Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Johnson's Charcoal Beef House

This morning, Charlie Carder and I enjoyed breakfast at Johnson's Charcoal Beef House in Leesburg. We both ordered the Mexican Omelet, and man was it good!

Our server was a young lady named Violet. She provided friendly, courteous service.

While checking out, young lady Violet mentioned that she had been working at Johnson's for 53 years! I calculate that back to 1953. She then told us she was 75 years old.

Violet claimed that when she first started working at Johnson's, she would look out the window and hope for a car to drive by. Today, she hopes for a break in traffic so she can get out of the parking lot.

Here's wishing you 53 more years, Violet!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Letter to my Congressman

Congressman Wolf,

I am writing regarding two separate issues.

1) Immigration:
Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should the HOUSE make any compromises at the conference table when negotiating over the Senate's Immigration Reform Bill. Contrary to what President Bush has said, we DO NOT NEED a COMPREHENSIVE package. We need to close the border to illegals and enforce the current laws. Anything more would be inviting disaster. Please don't budge!

2) The FBI raid on Congressman Jefferson's office:
I was appalled at Speaker Hastert's reaction to the warranted raid. Those of you working in the House and Senate both need to get over yourselves. You are just U.S. citizens serving the public, nothing more. Hastert's reaction is an indication of the elitism that we all see coming from Washington, and we are growing quite tired of it.

You have always had my vote Congressman Wolf, and I do appreciate your stand to date on Immigration, and many other issues. You have represented me well. But I fear that unless all of you guys don't remind yourselves regularly of who put you in office, and why you are there, that we could be courting disaster.


Mark W. Weaver

May 31st Add-On:
Ironically, I just ran across this article by Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics that certainly fits with what I sent to my Congressman, Frank Wolf. Hey Congress, Who Do You Think You Are?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Time to Mourn?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: ... a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance ..." (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 NIV)

Is it time for mourning? The battle is not yet lost. Not quite anyway. But the way things are shaping up, it appears as though the sun is beginning to set on this once great nation of ours.

I am referring specifically to the vote this week in the U.S. Senate, the approval of S. 2611, the Immigration Reform Bill. Why does this mark a time to mourn? Read what Dana Rohrbacher, a California Republican and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, has to say in his article in the Washington Times on Thursday titled The 'shamnesty' legislation. Look what this bill proposes to do!

  • "In-state tuition for illegal aliens. Your kid has to pay full freight if they cross state lines, but the illegal alien who broke into the country doesn't.
  • All temporary guest workers have to be paid the prevailing wage. American citizens do not have to be paid prevailing wage.
  • All agricultural guest workers under this bill cannot be fired by their employers except for what the bill calls "just cause." However, American agricultural workers can be fired for any reason.
  • Illegal aliens are made eligible for Social Security. Not only will they receive retirement benefits, but their children will receive survivor benefits should the parents pass away. This is at a time when we are trying to keep Social Security solvent for the next generation.
  • Expands the visa lottery program, which is itself a questionable way to make visa distribution decisions.
  • Employers of illegal aliens get amnesty, too. Employers would be exempt from civil and criminal tax and criminal liability under immigration law. God forbid we hold employers accountable for helping illegal aliens break the law and being the magnet that has drawn them here for years.
  • Taxpayer dollars to radical immigrant-rights groups so they can help illegal aliens adjust their status. Millions of your tax dollars will go to the same groups that organized those rallies where people who came here illegally waved foreign flags and thumbed their noses at our laws."

The reason it is getting close to mourning time is not specifically because our Senate wants more immigrants. After all, we are a nation of immigrants. No, it is the stamp of approval on the illegal part that is so reprehensible. Their obvious, self-serving motives behind this bill present us with the cause for mourning. That, and the "sleight-of-hand" that they are attempting.

What has become of integrity, honor, duty, and love of country? What has become of the high ethical standard that America once represented? I suggest that in our Senate, at least for 62 of our Senators, those values mean nothing. They have been trampled upon solely for the purpose of gaining future votes. Their actions this past week respresent an attempt to possess power and control in elections to come.

Power-seeking in itself of course, is nothing new. We have been struggling to hold in check that vice almost since our nation came into being. It is the magnitude of this attempt at a wholesale giveaway that is so deeply grevious. The high and noble ideals our Founding Fathers stood for, risked their fortunes for, and even sacrificed their lives for, have been thrown out with the trash by these pitiful excuses for American leaders.

Harsh words? Disrespectful?


Perhaps some of my brothers and sisters in Christ will call me on my strong language. So be it. But before you fire off your rebukes, let me remind you that these elitist Senators have disrespected us Americans, those of us who work hard, obey the law, pay our taxes, and complain very little because we know how blessed we are to live in America.

But wait a minute! How did these rogues get to have so much power?

Well, we put them there of course. We voted them in. Perhaps you have read this famous quotation from Scottish history professor, Alexander Tytler.

"A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse (generous gifts) from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury ..."

Tytler penned these thoughts in 1787, just as the Founders were wrapping up work on our present Constitution. Quite an insightful man I would say. He nailed it pretty well. From two-hundred years past, he foresaw what was coming. He predicted the selfishness that would ultimately come to rule this nation, a land now filled with a majority of people who care more about themselves than they do about their country.

And that is, perhaps, an even greater cause for mourning than those at the Capitol using their offices to perpetuate their hold on power.

My heart grieves at the state of our nation. My heart is broken over the decline in civility, the decay of morals, the dwindling understanding of why America is what she is.

Not only are those who steal into our country illegally largely ignorant of the underlying causes for America's historical success, but so are a large chunk of native-born Americans. We throw out words like equality and freedom but we have little understanding of the principles behind them. Our naïveté is broad, and our understanding, shallow.

And yet our nation continues forward, carried upon the brilliance, vision, and wisdom of those who founded her. We are living in a house built by our great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, but we haven't a clue about the foundation, the materials of construction, the selection of the lot, or the reason the house was built in the first place. We are just living here, putting on a coat of paint every now and then, but not tending to what's beneath the surface.

But hope remains. Along our Southern border, Americans calling themselves Minutemen have begun to erect, at their own cost and on private property, a fence to block the path of illegals. They are doing this because our own government fails to fulfill their duty. This to me, is one of the things that make America great. Private citizens, tired of waiting for our so-called leaders to take action, are taking matters into their own hands. It is heartening.

Sadly, our president, a man for whom I voted twice, once called these brave Americans vigilantes. They are not. Vigilantes are those who take the law into their own hands. These patriots are standing as lookouts, watching and reporting to the authorities, when illegals are spotted. They are not arresting, blocking, or shooting at the perpetrators. They are merely helping to find and report. For our president to use such a label is disappointing, dare I say disrespectful?

The Minutemen name of course comes from the patriots of old, those civilian volunteers who stood up in 1775 to defend themselves, their families, their community, and their property, when no regular army could be found. Americans such as these renew my hope that perhaps we still have a chance to keep America from sliding into the abyss of history.

Yes, I am a Christian first. My primary allegiance is to Christ and His kingdom. Ultimately, His is the only kingdom that truly counts, the only regime that will still be standing when history draws to a close.

But I am also an American, born here and raised here. Tomorrow we will take the day off to remember those from the Armed Forces who have given up their lives in defense of America. Many others have survived armed struggle but have returned home with life changing wounds of battle. Others have returned whole in body, but will forever bear the psychological scars of conflict. We are grateful for them all, and we must never forget their sacrifices.

I am proud to be an American. This is my country, and the country of my children and grandchildren. I want for them the same honest joys and pleasures that have encompassed me. But I fear those joys and pleasures are at great risk.

I am hoping and praying for the best. But I am also preparing to mourn.

This is why I write.

Related blog entries:

Art and Ideas

In 2002, a lovely sister in the Lord (for us Protestants that means a fellow believer of the female variety, not a celibate female married to the church and wearing a habit as in the Catholic faith) named Catherine Fetterman, founded a group called the Christian Artist's Circle. I joined the group last summer, and we have since become friends. There are currently three chapters (Leesburg, Manassas, and Central Virginia). Our chapter meets on the first Sunday afternoon here locally in Manassas, and we share our art and discuss heady topics.

This past meeting (May 7th), I had the privilege of leading a discussion. What follows is a recap of my thoughts shared with the group that afternoon. Much of this presentation has been drawn from John Whitehead's DVD presentation titled Grasping for the Wind: Humanity's Search for Meaning. I would also like to thank my friend Amanda Bowles for helping with this recap.

Art and Philosophy in Western Civilization
The intent of my presentation was to show a connection between philosophy (ideas of God and man) and art through the various eras of Western history over the last 500 years. I began by comparing the Renaissance and the Reformation.

The Renaissance
In Western Europe, the Renaissance sprang to life in the 15th century. Artists, philosophers, and prominent thinkers sought a reconnection with classical antiquity, and pursued a fresh rediscovery of knowledge. Earmarked by a resurgence of mathematics, and a quest for scientific knowledge through experimentation, the era experienced new forms of art, poetry and architecture. And the advent of printing made the dissemination of ideas much easier than it had ever been. From the Renaissance, Humanism emerged, with Reason as the central driving force. Primary in the Renaissance movement was a desire to break from the dominance and control of the Church. God, if He even existed, could not be known, and what understanding we might be able to possess, could only come through our own reason.

The Reformation
Juxtaposed against the Renaissance and its ideas, the Reformation emerged in 1517, with Martin Luther's posting of his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenburg Church. Not intending to start a history changing movement, Luther's act nonetheless gave birth to the Protestant Reformation.

Out of the Reformation five essential principles emerged. They are also known as the five solas:

  • Sola Scriptura: by scripture alone
  • Solus Christus: by Christ alone
  • Sola Gratia: by grace alone
  • Sola Fide: by faith alone
  • Sola Deo Gloria: for the glory of God alone
In contrast to the ideas of the Renaissance, the Reformation is characterized by a belief that God can be known, and that in fact He has revealed Himself to us in three primary ways:

  • Through creation
  • Through Scripture
  • Through the incarnation

Among the most potent ideas to spring from the Reformation is the authority of Scripture. In other words, Scriptural knowledge transcends the earthly realm through divine revelation. Because we are not left to our own human reason, but are instead guided by the Scriptures, we can gain a clearer picture of both God and man, and also a better idea of the structure and order of God's creation through a comprehensive Worldview. Likewise, we can begin to grasp a better understanding of God's purpose for us here on earth.

Because of the gift of the Holy Scriptures through divine revelation, those who are found in Christ are on an ever-widening path of relationship and fellowship with God, as well as an ongoing growth in our understanding, all leading to eternal life. In contrast, those who follow the path of human reason find themselves on a downward slope into chaos and confusion, ending ultimately in death and eternal separation from God.

Fruit of the Renaissance
Emerging gradually from the Renaissance, a series of philosophical eras, mirrored by the art of each age, demonstrates the downward direction of the Humanist philosophies of the world.

The Age of Enlightenment
Beginning with the Age of Enlightenment, a time of elevated reason, rationality, ethics, aesthetics, and knowledge, we can track the evolution of Humanist thought in Western culture. Philosophers in this era rejected the Christian faith and the Church—they wanted to create a man-made utopia—and sought to overthrow, not only the king, but authority in general. Characterized by human reason, the Enlightenment is credited with giving birth to the French Revolution, a bloody, carnage-filled time in French history which saw the wholesale murder of priests, and a war on the Catholic Church, as the revolutionaries rebelled against both state and church.

Philosophers of this age include Voltaire (1694-1778), who criticized both the Bible and organized religion and saw the God of Scripture as cruel and homicidal. Also, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), believed and taught that man creates his own truth, that nature is only a biological machine, and that reality can only be experienced by reason.

The Romantic Era
On the heels of the Enlightenment came the Romantic Era, a time when artists and philosophers romanticized nature and sought a return to the primitive. Romantics reacted to the heavy emphasis upon Human Reason from the Enlightenment, and instead focused upon their emotions and feelings. Through this shift, they hoped to capture the essence of life. Romantic era philosophers taught that nature, mysticism, and people are good, but society corrupts them. Like their predecessors, they sought a world without the constraints of religion, family, or church.

Philosophers like Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), believing that the individual is the center of all things, promoted a freedom from all traditional and religious morality, and taught that the "Noble Savage" is superior to civilized man. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), believed in and promoted the idea that everything meaningful in our lives derives from our will. Our human nature—our instincts—he taught, forces us to live, to breed, to suffer, and to die. Schopenhauer is often described as "the great pessimist!"

Artists of this era include Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827), who wrote his music to promote a faith in the natural goodness of common man, and in the goodness of nature, and Lord Byron (1788-1824), a charming and charismatic writer who believed and taught that there is no difference between good and evil.

The ideas and philosophies of this era gave rise to the Impressionist Movement in art which, born out of the idea of questioned reality, manifested itself in work that was misty or gauzy, with no hard edges. In a world with no absolutes, subjective impressions replaced objective reality. Artists of the Impressionist Era include Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Paul Gaugin (1848-1903), Claude Monet (1840-1926), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), whose work Le Moulin de la Galette (above left) characterizes the style of the Impressionist Movement.

The Age of Realism
At the tail end of the Romantic Era, the Industrial Revolution kicked into high gear. Life began to be looked at through jaundiced eyes. Pessimism, narcissism, and nihilism emerged as the philosophies of the day.

The most influential thinker of this age was Charles Darwin (1809-1882), author of On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin became the godfather of numerous anti-God movements, and is credited with influencing many including Andrew Carnegie and JD Rockefeller (Industrialists), Karl Marx (father of Communism/Socialism), Francis Galton (promoter of eugenics), Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood and promoter of abortion), and Adolph Hitler (Nazi dictator who promoted the German super-race).

Darwin's primary thesis, "the survival of the fittest," gave legitimacy to the movement of social engineering, and the rise of the power of the state over the individual. Darwin's work brought a renewed faith in science, and provided scientific justification to the desire of men to remove church, Scripture, tradition, and morality from the human equation. Darwin's ideas and writings brought into question the inherent worth and dignity of human beings.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1889-1945) is also recognized as a leading thinker and philosopher of this era. His work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, promoted the idea that "God is dead." Nietzsche taught that power, strength and intelligence are superior to goodness. His purpose was to produce a new race of supermen, and like Darwin, he greatly influenced Adolph Hitler, and the rise of Nazism.

As for musical artists of this era, composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was adamantly anti-Christian and detested teachings on sexual abstinence and virtue. He believed that love was possible only in a sexual context. Wagner's philosophy and music greatly influenced Adolph Hitler, and like the German Führer, he too held strong anti-Semitic views. Some even say that Hitler's extermination camps sprang from his fascination with Wagner.

Nietzsche's influence in the world of music even reaches into our generation. Rocker Jim Morrison (1943-1971) of The Doors fame, a student of Nietzsche’s writings, promoted "sex, drugs, and rock and roll." Morrison died at the age of 27 from a drug overdose, leaving behind a legacy of rebellion and narcissism.

Visual artists spawned by the Age of Realism are referred to as Post Impressionists. Reacting to a world where humanity’s place was now dominated by machines, they saw reality as observed in nature as irrelevant, and viewed power, strength and intelligence as superior to goodness. Their art forms reduced life to essential geometric structures.

Two prominent artists of this era are Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), and Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). They are known specifically as Cubists. Picasso's art demonstrated a subtle hostility toward women. One of his most well known works is Mademoiselle D'Avignon (above left). Duchamp's work reflects a narcissistic view of the world as seen in his work completed in 1912 titled Nude Descending a Staircase # 2 (immediate left).

The reach of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and their descendants stretch even into art of recent decades. Of particular note are Edward Hopper (1882-1968) whose work Nighthawks (left) portrays loneliness and isolation, and Andy Warhol (1928-1987) whose familiar work titled Soup Cans (below left) portrays the repetiveness of our modern world.

Wrapping Up
What I have done here is look specifically at art spawned by the philosophies of this world in Western culture. Each of the movements discussed above carried forth a set of ideas, or dogma, which were danced out in color, line, form, note, or sentence. As seen above, the art of each respective era closely paralleled the anti-God philosophies of their age. But a quick look at two examples, one from the Reformation stream, and one from the Humanist stream, should make my thesis abundantly clear.

In 1646, Rembrandt's Adoration of the Shepherds (left) focuses upon the Christ child in the manger, surrounded by the shepherds as told in the gospel of Luke. Rembrandt's works portray life with meaning, and a Divine purpose for human existence. (By the way, feel free to click on any of these images for a larger view).

In stark contrast we find the work of Morton Schamberg (1881-1918), whose sculpture, God (left) produced in 1917, is but a collection of pipe and fittings and speaks of God as impersonal and disconnected, with no personal influence or relationship with humanity. Schamberg's God is inanimate. There are many other examples of this stark contrast in modern art, among them are Francis Bacon’s 1944 Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (click on link to see the image) which speaks of the isolation and despair of humanity. If you take the time to click on the link, you will clearly see the antithesis to the art of Rembrandt.

It is completely appropriate for Christians to appreciate artists and their work from every era and philosophical stream. We can certainly see the God given genius in the men and women who expressed the ideas of their age in these various movements in history. However, it is equally important to understand the deeper meaning beneath the surface reality. What is really being communicated? As Christian artists today, it is imperative for us to have a discerning eye, and a compassionate ear to hear what is being spoken and taught. We must learn to be discerners of ideas, so that we can sort out the good from the bad. How else will we be able to respond with the voice of the Lord in our work?

Our culture is submerged in an array of media. We are continuously bombarded with literature, music, and art of all kinds. Every one communicates ideas. How do these IDEAS affect our lives, moreover, shape our Worldview? What are these IDEAS? Do we recognize them and their source?

Today is not a day for passivity in thought, or spirit. We need to use our minds to think and ponder and also to listen to the Holy Spirit, sorting what we hear through the filter of the Holy Scriptures for deeper understanding and heavenly wisdom. Let us be wise as serpents and yet gentle as doves. There is a war for the hearts of mankind and God wants us to use the vehicle of art to communicate His truth in a form that the world can receive.

It has been statistically shown that people are attending traditional churches less and less. We live in a day when the written and spoken word is having less and less of an influence on people. We are becoming a visual society. We must prayerfully consider how to use the arts to communicate the gospel's message to the up and coming generations.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bob Dylan's Birthday

Today is Bob Dylan's 65th birthday. What's the big deal, you say? Well, nothing really. It's just that Dylan has long been an inspiration of mine.

I first began listening to Dylan in 1963 when I obtained his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. It was a 33 RPM vinyl record that I played hundreds of times on our blond, veneer, HI-FI stereo console that set up against the wall of our living room, next to the front door of our suburban home in Berea, Ohio.

Whoa! I just realized something. That was 43 years ago!

Anyway, not long afterwards, I got my first guitar, a Sears Silvertone, and began to strum. Among the many things I liked about Dylan was the fact that he couldn't sing worth a hoot. That simple fact gave me hope that, "Hey, if he can make, maybe I can too!" Of course I never did, but it was fun dreaming about it "back in the day," as they say.

The first Dylan song I learned to play and sing was Oxford Town. Listen to a clip.

It wasn't long after I got that album, that I bought my first harmonica, and one of those metal harmonica holders that hangs on your neck. Finding the notes came quite easy to me and before long I was playing two instruments at one time.

As the years rolled on, I came to appreciate the genius of Dylan more and more. This is actually the second posting I have made about Dylan. Here's the first.

I have many favorite Dylan songs. Among them are:

Click on any of the above links and you will be taken to Bob's website where he has the lyrics to every song and a clip you can listen to.

Here's a list of the Dylan albums I have owned through the years. Unfortunately I have lost track of some of them:

I love the way Dylan weaves his lyrics together. Some examples:

Farewell Angelina
"Farewell Angelina
The bells of the crown
Are being stolen by bandits
I must follow the sound
The triangle tingles
And the trumpet plays slow
Farewell Angelina
The sky is on fire
And I must go."

"I can still see them playin'
with their pails in the sand,
They run to the water their buckets to fill.
I can still see the shells fallin' out of their hands
As they follow each other back up the hill.

Sara, Sara,
Sweet virgin angel,
sweet love of my life,
Sara, Sara,
Radiant jewel,
mystical wife."

Not Dark Yet
"I was born here and I'll die here
against my will
I know it looks like I'm moving,
but I'm standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from.

Don't even hear a murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet,
but it's getting there."

Sixty-five is sort of a landmark year. It's a milestone in life. Throughout my artistic life, Dylan has been an inspiration to me, actually since I was twelve or thirteen years old. So it seemed appropriate to me to post something on my blog in tribute to his artistic self.

Bob Dylan. Forever Young. Happy Birthday Bob!

Those Troubling "Jesus Emails"

I ran across someone else who gets frustrated with the endless stream of well-meaning, but often misguided "Jesus emails" that come into our email boxes almost every day. As a general rule, I usually read them and delete them. Sometimes I don't even read them before I delete them.

Shocked? I'll bet I'm not the only one who does this.

Keith Plummer at The Christian Mind has written a well-thought-out treatise on this topic. Here's a sampling of what he had to say:

"Messages like this appeal to our fear of the opinions of others in order to get us to act a certain way. If this weren’t the case, it wouldn’t be necessary to include the person who forwarded the e-mail to you among those to whom you forward the message. According to the Bible, the fear of man brings a snare (Prov. 29:25). Who among us hasn’t felt imprisoned by our own craving for the acceptance and praise of others? While it may be of proven effectiveness to make people act in various ways, the fear of man can never produce the fear of the Lord that should be every Christian’s strongest motivation for obedience."

Keith goes on to talk about how these emails often bypass our minds altogether and appeal strictly to our emotions. Many times, the message is not even Biblically accurate such as the example he gives in his article. Does the sending party ask to be included in your forwarding list? Is there some kind of promised blessing for following the sender's instructions? Keith offers some good questions that we might consider asking ourselves prior to automatically hitting the forward button on our email program:

"Is this message appealing more to sentimentality than biblically sound instruction? Is it trying to target my emotions by bypassing my mind? Is it relying on man-centered shame or emotional blackmail as motivation to what may be a good thing? Is the presentation of God’s nature and character true to what He has revealed of Himself in the pages of Scripture?"

Keith has given us some food for thought. If you can spare a minute or two, take the time to read his thoughtful article. And don't feel guilty next time you delete one of those "Jesus emails."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Politics Over Principle

On the hot topic of illegal immigration from David Limbaugh, May 18th 2006: Immigration: At The Tipping Point

"Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear the talking heads, instead of discussing the potential impact on the two political parties, actually considering what the ramifications for our nation might be if significant action isn't taken? ... With all due respect to the casual elite, we are talking about nothing less than the destruction of America as we know it. This will come about not so much by "foreigners," but through our own complicity in devaluing the rule of law by neglecting immigration enforcement and the disgraceful abandonment of our national identity. This will prevent us from promoting the English language, our own sovereignty, our unique constitutional system and our traditional values."

And Karl Rove reportedly said,

"The president doesn't want to enforce immigration law because he's afraid he'll inconvenience someone who wants to come into the country for a better life."

Come again? Did I hear you correctly? Read the entire article.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Blow the Trumpet in Zion

In 1983, Craig Tendrup penned and published a song that made a huge impact upon certain circles within the body of Christ. The song is titled Blow the Trumpet in Zion. Click on the link and you can hear a clip (courtesy of Audible Faith).

They rush on the city they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word (repeat)
The Lord utters His voice
Before His army (repeat)
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound an alarm on my holy mountain
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound an alarm

I love this song! It tells of a mighty army, moving at the command of the Lord. The song is drawn from the book of Joel, chapter 2. We sang this song frequently back in the 1980's, and imagined ourselves as the mighty army of the Lord, moving forward and conquering kingdoms for Christ.

But if we would have been paying a little closer attention, we might have realized that this song actually depicts a swarm of locusts overtaking Israel's city of Zion. This is not a song about the people of God as a conquering army. It is a song about God's judgment upon His people.

I was talking to a good friend the other day and she mentioned to me that she had been thinking about whether the crisis of illegal immigration facing our nation today might perhaps be another component of God's judgment upon our land. Shortly following our conversation, I thought of the above highlighted song, and the tune and words began to play in my mind.

I found the passage in Joel and began to read.
"Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand:" (Joel 2:1 NKJV)

Blow the trumpet ... sound an alarm.
Clearly, an alarm has been sounded in our land. When Americans tuned in their televisions a few weeks ago and watched as hundreds of thousands of Hispanics took to the streets waving Mexican flags, internal alarms went off all across the country. We experienced a wake-up call.

Bowing to political pressure, President Bush took sixteen minutes on Monday evening to address the American people regarding the issue of illegal immigration. Peggy Noonan expressed it well in her article titled, Out of Touch.

"Without an established context the speech seemed free-floating: a statement issued into the ether, unanchored to any particular principle and eager to use, as opposed to appreciate, whatever human sentiment flows around the issue of immigration. It was a speech driven by an air of crisis, but not a public crisis, only a personal and political one." Zion...
When Puritans first arrived in the New World in 1630, they viewed their venture as God-inspired, and their new home as "a city on a hill." This phrase, utilized by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, has its origins in ancient Israel's "holy hill' of Zion or as it is also referred to, "the City of David." Zion, the city on God's "holy hill," the City of David, represents Israel at the pinnacle of her glory, during the reign of King David.

Puritan leader John Winthrop delivered these words to the small band of Puritans making the trip from England to the new World:

"For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken ... we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God ... We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going."

Winthrop really put his little band on the line. He said that if they did not succeed in living up to their commitments to live according to God's ways, that their failure would open the mouths of God's detractors, that they would invite a curse upon themselves and that they would be consumed out of the land where they were settling in His name.

It would appear that Winthrop's words were taken directly from the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, the 21st verse which reads: "The LORD will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you from the land which you are going to possess." (NKJV)

In our generation, we are beginning to experience some of what Winthrop predicted. We live in the age of consumerism, an era accentuated by slick marketing for just about every product, including Christianity itself, which is being packaged and peddled much like other consumables. Nearly everything in America is turning inward, focusing on the self—even our Sunday morning services in many cases.

Aiding us in this consumption are illegal, low-wage workers. We love them because they help keep down the prices of our consumables. And yet we loathe them because they are not like us.

They rush on the city they run on the wall.
We have all seen the images of illegal immigrants sneaking across the border, scaling walls and fences, and rushing to the streets of our cities, waving their flags and demanding rights. And these images strike an alarm in us—an alarm different, yet faintly similar to the alarm we felt on September 11th, 2001.

What alarms us most is the real fear that the America we have known and loved will be forever changed, never to return to the wonderful Eden of our childhood, our youth, and our memory from history. But these illegals are only the latest wave in a long series of waves that have swept across our land.

The waves began coming in force over a century ago. The first major wave swept across the Atlantic just as the Civil War was about to break out. It came in the form of a book with an idea—an idea we have come to call evolution. The book was titled On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, and it set in motion a series of events and ideas which have forever altered America's Christian landscape. Other waves followed attached to names like Freud, and Dewey and Sanger. The list is long and the devestation, great.

Yes, the other waves did not consist of people, although they came, too. They came in an orderly way, following the laws, and respecting the culture already in place. They came for sanctuary, many passing beneath Liberty's torch, grateful to be given the opportunity. These previous waves of people served to strengthen America, to help make her great. This new group seems bent on preserving their own way of life, bent on assimilating as little as possible.

The waves of devestation in our past were not people, but ideas. And it is much more difficult to wrap our minds around an image of an idea—an idea stealing into your land over a fence or running between the scrubby bushes to avoid detection by the Border Patrol.

But the ideas came nonetheless, creeping into our lives first through the schools and various literature, and later through radio, television, music, and film.

America is under siege. She has been under seige for a long time now. But because we have been so strong, with a system crafted so brilliantly, we have withstood many, many waves of assault.

The time for the trumpet to blow and the alarm to be sounded is long past. Our land is already inhabited, not only lawbreaking immigrants, but by insidious, ungodly ideas. We are being torn apart from within. Our greatest threat is not the illegal immigrants, not facist Islam, but our unrepentant hearts.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Our Nation's Counterfeit Priesthood

In a recent post I said the following: "In essence, the state became, and yet remains, a counterfeit-church, and its government workers, pseudo-priests."

I want to look more closely at the concept of our nation's false priesthood.

To set the stage for what follows, first I will take a paragraph or two to define the word, "priest."

In Old Testament Biblical terms a priest is a mediator. He stands between God and man, making sacrifices on behalf of others. An Old Testament (Old Covenant) priest was both a representative of the people to God, and of God to the people, and as such, mediated the Covenant between God and Israel. Moses' brother, Aaron, and his descendants (the Levites) became the line of the priesthood in Israel until Christ, the Messiah, arrived on the scene.

In the New Testament, Jesus is called the High Priest. What He accomplished on the cross completed what was begun in Exodus under the Levitical order. When He spoke from the cross saying "It is finished," He proclaimed the fulfillment of the old order (the Old Covenant), and He Himself accomplished what no Levitical priest could have ever done by mediating a New Covenant between God and man. Subsequently, because of what Christ did, all who trust in and follow Him are called priests, and His Church, is called a royal priesthood.

When this land we call America was first settled, Christ's New Covenant was not only seen as that which defined the relationship between the individual and God, it also served as a social contract for the many small communities that emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries on American soil.

Through this New Covenant, settlers and their American-born offspring were assimilated, not only into their respective church communities, but into the larger, emerging, American society in the whole. So pervasive was this acceptance of Christianity and its New Covenant, that historian Sydney Ahlstrom, in his work titled, A Religious History of the American People, dubs this era of American history (the early 1600's to the mid-1800's) The Protestant Empire.

During this era of American history, the church (in its many denominational forms) remained the central unifier of the American people. We were held together by a common belief system, and a widespread, Judeo-Christian Worldview. The church's influence was so widespread, both in the colonial era, and in the early, formative years of our nation, that most everyone was assimilated into a culture undergirded by the truths of Holy Scripture, and ministered to through the churches that permeated every community.

The Church of that time functioned as a mediator of the social contract between the American people and God—a priestly role. Through the ministries of the Church, Americans were instructed in God's ways, and families were reinforced in their Christian values by the commonly-held Christian Worldviews of their neighbors.

But although America was clearly a Christian (particularly Protestant) nation, it was unlike other nations of that era in that it had no official state religion. Because of this, America likewise had no national priesthood, no state-supported ecclessiastical authority through which the ideals and values of the Church could be uniformly disseminated.

In response to this, Horace Mann, a state senator from Massachussets, began 1837 to push toward standardizing the public educational system in America. His goal—to inculcate moral values and virtues into the children. His reasoning was that because our nation had no officially sanctioned, state-supported church, we needed a consistent, organized system to convey America's values to young students.

Though seemingly good on the surface, Mann's vision had in its seed, a poisonous fruit. By shifting the responsibility for a child's education from the parent (supported by the church) to the state, public education set us on a course toward mass indoctrination.

Then, in the early 20th century, a man named John Dewey gained great respect in the sphere of public education. Influenced by Darwin, and fed by a passion for relativism (the denial of absolutes), Dewey co-wrote the Humanist Manifesto, and other works promoting his relativistic ideas.

Dewey's ideas, widely accepted by public educators for decades, have shaped the public education system into what it is today—a mechanism for assimilation of the young into anti-Christian ideologies. Whether knowingly or not, public educators have become the new priests of the American culture. Through the public schools, a religion is being imparted. It is no longer Christianity, but a religion nonetheless, spouting an ideology of socialism, hedonism, new-ageism, and in some cases, even nihilism.

Even as America's collective churches of the past performed a priestly, mediatorial role by instructing and thus and assimilating the young into American culture, so today the public educators are functioning likewise as the local priests in the community.

Church historian Sidney Mead in his book, The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America, had this to say in 1963: "the public school system of the United States is its established church."

The church stepped away, and the state stepped in.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Watching The DaVinci Code: Good Stewardship?

After sending out the announcement earlier today about my DaVinci Code review, a friend wrote to me in a private email, questioning why I would even spend a dime to see that movie. The writer went on to explain that the only reason these kinds of movies are made is to put money in the hands of Hollywood's producers and investors, and to confuse young Christians.

I responded that, first of all, I got into the movie for free because a friend runs the theater, but regardless I would have paid to see it because I want to know what's going on. A cultural event of this magnitude needs to be addressed by the body of Christ. I cannot talk to others about it, if I myself have not seen it, or read the book.

It's a story that deals with the core of our faith, questioning the very Divinity of Christ. That's why I went to see it. I don't think that God wants us to bury our heads in the sand.

I want to know where I need to prepare and learn so I can be ready, like Peter tells us ...

"... Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have ..." (I Peter 3:15)

Is viewing a film like this good stewardship of our time and money? Or is it poor stewardship, giving over to the devil what belongs to God (those are my words now, not the original emailer I noted above)?

Comments welcomed.

Viewing: Pre-release Screening of DaVinci Code

Sitting with my son-in-law and an old friend, I had the privilege last night (Thursday, May 18th), in a near empty theater, to view The DaVinci Code. The viewing commenced around 10:50 P.M. (including previews), and ended at around 1:25 AM Friday morning.

I have not yet read the book and am still debating as to whether or not I will.

As a firm believer in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the authenticity of His story as told in the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), I had to temporarily suspend my predisposition to the story's theme, and do my best to simply engage in the story as a story.

Early critics mostly panned the movie, which is usually a good sign for me that the film is probably pretty good. Disregarding the story's premise which I personally think borders on ludicrous, I thought Howard's presentation was fair.

My first reaction to the film was that it would have been better to tell this story in a television mini-series, than a theatrical film. There was just way too much going on to grasp at one time, and a lot of detail had to be crammed into a film-length time-frame. And though, as I said above, I have not read the book, I suspect a great deal was left out, too.

The story's beginnings are rooted in events that happened 2000 years ago, and to link the past and the present, Howard used dialogue (somewhat forced in my view), and blurry, washed-out sequences that transported us back into history. Some of the historical moments were decent, but I particularly found his recreation of the Council of Nicea to be humourous and grossly exaggerated.

The film's critics have particularly criticized Hanks' performance as "flat" or "zombie-like." I did not come away with that same reaction. Granted, he showed a minimal of emotion in the story, but I found his portrayal of the story's main character, Robert Langdon, to be believable. Langdon was a thinker, constantly evaluating clues, and processing new information all the time. Hanks, I thought, played the role as a thoughtful, logical character, the pivot or fulcrum on which the story turned because his mind was critical to unravelling the mystery.

I did not like that the story had three climaxes. Just when you thought the story was over, it started up again—twice. Leaving the theater, I remarked that it reminded me of some classic hard rock songs from the late '60's and early '70's. Just when you think the song is over, it starts up again and builds to another climax.

I think the film does a disservice to the Christian faith, especially the Catholic Church whose characters in the film are made out to be conniving, manipulative, and even murderous. I only recall one Catholic character in the story who did not come across that way. And although I don't agree with some of the reaction to the film by the Catholic Church, I can understand why they would react the way they have. Aside from the story's absurd premise, (spoiler alert) that Jesus Christ married and fostered a child and that the Catholic Church has spent the last 2000 years attempting to cover that up, the film frankly makes the Catholic clergy look evil.

On the other hand, perhaps the film does a service to Christianity by tackling, at least indirectly, issues which are at the core of our faith. Was Jesus Divine? How did the Holy Scriptures come to be? And perhaps the most important question of all—is the faith of nearly two billion Christians across the globe based on bogus claims and a subsequent cover up?

It is good for us to be challenged this way. It is good for us to stretch our minds and explore our history and heritage. It is good for us to ask ourselves probing questions, questions that take us to the core of our faith.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, The DaVinci Code will be a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Viewing: Speak

Sally and I viewed a movie a few weeks back that I think is worth writing about and recommending. It's titled Speak, and it is based on a novel of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is rated PG-13 for thematic elements.

The story revolves around a young girl entering her first year of high school just following her summer vacation. In previous years, Melinda (played to perfection by the amazing Kristen Stuart) had been approachable, outgoing, and sociable. But this year finds her reserved, reclusive, and withdrawn, so detached that she barely speaks—thus the film's title.

Told in quick, blurry flashbacks as the school year progresses, we learn that Melinda suffered a beastly trauma at a party over the summer, a trauma so horrifying that her life now appears to be suspended in time. Many of her friends now shun her because she placed a call to the police from that summer party, and they came and broke it up.

But something happened at that summer, teen gathering, something Melinda cannot bring herself to speak about.

Her teachers are confounded by her detached state, and assume that she is just an excessively troubled teen. Melinda has become so severed from everything around her that she has essentially gone mute. Though the people in her life know that something is amiss, no one seems to care enough to interject themselves into her life to help her. Only her eccentric art teacher (Steve Zahn), is willing to try and draw her out.

Even Melinda's parents (Elizabeth Perkins and DB Sweeney) don't seem to care all that much. They are both so self-absorbed, so involved in their own, private lives, that at times they hardly seem to even notice Melinda exists. Neither one cares enough to make the extra step to get Melinda the help she desperately needs.

The Director (Jesseca Sharzer) is able to offset Melinda's virtual non-talking role on screen with occasional and effective voice-overs by Stewart. Camera work focuses often on Stewart's face and eyes, and the young actress deftly conveys the inner trauma of her character. The images convey the turmoil that she refuses to speak about more powerfully than any words ever could.

As spring breaks and the school year winds down, her art teacher slowly gains Melinda's confidence. But a tramatic showdown is awaiting this young lady, a moment when she must confront and overcome her deepest fears.

Though filmed primarily in a high school setting, this is far from your typical, teen flick. It is clearly a thought-provoking work of art, produced for the adult market. An Independent film, Speak is far superior to most of the junk that Hollywood cranks out.

As the story slowly unfolded on my television screen, I found myself pulling for this young lady, rooting for her and crying out, "Speak, Melinda, speak!"

Rent the DVD and watch it. See if you don't feel compelled to do the same thing.

Mercy and Justice: Clearing Up Some Confusion

Mercy and Justice are two attributes of God. He exercises them both. And he has given us the responsibility of exercising them as well.

But we have somehow become confused. I mean a boatload of us. And not just non-Christians, either.

Jesus personally instructed us to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan. God's Word in general teaches us to be kind and compassionate and hospitable.

But who are these instructions, these admonitions, directed toward? I suggest to you that they are directed to His people, the body of Christ, the Church.

Mercy is one of the primary ministries of the Church. In addition to preaching the Word, and proclaiming and teaching His ways, we are to conduct ourselves in the earth as conduits of God's unfailing mercy and grace. We are to demonstrate His love in many and various ways, giving of our time and resources, and of our hearts to aid and assist those in need.

Justice on the other hand is primarily the role of the state. God has meeted out His authority to the state to keep order, to protect, defend, and enforce the rights of the individual.

Just as the Church has no power to enforce the law, to act as an arbiter of justice in the civil sphere, so the state's role is not, primarily, the care and nurture and feeding of individual souls.

And this is where things have gotten off track. And I mean WAY off track!

Today we have a state, a civil government, acting in the role of the Church. We have a state taking care of people--lots of them. And just as it is not the role of the Church to arrest people, to wage wars, to execute and carry out justice, so it is not the role of the state to care for the poor, the underprivileged, the needy.

Now some might argue that what the state is really doing by caring for the poor and downtrodden is actually part of the arm of justice. There are many, many Christians who believe this. I do not.

What the state did do, and did correctly in my view, was to step in and right some of the wrongs of the past. Case in point: When black citizens rose up in the '60's to march for their denied rights, the state stepped in to right those wrongs, to correct those errors, to fix what was broken, and to punish the evildoers. That is the arm of justice, and the tasks carried out in that decade, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related efforts to tear down barriers to certain elements of our society, were needed. And the state was doing its job, exercising its arm of justice.

But the state did not stop with simply correcting bad laws and punishing those who broke them. They began to dole out massive sums of money to aid and assist the underprivelged, the previously denied, the discrimnated against. Over the last forty years, our Federal Government has been dispensing mercy to millions in the form of entitlements.

Mercy is the role of the Church, not the State.

So, since the mid-1960's, since Johnson's "Great Society," the state has been stepping over a God-drawn boundary and into the role of the Church. In essence, the state became, and yet remains, a counterfeit-church, and its government workers, pseudo-priests.

There are reasons for this happening, and the fingers point back to us, God's people. I will have more to say on this soon, but I just wanted to get down some preliminary thoughts.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

If I Were Writing His Speech

Tomorrow evening, President Bush will address the nation on the illegal immigration mess. If I were writing his speech, I would talk about three distinct yet linked arenas that must be addressed. Of course our president would not be able to say all that follows. But I would hope that the thinking behind his statement and his position would reflect the main ideas in what is below:

1. We must close our borders.
A few weeks ago I penned and published an article titled Gates and Doors. In that piece I explained the importance of entering and leaving in the proper way. Borders are boundaries that exist for a reason.

Games in sports have boundaries. A baseball diamond has two foul lines, left field and right field. Football fields and basketball courts have out-of-bounds lines. So do soccer fields. Likewise, games have rules of play. In baseball for example, once a player is removed from the game, they cannot return. In football and basketball, teams can be penalized when players commit fouls.

In short, there are places you can go, and places you can't. There are things you can do, and things you cannot.

Life is like this too. The Ten Commandments create borders or boundaries for us. We cannot steal. We cannot commit adultery. We cannot murder. When we do, there are penalties to be paid. When we break these commandments, not only have we violated God's laws, but we have also invited chaos into our world.

Our open and uncontrolled border with Mexico has invited chaos and disorder into our American culture. Think of it as an NFL game with no referees and no rules of play. There is chaos and disorder all over the field. Think of it as the church opening communion to non-believers. Chaos and confusion would result. Who's in? Who's out? I would be joined at a special table of intimacy by someone not yoked to the same Christ as I.

We are bleeding. First we must close the wound and stop the flow.

2. We must right our economic ship.
Undocumented workers are doing jobs that Americans don't want to do because they are accepting less pay than we would. And the reason this works, though not in a healthy way, is because we have artificially propped up those on the lower end of the economic scale with government entitlements. And in many cases, these entitlements are benefitting illegals as well as Americans.

How can illegals afford to live on a lower wage? By cramming two or more families into one house. Unlike most of us, who have a mximum of two incomes per family, illegals often have five, six, or even more incomes providing one roof over many heads. You can get by on a lot less that way.

Illegals take advantage of American generosity in many ways. Hospitals must treat patients whether they can pay or not. Extra personnel must be on hand to help those who do not know our language to fill out forms and to communicate with nurses and doctors.

Public schools must at least attempt to educate those who come through their doors whether they be illegal or not. Special programs must be provided to help the youngsters learn the language so they can become mainstreamed into classes. Teachers must slow down their curriculum so they don't leave some behind. And schools also sometimes provide free breakfasts and lunches for those in certain economic categories.

Police departments and other public offices must maintain interpreters. Literature must be published in two languages.

All of these special efforts cost money. Who pays? You and I do of course. The good old American taxpayer. And often, when money is exchanged under the table between employer and illegal, nothing goes into the government coffers to help offset the cost of the freebies.

If government largesse were not so large, our taxes would be lower. If our taxes were lower, we could accept less pay and businesses could afford to pay us more. Our illegal immigrant-fed economy would eventually right itself.

Enforce the laws on the books. Punish companies who hire illegals. After all, they ARE breaking the law! Make it more difficult for illegals to find work. Once the word begins to spread that it isn't so easy anymore, people won't be so eager to break in to our country, and many will go home. It's called attrition.

It isn't rocket science as they say.

3. We must assimilate and enculturate.
If steps one and two are followed through, I believe that things would slowly begin to right themselves. It will take time of course, such things always do. But if we begin to do the right things now, we will eventually get back to where we should have been all along.

Yet even with these measures, there will be some remnants of the alien culture left in ours. The first step to end this "two-nations-within-a-nation" trend we see today, is to make English the official language of the United States.

Language unifies a culture. Multilingual nations invite chaos and confusion. It is diffcult to discuss culture without discussing language. They are inextricably bound together. A single culture cannot long remain while two, separate and distinct languages are alive within it.

The push by some toward an official, multi-lingual society, must be stopped. A bill has been introduced into Congress (HR997) which would make English the official language of the United States. Polls show there is heavy and widespread support for this bill, and yet the proposal remains bottled up in Congress.

Final Thoughts
Of course President Bush will not be able to say things quite the way I have here. But I hope his message embodies these three points somehow.

And oh yes, there is one other thing the President should say Monday night. He should say, "I apologize to the American people for being so slow to deal with this problem."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

History of the World Megaconference

Vision Forum is sponsoring the History of the World Megaconference in Hampton, Virginia this July. It looks awesome. Their promo material reads:

“You can go to college for four years and hope to pick a few pearls of truth concerning the providence of God in earth history from the barrage of politically-correct revisionism being spoon-fed to young men and women at great expense to their parents; or, you can spend five days with some of the great teachers, historians, and communicators of our generation while being immersed in a millennia-by-millennia overview of the history of the world — all from a distinctively biblical perspective.”

Check it out. And check out their topics.

I am debating with myself to determine if I should try and go. If not, perhaps I can at least purchase the CDs of the messages.

Fading Memories

I ran across a deeply moving article penned by a Florida born woman now living in Virginia's Blue Ridge foothills, whose online identity is "Dymphna." She teams with "Baron Bodissey" on a widely read blog titled Gates of Vienna. The blog name is drawn from the Islamic seige of Vienna, Austria in 1683, the year the warring Muslims were turned back at Vienna's gates in their quest to conquer Europe. The subtitle for Gates of Vienna reads as follows: "At the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war."

More on Dymphna's story below, but first a little background to it all.

President Bush has tagged our struggle against Al Quaeda and their cohorts, The War on Terror. And others even go so far as to label this struggle WWIII. But the deeper one looks, the more it becomes evident that this war with Islam is not new. In recent memory of course are the murders of eleven Israeli atheletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Steven Spielberg produced a movie about those events and the aftermath. In 1983, two major attacks occurred in Bierut, Lebanon, the first at the U.S. Embassy, and the second at a Marine barracks. In all, 304 people lost their lives in those heinous acts of war. In 1993, four terrorists attempted to blow up the World Trade Center in New York City, killing four and wounding 1,042. These all pale in comparison of course to the horrors of 9/11.

Noted above are just the major events. Israel has suffered a seemingly endless string of murderous terrorist attacks for many, many years. And not mentioned in detail here are many aircraft hijackings, and numerous random acts of terror over the last thirty years.

The New York Post carried an article on Thursday (May 11th) written by Amir Teheri which reveals a deeper meaning in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to president Bush. Here's what Teheri said:

"Ahmadinejad's move fits into a 14-century-long Muslim tradition, initiated by the Prophet Muhammad himself, of writing letters to "the rulers of the world." In 625 A.D., having consolidated his position in Medina and established a secure power base for his rule, the prophet decided it was time to call on "the infidel" to abandon their faith and submit to Islam. He dictated letters to Khosrow Parviz, the Persian king of kings (a Zoroastrian), and to Emperor Heraclius of Byzantium and the Ethiopian monarch Negus (both Christian).

"To each, the prophet's offer was simple: Convert to Islam and secure a place in paradise - or cling to your beliefs and face the sword of Islam."

So, are we to believe that Ahmadinejad's letter carries a double meaning? A prelude to war with Iran? Read Teheri's entire article here.

Now, on to Dymphna's story. In The Last Boat Out of Liverpool, Dymphna writes of her English mother's marriage to an American and their move to the U.S. on the cusp of WWII. Her mother, she explains, like many of that era, intuitively understood the horrors of Germany's Nazi power, particularly their hatred for all things Jewish. And yet, like so many, her mother never really discussed the Holocaust.

Dymphna connects those dark days of the past—days when so many practiced a denial of the Holocaust horrors—with trends in our own day and time. She writes:

"The most bizarre and perverted aspect of this phenomenon of self-hatred is the denial of the Holocaust itself. This symptom of our cultural depravity, even if it exists only on the fringes, is deeply disturbing for what it portends for the future of the West. If we are denied our remembrance of the past — and 9/11 is now entering this “VERBOTEN” zone — then what are we?

"What are we, with no history?"

Read the article. It's chilling!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Birthday Yogi

It's Yogi Berra's birthday! He was born on this day in 1925, which makes him 81 years old today.

Yogi is the Hall of Fame catcher of the New York Yankees who played in the '40's, '50's and '60's. He signed with the Yanks late in the '46 season, and played with the greats Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris. He hold several World Series records:
  • Most World Series played in (14)
  • Most World Series on winning team (10)
  • Most World Series games (63)

Before his illustrious Yankees career, Yogi served in the Navy in WWII. He participated in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach in 1944.

Of all things though, Yogi is most well known for his Yogisms—that is his strange sayings and quips. Here are a few:

  • "I didn't really say everything I said."
  • "If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them."
  • "The future ain't what it used to be."
  • "It gets late early out here."
  • "95% of the game is half mental."
  • "No one goes there anymore—it’s too crowded."

And probably the most well known Yogism:

  • "It’s like déjà vu all over again."

Happy Birthday Yogi.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Erosion of the Five Solas

The Folks over at have posted an excellent article by Michael Horton examining the present-day decline of the Five Solas of the Christian faith. For those unfamiliar with the Five Solas, they are:
  • Sola Scriptura (by Scripture Alone)
  • Solus Christus (by Christ Alone)
  • Sola Gratia (by Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide (by Faith Alone)
  • Sola Deo Gloria (for the Glory of God Alone)

These Five Solas grew out of the Reformation, and serve as a guide to keep the Christian focused upon the essence of the Christian faith. Read what Michael Horton has to say regarding our slide from Biblical Authority:

Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church's life, but the evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God. Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.

Read the entire article here: