Circles and Strains

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Thursday, February 27
The Great Debate

Josh Claybourn recently posted a list of 10 misunderstandings Europeans have towards Americans. The response he got, mostly from anti-war Europeans was white-hot. When the smoke had cleared, the post had 90 comments. The Europeans swooped down on Josh's site to make their point, whatever that was. Along the way, they fired off an astounding number of clichés, rattled off an alarming amount of anti-Americanism, and eventually proved to me through their incoherence and badgering condescension that Josh was right—Europeans either don't have a clue, or don't care enough to understand where Americans are coming from.

Among the allegations made in the comments by Europeans were:

America is bad.©

America is run by right-wing crazies (despite the fact that a vicious liberal caucus threatens to undermine the presidency by filibustering all his judicial nominations).

America is not a real democracy (to read more about the electoral college and why it works, click here).

Americans are stupid, and don't know the first thing about European history, European politics, or European feelings. (The same Europeans couldn't figure out the electoral college)

America is bad!©

Americans are a bunch of bloodthirsty Christian apes who are rushing into war! (Despite the fact that it's taken us 12 years.)

And then you have this:

We were very pleased to see recently the destruction of nasa shuttle Columbia over Texas, as this another setback to these Anglo-American lackey's of International Zionism! By the way, the reason many yanks are upset with the French is because they are jelous of FRENCH CULTURAL SUPERIORITY!

Posted by Strago at February 25, 2003 06:10 AM

And this:

How can you claim it is right to go after Saddam because "daddy" did it 12 years ago anyway?

Nobody's claiming that.

How can you claim that USA is not somewhat controled by Israel?

That's risible, but how can you claim Franco-Germany isn't controlled by Iraq?

How can you claim that USA is afraid of Saddam and his missiles, since they can barely reach Israel (thats all he wants/needs).

How can you claim to know the mind of Saddam so well?

How can you claim that Bush or honestly, the average American, really cares about the average Iraqi.

How can you claim that you do? You probably didn't think twice about the average Iraqi until Bush's name got involved.

How can you deny that USA government is sick and tired of having their precious black gold being controlled by Arabs and want to change that?

If we wanted oil, all we would have to do is lift sanctions on Iraq. But how can you claim that France, Germany, and Russia aren't controlled by their oil interests in Iraq?

How can you claim USA really thinks about the common good of everyone?

I don't think we ever did. Our obligation is not to the universal good. It is to the good of the American people. Letting Saddam acquire weapons which he could then sell to terrorist groups would not be in their interest, now would it?

No, you cannot answer ANY of these questions. You know why? Because you are a simple narrow minded citizent, like the rest of us, who has no real say on what is going on. If the American people REALLY did have a say, then George Bush would not be the "president" at the moment. That is because i have faith in the average American, that they arent redneck gunhos who can only think about how to take over the world.

So, first I'm a simple, narrow-minded citizen, but you still have faith in me? Well Lukas Hoyle, I'm speechless, and I don't know how I can ever thank you.

Anton Dravoski had this to say:

Go to WallMart with lots of breadline paid employees, buy a cheap semi-automatic and some bullets which your government considerately allows you to buy, put then gun under your chin and pull the trigger. Alternatively give it to a troubled teenager and let him do the job for you.

Your name sounds Russian, so I'll assume you're assuming America has breadlines like your home country does.

Robert enjoys using pejoratives:

i wont even bother to comment on your remark JFKarr. It is pretty evident that unfortunately, you do happen to be one of the gun-ho, narrow minded, arrogant [expletive] that think they know all.

who is WE you fool? You???? The American People???? give me a break you idiot, you have no say in what is going on, neither have i. We are voicing opinions here, at least try to be half decent with your approach of life. YOU are doing nothing and are incapable of doing anything. If you were as half smart as you think you are and half as informed as you believe you are, then USA WOULD be a better place and Bush would not be "president".

And "lifting" the sanctions from UN? That is typical arrogant american thinking, that your selfish interest always comes first and that you can get it, just mask it behind something else (eg a dictator in Iraq is going to kill us all!!!!!). You foolish boy, you have no concept of history, no concept of the terrible practices of war. All you people think about is "patriotism", which that you confuse with Bush's interests. He is playing with your fears, your paranoia, telling you nothing is safe, "we are all going to die unless we attack first", attack them before they attack us. And little stupid kids like you believe it, believe it is righteous to go to war because you are told to. A large proportion of the american population has tunnel-vision, Bush is playing with 9/11 in order to further promote his daddy's interests. Hell, you stupid [expletive] actualy think that Bush RUNS the country, that he is responsible for the decisions. Go away you little idiot, you give americans a bad name.

Posted by Robert at February 25, 2003 07:33 AM

Thank you, Robert. Your shimmering intellect has astounded us all. After your anger-management classes, you can get back to the important things in life, like riding a bike without training wheels, or coloring inside the lines.

There's plenty more, so go check it out. Some thought Americans to be ignorant of all foreign affairs. (Somewhat true, but what do Europeans know about Haiti?) Others cut into America for not caring about their neighbors. (A post that was nicely decimated by J.F. Karr, I might add.) Still others sniffed that the notion of Europeans being jealous of America's freedom and bounty was preposterous, even going so far as to suggest that Americans were jealous of Europeans. Sweden, the quintessential welfare state, was pointed to as the bastion of equality. America was said to have "an astounding percentage of people under the poverty line." Sweden may distribute its wealth more equally, but in doing so, has created a state with much less wealth to distribute.

The war of words on Josh's site really reflects a war of ideologies, a clash of the titans between European secular socialism and American Christian free-market capitalism. As former radio host Dennis Prager wrote in a column published yesterday, the future will either be Muslim, European, or American. There will be no meeting of the minds with Europeans, or those secularists within our own country. It is simply the role of Americans to keep on demonstrating why America works. No welfare state or cynical secular vision can accomplish what Christian ideologues did in America—a free state that, despite its imperfections, offers the best chance at life as yet known to man. It is a state that desires to clean up its mistakes. It is the only country on earth that understands that people were created to be free, and that that freedom comes at a very steep price.

If the European chimerists ever figure this out, I'll be listening. But they can't expect me to embrace their failed ideological pipe dreams as wisdom. If they want to make a more reasoned debate, they should drop the "America is bad, just look at its failures" histrionics, and show me their own successes. Come to think of it, that's really all I ask of the anti-war crowd. I agree that war is bad, and I would love for it to be avoided. But until I hear some suggestions other than "Send in more inspectors!" I really have no other choice but to support the war.

Wednesday, February 26
Fulfilling the Great Commission

Last year, inspired by a camp that we both attended, my friend Matthew set out to create an environment for youth in his hometown of Greenville, NC. From the looks of this report in a high school paper (written by a self-proclaimed atheist), he's succeeding.

Matthew is a talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and a passionate Christian. I believe that he and others like him could be laying the foundation for the next spiritual awakening in America. Give his sites a visit:

  • 6:22 Worship
  • Matthew Lilley
  • Band of Apathetics (his own musical venture)

    Time for a Name Change

    John Mills, a reader of WORLD Magazine from Fredericksburg, VA, recently mailed in a letter that suggested the ideological monikers of our political spectrum have become anachronistic. Back in the days of yore, "liberal" and "conservative" applied to groups who favored looser standards and bigger government, and conservation of tradition and smaller government, respectively. Nowadays, with "conservative" President Bush coming under fire from his own party for his big-government programs, and with the "liberals" pushing programs that restrict personal freedom in favor of supposed communal bliss, the titles don't exactly apply.

    The word "liberal" implies an ideology that is the opposite of authoritarianism. However, the liberals of today seem to be intent on intruding into the life of the individual as much as possible, what with restrictive gun laws, opposition to school choice, and ever-increasing government regulation. The word "conservative," on the other hand, implies an adherence to traditional standards. But today, conservatives are the ones trying to reverse the status quo that liberal legislation and ideology has put in place. Abstinence programs, faith-based schooling, and pro-life causes are just a few of the goals most conservatives support that, if accomplished, would change the norm rather than conserve it.

    So if liberals are becoming more authoritarian, and conservatives are the ones fighting for social reform, maybe it's time we gave the old names a break. The aforementioned WORLD reader had his own suggestions: activists and realists. WORLD's editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky commented, ``Activists actively seek power, while realists know the dangers of social engineering and the law of unintended consequences."

    Personally, I think the word "activist" gives liberals too much credit—it is usually used with positive connotations to describe people pushing a certain cause—although the word "realist" sums up modern-day conservative positions nicely. In general, liberals seem to plug holes, while conservatives set to the task of fixing them. Take the education battle, for instance. The best idea the Democrats have for educating inner-city children who are victims of failing schools is to pump more money into said failing schools. This method has failed time and time again, and the Bush administration is trying to solve the problem by supporting private schools that will give the kids a better education at low cost.

    The more I use the new terms, the more I like them. Activists stir up lots of controversy, without any real solutions. Realists see the problem, and work quietly to fix it. Just take a quick look at liberal policy, and you will notice a pattern of hole-plugging:

  • The War: Send in more inspectors. Contain Saddam. Whatever happens, don't invade. Saddam might get angry.

  • Teen Sex: Teens, take responsibility for their own sex lives? Haha, you rube. What we need to do is encourage teens to have sex with condoms, despite the fact that they don't work. Throw caution to the wind—tell them to use contraception. If these methods fail, there's always abortion.

  • Affirmative Action: Racism was a problem in the past. Therefore, we must always vigilantly beat the drums of racism and discrimination whenever those silly citizens suggest they're mature enough to carry on their affairs based on their merits rather than their color.

  • Education: Public schools are failing. The only reasonable thing to do is to pour more money into them. Still failing? Well, since the alternative may involve letting religious people educate the kids, we're opposed to it. Parents should see our deep concern for their children's future. They may not be able to read, write, or work basic math problems, but by the Cold, Impersonal Universe, they will grow up under separation of church and state! (The alternative would allow parents to send their children to faith-based schools. Quel horreur!)

  • So maybe I'm oversimplifying things a bit. But when you get right down to it, liberals are trying to preserve the status quo of social policies that failed decades ago, and are trying to resurrect foreign policy that applied to a different war in a different era. When you look at it that way, liberals are not so much activists as they are, to coin a word, chimerists. (Meaning: pipe dreamers.)

    Monday, February 24
    Au Revoir

    Another blogger has said farewell due to time constraints. Ray Garraud, who was first led to my other blog, the Cap-Haitien Times, because of his Haitian heritage, is moving up in life and has decided to call it quits. Hopefully, he'll be back before long. If the shower of comments over at his site is any indication, he will be sorely missed.

    Night at the Movies

    Well, as I mentioned yesterday, I had a night at the movies Friday, and wanted to post reviews of them.

    The Tuxedo is an action film that I watched only because Jackie Chan's in it. One thing I have picked up from living in Haiti is a passion for good karate films. Unfortunately, this isn't one. It isn't even close. First of all, the whole premise of the film is Chan is an ordinary guy, who is made extraordinary by a secret-agent tuxedo packed with goodies. If you've seen some of Chan's better work, such as Who Am I?, Rumble in the Bronx, or even Rush Hour, you know full well that Jackie Chan needs no expensive gadgetry to inflict pain and suffering on baddies.

    One person suggested that Chan's action side was downplayed to try and bring out the comedy in this film. In that case, it flopped. Jennifer Love Hewitt provides the necessary eye candy present in all of Chan's films, but loses the endearing innocence that made her a star in the first place, presumably to toughen up her image. All in all, this is only worth seeing if you're really bored.

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the dark-horse comedy hit from 2002, seems to be a train that just won't stop rolling. Starting off slowly, it has become a big enough hit to spawn a television series on CBS (My Big Fat Greek Life), making it the first film in a while with a rating under PG-13 (PG) to capture the public's imagination. Although it was relatively well-acted, I found most of the humor rather dry, especially considering the gushing reviews the commercial for its DVD release cited.

    Although none of these problems are a big enough bump in the road to attract a negative review, I found three problems with Greek Wedding. First, it has a couple of moments of scatological humor. Second, it is soft on premarital sex, despite the lead characters' marriage at the end of the film. Finally, its depiction of Christianity, as practiced by the Greek family is malleable to personal standards, and mainly serves as a cultural vestige rather than a life-altering power. Unfortunately, all three of these problems are commonplace in nearly every movie put out these days.

    That said, MBFGW has some touching moments that speak volumes about the importance of family, and one cannot help but feel for the groom, who as an only child, has only his parents to attend his wedding, while the bride has a huge family. Such is the case when one supplants the God-ordained blessing of the family with the human "wisdom" of family planning and deification of the career.

    Can't Hardly Wait, although definitely not recommended for the under-16 age group, unintentionally speaks volumes about the effect of loneliness upon adolescents. Teenage outcasts come to a raucous party seeking something, anything, to define their worth. Two clingy characters speak repeatedly of "memories being all we have." Even lead actress Jennifer Love Hewitt's character, Amanda Beckett, voices her lack of self-esteem and regrets allowing herself to be defined by her relationship with the high school jock.

    This movie tries, with mixed results, to bring out the humanity behind the tired old clichés. It works when portraying outcasts, who eventually become the life of the party, but fails to do justice to Ethan Embry and Hewitt, whose characters are not nearly developed enough to justify the romantic ending. Granted, this is a party film, but it had the potential to be much more, and is still, as the Amazon review says, "an agreeable waste of time."

    Update: I wrote a review of Can't Hardly Wait on Epinions.

    Sunday, February 23

    Well, it's been a long week. I haven't posted because I was getting posts ready for my day at Josh Claybourn's, and every idea I had to post here, I ended up posting over there. I wrote three articles, all of which were decent:

    Give me your tired...
    Would Jesus own a gun?
    Signing off

    I had a friend over to spend the night Friday, and we stayed up late watching movies (The Tuxedo, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Can't Hardly Wait), finally crawling into bed around 3 am. Consequently, I'm behind on about 2 or 3 hours of sleep, so I'm going to go catch up.

    Expect some commentary on the movies. In the meantime, my apologies for not posting for a while, and thanks to everyone who read my posts and linked me.

    Monday, February 17
    A Tale of Two Cities

    Peggy Noonan has an interesting column—and fellow blogger Ray Garraud has said as much—about the tense state of affairs in New York City. In a way, the blizzard may be a blessing—a diversion away from the jitters of a metropolis that has been at war, ahead of the rest of the nation, for a year and a half now.

    In Haiti, whose inhabitants stroll an entirely different avenue as far as current events are concerned, there is also unrest, albeit for a different reason. It could be said that when one lives with a smaller set of priorities, one's struggles and objectives are also smaller. In New York, the ordinary American has seen terrorism of epic proportions, and is preparing for even more. He or she will probably send off a relative to fight for the preservation of world security, or at least know someone who is. In sleepy, squalid Cap-Haitien, on the other hand, the average Haitian has seen poverty of epic proportions, and in the light of his government's insouciance, is bracing for even more. The Capois' battle is a microcosm of his northern brother's—a battle as much against his own fears as it is against the daily intake of bad news.

    One constant reminder that human nature never changes, no matter what heights we may scale, is the ordinary citizen's response in the face of adversity. There is the initial shock, the absorption of reality, and finally, depending on one's character, either the despondent concession or the resolute determination to plow through. New York's fate has yet to be seen, and New Yorkers, as much as they have already suffered, have yet to taste hardship such as their forbears did during the Great Depression—hardship that no government program can alleviate. In that sense, the Capois has the edge over his American counterpart. He lives day-to-day, praying for simple blessings—that the exchange rate won't go up, that his kids will still be able to go to school, that the streets won't be blocked with flaming tires today, that the blizzard up north won't translate into torrential rain that will, in turn, put his living room underwater. With his gutty assault on life, the Capois daily proves himself to be greater than the foe that surrounds him on all flanks. He has taken it all; he has survived, and he will survive once more to see another day, bring what it may.

    Of course, there will always be those who long, unrealistically, for the easy way out. New York has seen those who march in order to prevent a war that cannot be avoided. There are those in Cap-Haitien who accept government bribes to terrorize their neighbors, hoping that eventually they will receive some lucrative kickback to propel them out of the slums and into the concrete mansion on the side of the hill whose roof doesn't leak. But I think that eventually the better angels of both cities' natures will come forth, and lift wartime and fourth-world spirits to a new plateau of determination and resolve, based not in an idealistic or utopian vision of harmony, but in a stark acceptance of the world's sinful condition, and a level-headed attempt to make the best of a worst-case scenario. In the meantime, God grant me the quiet strength of the Capois, the boundless vision of the New Yorker, and the wisdom of Jesus Christ to put both to good use.

    Sunday, February 16
    Random Thoughts

    Inspired by Thomas Sowell's most recent column on TownHall this week, I've decided to commit to cyberspace a dip from the stream of my own consciousness.

    - I saw my old friend Smith this morning. He and I used to be on the same ill-fated soccer team together, and had the responsibility (him as goalie, me as white boy) of taking the blame for every goal we conceded. His mother died Friday much death in this country. For no apparent reason, she was fully healthy, she kicked the bucket in middle age.

    - Smith's cousin, Patrick, was with him, and made a joke about Smith's mother that would have been inappropriate in any other culture. Either they don't feel pain the same way I do, or laughing is just a natural reaction to sadness. I find the same personality quirk creeping into my own life...I laugh at the strangest things. Like the other day, someone mentioned a girl in my church who lost a finger. He said, "Santhia has 9 fingers now." For some reason, we all laughed, not out of any glee that Santhia lost a finger, but a strange mix of bittersweet defiance of the hardships life heaps upon us, and gratitude to God that Santhia is still alive.

    - Why do anti-war protestors insist on demonizing Bush? It seems to me, if they were really concerned about peace, they'd be calling for the only surefire method of attaining it: Saddam's self-deposition. Think about it - millions of people around the globe united in their righteous opposition to a brutal tyrant who obstructs peace and scoffs at justice. That would be a beautiful sight to behold.

    - Why is it that Trent Lott got pummeled (and rightly so) by media pundits across the board for statements that hinted of racism, but faithful Democrat Robert Byrd, who has KKK skeletons in his closet, doesn't even raise an eyebrow when he attempts to lecture the nation on its upcoming war on terrorism?

    - Why is it that my letter to rightist homosexual blogger Andrew Sullivan concerning his participation in the media's near-libelous treatment (here and here) of Jerry Thacker (Bush's Christian nominee to the AIDS council widely slandered for his supposed "gay plague" comment, more on that here) was never published? Furthermore, why hasn't Mr. Sullivan conceded his mistake? Even furthermore, why does Mr. Sullivan jump to the conclusion that homosexuality is a perfectly normal and indisputably biological practice, when so many Americans—and scientists—have yet to be fully convinced?

    - Man, Theophilus is good.

    - Do some of the aspects of the Pentecostal movement and its progeny strike anyone else as odd? I believe in speaking in tongues, and I can understand being slain in the Spirit. But I went to a camp last summer where everyone was "getting drunk" in the Spirit and laughing uncontrollably at anything and everything, and it kind of weirded me out. I don't flatter myself as being an authority on anything Biblical or spiritual, but I couldn't quite reconcile the calm and collected Jesus of the Gospels or the spontaneously beautiful acts of the Spirit in Acts to a few of the things I saw at camp—a few of which, fanned on and encouraged by the pastors on staff, bordered on ridiculous. Maybe, like one of said pastors insinuated in a conversation with yours truly, I think too much, but wouldn't God be able to move regardless? Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

    - I'll be posting on Josh Claybourn's website Friday. Many thanks to Josh for actually considering a 17-year-old with little to no writing experience.

    - One of my friends thinks I should write a book about Haiti—from the average Haitian's point of view. I think my friend is right. I wish I could say I understood all the goings-on inside the average Haitian's mind, though. He's a tough nut to crack.

    - My eyes feel like they have particles of dust trapped in between the eyelid and the eyeball. I'm wondering whether this is a medical condition, or a sign from my body that I need to yank myself away from this computer screen...methinks it's the latter. Goodnight all!

    Saturday, February 15
    Give Peace A(nother) Chance!

    Anti-war demonstrators rallied in major cities across the globe in significant numbers to protest the likelihood of a war to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Turnout was remarkably high - 200,000 in New York, 750,000 in London, and between 300,000 and 500,000 in Berlin. In Athens, protesters went over the edge, breaking windows and rioting, effectively protesting violence against Iraqis with violence against fellow Greeks.

    At least one dissenting voice (dissenting from the peaceniks, that is) was heard today. National Review Online's The Corner had this to report:

    One immaculately dressed old man, watching the proceedings from his wheelchair, was not impressed. “Neville Chamberlain,” he announced to no one in particular, “peace in our time,” he jeered at the demonstrators.

    Intrigued, I went over – it’s not often you hear the names of mid-twentieth century Tory prime ministers being shouted out in a Manhattan street. The heckler turned out to be Hungarian, a survivor of that other Europe’s hideous past. “I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this before” he explained, “the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia. You can’t negotiate with Saddam. You can only negotiate with real countries, with Canada, with Mexico. Not with Saddam. You can’t negotiate with a cockroach.”

    Also, Time has an article indicating that Middle Eastern support for Iraq is much lower than before the first Gulf War, an encouraging sign.

    From the turnout, it looks as if opposition to the war is greater than I had previously thought. It seems that many people are just plain opposed to violence - any kind, really - no matter what the costs of non-involvement may be. I could sit here and type out an enormous post full of reasons to go to war, ways that Iraq has breached every agreement they've ever made, and horrific accounts of Saddam's human-rights abuses, but I won't.

    Instead, I only have a few questions to ask those who simply will not be swayed from their "no blood for oil" rhetoric:

    1. What if the U.N. suddenly jumped on the bandwagon? Would you support the war then, or is this about more than gaining multilateral support?

    2. What if the Bush administration produced irrefutable evidence? Would you be more concerned about national security then, or was this never about the need for—or lack thereof—national security in the first place?

    3. What if you actually succeeded in halting the war, and later on, terrorists equipped, funded, and—God forbid—nuclearized by Saddam leveled six city blocks in insert metropolis of choice here? Or would that be Bush's fault, too?

    4. A prominent Christian blogger, Rachel Cunliffe, asserted that "Waging war on oppressed, weary, sick, tired people is wrong." How would leaving them in the hands of the dictator who dragged them into their present condition be right?

    5. Anti-war demonstrators are fond of stressing the urgent need for two things: U.N. support and irrefutable proof that Saddam is developing and planning to use WMD's. The first is presumably impossible because of Security Council members' oil interests in Saddam's regime. The second is next to impossible because terrorists don't announce their plans with a megaphone. Colin Powell confirmed Saddam's link with al-Qaeda, though. There is also a moral precedent - Saddam does not hesitate to try out the most horrible means of warfare on his own people. Given this knowledge, would Jesus really be calling for foreign policy that ignored these issues?

    The thought of impending war that may kill, maim, and traumatize innocent civilians is heart-wrenching and disturbing, to say the least. But the eventuality of continued atrocities in Iraq, and another terrorist attack on American soil with weapons purchased from Iraq would be even worse. In my mind, war on Iraq is the lesser of two evils if Saddam will not capitulate. With the knowledge that he has, President Bush is obligated as President—and, more importantly, as a Christian—to remove the threat and preserve innocent life. The way things stand now, both the burden of proof and, ironically, the chance for peace rest in the hands of the one cheerfully ignored by the peace-at-any-costers today: Saddam Hussein. Saddam, this is your last chance to do something good for the world - what'll it be?

    Update: Here's a great article on the morality of war. If the peace crowd and I cannot agree on the morality of this particular war, can we at least agree that God warrants it in some cases?

    Wednesday, February 12
    On Morality

    I recently read an article about the hit TV series The West Wing. On the show, Martin Sheen plays a liberal's dream—a popular, moralistic president who also happens to be in firm favor of gays in the military and abortion rights, and staunchly opposes gun rights. In short, he's Bill Clinton without the baggage. On one of the early episodes, President Bartlet (Sheen) accosts a Dr. Laura sound-alike named Jenna Jacobs, demanding answers on the treatment of slavery in the Bible, as well as Old Testament rules for stoning those who break the Sabbath, when Jacobs defends her view that homosexuality is immoral with Scripture. Apparently, NBC likes their Bible-thumping right-wing zealots to be quite ignorant of the Book they consider infallible—Jacobs is left mum by Bartlet's forceful secular "morality."

    This exchange left me thinking: If I can trust the Bible as the ultimate source of truth, then why does the Bible seemingly look the other way for a lot of people who do things that would be terrible by today's standards? For example, many men in the Bible marry several different women and hold slaves.

    Obviously, as a person who has already accepted Christ, I do not approach the Bible with a mandate to prove it right. I crack the cover under the assumption that it is correct, and that anything that I cannot explain can be explained later on by someone more knowledgeable than I. (For instance, my father.) When I open the Word of God to read, no matter how much some of the things that I read may grate against my modern, Western sensibilities, I have to believe that God knew what He was doing. After all, if I cannot even control the present, who am I to judge the past?

    In search of knowledge, I went and asked my father the question that had been puzzling me: why slavery is not outright rebuked by the man who had the easiest opportunity—Paul in his letter to Philemon. In the letter, the great Apostle is writing to a slave-holding Christian, and yet, he addresses him as a "dear friend and fellow worker."

    4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
    5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
    6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
    7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.

    Did Paul condone slavery? I doubt it. He was, however, doing something that the fictitious President Bartlet, if placed in the same situation, would never do. He was trusting Philemon to do the right thing. He knew that if Philemon had really been redeemed, his conscience would motivate him to do right by his slave, Onesimus. Turns out Paul was right. Christianity would gradually blossom into the moral conscience of a Roman Empire desperately and wickedly jaded to myriad forms of sin. In the years to come, it the young faith would become the driving force behind the elimination of infanticide, incest, and the gruesome gladiator events in which the people had formerly reveled. Paul trusted the power of the Gospel, because unlike the works and religions of man, the Gospel does not need to insist on reform in order to be effective. It bypasses telling the person what he ought to do, but makes it so attractive to him that he ends up doing it of his own free will.

    What of Onesimus? Having only heard his side of the story, Paul focuses more on his responsibility to right the wrongs that Onesimus has committed. (Here is displayed another hallmark of the Christian redemption: When one is truly redeemed, one ceases to notice that one has been wronged, yet works feverishly to right the wrongs that he has committed.)

    But on to the second part of this essay: Morality legislated in a society will only go as far as the redemption of the national conscience. The hideous practice of slavery would rear its ugly head once again among European nations with Columbus' discovery of the New World, and its legacy would become a stain on a nation whose Constitution declared the human right to liberty to be self-evident for all men, and then proceeded to declare its black constituents to be worth only 2/3 of a human each. In this case, like countless others before it, the national conscience had to be awakened before reform could take place. In the post Civil-War South, immense evil was stirred up among whites, who having never had the requisite change of heart, found other ways to carry out their hatred toward blacks. The aftershock caused by the sudden imposition of morality into a gruesome situation reverberates to this day.

    This is by any means to agree with the postmodernists, and declare obsolete the place of objective law in a society. In recent years, civil rights groups have succeeded in legislating away the more obvious trademarks of racism - Jim Crow, segregation, discrimination - but have not had much success in reforming the root cause of those problems, which is sin. That's where Christianity comes in. Jesus came not to abolish the law, but He did come to fulfill it; that is, to make it possible to abide by it, instead of striving in vain to obey it flawlessly. His blood washes away the sinful tendencies that we were born into, and replaces them with His perfect nature.

    The Word of God, the Bible, is not a rigid index of do's and dont's to be referred to in every situation. It is, however, a road map that sets us on the right track to come to the correct conclusions. Some things it says very clearly. On other things it leaves us the scent of the truth so that we will seek and find. Others still, it leaves to our discretion. (I've found it amazing how these issues tend to be the most vociferously debated in the church.) If you spend any amount of time reading the Bible, however, you will quickly discover that it has very little to say in the way of what we should and shouldn't do, and a whole lot to say about having a relationship with the Creator, a relatioship that will affect a heart change in us that will change us inside and out, if we choose to let it. (After all, 66 books' worth of information yielded only 10 basic commandments for moral living.) Jesus Christ narrowed it down to two that make it impossible to disobey the rest:

    1. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

    2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

    As the late, great C.S. Lewis put it in his Mere Christianity,

    "Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.

    That is why He warned people to "count the cost" before becoming Christians. "Make no mistake," He says, "if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less."

    Update: Those interested in reading a fictional account of Onesimus' story will enjoy Patricia St. John's Twice Freed. Although directed at the Young Adult reader level, it is a great story with a great level of imagination: it builds a whole story around a simple letter. Highly recommended.

    Tuesday, February 11
    Marriage in the Kingdom of God

    Andree Seu, my favorite columnist, as usual writes to my situation this week, offering this wise counsel on marriage:

    I have learned only one thing about marriage that I didn't know 23 years ago when I first tied the knot, and here it is: People get married for reasons. That would seem to be a truth too banal to mention. Nevertheless, it has been for me a paradigm shift, with subsidiary shifts all over the place: Your child is never angry for no reason, no one just drops by without a purpose, and there is never an insult in jest that does not conceal deep waters of discontent.


    ...there are other realities in the world besides endorphin surges.

    Dare the Christian be less intentional, less practical, less reason-driven, than the Korean matchmaker? Will he follow God's law in every other sphere of his life ("Do not murder," "Do not steal"), but then mumble vaguely about "Christian liberty" when it comes to the biggest decision of all? For even liberty must have reasons, and if it doesn't, Satan will be happy to suggest some. "Christian liberty does not mean 'do whatever you feel like because the Bible's muddy.' It does mean careful consideration not just of the Bible, but of the particular situation you happen to be in" (Dr. D.C. Davis, professor of history).


    First, know the kingdom of God. Second, know the situation. Third, know yourself. Go the entrepreneurial marriage-broker one better and lay all on the table: What is clear in Scripture? What are the goals of the kingdom of God? How would the kingdom be advanced by our matrimonial union? What are my gifts and ministry? What are hers? Would we be more together than apart?

    Then down to the nitty-gritty: Does he like to pray? (Don't tell yourself what great prayer times you'll have together once you're married if you never get around to praying now.) Does she see her role as to "do him good and not harm all the days of her life"? (Behold the high and low calling of the wife—neither vaingloriously self-exalted nor lacking in nobility.) Your beloved wants to get married for a reason; find out what it is. You have secret reasons too; find out what they are.

    And about triangles, have you configured yourselves in that geometrical form—with God at the top, the primary relationship of each of you, the One who makes the center hold, the One alone to whom you look for fullness when you disappoint each other, as you will? For if there be any other at the apex—whether chungmae economics or Roman Holiday infatuation—they will surely go bad on you. "Love ... begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god" (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).

    People get married for reasons. You can learn that now before you're married, or you can learn it after the fact—take your pick. Marriage calls for more, not less, hard-nosed examination up front, for sterner stuff than even that possessed by hard-boiled Korean matchmakers. And for my money, the reason must be the kingdom of God.

    My friend who called was on that wavelength. We may agree or disagree on the particulars, but we understand each other's language. Young child of God, find someone who speaks that language too, who has good reasons—and marry that person.

    Read the whole thing (requires registration).

    Sunday, February 9
    Capital Punishment

    Pen, aka the Gutless Pacifist (his choice of words, not mine) have been engaged in an interesting debate over the last few days over the morality and efficacy of the death penalty. There are many ins and outs, technicalities, and dangerous pitfalls to the issue, but for the most part I've found myself (previously undecided) emerging in favor of it, and Pen, of course, takes the pacifist track that it is wrong under any circumstance. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to debate an issue as controversial as this with a knowledgeable opponent, equal parts passionate and gracious.

    I would also very much appreciate it if you, the reader, would weigh in with your own opinion, as I intend to write an article on the issue before long. I will try to be as balanced as possible, so I welcome comments from all sides of the table.

    Simple Economics - Part Deux

    Well, Josh Claybourn, at least one conservative is of the same mind as you. Prominent Fox News anchorman and author Bill O'Reilly finally wrote a column I agree with today on, calling for President Bush to reign in out-of-control federal spending. Hopefully, more conservatives will follow suit.

    Oh yeah, and I'm back. :)

    Friday, February 7
    Taking Off

    Due to unexpected personal circumstances that have arisen within the last couple of days, the blog will be neglected for a few days, maybe weeks. Thank you for reading, and I will still respond to e-mail.

    Thursday, February 6
    Christ and Cobain

    Matthew Lilley starts off his article with an interesting premise - that Jesus Christ and Kurt Cobain rose to fame in much the same way, and that there are a lot of similarities between the Savior and rock band Nirvana. Before you jump to any conclusions - read the article.

    I would just add one thing to his essay - Nirvana and Jesus both rose to fame because people could relate to them in one way or another. The difference was that people identified with Nirvana, primarily because the band stayed in the mire with them. People identified with Jesus because He identified with them, and offered them a way out. As Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic said in a TV interview, "Nirvana didn't come to the mainstream; the mainstream came to Nirvana." Conversely, we, as sinners didn't come to Jesus; Jesus came to us. That is the beauty and uniqueness of the Gospel.

    Good essay, Matthew. :)

    Update: King's Kid linked me again today. I am now putting up a long-overdue link to King's Kid on the sidebar.

    Tuesday, February 4
    The Unasked Question

    I recently read an article by a man named Harry Browne on a website claiming to be non-partisan, begging for the unasked questions about the looming war on Iraq to come to the fore. This is my take on the article. (Thanks to Ray Garraud for the link, by the way.)

    The other evening Connie Chung on CNN interviewed two Iraqi women living in the U.S. One hoped for peace, the other wanted the U.S. military to unseat Saddam Hussein — thinking, I suppose, that whoever takes his place will be a kind, benevolent statesman (like all the other kind, benevolent leaders of the world)

    Ah, it's still the first paragraph and we're already cynical, are we?

    The woman who wanted war maintained that Hussein would never disarm voluntarily. I waited in vain, as I so often do, for the interviewer to ask the obvious question:

    "Why should Saddam Hussein disarm, when no other country is disarming?"

    Because no other nation with weapons of mass destruction to divest itself of, with the obvious exceptions of North Korea and Pakistan, is threatening to use them in an aggressive way against other nations. Besides, do you really expect me to believe that the U.S. and other Western nations are on the same moral plane as a man that poked childrens' eyes out in front of their parents to get them to talk? Please.

    The article then lists a series of pro-war assertions and anti-war rebuttals. I follow each of these with my own comments.

    Assertion: The Iraqi people will be far better off after we unseat Saddam Hussein.

    Question: On what do you base that expectation? Have you noticed what's been going on in Afghanistan since the U.S. government lost interest and turned its attention to Iraq?

    Have you? Let's recap: Within a matter of months, the U.S. military nearly singlehandedly dismantled one of the most oppressive and medieval regimes in the world. Granted, the United States could do a much better job of rebuilding Afghanistan, but I think, considering America's history of rebuilding nations since WWII, we've done pretty well. Germany, France, and South Korea are a pretty impressive hit list. Haiti and Somalia aren't, but that's only because in the first case, Americans unseated a corrupt, violent rightist dictator and replaced him with a corrupt, violent leftist demagogue, and in the second case, Clinton pulled our troops out before they could even complete their mission. The solution isn't to give up on rebuilding, the solution is to do a better job at it.

    Whichever way it goes, it would be impossible to argue that Afghanistan is not already a better place to live. Over the course of a few months, they've gone from an idolatry-suppressing jihadist theocracy to a fledgling, unstable republic. Between the two, I'd pick the latter any day. Think about it Harry - over a few months, we've already paved the way for a generation of Afghan women to grow up educated and able to walk down the street without a burqa. Or are we already skittish about imposing our imperialistic Western values on those poor Afghanis?

    Assertion: Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. You can't allow such a dictator to have such weapons.

    Question: If that's the case, why didn't the America threaten Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union the way it's threatening Saddam Hussein now?

    Because Brezhnev already had weapons of mass destruction, ran a superpower, and had us deeply engaged in a cold war. That's what we're trying to avoid in this case.

    Assertion: You can't do business with dictators.

    Question: Then why is George Bush enlisting the support of dictators in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Pakistan, and other countries to make war against Iraq?

    First of all, the assertion is illegitimate because I haven't heard anybody actually say that. Conservatives like to pitch the war from a national security standpoint, not one of manifest destiny. Second of all, these nations have been practically running to us after 9/11, hoping to be on the right side of the war at the end of the day, so they can get more oil for themselves. Third of all, Iraq poses a security threat to all of these nations and they'd all like to see him go. Finally, are you suggesting we go to war with all of these countries? Calm down, Mr. Browne, you're sounding more and more like a hawk.

    Assertion: When the war is over, Saddam Hussein must be prosecuted for war crimes.

    Question: Since the war hasn't even started yet, how can he be accused of war crimes already?

    Because we already fought a war with Saddam, called the Gulf War, during which he did commit war crimes. Maybe we should demand Iraq pay reparations to families of innocent, Israeli and Saudi civilians killed when he decided to launch Scud missiles at those countries.

    Assertion: Saddam Hussein even tried to assassinate President Bush's father. Our national honor demands that we unseat this evil man.

    Question: Are you aware of what happened when the Austrian government tried to avenge the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by the Serbs in 1914? The world was plunged into World War I — a holocaust that caused the deaths of millions of innocent people. How do you know that won't happen in the current situation?

    Well, we've come a long way since World War I. I presume you were one of the people that said Afghanistan would be a bloodbath last year. The reason all of Europe got embroiled in WWI is that there were a bunch of secret, under-the-table alliances already formed that dragged the continent into war once Austria-Hungary announced its intentions to blow Serbia off the face of the map. Although we do have blowhards like France and Germany that try to drag the world into their own "give-baby-Saddam-a-pacifier" version of peace.

    Assertion: President Bush is right, but he hasn't made his case to the American people. He needs to make the evidence against Hussein public.

    Question: Since President Bush has been claiming for over a year to have evidence that he hasn't revealed, why are you so sure there is any evidence?

    First, there is the possibility that this may be very sensitive information. He has to be careful about compromising his sources. Second, his State of the Union address said that there was not a day when new evidence was not revealed. His next few speeches will seal the deal if he really does have any proof. Judging from Iraq's track record and proudly outspoken support of al-Qaeda, I don't think this will be much of a problem.

    Assertion: I trust my President and my government.

    Question: After the Gulf War, it turned out that all the reasons for going to war had been false — no Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi Arabia border, no babies ripped from incubators by Iraqi troops in Kuwaiti hospitals. Most of the same people who were in charge then are in the current administration. Why should we trust them again?

    Well, I don't fully trust my President or my government, because they're human. There is certainly a lot of disinformation that goes in every war, and I'm not saying that's right. While some of this may have taken place, it is indisputable that Iraq infringed upon the sovereignty of Kuwait, and jeopardized the state of the international petroleum industry, on which our national economy is reliant. As for whether we can trust the present administration, understand this: I am not particularly eager for war, either. I would much rather see Hussein step down than have American soldiers come back in bodybags. I will wait until Bush has assembled all the pieces, and not a moment sooner, to call for war. If Bush does make his case, which I believe he will, and Hussein does indeed pose a threat to the security of my country, which I believe he does, I cannot agree with any naïve call to appeasement that would allow him to become North Korea, the sequel.

    Assertion: We know Saddam Hussein used chemical and biological weapons during the war against Iran.

    Question: Then why did the Reagan administration support him so wholeheartedly in that war?

    Michael Medved answered this question this way: "Not true, and not even vaguely relevant. During the Cold War, Iraq was a client state of the Soviet Union, not the United States, and Saddam has always been outspoken in his Marxist, anti-Western fulminations. It's true that the U.S. foreign-policy establishment tilted toward Iraq in its bloody war against Iran, but only because the Islamic fanaticism of the Iranians represented a more direct, immediate danger to the United States. Suggesting that fleeting cooperation some 20 years ago means that we have no right to oppose Iraq today makes no sense whatever. We provided massive military and financial support to Stalin during his desperate battle against Hitler. Does that mean that we had no moral right to oppose the aggressive designs of the Soviet Union when it turned against us within months of the conclusion of the world war?"

    Assertion: We've waited for two years for Saddam Hussein to come clean. It's obvious he's not going to. We should go into Iraq, remove him, and destroy the weapons.

    Question: But suppose he doesn't have such weapons. How can he prove this when whatever he says is branded a lie by George Bush? Given what's happened so far, we can assume that even if Hussein said, "I give up; here are my weapons," George Bush would claim Hussein is still lying, is still hiding more weapons, and must be disarmed by force. So how can Hussein possibly satisfy George Bush?

    He could start by making any effort whatsoever to aid inspectors in their search for these deadly weapons—the majority of which were found as recently as 1998—that still have not been accounted for. It is not our job to drive all over a country that large looking for areas that "definitely maybe might possibly" have WMD's stowed away. It's Saddam's job to lead us to these sites, account for WMD's he had 5 years ago, show that they've been destroyed, and explain how. He's the one on trial here, not us. If Hussein ever really did say, "I give up; here are my weapons," the first answer would not be, "Good boy Saddam! Let's pack it up boys, we're going home," it would be, "Show us the proof." And that's essentially all Bush is asking for. If Hussein cannot even do this much, then his word is completely worthless. This doesn't go so far as to mention all the treaties he's broken since 1991...

    Assertion: We must all make some sacrifices for security in this awful War against Terrorism.

    Question: What sacrifices are you making?

    Well, once I join the workforce, I'll be funding the War out of my own pocket. If they reinstate the draft like the Democrats are clamoring to do, I'll go fight. If the war lasts until I have sons old enough to fight, I'll be sending them into the field to risk their lives for their country. Would you do as much?

    He closes with an argument for greater skepticism of the government. I agree wholeheartedly, but there was one question that he neglected to ask in his tasty little essay: What if the government's (gulp) right? Would you acknowledge your mistake and support them then, or retreat even further into your relativistic, peace-at-all-costs foxhole?

    Q & A

    It's been a slow day, so I got these questions from BlogIdeas.

    What makes you laugh?

    A lot of things. I laugh at politics. I laugh at little kids. I laugh at absurd things, and absurd people - namely Ben. Most recently, though, I laughed at this.

    What should we do with stupid people?

    Live and let live. Just don't give them any responsibility. Cut people some slack, though - every once in a while, they're right.

    What's the weather like?

    Balmy as usual. The sun is shining, the room is warm, and I actually need the fan again. It's great!

    When was the last time you said 'I Love You'?

    Well, I say 'I love you' to my family all the time. It's been a right good while since I said it to anyone in a romantic sense, though. Probably about 4 months now.

    Who do you blame for your mood today?

    I blame the government.

    Who is your hero?

    Jesus. I mean, so intelligent, compassionate, Godly, completely in harmony with the Father's will at all times. I definitely want to be more like him. And also, Matthew Henry for writing incredible Bible commentaries. The phrase "getting blood out of a turnip" comes to mind...

    Who would you want to be tied to for 24 hours?

    No one.

    Monday, February 3
    Simple Economics

    Josh Claybourn has an interesting post today, criticizing President Bush's huge $2.2 trillion national budget, which is set to cause a record $304 billion deficit this year, according an AP article. He calls for conservatives to keep the White House accountable, noting that leading conservative papers and bloggers have been M.I.A. about Bush's increasingly big-government conservatism.

    I expressed concern in my State of the Union critique about the $400 billion set aside for Medicare alone. It must be noted that I don't really know enough about economics to be of any use to this debate. Josh usually knows what he's talking about on other issues, though, so I'm behind him.

    Sunday, February 2
    Sunday Extra

    One more reason the Saddamites need to go:

    Immediate popular reaction in Baghdad on Saturday to the loss of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia and its seven-member crew -- including the first Israeli in space -- was that it was God's retribution.

    "We are happy that it broke up," government employee Abdul Jabbar al-Quraishi said.

    "God wants to show that his might is greater than the Americans. They have encroached on our country. God is avenging us," he said.

    Full article at Reuters

    Quotes for today:

    "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." - Winston Churchill

    "AN EXPLOSION is reported at Indonesian police HQ. Current theories as to who might be responsible focus on four main groups:

    Muslim extremists
    Extremist Muslims
    Muslimist extremers
    Extremist Muslimers"

    (from Tim Blair)

    P.S. In case you haven't noticed yet, you can now get Circles and Strains in your e-mail box! Just enter your e-mail address and click "Subscribe" to get every post in your e-mail, guaranteed.

    Saturday, February 1
    While You're Still Alive...

    Read Andree Seu's latest column.

    There is great relief with repentance. There is much lightening with the words "I did wrong. No excuse," uttered first in the heart, and then out loud to another sentient being. At once, the simplicity of it, the accessibility of it, will astound you. All the psychic reserves that were invested in the round-the-clock enterprise of keeping truth at bay are dismissed, freed up for better purposes. "Is this what I have spent so long avoiding and protecting myself against?" you will say, "this little bump, when I expected a train wreck?"

    It's all about confession and repentance. Fantastic stuff!

    Update: Man, while you're at it, read 'Why I'm Pro-Choice', too. It's incredible.

    Death and Resurrection

    Today was a sad day. I suppose you think I'm going to opine on the space shuttle tragedy. You're wrong. Although I think it's appropriate to pause for a moment of silence now for the seven astronauts aboard the Columbia.

    ::moment of silence::

    OK, but that's not what brings tears to my eyes. My dog Casey was put to sleep today. I had the pleasure of knowing Casey from the time I was 6 years old. Ironically, we saved her from the needle in 1991. That's how she came to us. Back then, she was known as Babe, and was owned by a kindly older missionary by the name of Amos. He had a whole menagerie of dogs donated to him by others who were leaving the country to escape the embargo. Since Amos was leaving too, they all had to be put to sleep if he couldn't place them in homes. We got Babe, a beautiful, diminutive border collie, and brought her home. I renamed her Casey, after one of my best friends from Port-au-Prince. She was pampered royally, but didn't get along very well with our other dog, Flash, because Flash had been spayed at an early age, and would get very jealous of Casey's litters. So they would fight horrendously, clawing and biting each others' necks until I thought they would both die of sheer exhaustion.

    But both dogs survived. Shortly after we moved across town in 1996, Flash disappeared, presumably wandering off into the mountains behind our house, sensing it was her time to go. We never found her. Casey kept bearing pups, and her health gradually degenerated. The vet came a few days ago, and said he could probably save her. He was wrong, and he ended up putting her out of her misery. I didn't even know until today. My mom told me if I wanted to say goodbye, now was the time, so I went outside, and found her, hair matted up, barely able to breathe, those affectionate brown eyes communicating the unconditional love that made me love her in the first place. She was staring back at me, completely devoid of judgment, despite the years that I took her for granted. I may be overdramatizing this a's my nature.

    I guess the lesson in this is that life blooms wild for a season, surging forward like the tide, and then gradually slips back out. It leaves its mark for a while, but inevitably another wave will wash over it, and erase that mark. The thing is, we hardly ever notice that gradual recession. It's so quiet, so unassuming, that we never notice that life is pulling away from us whether we like it or not. Things always change, but one day things will stop changing, and we will stop living. As the Nissan commercial said, "Life's a trip. Enjoy the ride."

    C.S. Lewis said in The Problem of Pain that just as man's existence finds its ultimate redemption in God, so the dog's existence finds its ultimate redemption in man. This redemption is not from sin, but from the confines of a strictly sentient existence. I believe that is why God allows us to take so much pleasure in animals, to care deeply for them, and eventually, to mourn their passing on. The Bible also gives us hope for a better day:

    "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

    - Revelation 21:3, 4

    To put it as John would a chapter later, "Come, Lord Jesus."