Blog Archives for September-December 2005

December 27, 2005

Military Chaplain’s Prayers Censored
I have before me a copy of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The first Amendment reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, or to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

As far as I can tell, that means that the US Congress has no right to establish a State religion, as did King Henry VIII when he became head of the Church of England. It also says that Americans have the right to freely exercise whatever religion they choose to adopt. Furthermore, it says that we all have the right to unabridged speech, and the right to hold meetings of any kind so long as they are peaceful. So why is the US Military censoring the prayers of its chaplains?

In Newport, R.I., there is a Navy Chaplain’s School. According to Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Navy chaplain, evangelical Protestant prayers are censored at the school. Says Klingenschmitt, the instructors at the school “have clipboards and evaluators who evaluate your prayers, and they praise you if you just pray to God, but if you pray in Jesus’ name, they counsel you.” According to a report in The Washington Times, 12/26/05 – 1/1/06, “Muslim, Jewish and Roman Catholic chaplains are likewise told not to pray in the name of Allah, in Hebrew or in the name of the Trinity…”

According to Klingenschmitt, it is only Evangelical chaplains who have been singled out for censure. Says Rev. Billy Baugham, head of an organization that endorses Evangelical chaplains: “No Islamic chaplain has been refused to pray in the name of Allah, as far as we know. Neither has a rabbi been rebuked for making references to Hanukkah, and no Catholic priest has been rebuked for referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

A spokeswoman for the Army, Lt. Erin Bailey, denies that the Navy censors the prayers of its chaplains. She says, “Navy chaplains are encouraged to be sensitive to the needs of all those present.”

All this notwithstanding; “The lieutenant is not alone in fighting to pray to Jesus. The Navy is facing two lawsuits, filed in 1999 and 2000, by 50 Christian chaplains, saying the Navy discriminates against evangelical and Pentecostal clerics” (ibid.).

Meanwhile, the Air Force in August issued a new set of guidelines for chaplains that allow “a brief, nonsectarian prayer” during military ceremonies “to add a heightened sense of seriousness or solemnity, not to advance specific religious beliefs.”

A prayer that is prayed for no greater reason than to create a mood of solemnity is a crock. It is a meaningless piece of emotional manipulation at best. At worst it is simply empty. The Rev. Baugham says of the guidelines: “So, to what deity do you address your prayer to No one knows. And who gets to write the prayers? Once the government becomes the approving authority, the poor chaplain is forced to be an agent of the state.” Baugham is right in his assessment. The government, in the form of the military, is censoring and manipulating the prayers of military chaplains for politically correct reasons. This is clearly a curtailment of “the free exercise thereof” as guaranteed by the Constitution. It is also an abridgement of religious speech. It is also discriminatory against certain types of Christian faith.

Not everyone is taking this lying down. Lt. Klingenschmitt and others have been holding prayer vigils and hunger strikes in hopes of getting President Bush’s attention. They want him to issue an executive order allowing military chaplains to pray according to their individual faith traditions. In addition, The American for Law and Justice has garnered some 173,000 signatures on a petition seeking an executive order. Seventy-three members of the Gang of 535 (Congress) have sent a letter to the President stating that “In all branches of the military, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christian chaplains to use the name of Jesus when praying.”

Says Baugham, “I just got a call from an Army chaplain in Iraq who says he’d be hammered if he used Jesus’ name. Chaplains are scared to death. They must clear their prayers with their commanders, they can mention Jesus’ name at chapel services, but not outside that context.”

 It seems the PC Left has infiltrated the military and is carrying out the same kind of agenda there that we see manifested in the rest of the country. Somehow the words of Mark 8:38 seem appropriate: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” --Brian Knowles

December 20, 2005

Communism Is Not Dead! 
Every time I heard some politician or journalist talk about how “we defeated communism” I cringe. We didn’t defeat communism as a global political phenomenon. We defeated it in only one place – the U.S.S.R. We did it largely by outspending it on military hardware. We defeated it, but we didn’t kill it. The urge to communism is still alive and well in Russia. Incrementally, a tiny almost imperceptible step at a time, Vladimir Putin is restoring aspects of communism in the nation over which he presides. He is also cuddling up to one time rival, Red China.

The world’s most populous nation, China, is still run by a Communist Party that has no intention of relinquishing power, or of implementing a true democracy, any time soon. The Party retains an iron grip on the country, and it has hegemenous designs on Taiwan and other pieces of geography. According to widely published reports, the Chinese communists still resort to torture and murder to keep populaces under control. Those who rule China are anything but benign or well-intentioned to the West. They want only two things: our money and our technology.

China learned a lesson from the experience of the Soviet Communists. Unlike the USSR, which tried to make communism work as an economic system, and failed, China has allowed a limited free market economy to grow within its borders. That was a canny move on the part of the Party. China’s economy is now booming. It is supporting an ever-burgeoning, and increasingly sophisticated, military. It is only a matter of time before that military becomes a threat to the region, and to the rest of the free world. Unlike the U.S.S.R., we won’t be able to outspend it.

Meantime, China continues to siphon off U.S. military technology wherever it can. It continues to steal with impunity US intellectual property. It continues to collect all of the scrap metal and boxes it can get a hold of. Have you tried to get boxes at the supermarket lately? Not available; sold to China.

The metal ends up in military hardware.

Now communism is on the march in South America. A leftist president was recently elected in Brazil, and the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, one of our major oil suppliers, is an out-and-out communist who buddies up with Castro of Cuba.

Politically, much of the world is moving leftward. Today’s Wall Street Journal Opinion page carried disturbing article by Robert D. Kaplan entitled “Who Lost Nepal?” Nepal is a nation of close to 28 million people, more than 11,000 of which have been killed in a Communist insurgency that’s been going on since 1995. Nepal sits between China and India and its hinterlands are largely controlled by the Maoists. Its capital is the fabled Katmandu.

If the Maoists take over Nepal, it will be the first major triumph for communists since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The world is still well-seeded with communist dictatorships: China, Cuba, Viet Nam and North Korea for example. One of them is a growing nuclear power. A second has vowed to “go nuclear” at the earliest possible moment.

We don’t need one more communist nation in the world. Communism continues to grow in strength, while the West blithely mouths the mantra: “We defeated communism.” Nonsense!

But there’s good news: Globally, freedom is growing. Freedom House in New York released its annual report December 19. When it comes to freedom some 27 countries have shown gains, while only 9 have had setbacks. Russia is one nation that “seems to be relapsing into a repeat of the Soviet Union.” The “worst hellholes” of the world are: North Korea, Cuba, Burma, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. For more information on where freedom is gaining and where it is losing, consult www.freedomhouse.org. -- Brian Knowles        

December 8, 2005

The Immaculate Conception of Mary, Mother of Jesus
On this day in 1854 Pope Pius IX declared the immaculate conception of Mary to be church dogma. December 8th is now celebrated among Roman Catholics as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Previously, Catholics were free to believe or not to believe this doctrine which holds at its base that Mary was not subject to original sin. Over the centuries the veneration of Mary gradually grew and doctrines establishing her special place became fixed in Catholic dogma.

The logic in Catholic theology for maintaining Mary's immaculate conception derives from her being the bearer of the Son of God. In order to bear Jesus she had to be free from sin, not subject to original sin, hence, while conceived naturally she was uniquely unstained by sin and lived a pure life without sin. There are many assumptions in this logic, most of which have no basis in Scripture. Catholic theology teaches, as does Protestant theology, that Jesus is God, the second member of the Trinity, and to have God in the womb of a sinful woman doesn't seem seemly. Additionally, Mary is called the "Mother of God' which would logically require her to be untainted by sin. In other words, Mary was not like other humans.

The word "immaculate" (perfectly clean, without spot or stain) combined with "conception" suggests that a normal conception is stained and not clean. Nowhere does God suggest that normal sex in marriage has any taint of sin--in fact, the first command to the first couple was to have sex (Genesis 2:24). The doctrine of "original sin" holds that all humans are tainted from birth with Adam's (and Eve's) sin. It is passed on like DNA. Saint Augustine was largely responsible for formulating this doctrine. It states that from the time of conception all humans "inherit" Adam's sin.

The Bible is silent on the concept of "original sin" other than making plain that we are accountable for our own sins. We cannot repent to God for sins other than those we have chosen to commit ourselves. True, every human that reaches the age of 15 has already accumulated a history of sins. But that does not mean one was born with sin. To sin (i.e. break God's law which broadly defines right and wrong; to go against God's will). Sin is an act of the will and an act of disobedience against God and his will for mankind. One does not need to know the Creator God in order to sin since God's law of right and wrong actions is to some extent enshrined in every civilized culture in history--Christian and pagan. Does not every person from childhood on know it is wrong to steal, hurt another, kill, lie, dishonor parents, etc?

A baby is born neither righteous nor sinful, but neutral. A blank slate upon which will be written a life of deeds--good and evil. Sin is not possible until one has an understanding of right and wrong and can exercise the will to knowingly do evil. Humans are naturally selfish and made that way by God for our own self protection and survival. As we mature we learn to balance that selfishness with the needs of and respect for others--and the expectations of our Creator. Because our world/culture is saturated with sin and the temptation to sin is provoked by Satan, God's enemy, it is to be expected that all will sin. Born neutral, but exercising free moral agency to sin is the history from Adam to now.

Mary was not tainted with Adam's sin at her birth, and neither were you. But by the time she was a teenager it must be assumed that she was a sinner. Being a sinner does not mean that one cannot be a righteous person. Repentance before God will wash away all sin. A heart turned toward God is a righteous heart. Mary had such a heart. She was an exceptionally devout young girl--greatly favored by God (Luke 1:28). She was also a virgin. Mary said "I am the Lord's servant" (vs 38). God chose her to bear his son, Jesus. The genesis of Jesus was in the womb of Mary, but God's plan to have his unique son existed from before creation.

The reason church theologians felt required to make Mary not a normal human, "immaculately conceived," derives from their metaphysical concept of Jesus. From the fourth century forward Jesus was not portrayed according to the Gospel accounts as a baby boy born to a virgin--a normal human child, but one uniquely begotten by the heavenly Father. Instead, these theologians followed Greek philosophical and religious concepts to conceive of Jesus as a preexistent being, a God, a member of a metaphysical union of three distinct divine persons. For such a being to appear within a normal woman would not do. Hence, the exaltation of Mary as a sinless human and the natural veneration that follows. The Bible reveals Jesus as the only perfect, sinless human to have exisited.

Mary was one of the most virtuous women in history and deserves our deepest respect and admiration. But she was of the same flesh as the rest of us and she now waits in the grave for the resurrection of the dead. Jesus is the only human raised from death to eternal life. He has been raised, glorified, and exalted to the right hand of his Father in heaven. At his return to earth all those righteous in Christ will rise to rule with him in the Kingdom of God on earth. Mary will then be reunited with her son, Jesus, Savior, Son of Man and Son of God. Jesus will then lead all humanity to take on the image of his heavenly Father. --Ken Westby

November 28, 2005

Canadians seek relations with extra-terrestrials
There are times when I’m embarrassed to be a Canadian and this is one of them. A former Canadian Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister, Paul Hellyer, is seeking to establish relations with visiting extra-terrestrials. He has asked the Canadian Parliament to hold hearings on “Exopolitics” – relations with ET’s.

Hellyer was Defense Minister (1963 – 1967) under the government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the man who instigated Canada’s descent into Leftist ideology. Says Hellyer, “UFOs are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head.”

Hellyer is concerned that if the United States “weaponizes” space, it will instigate an “intergalactic war.” As evidence of the presence of UFOs, Hellyer cites the well-worn Roswell incident. “The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalleled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defense, were never in-the-loop.”

“Never in-the-loop” does not suggest inside information. What does Paul Hellyer know that the rest of us don’t know? For one thing, he claims to know that “The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning.” Furthermore, says Hellyer, “The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide.”

Has anyone ever offered the public and the scientific community concrete, physical, observable evidence that extra-terrestrial civilizations have visited the earth? Why is the discussion of this subject always couched in the language of conspiracy and cover-up? Does it rightfully belong with the stories about the Loch Ness monster, Sasquatch, the abominable snowman, and ancient visitors from space leaving behind a tomato from which all life evolved?

Is it a way of preparing the world to view the return of Christ as an alien invader to be repelled?

We reported, you decide.  (Source: Yahoo! News, November 24, 2005.) --Brian Knowles

November 9, 2005

Slavery, Civil Rights, Equality, and Christianity
The past several days witnessed lengthy tributes to Rosa Parks, the black lady who refused to move to the back of the bus. Her death brought public eulogies from America's most powerful and famous. News coverage was near non-stop, but little was said about the inner life of this brave woman. She was a devout Christian and it was her faith that motivated her to remain seated on that Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955. Her brave actions helped ignite the modern Civil Rights Movement. In all the public praise heaped upon her it is telling that her Christian faith is give little or no attention.

Her Christianity motivated her to action. She believed that the Holy Spirit would strengthen her to take a stand and would convict the conscience of America. She asked God that she would take the right stand at the right time. This faithful Sunday school teacher and Bible memorizer, was led to action by her Christian worldview of justice and its condemnation of injustice. Her Christian faith gave her the strength and courage to endure the taunts and threats that came as a flood following her stand--sometimes receiving dozens of death threats daily.

The Civil Rights movement, born of Christian men and women, has been by hijacked by a political party that deserves little or no credit for the long campaign against slavery, injustice, and discrimination. Christianity, especially of the evangelical sort, has always led the fight against discrimination and injustice and for freedom and justice. The Columbia University Encyclopedia notes that early in the 1800s the moving force behind the abolition of slavery "was the growing influence of evangelical religion, its moral urgency to end sinful practices." The encyclopedia continues, "The preaching of Lyman Beecher and Nathaniel Taylor in New England and the religious revivals that began in W New York state in 1824 under Charles G. Finney and swept much of the North, created a powerful impulse toward social reform—emancipation of the slaves as well as temperance, foreign missions, and women's rights."

The American abolistionist movement was inspired by powerful English churchmen who had incorporated the abolition of slavery into their conception of Christianity. They labored successfully to outlaw (1807) the British slave trade. William Wilberforce, member of Parliament and key leader in the anti-slavery movement, became committed to the cause after his conversion to evangelical Christianity.

It should not be forgotten that Martin Luther King was a clergyman and his base support came from the American Christian church. To assume that Christian faith doesn't figure into moral revival is to assume water isn't wet. To discuss the brave actions of Rosa Parks without referencing where she drew her strength and motivation is deceitful. It is a humanist/liberal attempt to take credit for the good works of Christian men and women, and then trash the faith that inspired those good works. --Ken Westby

November 3, 2005

Euphemisms and Lies
We know truth hurts, but it particularly hurts liars and hypocrites. An example: Rather than tell the truth, people for abortion say they are "for choice." But to be plain about it--to put a sharp point to the truth--they are for killing babies waiting to be born. They are not for "freedom of choice" -- freedom to choose to give birth to the "unwanted" baby, or freedom to give the baby life and then give to up to adoptive parents who will love and care for it, they are for choosing death for the unborn. They should tell the truth and state that they favor death to the unborn. The evidence of 50 million dead babies (since Roe v Wade in the early 70s) resulting from a program of "choice" tells the truth that their euphemism tries desperately to hide. Euphemisms are commonly used to lie when the truth inconveniently embarrasses or exposes an ideological agenda.

In today's news, National Public Radio, the publicly supported left-wing network, refuses to tell the truth about the rioters in Paris who as of today are still out of control after five days of burning and destruction. NPR will not bring itself to use the term "Muslim" even though that is the most accurate and descriptive term to identify the rioters. They will only say they are of "African origin," or simply "immigrants." These are the preferred euphemisms to hide the truth that the rioters are Muslim (some from N. Africa) and that the riot is occurring among a portion of Frances' 5 million strong Islamic population -- which represents 10% of the nations' total population. Why hide these plain and true facts from readers? Is this what a news organization is supposed to do? Has anyone at NPR read George Orwell's 1984?  He could have been describing much of the modern media's intoxication with politically correct speech, that is, speech that conveys their political ideology even if it hides the truth. Orwell used the terms "newspeak" and "thought crimes."

Examples of using euphemisms to hide truth abound. In religious and moral matters the politically correct police are careful to avoid calling anything evil or a sin--unless of course their sacred gods are disrespected. We should not call the practice of homosexuality sinful and a moral evil, but we should regard as evil those who label it a sin. Homosexuality and homosexual marriage is to be respected and accepted as morally equal to heterosexual inclinations and marriage. The big sin for the PC crowd is telling the truth of what homosexuality is, a sin. Such truth-tellers are called homophobes. There are, of course, many sinful practices and buggery is just one of them, but God libels sin as sin. He avoids euphemisms.

The purpose of telling the truth about sin, for instance, is not to cavil or beat people up, but to entreat them to repent and live a happier and cleaner life. Sin is missing the mark of living life as God intended; it is going against God's created order; it is breaking God's holy law. Speaking truthfully about sin allows people to identify what is in error in their behavior and correct it. It is called repentance. Speaking of the perfect law of God which defines right and wrong, James, the brother of Jesus, said it functions like a mirror. If we look at the mirror we can see clearly the person we are and where the dirt sticks to our face. We can then wash and free ourselves of it and "be blessed" by God in our repentance. Jesus said, "the truth will set you free." --Ken Westby

October 30, 2005

Jesus is the Reason for the Season
During the recent Feast of Tabernacles I got a call from a pastor friend who had opened his home to friends and family to celebrate the Feast this year. Finances had not permitted the pastor to travel for the Feast, so he thought he could help a few others enjoy the Feast in his home. What transpired, however, was anything but joyous.

One of the families that showed up with a troubled adult son seemed to think that it was everyone else's responsibility to put their son's life back together. For them, that was the purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles. They wanted deference shown to their son in order to make this "his" best Feast ever. They felt that by insisting on everyone else serving his needs, this might give him the boost of encouragement he needed to get over his problems (which were mostly the fault of other people).

While talking things over with this young pastor, it occurred to me that the people involved in this turmoil had completely forgotten what the Feast was all about. They had been doing it for so many years as a matter of rote that they were no longer able to enjoy it as it was meant to be observed. My advice to this pastor was as follows.

Ask the attendees as they showed up at their door whether they were there to rejoice in the coming of Jesus, our King of kings and Lord of Lords. Ask them if they were there to become better followers of Christ, and to drink in more of His life through Bible study and fellowship. If they could not honestly answer yes to these question, tell them to find some place else to spend the Feast because their house was going to be called a house of rejoicing.

The return of Jesus and the establishment of His eternal kingdom are the real reasons for the season of Tabernacles. For any of us who have been following this way of life for a long time, it is easy to lose our focus on why we are doing what we are doing, yet this and all the other festivals of God are for the exact purpose of recentering our focus on Christ and Christ alone. --Ken Ryland

October 28, 2005

If American Christians are Persecuted, They’ll See Revival: Chinese Christians
Chinese Christians, who are familiar with the pains of persecution, are praying for Americans to be persecuted so that they too will experience revival. So says James T. Draper, Jr., head of Life-Way Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention for the Baptist Press. The rapidly expanding Chinese Christian house church movement seems to be thriving on government persecution.

The stories that come out of China can break your heart. They can also inspire. Some are simply too painful to read. Sincere, but hapless, Christians there are often beaten, imprisoned, shocked with cattle prods, sent to “reeducation camps,” and otherwise driven from pillar to post. Some have given their lives for their faith. The Chinese government tends to come down hard on anything, or anyone, it can’t control.

While American Christians are praying that the persecution of Chinese Christians will stop, Chinese Christians are praying that the persecution of American Christians will start. They may get their wish. The Left in this country is virulently anti-Christian, especially if that Christian faith is of the “Right Wing” variety. They view it in political terms as a threat to the advance secular socialism.

Personally, I cannot imagine praying for anyone to be persecuted. My Bible reads, “Love works no ill to its neighbor” (Romans 13:10). Read it in the NIV: “…whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor…” (Romans 13:9b-10).

To the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, and have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3). It is possible then, to give one’s body to the flames of persecution, and to impoverish oneself with charity, and yet lack love. How is this possible? Paul said, “Love is kind…” (Verse 4). A kind person does not wish pain and suffering on another. Again Paul wrote, “Love…always protects…” (Verse 4a, 7a). It’s hard to imagine, but I suppose it’s possible to be self-righteous about one’s own suffering for the Lord.

 There was a time in the Church’s history when the man who became the apostle Paul (Saul) persecuted the Church. Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, was at least in part a victim of Saul (Acts 7:57-8:1). Saul, the young zealot and self-appointed heresy hunter, “began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (Acts 8:3). The more success he had, the more zealous Saul became in his attacks on the early Christians. “…Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1). On his way to persecute the Jewish Christians in Damascus, the persecuting Saul was struck down and pressed into the Lord’s service. Said the Lord of this former enemy of the Church, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15). He who had made others suffer must now himself endure suffering. Chapter 11 of 2nd Corinthians shows how much Paul – formerly Saul – had to suffer for Christ. Is this a case of reaping what he sowed? Perhaps; but in some parts of the world suffering just goes with the territory of being a Christian.

When Saul the persecutor was removed from that role and prepared to carry the Gospel to the gentiles, the Church came into a period of peace and productivity: “then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31). So growth and revival came out of peace following persecution. Persecution is not always necessary for revival.

Of course it’s true that persecution can draw us nearer to God. Sometimes God has found it necessary to bring his people into times of hardship in order to discipline them, or to make them appreciate the blessing of good times. There is, however, a principle of which we should take note: “…if we judged ourselves, we should not come under judgment” (I Corinthians 11:31). If we would each clean up our own acts, it might not be necessary to undergo persecution and judgment.

When Israel became “fat and sassy” in prosperity, it also became arrogant toward the Lord. God had earlier warned Israel, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:10-18a).

U.S. leaders and pundits are fond of calling the U.S. “the world’s only remaining superpower.” Our superpower status could end in a moment if we forget that it is God who made it possible for us to prosper as we have. A few more disasters like Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, or a couple of more 9/11’s, could bring us low. We are not impregnable. It is U.S. prosperity that has made possible the kind of Christian missionary efforts that are going on around the world. American Christians are more zealous than any other kind in spreading the Gospel around the world.

Americans, whether they are secular humanists, or “Right Wing” Christians, cannot afford to become arrogant. Power warrants humility. Power is not forever. Throughout history, many nations have been tested by power – and they have all failed. The Chinese government is not treating house church Christians well. The Left in this country is not treating Christians well. Worse, Christians are not treating fellow Christians well. It’s time for Christians to stick together, pray for each other, help each other, and seek better times for the Church all around the world. (Sources: The Christian Examiner, 9/05 & The Voice of the Martyrs magazine, multiple issues.) --Brian Knowles     

October 26, 2005

Sexual Roulette?
According to a recent poll, only 39 percent of respondents always ask a new “lover” is they are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, or any other STD. That means that 61 percent don’t ask. The MSNBC Zogby poll also revealed that 31 percent never discuss this “touchy” issue with a new partner.

The poll also revealed that 15 percent of Americans had paid someone for sex. Some 19 percent of responders said they had gone through more than 25 sexual partners.

Another survey, compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), yielded additional information on American sexual behavior. The report NCHS issued was entitled “Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15-44 Years of Age, United States, 2002.” That is the most recent year for which such comprehensive figures are available. More than 12,500 people were interviewed to garner the information.

The survey revealed that between ages 15 & 19, 12 percent of males and 10 percent of females had experienced heterosexual oral sex. By the time American males are in the 25-44 years of age corridor, 97 percent have had sexual contact with a member of the opposite sex. 97 percent have had vaginal intercourse, 90 percent have had oral sex with a female, and 40 percent have experienced anal sex with a female. The statistics for women were similar.

Men, from 30-44 years of age reported an average of 6-8 female sexual partners in their lifetimes to date. Among women the same age, the figure was 4.

Same sex figures showed a different pattern. Some 3 percent of males 15-44 years of age had experienced anal or oral sex with another male within the last 12 months. 4 percent of females reported sexual experience with another female during the same period. The proportion of men reporting same-sex contact in their lifetimes was 6 percent, and for women it was 11 percent.

One percent of men and 3 percent of women 15-44 years of age have had both male and female partners in the past 12 months (2002).

In response to the question, “Do you think of yourself as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or something else?” 90 percent of men saw themselves as heterosexual, 2.3 percent as homosexual, 1.8 percent bisexual, and 3.9 percent viewed themselves as “something else.” 1.8 percent refused to answer the question.

Among men in this age group, 3.9 percent said they were attracted “mostly” to females, while 10 percent of women said they were attracted “mostly” to males. This latter statistic has grown from 3 percent in a similar survey taken in 1992.

You can draw your own conclusions from these facts and figures. (Sources: MSNBC.com & NCHS) --Brain Knowles

October 16, 2005

The Worldview of our Leadership Determines our Future
Worldview determines values and values determine behavior. Today’s America is torn between two conflicting worldviews: secular humanism and the traditional American one that includes God, patriotism, faith, family and freedom. The former view is held by the ideological Left, and the latter by the Right. Clearly these are generalizations and there are exceptions to the rule and variations on the themes. It’s not all black & white.

The modern liberal humanist believes in things like abortion-on-demand, partial-birth abortion, same sex “marriage,” and early sex education. Just about anything that happens between “consenting adults” is okay, and the age of consent is being driven downward. You’ll notice that all of these items have something to do with sex. The Left passionately hates the idea that there are sexual absolutes. Those who believe in them are said to be “imposing” their morality on others. (To advocate is to impose.)

Secular humanism is as much a religion as a religion is a religion. Years ago, when I was a humanist, I wrote articles for a publication called Religious Humanism. It wasn’t religious in the sense that it sought to obey God, but in other senses. I can also tell you, on the basis of personal experience, that it takes a whole lot more faith to believe that God does not exist than that he does. Put another way, I can’t prove the non-existence of anything. 

If There Were No God
If there were no God, secular, scientific, humanism would be the way to go. It would be the only thing that would make sense. That’s why I once adopted it. Almost all of the world’s religions are humanistic in the sense that they are humanly invented. They are not a response to God but rather the anthropomorphizing of one. Be that as it may, the fact is, the nation is torn between these two worldviews. Like it or not, we are embroiled in an internal culture war. The outcome of that war will determine what kind of nation we become in the future.

Within the Christian world, some are waking up to the fact that this war is real. If Christians do not fight for their right to be Christians, and to express and live their Christian values, they will soon lose that right. Brannon Howse is one such Christian. He has written a book entitled One Nation Under Man? Mr. Howse is the founder and president of Worldview Weekend, A Christian Conference. In a recent interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Howse said, “If God is, then it matters how I live my life. If God is dead, anything is permissible.” This is the crux of the matter. If there is no God to whom we are morally accountable, then all morality is derived humanistically. Morality than becomes a function of power. Whoever possesses the power gets to make the rules – or unmake them. In such a climate, the veneer of civilization can rapidly deteriorate, as it did under Communism and Nazism.

Howse believes that “Humanists are the most dangerous people in America;” because they believe that “You evolved from an animal. Survival of the fittest. Might makes right.” Of course this is an oversimplification. There are many Christians who believe that evolution, in some form, did indeed take place; but they still see an intelligent God behind a plainly intelligent process. The real issue isn’t evolution, it’s God. Does he or does he not exist? If he does exist, does he have moral authority over mankind? Secular humanists do not believe God exists, traditional Americans do. Depending on which group winds up in power, it makes a difference as to how things turn out.  

Quote the Bible, Go to Jail
In Europe, secular socialists pretty much call the shots these days; same with Canada. “In Canada,” says Howse, “you can already go to jail if you go on the radio and say homosexuality is wrong – in Canada. Now we define hate speech as anything that is intolerant. Intolerance is whenever you espouse anything from an absolute moral standpoint. The left will accept anything but the right. The left thinks there is nothing wrong but the right.” In other words the only tolerable intolerance is intolerance of Christianity.

As the mavens of political correctness (PC) continues to revamp our once mainly Christian culture, we too are moving in the direction of this description of hate speech. Will it lead to Bible book burnings? Only time will tell. It could. The potential is there and precedents have been set in historical times. Remember, you read it here first.  

Howse’s Solution
What is Howse’s solution to all this? “We’ve got to start teaching kids our real history – America’s Christian heritage…We must expose the secular left for the religious movement that it is. We must begin to expose their leftist, anti-God, anti-America agenda for what it is. They are not patriotic…We must teach our kids that there are no rights without responsibility. And we have a responsibility to love justice and mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”

Good luck Mr. Howse. You’re proposal may be too little, too late. It will take a mass assertion of Christian values by a majority of Americans to make it happen. It will mean getting the secular humanists out of positions of influence in the Media, Press, Hollywierd, government, the NYC publishing Establishment, Academia and the liberal churches. Is that likely to happen? I think not. As a recovering secular humanist, I know how deeply entrenched the ideas of the Humanist Manifesto can become. Apart from divine intervention, I’m not optimistic about the outcome of the Culture War. --Brian Knowles

October 4, 2005

Preparing for Disaster
The following sources of information can be helpful in a time of disaster, and the books listed can help you rebuild your health.
 
Emergency Preparedness:
 
www.ready.gov
www.redcross.org/services/disaster/prepared/
www.fema.gov/pet/efp.htm
 
In California, check with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (GOES)
 
Books on rebuilding health:
 
The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford
The Optimum Nutrition Cookbook by Patrick Holford
The 30 day Fat Burner Diet by Patrick Holford.
 
You should be able to obtain any of these books through Amazon. Sometimes you can get used copies at a deep discount. Holford is a British nutritionist who takes an all-natural approach to nutrition. I believe his books are among the soundest on the subject. You may also check with his website: www.holfordhealth.com and askpatrick@holfordhealth.com. Holford also publishes an excellent monthly newsletter called Patrick Holford's Wellness Advisor. It is well worth the subscription price of $69.99 per year. --Brian Knowles

October 1, 2005

If you don’t, we will…
Israel is not as naïve about the motives and intent of its Islamic enemies as is the United States. Its leaders know that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will use them against Israel. Of course Israel is rumored to possess at least 100 nuclear devices of its own which, if the survival of Israel is at stake, it wouldn’t hesitate to use on an aggressor.

Recently, three Israeli law makers visited the United States. According to The Washington Times (September 30, 2005), they insisted that “The United States and its allies must act to stop Iran’s nuclear programs – by force if necessary – because conventional diplomacy will not work…” Arieh Eldad told his listeners that Iran will not be deterred by “anything short of a threat of force…They won’t be stopped unless they are convinced their programs will be destroyed if they continue.”

Eldad is probably right. The fanatical leaders of Iran, like most militant Islamists, think only in terms of relative strength and weakness. As my dad used to say, “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.” They will do whatever advances their cause, and whatever they believe they can get away with. They will press to the max any advantage they have. They do not share our western value system. For them, negotiations are only for the purpose of gaining advantage or buying time while they continue to develop their nuclear arsenal.

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said, “Threats of sanctions and isolation alone won’t do it.” Those who threaten Israel, indeed the world, respect only one thing: power and the willingness to use it. All the talk in the world does nothing more than buy time. As Dad also used to say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Sooner, rather than later, someone is going to have to act to stop Iran’s nuclear program. If it continues to develop, its deadly products will likely be used to destroy Israel and to blackmail Europe and perhaps the entire Middle East. A nuclear exchange anywhere could escalate into a nuclear exchange everywhere. Better to practice preventative medicine while we still can.

Steinitz said, “We see an Iranian bomb as a devastating, existential threat to Israel, to the entire Middle East, and to all Western interests in the region.” Mr. Eldad characterized Iran as the most serious threat Israel faces at the moment. He said that unilateral action on the part of Israel was “the worst possible scenario.” But, he said, “If we have to do it, we’ll do it. If the United States and the world community do it, there is a chance the issue can be contained. If Israel has to do it alone, there is no chance the conflict can be contained.”

Europe’s negotiations with Iran have gone nowhere to date. So long as the militant Mullah’s run Iran, a major portion of the world will continue to be under direct threat. If the US and its allies don’t act, Israel will; and who knows what horrors that will unleash on Planet Earth? --Brian Knowles

September 29, 2005

The Hookers, Pimps, and Panhandlers of Compassion
I don't know about you, but I'm all "compassioned" out. It's not that I don't care about those who lost everything in the two recent hurricanes. What makes me nauseous is the use of the airwaves by media and politicians to peddle their own brand of compassion. The juvenile silliness and pandering to the injured in order to elevate viewer ratings and garner voters for the upcoming congressional elections have reached a level that I never believed possible. I can't decide which offender is worse, the media or the politicians. They all seem to be harmonizing to the same tune, and they all want to sing on television.

We have truly lost our moral compass in this country. As a nation we are very generous and compassionate, but anymore we never demand any responsibility on the part of those who receive our generosity. The governor of Louisiana is panhandling taxpayers for $250 billion for everything from whorehouses to outhouses. Those who have received the most free money in the past have been the most corrupt with it, and these same people are demanding (not asking) that taxpayers from Oregon, Maine, and Kansas hand over to them their hard-earned bucks. The sad part is that the worst offenders of the public trust will probably get what they are asking for. In the meantime, those who took care of themselves and are demanding little in assistance are being overlooked by media types and politicians because they don't present a good photo op. After all, who is interested in the self-reliant and independent. They offer no opportunity to display politician's or news anchor's compassion on every TV screen in America.

Our sense of compassion has been cut loose from its moorings because the Church is no longer a powerful moral force in the culture as a whole. Compassion adrift is simply pandering. The rails that keep this country from falling off the cliff are the moral laws of the Bible, and at this point the Church is not engaged enough in politics, business, or the culture in general to keep our aimless culture from killing itself with "compassion."   --Ken Ryland

September 27, 2005

Sleeping in Church
The other day I experienced a heavy moment as I thought of the recent deaths of some of the most important people in my life. Just a few years ago my mother Margit, sister Camilla, and close friend Dr. Charles Dorothy were all alive. I could easy picture us laughing and chatting together over a meal, as we did so many times. I miss them greatly and my life is left with an empty space once filled with their warmth and love.

In my sadness my mind retreated to the consolation of faith. I truly believe I will see them again through the coming resurrection of the dead which God promises the faithful. I recalled Jesus' description of where the righteous dead now dwell--at "Abraham's side" (Lk 16:22). Abraham is called the father of the faithful (Rom 4:16) and I tried to picture my loved ones, and all the faithful of ages past, sitting quietly asleep in Abraham's large congregation. The apostle Paul likens the death of Christians as having "fallen asleep" (1Thes 4:14), not in some conscious sense (there is no "immortal soul"), but "dead asleep" waiting to be awakened by God at the return of his Son to earth. My mind pictured mom, Camilla and Charles sitting together in one of the rows of that vast Abrahamic congregation of God, their eyes closed, asleep in the pews of One True Church. Frankly, it was a pleasant picture.

Soon (I trust not too soon!), I will be joining them "sleeping in church." I will be seated next to them and wait together for the trumpet blast that will awake us to life--eternal life--and to the utopia of the Kingdom of God on earth. --Ken Westby

September 19, 2005

If you can’t trust Roget’s…
I recently heard a radio talk show host discussing the new online version of Roget’s famous Thesaurus. He was concerned about the slanted language used to describe a “conservative” as contrasted with the generally complimentary language used to define a “liberal.” I decided to check it out for myself; here’s what I found:

Conservative; Synonyms: bourgeois, cautious, constant, controlled, conventional, die-hard, fearful, firm, fogeyish, fuddy-duddy, guarded, hard hat, hidebound, holding to, illiberal, inflexible, middle-of-the-road, not extreme, obstinate, old guard, old-line, orthodox, quiet, red-neck, right, right-wing, sober, stable, steady, timid, traditional, traditionalistic, unchangeable, unchanging, unprogressive, white bread.”

Under the term “Liberal” the synonyms were predictably complimentary: “Advanced, avant-garde, big, broad, broad-minded, catholic, detached, disinterested, dispassionate, enlightened, flexible, free, general, high-minded, humanistic, humanitarian, impartial, indulgent, inexact, interested, latitudinarian, left, lenient, libertarian, loose, magnanimous, not close, not literal, not strict, permissive, pink, radical, rational, reasonable, receiving, receptive, reformist, tolerant, unbiased, unbigoted, unconventional, understanding, unorthodox, unprejudiced.”

Time was when Roget’s was the authority on synonyms and antonyms. If a writer was stuck for a word, he simply consulted Roget’s. Now I realize I can no longer rely upon Roget’s for true synonyms. For example, if I wanted to write “George Bush was a conservative President,” I could write (following the new Roget’s), “George Bush was an obstinate President,” or “George Bush was a fuddy-duddy President.” How about “George Bush was a red-neck President” or “George Bush was a timid President”? Do any of these “synonyms” really capture the meaning of “conservative”?  

In my Webster’s Encylopedic Dictionary (copyright 1996) defines “conservative” as: “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc. and to agree with gradual rather than abrupt change.” Makes sense to me. But “white bread”? What sense does that make?  

And if you follow the new Roget’s, if I want to say “Bill Clinton was a liberal President,” I could write, “Bill Clinton was an advanced, enlightened, unbiased, unbigoted, understanding President.” If that’s what “liberal” means, why wouldn’t everyone want to be liberal? Of course I realize I could have picked the complimentary “synonyms” for “conservative” and the negative ones for “liberal,” and created a completely different picture. Point is: many of these words are not true synonyms because they do not mean the same thing as the words for which they are claimed as synonyms. My Webster’s defines a “synonym” as: “a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language such as joyful, elated, glad.”  --Brian Knowles

September 14, 2005

"Natural Evil"
How do we describe the terrible havoc caused by a hurricane, tornado, flood, tsunami, or earthquake? These are all naturally occurring "acts of nature." But when they kill can they be regarded as "evil"? Not evil in the sense of a premeditated attack. Nature is not a cognitive agent with intent. Nature is a vast complex of life, elements, laws, and forces that operate largely beyond the command of man. Man is the only player in nature that has intent and could manifest evil intent. But nature's ways are sometimes violently "evil."

God created a world in which air currents and water vapor bring needed rain, but can also, in certain zones of the planet, bring hurricanes. God apparently took the risk that some of his creation would be harmed by those occasional events. Of course, man is free to avoid living in areas that might be threatened or take proper  measures to protect himself from inevitable natural events. But some natural events cannot be anticipated or protected against. Water sustains us but we can also drown in it. Lightning brings essential nitrogen to the soil, but it may strike us dead. The sun makes life on earth possible, but it can also kill. The natural world is full of risk.

Could God have created a world without "natural evil"--a no risk world? One would have to believe that God could, but choose not to. Could God have created a man who was unable to think or do evil and who could only love Him--a no risk man? He could, but that man would not be free like God is free. He would not be made in "God's image." Instead, God made man free to be good or evil, to obey or disobey, to love Him or ignore Him...or hate Him. God took a risk in making man free, a risk that man would not use that freedom for good. In his wisdom God must have a good reasons for making things (man and the natural environment) as he has. Without God's self revelation of his plan, however, we would be at loss to make sense of why things are the way they are.

The Bible reveals that God has a "project" which at its heart is bringing many sons and daughters into fellowship with him. If those made in his image are to become like him they must be free as God is free. They must be free to willingly internalize God's good character and become like him because they love all they see in God and his goodness (Romans 2:4). God has taken a risk by making man free, but his "project" requires it. The "present evil age" is a time when freedom is misused, when men try their hand at finding happiness and peace apart from and in opposition to God. It is the age when the Evil One works his cunning upon man to pervert his freedom into evil of every sort. Yet, even in this "present evil age" God's project moves forward as millions of people willingly turn to God and strive to take on his image.

The Gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God, that God's Son preached, describes the eventual victory of God's project by bringing all mankind into fellowship with him. It pictures a coming time when all men and women will freely embraces the Way of God thus bringing the dawning of a new age. Gratuitous evil from the heart of man will be replaced with kindness, mercy, and love. "Natural evil" will be tamed to match the converted nature of man. Of that coming age, the prophet Isaiah quotes the Creator, "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain [kingdom], for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). --Ken Westby 

September 7, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and Lessons Learned
If you threw away your Y2K supplies, maybe it's time to restock. One of the big lessons of survival and recovery that Hurricane Katrina has taught us is that those who are prepared to take action in the event of a disaster are much better off than those who don't.

The news media have focused in on New Orleans and all its problems due to lack of preparedness. The Big Easy took it easy and thought 1) that nothing bad would happen, and 2) that if something bad happened, someone else would ride in on a white horse to save them. Wrong in both cases. This socialist, let-someone-else-take-care-of-me attitude has left in its wake a horrible toll of death and misery. We have all seen the pictures. However, scant attention has been given to others in Katrina's path who have fared much better.

Take Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana's southernmost parish where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Because of all the attention given to New Orleans, Plaquemines Parish received little aid or attention, yet it was just as devastated as New Orleans. The parish's sheriff, Jiff Hingle, immediately took control of the area and barricaded the northern entrances into the parish to prevent residents from the north from seeking refuge in the parish. The sheriff's rationale was that his parish had suffered as much damage from the storm as New Orleans and could not handle refugees. When FEMA tried to send 50 busloads of refugees to a Naval base in Plaquemines, they were turned back by 60 armed guards. As the sheriff told reporters, "You don't move people from one disaster area to another." After the parish was secured from criminal activity, the sheriff organized groups of people to help those in need. Food, water, and other supplies from local stores were distributed among the needy. Others began to look for the helpless and for missing loved ones. The devastation was bad, but the misery was being managed because the people of that region were self-reliant to begin with. The people of that area did not suffer from neglect because they took control of their own circumstances.

The story of self-reliance and the practice of the Golden Rule was repeated all along the lower Mississippi coastal region. People simply got together and helped each other. Many lost home and all their worldly possessions, but they were not starving because they banded together and supplied each other's needs.

A strong sense of decency and community pays off in disaster. There is much to learn here as we contrast the attitude of people in New Orleans with that of people in other regions where self-reliance and community loyalty are strong. --Ken Ryland

September 1, 2005

Katrina and the Faces of Men
The human condition most profoundly manifests itself in crisis. In the wake of hurricane Katrina we are seeing in our citizens a vivid display of: stubbornness, ignorance, greed, evil; contrasted with: love, kindness, self-sacrifice, generosity, intelligence, and bravery. We see thousands engaged in organized love and compassion to save life, feed, clothe, provide shelter and protect those in great need. We also observe anarchy among vile thugs who, like rats arising from flooded sewers, are unleashed free to fulfill their violent, evil lusts. These contrasting virtues and vices were present in the population prior to Katrina, but now they are made manifest. Civilized law and order, with the threat of punishment, serves to keep evil at bay. Which is why the Bible stresses that even bad government is preferable to anarchy (see Romans 13:1-7).

The huge refugee problem in the center of New Orleans is largely the result of stubbornness and ignorance. Pleas from authorities to totally evacuate the city were ignored. Sure, there could be some extenuating reasons why some few stayed, but the vast majority could have evacuated and simply refused to do so. Apparently, some stayed for criminal reasons. One is reminded of Noah's pleas which were ignored by a stubborn world. Those folks didn't survive, most of those in New Orleans are lucky, they will.

Of course, the vast majority of affected folks in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are decent, law-abiding, good people. We should not lose sight of that fact even as we are repulsed by a minority of criminal scum (unfortunately, not all criminals are in prisons). The out-pouring of generosity from individuals and companies should encourage us that there is a deep well of goodness in the heart of the average American population.

A tragedy like Katrina attracts facile theories of blame. Fools will blame it on global warming, as if we didn't have hurricanes before SUVs were gulping gas and polluting. Others, for political advantage, will blame President Bush and his party for not preparing, not spending enough money, or for not enforcing some radical environmental policy--never mind that Louisiana has been run by democrats since the earth cooled. Religious "prophets" will claim it is God's punishment for this or that. The fact is, rain falls on the wicked and the righteous alike; same for snow, droughts, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, heat, cold, tornados, and hurricanes. If God specifically directed this powerful storm to hit New Orleans and the gambling strip of Mississippi, we have no clear evidence. This is not to suggest that God may not have a part in what happened. He sees what men do and he can and has intervened in past events--including the weather--to fulfill his will. Nevertheless, until we hear from God, we can only speculate, not declare.   

If I were to speculate I might look at the cities of America that preen their sinfulness and make their reputation on how they openly tolerate moral depravity. I think of New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Key West, to name the most obvious. Hurricane Katrina's strike on New Orleans has cancelled the annual homosexual "Southern Decadence" festival slated to begin this week. This event, which drew 125,000 revelers last year (at least 100 times the populations of Sodom and Gomorrah), has been eagerly courted and welcomed by past and present mayors of New Orleans. Previous Southern Decadence festivals have filled the French Quarters of the city with drunken homosexuals displaying their nakedness, engaging in sex acts in bars and on the streets. From "Girls Gone Wild" to "Southern Decadence," New Orleans has been a symbol of and magnet to in-your-face licentious behavior. Some have suggested that this is the reason New Orleans was hit. I don't. I doubt God would punish so many innocents including Christians to send a message to the homosexual party planners. However, maybe one good thing coming out of Katrina's misery is that the homosexuals had to stay at home...one would hope, in their closets.

Right now our neighbors suffer and we must come to their aid. Let us pray for and open our treasure to help those hundreds of thousands of poor souls who have lost so much. Let us show the good face of man. --Ken Westby