Blog Archives January-April 2006
April 28, 2006
Manifestations of the
Canada has a new, conservative, Prime Minister: Stephen Harper. At the end of his invocation speech, and at the conclusion of a speech to Canada’s troops in Afghanistan, the PM had the audacity to say, “God bless Canada.”
It wasn’t long before this “mixing of religion and politics” was designated as “crass” by a Vancouver Sun commentator. A columnist for the Montreal Gazette wrote: “This should be the first red flag to Canadians set to elect Harper as prime minister that we are in for the right wing ride of our lives.”
A Toronto Star writer said that Harper was “deliberately aping the most unsavoury president in U.S. history” by invoking the name of God.
That anyone should comment at all on a politician saying, “God bless Canada” is bizarre. Politicians of every imaginable stripe have been invoking God’s blessing since the dawn of politicians. But Canada is a maple leaf of a different color. Many in its chattering classes consider mention of God by politicians as a “dangerous” mixing of church and state. After all, only pea-brained, superstitious, primitive, right-wingers would even think to suggest that God is real, or that he might intervene on behalf of those nations whose leaders asked him to.
Why, in the West, do we see this incredible, seemingly ubiquitous, antipathy towards God? Could it be nothing more complex than Paul’s assertion that “…the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7 KJV).
In using the word “nomos” for “law” in Greek, Paul probably had in mind the broader concept of Torah, which does not mean law, but instruction or direction. He is saying that the natural human mind, uninfluenced by the Holy Spirit, is not inclined to appreciate God’s instruction on anything. To post-modern man, the whole idea of divine revelation is ludicrous. For example, Sam Harris writes: “The point is that most of what we currently hold sacred is not sacred for any reason other than that it was thought sacred yesterday. Surely, if we could create the world anew, the practice of organizing our lives around untestable propositions found in ancient literature – to say nothing of killing and dying for them – would be impossible to justify. What stops us from finding it impossible now?” (Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 24, emphasis his).
This is the mindset of many of today’s intellectuals. They see the propositions of all holy books as essentially untestable. Is it correct to say that prayer is untestable? Are the moral teachings of Jesus and Paul untestable? I think not. Would the world be better or worse off if everyone kept the Ten Commandments? How about the golden rule – is the efficacy of that testable?
The very first time God gave man a commandment – in the Garden of Eden – man refused to obey it. Of course I realize that the skeptic is going to respond, “Yeah but, that whole story about the garden of Eden is a myth. No way to prove that any of it actually happened.” Yet it is clear that Adam’s nature is manifested in all of us. Paul said, “As in Adam, all die” (I Corinthians 15:22). Put another way, we all act like the Adam of the Garden of Eden story. We resist the whole idea that God should be a moral authority in anyone’s life. We further resist the notion our national or individual prosperity in any way depends upon God. There is a movement afoot to get rid of the inscription “In God We Trust” from U.S. coinage.
For decades, we’ve been trying to “kill” God. Years ago, Time magazine announced on its cover that “God is Dead.” For many in the modern, relativistic world, God is dead. He has no influence in their lives, and they resent anyone implying that he should have influence. When columnists, pundits and critics blast politicians who invoke the name of God, they are resisting more than the idea of politics and religion mixing, they are fighting against the whole idea of God in the modern world.
Our world, sadly, is torn between primitive religious fanatics who seek to pull the world back to the darkness of the 7th century, and godless humanists who believe that scientists and ideological elites can do more for human morality and ethics than religion can.
While it can be readily admitted that religion has been the well-spring of a sea of human suffering and bloodshed down through the centuries, there is no good reason to believe that the teachings of Jesus and his apostles have contributed to this carnage. Quite the contrary, where they have been authentically applied, they have provided an antidote for the toxins of fanaticism and cold science.
Canadian critics’ excoriations of their Prime Minister for invoking the name of God at the end of a speech shows just how offensive the idea of God is to some people. Wrote Sue Montgomery in the Montreal Gazette: “This brings to mind [Harper’s] buddy south of the border, George W. Bush, who sees the Lord, not the constitution, as his guide.”
The Founders of this country had no difficulty viewing God as trumping the founding documents. They saw him as the Source of them. In the Declaration of Independence we read: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect of the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”
The Founders of this country were God-conscious. If the Constitution was anti-God, or anti-Biblical morality, then it would be appropriate for Christians to obey God and ignore the Constitution – and take the consequences. This principle is articulated in Acts 5:29, when two of the apostles of Jesus were forced into such a choice. As it is, the Constitution of the United States is not contrary to Scripture. Both it and the Declaration of Independence are in fact founded upon the principles of Scripture, even when unmentioned.
It is important, when thinking about the role of religion in society, to distinguish between categories. The outworking of organized religion on planet Earth has not often been an authentic reflection of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. All too often, religions have become political entities, bent on wealth and power, and willing to do anything to acquire and maintain it. The simple teachings of Jesus have been lost in the shuffle.
In any nation that holds dear religious and political freedom, the invoking of the name of the God of the Bible ought to be a comforting, not odious, event. --Brian Knowles
March 27, 2006
"Reader's Digest Religion"
Mainstream religion has largely lost the Old Testament and it shows in its confused theology. The "church fathers" of the fourth and fifth centuries rejected the "Jewish" practices of the Early Church, marginalized the Old Testament, and developed a Christian theology more influenced by the pagan Greek religious philosophy of Plato than Moses. The OT provides the unique understanding of God and man which is absolutely essential to Biblical faith and doctrine. When the New Testament is divorced from the OT even the Gospel is misunderstood. Elizabeth Achtemeier, a biblical scholar and author of the book, The Old Testament and The Proclamation of the Gospel, writes:
The present dilemma of the church is not that it has merely abandoned the Old Testament and is living and acting solely on the basis of the New. The present dilemma of the church is that it is attempting to carry on its life apart from the totality of its Scripture. As a result there has arisen, in the place of biblical faith, a popular American "Reader's Digest religion," which is characterized by naturalism, ethical humanism, and mythological understanding of the nature of man, as well as by popular mysticism and individualism.
Sure, Christian pastors and priests may nod to the OT for interesting stories (and tithing authority!), but have largely rejected its basis for Christian faith, doctrine and practice. Whereas the NT writers leaned heavily upon the OT Scriptures in all matters of faith, those who came later had a falling out (falling away/apostasy) with that OT foundation. We know of God by his historical actions and revelation--most of which are found in the OT. Jesus didn't come to start a new religion, but came as Yahweh's Messiah, the Son of the Creator God, to turn hearts to his Father, the God of Israel. Jesus was a unique prophet of God and came in the tradition of the prophets of Israel to turn people to obedience of God. It could also be said that Jesus was not a "Christian," that is, he was not a follow of himself. He was a follower of God and taught men to love God with all one's heart, mind, soul, and strength. Since Christ was the perfect human image of the heavenly Father we are called to follow Christ as he followed God. In that sense we can rightly be called Christians because we follow him into the Kingdom of God.
It is impossible to fully understand the NT without an understanding of the OT. Lacking that understanding produces an unanchored faith often compromised with non-biblical doctrines and practices. Some of mainstream Christianity's premier doctrines could never have been conceived using the same Scriptures Christ and the Apostles used (can a three-person Godhead be found in the OT? an immortal soul? an ever-burning hell? a reward of going to heaven?). One can't ignore two-thirds of the Bible and get a complete picture of God or his plan for mankind. If you do, you get "Religion Lite," or as Achtemeier put it, "Reader's Digest Religion." A God abridged is a God made in man's image. --Ken Westby
March 17, 2006
Saint Patrick Celebrated the Seventh-Day Sabbath and Wasn't a Catholic!
Yes, Ireland is green and St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland and is considered its patron saint. Beyond that, most people know little about the brave man we honor on this day and know less about what he believed and practiced. Patrick was actually born in Scotland sometime between 360 and 389 A.D. He was reared in a Christian family and was carried to Ireland by pirates who had raided his village. He escaped servitude and returned to his homeland only to later return to Ireland as an evangelist for Christ. Patrick was not a Catholic and did not pay allegiance to Rome. In fact, Rome made no mention or claim to him until 200 years after his death.
Primitive Christianity (i.e. the faith and practices of the first century church) had reached the British Isles late in the first century and by the time of Patrick had made strong inroads. Patrick's work among the Irish in the fifth century and preceded the influence of Rome and it bishops. Tertullian (c. 200 A.D.) notes that Britons believed in Christ, but had no connection with Roman bishops. Patrick never mentions either Rome or the pope in any of his writing that have come down to us. The ancient (Catholic) church historian Bede makes no mention of Patrick in his famous Ecclesiastical History which chronicles the Catholic conversion of the British Isles.
Several years ago I read the book, The Celtic Church in Britain by Leslie Hardinge which describes pre-Catholic Christianity in Britain. This earlier Christianity, of which Patrick was a part, strongly resisted the authority and practices of Rome but was ultimately swallowed up by it. Pope Gregory sent monks to the Christian Celts (596 A.D.) to persuade them to acknowledge the authority of the Bishop of Rome. They held several conferences to effect submission to Roman authority. A major difficulty besides the matter of Roman authority was the matter of different doctrines and practices. The Christian Celts permitted their priests to marry, practiced baptism by immersion, kept Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, as a day of rest, observed the Passover on the 14th of Nisan (Jewish calendar) instead of Easter, believed in the resurrection of the dead and not the immortality of the soul destined for heaven, hell or purgatory, to name only a few. It should be noted that the doctrine Patrick brought was more true to the doctrine of the Apostles of Christ than that which came via the tonsured emissaries from Rome.
I am happy that Roman Catholics proudly claim Patrick as their own, though if they would embrace Patrick's doctrine as their own I would even be more pleased. Wear the green of St. Patrick's Ireland, but more importantly, honor the truth he believed and taught. (References: Patrick and the Early Celtic Church by Brian Hoeck; General History of the Christian Religion and Church, by August Neander; The Ancient British and Irish Churches by William Cathcart; Ecclesiastical History of Ireland by Killen; The Rise of the Medieval Church by A.C. Flick; The Church in Scotland by James C. Moffatt; The Sources for the Early History of Ireland by James F. Kenney.) --Ken Westby
March 13, 2006
March 10, 2006
If I Were God There Would Be No Evil
The above is a counterfactual statement. Counterfactuals are conditional statements in the subjunctive mood: for example, "If I were rich, I would buy a Mercedes." The antecedent or consequent clauses ("There would be no evil"; or "I would buy a Mercedes") are typically contrary to fact: I am not God; I am not rich. Sometimes counterfactual statements are true: "If I jump off that bridge I will die." It is not a fact that I have jumped off the bridge, but if I would, I would surely die.
Counterfactual statements comprise an enormous and important amount of our ordinary conversation. We tell our children, "If you do drugs you will bring misery upon yourselves and others." We think to ourselves, "If I pull out into traffic now, I'll be hit." Leaders judge that, "If we go to war now, we will lose." Life and death decisions are made daily on the basis of counterfactual information.
In many areas our ability to make reliable counterfactual statements is weak. This is especially true in the spiritual realm. God does possess counterfactual knowledge in that he does know what will happen when certain things are done. Hence, he could say to Israel, If you obey, you will be blessed and if you disobey, you will be cursed. He could even provide specific examples of blessings and curses. God knows what causes bring what effects. We are frequently ignorant of this knowledge or willingly reject it to our hurt.
But what could be need not be what will be. Notice the example David (1Sam 23:6-10) where he asked several questions about his future and received from God counterfactual statements that would have proved true if the circumstances prevailed. If David remained where he was, Saul would indeed attack and the local tribe would give David up for capture. But David used the counterfactual knowledge God revealed to leave the area thus causing God's statement to become void. Many of God's prophecies have this conditional element which leaves its fulfillment in the hands of man--his response to God's counterfactual statements. Take God's counterfactuals seriously, take all others with salt and wisdom.
My opening statement--If I were God--is an extreme example of a counterfactual statement. It is possible that I could become rich, but I am not nor could I ever become God. At best I can learn what God is like from his interactions with mankind and the creation and from his self-revelation. The body of that knowledge is quite rich ,but it's neglected by most great minds. One could learn, for instance, that God did not create evil nor is he responsible for it. One could also learn of God's Grand Design to eventually rid all creation of evil's ugly presence. But that is a topic for another time. --Ken Westby
March 4, 2006
The Left: Whose Side are
The United States government, which at this writing is run by a Republican Administration, is engaged in a life-or-death struggle with a deadly enemy: Islamo-Facist terrorism. Its goal is Islamic shariah (religious) law for all mankind.
Our side didn’t start the war, theirs did. So far, at least half of this country seems committed to defeating those who have come to kill us. The other half of the nation seems either ambivalent – or dedicated to giving the enemy aid and comfort and thereby ensuring their victory. It makes excuses for terrorism, and accuses the West of creating the problem. What’s wrong with this picture?
Those on the Left side of the political spectrum seem not to understand that they, as much as those on the Right, are targets of the same enemy. Do they think that the average suicide bomber attempts to analyze the political and ideological makeup of his victims before he blows them, and himself, up? Does he or she screen out leftists and kill only conservatives, Christians and Jews? Not at all. Terrorists are equal opportunity murderers. They even kill their own if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are the spawn of a culture of death.
Terrorists cannot be reasoned with, appealed to on moral grounds, appeased, bargained or negotiated with. When confronted with terrorism, the West has only two choices: capitulate or fight to win. The Left often seems to be on the side of capitulation.
Does the Left have a death wish? Does it believe that if it makes it harder for the Right to fight terrorism that it will in some way benefit?
If it is to survive to compete with the Right over ideological issues, it must now learn to fight with the Right against the common enemy of terrorism. If those who send women and children out to die in order to kill “infidels” are allowed to win, the world will be plunged into a seventh century Dark Age the like of which it has never seen. There will be no liberals and conservatives to argue with each other about ideological issues and agendas – there will be only Islamic shariah law. Millions upon millions will be imprisoned, enslaved, tortured and executed. It will be like Taliban-dominated Afghanistan on a global scale. There will be genocides. There will be no Christianity, no Judaism, no democracy, no political or religious freedom, no communism – only compliance or death. The Left’s vision of a secular, socialist utopia will be no more. The Right’s vision of a Republic founded upon the strict constructionist view of the Constitution will become a forgotten artifact of history. For those unfortunate enough to survive, there will be only suffering, humiliation and eventual death. For anyone other than those in power, it will be a dark, miserable world. Is that what the Left wants?
Wasn’t it Patrick Henry who said, “Give me liberty or give me death”? Seems like a slogan for our time. --Brian Knowles
February 26, 2006
The World's Supply of Oil is Virtually Unlimited
Understandably, the above statement would strike most people as absurd--environmental heresy. Doesn't everybody know that oil is a fossil fuel of limited supply and that we are on a path of running out; that we desperately need to discover alternative fuels and cut back on use of petroleum products before it is too late? Well, not every scientist agrees with that conventional wisdom.
Two recent books document the case that oil/coal/natural gas are not fossil fuels and are in fact the product of natural processes deep within the earth. The Deep Hot Biosphere by Thomas Gold (Copernicus Books, NY, 1999) makes the scientific case for this theory and the author has been promoting it for over 20 years. People are starting to listen. Thomas Gold is no crackpot scientist on the margins of academia. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an Emeritus Professor of Physics at Cornell University. He is regarded as one of the most creative and wide-ranging scientists of his generation and has taught at Cambridge University and Harvard, and for 20 years was the Director of the Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research. Nobel Laureate Hans Bethe said of Gold's book, "You have given many very good arguments, and I am convinced." I too am convinced.
For years I've had difficulty understanding how buried animal life from ages past could have become and been of sufficient volume to produce billions upon billions of barrels of oil for over a century. And yet the known reserves of oil today are greater than at any previous time. Were there that many animals so quickly covered by strata? How did huge amounts of them get buried many miles below the surface of the earth and below deep ocean beds and up near the North Pole? The only explanation that could possibly account for such massive burials was the Flood of Noah, which most evolutionary scientists don't believe in, yet they believe that oil is the end result of dead dinosaurs. But I doubt that even buried animals and vegetation during the flood of Noah could account for the sheer mass of buried oil, coal and gas. The amount of oil already pumped out is staggering and with even greater amounts still waiting within the earth. Known coal and gas reserves will last for centuries. Where is the geological evidence of such dense animal aggregations being buried together? It just doesn't explain well. Are there other possibilities for oil's origins?
Another book, Black Gold, Stranglehold by Jerome R. Corsi, PhD and Craig R. Smith (WND Books, 2005) presents the renewable resource argument in great detail. It too offers a more scientific and common sense theory for how oil, coal, and gas can be produced by natural chemical and heat forces within the earth. Both books deserve to be read.
The environmental, anti-capitalist lobby, the popular media, and much of the scientific world is proceeding on the non-renewable, shortage theory of fossil fuels. It has become a political sword to hold hostage growth and progress. It is also destabilizing the world both politically and economically. Islamic nations are using this unproven theory of energy shortage to threaten the West.
It has been my observation that God "over-built" the earth he created--and the universe, for that matter. By "over-built" I mean that he made it over-abundant in its provision to sustain life. He planned the planet for man's habitation and put within it all that would possibly be needed to sustain and bless man's use of it. As the earth brings forth food for life it also brings forth all else needed for life to prosper--including sources for energy required by increased population. The earth as God made it is most good, abundantly rich, and dynamic in ways we are only beginning to appreciate. To me, the scientific theory of renewable energy being continually produced within the earth itself has a ring of logic and truth that seems to fit with how God created his beautiful planet. Give the matter some thought and pick up one of the books I reference and tell me what you think.
If we are looking for big problems with our planet, we should look first to the evil inclinations in man's character. The real shortage that threatens mankind's future is is not energy, but the shortage of righteous, loving, Godly character. That is a shortage God can alleviate, if his help is sought. --Ken Westby
February 14, 2006
Democracy is Not the Answer
Maybe we can say it is part of the answer, but to think war will be eliminated if every nation became a democracy is to be ignorant of the human condition. Is the Palestinian State a democracy? They just had democratic elections and elected a terrorist party to lead the nation. That party endorses war with its neighboring democracy, Israel. Of course, what are emerging in many places are pseudodemocracies, societies teetering on ungovernability which hold elections out of desperation rather than as the final step in a process of economic and political development.
Iraq has begun the road toward a democratic nation, but isn't very far along and one has good cause to question its survival, though we must hope it does. A solid democracy of the American sort is not easy to plant in rocky, barren soil. The American Republic grew in the nutrient rich soil of the Christian Religion with its Judeo-Christian worldview and ethic, with a culture conditioned by English/biblical law and morality, with capitalism as its economic reality, and accepting individual freedom as a God-given right. These and other nutrients allowed democracy to set down strong roots which have held through the storms of history longer than any other.
There was another important reason American democracy survived and thrived: Great founders and leaders. Can a successful nation be launched without them? At the time of the American Revolution the shape and character of the political institutions were determined by a relatively small number of leaders who knew each other, who collaborated and collided with one another. Most were religious men of the Christian faith, men of character and commitment, willing to pay with their lives to build a nation founded upon noble principles. If our founders had been born in England that might have languished in obscurity, but with liberty and a new national experiment in sight they rose to greatness. They were America's first and only natural aristocracy.
Joseph J. Ellis, in his book Founding Brothers, writes of the likes of Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, the indispensable Washington, and others: "They comprised, by any informed and fair-minded standard, the greatest generation of political talent in American history. They created the American republic, then held it together throughout the volatile and vulnerable early years by sustaining their presence until national habits and customs took root."
Perhaps America was specially blessed by God, as I believe it was, but the nation building was done by people--extraordinary people. Other nations have great people and leaders and most great and long-lasting nations came together because of them. One must ask why some nations survive and thrive while others languish in poverty and oppression. What is the peculiar alchemy required for a thriving, strong, free democracy? The list will be long, but at the top must be quality leaders committed to noble principles. If Iraq has such leaders (and I don't know that it does), is given the opportunity (and I don't know if events will allow), is provided help and protection, and is blessed by God's will, it might make it. Let's hope it does.
However, if world peace must wait for all nations to become democratic it will be a long, long wait. The Bible suggests it will never happen and that world peace will be brought by Christ and the Kingdom of God. God's plan isn't to temper the evil inclinations of man by cultural and governmental structure and coercion, but to lead men to a change of heart through sincere repentance. God's government will allow the greatest liberty mankind has ever experienced. When a man's character is kind, just, and peaceful very little government is needed. The soil of the Kingdom of God will produce a world of individual nations content to peacefully prosper and realize their full God-given potential. The coming Kingdom of God is also the world's only hope for lasting peace. --Ken Westby
February 1, 2006
Bush Doesn't Follow Advice
Prior to his State of the Union speech, President Bush was warned by spokesman from several prominent Muslim organizations to not mention words such as "militant Islam," or "radical Islam," because it just serves to insult Muslims all over the world and make them hate America all the more. These were joined by other liberals echoing the same sage advice. Well, Bush didn't take his cue from that crowd and in the opening page of his speech said, "No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam...."
Naming those responsible for today's worldwide terrorist threat cannot be glossed over for fear of offending the guilty--and those who support them. The truth must be spoken and acknowledged. Running scared before Islam is a mistake. We are told how many Muslims there are in America and how Islam is the fasting growing religion in the world which stands poised to swallow up its competitor religions. All this is nonsense. The facts don't support it. Muslims in the U.S. number somewhere between 1.5 million (with half of those being American-born blacks) and 4 million. Muslim organizations choose the higher figure and even inflate that but provide no creditable data in support. The fasted growing sector of American religion is Roman Catholicism followed by Evangelicalism. Worldwide, there are two billion Christians (one billion of them Roman Catholics), and somewhat under a billion Muslims.
True, Islam is hostile to Christianity but poses no threat of conversion. The increase of Muslims populations in European nations is the result of Muslims fleeing their oppressive homelands, settling in the free and prosperous West, and maintaining a birth rate two or three times that of native Europeans. Since Islam made its last major assault on Christendom in 1699, crawling away from Vienna in defeat and disarray, it has been irrelevant. For the past three centuries Islam has been watching from behind their sand dunes as history moved forward without them. Richard John Neuhaus observed: "Islam, especially militant Islam, suffers from a profound inferiority complex that is not unrelated to its being inferior in the intellectual, cultural, scientific, and technological achievements that now, and will likely continue to, shape the future."
Leaders in Iran speak of the U.S. as the "Great Satan," not solely in reference to our military or economic power, but to the Quran's description of Satan as "the insidious whisperer who whispers in the hearts of men." The U.S. is Satan's tool and is the reason for all the backwardness, corruption, and impotence common to Islamic ruled nations. This makes as much sense as the prophet Mohammed's teaching that Satan sleeps in people's noses, that Allah won't hear your prayers if you have bad breath, and that his followers need to occasionally drink camel urine.
Bush did well to ignore his Muslim advisors and expose the evil doers. --Ken Westby
January 29, 2006
January 27, 2006
Notes on the News
Checking on the day’s news can sometimes make one feel that he or she has accidentally landed in the midst of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. For example, HAMAS, a malignant terrorist organization, has won power in Palestinian elections. It captured 76 seats in the non-nation’s 132-member parliament. To make matters worse, 14 of the people elected to office are currently prisoners in Israeli jails. Conclusion: The Palestinian rank & file do not just want nationhood; they want to see Israel driven into the sea.
Second conclusion: the always bogus “peace process” is also dead in its tracks.
With the rise to power of Hamas, alarm bells are going off all over the world, especially in Europe, the UK and the United States.
Until now, donor nations have been shoveling money to the Palestinian Authority at an alarming rate. Between 1994 & 2004, some $6 billion (US) wound up in Palestinian hands. Much of this goes to pay salaries -- $56 million per month. Of course at least 37,000 of the “jobs” are fictitious; wives, sons and daughters often come in for paychecks they haven’t earned. Conclusion: Financial assistance to the Palestinians is money down a rat hole.
Meanwhile, back in Iraq, the man who served as Saddam Hussein’s No. 2 air force official, Georges Sada, has stated in a new book (Saddam’s Secrets) that he knows that Saddam sent his WMD’s to Syria once he realized the Americans were coming. He says yellow chemical barrels with skulls and cross bones painted on them were shipped in civilian aircraft, with their seats removed, to Syria. It took 56 flights on two Iraqi Airlines Boeing jets to get the job done, said Sada. In charge of the operation was Saddam’s cousin, Ali Hussein al-Majid, a.k.a. “Chemical Ali.”
Sada also wrote that Saddam was planning a chemical attack on Israel on the eve of the first Gulf War.
In 2002, to a chorus of cat calls, Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said that “Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria.” According to Sada, he was right.
Incidentally, Mr. Sada is a Christian and is currently in charge of relief operations in Iraq conducted by World Compassion. By going public with what he knows, this courageous man is jeopardizing the safety of his family and himself.
On the home front, former losing Presidential candidate, Al Gore, is in full alpha cry over the return to power of the Conservative Party in Canada. According to Gore, a self-appointed environmentalist wacko, it was all about oil. Prime Minister elect, Stephen Harper, will pull out of the Kyoto Accord and support the oil industry’s lucrative stake in Alberta’s oil sands. Gore hung the label “ultra-conservative” on Harper, even before he has taken office.
Under the Clinton Administration, the United States signed the Kyoto accord – a program for manipulating the earth’s climate by controlling greenhouse gas emissions – but the Bush Administration has refused to ratify it on grounds it would wreck the economy. I believe there was also some concern about the use of “junk science.”
All this was in this morning’s news. But news isn’t what it used to be – at least not according to former CNN anchorman, Aaron Brown. Said Brown, who is ending a four-year stint as NewsNight’s anchor: “Truth no longer matters in the context of politics and, sadly, in the context of cable news.” It seems to me that many of us have known that all along. What passes for news is often propaganda meant to serve the ideological ends of those who run the media. But don’t get me started on that or this blog item will become encyclopedic. --Brian Knowles Sources: Palm Beach Daily, January 26, 2006; The Calgary Herald, January 27, 2006; John Leicester, writing for Associated Press, January 26, 2006; World Net Daily, Jerusalem Bureau, January 26, 2006; The New York Sun, January 26, 2006; Bridges for Peace, Jerusalem, January 27, 2006.
January 25, 2006
The culture of self absorption is our popular American culture. The greatest good our pop culture offers is "happiness"--understood as pleasurable satisfaction, good feelings, having fun. These good feelings are attained through a variety of pleasures provided by entertainments, consumerism, sex, personal appearance, food, vacations, and exciting self-centered experiences. Television ads, which treat everyone as a teenager and symbolize pop culture, appeal to an infantile craving for instant gratification, comfort, and soothing.
"Happiness," as understood by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence (a right to the "pursuit of happiness"), is not how we moderns understand it. Happiness, as understood by Moses, Christ, and the ancient wise, was a life well lived, a life of virtue and character, a life that manifests wisdom, kindness, and goodness. Not a life of acute individualism, narcissism, self-infatuation, self-interest and personal fulfillment; such a life produces an empty self.
True happiness is a pleasurable by-product of a life of virtue and character lived in pursuit of purposes and values bigger than self. When personal happiness becomes the goal of life the result is the empty self, meaninglessness, depression, an dissipation. Our self-absorbed culture is like a greenhouse growing good-looking, but tasteless and nutrition-less tomatoes and carrots--empty selves.
Jesus said that to get the "happiness" by-product we must put first things first. "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, an all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). C. S. Lewis put it this way: "You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first."
While I can't agree with Socrates that "the unexamined life is not worth living"--this is unnecessarily harsh--he did have an important observation. A life fully lived is an examined life that is lived for noble purposes with character and virtue. It must be our own life we are living, not someone else's. Our pop culture encourages us to live vicarious lives following the trendsetters, the movers and shakers, the media idols. Such vicarious living produces empty selves through infantile identification with celebrities. People literally need to get a life. They need to find something bigger and more important to live for than adrenal highs, preening egos, and non-stop pleasures.
Jesus spoke of self-discipline and self-denial as the road to mortal and spiritual fulfillment. He didn't advocate self-hatred, but to hunger after the righteous, the perfect life God created us to live. He said, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24). Following Jesus means living as he lived in yielding himself to the higher calling of his heavenly Father. He gave his life to God who in turn gave Jesus the keys to a fulfilled life and the Kingdom of God--a life worthy of living for eternity. Jesus is now enjoying a purposed-filled life and will continue to do so, forever. This is what he offers us.
The self is a very poor site for finding meaning. Knowing God is where true meaning and lasting happiness is found.
(References: Lost Virtue of Happiness--Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life by Moreland and Issler; The Examined Life by Robert Nozick) --Ken Westby
January 7, 2006
Sharon Stroke Elicits
Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has suffered a severe stroke from which he may never recover. At this writing, he is still languishing in a medically induced coma while doctors monitor his condition. At some point the docs will bring him out of the coma and evaluate his condition. If it is determined that he is permanently incapacitated, a successor will be named. It is likely that Ehud Olmert, the VP, will fill in until the national elections in March.
Meanwhile, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, already notorious for recently saying that Israel should be “wiped off the map,” is licking his chops with glee at the possible demise of Mr. Sharon. The Iranian reportedly said, “Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chantilla has joined his ancestors is final.” Then he added, “Hopefully, others (criminals like him) will join him too.” In his references to Sabra and Chantilla, Ahmadinejad was speaking of a 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel. At the time, Sharon was defense minister. He was blamed for being indirectly responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps by Christian Phalangist soldiers.
In addition to calling for Israel’s demise, Sharon’s demise, and the demise of others “like him,” Ahmadinejad has, within the past two months, asserted that the Holocaust never occurred, but if Europeans are going to insist that it did, then they should give Israel some land in Europe so that the Jews can leave the Middle East.
Ahmadinejad’s comments are, of course, not only ill-informed and unfortunate; they are the rantings of a religious fanatic – a dangerous madman who has found his way into power. Perhaps all that he wishes for Israel and its leaders will come back upon his own head.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, televangelist Pat Robertson has suggested that the Israeli PM’s stroke was “punishment from God” for “dividing God’s land.” He cited the book of Joel as proof.
From the day of its rebirth in 1948, Israel has been fighting for its existence against a relentless Islamic enemy bent on eradicating every Jew from the Jewish homeland. Israel has not just been the target of terrorists, but of Arab nations that have participated in invasion after invasion. To date, Israel has won all of its wars. Israel still stands, bloody but unbowed and unyielding. This painful reality is a thorn in the side of every Arab, and now Persian, leader.
What many non-Israelis do not – apparently – understand is that Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state is tied up with its demographics. If Israel is to remain a democracy and a Jewish state, it cannot allow the indigenous Arab population to grow larger than its Jewish one. If more Arabs within Israel wind up voting than do Jews; Israel will become an Arab state and the Jews will lose their homeland. In addition, in territories like Gaza, where Arabs far outnumber Jews, annexing the region would place all Israelis there in jeopardy of their lives. The IDF could not possibly defend the relatively small Jewish population against millions of hostile Arabs. The same is true of the West Bank. Sharon’s policies have undoubtedly saved thousands of Jewish lives.
It is often said of Muslims, “They believe in democracy: one vote, one time.” Hitler believed that too. He was voted into office, and he never left it except by suicide.
Sometimes a strategic withdrawal can set the stage for future victories. It is inevitable that Israel will again be faced with an attack from its Arab, and probably Iranian, neighbors. If and when that happens, it will likely be a fight to the finish. If nuclear weapons are involved, radioactive drift could affect much of the world. Other nations could be dragged into the fray.
Sooner or later, Israel will emerge victorious. Its full boundaries will be restored and its enemies will be no more. Until that day, Israel, and the world, will have to put up with the kind of ill-advised, inflammatory rhetoric that daily ushers forth from Iranian and Arab leaders. It has ever been thus, but it won’t ever be thus. --Brian Knowles