the people.  After 2010, when Obama lost big yet doubled down on his policies and refusal to work seriously with Republicans, I think we know our man.  This is a fellow, after all, who couldn't even work with Harry Reid.  (Romney shouldn't feel too bad about Reid's announcement that he won't work with a Republican president though -- Reid didn't pass Obama's budget, ignored the Houses' budgets, and hasn't even sponsored a budget of his own, either.  The Democratic Senate shut down three years before Hurricane Sandy arrived, that's how efficient they are.  Reid isn't singling Romney out.) 

So here's hoping Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania see their way clear to electing a new president tomorrow.  And maybe the rest of us can send a few new senators to Washington, as well. 

If my prediction is totally off, I promise I won't delete it.  I'll just check the fridge for any pain-numbing refreshments, then change the subject real quick. 

Postscript: Well, Barack Obama has again shown himself the better politician.  Trillions added to the National Debt.  No plan to reform the Entitlements, even though they are rapidly going broke.  High unemployment.  The Middle East coming to another unchecked, violent boil, the man's policies (in as much as anyone can figure out what they are) in shreds.  No plan for his second term, but to protect policies that he does not dare mention on the campaign trail -- an unpopular, expensive, bureaucratic, and ineffective health care program, and vast "stimulus" spending that disappeared like water into the sand. Partial-birth abortion as a Constitutional Right. 

So how did he win?  As I said, he proved himself the better politician.  Not the wiser, kindlier, more honest, or more responsible person, of course -- for the second time, Mr. Obama has demonstrated how irrelevant those qualities are to winning higher office, if not positive impediments.  Obama won by scaring old people into thinking they would lose their Social Security if Romney was elected, women into thinking they would be forced to be barefoot, silent, and pregnant, college students with fear of losing free government subsidies, and people in general, with hatred of the rich.  (Waving around a plan to raise tax rates on the very wealthy, and pretending it was a serious policy proposal to solve the National Debt, when he knew full well that it was nothing of the sort, which is one reason he didn't push it when the Democrats owned the House.  But as a political gimmick, it seems to have done its job, which was to focus attention on Mitt Romney's culpable wealth.) 

Lies and slander.  Slander and lies. 

Of course, Obama also had a few other factors in his favor, outside of his control.  Americans like to give their presidents a full eight years, if at all possible.  Growth in the Hispanic population gave Obama New Mexico, and probably helped in a few very close races.  A nicely-timed storm proffered the opportunity for Barack to put on work clothes and "look busy," as the bumpersticker puts it, along with a bear-hug and silly flattery from the governor of New Jersey.  (Who might just as well go over to the Democratic Party now, if he continues to maintain further political ambitions.  Well, maybe best to wait a few months, for propriety.)  An obsequious press, which refused to confront Obama with the scandals of Benghazi, Iran, National Debt, or anything else. 

All hail Caesar Obama! 

Sic gloria transit mundi

This, too (and maybe America, as the great power and relatively benevolent it has been) will pass. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Republicans hate science? How Shawn Otto jeopardizes good sense.

A couple days ago, Hiawatha, atheist, anarchist, and political-fringe polymath from Oregon, who sometimes visits us, sent me a link to an article in Scientific American about "How anti-science beliefs jeopardize US democracy."  While the author, Shawn Lawrence Otto, admitted he found a few dingy ideas on the Left (must have looked really hard!), he argued that the real threat -- a tidal wave of inanity greater than any foreign tyranny -- came from the alleged "antiscience" views of the present crop of Republicans.  (Which he tried to tie to both "fundamentalism" and "post-modernism," at one and the same time.) 

My first guess is that some in the Nerdocricy aer taking their lead from the fear-mongering of our present Narcissist-in-Chief  (motto: "no paranoia too petty to stoke for a vote.").  But Otto promises evidence to back up his claim.  Indeed, he begins by appealing to a troika of scientific methods, and the great thinkers who fostered (Otto says created) those methods: physics (Isaac Newton), inductive reasoning (Francis Bacon), and empiricism (John Locke).

This list reminds me of the following lines from Chicken Run:

Rocky: You see, flying takes three things: Hard work, perseverance and... hard work.
Fowler: You said "hard work" twice.
Rocky: That's because it takes twice as much work as perseverance.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

NT Wright: Jesus and the Victory of God

We now come to the twelfth among my "ten most popular book reviews" on Amazon.  I am not embarrassed by the surplus.  It is not due to poor mathematical skills or corporate greed, like overbooking an airliner, but is my way of affirming the truth of that great bumper-sticker, "So little time, so many books."  
 
Anyway, I promise we are not TOO far from the end, now.  That light at the end of the tunnel is not a train heading this way.  And these last . . . few . . . are books worth talking about. 

So, anyway, here's the one and one quartereth most popular review I've posted on Amazon.  

1.25th Most popular review: NT Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God 

****  (196 + / 29 -)

"Is there an Historian in the House? Right Here."

When I read A. N. Wilson on Jesus, I closed the book and thought, "That's a pretty good book, about Wilson." When I read Crossan, I thought, "Here is the man who should have written the Book of Mormon." Wright first suggested to me the hope (yes, I had some reading, and writing, to do) that historical criticism might actually have something of value to say about Jesus.