Monday, August 25, 2014

The Symbolism of a Severe Summer Storm

Pretty awesome shelf cloud to the right, isn't it? I took that today outside my office, where we had a line of moderate to severe thunderstorms move through. As they say down South, it rained like water pouring out of a boot.

Why would I mention "symbolism" in light of a late summer thunderstorm? It's because I see a lot of illustrative power with that photo. We have the threat of Islamic radicals not just gaining strength overseas, but here in America as well. I have no doubt that we have sleeper cells in our midst just waiting to strike. And America wants to roll over and go back to sleep. If we just close our eyes, maybe it will all go away.

The current Administration in power is content to be even worse than Jimmy Carter and be do-less about dealing with the problem. Today, my level of being incensed is aimed at the news media, which seems to show less and less responsibility in their reporting. Did the news reporters need to explain in detail how the thug who allegedly beheaded journalist James Foley is being identified by British Intelligence? It's already out there now, so if you missed the story, I might as well explain. I guess you can identify people with current technology that zeros in on your hands, and your hands can serve as an ID as well as a fingerprint.

That got revealed by a reporter on FNC. You'd hope they'd know better. What will be the result? Likely future beheaders will not only wear burkha-like robes and face masks. Now they'll wear gloves, making it even harder to find out who they are.

I suppose in one sense it doesn't matter. If our government does what it's supposed to do in protecting the country and U.S. assets abroad, the guy will get his comeuppance either through a drone strike or special forces. But in another sense, it does matter. Why, why, WHY help our enemies? Does getting a scoop really mean that much?

I am a former news director and former journalist. I can be as competitive as the next person. But I also believe that there is some sense of responsibility in reporting. Sometimes it is best to keep quiet about what you know.

Maybe that's why I had some modicum of respect from law enforcement and government officials when I was still in the business. They knew I had some discretion and they could tell me things knowing I'd be responsible with the information. Trust me. If they explained their strategy in finding a mass murderer, I'd keep mum about it until after the mass murderer was caught. But I'm not going to blab it so the mass murderer can hear the tactics and evade capture.

CNN did something very similar during the first Gulf War that appalled me. They threw the klieg lights on and put our troops on the air live landing on shore - in essence making them a target of anyone who wanted to shoot at them. But by George, they were live and on the scene, covering the landing as it happened. Pop some corn! Watch the show.

My blood pressure's rising. Enough of this - you get the idea. But I do worry for my country. God help us.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Deaf Government?

Interesting and disturbing article from Newsmax on the current state of mind of Congress. In the wake of the vicious murder of journalist James Foley and ongoing threats against Americans abroad (and at home), this article suggests Congress' minds aren't changed any about military action against ISIS.

I must say again, I don't think anyone is eager for war. And after years of it since 2001, America is war-weary. However, I think some of this is a lack of leadership. When most Americans are told the truth and have a true sense of clear and present danger, they'll get behind a strong leader and commit to get the job done no matter how long it takes. At least that's the way we used to be.

I think we're coming to grips with just how much America has changed over the last 30 years. There are many reasons for those changes in our demographics, our body politic, attitudes, etc. I personally think a lot of it boils down to sin and selfishness, and we are reaping the consequences. I've said quite often at this blog that God still judges nations, and America has been overdue. It is not America-hating or anti-American to say so. My heart weeps for the country. I want her to repent of her sins. Scripture says "sin is a reproach to any nation." And more than one Bible scholar (as well as political figures) has noted that we will likely destroy ourselves before any outside force does.

Militant Islam once overran most of Western Europe until stopped by Charles Martel. Read the history. Since then, technology has advanced beyond swords, armor and shields. A nuclear bomb is a deadly thing.

Deal with it now, or deal with it later. The price will be much, much higher.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tony Banks on His Classical Music (and Genesis Reunion?)

The "classic five" from left to right: Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett,
Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins, Tony Banks
From dark, sad, and angry news the past couple of days to a lighter, happier moment. I'm always ready to discuss the possibility of a Genesis reunion, no matter how slight the possibility.

As a sign of my hope, I'm reusing a photo released by the band not long ago, but hey, it's a great pix and demonstrates the residual mutual affection among them all even though they're not active, and some aren't "officially" in the band. I've never totally bought that for multiple reasons. Once you're in Genesis, you're in the family. It's like being a sibling.

Anyway, all that buildup to share this little article from Express in the UK interviewing Genesis keyboardist Tony Banks about his latest classical music ventures. Good to see, and you just knew that reunion prospects would come up. Tony pretty much reiterated what we knew. He's up for it. Steve's up for it. Mike's probably a go. The wild cards are Peter and Phil. I hope Phil has recovered his health well enough to do it should it be decided. He injured his neck and back on the 2007 Genesis reunion, and because of numbness and pain in his hands and back, has not been able to play drums or keyboards much. When he did his most recent album, "Going Back," he did manage to play drums but had to tape the sticks to his hands. Genesis' music can be quite complex in the drum department. He could always opt to bring Chester Thompson or Nir Z. along for a tour to supplement, but I suspect the general attitude would be to keep it just the core band itself without tour musicians. Just a guess. But Phil's being physically up to a reunion would be key.

And there's always Peter. Love the guy, but he has always been the most reluctant one to reform even for a one-off tour. Not for any personal animosities, but in his view, it took him years to be recognized as a talent in his own right separate from Genesis, and when you get involved in a Genesis tour, things do tend to metastasis and grow, and can involve quite a large time commitment. Even Phil was concerned about that in 2007, and insisted on holding it to 20 shows in Europe, and 20 shows in the US.

As reluctant Peter has been, I think he still hit the nail on the head in a recent interview. He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Most bands of our generation have lost a few members. We're lucky we're all still around. So one does have to be mindful of the clock."

So, here's hoping for the best and the reunion goes beyond a simple BBC documentary. But I'd also rather have them alive, whole, healthy, and friends instead of something going wrong on a tour. They've done enough over the past 40 plus years for me to simply say, "Thanks, guys, for decades of great music and lots of fun. God bless."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Addendum on James Foley's Beheaders

While I rarely do two posts in one day, this is the day for a second one. An observation I hope and pray more people make.

First, here's an update on the James Foley murder by ISIS thugs. To the right is the image that accompanies the Fox story on this tragedy.

I note with interest some of the footage posted on Youtube and other places by ISIS. While there are a few on there with young children barely out of their tweens yelling about how they support ISIS and want to come and kill Americans, quite a few also are with people totally garbed in black with their faces and heads covered, including the murderer getting ready to behead James. My heart breaks as I look at that photo, but it has the opposite impact on me than the one hoped for by the murderers. It makes me all the more determined to press our government to pursue justice with these evil individuals one by one.

ISIS makes quite a show of calling Americans "cowards." They disdain our bombing from the air, daring our soldiers to come in on the ground and fight. (Be careful for what you ask. You might get it). I find it ironic that they're the ones who don't dare show their faces and hide behind masks. I find it ironic that James is kneeling with his hands tied behind his back, not able to fight his attacker. If he had been free to fight back, he'd probably have cleaned the guy's plow.

ISIS needs to think twice before daring American combat troops to get into this more fully. Once the full might of American military power is unleashed and the full wrath of the American people is roused, we tend to get the job done and then some. If our soldiers have to come over there with boots on the ground, they will. With overwhelming force, and they will do what they have to do to end the threat.

And they won't be wearing masks or beheading helpless, unarmed people.

Enough is Enough!

ISIS Must Be Stopped

I was about to subtitle this "ISIS Goes a Step Too Far." But that certainly doesn't fit. ISIS—the Islamic Terror "State" now trying to overrun Syria, Iraq, and who knows where else—went too far long ago with its murderous genocide campaign in northern Iraq. And now, it appears they've beheaded another journalist. Our prayers and condolences go out to the family of James Foley if the barbaric beheading is indeed confirmed.

While I am angry and disgusted at this act, I am even more angry and disgusted at the Obama Administration. I expect terrorist thugs to act like terrorist thugs. It's even more outrageous when said terrorist thugs try to gain the power and international standing of a state. I suspect ISIS ultimately has in mind trying to reclaim Muhammed's former conquests even into Western Europe in establishing their new caliphate. Even if they never advance beyond the Middle East, they have committed enough crimes against humanity that global action against them is fully justified. The U.S. needs to start it if no one else will.

I have never been one to call for war or armed conflict if a way can be found to avoid it. The Lord Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers." However, God's Word also gives human governments the authority to bear the sword for the express purpose of restraining evildoers. It's in Romans 13 if you want to look it up.

If our president was doing his job, the full weight of the U.S. Armed Forces would be raining destruction on the heads of these thugs far beyond pinprick strikes. The Pentagon doctrine used to be "swift, overwhelming force" and beyond that, "Unconditional Surrender." In defeating ISIS and those with their mindset, you're going beyond simply avenging the death of James Foley or other innocent bystanders in this situation. You're eliminating an evil that, if unchecked, will cause far more death, destruction and sorrow down the road. Part of defeating beasts like this involves making the price of further aggression way too high.

There is also more to this battle than simply armed defense. It is also a spiritual battle for truth against what the Apostle Paul called "doctrines of demons." Pray for our faithful Christian brothers and sisters in these regions. The more hearts won to Christ, the less there will be to strap on bombs, commit genocide against unarmed Christians and other religious groups, and behead more journalists. And lest you think there is a contradiction in what I am writing, there isn't. General Douglas MacArthur understood this in World War II. Along with his requests to Washington for the military resources to win on the battlefield, he also requested that missionaries be sent.

Faithful, committed, Bible-believing Christians do not start wars of aggression. Keep in mind also that through the centuries, lots of wars were fought in Jesus' name that He would not have endorsed. Defensive wars to stop the wicked are not wars of which He would disapprove, at least the way I understand Scripture.

Pray tonight for the grieving, and for the liberation of the oppressed. And pray that these killers will be brought to swift, final justice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Throwback

All Hail Manual Typewriters!

After several days of rather grim news, I think we need to lighten up a little. I happened to see this very old ad from the early 1900s, and naturally, it struck a warm place in my heart. (Check out the top of this blog and the noirish banner for a clue)

It used to be a running joke at my office that people could hear me typing on the computer in the next county. You see, back in days of yore when I started out in radio, we were using manual typewriters. The only ones in the station who had electric typewriters were the secretarial staff and accounting. All the rest of us had old Royal manuals. I had a year of typing in high school, and that was on manual typewriters. I might have taken Typing II and used an electric, but the memory's gotten foggy.

For the sake of the computer, I have tried to substantially lighten my touch and not bang on the keyboard so hard. But I still have relapses. A friend of mine surprised me by showing up at my office last year with an old Royal manual he picked up for nothing. A radio station was getting rid of them, and knowing my soft spot for the things, he grabbed it and brought it to me.

And yes, once I have the time, it will be cleaned, oiled, given a new ribbon, and will be used. Some traditions must be kept alive.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jeremiah and John Calvin

As often noted, these days I do not have anywhere near the time for reading as I would like. But I try to squeeze in snippets of things in between crises for edification and pondering. Such pondering often takes place in the car when I have to commute back and forth. I have an hour each way, so it's good time to ponder.

Today, I happened to glance at John Calvin's commentary on Jeremiah the Prophet, namely the section dealing with Jeremiah's prophecy against King Zedekiah. The Lord sent a word to Jeremiah—a word for both the king and the nation. The king didn't take too kindly to it, because the Lord was warning of coming judgment over the nation's sins and unfaithfulness to God. Zedekiah promptly threw the prophet in prison. Here is what Calvin had to say, and it's very profound. You can shut up the prophets, but you can't silence the Word of God . . .

We ought at the same time to bear in mind what I have already said, that though the ungodly sought in all ways wholly to extinguish the Word of God, they yet did not attain what they wished; for God broke through all hindrances, and continued the course of His Word notwithstanding all their attempts. And this ought to be carefully noticed, for we see at this day all sorts of contrivances made by the wicked to impede the course of celestial truth. Let then this history be remembered, that though Jeremiah was a captive, yet his word was free and his tongue at liberty, as Paul also boasts, that though he was bound with chains, yet God's Word was not bound (2 Timothy 2:9). 

Then the reason is added why he was shut up in prison—he had dared to prophesy against the city and the king himself. It is no wonder that the king's mind was exasperated when Jeremiah boldly said he would come into the hands of his enemies, for he had not only spoken of the ruin of the city, but also of the fall of the king; he had said that he would be brought before King Nebuchadnezzar, and be led to Babylon, and be there until God visited him. We know how delicate are the ears of kings; it was then no wonder Zedekiah became incensed against Jeremiah; but yet he ought to have been softened and humbled when he found that this oracle had come from God. That he still kept Jeremiah a prisoner proves his madness and stupidity, for he had no regard for God. 

This was the end of one of John Calvin's lectures in Geneva, for he appended this prayer at the end:

Grant, Almighty God, that since we cease not daily to provoke Thy wrath against us, we may be warned by Thy Word and repent, and so humble ourselves before Thee that we may anticipate the rigor of Your judgment, and that being also chastised by Thy hand, we may not become hardened, but be submissive to Thee and teachable, and so profit under Thy discipline, that being at length wholly devoted to Thee, we may have no other object than to glorify Thy holy name, until we shall become partakers of that glory which thine only begotten Son has obtained for us. Amen.

How often do we read Old Testament passages such as this—assuming we bother to read God's Word at all—and easily dismiss it as a warning for another day and another time. In reality, while yes—this does have an immediate context to the days of Jeremiah and Israel being carted off to Babylon—it also has wider application. God still watches the affairs of this world, and He will bring nations to account. Judgment also begins with the House of God, (1 Peter 4:17). Those of us who name the name of our Lord and Savior need to remember Who we are representing and why. America is not guaranteed eternal existence as a nation, and we who call ourselves believers will not be spared discipline if we "forget our first love."

If you want to see sometime just how far apostasy has gotten, check out The Christian Post online. Just today, a well known Christian singer revealed her lesbianism, and there are other stories from time to time that show a heartbreaking trend away from biblical truth. I don't mean to suggest The Christian Post itself is apostate—they are merely chronicling what is going on in the wider Christian world day by day. This in and of itself was prophesied in Scripture, that in the last days there would be a huge apostasy, or "departure" from the faith.

It's bad now. And it will get a whole lot worse before the Lord's return. May He hasten His coming for His own, and may we who remain faithful keep our lamps lit!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Meet Me in St. Louis

Since the national media is in furor over the tragic shooting of an 18-year-old black man in a St. Louis, Missouri, suburb, I might as well have my two cents worth. Maybe more than two cents worth.

In some ways, I echo what RESPONSIBLE leaders—black and white together—have said as fervently as they can: calm down, keep the heat down, lower the shouting and rhetoric, don't rush to judgment, and let's wait for the evidence to come in. One positive note that I've seen is that most people are now beginning to roll their eyes when Rev. Al Sharpton shows up to throw gasoline on the fire.

On the outside looking in —and keep in mind, I have to base this on media reports, which I am learning to hold in a lot more skepticism these days. It does appear that the Ferguson Police Department leadership could have handled this a lot better. However, I do have some sympathy for them when you're suddenly ground-zero in a national media spotlight after violence and looting breaks out. I'm sure the investigation will reveal lots of mistakes made and things that should have been done differently. On the other side, it does appear that the young man who was shot to death by police isn't quite a choir boy. Even if so, that is no reason to shoot an unarmed young man to death, and all the more so if his hands were raised in surrender. But the officer was also treated for injuries, which signifies some type of scuffle. This particular young man was 6'4" and weighed nearly 300 pounds, and video allegedly shows him roughing up a convenience store clerk much smaller than he.

The long and short of it is that we just don't know at this point. As Christians, we should pray for the truth to come out and for true justice to be done.

All that to preface my real concern.When things like this happen, right away the worst possible people show up on the scene. When the New Black Panthers show up, or when Al Sharpton shows up, and yes, Jesse Jackson, I think there's good reason to be suspicious of why they're there. I don't see that they're there to calm things down, bring reconciliation, and encourage true impartial justice. They fly into town and manipulate the emotions of a grieving city, again, throwing gasoline on the fire. It's loathsome to me. I wish there was a way to keep them out. As noted earlier, I think more are waking up to Sharpton. But he's Sunday school compared to the Panthers. Any group walking around outside of polling places with batons to intimidate voters is not a positive contribution to society.

Another concern. I have no doubt that Michael Brown's family are truly grieving and outraged, as are their loved ones. They want answers. They want justice, and I pray they will get true justice, and that said justice will be based on the truth—what REALLY happened. But we also had a lot of street thugs who used this tragedy as an excuse to go wilding. Looting and burning stores, smashing up glass, throwing molotov cocktails. Those lawless actions deserve a police crackdown and they belong in jail. As Romans 13 makes clear, the state bears the power of the sword to restrain evildoers. Force needs to be proportional to the incident, and yes, police can go too far. Police tactics nationwide need strong review, and to be brought back under constitutional restraints. But it's the job of police to maintain order, and they will do what they have to do to maintain order.

There are peaceful ways to resolve things like this. The Lord Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers." The black police captain who was on the scene last night (a native of Ferguson) was the hero last night and he handled things in exactly the right way. Many could learn from him. Maybe he should give some lessons to Sharpton and the other firebrands.

In the end, pray for the parents and loved ones of Michael Brown in their grief. Pray for the investigators to be able to determine the truth of what happened, and pray that people's hearts will be able to accept the truth—no matter what it turns out to be. Pray for peace, and discernment—the ability to see clearly what is really going on outside of the media and rabble rouser fog. Pray for the Lord to restrain those who would use this tragedy for cynical, evil purposes, or for their own aggrandizement. Pray for the churches in the region, that they would be lighthouses for the Gospel, which is the only true solution. You have to get the hate out of the human heart for there to be lasting peace, and the Gospel is one sure way to help make that happen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ozark Sunrise Beauty

It's been a depressing past few weeks, with lots of bad news from around the world and here at home. I think we need a little break.

So if you can, enjoy this photo of sunrise in the Arkansas Ozarks taken from 2006 over the Buffalo River Canyon along AR 7. God the Master Painter at work, and a good way to relax.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams: The Tears of a Clown

The news has just broken about the apparent suicide death of Robin Williams. A heartbreaking loss for his family, friends, loved ones—and the entertainment industry. Twitter is on fire right now, as is Facebook.

Robin appears to be yet another person who had struggled with severe depression for years. While the news itself is stunning, in one sense the circumstances are not as surprising. It is a strange phenomena, but so many funny men and women (and not only comedians) often suffer from depression, and the depression being suffered often gives birth to the comedy. It's both a creative thing as well as a way of hiding or ameliorating the pain.

My prayers are with Robin's family and friends, who are grief-stricken. I have another concern as well—those who are hearing the Siren song that suicide will fix things and are tempted to follow suit. Don't do it. I will take up this subject again in more detail later, but suicide accomplishes nothing. If anything, it will make things far worse in ways you can't imagine, and when you're in the midst of what Winston Churchill called "the black dog," it's hard to see beyond your own pain. But you are loved. You are cherished. There is hope and deliverance for you. Hang in there and don't give up.

I am also praying that I will be more vigilant to pick up on when people are struggling. I pray that I will be much more ready to have open ears and an open heart to people who are hurting. Paraphrasing Plato, "Be kind. The other person may be fighting a larger battle." But more important than Plato is what God Himself wants His people to be. Here is the Bible's charge:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians, Chapter One)

Depression is an awful thing. If it is not a medical issue, it can be a spiritual issue. It begins in the mind with wrong thought patterns, and those wrong thought patterns get engrained. And when these patterns of dark thought get ingrained, the spiral downward is steady. Sometimes those around us feed those dark thoughts, and we need to be able to (if at all possible) to get away from the people who have destructive effects in our lives.

Lord, help us to listen and to hear one another, and grant that we may lift the dark clouds by trusting in Your great faithfulness. Help us to comfort others as You have comforted us, and have taught us to comfort others by Your example as you walked among us.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Middle East Atrocities, Propaganda, and the Media War

In An Age of Deception, Who to Believe?

Many of us have been horrified by images out of the Middle East of late. From pictures and stories out of Gaza and Israel, to the reported atrocities against Christians and others in Iraq by ISIS, the terrorist army now advancing through the region—the images are hard to take. The one to the right is purportedly ISIS executing Iraqi men in a northern city. We've seen others of beheaded children, children being shot in the head, and a host of other gruesome things.

Now, I want you to take a look at two stories quoting the same group—Human Rights Watch. First, here is one from International Business Times in London. The story appears to raise skepticism about the photos being circulated around, at least judging from the headline, although when you read the actual article, the photos are not being dismissed outright. And the killings in Iraq are not being denied.

Next, look at this article from Human Rights Watch itself. You get a totally different spin and notion that HRW is gravely concerned about atrocities that appear documented. It kind of makes you wonder what the point of the first article was.

I write this after a little jangle last night on Twitter with a person who I am assuming is a Muslim apologist for Gaza located in London. He basically went through the same schpiel I've encountered for eons—Israel is the aggressor, Israel is the genocidal maniac in the region, etc. This one was really rich: "Love Christians. Love Jews. Love. Love Muslims. Hate Zionists!" You see, "Zionist" is the new buzzword that really means anti-Semitism. They try to project some sense of moral equivalence between what Hamas and the terrorists are doing and what Israel is forced to do in self defense. Sadly, much of the media buys into it. The world is swiftly turning against Israel with the media helping to fan the flame.

After a few tweets, I realized what I was dealing with and also knew that nothing I said—even if I bothered to buttress it with demonstrable facts—would be received. My disputant demanded that I document my views while "documenting" his own with UN resolutions and other "facts." I have been down that road many times, and whatever you put up to support your own argument, it will be dismissed as false, misleading, Zionist propaganda, etc. So I ended the discussion. Never mind what I think of the UN, who puts known human rights abusers on its Human Rights Council.

The fact that my disputant (and the IBT article) originated in London is less of a surprise than it used to be. The UK has absorbed a lot of Muslims through the years. So has Western Europe. France especially has had some serious issues with radical Islamist activists in recent years. So when I see anti-Israel sentiments being expressed even by government leaders, I know what's in the back of their minds. A growing radical population in their midst who isn't afraid to unleash violence if they get provoked in any way.

It's sad to see, but there is also a long history of anti-Semitism in Europe. Documented history, by the way. Even so, I had a young fellow tweet his outrage at me when I mentioned this anti-Semitic history. "I've lived in Europe all my life and have NEVER seen any Jew hatred." Seriously? I got asked if I had ever been to Europe (yes) and had my knowledge-level impugned. When I displayed a photo of my rather large library, the response was that history books can be filled with garbage. No doubt true with some, but by no means the majority and NOT on this subject. A willfully, woefully blind, deceived young man. Or an evil one who is knowingly disseminating false statements. I hope the former, but neither is good.

Let's be clear. Yes, it's a given that two sides of any dispute or war have their grievances and point of view. Any side in an armed conflict is capable of doing evil things. We live in a fallen world. But some things have been so well documented that it shouldn't be an argument. Even so, there are those who argue the Holocaust never happened. What can you do with those types?

Another real concern of mine - and the point of this post - is that Scripture tells us deception will increase in the Last Days. Stories CAN be made up, photographs CAN be faked with great ingenuity in this technological age. We have media whose bias has been long documented. Governments and their secret services are capable of ginning up propaganda wars and their agent provocateurs can purposefully go into a place and destabilize a region. It's the same old game over and over again, only now the technology is better and the audience is global with TV and Internet. Who can we really believe? Will we refuse to believe the obvious until the danger is right at our door and snapping at our throats?

One final thought.

We are not immune here at home. Unrestrained immigration WITHOUT the assimilation that was formerly part of our immigration process has had a very real impact on the body politic in the US. Our history has been welcoming of the immigrant, with the well known poem about the Statue of Liberty the ethos. The US has been a melting pot of many races and cultures. But these cultures came here because they wanted the freedom and the IDEAL that America represented. They assimilated and became as American as it's possible to get. Their children born and raised here carried the same ideal.

No longer. We have a whole lot of people who have come here not to truly assimilate, but for more nefarious purposes. When you become a citizen here, you're supposed to renounce loyalties to other nations and transfer that  loyalty to your new nation. I could cite many examples, but the knee-jerk reaction from many on my even saying this will be "Racist! Bigot!" And in response, I would use the situation with Mexico and the mass of illegals flooding in through our southern border, and the fact that many LEGAL Mexican-Americans and those of Mexican descent who grew up here are outraged by what's happening. The legal immigrants are furious with the illegals for not following the rules, and the native-born Mexican-Americans are furious when they see people flying foreign flags on our soil and putting their host country down. No, it's not just Caucasian native born Americans like me who are concerned. Race, ethnicity and the like have nothing to do with it at all. But shouts of racism and bigotry are bludgeon words to intimidate people into silence.

It was once said, by Abe Lincoln I think, that if America will be destroyed, it will destroy itself from within. That prescient statement may well be coming true.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Whatever Happened to "Unconditional Surrender?"

General Sherman had it spot on. "War is hell." For Christians, war is a difficult, difficult subject, and has been the object of theological debate for eons. For many, it is hard to reconcile the teachings of the Lord Jesus with waging war, even in its most justifiable cases in self-defense and never for conquest. I personally do not believe that the Lord Jesus or Scripture teaches complete pacifism—quite the contrary. Romans 13, among other Scriptures, spells out the duty of a legitimate God-ordained government to protect its people and "restrain evildoers."

Christians beginning with Augustine have tried to develop a "Just War Doctrine." I think it's agreed today in most circles that no Christian should ever want to engage in a war of conquest, or to have indiscriminate killing of civilians if it can be avoided at all. Yet reality is that we live in a fallen world, and there are evil people out there, led by evil leaders with evil on their minds. We like to try to separate out the people of a nation from its leadership, and to be sure, there have been—and are—dictatorships where people have little choice. In other times, evil leaders and their actions have been applauded by the majority of the populace. It is then when ugly consequences begin showing themselves.

Since World War II, Western nations including America seem to be gripped with this notion that war can be conducted with fits and starts and limits. Fought within Marquess of Queensberry rules. That might well be the case in an ideal situation, when everyone respects the rules. But I must emphasize again—we live in a fallen world with fallen human beings, and very evil people heading up national governments and organizations with political power over many lives. Perhaps the issue of war and war's conduct needs to be re-examined, and to we need to determine whether the former American method of conducting a war is as evil as it's made out to be. And let's be frank, America these days (and much of the world) is imposing a double standard on Israel that I doubt it would impose on itself if America endured the level of attacks that Israel has endured since 1948.

Israel is my example for this post because it is illustrative, and it needs to be compared with what the Allied Powers did in both World Wars. Israel typically shows great restraint, and even with that restraint, much of the world clucks its collective tongue in outrage. But is that fair? World War I was horrific and shocked the world with its carnage. World War II also had horrible carnage, plus the introduction of a new horror—the atomic bomb. It was now possible to wipe out an entire city with one bomb. Truly, truly horrible. Israel didn't do it, either.

As horrible as the wars were, the American objective at one time was to WIN wars, and the condition for ending wars consisted of two words: "Unconditional Surrender." It was understood at the time, and in general throughout military history, that to bring a war to a true conclusion, you had to thoroughly destroy the enemy's war-making capability, and you also had to break the morale of a populace that was supportive of the war effort. It sounds brutal, and it is. But is the alternative any more humane? Endless war that drags on and on and on, body counts that go higher and higher and higher, only now they're not attracting much notice because they're in smaller, more manageable numbers. Conflicts that are never settled at the post-war conference table, with a lasting peace that follows. We don't seem to have that any longer. You see, we're in a "new kind of war." Not sure I buy it.

The situation in Israel, Gaza, the Middle East etc. is a lot more difficult because it's largely driven by religious fanaticism and anti-Semitism. From a biblical perspective, the case could be made that the demonic is involved. How else to describe such a mindless hate so deep that militants are willing to sacrifice children for propaganda purposes? How else to describe a hate so deep that the civilian population cheers when a rocket is launched and children get killed on the other side as a result? America got a dose of this hatred on 9/11, when people across these regions cheered at the fall of the Twin Towers.

A "traditional" American response to the threat posed by these extremist militants would be that they must be defeated in no uncertain terms. Underscore the term "defeated." The militants' war-making capacity must be removed, and the price of launching continued attacks needs to be made too high to be acceptable. Yes, it sounds brutal. But there is a price for evil actions, and sometimes the price is very, very high. Now, this "traditional" response from America's past would have a very difficult time flying today in our current body politic, or on the world stage. I am not immune to how thinking on this subject has changed. I wrestle. Even as I write these words, I waver. I want to do what is right, have a right worldview, and advocate for what is right, true, and just. Yet I realize that I live in a world where all is NOT right. It all goes back to the Fall of Man.

My stomach turns just thinking about it all. We have thousands of years of human history, and there have been numerous wars since the Fall of Man. Peace never lasts very long on the planet. Even the best of human governments wrestle with these very questions, and continue to wrestle with them. We should shrink from evil and brutality. Yet Scripture recognizes the inherent sin nature in man, and ordains human government to restrain evil. God-ordained government is empowered with the sword for that very purpose. Scripture itself is filled with horrific battles where the human cost was high, and in every battle, evil was ultimately at the root of it.

Evil in this fallen world will never be completely gone until the Lord Himself returns. In the meantime, His life-changing Gospel is the only hope for true peace that we have. Not everyone will turn to God and believe the Gospel, or live by it. There will still be evil people, evil rulers, and nations given over to evil eager to destroy another people. Evil must be restrained, and yes, defeated whenever possible. The other option is to surrender, lie down, and let yourselves be destroyed or overrun. Life "under this sun."

In the end, I know that evil cannot be appeased. Both World Wars should have taught us this. But even as we strive to check and restrain evil, we had best make certain we are not becoming the evil we are fighting.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Dumb Remarks and Federal Judges

I think many of us are used to federal court judges making statements in their rulings or written opinions that are, um, to be charitable, a bit dubious.

The most recent in my view to do this is Judge Myron Thompson, who recently made the headlines in striking down Alabama's abortion law, arguing it placed an "undue burden" on a woman who wants an abortion to get one. The "undue burden" phrase of course comes from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who disappointed many when she voted with the majority to uphold the odious Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized most abortions in the U.S. You can read about Thompson's ruling here.

The "undue burden" statement isn't my focus. I'm singling out this particular paragraph in the report for my "dumb remark" award:

In another unique legal argument probably aimed at a rural and mostly Southern audience, Thompson compared abortion rights with the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms – noting that a law that allowed only two gun shops in Alabama to remain open “would take a heck of a lot of explaining.”

Comparing abortion, which is purposefully taking the life of an unborn child, and gun shops is patently ridiculous. Firstly, a gun is an inanimate object. An unborn child is not. Second, the right to keep and bear arms is explicitly spelled out in the Constitution as a right under the Second Amendment. Abortion is not spelled out in the Constitution as a right, and the Supreme Court had to do some considerable gymnastics to find one and impose it on the country. Thompson's statement is almost beyond words.

While I am firm in my opposition to Roe—which ironically O'Connor had previously stated was "wrongly decided," I think Thompson would have been correct jurisprudentially to say that the Supreme Court ruled to uphold abortion rights in general under the undue burden test, and that Alabama's law as written appeared to him to violate that test. Then let the higher courts fight it out. But to take a shot at Southern culture by trying to tie abortion to the gun issue, Thompson has left me and probably a good many others wondering how he got on the bench. Another reason to force term limits on federal judges. No one deserves a lifetime appointment to anything. Especially when you hold peoples' lives in your hands.

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Little Eschatology

Eschatology, or the study/doctrine of the End Times, is not a subject about which I post very often. It's not that I don't have a viewpoint about it—I do. But in general, I have never considered it one of my strong points and it has never been a central ministry focus for me.

When I say that, I don't mean to imply that it isn't important. It is. Within Christianity, to be fully orthodox requires a belief in the physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. All "small-o" orthodox Christians indeed hold this belief in common, and as I have focused on apologetics for much of my public ministry, I've tried to focus on core doctrine. While the Second Coming is core doctrine, one's position on when the Rapture takes place is not. Christians of true faith differ on exactly how end-time events play out, and the debate can get pretty intense.

Where am I on it? I am premillennial, not amillennial or postmillennial. And as these views are easily found and defined online, I am not going to define them here. Look it up.

Where I have not been able to take a really firm position is on the timing of the Rapture, or the coming of Jesus for His church. Premillennialism teaches that the coming of the Lord for His church is a separate and distinct event from the Second Coming, where the Lord physically returns to Earth and sets His feet on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Within premillennialism, views on the Rapture include Pre-Tribulational, Mid-Tribulational, and Post-Tribulational. I know . . . it can set your mind whirring.

Today comes this article put up at the Christian Post by Robin Schumacher. Robin defends the idea of the pre-trib Rapture in the wake of a previous article by noted apologist William Lane Craig attacking it. Robin deals with Craig's arguments respectfully, and I have to say, thus far it's one of the best, user-friendly pieces I've seen on the pre-trib doctrine. It's certainly not exhaustive, but it's a start.