Sunday, July 30, 2006

Just for the Hate of It

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2006 ( – In an op ed piece in the LA Times, David P. Barash, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, says that reproductive facilities should work towards creating a race of human/chimpanzee hybrids, but, he admits, only because it would offend Christians.

Some geneticists have postulated that their distant evolutionary ancestors may have interbred with those of chimps, and Barash argues that this means there is no moral difference between a human being and a chimpanzee, or indeed, between a human being and a sea sponge.

The psychology professor looks forward to the day when IVF facilities will create human/animal hybrids. He reveals, however, that his motivation is not a pure interest in advancing science, but his hatred for “know-nothing anti-evolutionism,” and “religious fundamentalists,” who hold human life to be sacred.

Barash says he advocates interbreeding humans with animals not because it would be a good idea in itself, but because it would offend believers. “In these dark days of know-nothing anti-evolutionism,” he writes, “with religious fundamentalists occupying the White House, controlling Congress and attempting to distort the teaching of science in our schools, a powerful dose of biological reality would be healthy indeed.”

Does this guy know what “fundamentalist” actually means? In any case, George Bush is a Methodist, for crying out loud. I am afraid that “fundamentalist” has been redefined twice in the public arena. First off, the term is spread outside of Christianity to lump crazed suicide bombers with the Wheaton College English Department. Secondly, the degraded term is then applied not only to genuine fundamentalist Christians – like the unjustly-maligned Southern Baptist Convention, say – but to anyone who happens to believe Christianity is true, like a Methodist.

Barash says that creating animal/human hybrids would effectively quash the belief that “the human species, unlike all others, possesses a spark of the divine and that we therefore stand outside nature.”

“Should geneticists and developmental biologists succeed once again in joining human and nonhuman animals in a viable organism,” Barash writes, “it would be difficult and perhaps impossible for the special pleaders to maintain the fallacy that Homo sapiens is uniquely disconnected from the rest of life.”

One of the ideological offshoots of Darwinsim is radical environmentalism, advocates of which hold that human beings are a kind of virus threatening the earth’s ecosystems. According to the pure materialist philosophy, the environmental threat is directly the fault of “a bogus ‘faith based’ worldview,” the “Judeo-Christian proclamation of radical discontinuity between people and the rest of ‘creation.’”…
(Read the whole article on LifeSiteNews.)

That is just bad theology. For heaven’s sake, many cultures used to believe in shape-changers and werewolves. Some Christians today probably believe the little grey aliens are making human-alien hybrids (more than a bit nutty, but I don’t think it directly affects their status as Christians). Those beliefs aren’t qualitatively different than Dr. Barash’s human-animal hybrids. Nobody ever thought those ideas had any implications for man being created in the imago Dei. Also, I’m not sure where human uniqueness in spiritual terms disconnects us from the rest of life. After all, it's through the incarnation of Christ as man that all creation is to be reconciled to God – not just people (Rom. 8:22-23).

There seems to be a level of hatred in our current society unlike anything I remember before – it seems to go way beyond Bush Derangement Syndrome to an absolute hatred of all things traditional. In political terms, I recall how lots of people couldn’t stand Nixon, but nobody ever publicly advocated shooting him. I and a lot of other conservatives had a lot of antipathy toward Bill Clinton, but I don’t think many people hated him in any real sense of the word. Heck, he’d probably be a fun guy to drink beer with.

It also goes way beyond traditional religious animosity. Many Americans, myself included, are pretty wary of and hostile towards Islam these days, but hatred? The only people throwing pig heads into mosques are overaged Beavis and Butthead types who think it’s funny. The people I know who directly interact with Moslems are missionaries, not klansmen. Closer to home, I take a lot of potshots at the Episcopal bishops on this very blog, but I feel sorry for them more than I hate them.

There’s something nasty loose in society that despises Christianity so much that it is blinded to anything else – that will say anything and do anything in order hurt the Faith. The tricky part is not to fall into the same trap and hate back. We were warned about all this a long time ago, and in the final analysis, it is more sad than anything else.

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

(Jud 1:17-23, RSV)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Christian Radio Goes Porn

Some call it revolutionary. Some call it offensive. But for now, it's gone. A formal complaint is on its way to the Federal Government, in response to controversial change to a valley radio station.

A popular Christian radio station suddenly switched to playing sexually suggestive songs. The switch surprised and angered listeners.

The federal government may get involved in the local radio business after a provocative stunt introduced the valley to new ownership on the FM dial.

A Kingsburg-based station turned the valley into a test market for so-called porn radio, featuring sexually suggestive songs and tracked moans and groans. But Thursday afternoon, an announcement replaced the music.

The dramatic shift came on one of the former homes of K-LOVE 106.3 FM. Listeners used to tune in to the Kingsburg based station for Christian music and sermons, but it switched to porn radio.

(K-LOVE, by the way, is listener-supported Christian music radio, and it plays pretty good music.)

[…] Legendary radio consultant Jerry Clifton bought the station earlier this month. Porn radio is his brainchild, and he is well-known in the business for stunt radio. It's a tried-and-true way to get new listeners when you change formats.

"I was shocked," said Kingsbugh merchant June Hess.

I imagine so. Question – if you’re listening in a traffic jam on the way to work, I wonder how long it would take for “something’s not right here” to penetrate the brain? "Wait a minute, just which Madonna are we talking about?"

Kingsburg is better known for its Swedish Festival and raisins, than for anything related to sex. The city has already filed a complaint with the FCC and residents say Clifton should peddle his pornographic music somewhere else.

[…] But Clifton doesn't mind ruffling a few feathers. He says his attorneys assure him the station never crossed the line into indecency, and even negative attention will pay off when he chooses a format.

"I mean, nobody was listening to the station and obviously now they are, or they wouldn't be up in arms about it, so that's a good thing for our future," Clifton said.

Clifton says the station will air music again soon, as they let listeners choose the format, although he's partial to the porn radio format. He's also looking for office space in downtown Fresno, to move the station out of Kingsburg.
(Read the whole thing here.)

And there’s the reality of it. Attention means measurable ratings – even if it’s short term, unfavorable attention. And ratings mean dollars. And the only thing that counts in this universe is how many dollars you have when you croak.

Half of me finds this funny; the other half is appalled. Upon further consideration, I think both responses are appropriate. The event itself is funny, in a raunchy sort of way – like a guy walking into what he thinks is a church and finding himself in a gay bar. It has the potential for a good Saturday Night Live skit (which they haven’t had for years – editorial comment).

What it reveals about the state of the nation is, however, appalling. The best of us can’t rub elbows with this culture and come out clean. Not being among the best, I find it a constant struggle to keep the slime off. I have let way too many things into my head over the years that I now wish were not there. The last thing I need is someone putting more in by trickery. I find this to be in the same (somewhat Satanic) vein as those who run pornographic websites one-letter-in-the-url-removed from a church site. At some point, things cease to reflect human weakness and cross the line to deliberate, intentional evil. Perhaps I'm overreacting; if I am, however, it's because I've gotten sensitized.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Whose Vernacular?

TULSA, Okla. (CNS) -- When Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa met with 60 Anglo parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul Church over a potluck dinner in late June, he told them he had come to listen.

He got an earful, and he issued some blunt rebukes in response.

Many of the English-speaking parishioners -- some of whom were founding members of the 55-year-old parish in Tulsa -- said they have felt "a sense of disruption" since Father Tim Davison arrived as pastor two and a half years ago and intensified efforts to reach out to the growing Hispanic community within the parish.

As a result, some Anglo parishioners feel unappreciated and unloved, they told Bishop Slattery.

Their discontent boiled over this spring when Bishop Slattery came to confirm young people from Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Thomas More parishes and celebrated the Mass mostly in Spanish. Some people walked out, and the family of at least one confirmand left the parish over the incident…
From Catholic World News – read the whole article here.

I have sympathies for both “sides” in this issue. I’d certainly get mightily irritated if Fr. Len at St. Francis started doing the Eucharist in a foreign language. On the other hand, if you have a majority of parishioners who don’t speak English, you certainly need to address their needs.

In the case of St. Francis, I think the case could be made that, since it’s an Anglican Church, English is the proper liturgical language for use in an English-speaking country unless there are pressing reasons to use another. The Church of, say, Nigeria, as an independent organization, is free to choose its own language(s) for liturgical use.

In the case of the Catholic Church, which is a worldwide organization without national boundaries, I think this is an example of the intrinsic problem of having the Mass in “the vernacular.” Whose vernacular? In this particular case in the USA, the Anglos can claim primacy of culture while the Hispanics can claim, I assume, primacy of numbers. You can’t have the service in the language of the people when the people have two different languages – somebody wins, and somebody gets left out. Doing it half-and-half is even worse and confuses everyone.

When I was a kid, the (Latin Rite) Catholic Church had a universal liturgical language – Latin. The Church went to great pains to catechize the local populations in the meaning of the different parts of the mass and in the responses. Wherever Catholic secondary education was available, Latin was taught with the (usually unstated) goal that the liturgy of the Universal Church would be universally understood, independent of cultural background. I can’t help thinking it was a mistake to throw that away.

I certainly have no intrinsic issue with services in the local language. I do, however, think that the exclusive use of the vernacular is not an effective means for increased inclusion in a global body. As in the case above, the regional language is a major determinant of regional power and control that cannot help but include some and exclude others. Universal entities need something more, well, universal. Alexander understood that, and made Greek the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean world for centuries to come. Rome understood that, and made both Latin and Greek the universal tongues of empire. I think the Church has forgotten the lesson. A Latin Mass would have kept the article above from ever having to be written. Preventing such an easily-foreseeable conflict strikes me as a matter of simple charity.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ego Wussus Sum

I am a wus.  I don’t think there’s any other way to put it.  I got diagnosed with strep on Monday afternoon; I had gone to the doc because of a mild sore throat and the fact that I have to help Beloved-but-Expensive-Daughter move into a new apartment on Saturday – it’s important to make sure I get over anything that ails me before then.  I started the antibiotics, but I wasn’t feeling bad until Monday evening, when I pretty much crashed.  Didn’t get back out of bed until about 5 PM Tuesday.  That’s not the wussy part I’m talking about – if one is out of it, one is out of it and there’s not much to be done.

I feel mostly better today – the antibiotics are kicking in, the little cocci should be dying like, well, like bacteria in an antibiotic medium, and most of my symptoms should be the result of my immune system clearing up the little coccoid corpses.  My main complaint is that my throat hurts.  It feels like there’s an open sore way down deep on the left side of my throat – most likely because there really is an open sore way down deep on the left side of my throat.  And that sore is totally preoccupying my life.  I stopped on the way into work and spent 10 bucks on medications to hopefully make the sore less sore; I brought a 12-pack of Caffeine-Free Diet Coke™ with which to soothe myself; I have a hard time concentrating for more than the length of time in between having to swallow; I feel somewhat put-upon for being expected to show up at the office when I’m in such pain.

What sort of first-century Christian would I have made?  I like to think I’m faithful, but how firm would I have stood the first time the Romans brought out some pointy-pinchy torture thingy and shoved it in front of my face?  “Yeah, I guess Caesar deserves a little sacrifice.”  I like to think I’m courageous, but show me a branding iron and I will likely tell you in exactly which catacomb we meet on Sundays.  

I think it comes down to the fact that, in my heart of hearts, I fear the things of this world more than I fear God – quite the opposite of Matthew 10:28.  I am smart enough to know that this is a VBT (Very Bad Thing), but I don’t seem to be able to do much about it.  The only hope for improvement lies with God, who knows what I am and, for some unfathomable reason, cares anyway.  In the meantime, I can only cringe when I look at a guy like Paul.

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.   (2Co 11:23-28, RSV)

And I can’t handle a sore throat.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Sins of SUVs?

From The Sunday Times (London)
THE Bishop of London has declared it sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a “gas-guzzling” car or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home, writes Jonathan Leake.

Richard Chartres will encourage vicars to preach more green sermons and warn congregations that it is now a moral obligation for Christians to lead eco-friendly lifestyles.

Chartres, who chairs the bishops’ panel on the environment, said: “There is now an overriding imperative to walk more lightly upon the earth and we need to make our lifestyle decisions in that light.

“Making selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car are a symptom of sin. Sin is not just a restricted list of moral mistakes. It is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions.”

Chartres, the third most senior bishop in the Church of England, has declared his views as it prepares to publish Treasures on Earth, a booklet on environmental matters to be sent to every diocese for distribution.

[…] The church is taking steps to improve its own environmental record and has asked vicars to carry out an energy audit so they can reduce their “carbon footprint”. It owns some of the largest and draughtiest buildings in Britain, including medieval cathedrals, gothic churches and ageing parsonages.

We have no right to appeal to our contemporaries on this issue if we have failed to put our own house in order,” said Chartres.

That last sentence carries a lot more weight than I suspect the good Bishop realizes. For someone of my “nuke’m till they glow, then shoot’em in the dark” political persuasion, I’m pretty enviro-friendly. I manage my yard for wildlife (for several years, now, we’ve had fawns born in the back yard), minimize the use of pesticides (just enough in the right places to keep the scorpions out of the bed linens), and landscape primarily with native trees and plants. (I also unapologetically drive a Ford F-150; if you want to put a thousand pounds of manure in the back seat of your eco-friendly microcar, go for it.)

My point is that, under the right circumstances, I might be willing to pay attention to the Bishop’s moral pronouncements about the environment and other matters. As a former practicing scientist and educator, I’m inclined to accept claims of human-influenced global warming as generally true; as someone trained in the life sciences, I’m favorably disposed to conservation and the protection and nurturing of endangered species. (I’ve always thought “conservation” ought to be a conservative and not a liberal issue, for etymological reasons if nothing else!)

What the clergy of the Episcopal Church and the Church of England seem to fail to realize is that, over the past decade or so, they have completely squandered their moral credibility. After years of moral equivocation, cultural pandering, leftist politicking, religious relativism, and the general dismissal of historic Christian belief, why do they expect me to believe them anymore? When a man who doesn’t believe Jesus when He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” tries to tell me that Jesus wants me to drive a Yugo, why should I pay attention? When the Bishops tell me the earth is warming up, my first inclination is to buy a new coat (preferably real fur). When the Bishops tell me the seas are dying, I figure it’s time to go marlin fishing. And when they tell me what it means to be Christian, I’m afraid I just flip my mind to “standby” until the sermon drones to an end.

It seems like, having declared all the old sins obsolete, they have to invent new ones in order to feel religious. But the “new” sins invariably seem to be the ones that will get everyone to nod their heads in agreement at the urban faculty cocktail party – using gas, spraying for bugs, wearing fur, eating non-union lettuce. It’s as if Jesus were to show up at the orgy and tell the Romans not to waste animal skins in clothing their slaves. It’s a hell of a situation – choice of words intentional.

By the way, as gas increases in price, it makes alternative fuels more economically viable. It’s a commodity, for heaven’s sake – demand depends on price and price depends on demand. My buying it doesn’t take it away from someone else, any more than my buying a burger takes food from the mouths of the poor. The reason we didn't start using alcohol in cars 30 years ago is that it was too expensive compared to gas, not because of some nefarious plot among the Big Oil Companies (hiss), Detroit (gasp), and - no doubt - Halliburton (gnash, gnash). Get a grip.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Imagine No "Imagine"

A Church of England school has dropped John Lennon's song Imagine from a concert - because it was not felt to be "an appropriate song to perform publicly".

The lyrics of the late Beatle's song - known throughout the world - contain the words "and no religion too".

Children at St Leonard's Primary School in Exeter, Devon, were planning to perform Imagine at their recent concert - but it was replaced by another song after a teacher expressed concern.

Geoff Williams, the head-teacher, said today: "We have not banned the song Imagine.

"We chose not to perform it at our public concert but to perform another song we had practised which better reflected the theme of Songs for A Green Earth.

"We are a Church school and we believe God is the foundation of all we do.

"As such we did not feel that Imagine was an appropriate song to perform publicly."

(Original article here.)

Good for them! Imagine could easily be the Internationale for the secular humanists of the world; the lyrics proclaim the wonders of a world with no heaven, no hell, no religion, and no property – filled with people “living for today.” Sounds very nice, until you start to wonder what all these people have to fall back on when life turns sour and the darkness closes in. If you really think about it, it’s a recipe for a Brave (and very sad) New World. Of course, that doesn’t even address the question of whether heaven and hell are objectively real, and whether true religion provides a framework for finding one and avoiding the other.

Several years ago, at the church I then attended, Imagine was the centerpiece of a performance by the EYC (youth group) at the annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. I wasn’t there, having to lecture to a class that night, but my wife was present to be appalled. A close friend of ours apparently turned white and quit breathing for a bit. It certainly wasn’t the youth’s fault, but one wonders what the adults were thinking.

By the way, the youth group leader at the time is now finishing up studies for the priesthood.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Voice of a (Blasphemous) Angel

LONDON, July 19, 2006 ( – The latest blasphemous antics of Welsh pop-star Charlotte Church have convinced a Catholic publishing company to drop all the products of the girl with “the voice of a angel.”

In a notice to all the customers of Ignatius Press, the company informed its customers that Charlotte Church’s recent statement and antics in the pilot for a new Channel 4 Television entertainment show, have forced Ignatius Press to discontinue carrying her products.

The pilot for The Charlotte Church Show was recorded before a live audience on July 12 in London. During the show, the hostess Charlotte Church, dressed as drug-using nun, smashed open a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary revealing a hidden can of cider, and spoke about worshipping “St. Fortified Wine.” Along the same vein of comic blasphemy, the pop diva pretended to hallucinate while consuming communion wafers branded with Ecstasy smiley faces, and denigrated Pope Benedict XVI as a “Nazi”, even though she had performed for the late Holy Father, John Paul II, when she was a 12 year-old girl.

In an official statement, Ignatius Press stated, “It is with regret that we do this; Miss Church possesses a great gift from God, and in the past she has used her talent often to offer praise and glory to our Lord.” While Ignatius Press praised the sacred music Charlotte had done in the past, they said, “We cannot stand by a young woman who uses her stature in the media to mock the Eucharist, slander the Holy Father, and denigrate the vows of religious women. Therefore, our catalogs and website will immediately withdraw all compact discs, cassette tapes, DVDs and VHS tapes that feature Miss Church. Please join us in praying for this troubled young woman.”

It is a sad thing to see how many “child prodigies” wind up as adult brats. I’m not sure what happens to them, but it must have something to do with their fame and privileged status coupled with their disrupted childhood. God knows how many hangers on must have made a few shekels off her as a child, and God knows what events in her life drove her to where she is now. I just remember how she sang when she was little, how good she was, and how I wondered what would happen to her when she grew up. Then, several years ago, I saw a more “mature” Charlotte Church on a PBS special. She was made up way too much and she just looked hard - eyes like a runaway on the street that's seen way too much way too young.

Ignatius Press has handled it quite correctly, I think. They can’t in good conscience peddle her merchandise anymore, but the young lady herself needs as many prayers as she can get. Who knows – perhaps the results of her current over-the-edge behavior will eventually provide an opportunity for God to get her attention. As a recovering jackass myself, I know that no one living is beyond redemption.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

You May Be a Terrorist!

The following list of groups can be found under the heading “Terrorist and Extremist Organizations,” on the Planned
  • American Life League (ALL)

  • Americans United for Life (AUL)

  • Christian Coalition

  • Concerned Women for America (CWA)

  • Eagle Forum

  • Family Research Council (FRC)

  • Feminists for Life of America (FFL)

  • Focus on the Family

  • Human Life International (HLI)

  • Life Dynamics Incorporated (LDI)

  • Missionaries to the Preborn

  • National Right to Life Committee (NRLC)

  • Operation Save America (formerly known as Operation Rescue)

  • Pro-Life Action League (PLAL)

  • STOPP International, aka STOPP Planned Parenthood

Fascinating. I guess I haven’t kept up with the news, not having heard of any Christian Coalition suicide bombers, nor any Focus on the Family missile strikes recently. (They could be suspected of launching missal strikes, but –being a Protestant organization – it is unlikely.)

It is pathetic. Planned parenthood kills more people and wrecks more lives in a year than Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and every other jihadist group can even dream about. For them turn around and call Concerned Women for America “terrorist” – especially while American troops are engaged against the real thing - is a propaganda claim that would have left Josef Goebbels blushing in embarrassment. When people reach the point where they are no longer capable of feeling shame, I fear for their souls.

Original story on GoPunditGo; tip of the gimme cap to The Curt Jester.

What's Your Favorite Liturgical Abuse?

Ben Myers at Faith and Theology is running a poll on the “worst liturgical innovation in recent history.”  Choices include Liturgical Dance, the altar call, little cups of grape juice for communion, banners on the walls, and powerpoint sermons.  Go vote; if your most horrific liturgical experience isn’t on the list, you can post a comment.

Mine was a no-brainer.  Once on Maundy Thursday in the Episcopal Church, I found myself sitting through a liturgical dance where a bunch of guys built like me twirled their way up to the altar in tights. Beloved-But-Expensive Daughter almost choked to death trying to stifle her giggles; all I could think of was the hippo ballet from Disney's Fantasia. It was so appalling you couldn't even call it sacrilege. Then they all joined hands and pranced around the altar like a bunch of Wiccans at Stonehenge. As drool fell from my slackened jaw, BBED tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, "Which one are we going to sacrifice?"

Monday, July 17, 2006

Dutch Court Okays Pedophile Party

(Following article can be found here.)
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- A Dutch court refused Monday to ban a political party whose main goal is to lower the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12. The judge said it was the voters' right to judge the appeal of political parties.

The party has only three known members, one of whom was convicted of molesting an 11-year-old boy in 1987. Widely dubbed the "pedophile" party, it is unlikely ever to win a seat in parliament. The group would need around 60,000 votes, and pollsters estimate it would get fewer than 1,000.

Opponents had asked The Hague District Court to bar the party from registering for national elections in November, arguing that children have the right not to be confronted with the party's platform.

"Freedom of expression, freedom ... of association, including the freedom to set up a political party, can be seen as the basis for a democratic society," Judge H. Hofhuis said in his ruling.

"These freedoms give citizens the opportunity to, for example, use a political party to appeal for change to the constitution, law, or policy."

He noted that the PNVD party, the Dutch abbreviation of Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity, had not committed a crime, but was calling for a change in the law.

"It is the right of the voter to judge the appeal of political parties," he said.

The party sparked outrage when it proclaimed its existence in late May, but prosecutors declined to prosecute its members as a threat to public order.

"We expected this result," said party treasurer Ad van den Berg, 62. "We are not doing anything illegal so there is no reason to ban us."

Van den Berg was fined and given a suspended prison sentence for molesting an 11-year-old boy in 1987. After his background became known last month, he was chased from the trailer park where he lived in the city of Oostvoorne.

Anke de Wijn, an attorney representing the party's opponents, said the group was abusing Dutch tolerance.

"Victims feel hurt by the wish of pedophiles to make their desires known in public," De Wijn said. "There are few limitations on free speech, and that's good, but this group is making misuse of the privilege, to provoke."

The PNVD's known members were a president, a secretary and a treasurer, as required under Dutch law. In order to stand in elections scheduled for Nov. 22, it will have to submit a list of candidates and the signatures of at least 30 supporters to get on the ballot in any one of the country's 19 voting districts.

Ireen van Engelen of the Solace Foundation, which researches pedophilia, said the party likely would fail to register for the elections because pedophiles seek anonymity.

"They will never want to connect their name to the party and without the signatures they can't go in the elections," she said.

That last sentence sounds like famous last words to me. What I find disturbing is that the Dutch apparently believe that democratic government grants the right to legislate basic matters of human rights. I’m not sure a large percentage of Americans wouldn’t feel the same. But the Declaration of Independence says that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” In other words, rights are not granted by the government but by God. Governments are obligated to respect those God-given rights; those which fail to do so are illegitimate and it is the duty of the people to overthrow them.

Promulgating of sex with 12-year-olds is the same as promulgating rape, consensual or not, and is a fundamental violation of human rights. It has no more legitimate place on the ballot than legalizing the killing of Jews or medical experimentation on prisoners.

On the other hand, perhaps Holland could make use on another of its “tolerant” policies and simply euthanize the members of the party.

Ark, Ark, Who's Got the Ark?

The following was excerpted from a rather lengthy article at WorldNet Daily:
After centuries of scouring the Earth for Noah's Ark, claims are now flooding in that the legendary vessel of the Bible has been found.

Last month, headlines screamed that a Texas team of archaeologists believed they had possibly located the biblical boat in Iran.

But hang on to the "Hallelujah!" chorus a little longer.

There are numerous claims about the final resting place, from Ararat to Armenia. With modern technology and digital photography being utilized in the hunt, it seems like everyone is finding what they think is Noah's Ark.

[...] As WorldNetDaily reported June 30, a 14-man crew that included evangelical apologist Josh McDowell says it returned from a trek to a mountain in Iran with possible evidence of the remains of Noah's Ark.

[...] The team returned with video footage of a large black formation, about 400 feet long - the approximate length of the ark, according to the Bible - that looks like rock but bears the image of hundreds of massive, wooden, hand-hewn beams.

[...] Despite the hype, there are those who maintain the vessel is definitely on Mount Ararat, in present-day Turkey.

Among them is Edward Crawford, a former draftsman illustrator for the U.S. military who now teaches Christian theology at Evergreen Bible Presbyterian Church in the Seattle suburb of Pullayup, Wash.

Crawford has made numerous climbs up Ararat, and says in 1990, he discovered a large, rectangular structure buried in the ice at an elevation of 14,765 feet.

"I don't have any doubt about it at all, and the Turks don't either," he told WND.

[...] Not far from Crawford's "structure" on Mount Ararat is something which made headlines in March with the release of a new, high-resolution digital image of what has become known as the "Ararat Anomaly."

The location of the anomaly on the mountain's northwest corner has been under investigation from afar by ark hunters for years, but it has remained unexplored, with the government of Turkey not granting any scientific expedition permission to explore on site.

"I've got new found optimism ... as far as my continuing push to have the intelligence community declassify some of the more definitive-type imagery," Porcher Taylor, an associate professor in paralegal studies at the University of Richmond, said at the time.

For more than three decades, Taylor has been a national security analyst, and has also served as a senior associate for five years at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

[...] Some 15 miles from Mount Ararat is perhaps the most well-known candidate vying for the title of Noah's Ark.

A boat-shaped object thought by many to be the fossilized remnants of the the vessel sits in Dogubayazit, Turkey, and was first photographed in 1959 by a Turkish air force pilot on a NATO mapping mission.

It gained worldwide attention after its photo was published in a 1960 issue of Life Magazine.

[...] The final entrant is Leroy Blevins, a New Richmond, Ohio, man who carries a 1950 Catholic Press Bible which states the ark rested "upon the mountains of Armenia," leading him to believe the location of the vessel is indeed in the former Soviet republic.

Blevins offers little proof for his claim, except a series of photos on his website, as he purports the ark is situated on Armenia's highest point Mount Aragats, not to be confused with the similar sounding Ararat in Turkey.

"No one has ever looked for Noah's Ark on this mountain in Armenia," he told WND. "There is a rectangle-shaped boat on the top of this mountain. This boat has what appears to be either a vent or windows. You can see the whole outline of this ship and it is locked in the mountains. ... You can see that it is big and man-made."

[...] Joe Zias, a Jerusalem-based anthropologist who is a former curator at the Israel Antquities Authority, is quick to throw cold water on all these claims of the ark being discovered.

"Just when I think I've seen it all, another group of nutters shows up," he told WND.

Zias says the parties making the discovery claims are "pimping" off the Bible for money, suggesting they have no training in geology, archaeology or anthropology; nor any peer-reviewed articles, university appointments and "any credibility whatsoever in academic circles."

"Pimping off the Bible" - great line. I think I will keep that one for future use.

Whether one takes the story of Noah and the ark literally, symbolically, or somewhere in between, I don't think anybody's going to find it. Why? Because people would make an idol out of it. Rather than seeing it as a sign that points to God, people would turn it into a tool for their own use. Some would use it to browbeat others about biblical inerrancy; others would use it as a national symbol or a means to claim territory; some would start selling fragments of the ark as a cure for cancer. There would be ark museums, ark parks, ark rides at Six Flags and Sea World, ark restaurants (eat with the animals!), "save the ark" fund raisers, "ark energy" room deodorizers, and ark conferences to debate whether aliens built the ark and whether any of Noah's sons were gay. I'd be willing to bet there would even be ark toilet paper. One reason the Church tends to lock up relics and only bring them out for special occasions is to minimize the tendency of people to worship the created over the creator. Hezekiah had to get rid of Moses' bronze serpent, because the people were making sacrifices to it instead of to God (2 Kings 18:4). Look at the craziness over the Shroud of Turin. Assume for the moment that it really is the burial shroud of Christ. That's really cool; I'd like to see it sometime. But does it change anything? Is the Incarnation, Crucifixion, or Resurrection any different because the shroud's hanging in an Italian cathedral?

At the risk of sounding like a theological liberal (I'd prefer to eat tofu), too much emphasis on the ark-as-a-thing loses the meaning of the whole story. God purged the world of evil once in order to give us a fighting chance and to preserve without contamination the line to Christ. He's not going to do it again until the end of days. The evil is for us to deal with, and we can deal with it because we have the Promise to Abraham and the gifts of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We're not going to improve the situation with lucky ark key chains.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Liturgical Reforms on the Way?

From CWNews for July 13
The Vatican is planning to restore some disciplinary control of the liturgy, according the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in response to widespread abuses.

Speaking to the I Media news agency in Rome, Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don will soon take steps to indicate the importance of following the Church's liturgical guidelines. Asked whether Pope Benedict XVI is preparing a document on the liturgy, Archbishop Ranjith answered indirectly, noting that the Holy Father has written and spoken extensively on liturgical issues in past years. Pope Benedict is keenly aware of today's challenges, he said, and determined to restore a proper sense of reverence to the liturgy. The Sri Lankan prelate said that some of his thoughts had been taken out of context after a previous interview with the French newspaper La Croix. He had not intended to suggest that the liturgical reforms of Vatican II had failed, he stressed; rather, he meant that some liturgical changes had produced an overreaction, and a loss of appreciation for Church traditions. As a result, he said, "the reforms of the Council did not bear the expected fruit, because of the way in which they were interpreted and put into practice." Now, he continued, the great challenge for the Church is to promote a deeper understanding of the liturgical reforms: one in keeping with the constant traditions of Catholicism. Archbishop Ranjith said that two extremes must be avoided: a liturgical free-for-all in which "every priest of bishop does what he wants, which creates confusion;" or a complete abandonment of liturgical reforms, leading to a vision that is "closed up in the past." Today, he said, those two extremes are becoming more prominent, and the Church needs to establish a middle ground.

Every day, the archbishop disclosed, the Congregation for Divine Worship receives new complaints about serious liturgical abuses, and complaints that local bishops have failed to correct them. If the Church fails to curb these abuses, he said, "people will attend the Tridentine Mass, and our churches will be empty." Liturgical guidelines are set forth clearly, he observed, in the Roman Missal and in Church documents. Now "some discipline is necessary regarding what we do at the altar." …

I know a whole lot of Latin-Rite Catholics who will be shouting halleluiahs if this becomes more than just talk. What it means, they all hope, is no more of this:

and a lot more of this:

Lex orandi, lex credendi. Abuses in the liturgy lead to abuses in theology and in popular belief. In the Episcopal Church, we first started inviting all baptized Christians to the communion rail, rather than all who believe in the Real Presence. Nowadays the invitation is frequently made to anyone at all. The effect is to devalue the eucharist from the sacramental union with Christ's body and blood to the status of a communal meal with your buddies. Whatever the clergy say, what they do defines the nature of the congregation's belief. If you get the wine in a wooden cup, if the guy on your right at the communion rail thinks it's only a memorial and the guy on your left is a Buddhist, it's kind of hard to take seriously the real presence of Christ's Body and Blood. Then, later, when they change the theology, you're primed to fall for it. The liturgy is the way it is for a reason, and people who think they know better than the Church tinker with it at their peril, and the peril of their flocks.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pharmaceutical Spirituality

Psilocybin, the active ingredient of "magic mushrooms," expands the mind. After a thousand years of use, that's now scientifically official.

The chemical promoted a mystical experience in two-thirds of people who took it for the first time, according to a new study. One-third rated a session with psilocybin as the "single most spiritually significant" experience of their lives. Another third put it in the top five.

The single most spiritually significant experience of their lives? That may be the saddest thing I’ve ever read in my life. These are supposed to be “spiritually aware” people who participated in the study – see below. What about your baptism? I would think that every participation in the Eucharist would contain infinitely more “spiritually significance” than slurping up a hunk of magic mushroom. In each communion, we really do participate in the divine Life of God, no matter whether we feel mystical union or just feel like we have the flu. If there were ever a perfect example of how we’ve elevated of personal experience over objective reality, this would have to be it. It’s okay to do as you please, as long as it feels right to you. I can’t help suspecting that hell will be busting at the seams with very nice people who felt comfortable with their spirituality.

The study, published today in the journal Psychopharmacology, is the first randomized, controlled trial of a substance used for centuries by natives of Mexico and Central America to produce mystical insights. It is also nearly the first research on a psychedelic drug in human subjects in this country since the 1960s. It confirms what both shamans and hippies have long said: Taking psilocybin is a scary, reality-bending and occasionally life-changing experience.

[…] The study, which involved 36 middle-aged adults from the Baltimore-Washington area, was conducted over five years. The subjects were chosen from 135 people who answered newspaper ads. All said they were members of a religious organization, practiced meditation or took part in other spiritual activity.

Of the 36 people, 22 had a "complete" mystical experience as judged by several question-based scales used for rating such experiences. Many reported feelings of joy and peace, and a sense of transcending time and space. Two-thirds judged it to be among their top-five life experiences, equal to the birth of a first child or death of a parent.

Only in modern America could one write a sentence like that. The intensity of the experience has far more significance than the actual nature of the event itself. It’s not just the Culture of Death; it’s the Therapeutic Culture of Death.

[…] "I think these drugs are potentially very dangerous," he said. "I would be very disappointed if in any sense these results were used to encourage recreational use of these compounds."

And that danger involves a great deal more than just an overnight trip to the ER.

Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Th 2:11-12, RSV) - one of the scarier verses in scripture.

(You can read the whole article at The Seattle Times.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Man Fined Buffalo and Pig for Bigamy

From an article on Yahoo News.
An indigenous man in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo Island was fined a buffalo and a pig for breaking a tribal custom by secretly marrying a second wife, a tribal court official said Wednesday.

The 39-year-old man was asked to compensate his first wife and children with a buffalo and a pig even though he agreed to dissolve the second marriage and return to his first wife and family, Kota Kinabalu Native Court chief William Majimbun told The Associated Press.

The court handles cases only relating to laws of the native indigenous people in Sabah.

Majimbun said the man, whose identity has been withheld, performed the second marriage secretly in a remote village in 2003.

"Indigenous custom doesn't normally punish men who marry a second time, but in this case, he did not get the permission of the first wife," Majimbun said. "The case was handled based on customary laws."

Rumors that the man has been named a bishop in the Malaysian Episcopal Church are apparently unfounded.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bishop Schiori in Her Own Words

Jeff Chu of Time recently interviewed TEC Presiding Bishop Schiori, in which he asked her 10 fairly unambiguous question. Her answers were surprisingly candid and quite revealing. Read the whole article for all ten; I just want to address one that stood out to me (I have altered the format but not text):

Chu: Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
Schiori: We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

Here I think we have an insight into what’s happening to Western Christianity. In all fairness, I’m a little unhappy with the way the question was phrased. If Chu is asking “Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?” then all orthodox Christians, the Scriptures, and Jesus Himself would answer “yes.” John quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Of course, we live in sophisticated times so we should go back to the original passage to get the nuanced meaning of the passage. If we look at the Greek, what Jesus really seems to be saying is, well, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The sentence is a very simple one that anybody can translate after the first few chapters of a decent Greek textbook.

If, however, the question is, “Is a conscious, specific belief in Jesus Christ professed in this life the only way to get to heaven?” then most Christians throughout history would say “No.” (To be sure, that “No” would generally have been followed by a long and detailed description of exactly what “no” meant.) But that fine point of theology isn’t what’s being reflected in ++Schiori’s denial of Christ’s exclusivity.

What we have in her answer is a simple denial of John 14:6 – and, ultimately, a denial of Jesus’s divinity and of the meaning of His crucifixion. If there are other paths to God than through Jesus, and if Jesus is indeed God incarnate, then for Him to undergo scourging, crucifixion, and death can only mean that God is insane. If other paths to God exist, then the Passion serves no useful purpose, and those who seek death for no useful purpose are generally agreed to be insane. A God who would send His only Son to death unnecessarily is not a God of love but a blood god more suitable to Blade – The Series.

If, on the other hand, Jesus is one prophet among many, teaching a way among many, then Christianity is simply false. It is not an alternate path to heaven but a path to nowhere – because to accept Jesus as one prophet or even one god among many of equal validity is– in essence – to accept Hinduism. If one is going to be Hindu, at least be honest about it, buy yourself a statue of Ganesha, and get rid of all the silly crucifixes you have hanging around.

“Putting God in a box” is one of the buzzphrases I hear all the time from heretics liberals. But no one’s putting God in a box. The Christian belief from A.D. 30 on has been that God put Himself in a box – the box of human flesh – as the ultimate act of self-giving that reconciled perfect love with perfect justice. It’s never been a question of what I happen to think God might have done; it’s always been a question of what He says He’s done. I can’t help thinking that I’m supposed to respond to that act in humble gratitude, not try to second-guess it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

July 10: Feast of the Three Massabki Brothers

Today is the Feast of the Three Massabki Brothers, Francis, Abdel Mohti, and Raphael, in the calendar of the Maronite Catholic Church.

In 1860, Ahmed Pasha ruled Syria. A sectarian tyrant, nothing would prevent him from achieving his ends.

July 9 of that year, by a special and secret order, Ahmed Pasha’s henchmen traced crosses in the streets of Damascus and made it known that the “Children of the Christians” were the authors. Spirits were troubled and reprisals were unleashed. Fear permeated the Christian quarters. The trouble was distasteful to honest Muslims, and with the Council of Powers, they demanded of Ahmed to put an end to the trouble for the peace of the inhabitants and the safety of peoples’ lives. So Ahmed sent his emissaries to imprison some Christians charged with “disturbing the public peace,” and then quickly released them.

At sundown, the governor gave the order to his agents, with the help of some hoodlums, to go in to the streets and start fires. Having arrived in front of the Orthodox Church, they set it afire after a bloody massacre. The fire spread, and theft and plundering rampaged through house after house. On the morning of July 10, the Christians were massacred, their houses destroyed and their goods stolen. The survivors took refuge in the citadel, aided by the great Emir Abdel-Kader of Algeria, and by several Muslims.

Around 8 o’clock in the evening, while fire took hold of the Orthodox Christian quarters, Francis, Abdel Mohti, and Raphael were at home. Fearing the furor and ferocity of the massacres, they left their wives and children and headed for the Franciscan convent.

At 11 o’clock, the Mission Superior closed and barricaded the doors, and invited the refugees into the church. After the litany, the Fathers heard confession and gave communion to all of the devoted present. From the church, they climbed to the convent terrace; only Francis remained kneeling before the altar of the Sorrowful Mother.

At one hour past midnight, the slaughterers infiltrated the house by a secret door shown to them by Hassan Allaf, the house manager. Some refugees took flight. Ahmed’s agents seized the Superior who promised to show them the hiding place of a treasure. They followed him in delirious joy. The Father descended into the church, lighted two candelabras, opened the tabernacle, and swallowed the Blessed Hosts. He was killed upon the altar. Francis remained kneeling before the Virgin. Ahmed’s agents recognized him. They advanced towards him and said: “Sheik Abdallah has sent us to save you from death; you, your brothers, your families, and all those who depend upon you for protection, on the condition that you deny your faith and convert to Islam.” Francis responded calmly: “Sheik Abdallah can take the money I lent him, he can also take my life; but my faith, no one can make me deny. I am a Maronite Christian and on the faith of Christ, I will die.”

“We will kill you,” they cried. “I will be with my Lord.” Francis then began a prayer, which he finished in heaven. The slaughterers massacred him with swords, hatchets, and daggers.

Abdel Mohti was on the church terrace, when the convent fell into the hands of the assassins. He ran to the church to take refuge near his brother, but at the chapel door, he was seized and asked to deny his faith in order to enter Islam. His life would be spared. In a clear voice, he proclaimed: “I am a Christian, kill me, I am ready.” Daggers and hatchets severed his body and he fell at the church door.

As for Raphael, he was hiding in a corner of the convent. They found him and propositioned him: “become a Muslim, you will be saved.” Raphael fell to his knees and appealed to the Holy Virgin. He was beheaded and trampled.

Once the calm had returned, witnesses assure, the three martyred brothers were buried with the Franciscan Priests, martyrs for their faith.

(Courtesy of

The Decline of Liberalism

The following is excerpted from – of all places – an editorial in The Los Angeles Times for July 9, 2006. It was written by Charlotte Allen of It is worth your time to read the whole thing.
The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.

Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.

It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time … the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."

[…] The Presbyterian Church USA is famous for its 1993 conference, cosponsored with the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other mainline churches, in which participants "reimagined" God as "Our Maker Sophia" and held a feminist-inspired "milk and honey" ritual designed to replace traditional bread-and-wine Communion.

As if to one-up the Presbyterians in jettisoning age-old elements of Christian belief, the Episcopalians at Columbus overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.

You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.

[…] When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.

[…] Despite the fact that median Sunday attendance at Episcopal churches is 80 worshipers, the Episcopal Church, as a whole, is financially equipped to carry on for some time, thanks to its inventory of vintage real estate and huge endowments left over from the days (no more!) when it was the Republican Party at prayer. Furthermore, it has offset some of its demographic losses by attracting disaffected liberal Catholics and gays and lesbians. The less endowed Presbyterian Church USA is in deeper trouble. Just before its general assembly in Birmingham, it announced that it would eliminate 75 jobs to meet a $9.15-million budget cut at its headquarters, the third such round of job cuts in four years.

[…] So this is the liberal Christianity that was supposed to be the Christianity of the future: disarray, schism, rapidly falling numbers of adherents, a collapse of Christology and national meetings that rival those of the Modern Language Assn. for their potential for cheap laughs. And they keep telling the Catholic Church that it had better get with the liberal program — ordain women, bless gay unions and so forth — or die. Sure.

A lot of former Episcopalians wind up in the Orthodox Church – the Antiochian Orthodox in the U.S.A. have an amazingly high proportion of converts on both sides of the iconostasis. One reason is that the Orthodox make no bones about what it means to be Christian. If you want to follow Christ, here’s how; if you don’t, then go away and have a nice time. Interestingly, it’s not a matter of legalism, as the liberals often accuse; it’s simply a matter that the Faith was received from Jesus through the apostles, and it is no more open to revision than the cosine of pi. It is what it is, and you can choose to work out your salvation within it or not.

The problem with liberal Protestantism is that, if you are willing to alter the tenets of your Faith to meet transient social changes, then – in the final analysis – how real do you actually believe that Faith is? Real things tend to be intrinsically determined. You can’t make water out of hydrogen and chlorine; you can’t barbecue a deer and decide that it’s broccoli; you can’t jump off a cliff and not hit the bottom because you’ve decided to revise your views on gravity. True religion, in service to an objectively real God, is the same way. It is what it is, and no amount of “reappraising” will change it into something else however much we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Totally Off Topic for the Weekend

If you have completely run out of useful things to do, you might wish to peruse They have a number of amazingly good "kitlers."

Q: What kind of rifle would this cat carry?
A: A Mauser, of course.

No wonder the Nazis named their tanks after large felines.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Monument Erected by Jesuits (Barf Alert)

From the Diocese of Frostbite Falls Sault Ste. Marie:
The monument is sponsored by Les Jésuites de Sudbury.

'' No service of faith without promotion of justice. No promotion of justice without dialogue with other traditions.'' (34th General Congregation 1995, Society of Jesus)

''From the beginning to the end WORKING TOGETHER FOR PEACE'' ALPHA AND OMEGA

Peace represented by a dove, a Christian Cross and the symbols in each of the letters A(lpha) and O(mega) represents the 12 current religions.

You can visit the monument of peace on the right hand side of the alter where Mass is celebrated on the Grotto Mountain.

“Promotion of justice” usually means promotion of socialist and Marxist economic policies. “Dialogue with other traditions” usually means syncretism – as someone once said, “Buddhism and Christianity have a lot in common, especially Buddhism.”

I have always wondered – if you don’t actually believe Christianity is true – why on earth would you possibly want to be a priest of it? Most of the answers I come up with are pretty bad.

I confess I can’t identify half the religious symbols that pervert adorn the Alpha and Omega. The one on the left side of the Alpha that looks sort of like a woman with a hand going up her dress is for Jainism (minus the ancient swastika – too politically incorrect, I imagine). The one above it that looks Arabic is actually Hindu. The Buddhist, Taoist, Jewish, and Moslem symbols are obvious. The rest? If you know, please comment.

I will never comprehend the worldview that says the different religions are all roads that lead to the same destination. If Jesus is Who we say He is, then he is not only “the way, the truth, and the life;” He is also the destination itself. To say you can reach God without Jesus is like saying you can get to an Astros home game without going to Houston. It’s not just a matter of separate pathways. If you wind up at the game, you’re by definition in Houston. Buddhist enlightenment is not at all the same thing as the Christian goal of eternal individual existence in the presence of the Almighty. The same holds for the other religions. The reason they are different religions is that they are indeed different, and to embrace syncretism removes you from Christianity and makes you Hindu or Buddhist.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Gentlemammoths Prefer Blondes

From BBC (I have been having problems uploading images to blogger, so go there to see artist's conception):
The coat colour of mammoths that roamed the Earth thousands of years ago has been determined by scientists.

Some of the curly tusked animals would have sported dark brown coats, while others had pale ginger or blond hair.

The information was extracted from a 43,000-year-old woolly mammoth bone from Siberia using the latest genetic techniques.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers said a gene called Mc1r was controlling the beasts' coat colours.

This gene is responsible for hair-colour in some modern mammals, too.

In humans, reduced activity of the Mc1r gene causes red hair, while in dogs, mice and horses it results in yellow hair.

[…] Dr Michael Hofreiter, an author on the paper and an evolutionary biologist from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, said analysis revealed two different versions of the gene were present - a fully active and a partially active version.

The researchers propose that hair coloration in mammoths is likely to have been determined in the same way as in present-day mammals.

This means that mammoths with one copy of the active gene and one of the partially active gene would have had dark coats - most likely dark brown or black.

While mammoths with two copies of the inactive gene would have had paler coats - possibly blond or ginger.

The scientists said they were unsure why different-coloured mammoths existed.

[…] But Dr Hofreiter said it was unlikely that mammoths had varied coats for camouflage.

He said: "They were very big - so even a blond mammoth would have been easy to spot."

For the sake of the contemporary people, as well as for all the other animals, I hope so. It would be dangerous to keep running into invisible mammoths, not to mention the environmental impact of collisions between mammoths who didn’t see one another.

Woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) were common about 50,000 years ago, during the late Pleistocene epoch.

They were about the size of an Indian elephant, but with shaggy woolly coats and tusks measuring over 4m long.

They are thought to have died out about 4,500 years ago.

Most likely the other mammoths realized that blond mammoths were having more fun. They all became blonds, and the resulting drop in IQ resulted in their extinction.

(Oh, man, am I going to hear about that one. It’s a joke for a Friday afternoon! Please don’t hurt me!)

Homer Simpson's Gonna Have a Cow!

From The Australian:
Homer could have been a woman, according to a forthcoming book by a specialist in oral literature.

Historian and linguist Andrew Dalby is challenging the accepted gender of one of the most influential writers of all time -- the poet who created the Greek epics The Iliad and The Odyssey in the seventh century BC.

Dang it, it’s sex, not gender! Nouns have genders; people (and other critters) have sexes! I LOATHE and REVILE that particular distortion of English!

Dr Dalby said: "There is no direct evidence of the poet's identity and therefore no justification for the customary assumption that the two epics were composed by a man."

Women have a long tradition worldwide as makers of oral literature, he said, citing Sappho, the best-known female poet of ancient Greece, and Enheduanna, the woman mentioned on a Sumerian tablet who thus became the first named poet in the world.

Dr Dalby, whose study Rediscovering Homer will be published in September, said: "It is possible, even probable, that this poet was a woman. As a working hypothesis, this helps to explain certain features in which these epics are better -- more subtle, more complex, more universal -- than most others."

[…] Acknowledging that other scholars have said the Iliad feels like the work of a man, he said: "The Iliad is largely about male heroics in war and the great majority of its characters are men whose aim is to kill one another ... Women, though telling the same stories, are capable of telling them from a different angle and with an added depth, dealing sympathetically with the feelings and motives of women characters. No one will deny that the poet of The Iliad does this."

In other words, guys, you are just too loutish to deal with the nuances and subtleties of the human experience. I find the liberal academic mindset to be a source of endless fascination. It’s enlightened to maintain that women are more subtle and complex, and thereby revise on no other basis the traditional sex of an ancient author; claim that women as a group aren’t as good at math, however, and you’ll lose your job like Larry Summers. And those who profess to teach our kids logical thinking see no problem. Yeesh.

(P.S. for Technobabe – I didn’t say “all women,” I said “women as a group” – and it’s not my quote anyway! I have absolutely no doubt that you can solve a vector equation in five dimensions in less time than it takes me to put on my glasses and read it.)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Iraqi Operatives in Afghanistan Pre-9/11

An Arab regime, possibly Iraq, supplied how-to manuals for Arab operatives working throughout Afghanistan before 9/11, and provided military assistance to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

That's the most likely conclusion drawn from an apparent training manual unearthed in captured Iraqi government computer files translated and analyzed exclusively for Fox News, and made public for the first time.

The document, apparently written before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, could bolster the Bush administration's contention that Saddam Hussein was providing support for Islamic extremists who were plotting against America.

The training manual warns, in stark how-to terms, of the dangers of "information leaks," and instructs Arab operatives inside Afghanistan to dress like Afghan tribesmen, to avoid being followed ("Routine is the enemy of security"), to always be armed, and "to behave as if enemies would strike at any moment."

The manual also cautions Arabs to "beware of rapid and spontaneous friendships with Afghans who speak Arabic," and "always make sure about the identity of your neighbors and classify them as regular people, opponents or allies."

That revelation is provided exclusively to Fox News by Ray Robison, a former member of the CIA-directed Iraq Survey Group. ISG supervised a group of linguists to analyze, archive and exploit the hundreds of captured documents and materials of Saddam's regime.

Fox News and Robison last week revealed the contents of a 1999 notebook kept by an Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) operative. That notebook detailed how Saddam's agents aggressively pursued and entered into a diplomatic, intelligence, and security arrangement with the Taliban and Islamist extremists operating in Afghanistan — years before the 9/11 attacks.

[…] The manual, declassified and recently released by the Foreign Military Studies Office, advises its Arab readers never to show your "military ID." That strongly suggests that Iraq was sending professional military assistance to Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks.
Whole article and translation of document here.

Let’s see. What’s the politically correct way to say “I told you so” to the disloyal opposition these days? How about, “I sympathize, with your acoustical, mnemonic, and cognitive impairments?” That should be better than “You don’t listen, you can’t remember the past, and you can’t think.” I don’t mind honest pacifists; I can get along with real isolationists; I have no patience, however, with those who compare Bush to Hitler but never cease to make excuses for dictators.

A Hitler Salute at the World Cup

Excerpted from an article at The Kingdom (Ireland):
Defrocked Kerry priest Neil Horan has confirmed he plans to travel to the World Cup final at the weekend to perform a peace dance outside the venue for the big match.

He also intends carrying posters declaring that Adolf Hitler was a good leader who was following the word of Christ.

The Scartaglin native has previously hit the headlines for his infamous demonstrations at major sporting events. He dashed out in front of Formula One cars during the British Grand Prix at Silver-stone in 2003 and the following year he was given a 12-month suspended sentence and fined ¤3,000 for pouncing on the leader of the men’s marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens.
Now he says he will dance a jig outside the stadium in Berlin before the World Cup final kicks-off on Sunday.

He told The Kingdom he plans to board a flight to Germany on Saturday and he will carry placards in five different languages to spread the word of God - as he sees it.

Perhaps someone should introduce this guy to Fred Phelps. They seem to have a number of things in common, both theologically and psychiatrically.

“I will stand just in front of the main entrance. I will give the Hitler salute, do my peace dance and read a verse,” said Horan who has written to The Kingdom to confirm his intentions.

This really sounds like a scene from Springtime for Hitler. The Nazi peace dance? What do you do? Tapdance in boots on a map of Europe?

He said he also intends to visit the Gestapo headquarters to light a candle in memory of Hitler.

[…] He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Eamonn Casey in 1973 but on 20 January, 2005, Horan was formally defrocked by the Catholic Church.

He has consistently refused to accept the ruling made by the Archbishop of Southwark in London.

I completely reject this decision. I appeal to the much higher court of heaven and the court of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Reminds me of a line from the Mythbusters TV show: “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” The fact that he was a priest for 32 years raises a lot of questions. Was he an ordinary guy when ordained who flipped out later? There are lots of people who seem only a mildly peculiar for years, then one day barricade themselves in the house with an AK-47 so the aliens can’t get them.

The Catholic Church tends to be pretty long-suffering with nutty priests. Maybe they should have kept him on, and assigned him to an island monastery somewhere - where the Abbott and the monks could take care of him and keep him from getting loose. Dashing out in front of Formula One cars certainly seems to "pose a threat to himself or others." Our much-maligned, unenlightened ancestors used to care for their lunatics. Nowadays, in our more sophisticated times, we hand them a bottle of pills they won't take, and cut them loose to fend for themselves. I've long been convinced that someday we will answer for that.

One of the marks of the insane is a totally inflated sense of self-importance. The poor guy believes he’s making a statement while everyone else thinks he’s a joke. The only thing ex-Father Neil might accomplish is that he could manage to start a riot – which seems like an awfully easy thing to start at a European soccer game. Otherwise, he’s the globetrotting version of the guys on downtown street corners who claim to be the Pope or the President. Funny, but sad.


A poetic commentary, well worth the few moments it takes to read, on the state of the Church, which applies to far more than just Episcopalians.  It makes me think about how fortunate I am to find a truly worshipful community – and also to ponder how often I contribute to the “worms, and mold, and rot,” versus how often I really worship in the “love of God the Father,” or in honor of “Him who died and rose.”

Tip of the gimme cap to Father Daniel at Miserere Mei for pointing out this post.  And thank you, Father Daniel, for your service.  May the Lord protect both yourself and those in your care as you deploy overseas.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Texas, West Texas Voted for New Presiding Bishop

The two local Episcopal Dioceses (we live right on the border) are the Diocese of Texas and the Diocese of West Texas. According to Brad Drell, who got it from arch-revisionist Louie Crew (aka Quaen Lutibelle), at the recent General Convention, both the lay and clerical delegates of these dioceses voted in favor of the election of Ms. Jefferts-Schiori as Presiding Heresiarch Bishop.

There are a lot of people I love in ECUSA, but I'm glad I'm gone.
Anyone in Central Texas who's looking for a new place to worship, see "Austin Churches Worth a Visit!" in the sidebar. I will continue to plug them periodically. Outside of the Austin area, I suggest you go to to find a growing list of orthodox and traditional churches.

Man Speaks After 20-Year Coma

A man who was in a coma for 20 years has awakened from it and regained his speech and movement capabilities as his brain has rewired itself by growing new connections from those that were severed in an automobile accident. Terry Wallis is one of a few people to make such a dramatic recovery after a prolonged coma.

I thought people like that had no quality of life and that the proper and decent thing was to let them die of thirst.

Wallis speaks in a slurred but coherent voice, telling visitors "Glad to be met" and telling them of his brother's plans to light fireworks today at his house nearby.

For his family, each word is a miracle. Wallis began recovering from the coma in June 2003, as national controversy about an incapacitated woman, Terri Schiavo, began to develop.

Terry and Terri – you really can’t get a whole lot more ironic. Ms. Schiavo was killed after a 15-year coma. One wonders what might have happened with time and treatment.

[…] Researchers published a paper this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation about Wallis' story and say that his case provides strong evidence that the brain heals itself by forming new neural connections. The article includes images of Mr. Wallis' brain, the first ones to be taken from a recovering comatose patient.

[…] "In essence, Terry's brain may have been seeking out new pathways to reestablish functional connections to areas involved in speech and motor control to compensate for those lost due to damage," he explained.

The paper appears to suggest that Wallis did not make a sudden recovery three years ago, but his awakening from the coma was the result of years of nerves regrowing and healing themselves.

Despite the recovery, Wallis has complete amnesia about the 20 years he missed, when he was barely conscious and communicated only through nods and grunts, according to an AP report.

"He still thinks Ronald Reagan is president," his father, Jerry, said in a statement. Jerry indicated Wallis thought he was still 20 years old until recently.

With all due respect to W, whom I generally support, many of us would like to live under the delusion that Ronald Reagan was still president.

Jerry said Wallis often makes jokes like he did before the accident and frequently indicated he is happy to be alive - a sign that euthanizing him like Terri Schiavo was killed would have denied Wallis a second chance at life.

Happy to be alive? How can that be? I thought he was supposed to be upset that they'd kept him alive in a comatose state - maybe he could even sue for "wrongful life."

You knew God wouldn’t let the Terri Schiavo matter fade away without responding. How many people will listen?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jesus Debunker Fined in Italian Court

WorldNet Daily reports on the resolution of a previously-blogged court case.

An atheist who gained worldwide fame when he sued an Italian priest, claiming Jesus Christ never actually existed, has been fined by an appeals court in Rome.

But Luigi Cascioli vows never to pay the $1,900 judgment against him.

The fact he was given the maximum fine is "an abuse of authority against every right of intellectual expression and liberty," the 73-year-old Cascioli said. "I refuse to pay."

In February, Judge Gaetano Mautone threw out a petition by Cascioli who wanted his childhood friend, Rev. Enrico Righi, to stand trial for asserting Jesus Christ was a real person.

Cascioli, a retired agronomist, contended Righi violated a law that forbids deceiving the public. The atheist said the priest, who had publicly criticized him for casting doubt on the truth of the gospels, had no evidence Jesus ever existed.

[…] Rev. Righi said the existence of Jesus is "unmistakable" due to a wealth of both pagan and Christian evidence pointing to his reality.

"Cascioli maintains that Christ never existed. If he doesn't see the sun at midday, he can't denounce me just because I do. He should denounce all believers!" Righi told the London Times.

Among his examples are the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, thought by scholars to be the most important non-Christian source on the issue. One of his passages of "Jewish Antiquities," a work completed in A.D. 93, mentions the execution in A.D. 62 of "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, James by name."

Okay, let me get this straight. Fr. Righi is guilty of “deceiving the public” by claiming Jesus existed when Sr. Cascioli claims He didn’t. But since Jesus did (does, if you’re a believer, BTW) exist, Sr. Cascioli’s claim that He didn’t is “intellectual expression.” With an ability to embrace double standards of that magnitude, perhaps Sr. Cascioli should migrate to America and become Episcopalian.

Interestingly, Fr. Righi used the undisputed reference to Jesus in Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 and not the other, longer, but disputed passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared. (Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3)

The consensus opinion among historians is that this passage is real, but has been “enhanced” by later Christian scribes. Why give Cascioli any potential credibility when you have plenty of undisputed material with which to refute him? Good move.

It’s one thing to argue the validity of Christian theology; it’s quite another to make unsupported allegations and spread wild conspiracy theories. The latter, however, seems to be the current vogue – from the DaVinci Code to “BusHitler and Halliburton” to the Illuminati and the Saucer People. One wonders how long a civilization so enmired in delusion can survive.