Thursday, December 30, 2004

Words fail

Not one to be without a comment or opinion, Ive been at a loss over the disaster in Asia. The casualties are still being counted, disease threatens and millions are homeless. Coming at the end of Christmas Day for those of us in the West, it's as if the channel was suddenly changed from the Brady Bunch to the Book of Revelation. Bing Crosby singing White Christmas seems imbecilic... even more so, I mean. A few thoughts occur:

Death is the great leveller. The rich and famous playing on Thai beaches, poor fishermen in Sri Lanka-- they're equally dead, and meeting their Maker without any socioeconomic advantage.

For those used to a Sunday School God who smiles benignly from Heaven and tells us to love one another, the idea that God either caused or even simply allowed this to happen is jarring. God does indeed smile upon us all from Heaven and tells us to love one another, but in the totality of Christian revelation He is also the almighty Lawgiver and just Judge of the universe, so averse to the sins we so easily rationalize that it took the death of His one and only Son to harmonize His justice with His love for us. This is not a user-friendly God; He is not to be toyed with. Neither is He safe and predictable.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:8-9

I can already hear the skeptic dismissing the above as a refusal to acknowledge reality that contradicts one's beliefs, but then I don't understand how those who make so much of their own intellects can consistently miss the obvious point that reason can only operate on the information presented to it, and so inferences are always tentative pending further relevant information: thus the difference between a contradiction and a paradox.

The disaster in Asia is a paradox, all right.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The beam in your own eye

Concord Monitor Online: "Those critics say it's time the Jehovah's Witness church, which counts about 4,000 members in New Hampshire and 1 million in the United States, faces the same scrutiny the Catholic Church endured for harboring abusive priests.

'This has not captured the public's attention because (the Jehovah's Witnesses) are a small church,' said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer from Minnesota who has represented victims of abuse within the Catholic, Mormon and Jehovah's Witness churches. 'But anytime anyone learns of (how the church handles abuse), they are as alarmed by it as they are by the Catholic church cases.'

The Jehovah's Witness policy requires two eyewitnesses to abuse - or a molester's confession -before the church sanctions a molester. A young child cannot be his own witness. When someone is found guilty by the elders, the rest of the congregation cannot be told because doing so would be a sin, according to the church's interpretation of the Bible. A molester may be allowed to remain an active member, if he repents. In some cases, molesters have been appointed as church leaders again.

'These people make the Catholics look like saints,' said Bill Bowen of Kentucky, a former Jehovah's Witness leader who started a Web site in 2001 to monitor child abuse inside the church after he says he caught the church in a cover-up. 'I think the Catholic Church has made great strides in publicly apologizing and establishing polices to prevent molestation in the future."

The Watchtower Society loves nothing more than to castigate the Catholic Church and talk about sexual deviancy within the churches of "Christendom". I wonder what honest-minded Witnesses are thinking now, that the Whore of Babylon is more honest about its failures than the "faithful brethren" are.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:1-4

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

ACLU: We have met the enemy, and it is us

The New York Times: A.C.L.U.'s Search for Data on Donors Stirs Privacy Fears: "The American Civil Liberties Union is using sophisticated technology to collect a wide variety of information about its members and donors in a fund-raising effort that has ignited a bitter debate over its leaders' commitment to privacy rights."

It doesn't take much imagination to know what the group's reaction would be if its members were subjected to the very same treatment by the federal government. The national news would be clogged with discussions on how to roll back the new McCarthyism. This is rich.

I have long thought that the ACLU's defense of liberty has been selective and based on ideological partisanship, rather than principled and consistent. The most obvious example is the incessant assault on free speech by Christians in public places coupled with unqualified defense of the most outrageous expressions in any circumstance by anyone with an anti-Christian agenda, and consistent silence whenever a Christian is experiencing genuine and even egregious violation of their civil rights. For years I have contended that the initials more truthfully stand for Anti-Christian Litigation Union, and now the group's cynical amorality has now come back to bite its members. It now remains for the abused members to decide, to paraphrase Golda Meir, whether they love their freedom and dignity more than they hate Christians.

We find the defendants guilty of mocking "Pastors Daniel Nalliah and Daniel Scot of Catch the Fire Ministries were tried under Victoria's new race and religion hate laws and found guilty of publicly mocking Islam."

This is what happens when rights are seen not as a gift from the Creator but as something granted (or taken away) by Government. More and more so-called "liberals" are flying under false colors; criminalizing ideas is the antithesis of classical liberalism.

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise [or disagree with], we don't believe in it at all. —Noam Chomsky

Supporting speech codes is incredibly stupid. Principle is replaced by the coercive power of the state, and once it becomes acceptable to censor a minority there is no rational basis not to censor anyone and everyone.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Why there won't be an American theocracy, although...

David Brooks: "Natalists resist the declining fertility trends not because of income, education or other socioeconomic characteristics. It's attitudes. People with larger families tend to attend religious services more often, and tend to have more traditional gender roles. ... Natalists are associated with red America, but they're not launching a jihad. ...People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war."

I wonder whether this insight will cause the secular left to chill out, and live-and-let-live. They'd have to stop screaming long enough to listen.

What I am curious about is how this will affect long-term demographic trends. While I'm tempted to put my tongue in my cheek and invoke Darwin, it is true that to the extent Brooks describes things accurately, the children of the "natalists" will be more secure, less scarred from peer dependency and a soulless pop culture that promotes a model of humanity as mere animals (with Visa cards and iPods), less dependent on government largesse and ...well... more numerous.

Never mind. Maybe the secular fundamentalists do have something to worry about.

`Tis the season for anti-Christian bloviating

(via Christianity Today)

MSNBC - Religion: The Birth of Jesus


Ah yes. Predictable as the tide. It's the Christmas season, when mainstream media outlets do hit pieces on historic Christianity, bolstered by a stacked deck of liberal (i.e. unbelieving) scholars. Think they would balance the articles with input from reputable evangelical or Catholic scholars? No, that wouldn't fit the predetermined conclusion of the "journalism", namely that it's OK to believe as long as you don't actually think it's true or anything.

(As I write this, Fox News is promoting the same crap in an interview. Not fair & balanced this time, just an unbeliever being interviewed by a well-intended but uninformed Rick Folbaum.)

Yeah, yeah. See you at Easter, guys.

Mr. Bean sees through PC sophistry

Atkinson defends right to offend: "Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, which will have its second reading in the Commons today, anyone judged to have stirred up religious hatred through threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, would be liable to a maximum of seven years in prison.

But opponents of the measure say that while it is well intentioned, stopping the right to criticise other religions would end centuries of tolerance and could stoke tensions between religious groups rather than ease them.

Speaking at a press conference in the House of Commons, Atkinson said the proposals would destroy one of society's fundamental freedoms - the right to cause offence.

It would also threaten the livelihoods of all those whose job it is 'to question, to analyse and to satirise'. These included authors, academics, writers, actors, politicians and comedians."

..."The freedom to criticise ideas - any ideas even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.

..."It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended.

"The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression."

Bean should speak up more often. He has a better grasp of things than a lot of academics.

CIA-NYT cheerleading for Iraqi terrorists

The New York Times: 2 C.I.A. Reports Offer Warnings on Iraq's Path, and the NYT is all too happy to report it.

In its political catfight with the Commander in Chief, the CIA is making a regular habit of leaking classified information if it has the potential to make the administration look bad. The administration itself is partly to blame for this, as it seemingly winks at the efforts of these subordinates to compromise national security for partisan gain. Also, it is impossible to tell whether such "reports" represent an honest assessment from the field or anti-administration propaganda written primarily for public consumption.

I think it's time to eliminate the rat's nest that the CIA has become and replace it with an agency whose employees see their job as protecting the nation rather than resisting its elected leader. While the Bush administration seems to be confronting the problem to some extent through Porter Goss' leadership, it's hard to see how one man or even a few people at the top can identify and deal with all the rotten elements.

Monday, December 06, 2004

No room in the Mile High city

Fox News: "A December parade in Denver will feature everyone from Chinese lion dancers (search) to gay and lesbian shamans, according to the Rocky Mountain News, but not Christians who want to sing yuletide hymns or carry a Merry Christmas message. ...The international portion this year features the Two Spirit Society, which honors gay and lesbian American Indians as holy people"

Got that? Homosexuality makes one holy but Christians are banned because they are a religion. Nope, no double standard here.

Maybe what we need to do is get Christianity classified as an alternate lifestyle. It is, really.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The handicapped world body

Belmont Club: "The key problem facing the United Nations is lack of accountability not to its constituent institutions, though it lacks that, but to the individual inhabitants of the world. Its inefficiency, corruption and fantasy policies are the result and not the cause of its problems. Nowhere is that failure more evident on a macro scale than in Kofi Annan himself and his management of the Oil-For-Food Programme.

...That's basically the message of UN reform proposals: "Help me! Help me!""

By all means! It's time to help the amoral, humanistic UN with an amoral, humanistic solution: end the suffering and euthanize it.

Hannibal Lecter has nothing on influentail philosopher

A vegetarian is someone who eats only vegetables. So what is a humanitarian?

Marvin Olasky: The most influential philosopher alive (via Evangelical Outpost): "Is anything wrong with a society in which children are bred for spare parts on a massive scale? 'No.'"

Secularism lacks a rational basis for any moral absolutes; without a transcendent Creator morality can only be subjective and dependent on consensus. The problem is that consensus can and does change over time. To the extent that a future consensus reflects the influence of Peter Singer, such a future would be hell on earth. And as Francis Schaeffer demonstrates in The God Who Is There, what is one generation's cutting edge in philosophy is sometimes the next generation's cultural mainstream. Perhaps not coincidentally, Holland is now begining to embrace infantacide.

How long, O Lord...?

It's the end of the world as we know it

Anchorage Daily News: Evangelicals invoke political holy war

And of course a morning's survey of the news wouldn't be complete without an article depicting American evangelicals --all 40 million of us-- as lockstep mindless sociopaths. In some ways this article ties together the morning's other entries: we have irony, intolerance, and criticism of something that the author knows almost nothing about.

Fundamentalism: it's not just for the religious.

Upholding family values

Christian Coalition fights bitter lawsuit after divorce.

Speaking of irony...

European Catholics: ideological monopoly not fair

The Guardian: "Other leading Catholic clergy and lay people are embittered by what they term the new 'leftwing clericalism' dominating the EU.

'This is a Kulturkampf [conflict of cultures] dressed up as liberalism and tolerance,' Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Archbishop of Munich, said of the Buttiglione debacle."

This exceeds the Recommended Daily Allowance of irony. Kudos to The Guardian for pointing to the growing control of Europe of an intolerant secularist hierarchy, although their mention of the murdered Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh within the context of a Christian-secularist rivalry was rather misleading.

Science vs. faith, in another context

Meteorologist Likens Fear of Global Warming to 'Religious Belief' (via WorldNetDaily): "[S]cience is not primarily a source of authority. It is a particularly effective approach of inquiry and analysis. Skepticism is essential to science -- consensus is foreign,' Lindzen said."

I can't recall the last time I've seen the issue framed as well and succinctly as this. The MIT professor makes the statement in the context of Global Warming, but the origins debates are an equally valid application. In both cases, it seems, the debate is dominated by extremist ideologues who want to claim the mantle of "good science" for claims which are not to be questioned. This is a misrepresentation of what science is.

Truth is neither relative nor determined by consensus, but it doesn't follow that we should fall into dogmatism or obscurantism either. If we are made in God's image, then we can and should freely apply our intellects to answering these sorts of questions. Those who want to shortcircuit such enquiry through appeals to either dogma or consensus are, I think, doing so out of insecurity about the certainty of their position.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Oil prices: an interesting trend

Power Line's Rocket Man notices an interesting trend: "The price rose into the mid-$40s by September, then took off like a shot. Between September 16 and October 25--the height of the election season--the spot price of crude oil rose from $43.90 to a peak of $55.23.

Prices then started to fall, slowly at first, then more rapidly. As of yesterday, it was back down to $43.26. "

Now why would an Islamic oligarchy, source of most of the funds and manpower used in the 9-11 attacks, want the price of oil to go through the roof right before the presidential election? Perhaps Michael Moore would like to answer that. Never mind. He'd have an answer no doubt but it wouldn't be reality-based.

SOOoooooooo... Wahhabists have their hands on oil price controls. Hydrogen fuel cells, anyone?

Academic freedom a two-sided coin

Jeff Jacoby: "Academic freedom is not only meant to protect professors; it is also supposed to ensure students' right to learn without being molested. When instructors use their classrooms to indoctrinate and propagandize, they cheat those students and betray the academic mission they are entrusted with. That should be intolerable to honest men and women of every stripe -- liberals and conservatives alike.

'If this were a survey of students reporting widespread sexual harassment,' says ACTA's president, Anne Neal, 'there would be an uproar.' That is because universities take sexual harassment seriously. Intellectual harassment, on the other hand -- like the one-party conformity it flows from -- they ignore."

There is also the issue, when the university is a publicly-funded one, of forced taxpayer support of specific ideology, and often fringe ideology at that. The tenure system , ostensibly a safegard of academic freedom, has become its enemy through lack of accountability of academics to those who pay them.

Jacoby makes the excellent point that academic freedom ought to apply to students also, in the form of true freedom of enquiry (i.e. exposure to more than one viewpoint) and lack of harrassment and intimidation.

I can't say I personally encountered anything at Idaho State as bad as the cases detailed in this video, but I did encounter a few professors who wasted classroom time with irrelevant and illogical diatribes against Christianity, and in such a manner that did not permit rebuttals. In all three cases, tenure protected professors who would likely not be there under a merit- or competence-based system.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Latest UN outrage: our corruption not a problem, US sovereignty is

Belmont Club: "Others see [proposed restructuring of the UN Security Council] as a step towards creating a new international order, one with that most important of sovereign attributes: a monopoly on the legal use of force."

With all the recent scandals and dysfunctional, corrupt leadership at the UN, the focus of attention is "reform" that would have the effect of ending American sovereignty and autonomy. This cynical, wretched preference for bureaucratic kleptocracy over democracy and freedom seems to be in the DNA of the United Nations. Oh, and they are also proposing lowering the requirements to justify UN military intervention. So while they seek to make American military activity subject to the UN's will --i.e. to abolish an American military as such-- they could in the future use God-knows-what justification for UN troops to invade the US. Not so farfetched a possibility, given that some prominent "human rights" orgs like Amnesty International currently see the US and Israel as the worst offenders of human rights.

The US needs to get out of the UN and kick the UN out of American territory, and it needs to happen now. The alternative is loss of American sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, cynical and corrupt world government that plainly states that the possibility of WMD attacks in America is an acceptible price to pay for "international order"; where American removal of the butcher Saddam is condemned as "illegal" but French troops firing on unarmed civilians in the Ivory Coast is ignored; where Christianity is reviled but Islam given several dozen votes; where the US is kicked off the Human Rights panel to make room for the genocidal regime of Sudan.

The UN is a failed attempt at establishing peace through the secular religion of humanism. We need to pull the plug before this Frankenstein's monster comes fully to life.

A few questions that the American people and leaders ought to ask themselves:

* When were we asked whether we want to belong to an organization that seeks to be a world government?

* To whom is this wanna-be world government accountable? To which voters?

* What say do voters anywhere have in the formation of "international law"

* What do the actions of the UN reveal about their understanding of the nature of human rights?

Discussion of this issue is long past due. If Americans know less about this than about SpongeBob SquarePants, then they deserve slavery and will probably get it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Thank you, David Brooks!

The New York Times: Who Is John Stott?: "Tim Russert is a great journalist, but he made a mistake last weekend. He included Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton in a discussion on religion and public life.

Inviting these two bozos onto 'Meet the Press' to discuss that issue is like inviting Britney Spears and Larry Flynt to discuss D. H. Lawrence. Naturally, they got into a demeaning food fight that would have lowered the intellectual discourse of your average nursery school.

This is why so many people are so misinformed about evangelical Christians. There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored."

What a pleasant surprise! A thoughtful and fair representation of evangelicals, from the epicenter of the mainstream media, no less. I have been getting tired of all the recent articles by rabid secularists, comparing evangelicals to the Taliban and bewailing the impending White House-imposed return to the Dark Ages (as opposed to the recent domination of secularist peace, love and understanding). Stott is indeed a better representative of evangelical Christians than (wince) Falwell or Robertson. On the other hand, the latter must be getting support from somewhere because they've been on the air all these years. While I do think that Falwell gets a bit of a bad rap by the secular press, he exudes a level of confidence out of proportion to his seeming ability to understand opposing points of view, and his predictable political positions do not represent the diversity of educational achievement or political, economic and philosophical perspectives within evangelicalism.

Also, there is a difference between evangelicals and fundamentalists. While some of the MSM's recent slurs against the "religious right" would actually be applicable to a few fundies I've met, they would be the outer fringe. It's been said that you know you're an evangelical when the liberals think you're a fundamentalist and the fundamentalists think you're a liberal.

Brooks might be right. Speaking for myself, I would much rather be represented on TV news and talk shows by John Stott than Falwell or Robertson. Oddly enough, just today I was perusing an anthology of quotes by A.W. Tozer and came across this:

We are never sure where a true Christian may be found. One thing we do know: the more like Christ he is the less likely it will be that a newspaper reporter will be seeking him out.

Apparently David Brooks is not your typical journalist, any more than Falwell, Robertson et. al. are your typical evangelicals. The former is a good thing and the latter is not.