Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Don't Talk to the Police"

Should a citizen, particularly a Christian, always cooperate with the police?  Most Christians, thinking of Romans 13:1-4 and 1 Peter 2:13, automatically say "yes."  And it is true that Christians have a scriptural obligation to obey the higher powers.  But those of us living in America now find ourselves living in a police state, and we are also commanded to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." The following lecture was given by a Christian law professor, James Duane of Regent University in Virginia Beach.  Following his lecture, he gave "equal time" to a local police officer, who not only agreed with Prof. Duane's lecture, but explained it more fully.  I am unable to upload that video, but it is available.  This is food for thought. The title of this post was the title of Prof. Duane's lecture.


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With reference to the final video: "Safe Arms Review" is not an organization, but a YouTube user who maintains his own channel.  I do not endorse his channel, nor do I condemn it; it was merely the source from which the above videos were obtained.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Renegade


So, what is a "renegade Christian," anyway?  


I can only answer for myself ... but, since it's my blog, that's the only person for whom I'm obliged to answer!


Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered ... "This I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets."  (Acts 24:10, 14)


When referring to myself as a "renegade Christian," I don't mean that I've abandoned the organized church; although there are plenty of flaws in the organized church.  (That's because the church is filled with flawed people, rather like a family, school, or place of business.)  I don't mean that I have "outgrown" the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, as so many professional theologians claim to have done, as they have rushed headlong to embrace whatever doctrinal fad is sweeping the ecclesiastical world at any given time.  They are surely wiser men than I, to have "evolved" past Jesus Christ Himself in their intellectual development; and, God knows, they are trendier men than I.  They're hip.  They're cool.  They're so in touch with the modern world, one might not even recognize them as "Christians" at all.


That's not what I mean in calling myself a renegade.  In sum and in fine, I am simply accepting, in very blunt terms, the judgment made on my beliefs by a majority of the educated Christians in the Western world.  To them, I am an embarrassment and a joke: because, like the Apostle Paul, I "believe all things which are written in the law and in the prophets."


And the law and the prophets, as well as the very Gospel itself, are written in God's final propositional revelation to the English speaking world: the Authorized Version of 1611, popularly called the King James Bible.  I do not accept the modern English translations and paraphrases as being God's word; I regard them as sub-standard counterfeits of God's word.  And that doesn't win me very many friends in the mainline churches, or even among the evangelicals and fundamentalists, all of whom are ever eager to buy the latest version of "God's Word" as soon as it rolls off the presses.  This could be a costly business, by the way; there have been over 250 different English versions of the Bible published since the English Revised Version of 1881.


Someone once said that there are three types of book that will always be a bestseller: a diet book, a sex manual, or a new version of the Bible.  There may, in the Library of Congress, be more diet books than Bible versions, but the Bible versions undoubtedly outnumber the sex manuals.


Why do I believe so strongly in the King James Bible?  That is not a question that can be explained in a single post; but it will be discussed in depth in subsequent entries.






Basically, it has to do with the provenance of the King James Bible.  All English versions of the Bible, since 1881, have been based on horrendously inferior Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. These were primarily the great corrupt uncial manuscripts, Codex Sinaiaticus and Codex Vaticanus.  We will have much to say about these manuscripts; for now, it will suffice to note that the King James, alone among all English Bibles, was based on the Textus Receptus, or "Received Text." Of course, the King James translators also utilized other sources, such as earlier English texts (Wycliffe, for example) that were likewise based largely, though not entirely, on the Receptus.  They even utilized non-English translations, such as Martin Luther's German New Testament ... which, natürlich, was based on the work of Erasmus, one of the collators of the Receptus.


But the King James Bible is not the best, simply because it's based on the best Greek text.  It even surpasses the Receptus in authenticity and authority: although there have been many fine English translations (the Geneva Bible, the Bishops' Bible, etc.), these all predated the King James.  The Authorized Version of 1611, as edited for slight orthographic reasons in  1769, is God's final, perfect word in the English language.


Which, as Charlton Heston pointed out in a video, a few posts back, has become the universal language of our times.  We'll be discussing that phenomenon, too.


Anyway, that's what makes me a renegade in the eyes of many of my fellow Christians.  I believe, quite dogmatically, in the unique and absolute authority of a Bible that they reject as "antiquated" and "hard to understand."  Therefore, I must be an uneducated, ill-informed hayseed who simply hasn't read the right books, or listened to the right "scholars."


It doesn't take much to be branded as a renegade, does it? But if that's what I am, then I bear the title cheerfully and voluntarily, as Paul cheerfully admitted to what his tormentors called "heresy."


So, let the church roll on ... and let the good times roll!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The beautiful killer

On September 7, 1978, the Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov, who had defected from the Soviet Union to England, was waiting at a bus stop near the Waterloo Bridge in London, on his way to work at the BBC studios. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in the back of his right thigh, like a pin prick or bee sting. When he looked around, he saw a well-dressed man picking up an umbrella that he had dropped on the ground.  Then Markov's bus arrived, and he went to work.

Four days later, he had died in agony.

This is a post about gardening.  I'm not the best person to write such a post, because I'm not much of a gardener.  When I plant tulip or daffodil  bulbs, they lie in the ground, as though they were miffed at me, and refuse to sprout.  But there are a few things that are so easy to grow that even my black thumb can't stop them, such as marigolds and sunflowers. My brother-in-law tells me that the sunflower is really a weed; I don't care.  It's a pretty weed, and I like it.

And then there's the castor, my other favorite.  The castor (Ricinus communis) is a spectacular ornamental plant that can grow as tall as 35 feet, although mine have never gotten any higher than twelve, for reasons which will be explained. Its dramatic foliage - - -  huge, dark greenish-purple leaves - - - was very popular in Victorian gardens. (The seed pods are not always as bright red as in the picture below; sometimes, they're brown.) If you're interested in privacy, and don't want people looking in your windows (I'm not paranoid; oh no, not me), just plant a few castors around your house.  Soon your neighbors might not even see the house.


The castor is an annual plant that requires little cultivation.  Once planted, if the soil and climate are right, it practically grows itself.  Which is the reason I've had such success with it. 

It's a flowering plant, but only technically.  Its flowers are very small, and not very pretty, and they only grow at the very top of the stalk ... where the seeds grow.  This is important, and a great example of the creative and protective genius of the Creator.

Because the castor seed, which is used in the production of castor oil, also contains one of the deadliest poisons known to man: ricin.  The ingestion of six or seven castor seeds would kill a 200 pound man, if they were chewed.  (If they were swallowed whole, they would pass through the body harmlessly.)  The seeds are about the size of a lima bean.  Ricin is a favorite among murderers and assassins.

So God, to protect us, has made the poison very difficult to obtain.  Remember, the seeds only grow at the top of the plant, which might be ten or twenty feet in the air.  Thus, children won't grab them.  Also, the seeds are encased in a hard, thick pod, which is covered with very sharp barbs: if a child (or an adult) picked one up, he'd probably be pricked and drop it very quickly.  Thus does God protect His creatures: by putting the poison inside pods that are painful to the touch, and then suspending them high in the air.  How gracious God is!  He created the castor plant not only for its beauty, and its medicinal uses; but He also made it very difficult to abuse.

(Incidentally, ingesting castor seeds would be a very unwise way of committing suicide: it involves several days of agonizing pain, bleeding, and diarrhea.)

But it's a beautiful plant, and a favorite of gardeners throughout the world.  Since 9/11 and the anthrax scare, castor seeds are hard to find in garden stores, but they can be obtained online.  They're not illegal.  However, as the plants grow taller and taller, it's necessary to stake them somehow, or the wind will catch the huge leaves and knock them over.  That's why mine never got any higher than ten or twelve feet.

Georgi Markov died from a single prick, on the thigh, from the sharpened tip of an umbrella, that had been coated with ricin.  The assassin was the Bulgarian  Francesco Gulino, code named "Piccadilly."  The details of the "umbrella murder" have been confirmed by KGB documents declassified since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Those horrible Christians!

You hear it, in European and American societies, everywhere you go, from the classrooms to the workplace to the Internet chatrooms - - - and you certainly hear it in the media and popular culture: incessant, unremitting, and absolutely unthinking.  It’s as ubiquitous as it is predictable.

“Oh, those crazy, backward, judgmental Christians!  That’s the problem with the world: religion.  Especially Christianity.  Christianity is the scourge of history.  Christians are all hypocrites or weaklings or fools!”

That’s the message: and, if you’re under fifty years of age or so, you’ve been hearing it all your life.  In the eyes of the news media, Christians are scheming, power-crazed “theocrats” (although the commentators don’t know what a “theocracy” really means); in the eyes of Hollywood, Christians are either criminally insane axe murderers, or sexual predators lurking in the pews, awaiting their next victim.  Or they’re all like Fred Phelps.  Phelps is (and deserves to be) the poster boy for Christian-bashing.  (Personally, if I were looking for a Christian, I’d walk right past him.) There are a dozen stereotypes, and they are played like a calliope in the carnival of madness that Western society has become.

It’s not just the professional haters, such as the self-appointed “spokesmen for atheism” like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris; it’s not just the foul-mouthed “comedians” like Bill Maher or Kathy Griffin; and it’s not just the teachers and professors, across every discipline, who view Christianity with the curled lip of erudite disdain, and never miss a chance to hold it up to ridicule. It’s also the men and women whose thinking (if such it can be called) is dictated by these people. To be specific, a near-majority of people from Australia to Chicago to Brussels.  And the global media is doing its best to make the hatred of Christianity a worldwide phenomenon.  Hatred of Christianity is the new anti-Semitism: although, sadly, the old anti-Semitism is flourishing, as well.

Two questions come to mind at the very outset.  The first is, What have Christians done to earn this enmity?  And the second is, What religion has done a better job?

Instantly, inevitably, the haters will sputter and rage about the historical excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, such as the Inquisition or the Crusades or the pedophilia scandals.  But I’m not talking about the Roman Catholic Church; I’m talking about Christianity.  The Roman Catholic Church is an ecclesiastical and political machine, not a faith.  It has a theology, but so does Marxism.

Or, they’ll go to the other side of the tracks, and yammer about Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism (which was inexcusable) or John Calvin’s vicious attempts to set up what is mistakenly called a theocracy (which was also inexcusable, and arguably more far-reaching than Luther’s failings). Or, going from the sublime to the ridiculous, they’ll whine about Jerry Falwell and George W. Bush and the snarling popinjay Phelps.

Very well: as the lawyers say, let’s stipulate that the Roman Catholic Church is, at its worst, a monstrous institution with a shameful history.  Let’s further stipulate that Protestants have committed their excesses, as well: but let’s be honest about it.  Falwell and Phelps (not that I’m equating the two) claimed to be Christians, and we are obligated to believe their profession of their own ideology.  But don’t say that Timothy McVeigh or Jared Lee Loughner were Christians, because they didn’t even profess to be.  Don’t make the truly puerile assumption that every Gentile is a Christian: the Gentile atheists wouldn’t appreciate it.

Far from being the scourge of human history, genuine Christianity, not defined denominationally, has been mankind’s greatest benefactor.  In blending with the Jewish background to produce the Judeo-Christian ethos, Christianity has exalted the state of women, emancipated slaves throughout the world (yes, yes, I know that Christians were also slaveholders), provided spiritual hope and comfort and joy for millions, and, on the practical level, done more for the human race than any other “religion.”  If you point to Phelps or one of the “charismatic” faith healers as exemplars of Christianity, I’ll point to William Wilberforce and Simon Greenleaf.

Or maybe, on the subject of slavery, I’ll point to John Newton, the professional slave-trader who left his hideous occupation upon becoming a Christian; he then wrote of the “Amazing Grace” that turns menstealers into saints. 

“But the Christians, the yokels down South, were the biggest racists of all!”  The black people of Boston and other northern cities might dispute that; but never mind.  If we’re going to curse the Southerners who defended slavery and segregation, what will we say of those who defeated these things?  Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson were not atheists or Muslims.  They were professing Christians: and, as if that weren’t bad enough, they were Baptist preachers.  The enemies of Christianity should not cast their aspersions too indiscriminately.

Go to any city in America, and look at the hospitals.  You’ll find a Baptist Hospital or a Presbyterian Hospital or, yes, a Catholic hospital (that’s Catholicism at its best). You’ll find them by the score, by the hundreds; by the thousands, if you include medical facilities throughout the world set up by Christian missionaries.  Where are the Atheist Hospitals?  Where are the Marxist leper colonies? Some of the finest hospitals in the world are Jewish hospitals; nobody’s saying that Christians have a monopoly on virtue.  But neither is Christianity the repository of all the world’s vices.




Education?  The most august Ivy League universities were originally set up as training schools for Christian ministers.  Our statesmen and women are trained at Georgetown or Notre Dame: again, the Catholic Church at its best.  At the lower levels, one can point to the Montessori schools, which are not explicitly Christian; but they’re not a fraction of the professedly Christian institutes of learning.  I’m not claiming that Christians are the only people who create great schools: I’m pointing out the importance of Christianity in the history of education.

Which brings us to the second question: What “religion” has done more for mankind?  I am no defender of “Christendom” per se; it’s too big a phenomenon to defend or attack. But, historically, and certainly in our own time, Christianity’s “rival” is Islam.  So where are the Islamic hospitals in America or Europe?  There is certainly a large Islamic population, and it’s the most affluent population on earth. The followers of Islam have certainly made an economic investment in the United States; Saudi Arabian assets or holdings in America exceed a trillion dollars.  So, even as the minarets of the mosques rise in every major American city, where are the Muslim hospitals?  Where are the Islamic universities that teach across a wide range of disciplines (that’s the definition of a university), outside the Arab states themselves? 

There aren’t any.  Islam is not a religion of healing; it is a religion of death.  As for education, there have been great Muslim scholars, and great Muslim scholarly achievements, but precious few, outside the realm of religion itself.

Islam does excel at producing terrorists and murderers; but as soon as this is brought up, the haters invariably say, “Well, there are Christian terrorists, too.”  They point to McVeigh (who, once again, rejected Christianity), or the pro-life zealots who have murdered abortion providers.  With all due sympathies for the families of the inexcusably assassinated doctors, shall we do a tally sheet?  How many abortion doctors have been killed, versus the number of people killed by the followers of Islam?  Let’s just choose a random date: how many abortion doctors died on September 11, 2001?

This is not going to turn into a discussions of the evils of Islam.  I return to the simple question: What “religion” has done more to benefit humanity than Christianity?

If anyone really wants to know why Christianity is so hated, the answer is twofold.  One part is the old issue that so displeased the Caesars: it’s called odio humani generis, or “hatred of the human race.”  That was the real crime of the Roman Empire’s Christians; not simple failure to worship the Emperor. It was a canard, of course; Christians did not and do not "hate the human race." But  Christians taught, and teach today, that man is not basically good, but basically fallen, and inherently evil.  And Christianity provides forgiveness and new life, but its enemies aren’t interested in that.  They’re too busy being outraged by the thought that anybody, anywhere, doesn’t believe in the innate goodness of man.

The second reason is related, but much more basic.  The Christian message is true, and people don’t like it.  Christianity teaches that there are absolutes: God, Heaven, and Hell, for example.  And that man’s eternal destiny, apart from Jesus Christ, is not pretty.

That’s what people don’t like; that, and the knowledge that there exists an infinite-personal God, Who will one day hold every man and woman accountable for their secret thoughts and overt acts.  Man rebels at that thought, or shudders in horror at that thought.  But that thought is an expression of reality.

And those horrible Christians, even with their hospitals and schools and social reforms, just won’t shut up about it. 

That’s why the world hates Christianity, and will continue to hate it, until God finally clears His throat, and steps back into earthly history again, as He did twenty centuries ago.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A gentle reminder from Johnny Cash & friends

This may be the greatest video ever made.  Not that I'm opinionated, of course ... but it's perfect.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fight of the Year

He's a national hero, a member of the House of Representatives of the Republic of the Philippines, a modest, quiet gentleman - - - and, pound-for-pound, the greatest boxer alive.  On November 13, 2010, in what was universally regarded as the fight of the year, Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao, known throughout the world simply as "Manny," demonstrated once again just what boxing is all about.  
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Having started at the Light Flyweight division, Manny had already gone on to become a world champion in seven different weight divisions when he stepped into the ring against the Mexican thug, Antonio Margarito.The bout took place in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Texas, because Margarito's license to fight had been suspended in the more traditional boxing states, after he had essayed to fight Shane Mosley in 2009 - - - with gloves loaded with plaster of paris.  A fighter, not a boxer, Margarito was not unskilled in the pugilistic arts, but he was no match for the much smaller Pacquiao.  Margarito enjoyed a four inch height advantage over Pacquiao; a six inch reach advantage; and, at the time of the actual fight, he was seventeen pounds heavier (165 vs. 148).  Nevertheless, he was facing Manny Pacquiao, for whom size is not the primary consideration.  They fought for the WBC Junior Middleweight Championship: the results can be seen below.  Pacquiao is wearing white; Margarito is wearing black.  Of course. 
....
There is a pretender to the pound-for-pound boxing throne, the unspeakable popinjay Floyd Mayweather Jr.  Mayweather is, despite his "gangsta" persona, a truly great fighter, and the sporting world is absolutely salivating for a Pacquiao-Mayweather match.  So far, the craven Mayweather has successfully avoided this challenge.  My guess is that the fight will be made, if at all, when both men have passed their primes, and need the money, as happened with Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad.  If, by some astonishing fluke, Mayweather fights Pacqiao before then, it will be an interesting contest, at the very least. 
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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Lady and the Weevil

Forget the Statue of Liberty.  

She's a great symbol, of course, and the people of France were very gracious to give her to us, as a gesture of friendship, in 1886.  She's been an inspiration to millions, although she's always suffered a certain moral loneliness out there in the harbor: because she really should have a twin sister, called the Statue of Responsibility.  Both are needed in the nation she represents.

For that matter, forget Mount Rushmore, or Stone Mountain in Georgia, with their colossal Presidents and Generals.  They were great feats of engineering, and nothing to be ashamed of; but they don't really tell the story of America.

And forget the bronze statue of Elvis in Memphis, or the bronze likeness of Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky III," which has long since been moved from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to a grassy spot nearby. Elvis and Rocky have their places in our cultural history .... but that's not the real American story, either.

For my money, the monument that really says something about the spirit of the American people, at least when that spirit was still alive, is located in the little town of Enterprise, Alabama, about thirty miles north of the Florida state line.  It's the Boll Weevil Monument.
 

The Boll Weevil Monument - - - a statue of a neo-classical woman holding a monstrously large boll weevil on a platter, high above her head - - - was erected by the citizens of Enterprise in 1919. It has been called "the world's only monument to an insect pest," which is easy to believe; it is both lovely and repugnant at the same time.  Although the human female is among the most beautiful of God's creations, the same cannot be said for the boll weevil, especially when its tiny form is magnified thousands of times and cast in  metal.  So, why is it there?  What's the big idea? The big idea is gratitude.

The town of Enterprise was founded in 1896, and, from the very beginning, it was sustained by a single industry: cotton.  This was hardly unusual for the region, especially at that time.  As one of the hundreds of small cotton towns throughout the South, Enterprise flourished, slowly and modestly, as becomes an orderly and genteel little town.  Then came disaster.

In the years 1910-1915, the cotton crops on which the town's economy depended were utterly and mercilessly devastated by an infestation of boll weevils.  The ghastly little beetles had been imported from Mexico in the latter part of the 19th century, and they quickly went forth and multiplied throughout the South.  In five years' time, the ravenous little creatures had destroyed the economic base of Enterprise. Thus, the people of Enterprise were faced with a choice: starve to death, move away, or develop a different, more diversified economy.  Neither of the former options held much appeal; so the people began growing other crops, notably peanuts, and spreading their economic base more widely. It worked.  The cotton was gone, but the people had learned a valuable economic lesson: don't put all your eggs in one basket, especially if the basket can be gobbled up at any time by tiny, uninvited newcomers.  They learned the lesson of a diversified economy: and they had the boll weevil to thank for it.  

They didn't thank him, of course: they thanked God.  But they felt that if the Devil should get his due, the boll weevil should get no less: and they decided to memorialize their little tormentor. The citizens, led by one Bon Fleming, a local businessman, bought the statue of the lady, from an artist in Italy, for around $1800.  The giant weevil was added years later, and the bizarre, but very important monument stood in the town square for decades.

Eventually, as the modern age set in, repeated incidents of vandalism forced them to move the monument to the town museum, but a replica was left in the town square.

It's the silliest monument one could imagine: and one of the sweetest, and most poignant.  And it is, I think, uniquely American.  Americans have always been the most boastful people on earth, but until recent times, they were also among the most naturally thankful for the blessings that surrounded them.  When Americans are blessed, they brag: but some of them also also give thanks. At least, that's how it was in 1919.  Americans have now become the most ungrateful people on earth: we're like pigs rooting around for acorns and swallowing them greedily, without ever looking up at the tree that provided them.  Nowadays, the pigs consider themselves entitled to the acorns.

But the weird lady with the weevil, in little Enterprise, reminds us that it wasn't always that way.